Saturday, March 31, 2012

Resources Received



Luther, Martin. Translated by Holger Sonntag. Edited and Arranged by Paul Strawn. A Christian Holy Peoples: From Martin Luther's On the Councils and the Church. Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2012. 114 Pages. Paper. $6.00. (LHP) 


Yee, Russell. Foreword by John D. Witvliet. Worship on the Way: Exploring Asian North American Christian Experience. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2012. 234 Pages. Paper. (Advance Copy for Review Only: Releases April 30, 2012) $17.99. (LHP)


Ham, Ken, Bodie Hodge, and Tim Chaffey, Editors. Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions, Volume 2: Exploring Forty Alleged Contradictions. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2011. 169 Pages. Paper. $12.99. (LHP)


Foster, Bill. Meet the Skeptic: A Field Guide to Faith Conversations. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008, 2012. 142 Pages. Paper. $10.99. (LHP)





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Friday, March 30, 2012

FW: The Evangelical Lutheran Church — A No Guilt Zone.




Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Friday, March 30, 2012 10:26 AM
Author: Pastor Clint Poppe
Subject: The Evangelical Lutheran Church — A No Guilt Zone.


This past week the University of Nebraska announced that a new men's basketball coach had been hired. Tim Miles, formerly at Colorado State University, would replace the recently fired lovable looser, Doc Sadler.  With the NCAA basketball world deeply focused on the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final 4, the news barely caught the eye of anyone outside the two schools. On Saturday, March 24 the new coach was introduced and the questions soon became pointed.  How can an unproven coach from a mid-major school who posted a losing record over the last five seasons lead Nebraska to the Big Dance?  Miles responded, "I'm Catholic, I live in fear, worry, and doubt." (Lincoln Journal Star, Page C1, 3/25/12) He went on to explain, "Come join me, it's a blast, never sleep, bags under your eyes; it's awesome!" [note 1]

Fear, worry, and doubt; now there is a trifecta for you!  No doubt that Miles was trying to be funny, and for some Roman Catholics the church is the butt of many jokes, but his words are telling on a number of levels.  People who live in fear, worry, and doubt will listen to any potential solution to their woes and undoubtably fall for some.  People who live in fear, worry, and doubt are often easy to manipulate; just ask any political campaign consultant.  Worst of all, people who live in fear, worry, and guilt are joyless, lacking peace and hope and confidence; and that is no joke!

Luther lived the early part of his life in fear, worry, and doubt.  He was afraid of God and worried about his sin.  He lived in constant doubt wondering if he had done enough to appease God's righteous anger over his many sins.  Scholars debate the precise moment of Luther's great discovery of the Gospel but many of these debates miss the main point.  Luther did not discover the Gospel; the Gospel found him!  Perfect love drives away all fear and Jesus Christ is perfect love. Our sins are many and our Righteous God demands appeasement, but in the mystery of the Gospel our Gracious Father sent His Only-Begotten Son to take the hit we deserve.  By His wounds we are healed.  It is finished!  No fear; no worry; no doubt; no guilt!

For years I have joked that a true Lutheran church is a "no-guilt zone."  How easy it is to allow the guilt over past sins to rule our hearts and minds, even to the point where we live our lives mired in fear, worry, and doubt.  The Good News of the Gospel isn't some "cheap grace" where you dirty yourself all you want with sin and then go to the car wash church to clean up your act.  This is real forgiveness, real life, and real salvation earned by the perfect life, bloody death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus.  The Triune God is for us, not against us, and delivers the deliverance in the font, pulpit, chalice; wherever the Word is proclaimed in truth and purity.  Jesus' blood and righteousness sets us free, and if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Free from guilt, fear, worry, and doubt.

There is always a great temptation in the church to revert back to our old ways and our old sins. When the collection plates are a little lite we might hear, "The Gospel is good pastor, but you need to hammer them a little more with the Law to loosen up their checkbooks."  When church attendance is down we may doubt whether the Word is a powerful enough draw, so we are tempted to add gimmicks and fads to help fill the seats.  When our mission efforts seem less than spectacular compared to the other "successful programs," we are tempted to play upon people's worries, doubts, and fears rather than trust that God's powerful Word will work its promised work.  The Gospel is life giving, life changing, and all sufficient.

Many years ago I was finishing up an Adult Confirmation class and I asked a blanket question, "Does anyone have any questions about any topic we have covered in the last many weeks?"  A young man, who had attended every class but had never said a word, raised his hand.  "Pastor, I've been a Catholic my whole life.  I know what drives the Catholic church; money and power. Tell me straight, what is it that drives the Lutheran church."  I looked him straight in the eye and said, "The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for you!"  He responded, "You've been saying that for three months now in class, do you really mean it?"

Many people live their lives in fear, worry, and doubt.  Christ has entrusted to us the precious Gospel which brings life and life to the full.  Lives free from fear, worry, and doubt.  This is the message of the Holy Scriptures.  This is the message of the Lutheran church.  A true Lutheran church is a guilt-free zone.  Do we really mean it?

