Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu, des Herren Gnad und grosse Treu"

[If you think, I am blogging too much for a time when I am not blogging, you might be right.  But this did not take long, nor was hard to do, nor made me open any book, which is the key right now.  It's just sending me on my day singing.]  [English further down.]

All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu
Johannes Zwick -
1. All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu
des Herren Gnad und große Treu;
sie hat kein End den langen Tag,
drauf jeder sich verlassen mag.
2. O Gott, du schöner Morgenstern,
gib uns, was wir von dir begehrn:
Zünd deine Lichter in uns an,
laß uns an Gnad kein Mangel han.
3. Treib aus, o Licht, all Finsternis,
behüt uns, Herr, vor Ärgernis,
vor Blindheit und vor aller Schand
und reich uns Tag und Nacht dein Hand,
4. zu wandeln als am lichten Tag,
damit, was immer sich zutrag,
wir stehn im Glauben bis ans End
und bleiben von dir ungetrennt

Sometimes, I wake up with this song in my head. It can be sung much more cheerfully and energetically than on this video.  It strikes a clarion call with the three high notes in the beginning:  "All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu, des Herren Gnad und grosse Treu!!!"  --  "Every morning is fresh and new--the Lord's grace and great faithfulness!!!!!!!"

It's just a fabulous first line to begin with.  Start it nice and high and loud.  Like a trumpet blast.

For some reason I know the whole song by heart.  We must have used it often.  I also used to play in a brass band like this where all the congregational singing was led by it.

I'll give you the rest of the song.  It does not seem to be in the LSB.

1.  Every morning is fresh and new, the Lord's great grace and faithfulness.  It has no end the entire day long; you may rely on it.

2.  Oh, God, you beautiful morning star, give us what we desire of you;  in us, strike up your light, so that we shall have no lack of your grace.

3.  O Light, drive out all darkness;  protect us, O Lord, from all trouble, from blindness and all confounding;  hold out your hand to us all day.

4. That we shall walk as in the light of day, so that no matter what happens, we stand in faith until the very end and nothing can separate us from you.

(It strikes me now, that Zwick was from Switzerland, that this hymn is more Reformed than Lutheran.  Maybe that's why it's not in the LSB. Though it speaks so beautifully about God's grace and light, it does not mention any Means of Grace. So when we Lutherans rise in the morning to recall God's grace, we recall our baptism into the name of the triune God, specifically.  A full reassurance.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Same View/ Prairie Skies

Same view a few hours later.  There has been a storm practically every evening.


Towards the South East from the top balcony, today.  Everything is lush and the farmers are happy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28th

It's a hard day today.  In memory of Stefan David Mueller.  June 28th, 1990-Jan. 2, 2009.

Issues Interview

I've really enjoyed Dr. Nagel's interviews on Issues.  Here is the one on the Trinity.  Listened to it this weekend.   

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sommersendepause/ summer break in broadcasting

In the title, find a nice German compound noun for you.  All the nouns just get run together to form a new noun.

As you could tell, going through "Christ have Mercy"  got me started reading and writing on a ton of stuff again.  This is all good, except not right now.  We will pick up where we left off, later.

In the meantime, safe and happy holidays to everyone!  Hopefully, everyone can grab a little vacation.

You may pray for our bridal couple and all our families.  The wedding is on July 17th.  The relatives are arriving in 15 days.  We are engaging in lots of great get-togethers. It will be rather a large wedding now. Hardly anyone has declined the invitation and long lost relatives have announced themselves by word of mouth.  All of this is delightful.

June 28th would also have marked Stefan's 20th birthday.  I won't be posting anything for that.  But he will be on our minds, as always.  Find is youtube videos under "nafteslooc" (cool Stefan, backwards)

If anyone wants to e-mail, phone or visit, that would be splendid.  My contact is in the profile.

Just something from Romans that relates to mercy, justification and our limited understanding.  (Romans 11:30-36)  What would we ever be without the word and what would we be without God's mercy.

 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,  so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now  receive mercy For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The limit of the Law

From the commentary on Galatians.
I recommend you buy the book, if you don't have it.  I think it belongs in the Essential Lutheran Library.

I've always meant to have this section handy.  The highlighting of there being no Law in the conscience and the limit of the Law are my own.

