Monday, January 21, 2013

FW: The Three Things We Must Do to Support a Revival of Confessional Lutheranism




Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed
Posted on: Friday, January 18, 2013 4:06 AM
Author: Paul T. McCain
Subject: The Three Things We Must Do to Support a Revival of Confessional Lutheranism




If God should once more grant us a revival, and with it a renewal of our church, that rests with God's omnipotence alone.

That which we are able to do is threefold.


First of all, we can make ourselves see the status of our church and of Christendom. We must understand, of course, that the question is not how the legendary eighty million Lutherans of the world, who really do not exist but [who] have been invented by exceedingly superficial and thoughtless statistics, can be merged into a powerful organism. We must know, however, how those can be congregated from the midst of that poor, stricken, and feeble Lutheranism for whom the Lutheran Confession is not a mere pretense, but, as it was for Luther and the signatories of the Confessions, a matter of life and death, of eternal life and eternal death, because it is a matter pertaining to the everlasting truth of the Holy Scriptures, which concerns all peoples and all churches of Christendom. Indeed, we are not called to think and act in an ecumenical fashion, looking upon the Confessions as something relative, reducing them to the lowest level and practically doing away with them. We are, like Luther, to search for the one truth of the one Gospel for the one Church. Let us again become confessional Lutherans for the sake of the unity of the Church.


The second thing that we must do to attain this end, and something we can do without difficulty, is that we again study the Confessions, that we again and again compare them with Holy Scripture, and that we constantly learn to value their interpretation of the Scriptures and their scriptural proofs more profoundly. As the Roman Catholic has the daily duty to read his breviary, a tedious and difficult task, our duty must be, next to the thorough study of the Scriptures, the unflagging study of the Confessions. In this manner let us begin prayerfully to read Luther's Large Catechism. For Luther, though an old doctor, still was not ashamed to pray the catechism daily. The deepest cause for the failure of the German church struggle is none other than that everyone always spoke about the Confessions, appealed to them, but did not really know them. We need this insight not only for ourselves, our teaching, and our preaching but also very much so for our congregations. At the last large convention of the United Lutheran Church in America, an engineer made the statement (by the way, in agreement with the president of the church, Dr. Fry17) that the church is in need of theologians, that it calls for theologians. The Christian congregation of the present day in all lands and of all creeds is tired of the undogmatic, devotional character of the ethical sermon, which changes its theme every year. It demands in a way which we pastors frequently do not understand at all a substantial dogmatic sermon, a doctrinal sermon in the best sense of the word. If our contemporaries do not find it in the Lutheran Church, then the hunger for doctrine will drive them into other denominations. Therefore lay hold of the Confessions, dear brethren in the ministry, by yourselves and together with others.*


The third thing, however, that we must learn anew is Luther's invincible faith in the power of the means of grace. Whatever the Church still has and still does should not be minimized. But she does not live from mercy, or from political and social activity. She does not subsist on large numbers. When will the terrible superstition of the Christendom of our day cease that Jesus Christ is powerful only there where two or three million are gathered together in His name? When will we again comprehend that the Church lives by the means of grace of the pure preaching of the Gospel and by the divinely instituted administration of the Sacraments and by nothing else? And for no other reason than because Jesus Christ the Lord is present in His means of grace and builds His Church on earth, being even as powerful as ever before in the history of the Church— even if His power and glory, to speak as our Confessions do, are cruce tectum, hidden under the cross [Ap VII– VIII 18]. Oh, what secret unbelief and what little faith we find in the Church that calls herself the Church of the sola fide! May God in His grace eradicate this unbelief and strengthen this weak faith in our souls and renew us through the great faith of the New Testament and the Reformation. That, and that alone, is the manner of overcoming the urgent need of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the greatest and weightiest crisis of her history.

 — From: Sasse, Herman (2013-01-09). Letters to Lutheran Pastors – Volume 1; Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Number One: "Concerning the Status of the Lutheran Churches in the World Today," December 1948.  Concordia Pub House. Kindle Edition.


* [Do not use the ELCA's edition of the Book of Concord, which undermines the authority of the Book of Concord by substituting texts never used in either the German or Latin editions of the Book of Concord. Further, it contains intentional mistranslations of the original language to accommodate the feminist and gay/lesbian agenda in the ELCA, and that incorrectly identifies the crypto-Calvinists as "crypto-Philippists," not to mention the insidious and pervasive use of a gender neutered translation style which weakens the clear Christological confession in the BOC].


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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

FW: O ewiger, barmherziger Gott




Posted on: Monday, January 14, 2013 9:41 AM
Author: Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes)
Subject: O ewiger, barmherziger Gott


Here is my translation of the Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor trope as given by the Bohemian Brethren in Thamm, et al., Kirchengeseng (1566) and reproduced by Keuchenthal in his Kirchengesenge (1573), where the German trope, perhaps in view of the emphasis on the Spirit on the extended ninth petition, is appointed for Pentecost (the Greek of the same tone is there called the Kyrie Angelicum and appointed for Epiphanytide). The same appointment is found in Thamm. The German follows the Latin to a fair extent, though the phrasing is markedly different in the Bohemian. Note that as usual with the Bohemian vernacular tropes, there is not attempt to preserve the Greek eleison (or Kyrie), but it is paraphrased in diverse ways throughout. The notes are representative of the Kyrie as found in northern manuscripts, especially before the 19th century codification by the Solesmes group concretized the simpler southern version.