Blessed Holy Week in Jesus!


[note 1]    (Remarks come at about 23:55 of press conference)


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FW: Steadfast in Worship — Introduction of Pr. Osbun




Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2012 1:39 PM
Author: Pastor Josh Osbun
Subject: Steadfast in Worship — Introduction of Pr. Osbun


I was walking through my congregation's annual rummage sale about ten years ago when I glanced down at a pile of books and saw a brown cover that caught my eye.  The title of that book was Hymnal Supplement 1991.  I knew of Hymnal Supplement '98, but I had never heard of this 1991 version.  I flipped open the cover and saw that it was published by GIA.

And then the light bulb clicked on in my head.  For the first time it dawned on me that because there were other Lutheran synods in the United States, it was likely that there were other Lutheran hymnals as well.  I already knew about the divergence between Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Book of Worship.  Now I had discovered a difference between supplement volumes as well.  Just how broad and deep would this rabbit hole go?

I spent the next seven years wildly collecting hymnals.  I scoured eBay, Alibris, and Abebooks (the latter two being internet-based used book markets).  I purchased regular hymnals, Sunday school hymnals, agendas, altar books, and just about anything with the word "Lutheran" in the title.  I spent way more money than I ever intended, but ultimately assembled what I consider to be a very impressive collection of Lutheran hymnals printed in English, to which I am still adding to this day, but without the same unbridled fervor.

But then I started reading these books, especially the hymn texts.  I analyzed them as I had never done so before.  I used to just blindly sing hymns in church, getting to know familiar and popular texts without ever really stopping to consider what I was singing.  But by really paying attention to the words my eyes were opened to a whole new level of understanding.

And then I started writing about what I was learning and discovering.  I formerly had two different blogs, having maintained them between 2005 and the beginning of 2010, with the greater amount of that time (2006-2010) under the title, "Holy Holy Hymnody."  The "mission statement," so to speak, for that blog was: "Music has always held a position of great importance within the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  However, the future of historic hymnody is threatened, partly due to a severe lack of understanding of hymn texts and the role of hymns within the Divine Service.  This blog exists to promote educating both clergy and laity in this rich treasury which belongs to all of God's people."  Through writing I was able to engage others in discussion about these texts.  I was able to glean greater insight into the theology of song.  I was able to share this rich treasure with others.  I shut that blog down in 2010, which wound up being a very strenuous year for my family.

Now that I am settled into parish and family life, it is time to take up that cause yet again.  There is much to be said about hymnody, and there is a vast array of hymns to be discussed.  What is good?  What is bad?  What is ugly?  What has been forgotten over the course of time, just waiting to be rediscovered?  It is my goal to answer those questions and more, with perhaps a few liturgical observations thrown in to boot.

Associate Editor's Note:  With this posting, we introduce another writer to the category "Steadfast in Worship".  Pastor Josh Osbun will be doing some looking into hymnals and liturgy for us here at BJS.  We welcome him aboard and look forward to his future postings.  Check out the rose chasuble!

Pastor Osbun is a 2010 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He was called to St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession at Woodland, St. Joseph County, Indiana and subsequently ordained into the pastoral office in the spring of 2011.  He and his wife Sarah were married just prior to his vicarage/her deaconess internship year in the summer of 2008.  Their son Peter was stillborn in January of 2010.  Their daughter Evelyn was born happy and healthy in March of 2011.

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FW: VISnews120330


Rome on ashes…


(Abbreviated from the full press release)


From: Of Vatican Information Service - English
Sent: Friday, March 30, 2012 5:52 AM
To: VISnews ENG
Subject: VISnews120330


30-03-2012 - Year XXII - Num. 68 















Vatican City, 30 March 2012 (VIS) - The second Italian-language edition of the "Funeral Rites", produced by the Vatican Publishing House, was presented recently at the headquarters of Vatican Radio. Among other things, the new edition contains fully revised biblical texts and prayers.

The first novelty refers to the visit to the family, which was not part of the earlier edition. Msgr. Angelo Lameri of the National Liturgical Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference, explained how "for a priest this a moment to share in the suffering, to listen to the mourning relatives, to learn about certain aspects of the deceased's life with a view to a correct and personalised presentation during the funeral".

Another change involves the revised and enriched ritual for the closing of the coffin; with a number of different texts for various situations: an elderly person, a young person, or someone who has died unexpectedly. Other changes involve the pronouncement of words recalling of the deceased at the moment of the committal, and the introduction of a broad range of possibilities for the prayer of the faithful.

However the most significant new departure, contained in the appendix of the book, concerns cremation. Msgr. Lameri explained that the issue of cremation had been placed in an appendix to highlight the fact that the Church, "although she does not oppose the cremation of bodies, when not done 'in odium fidei', continues to maintain that the burial of the dead is more appropriate, that it expresses faith in the resurrection of the flesh, nourishes the piety of the faithful and favours the recollection and prayer of relatives and friends".