For although the Law is the best of all things in the world, it still cannot bring peace to a terrified conscience but makes it even sadder and drives it to despair.  For by the Law sin becomes exceedingly sinful. (Rom. 7:13)

Therefore the afflicted conscience has no remedy against despair and eternal death except to take hold of the promise of grace offered in Christ, that is, this righteousness of faith, this passive or Christian righteousness, which says with confidence:  "I do not seek active righteousness.  I ought to have and perform it;  but I declare that even if I did have it and perform it, I cannot trust in it or stand up before the judgment of God on the basis of it.  Thus I put myself beyond all active righteousness, all righteousness of my own or of the divine Law, and I embrace only that passive righteousness which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of sins."  In other words, this is the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which we do not perform but receive, which we do not have but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.

As the earth itself does not produce rain and is unable to acquire it by its own strength, worship, and power but receives it only by a heavenly gift from above, so this heavenly righteousness is given to us by God without our work or merit.  As much as the dry earth of itself is able to accomplish in obtaining the right and blessed rain, that much can we men accomplish by our own strength and works to obtain that divine, heavenly, and eternal righteousness.  Thus we can obtain it only through the free imputation and indescribable gift of God.  Therefore the highest art and wisdom of Christians is not to know the Law, to ignore works and all active righteousness, just as outside the people of God the highest wisdom is to know and study the Law, works and active righteousness.

It is a marvelous thing and unknown to the world to teach Christians to ignore the Law and to live before God as though there were no Law whatever.  For if you do not ignore the Law and this direct your thoughts to grace as though there were no Law but as though there were nothing but grace, you cannot be saved.  "For through the Law comes knowledge of sin"  (Rom. 3:20).  On the other hand, works and the performance of the Law must be demanded in the world as though there were no promise or grace.  This is because of the stubborn, proud, and hardhearted, before whose eyes nothing must be set except the Law, in order that they may be terrified and humbled.  For the Law was given to terrify and kill the stubborn and to exercise the old man.  Both words must be correctly divided, according to the apostle (2 Tim. 2:25 ff).

... This is our theology, by which we teach a precise distinction between these two kinds of righteousness, the active and the passive, so that morality and faith, works and grace, secular society and religion may not be confused.  Both are necessary, but both must be kept within their limits.  Christian righteousness applies to the new man, and the righteousness of the law applies to the old man, who is born of flesh and blood.  Upon this latter, as upon an ass, a burden must be put that will oppress him.  He must not enjoy the freedom of the spirit or of grace unless he has first put on the new man by faith in Christ, but this does not happen fully in this life.

... Then do we do nothing and work nothing in order to obtain this righteousness?  I reply:  Nothing at all.  For this righteousness means to do nothing, to hear nothing, and to know nothing about the Law or about works but to know and believe only this:  that Christ has gone to the Father and is now invisible;  that He sits heaven at the right hand of the Father, not as a Judge but as one who has been made for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God (1 cor. 1:30);  in short, that He is our High Priest, interceding for us and reigning over us and in us through grace.  Here one notices no sin and feels no terror or remorse of conscience.  Sin cannot happen in this christian righteousness;  for where there is no Law, there cannot be any transgression (Romans 4:15).  If, therefore, sin does not have a place here, there is no conscience, no terror, no sadness.  Therefore John says:  "No one born of God commits sin"  (1 John 3:9).  But if there is any conscience or fear present, this is a sign that this righteousness has been withdrawn, that grace has been lost sight of, and that Christ is hidden and out of sight.  But where Christ is truly seen, there must be full and perfect joy in the Lord and peace of heart, where the heart declares:  "Although I am a sinner according to the Law, judged by the righteousness of the Law, nevertheless I do not despair.  I do not die, because Christ lives who is my righteousness and my eternal and heavenly life.  In that righteousness and life I have no sin, conscience, and death.  I am indeed a sinner according to the present life and its righteousness, as a son of Adam where the Law accuses me, death reigns and devours me.  But above this life I have another righteousness, another life which is Christ the Son of God who does not know sin and earth but is righteousness and eternal life.  For His sake this body of mine will be raised form the dead and delivered from the slavery of the Law and sin, and will be sanctified together with the spirit."