O ETERNAL God of graciousness,
For Thy goodness Thee we bless,
Which to us Thou ever show'st
In wonders which Thou dost.
1b.   Thou hast had regard for all our need,
As a gracious God indeed,
And through Thy beloved Son,
Grace and full redemption won.
1c.   We this day, by Him redeemed, therefore
With all confidence implore
That with Him Thou wouldest be
One in mind and piety.

2a. Christ, the blessed Fruit Thou art,
Conceived beneath a virgin heart,
Who didst give
Thine own life, that we may live:
2b. Thou hast suffered death and hell
For all our sins so great and fell,
Paid for all our guilt in Thee.
2c. O Lord Jesus Christ, since Thou
Art seated high in heaven now,
To us send
Thy good Spirit, us to tend.

3a. O Holy Spirit, God and Lord,
Help in need afford,
Kindly let Thy gifts on us be poured.
3b. O come at last, Thou Fire divine,
Hearts renew, refine,
Purge the former leaven, make us Thine.

3c. Renew in mercy our spirit,
Restore, repair it:
Direct our life and behavior
To meet Thy favor.
For on Thee, Lord, do we depend forever:
Thine the glory, God and Lord,
Ever blessèd and adored.

Translation © 2013 Matthew Carver.

1a. O ewiger, barmherziger Gott,
wir danken dir der Wohlthat,
die du uns erzeiget hast,
und aller Werk so du thust.
1b. Du hast angesehn all unser Not,
als ein genädiger Gott,
uns durch deinen lieben Sohn,
Gnad und Erlösung gethan.
1c. Sintemal er uns nun hat erlöst,
so bitten wir auch getrost,
daß du uns wolltest mit ihm
verfügen in einen Sinn.

2a. Christe, benedeite Frucht,
empfangen rein in aller Zucht,
dein Leben
hast du für uns gegeben,
2b. Du hast erlitten den Tod,
für unser Sünd und Missethat,
mit Geduld
bezahlet all unser Schuld.
2c. Ey, nun, Herre Jesu Christ,
weil du oben im Himmel bist,
send uns herab
den Geist in heilsamer Gab.

3a. O Heiliger Geist, wahrer Gott,
sieh an unser Not,
und erfüll uns mit dein Gaben aus Genad.
3b. O komm du Göttlicher Feuer,
und feg uns von allem alten Gesäuer.
3c. Verneu auch unser Gemüte,
durche deine Güte.
Regier unser ganzes Leben,
und mach dirs eben.
Denn wir uns dir ganz und gar übergeben:
Deinem Namen,
Herre Gott, zu ewigem Preis. Amen.

1a Cunctipotens genitor
Deus omni-creator : eleison.
b Salvificet pietas
tua nos bone rector : eleison.
c Fons et origo bone
pie luxque perhennis : eleison.

2a Christe dei splendor virtus
patrisque sophia : eleison
b Plasmatis humanis factor
lapsis reparator : eleison
c Ne tua damnatur Jesu
factura benigne : eleison

3a Amborum sacrum spiramen
nexus amorque : eleison
b Procedens fomes vite fons
purificans vis : eleison
c Indultor [Purgator] culpe venie
largitor optime offensas
dele sacro nos munere reple : eleison
Spirite alme : eleison

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Monday, January 14, 2013

LHP Review: Essential Lutheranism


Braaten, Carl. E. Essential Lutheranism: Theological Perspectives on Christian Faith and Doctrine. Dehli, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2012. 205 Pages. Paper. $17.00. (LHP) 

The aim of this book is to present the essentials of confessional Lutheran theology in an ecumenical and pluralistic age.   The old Lutheranism will not do as the author says.  The identity to strive for is evangelical and catholic or orthodox.  The author feels that the LCMS is stuck in the period of seventeenth century Lutheran orthodoxy and appeals too much to the Book of Concord.  The end result is that he feels we spend too much time as LCMS Lutherans talking what makes us different from other traditions, especially Reformed Protestant to the one side and Roman Catholic to the other side.   Thus, he believes the LCMS and WELS tend to be anti-ecumenical because of this approach. 


In Chapter One, Lutheran Identity, he spends a lot of time taking on what he feels is a big Lutheran weakness, reducing everything in Christianity to single principle.  As Lutherans that principle is easily identified among us as the article of justification by faith alone.  It is said quite frequently among us that justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls.   The author sees this as real weakness and believes that a systematic theology that claims to be evangelical, catholic, and orthodox is based on the twin towers of Trinity and Christology.  He believes that emphasis on this chief article has come down to us from Luther's spiritual encounter with his conscience and the Bible.   He poses the question what if later Lutherans do not share this same experience---What happens then to the doctrine of justification?  Does it enjoy the same status?  At least a suggestion is made that the doctrine of justification might not have been as important to Melanchthon because he wasn't nearly as troubled of a soul as Luther.


In Chapter Two, Ecclesiology, he seeks to give a starting point for the definition of the church suggesting that it must be "Jesus' message of the kingdom of God and it must envision the world as the field of its mission."  The weakness of AC Article VII as the author sees it is that it is only a partial definition of the church.  "The congregation of the saints in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered" is only half of the equation.  What is missing is the church's orientation to the kingdom of God and of her missionary vocation in world history.  As a result, the author feels that present-day Lutheranism suffers from this definition because mission is simply tacked on as an optional activity and is not at the core of the church according to Article VII.  Again as he says, "The being of the church is to exist as the function of the kingdom of God in the open field of world history."