In exceptional cases the rites normally celebrated at the cemetery chapel or the tomb may be celebrated at the cremation site, and it is recommended that the coffin be accompanied to that site. One particularity important aspect is that "cremation is considered as concluded when the urn is deposited in the cemetery". This is because, although the law does allow ashes to be scattered in the open or conserved in places other than a cemetery, "such practices ... raise considerable doubts as to their coherence to Christian faith, especially when they conceal pantheist or naturalistic beliefs".

The new "Funeral Rites" also focuses on the search for the meaning of death. Concluding the presentation, Bishop Alceste Catella, president of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy, explained that "the book is testament to the faith of believers and to the importance of respect and 'pietas' towards the deceased, respect for the human body even when dead. It is testament to the pressing need to cultivate memory and to have a specific place in which to place the body or the ashes, in the profound certainty that this is authentic faith and authentic humanism".



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Thursday, March 29, 2012

FW: The Common Service. . .




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2012 5:00 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: The Common Service. . .


I grew up singing TLH page 5 mostly and TLH page 15 first quarterly and then monthly.  My home parish did not have hymnals in the pews until 1972 or so.  You brought your hymnal from home.  A couple of extras were around for those who, horror upon horror, forgot theirs or the occasional visitor.  I used the Common Service when first a Pastor (until early 1983 when LW was introduced).  It is sort of like my default service.  When all else confounds me, I still revert to the memorized texts and ordo of the Common Service.  I love it and we use it still occasionally although predominantly Divine Service, Settings 1 & 2 from LSB.  My home parish never bought anything in between and went directly from TLH to LSB and noticed little real change in their customary order.

One of the great myths of the Common Service is that this represents pure Lutheranism and everything else is born of our slavish copying of things Roman (Divine Service Settings1 & 2 cut and pasted from the Novus Ordo and the liturgical renewal movement).  As with all myths, there are truths hidden in those myths but the falsehood tends in the exaggeration.  The new forms of the Divine Service which owe themselves to ILCW and LBW, then LW, and now LSB are not copies of the Roman Mass in English in the early 1970s and the old form of the Common Service is not pure Lutheranism at its best.

The recovery of the Common Service (1888) among Lutherans represents a benchmark of Lutheran unity when it comes to what happens on Sunday morning.  Though LBW was created in the cause of Lutheran unity, the most uniform expression of worship among Lutherans owed more to the Common Service in the various forms of Service Book and Hymnal and TLH than to LBW and its successors in the ELCA and Missouri since.  But it was, after all, a COMMON Service for which Lutherans had no common or ordinary form prior to this.  Yes, the ordo was in common but even there were deviations among the Reformation Church Orders of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  Lutheranism NEVER spoke with one voice when it came to the Divine Service and judicatories gave their imprimatur to various forms in Germany and Scandinavia.  The Common Service is common because prior to its formation, Lutheran liturgical practice was in nearly complete disarray among English speaking Lutherans in the USA and even among many still holding to their ethnic linguistic and cultural identities.  It was common here but not necessarily among the Norwegians, Swedes, or Germans across the ocean.

I fear that some among us forget this.  I also fear that our liturgical mess today makes us pine even more for a Common Service that would rescue us from the chaotic nature of what you might expect in a Lutheran congregation on Sunday morning.  I understand this and part of me wishes we could recover or simply agree on another Common Service to fix our diversity gone awry.  The other part of me bristles at those who would insist that the only purely Lutheran form is the Common Service, specially that form embodied in TLH on page 15.

The Common Service was borrowed in part from the Book of Common Prayer tradition (and we could have easily have chosen a much less noble and eloquent aid to transforming Lutheran worship forms into the English language) but there is an Anglicized character to the Common Service and its pericopes which we care not deny or ignore.  Again, I well understand.  Translation of liturgical texts into English by those for whom English was not preferred was a difficult task aided by the ready presence of texts already rendered in King James English and with a hint of Lutheran past (Cranmer) in them.

The myth is that the Common Service employed in TLH is the purest form of Lutheran liturgy.  Lutherans have no pure standard by which to measure or gauge this purity.  Each form Lutherans have used must be examined and judged on its own terms.  Certainly, it is a familial identity which all the Reformation Church Orders share but not the rigid uniformity of Rome or the goal of some Lutherans today.  The truth is that it did represent a benchmark of Lutheran identity and a pure form to replace the chaos and confusion the reigned over the Lutheran landscape prior to this.  But to those who want to say page 15 only, I beg to differ.

The goal of liturgical uniformity will be lost for sure if we raise up the Common Service as the one and only standard of Lutheran liturgy.  What we need is both more difficult and yet more possible -- that is a Lutheran identity which recognizes the various traditions inherent to our Lutheran history and seeks to live within that stream instead of branching off on its own by adopting liturgical forms alien to our Lutheran Confessional identity or disavowing any liturgical form in pursuit of a spiritualized worship that is ultimately captive to feeling and our own desire to be center stage.