Thus as long as we live here, both remain.  The flesh is accused, exercised, saddened, and crushed by he active righteousness of the Law.  But the spirit rules, rejoices, and is saved by passive righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father, who has abolished the Law, sin, and death, and has trodden all evils underfoot, has led them captive and triumphed over them in Himself  (Co. 2:15).   In this epistle, therefore, Paul is concerned to instruct, comfort, and sustain us diligently in a perfect knowledge of this most excellent and Christian righteousness.  For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost.  And those in the world who do not teach it are either Jews or Turks or papists or sectarians.  For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground.  Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness;  that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.

We see this today in the fanatical spirits and sectarians, who neither teach nor can teach anything correctly about this righteousness of grace...  They cling only to the righteousness of the Law.  Therefore they are and remain disciplinarians of works;  nor can they rise beyond the active righteousness.  Thus they remain exactly what they were under the pope.

...Therefore we always repeat, urge and inculcate this doctrine of faith or christian righteousness, so that it may be observed by continuous use and may be precisely distinguished from the active righteousness of the Law.  (For by this doctrine alone and through it alone is the church built, and in this it consists.)  Otherwise we shall not be able to observe true theology but shall immediately become lawyers, ceremonialists, legalists, and papist.

... In affliction and in the conflict of conscience it is the devil's habit to frighten us with the Law and to set against us the consciousness of sin, our wicked past, the wrath and judgment of god, hell and eternal death, so that thus he may drive us into despair, subject us to himself, and pluck us from Christ.  It is also his habit to set against us those passages in the Gospel in which Christ Himself requires works from us and with plain words threatens damnation to those who do not perform them.  If here we cannot distinguish between these two kinds of righteousness;  if here by faith we do not take hold of Christ, who is sitting at the right hand of God, who is our life and our righteousness, and who makes intercession for us miserable sinners before the Father (Heb. 7:25), then we are under the law and not under grace, and Christ is no longer a Savior.  Then He is a lawgiver.  Then there can be no salvation left, but sure despair and eternal death will follow.

Therefore let us learn diligently this art of distinguishing between these two kinds of righteousness, in order that we may know how far we should obey the law.  We have said above that in a Christian the Law must not exceed its limits but should have its dominion only over the flesh, which is subjected to it and remains under it.  When this is the case, the law remains within its limits.  But if it wants to ascend into the conscience and exert its rule there, see to it that you are a good dialectician and that you make the correct distinction.  Give no more to the Law than it has coming, and say to it:  "Law, you want to ascend into the realm of conscience and rule there.  You want to denounce its sin and take away the joy of my heart, which I have through faith in Christ.  You want to plunge me into despair, in order that I may perish.  You are exceeding your jurisdiction.  Stay within your limits, and exercise your dominion over the flesh.  You shall not touch my conscience.  For I am baptized;  and through the gospel I have been called to a fellowship of righteousness and eternal life, to the kingdom of Christ, in which my conscience is at peace, where there is no Law but only the forgiveness of sins, peace, quiet, happiness, salvation, and eternal life.  Do not disturb me in these matters.  In my conscience not the Law will reign, that hard tyrant and cruel disciplinarian, but Christ, the Son of God, the King of peace and righteousness, the sweet Savior and Mediator.

... When I have this righteousness within me, I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile.  That is, I come forth into another kingdom, and I perform good works whenever the opportunity arises.  If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments.  If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty.  If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command.  If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master's affairs.  In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is this righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life--even, if need be, to burden and danger.  For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him.

(Luther's commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. 1535.  Luther's Works.  Volume 26.  American Edition.  The Argument of St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians.  pp. 4-12)

And if you are myself, and it is summer, finally, and your relatives are all coming and there is work everywhere, you might get off the computer and get your head out of the books and get something done, i.e. I shall take a break from this at least until after the wedding.

Lord's Supper 3

This is such a good summary.  I have to post it, too.
From "The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ--Against the Fanatics". 1526.

Here then you have the distinction as to what the commemoration is, and how one should use the sacrament and derive benefit from it, namely, by simply correcting our shortcomings and failings.  We share the common frailties of other people, and each has his own peculiar frailties;  because of these we come here to seek strength.  This is why this sacrament is called a food for hungry and thirsty souls, who feel their misery and would gladly be rescued from death and all misfortune.  The papists have taught:  "Beware, do not go thither unless you are pure and have no evil conscience,"  so that Christ may be certain to have a pure abode.  They have so stupefied and frightened the poor souls by this that they have fled from the sacraments, and yet have had to receive it under constraint--with such trembling that they would as gladly have entered a fiery furnace.