Chapter Two also has a prediction he makes about the Lutheran future.  His prediction is that if Lutherans don't join with the Catholics and the Orthodox we will be in serious trouble.  Ecumenism is a must in the day and age in which we live.   He makes the point that we can't afford to go without the Catholic and Orthodox traditions of doctrine, worship, spirituality and church life otherwise we will be eventually engulfed by the surrounding neo-pagan culture now taking over both the Liberal and Evangelical forms of Protestantism.    This leads him to the conclusion that the JDDJ (Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification) was a great step in the right direction.


Chapter Three, Ecumenism, points out that Christians are no longer regarding each other as strangers and enemies, but rather as brothers and sisters who belong to the same Christian family, however dysfunctional the family may appear.    He brings up the letter sent to the pope signed by the president of the LCMS, who I assume was Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, which was signed, "Your brother in Christ."  He mentions that some old-guard conservatives in the LCMS were infuriated by this and that is just show the lack of ecumenism among the LCMS.  He then brings up some interesting points about Roman Catholics that they don't really believe what we think they believe.  Given more time this would be interesting to unpack.   The way Braaten sees it is that Roman Catholics and Lutherans have two different theological systems but what they are saying is not that much different.  They both are faithful to the Gospel from his perspective or at least not as far off as might be assumed.   The obstacles to unity are thus miniscule. Obviously, for Braaten who has a favorable view to the JDDJ that should not be a church-dividing issue between Lutherans and Catholics.  About the only issue he is willing to grant as a church dividing issue between Rome and Lutherans is papal infallibility and its claim to universal jurisdiction.   


Chapter Four, Evangelization, Braaten who thankfully has been critical of the ELCA's stance on human sexuality, mentions that theologians must be critical of the church bureaucracy especially as the church loses its primary mission of evangelization of the world.  He mentions that for a church who takes its cues from Martin Luther who wrote the 95 Theses, church theologians can't afford to play politics and not speak God's critical Word of Law and Gospel.   Further, he criticizes not only Lutheran bureaucracy but also the Lutheran confessions stating that they do not project a vision of world evangelization.   Somewhat of embarrassment is that Johann Gerhard put forward the incredible notion that the Great Commission of Jesus was fully accomplished in the age of the apostles!  Contrary to that mistaken notion Braaten believes it is essential that the Church of God carries out its divine mission to evangelize the nations.  He includes a very good synopsis of how the church's mission is threatened by relativism and pluralism. 


Chapter 5, Ethics, praises the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms with one caveat---that the Lutherans realize that faith and politics are not separate.  He makes a wonderful point that the two kingdoms are not to be totally separate for if that were true then Jesus would not have been crucified by the Roman government and John the Baptist would not have lost his head to King Herod.  It is faith's public expression that has been responsible for a number of the Christian martyrs.   Braaten encourages Lutherans to remember that the Reformation began as an act of civil disobedience.  Luther was asked to recant and he did not.  He defied the emperor.  So Braaten states that there will be times it will be necessary to resist temporal authorities, to break human laws that violate the justice of God.  There is a time to refuse to bear arms in a manifestly unjust war.  There will be times when Christians must conscientiously object even if it means going to prison, paying a fine, or suffering ridicule and exclusion.


In his final Chapter on Eschatology Braaten believes that this is an important chapter that may be last in the book but can't be last in our theological system.  In fact it must be at the beginning of Christian theology. He quotes Karl Barth who said, "Christianity that is not entirely and altogether eschatology has entirely and altogether nothing to do with Christ."  Eschatology is extremely important otherwise everything gets reduced down to ethical statements.  Braaten is critical of those churches that collapse their entire eschatology down to the apocalyptic future because it is fails to see that we are those upon whom the end of the ages has come.  We live in a tension of the "now" and the "not yet."  Those churches which collapse everything into the future have lost sight of the coming Kingdom of God in the incarnation of Christ and his sacramental presence in the church.  


Overall, this book is worth reading to get a different perspective on issues that divide churches and what ecumenism is doing these days.  If anything just to know where we can agree and unite and where we dare not unite for the sake of false unity.   It also holds up a mirror for those of us in the LCMS concerning our beliefs and that can only help sharpen our theological acumen and defense of the Gospel.




The Rev. Ryan E. Mills is Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Cheyenne, WY and a contributor to LHP Quarterly Book Review (12/28/2012).





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FW: "Roman" Catholic?




Feed: Pastoral Meanderings
Posted on: Sunday, January 13, 2013 5:00 AM
Author: (Pastor Peters)
Subject: "Roman" Catholic?


Often I get complaints about my practice of referring to the ROMAN Catholic Church, as opposed to simply the Catholic Church.  In part, my practice is informed by my desire to affirm that the confession of the Lutheran Church is that we have not departed from the catholic tradition and that our Confessions embody the evangelical and catholic faith and are not sectarian.  I know this is a point in dispute with Rome  but I am, after all, Lutheran.

The other reason, perhaps the larger one, is that the term Roman reminds us that it is precisely communion with the Bishop of Rome that does shape and inform this church's unity.  The Pope is not incidentally the Bishop of Rome but is the Bishop of Rome and whoever the Bishop of Rome is, that Bishop is also the Pope.

One blogger has written complaining of the Roman part of the name:

The common misconception is that, since the Catholic Church does find its temporal head in Vatican City (which is in Rome), it must make sense that one can refer to it as the Roman Catholic Church. And while this is true that the temporal head, the Pope, resides there, one must understand that the nature of the Church is much more complex than this. I shall now refer to the Rites of the Church. There are seven "rites", or liturgical traditions, which exist within the Church. Each rite, though sharing the same teachings and beliefs as the Roman (Latin) rite, differ in language/cultural and liturgical styles.