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FW: The 50 top persecutors of Christians




Feed: Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:06 AM
Author: Gene Veith
Subject: The 50 top persecutors of Christians


Take a look at this list of the top 50 countries that persecute Christians:  World Watch List Countries | World Watch List.

By my count, 37 of them are Islamic.  8 are Communist or recently-Communist that have kept their persecuting habits.  3 are Buddhist.  1 is Hindu.

The worst is North Korea.  The next worse is our client state of Afghanistan.  Then our close personal friend Saudi Arabia.  Then Somalia.  Then Iran.

Just about all of the Muslim states are somewhere on the list.  I can't think of a single Muslim nation that doesn't persecute Christians to some extent.  That includes Turkey, which comes in at #31.

No predominantly Christian society persecutes Christians of different persuasions, with the possible exception of Belarus, where the Orthodox Church is the only one permitted, though I chalk this one up to former Communist habits.

In some of the countries, such as India (#32), the persecution is not legally sanctioned but happens from mobs and cultural practices.

Can you draw any other conclusions from this list?

HT:   Doug Bandow, one of my writers in my old editing days at WORLD, who offers some good discussion of the list at the American Spectator.

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FW: Crypto-Calvinism and Lutheranism: Cling to the Formula of Concord!




Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:15 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: Crypto-Calvinism and Lutheranism: Cling to the Formula of Concord!


As we approach the observance of Maundy Thursday, we do well to recognize that, by far, the greatest threat to the pure doctrine of the Lord's Supper, within the Lutheran church, remains "crypto-Calvinism." The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America many years ago embraced it and thus surrendered the Lutheran Confessions on the Supper. Here are the prophetic words of Hermann Sasse on this point:

Never has a more dangerous enemy of the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper appeared than this pure crypto-Calvinism. It is dangerous because this time it has taken hold not only of Electoral Saxony but of a great part of world Lutheranism. It is dangerous because there is scarcely a Lutheran church leader – with or without a bishop's cross – who grasps its theological significance. It is dangerous because the modern Lutheran Church no longer seems to know how to wield the weapon that alone can overcome this opponent: the Scriptural witness of the "It is written." Here lies the fundamental reason why the Formula of Concord is today coming under such heavy attack. In it Luther's doctrine of the Lord's Supper is formulated in such a way that one cannot give it a new interpretation.

from Hermann Sasse, "The Lord's Supper in the Lutheran Church" Letter to Lutheran Pastors, No. 6 (May, 1949); Translation by Norman Nagel, published in We Confess.

[Note to readers: Beware historical revisionism that substitutes the phrase "crypto-Philippist" for "crypto-Calvinist." The ELCA's edition of the Book of Concord uses the term "crypto-Philippist" to replace the traditional, and truthful, phrase: "crypto-Calvinist." As the sainted Kurt Marquart put it, "There was nothing "cryptic" about Philip's students and supporters in Wittenberg, but they clearly were trying to hide their Calvinist doctrine!"]

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FW: Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit




Feed: Lutheran Hymn Revival
Posted on: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 9:39 PM
Author: (Amberg)
Subject: Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit


This hymn is for Kurt Ulmer, who got me thinking about Hebrews 9:14.

The tune is the one for "My Song is Love Unknown."

Christ is my life alone,
No pow'r to live have I
Than what the Father's Son
Gave up in his last cry.
His final breath
Declares to me
That I am free
From sin and death.

Men breathe out scorn and lies,
All sinful from their birth,
Nice words cannot disguise
The curse they bring to earth:
Pain, death and grief;
They pass their days
In sinful ways
And unbelief.

As to an open tomb
Our Savior came for us,
To hear, not speak the doom
Against our mortal race;
All men have lied;
This man did not,
But only sought
The lost and died.

Into His Father's hands
He placed his sacrifice,
His Spirit he commends
Through whom He paid the price
With His own blood
Which once he spilt
For all our guilt
And debt to God.

Into my broken heart
His breath breathes life to me;
Nor death nor doubt can thwart
My Lord who sets me free.
He is the pow'r
Of life in death;
The ground of faith
In my last hour.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

FW: Great Is Thy Faithfulness




Feed: He Remembers the Barren
Posted on: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 7:13 AM
Author: Katie Schuermann
Subject: Great Is Thy Faithfulness



My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, "My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD."
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

For the Lord will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?

I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, "Do not close your ear to my cry for help!"
You came near when I called on you; you said, "Do not fear!"

You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.

Lamentations 3:17-26, 31-33, 37-38, 55-58 (ESV)


Let us pray…

Most High, You bid us in Your Word to wait on You. As the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, remind us that Your mercies are new every morning. Assure us of your abundant, steadfast love to us in Jesus, that we might rejoice in the waiting, knowing You to be our Portion, our Hope, and our Redeemer forever, no matter what it is You may speak to come to pass. In Jesus' name. Amen.

(It is our privilege to pray with and for you. If you would like to submit a personal petition to be included in our prayers, please send your request via the "Submit a Question" page on this site.)

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FW: That's what I want... but not what I need...




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 5:00 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: That's what I want... but not what I need...