We are to be pure in the sense that we are sorry for our sins and would gladly be rid of them, and are vexed that we are such miserable people--insofar as we are serious about it and not just pretending.  Complete sinlessness, however, no one will ever attain.  Even if you should do so, you would not dare to go to the sacrament, for it was instituted specifically for the sake of the weak.  So much for the use of the sacrament:  it is to strengthen the conscience against all distress and temptation.

Now there remains the part concerning the fruit of the sacrament.  Of this I have had much to say at other places.  It is nothing other than love.  The early fathers too have emphasized this most of all, and for this reason they called the sacrament communio, that is, a communion.  this is also presented to us here in two ways--first, by way of an example, and second, by way of a symbol or sign which is the bread and wine--so every Christian, no matter how crude he maybe, may be able to comprehend here in the sacrament the whole christian doctrine, what he is to believe and what he is to do through faith.  for it is necessary for each one to know that Christ has given his body, flesh, and blood on the cross to be our treasure and to help us to receive forgiveness of sins, that is, that we may be saved, redeemed from death and hell.

That is the first principle of christian doctrine.  It is presented to us in the words, and his body and blood are given to us to be received corporeally as a token and confirmation of this fact.  to be sure, he did this only once, carrying it out and achieving it on the cross;  but he causes it each day anew to be set before us, distributed and poured out through preaching, and he orders us to remember him always and never forget him.

The second principle is love.  It is demonstrated in the first place by the fact that he has left us an example.  As he give himself for us with his body and blood in order to redeem us from all misery, so we too are to give ourselves with might and main for our neighbor.  whoever knows this and lives accordingly is holy, and has not much more to learn, nor will he find anything more in the whole bible.  for these two principles are here inscribed together as on a tablet which is always before our eyes and which we use daily.

(Lull, pp. 330, 331)

Christ have Mercy/ Lord's Supper 2

Over the weekend, I've realized another thing or two about the Lord's Supper.  This strong emphasis as the church as one loaf, one body that cares for all members, as elaborated upon in the last post, we do not find in the Catechisms.  They stress what a sacrament is, the "pro me" of faith, and the real presence.  The entire book of  Concord is to a large degree dealing with controverted articles with the result that some of the obvious, basic things, are not discussed in it.   Maybe love is dealt with in conjunction with the supper somewhere, but I haven't found it, yet, (not knowing the BOC backward and forward like some). 

When Paul writes about the supper in 1. Corinthians 10 and 11, he makes a strong connection of the supper to the church as the body of Christ.  First he talks about the supper, the wrong use, the words of institution, discerning the body, followed right after with the church as Christ's body with many parts and then going right into the love chapter, the most excellent way.

So we have it all right there together:  forgiveness, faith, the body, the body of Christ and love.  It can't be split up.

When Paul says:  "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment upon himself." (11:29), he is speaking about the ONE body of the Lord, he being the head.

I used to wonder, when I read this, which body is he talking about???  Is he talking about the body and blood of Christ in the elements or is he talking about the fellowship of the church?  I have sometimes heard people pitting these against each other.  Now, I realize, it is the same thing.  Through the supper we are incorporated into Him, together with the rest of the Saints, through faith.  This is his real body.  He is in us and we in him, and all of us together.

And this body is a body of love, sharing its various gifts.  Everything we read in the last post is true, even if it is not in the catechism.

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lack it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it;  if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."  (1. Cor. 12:24,25). 

And as we read before:
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation int he body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."  (1. Cor. 10: 16,17)

Through the blood of Christ we are one body, both very real.  Hence the admonition to give reverence to the body.

When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.  One remains hungry, another gets drunk.  Don't you have homes to eat and drink in?   Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?"  (1 Cor. 11: 20,21)

When you do not consider the fellowship, you are not having the Lord's Supper.

As an aside and a consequence, it occurs to me that this also argues completely against the idea of "virtual communion" as proposed by some on the internet.  Yes, we can have an amazing fellowship on-line, but it's not the same thing--because we don't live together and cannot do things for each other, share the cup, participate.