But I respond that is exactly the point -- it is their communion with the Bishop of Rome that unites the different and distinct rites, often more diverse than one might presume. One becomes Roman Catholic not merely by affirming the content of the faith but by recognizing the Holy See and submitting to the authority of the Bishop of Rome as Pope and Vicar of Christ on earth.

Perhaps if the papacy were unhooked from the office of Bishop of Rome, it might be harder for me to justify my point but we are in no danger of seeing that ever happen.  Since it is the Latin Rite and not strictly speaking the Roman Rite, Roman refers less to the rite than to the see in which the various rites are united.  So I do not think it either illogical or unfair to refer to the Roman Catholic Church.

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FW: From the Archives: Why Theology Matters to Musicians




Feed: Worship Matters
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:28 PM
Author: Bob Kauflin
Subject: From the Archives: Why Theology Matters to Musicians


BOOKSThis post is based on a message I gave at the Christian Musician Summit in 2008.

When Christian musicians get together, we tend to assume we all have our theology down and we can focus on honing our chops, discovering new gear, and improving our techniques and methodologies. Or maybe we think that theology isn't that important. Whatever the reason, I wanted to make clear that even at the Christian Musician Summit, theology matters.

Theology is literally the "study of God," particularly as he has revealed himself in Scripture. It includes not only studying the Bible, but understanding how the different parts of the Bible fit together. Christian musicians need to know theology. But before I explain why, here are four potential objections people might have.

1. People just argue about theology.
Yes. Partly because we're sinful. But mostly because there are some truths that are worth defending and fighting for. Even dying for.

2. Theology just makes life complicated.
It depends on what you mean by complicated. If you think that knowing how to play your instrument makes it complicated, then yes, theology makes life complicated. Theology doesn't make like complicated. It actually makes life simpler. It protects us from reading verses out of context or reading only our favorite passages. Theology tells us what words like glory, gospel, salvation, and love mean. Theology helps us understand what we're actually doing every Sunday. What complicates life is not theology but ignorance of theology.

3. Studying theology makes people proud.
It shouldn't. The better we know God, the humbler we should be. The more we should  realize that what we know will always be dwarfed by what we don't know.

4. We'll never know it all anyway.
Just because we can't know everything about God, doesn't mean we can't know some things truly. God has revealed himself to us in his word and given us his Spirit so that we can know him.

Here are three reasons why theology should matter to Christian musicians.

1. You're already a theologian.
Every Christian, musical or otherwise, is already a theologian. The question is, are you a good theologian or a bad one? We're good theologians if what we say and think about God lines up with what Scripture says and affirms. We're bad theologians if our view of God is vague, or if we think God doesn't really mind sin, or is we see Jesus as a good example and not a Savior, or if we our god is too small to overcome evil or too big to care about us.

2. God reveals himself primarily through words, not music.
Because we've encountered God profoundly during times of musical worship, we can wrongly start assuming that words restrict the Spirit, while music enables us to experience God in fresh and powerful ways. If God had wanted us to know him primarily through music, the Bible would be a soundtrack, not a book. Music affects and helps us in many ways, but it doesn't replace truth about God. By itself, music can never help us understand the meaning of God's self-existence, the nature of the Incarnation, or Christ's substitutionary atonement. Simply put, truth outlasts tunes.

3. Being good theologians makes us better musicians.

  • Theology teaches us what music is meant to do.
  • Theology teaches us that worship is more than music.
  • Theology teaches us that Jesus is better than music.

You can download a copy of my notes here.

[First posted on Nov. 18, 2008]



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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

FW: "Altar Fellowship is Church Fellowship"




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Sunday, January 06, 2013 3:11 PM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: "Altar Fellowship is Church Fellowship"



The Holy Scriptures simply teach that church fellowship is altar fellowship.[1]"The cup of blessing which we bless is the koinoniaof the blood of Christ, the bread which we break is the koinonia of the body of Christ." (1 Corinthians 10:16) The Apostle connects this participation in the body and blood of the Lord immediately with the assertion that, as the bread is one, so we who are many are one body, because we partake of one bread. (v. 17) The Corpus Christi sacramentale and the Corpus Christi spirituali sive mysticum [The sacramental body of Christ and the spiritual or mystical body of Christ] as our dogmaticians say, belong essentially together. Ecclesia, "church" in the strict sense of the New Testament is there where the people of God come together at one place and celebrate the Lord's Supper. There the body of Christ in the double sense is reality, though it is of course not only there. From this view of the New Testament, that altar fellowship is church fellowship and church fellowship is altar fellowship, it follows that the boundaries of both coincide. Where does the boundary of altar fellowship in the New Testament lie? It is significant that all our documents concerning the oldest Christian Supper, insofar-as they bear a liturgical character, describe a boundary for altar fellowship. "The doors! The doors!" cries the deacon before the Creed yet today in the liturgy of Eastern Church. With this the liturgy of the "believers" begins, reminiscent of the first Sunday of the church, when the Lord came to His own behind closed doors (John 20:19). "No catechumen, no hearer, no unbeliever, no heterodox" shall be present at the Supper according to the liturgical cry of the Antiochene liturgy in the eighth book of The Apostolic Constitutions (ch. 12), and among the believers no one should have anything against another, nor should a hypocrite approach (Compare the text of Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, I, p. 13). "Santa sanctis," "Holy things for holy ones" sounded the warning call before the communion. And so that no one thereby understood that the church was a union of pharisees, the response of the holy people of God sounded: "One is holy, One is the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the honor of God the Father." (Compare Brightman p. 24 et passim.) The fact that all liturgies of the old Greek Church contain such a cry by which a fence was placed around the Supper points to the fact that this is a very ancient practice. The way in which Justin [ca. 100-ca. 165] (Apology. I, 66) in his account concerning the origin of the Supper emphasizes that Jesus at the institution of the Supper gave bread and wine to the disciples only—who else could he have given it to?—shows that the "to them alone" is essential to his understanding of the Supper. The admonitions and warnings of the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [Didache] corresponds to this. "No one is to eat or drink from your eucharist unless they are baptized in the name of the Lord. For concerning this the Lord has said: Do no give that which is holy to dogs." (Didache 9.5) Thus follows the "rubric" in the liturgy, "He who is holy, come; he who is not, repent" (10.6). This same writing prescribes confession and absolution before the Sunday celebration of the Supper in the same way the later liturgies and church orders do:


But every Lord's day do gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord.[2]


Here follows the citation from Malachi 1:11 and 14, which in this passage for the first time is applied to the Supper, though not yet in the sense of the later theory of the sacrifice of the mass. For the "sacrifice" is here still the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the Biblical sense, applied to the "Eucharistia" (Didache 14). When we look at the New Testament in this light then we see immediately several passages containing the early Christian concept of the "closed Supper," namely that the Lord's Supper is celebrated behind closed doors, to the exclusion of those who do not belong at it.


First, it is certain that wherever in the New Testament there is the demand for the holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14), the "kiss of peace," the later "Pax" which preceded the communion, is in view. The demands for this kiss occur as they do at the conclusion of these letters of Paul because they were read before the gathered ecclesia which then proceeded to celebrate the Supper. Thus the letters conclude with the "Apostolic Blessing" in its simple form, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," or in the developed Trinitarian form such as we find in 2 Corinthians 13:13. Is it mere coincidence that in the Greek (the liturgy of Chrysostom) and in the Syrian (e.g. in the liturgy of Theodor of Mopsuestia) Churches they do not begin the preface with "The Lord be with you" but with the formula of greeting from 2 Corinthians 13:13? The conclusion of the book of Revelation should also be compared with the Pauline letters. Is it merely coincidental that the "Maranatha! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!" of 1 Corinthians 16:23 is repeated in Revelation. 22:20 with the words: "Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all"? Was not Revelation written to be read in the liturgy (1:11; 22:18) as much as the letters of Paul? Even if it is not possible for us to know all the details of the liturgy of the first century (Pliny gives us the responsories for the time immediately before the turn of the century; the Sanctus is verified for the first century through Clement of Rome [Bishop of Rome 92-101]) the letters of Paul certainly show us this much: besides the words of institution, which belong to the celebration of the Lord's Supper, there is the demand for the kiss of peace; and then follows immediately the warning against schismatics and heretics, the anathema (Romans 16:16f.; 1 Corinthians 16:20, 22); then the ancient petition of the congregation for the coming of the Lord (still spoken in Aramaic in the Pauline congregations); and finally the benediction. The similarity of the letters of Paul with Revelation and the Didache show that these were fixed liturgical usages.


What interests us here is the close connection between the "Pax" and the "Anathema"; the kiss of love and peace, which expressed the unity and fellowship of the church, and the inflexible exclusion of schismatics and heretics from the Supper and thereby the church. At the conclusion of First Corinthians, which is directed against the divisions in the church of Corinth, it is the stubborn schismatics to whom the Anathema is directed: "If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be Anathema" (16:22). For the one who arrogantly splits the congregation, which is the body of the Lord, cannot love the Lord. In the Letter to the Romans the admonition to greet one another in peace with the kiss of love, and the assurance that the church of Rome is in this kiss bound together with all churches of Christ, is followed by the express warning over against heretics:


Now I urge you brethren, note those who caused divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple [16:17f.; compare 1 Corinthians 16:20].


The fellowship of the church, the deepest and most intimate fellowship which there is, presupposes an inflexible separation from heresy (1 John 4:1–7; 2 John 9ff.; 2 Corinthians 6:14) because it is at the same time both fellowship between believers and fellowship with the Triune God (1 John 1:3). And this separation finds its essential expression in who does and who does not receive the Supper (Abendmahlszucht). The fundamental axiom of canon law that there can be no communicatio in sacris cum haereticis  [lit: no fellowship in holy things with heretics] comes directly from the early church and has its dogmatic basis in the New Testament.

Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors 28, 1952

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[1]So also CFW Walther and the LCMS. "Members of heterodox fellowships are not excommunicated by their nonadmission to the celebration of Holy Communion in fellowship with the Lutheran church, much less are they (declared to be heretics) and condemned, but only suspended until they have reconciled with the orthodox church by leaving the false fellowship in which they stand." Theses on Communion Fellowship (1870) in C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, St. Louis: CPH, p. 225. MH


[2] English text cited from "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Reprinted by Eerdmans, 1979), Vol VII, p. 381 MH

FW: “O How Beautiful the Sky”: A Scandinavian Hymn for Epiphany




Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Monday, January 07, 2013 10:10 AM
Author: Pastor Shawn Stafford
Subject: "O How Beautiful the Sky": A Scandinavian Hymn for Epiphany


Also translated, "Bright and Glorious is the Sky" (ELH 120), this delightful hymn for Christmas and Epiphany comes from the country of Denmark. If you could, by some chance, worship in a Danish Lutheran church this past Sunday, you would probably be singing this hymn.
Everything about this hymn is joyous- the words, the meaning, the melody. To hear this hymn and read the words click here.