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FW: Cultural engagement requires the Sacrament




Feed: Cranach: The Blog of Veith
Posted on: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 4:00 AM
Author: Gene Veith
Subject: Cultural engagement requires the Sacrament


Peter Leithhart, a Reformed pastor and theologian, says that what evangelicals need if they are going to respond effectively to our time is to recover Holy Communion:

Evangelicals will be incapable of responding to the specific challenges of our time with any steadiness or effect until the Eucharist becomes the criterion of all Christian cultural thinking and the source from which all genuinely Christian cultural engagement springs.

The church is called to keep our Lord Jesus, his death and resurrection, as the focal point of worship, witness, service, and mission. How do we protect ourselves from darting off after each fresh fad? Jesus didn't think Christ-centered preaching would be enough. He left his church not only a gospel to preach, but rites of water, bread, and wine to practice. It's difficult to forget Christ and his cross when we proclaim his death in the breaking of bread at the climax of every week's worship. When the Sign seals the Word, the church becomes a communion of martyrs ready to bear the cross because they have consumed the cross. . . .

Sharing the Supper forges us into a corporate body that participates in Christ through the Spirit. By the Spirit, we become what we receive: "We are one body because we partake of one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). In practice, Evangelicals don't partake, and so we aren't a body. When we do partake, we don't partake together. We aren't a body with many members so much as an aggregation of individuals. There's little point in asking what "message" the "church" needs to proclaim unless we can speak of a church with something resembling a message.

In addition to the ecclesial, the political consequences of our Eucharistic neglect are almost beyond calculation. The great French Catholic Henri de Lubac traced in intricate detail how the sacredness of the table slowly migrated first to consecrate the institutional church and then to sanctify the state. Evangelicals are intensely protective of the "sanctity" of the flag, but many would be puzzled at the classic Eucharistic announcement, "Holy things for holy people." Lacking a rightly ordered Supper, modern Christians wrap nationalism in a veil of sanctity, with sometimes-horrific results. In the U.S., Christians are frequently urged to give political support to this or that variation of Americanism. There is no genuinely Christian alternative because the church has no defined public shape with the resilience to withstand the political forces that press in on us.

As it is in politics, so is it in economics. Because we don't take our bearings from the table, the growing debate among Evangelicals about how to constitute a just economy lists awkwardly from hedonism to asceticism and back. The Supper ritualizes a Christian vision of production and distribution as it catches up our economics into the economy of God. By the Spirit, bread and wine, products of human labor, become vehicles for communion with Christ.

As the Russian Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann pointed out long ago, the Supper discloses the purpose and destiny of all creation. Not only this bread, but all bread, all products of human work, can be means of fellowship with God and one another. Further, we receive these products of human labor, with thanks; as a gift of God. Thus the table discloses the mystery of the creature's participation in the Creator's creativity, and this participation produces goods that are ours only as gifts received, goods to be shared and enjoyed in communion.

The Supper closes the gap between joy in creation and pious devotion to God. At the table, delight in the taste of bread and the tang of wine is delight in God, though this double delight is not unique to this meal. Every meal and every moment, every encounter and every project burst with the promise of communion with God. This world, Schmemann said, is the matter of God's kingdom.

Evangelicals move away to Constantinople or Rome at an alarming rate, often because they lose hope of finding even a glimmer of liturgical piety in Evangelical churches. They're hungry, and they believe they have found where the banquet is happening. Luther and Calvin would be aghast, for in their eyes the Reformation was an effort to restore priestly food to all of God's priests as well as an effort to recover the gospel of grace.

All the cultural and political challenges that Evangelicals face come back to the Supper. It's important to do it right, but it's more important to do it and to do it together. Until we do, most of our cultural chatter will continue to glance harmlessly off our targets. Until we do, Evangelicals will flop and flounder with every cultural wind and wave.

via Do This | First Things.

As a Lutheran, I appreciate this call to recover a spirituality centered in the Sacrament.  (And, I would add, evangelicals looking for this in Rome or Constantinople would do well to first see it closer to home in Wittenberg, where they would find that they wouldn't have to cease being evangelicals in order to be sacramental.)  I know some Calvinists are being accused in their circle of crypto-Lutheranism.  But is this particular view of the Sacrament, however "high" it seems and for all of its presence talk, all that Lutheran?  Amidst all of the talk of identifying the church and engaging the culture and reforming the economy, where is the "given for you for the remission of all of your sins"?  Or could these other benefits become ancillary effects?

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FW: Law and Gospel: Part 2


See also Part 1:




Feed: Tullian Tchividjian
Posted on: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 8:25 AM
Author: Tullian Tchividjian
Subject: Law and Gospel: Part 2


If we are going to understand the Bible rightly, we have to be able to distinguish properly between God's two words: law and gospel. All of God's Word in the Bible comes to us in two forms of speech: God's word of demand (law) and God's word of deliverance (gospel). The law tells us what to do and the gospel tells us what God has done. As I mentioned in my previous post, both God's law and God's gospel are good and necessary, but both do very different things. Serious life confusion happens when we fail to understand their distinct "job descriptions." We'll wrongly depend on the law to do what only the gospel can do, and vice versa.