We can learn a lot about Christ, read, talk, even pray long distance, but we cannot live together and commune together.  You need to share the prerequisite physical elements:  bread, wine, your local fellowship which lives on faith, love and forgiveness.

Maybe I'm side-tracked, maybe not.

It makes me also think about how this manifests itself in our congregations.  Sometimes, we live so far apart and have so little to do with each other that this is more theoretical than real.  Here all the new kinds of communications media can help. 

It is easy to stay in touch but also to be out of touch, and the elderly generally have no computer, etc. (which is probably also good and bad).  When you are actually with someone they are often distracted by their i-phones and gadgets.  Is anyone actually listening to anybody?  When you want to leave someone a Facebook message, you don't know how often they check their messages.  If they did not reply, the message might have got buried in their many messages, or maybe they are ignoring you.  There is a lot of vagueness in the communication and guessing, these days.

People talk about churches with lots of small groups and whether that's a good thing or not, or a necessary thing or not.  Small groups are places where people can learn together, get to know each other, become friends and care for each other.  I have no problems with them.

What surprised me coming into my first LCC church was that people did not invite each other to dinner in each other's homes, that they did not go to the lake together, share cabins, plan retreats, have devotions, plan devotions, sing, like I was used to in my previous (independent Luth.) church.  I think now that that has something to do with the family I married into.  But even so, I think more could be shared, easily.

Still in the church we find the love and acceptance of Christ and each other.  This is in his blood.   It is the hugest blessing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Christ have Mercy / The Lord's Supper

We are taking our sweet time with this study.  This is alright because it gives time to digest.  There is plenty to think about.

We are in Matthew Harrison's book:  "Christ have Mercy.  How to put your Faith in Action" , now looking at chapter 7.

In planning to write about the Lord's Supper and the Means of Grace in general and how that is all tied together by mercy (chapter 7 and 8), I have got myself reading the entire Part IV of Timothy Lull's "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings" on The Promise of the Sacraments.

(You think I am insane.  Pages 235 to 404.  I can read Luther all day long.)
The reason I need to read all this is because I do not own an edition of Luther's Works.  Whenever Harrison quotes Luther at the beginning of the chapter it seems a bit deus ex machina to me and the reference is to a book I  have.  I need the context.  I need the document.  Having a little quote plopped down does not work for me.  It reminds me of Germany, where the only Luther I'd ever heard was a short saying somewhere between hymns (aside from the hymns themselves).

(Just to illustrate.)

Let's move on. At the beginning of this chapter 7 in  "Christ have Mercy" we have the title:  "Christ's Body and Blood" with subtitle "With Might and Main For Our Neighbor."  We have our leading Bible verse:
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.  1 Corinthians 10:17
And we have our Luther quote:
O this is a great sacrament... that Christ and the church are one flesh and bone.  Again through this same love, we are to be changed and to make the infirmities of all other Christians our own;  we are to take upon ourselves their form and their necessity..... That is real fellowship, and that is the true significance of this sacrament.  Martin Luther (p. 87)

The reason I gave this long introduction about Luther documents is that this quote does NOT represent something torn out of context and set up as a novelty.  It is not making a major out of a minor.  Luther's writing on the Lord's Supper is woven through  with this thought, that the partaking of the body and blood of the Lord unites us into this one body that rejoices and suffers together through the bond of love.

We may take out our Lull from our Introduction to Luther course.  Or find it on-line.  James Swan probably has them all on his blog.  ("Confession Concerning Christ's Supper".  "The blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body and Blood of Christ, and the Brotherhoods".  "The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ--Against the Fanatics.")

Here is just one long quote from one of the documents.  Enjoy.  Chopped up by myself.

The significance or effect of this sacrament is fellowship of all the saints.  From this it derives its common name synaxis [Greek] or communio [Latin], that is, fellowship.  And the Latin communicare, or as we say in German, zum Sakrament gehen [go to the sacrament], means to take part in this fellowship.  Hence it is that Christ and all saints are one spiritual body, just as the inhabitants of a city are one community and body, each citizen being a member of the other and of the entire city.  All the saints, therefore, are members of Christ and of the church, which is a spiritual and eternal city of God.  ...