"Bright and glorious is the sky," it begins. The first verse paints a picture with words. What a beautiful sight the heavens are with unnumbered stars shining like jewels in the dark night! These are the same stars the Wise Men saw. But the Wise Men discovered a special star, one that shone brighter and more brilliantly than all the rest. They hymn goes on to tell the story of how the "sages from the East far" (v. 3) followed the "Christmas star" (v. 2). The star led them to the "King of nations" (v. 3), who wore no crown or "diadem" (v. 4). Rather they found the Babe of Bethlehem.


The poet tells us that we have a star to guide us, too. The sixth stanza gives us the clue. It is "God's holy Word." The light from its "sacred pages" will shine upon "our path of life."  It "forever will provide us/ with the light to find our Lord" (v. 5).

This hymn is sung to a lilting melody that almost sings itself. You will note that the composer of this tune is not known. People were probably singing this Danish melody when the words were written.

The Danish name for the tune is  DEJIG ER DEN HIMMEL BLAA. The  tune is also known by the Latin name, CELESTIA, meaning "heavens," reflecting the the words of the hymn.

Nikolai Grundtvig  is the author of "O How Beautiful the Sky." His name is a famous one in Denmark and in the Lutheran Church. This gifted poet and hymn-writer was also a fiery and fearless preacher. He is sometimes known as the "Poet of Whitsuntide" (Pentecost). A number of his other hymns appear in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, including "Built on a Rock" (ELH 211) and "God's Word is our Great Heritage" (ELH 583). grundtvig_nfs_2

(Article adapted from Katherine J. Weller, We Sing to God (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964) p. 14.

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FW: LCMS President Friedrich Pfotenhauer on Union, Unionism and Truth




Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Sunday, January 06, 2013 2:56 PM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: LCMS President Friedrich Pfotenhauer on Union, Unionism and Truth


Pfotenhauer, Pres. 1911-1935


The confessional writings of our Church are the legacy that we have inherited from our fathers. Hence, in these jubilee years, we should be careful to celebrate these great historical events not merely by decorating the fathers' graves by splendid orations and great, festive demonstrations, but rather by earnest heart-searching and inquiry as to how we regard this legacy of the fathers. The fathers of our Lutheran Church prized purity of teaching as their greatest treasure. Their one fear was that they might in some way adulterate the truth. Their one purpose was to spread the truth by faithful instruction in pulpit and school. Alas, how many who call themselves Lutherans prove themselves unworthy of the fathers! In large territories of the Lutheran Church, purity of teaching is held in but low regard, and a spirit of indifference can calmly see one scriptural doctrine after the other thrown overboard, while but little effort is put forth to indoctrinate the Church's youth in church and school.


The founders of our beloved Synod had eyes opened to recognize in the Lutheran Confessions a golden legacy. How they prized the truth of these writings, and how zealous were they to hand on this truth intact to us, their children! To this end they erected educational institutions, published books and periodicals, and established congregations and schools. With sadness of heart we must register the indisputable fact that in our own generation, the appreciation and love of pure doctrine is waning. We can see this in many places. Our Church is in great danger of drifting into a state of lethargy. By the grace of God, the coming jubilees want to help us to appreciate anew our inheritance and to turn it to good account, so that with all our hearts we may join the psalmist in saying: "Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart" [Ps. 119:111].


Our fathers, however, not only rejoiced in the glory of the Lord that had risen upon them, they also were ready to prove the genuineness of their faith by supporting their Confession with a readiness to suffer shame, persecution, yes, even death for the sake of the truth. When at Spires and Augsburg they were threatened with severe punishment, they did not allow themselves to be intimidated. When at Marburg, Luther was tempted to make concessions to the Zwinglian party for the purpose of bringing about a great political confederation, calculated to afford the new teaching the protection of the sword, he withstood the temptation, heedless of consequences, and was willing to go his way alone rather than, at the expense of the divine truth, enter into an alliance with men who had "a different spirit." It was not easy thus to isolate oneself. The Smalcald Articles say: "To dis- sent from the agreement of so many nations and to be called schismatics is a grave matter. But divine authority commands all not to be allies and defenders of impiety and unjust cruelty." (Treatise 42; Triglotta, 516)


In this attitude of our fathers, my dear brothers, there lies a solemn admonition to the Church of the present day. And how we do need that admonition! The universal tendency of our times is to "get together." Isolation in church life is regarded as intolerable. Those who keep themselves separate for the sake of the truth are denounced as bigots. The well-being and prosperity of the Church is sought in the merger of church bodies even at the cost of truth. Sad to say, this destructive virus of unionism has infected also many Lutheran circles. This modern striving after external union despite spiritual disunion brings to one's mind the words that God spoke to Israel by the prophet Isaiah: "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of Hosts, Him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" [Isaiah 8:12–13].


God grant that the remembrance of the great events in the history of our Church may be to us all a call of admonition and encouragement not to seek the well-being of the Church in all manner of unions at the expense of truth, but rather to let it be our great care to hold fast for ourselves and our children our rich inheritance as embodied in our Lutheran Confessions. Then, even though we, with our brethren in the Synodical Conference, must feel ever more the sting of isolation, the true fountain of Israel will richly flow for us in the Word of God; heaven will stand open; we shall have a cheerful conscience, sweet comfort in life and death, and unfailing strength for a life of godliness. And God will use our testimony as a guide for many also outside of our Synod. May God bless the coming jubilees unto such glorious consummation! We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.