For example, Kim and I have three children: Gabe (17), Nate (15), and Genna (10). In order to function as a community of five in our home, rules need to be established–laws need to be put in place. Our kids know that they can't steal from each other. They have to share the computer. Since harmonious relationships depend on trust, they can't lie. Because we have two cars and three drivers, Gabe can't simply announce that he's taking one of the cars. He has to ask ahead of time. And so on and so forth. Rules are necessary. But telling them what they can and cannot do over and over won't change their heart.

When one of our kids (typically Genna) throws a temper tantrum, thereby breaking one of the rules, we can send her to her room and take away some of her privileges. But neither the rule nor the enforcement of punishment has the power to make her sorry for what she's done. At best, it can only produce "legal repentance"–an external sorrow motivated by a self-preservational fear of getting punished again. For Kim and I to depend on the law to accomplish for Genna what only the gospel can accomplish, would be a huge mistake–as if imposing rules and enforcing consequences carries the power to effect heart change. The law reveals sin but is powerless to remove sin. That's not part of its job description. It points to righteousness but can't produce it. It shows us what godliness is, but it cannot make us godly. As Martin Luther said, "Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God."


While there are a host of great resources available to help you better understand the important distinction between the law and the gospel, I found the most helpful resource to be John Pless' easy-to-read Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today. In the first chapter he summarizes C.F.W. Walther's six ways in which the law and the gospel are different. I will highlight the first three today and the second three later this week.

First, the Law differs from the Gospel by the manner in which it is revealed. The Law is inscribed in the human heart, and through it is dulled by sin, the conscience bears witness to its truth (Romans 2:14-15). "The Ten Commandments were published only for the purpose of bringing out in bold outline the dulled script of the original Law written in men's hearts" (Walther, 8). That is why the moral teachings of non-Christian religions are essentially the same as those found in the Bible. Yet it is different with the Gospel. The Gospel can never be known from the conscience. It is not a word from within the heart; it comes from outside. It comes from Christ alone. "All religions contain portions of the Law.  Some of the heathen, by their knowledge of the Law, have advanced so far that they have even perceived the necessity of an inner cleansing of the soul, a purification of the thoughts and desires. But of the Gospel, not a particle is found anywhere except in the Christian religion" (Walther, 8).  The fact that humanity is alienated from God, in need of cleansing and reconciliation, is a theme common to many belief systems.  It is only Christianity that teaches that God himself justifies the ungodly.

Second, the Law is distinct from the Gospel in regard to content. The Law can only make demands. It tells us what we must do, but it is impotent to redeem us from its demands (Galatians 3:12-14). The Law speaks to our works, always showing that even the best of them are tainted with the fingerprints of our sin and insufficient for salvation. The Gospel contains no demand, only the gift of God's grace and truth in Christ. It has nothing to say about works of human achievement and everything to say about the mercy of God for sinners.  "The Law tells us what we are to do. No such instruction is contained in the Gospel. On the contrary, the Gospel reveals to us only what God is doing. The Law is speaking concerning our works; the Gospel, concerning the great works of God" (Walther, 9).

Third, the Law and the Gospel differ in the promises that each make.  The Law offers great good to those who keep its demands.  Think what life would be like in a world where the Ten Commandments were perfectly kept. Imagine a universe where God was feared, loved, and trusted above all things and the neighbor was loved so selflessly that there would be no murder, adultery, theft, lying, or coveting. Indeed such a world would be paradise. This is what the Law promises. There is only the stipulation that we obey its commands.  Do the Law and you will live, says Holy Scripture (Leviticus 18:5; Luke 10:25-28).  The Gospel, by contrast, makes a promise without demand or condition. It is a word from God that does not cajole or manipulate but simply gives and bestows what it says, namely, the forgiveness of sins. Luther defined the Gospel as "a preaching of the incarnate Son of God, given to us without any merit on our part for salvation and peace. It is a word of salvation, a word of grace, a word of comfort, a word of joy, a voice of the bridegroom and the bride, a good word, a word of peace." This is the word that the church is to proclaim throughout the world (Mark 16:15-16). It is the message that salvation is not achieved but received by grace through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9).  The Gospel is a word that promises blessing to those who are cursed, righteousness to the unrighteous, and life to the dead.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

FW: Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns? / My First Hymnal


On Hymns and book QBR reviewed…


Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 1:39 PM
Author: Norm Fisher
Subject: Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns? / My First Hymnal


I found this post on Pastor Christopher Amen's blog, Babblings. We at BJS are thinking of starting a listing of books that are recommended reading for our readers; feel free to submit reviews or suggested books to us here.   My brother-in-law sent me a book last year entitled "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns." It has quite a few interesting thoughts, many of which I think are spot on. These thoughts as well as things we had desired to do lead my wife and I to really teach our children the joys of the liturgy and the proclamation of faith   More...

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Pulpit Review: More Ancient Christian Fathers




Haykin, Michael A. G. Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 172 Pages. Paper. $16.99. (LHP)

Conti, Marco, Translator. Edited by Joel C. Elowsky. Gerald L. Bray and Thomas C. Oden, Series Editors. Theodore of Mopsuestia: Commentary on the Gospel of John (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010. 172 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (P)


Hill, Robert C., Carmen S. Hardin, Translators. Edited by Michael Glerup. Gerald L. Bray and Thomas C. Oden, Series Editors. Severian of Gabala and Bede the Venerable: Commentaries on Genesis 1-3 (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010. 162 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (P)



I am blessed to have a Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus, my earthly father, Lutheran fathers in the faith, and our common early Church Fathers. 


These resources will introduce you to the early Church Fathers as a whole and three in particular based on what they wrote on Genesis and John.



While the church today looks quite different than it did two thousand years ago, Christians share the same faith with the church fathers. Although separated by time and culture, we have much to learn from their lives and teaching.

This book is an organized and convenient introduction to how to read the church fathers from AD 100 to 500. Michael Haykin surveys the lives and teachings of seven of the Fathers, looking at their role in such issues as baptism, martyrdom, and the relationship between church and state. Ignatius, Cyprian, Basil of Caesarea, and Ambrose and others were foundational in the growth and purity of early Christianity, and their impact continues to shape the church today.

Evangelical readers interested in the historical roots of Christianity will find this to be a helpful introductory volume.


Michael A. G. Haykin (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than twenty-five books, including The Emergence of Evangelicalism: Exploring Historical Continuities.

(publisher's website)


Haykin's introduction to the Church Fathers is a great way for Gospel-centered Christians to rediscover their heritage in Christ. 


Church history is our history. 


These are our people. 


They are the "saints who from their labors rest" for whom we thank the Lord. 


We have forgiveness, life, salvation, and Christ in common with them. 


We share their Bible, their vocations, their sorrows and joys, and life in this world.  


And they have been neglected by Evangelicals for far too long. Call it part of the "scandal of the Evangelical mind."


The author shows a bias with regard to Holy Communion (102). I'll personally stick to what Jesus says "this" is in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and 1 Corinthians 11. Also, I will try to put the best construction of what Basil (117) says about orthodoxy and orthopraxis, while rejecting monasticism. Yes, it did preserve Biblical manuscripts, ancient chant, beer, cheese, and scholarship, but once it served those purposes for Christianity and Western Civilization as a whole, we are better off without its confusion of vocations and confusion of salvation and works.

I love the author's unique approach to rediscovering Church Fathers by highlighting seven fathers over six chapters that focus on their strengths: taking every thought captive for Christ, preserving Christ's truth, interpreting all Scripture Christologically, seeking the Lord's forgiveness in word and sacrament, focusing on vocation and holiness in Christ, and telling the good news about Jesus. The idea is Haykin's. The paraphrases/summarize are mine. 


The second Appendix, reprinting Jaroslav Pelikan's The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) is all the more interesting considering his conversion from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy. This essay serves Haykin's purposes well.


Who were the Church Fathers and How did they shape the Church? Rediscover the answer to these questions for yourself as you read Michael Haykin's affordable introductory volume, Rediscovering the Church Fathers.



You may also wish to rediscover the Church Fathers by reading extensive writings by individual authors. Consider the following:



Theodore of Mopsuestia, born in Antioch (c. 350) and a disciple of Diodore of Tarsus, serves as one of the most important exemplars of Antiochene exegesis of his generation. Committed to literal, linguistic, grammatical and historical interpretation, he eschewed allegorical explanations that could not be supported from the text, though he was not averse to typological interpretations of Old Testament texts that were supported by the New.

Regrettably, Theodore was dragged posthumously into the Nestorian controversy, and his works were condemned by the Three Chapters and the Council of Constantinople in 553. As a result many of his theological and exegetical works were lost or destroyed. The original Greek version of his Commentary on the Gospel of John remains only in fragments. This new English translation is based on an early complete Syriac translation dated A.D. 460-465, within forty years of Theodore's death in 428.

While charges of heterodoxy against Theodore may not be entirely justified, there remains an apparent dualism in his Christology that should be critically viewed in light of the later Chalcedonian formula. With this caution, there still remains much that is valuable for contemporary readers, whether preachers, students or lay people interested in the early church's understanding of the Gospel of John.

Here for the first time is a complete English translation of this valuable work, ably translated by Marco Conti and edited by Joel C. Elowsky.

Ancient Christian Texts is a series of new translations, most of which are here presented in English for the first time. The series provides contemporary readers with the resources they need to study for themselves the key writings of the early church. The texts represented in the series are full-length commentaries or sermon series based on biblical books or extended scriptural passages. (publisher's website)

If anything, Theodore is guilty of dualism (e.g. p 29ff on John 2:22 and p. 140 on John 16:28). His Christology was orthodox, but not always and everywhere clearly stated. That means later readers were tempted to read into Theodore the false theology of Nestorianism. No, Scripture does NOT teach two persons of Christ, but two natures in one person as Chemnitz so extensively clarifies.