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FW: On Flags in the Sanctuary




Feed: Father Hollywood
Posted on: Monday, January 07, 2013 11:26 PM
Author: Rev. Larry Beane
Subject: On Flags in the Sanctuary


The question recently came up in my congregation about the lack of a U.S. flag in the sanctuary of the church.  I did not remove it; my predecessor actually did it years ago, before I was called to my current congregation.


And I support his decision to do so.


Of course, this was not a popular decision at the time.  But pastors are not called to be popular.  And for people who simply want what they want, and who stop up their ears to any explanation, they will simply choose to be angry.  They may even pass along veiled (or not so veiled) accusations of evil motives.  And yet even though I did not always agree with my predecessor in liturgical matters, I know he had no evil intention in making this decision - a decision that had the unanimous concurrence of the Board of Elders.


Everything in the church is about Jesus.  Everything in the sanctuary points us to Jesus.  Art is a powerful communicator of Christ and the Gospel - from the candles (representing the Light of Christ, the Light of the World), to the linen-shrouded altar (representing the empty tomb), to the baptismal font (often eight-sided pointing us to the eight people saved through water in the ark), to the stained glass windows depicting events in the life of our Lord and of the church, to statues and paintings, even to the plants and flowers (reminding us of Eden and of "the Lord and giver of life," everything in the church points us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and ultimately to the restored communion with the Triune God won for us by the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The pastor's vestments, the symbols sewn on them and on the paraments, the colors used in the course of the year, the advent candles, the art depicted on banners, all point us to Jesus.  Crosses and chi-rhos, alphas and omegas, images of nails and crowns of thorns, even the dignified precious metals used in the communion vessels communicate the holiness of the sacramental reality of the Lord's presence.


Some might argue that Christmas trees and poinsettias and lilies that adorn our chancels are exceptions to this rule, but not so.  The Christmas tree is a tree - symbolic of both the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from which comes all death and misery.  The Christmas tree symbolizes both the manger (the rough-hewn cradle of the Christ child) and the cross (the tree upon which the cursed Man is hanged).  Poinsettias and lilies are both plants that are at the height of their beauty during the holy seasons of Christmas and Easter.  There is nothing more natural and Christ-centered than to bring the beauty of life at the fullness of its vitality into the place where eternal life is given by grace!


The lily, in particular, is sometimes manifested (especially in my region) as a fleur-de-lis.  It is a symbol of Louisiana's French heritage because it is a religious symbol of a people steeped in the Christian faith.  The lily is often symbolic of Easter and the resurrection, also the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as the Holy Trinity.  It is a symbol of the football team called the Saints because it was first a symbol of Christian sainthood, that is, holiness.


Similarly, the pelican appears on the state flag of Louisiana, not only because these creatures are native to our state, but also because the pelican is a venerable symbol of Christ, based on the medieval fable of the mother pelican giving her life to feed her brood with her own blood (see also LSB 640, stanza 3).  The symbol of our region is so because the people of our region have an ancient Christian heritage.


The Fleur-de-lis and pelicans have been used in Christian symbolism and art for centuries.  There is a rich and deep christology and Trinitarian confession made with these symbols.


So where do national flags come into all of this?


In the vast majority of churches around the world, you will not find a national flag.  Visitors to the U.S. are sometimes shocked to visit churches and find flags adorning the sanctuary.  It sends a mixed signal about what Lutherans refer to as "the two kingdoms" - that is, the Church (the right hand) and the State (the left hand).  In some European state churches, there is a mixing of the two to the point where in England, the head of the Church is the Queen, and where until recently, in Sweden, pastors were paid out of compulsory taxes.


Some brutal regimes forced flags into the churches, such as Nazi Germany, which compelled churches to display the desecrated cross of National Socialism - which was essentially a competing religion of state-worship.  Sadly, many clergy fell for this false religion and its symbols.

Modern Roman Catholic churches do display the coat of arms of the pope - which so happens to be the national flag of the Vatican.  This probably explains why Roman Catholic churches in the United States do often display U.S. flags - as it is a breach of U.S. etiquette (according to the flag code) to display a foreign ensign without a U.S. flag.  Here in New Orleans, the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter - a historic landmark and tourist attraction - actually displays dozens of historic flags that flew over New Orleans - including the official governmental flag of the Confederate States of America.  And even though I enjoy history and have an affection for the Stars and Bars and other symbols of my heritage, I believe none of these flags have a place in a Christian sanctuary.  The Cathedral has an impressive history, but its most important historical connection is to the body and blood of Christ that are physically present on the holy altar - all other history pales in comparison to Him whose incarnation is why we number our years Anno Domini.


The practice of displaying the U.S. flag in Lutheran churches is a recent phenomenon - and it began because during the World War I era (and again during the Second world war) mainstream Americans were harassing ethnic Germans, and the German Lutherans felt compelled to abandon their German language and heritage and to try very hard to show their American patriotism - partially out of fear of being terrorized - as the U.S. was at war against Germany twice in the last century.


The LCMS website addresses this history as well as the overall issue of whether or not having a U.S. flag in the sanctuary is appropriate:

Rev. Prof. William Schmelder, seasoned parish pastor, historian and professor emeritus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has responded to a query from the Commission on Worship regarding this matter:

"To the best of my knowledge, the U.S. flag began appearing in our churches in response to two things: the desire to express an unquestioned loyalty as U.S. citizens (a reaction to WWI sentiment) and the growing sacralization of the flag in U.S. culture. In the history of my home congregation (Immanuel, Bristol, CT), the story of the responses to both WWI and WWII is given in some detail. However, the picture of the church after the renovation in 1948 does not show a flag. There was a flag on the grounds between the church and the school, and it was raised and lowered with considerable ceremony when school was in session. I think that is one response evident in many congregations: we could show our loyalty in many ways without placing the flag in the church; other congregations seem to have brought it into the building itself, with great debate about the proper location (nave, chancel, narthex, etc.).