Theodore of Mopsuestia shines as an exegete when he interprets Scripture in the context of Scripture as in this exposition of John 1:29 (20):

Let us consider how Scripture usually places words in the appropriate context of facts. By saying here that this is the one who takes away the sin of the world, he did not call him "the Only Begotten Son" or "Son of God" or "the one who is close to the Father's bosom," as it appears that he had said above, although now would have seemed the right time to express the majesty of his nature in order to confirm the purpose of the things which he was about to give. But [the Baptist] did not say any of these things. Instead, he called him lamb, a name that signifies his passion...

This volume is more than worth you time.


And so is this wonderful commentary on Genesis by Severian of Gabala and Bede the Venerable paired together. 




Severian's material is presented first, as he preached them in seven homilies. Bede's commentary follows.

The church fathers displayed considerable interest in the early chapters of Genesis, and often wrote detailed commentaries or preached series of homilies on the Hexameron--the Six Days of Creation--among them Eustathius of Antioch, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Augustine.

This volume of Ancient Christian Texts offers a first-time English translation of Severian of Gabala's In cosmogoniam and a fresh translation of a portion of Bede the Venerable's Libri quatuor in principium Genesis. Severian, bishop of Gabala in Syria, who early on was a friend of John Chrysostom, later turned against him and opposed him at the Synod of Oak in 403. Though displaying his own strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies, Severian still represents the so-called Antiochene school with its preference for literal over allegorical interpretation of texts. The text derives from the six homilies found in Migne's Patrologia graeca, volume 56, together with a seventh homily found only in the 1613 Eton edition of John Chrysostom's works, edited by Henry Savile, and falsely attributed to Chrysostom.  These homilies have been ably translated with explanatory notes by Robert C. Hill.

The commentary from Bede the Venerable derives from Book I of his four-book commentary on Genesis from the account of creation to the casting out of Ishmael. Bede was a polymath--teacher, computist, exegete, historian--and one of the foremost scholars from Anglo-Saxon England. As a teacher, Bede strove to hand on the tradition of the church in a form easily understood by those who might not be well educated. These early chapters in Genesis provided teaching on creation, human origins, sin and redemption. The text deriving from Corpus Christianorum Latina is ably translated with explanatory notes by Carmen Hardin. (publisher's website)

Lutherans tend to be more comfortable with the literalness of the Antioch school of Bible interpretation. Unfortunately, the translation appears at home with the JEDP school of Genesis interpretation (5). Don't let that prevent you from reading and appreciating Severian. In Homily Two, Severian comments (31) on the second day of creation, speaking of law and Gospel in the Word:

The Word of God arouses the soul's desire and envelops it in joy in a kind of joy like a kind of lamp, so as to bring luster to its reasoning, cheer its thinking, cleanse it of sin and enlighten its ideas. That is what the Word of God is like: what a whetstone is to a blade, the Word of God is to the soul. It is not a single benefit the whetstone brings to the blade; instead it first has the effect of expunging rust from it, then it thins its thickness, sharpens it when blunt, brightens it when dull, cleanses, brightens, and sharpens. 


Bede is not helpful when he comments on "Six Ages of the World" (135). It is a creative allegory and may be safely omitted.


Later, commenting on Genesis 3:15 (155), Bede shines as he extols the ongoing work of Christ in His Church, His Bride:

The woman will bruise the head of the serpent when the holy church drives away the snares of the devil and the poisonous persuasions that were discovered from the beginning, and just as if treading them under foot, the church reduces them to nothing. She will bruise the head of the serpent when she resists the pride through which Eve was deceived, having been humbled under the mighty hand of God, for "the beginning of all sin is pride." And the serpent lies in ambush for the heel when he busies himself to snatch us at the end of this present life. For "heel," which is at the end of the body, fairly designates the end of our life, because the state of the serpent, who is bruised by all who can and who never stops lying in ambush to viciously attack the feet of people, allows both interpretations figuratively.

Bede and Severian are worth reading and make good reading together, both foremost scholars in their own day and capable and eloquent expositors of their own theological schools of tradition.



Context and culture are very helpful to better understanding Scripture in its original time and place, as we listen in the place of the original hearers. Anything that can be done so that we understand things as they would helps us understand not only what the text meant first, and also what it still means in our day and age.


Pastors, preachers, and scholars are the best servants they can be to the Church when they speak where and when Scripture speaks and are silent when God's Word is silent.We have a lot to learn from our fathers in the faith, especially who Christ is and what He has done for us to win and deliver forgiveness, life and salvation to us. 


At times, we need to learn from the fathers' counter-example, when they insert opinion, bias, or speculation. Hopefully, that will help us self-edit, so that we may present Christ and Him crucified and Risen all the more clearly this Holy Week, Easter, every Sunday, and at every opportunity.



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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