"Non-Americans are often astounded to see a national symbol in the church (perhaps they have memories of the Nazi flag being touched to the altars of German churches).

"The so-called Christian flag is another matter entirely. It has no tradition of the church behind it. In fact, it violates much of what anyone knows of ecclesiastical heraldry. It seems to be the design of one man, who both drew it and profits from it. He or his heirs still get a royalty on every one sold. People seem to think that you need something to balance the U.S. flag on the other side, so you have a Christian flag."

Obviously, the inclusion of the American and Christian flags is widespread in the LCMS. As Professor Schmelder mentioned, this probably developed out of the desire of congregations of prominently German-American heritage not to appear German during and after the world wars. Likewise, many veterans of those wars returned with great patriotic zeal, which probably manifested itself in the desire to display "Old Glory" in the sanctuary.

Today, however, it may be time to reconsider this short-lived tradition among us (Lutherans never did this prior to WWI, and then only in America). One may observe that many congregations today, when considering a sanctuary renovation or even building a new sanctuary, will opt to display the flag in a location other than the chancel or nave. Many will place a flag outside of the building proper, or perhaps in the narthex. In such ways, as Professor Schmelder noted, we can demonstrate our patriotism, but not blur the distinction between the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of the world/government. Our Lord's words, of course, come to bear on this issue ultimately: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and render unto God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:22). Both are good and right … in their respective places and times.

Flags are popular in some cultures, and the United States is one of them.  Flags evoke strong feelings and loyalty to hearth and home.  Soccer fans will often wave flags during matches to show affection for their home countries as they are represented on the field.  The same is certainly true in the Olympics.  Flags are displayed on houses and in various community displays out of love of country.

Flags are so common in the United States that they are beloved and comforting symbols.  They appear at sports events, in military or Boy Scout ceremonies, and sometimes even in ways that it could be argued might not be entirely appropriate - such as on decals on cars and on belt buckles.  Some people want the flag in the church because they like it.  But that fact alone is not justification to include it.  I once had a lively debate with a motorcycle-church pastor who argued that it is appropriate to adorn church walls with exhaust pipes and gas tanks.  How these things point us toward Jesus, I don't know.  There is a difference between a Hard Rock Cafe or a Cracker Barrel (both of which have interesting things hanging on the wall) and a Christian church sanctuary - in which the art exists to point us to Christ.

But there is another context and use of flags: a show of jurisdiction.


For example, a Kentucky State court will display the flag of the Commonwealth as a confession of sorts, that this court is convened under Kentucky (not Ohio and not Indiana) law.  A 1988 movie called Judgment in Berlin is an adaptation of the 1984 non-fiction book of the same name written by a U.S. federal judge named  Herbert J. Stern.  Stern presided over an unusual case in 1978, held on German soil, but because of the way post-war Germany had been divided up by the allies, this trial was held under the auspices of U.S. law.  Juries had been abolished by Germany in 1924, and yet this trial, held in Germany, had to have a jury and be conducted under American law and juridical procedure.  The U.S. flag in the courtroom was not a symbol of patriotism or nostalgic feelings of home - it indicated a legal jurisdiction.


Similarly, ships on the high seas are flagged and are under the jurisdictions of the flags they fly.  


Another example of the jurisdictional use of national flags involves embassies.  The Saudi Embassy, for example, is located in Washington, DC.  But it does not fly the U.S. flag.  Embassies are outposts of the countries they serve, and the Saudi Embassy in Washington is actually "Saudi soil" (not sand in Washington!).  U.S. law does not apply there.  The Saudi flag is indicative of sovereignty and jurisdiction.


In a sense, the church (whose space we sometimes call the "nave" - that is, the "ship") is like a ship or an embassy that flies under its own flag.  Churches, though located in the U.S. or Canada or Russia or Ethiopia - are actually missions or consulates or embassies of heaven.  The sovereign of the Church is not the king or the queen or the president - but the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, He who said, "My kingdom is not of this world," He who rebuffed Satan's temptations to give Him all of the kingdoms of the world.


And in the west, there is a long tradition of ecclesiastical law (canon law) being applied to the church instead of civil law.  The controversy between King Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket began as a dispute over who had legal jurisdiction over priests: the king or the bishop.

Even in funerals of soldiers, the draping on the casket inside the sanctuary is not the national flag, but rather the white baptismal pall.  The flag is placed onto the casket only after the body leaves the church and the casket is being prepared to be placed into the grave.  There is a liturgical break between the rites of the church and the rites of the military.  


Finally, it is important to understand that the Church is universal and transcends nation and tribe.  The Lord reveals His Church to be from "every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages."  The Church is not contiguous with any national jurisdiction.  And Lutheran Christians can traverse the planet and can feel right at home in the Divine Service in the presence of their brothers and sisters in Christ (in the very presence of Christ) even if the language of the Mass is unknown to the worshiper.  There is no American Church, German Church, Russian Church, Kenyan Church, or Icelandic Church.  There is only one holy catholic and apostolic Church, a "holy nation" that knows no boundaries, but spans the globe and transcends time itself, even unto eternity.

Nations will rise and fall - and they have.  Kingdoms will come and go - and they have.  Flags will be raised and lowered - and they have.  But God's kingdom "shall stand forever!"

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