To receive this sacrament in bread and wine, then, is nothing else than to receive a sure sign of this fellowship and incorporation with Christ and all saints.  It is as if a citizen were given a sign, a document, or some other token to assure him that he is a citizen of the city, a member of that particular community.  St. Paul says this very thing in I Corinthians 10: [:17], "We are all one bread and one body, for we all partake of one bread and of one cup...

Again all sufferings and sins also become common property;  and thus love engenders love in return and unites.

In this sacrament, therefore, man is given through the priest a sure sign from God himself that he is thus united with Christ and his saints and has all things in common [with them], that Christ's sufferings and life are his own, together with the lives and sufferings of all the saints.  therefore whoever does injury to [the believer], does injury to Christ and all the saints, as he says through the prophet [Zech. 2:8], "He who touches you touches the apple of my eye."  On the other hand whoever does him a kindness does it to Christ and all his saints;  as he says in Matthew 25, "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren,you did it to me."  Again, man must be willing to share all the burdens and misfortunes of Christ and his saints, the cost as well as the profit.  Let us consider more fully these two [sides of the fellowship].

Now adversity assails us in more than one form.  There is, in the first place, the sin that remains in our flesh after baptism:  the inclination to anger, hatred, pride, unchastity, and so forth.  this sin assails us as long as we live.  Here we not only need the help of the community and of Christ, in order that they might with us fight this sin, but it is also necessary that Christ and his saints intercede for us  before God, so that this sin may not be charged to our account by God's strict judgment.  Therefore in order to strengthen and encourage us against this same sin, God gives us this sacrament, as much as to say, "Look, many kinds of sin are assailing you;  take this sign by which I give you my pledge that this sin is assailing not only you but also my Son, Christ, and all his saints in heaven and on earth.  Therefore take heart and be bold.  You are not fighting alone.  Great help and support are all around you...

Whoever is in despair, distressed by a sin-stricken conscience or terrified by death or carrying some other burden upon his heart if he would be rid of them all, let him go joyfully to the sacrament of the altar and lay down his woe in the midst of the community and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual body...

When you have partaken of this sacrament, therefore, or desire to partake of it, you must in turn share the misfortunes of the fellowship, as has been said.  But what are these?  Christ in heaven and the angels, together with the saints, have no misfortunes, except when injury is done to the truth and to the Word of God.  Indeed, as we have said, every bane and blessing of all the saints on earth affects them.  Here your heart must go out in love and learn that this is a sacrament of love.  As love and support are given you, you in turn must render love and support to Christ in his needy ones.  You must feel with sorrow all the dishonor done to Christ in his holy Word, all the misery of Christendom, all the unjust suffering of the innocent, with which the world is everywhere filled to overflowing.  You must fight, work, pray, and--if you cannot do more--have heartfelt sympathy.  See, this is what it means to bear in your turn the misfortune and adversity of Christ and his saints.  Here the saying of Paul is fulfilled, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" [Gal.6:2].  See, as you uphold all of them, so they all in turn uphold you;  and all things are in common, both good and evil.  Then all things become easy, and the evil spirit cannot stand up against this fellowship.

When Christ instituted the sacrament, he said, "This is my body which is given for you, this is my blood which is poured out for you.  As often as you do this, remember me."  It is as if he were saying, "I am the Head, I will be the first to give himself for you.  I will make your suffering and misfortune my own and will bear it for you, so that you in your turn may do the same for me and for one another, allowing all things to be common property, in me, and with me.  And I leave you this sacrament as a sure token of all this, in order that you may not forget me, but daily call to mind and admonish one another by means of what I did and am still doing for you, in order that you may be strengthened, and also bear one another in the same way."

This is also a reason, indeed the chief reason, why this sacrament is received many times, while baptism is received but once...  There is the devil, the world, and our own flesh and conscience, as I have said.  They never cease to hound us and oppress us.  Therefore we need the strength, support and help of Christ and of his saints.  These are pledged to us here, as in a sure sign, by which we are made one with them--incorporated into them--and all our woe is laid down in the midst of the community...

There are those, indeed, who would gladly share in the profits but not in the costs.  That is, they like to hear that in this sacrament the help, fellowship, and support of all the saints are promised and given to them.  But they are unwilling in their turn to belong also to this fellowship.  They will not help the poor, put up with sinners, care for the sorrowing, suffer with the suffering, intercede for others, defend the truth, and at the risk of life, property, and honor seek the betterment of the church and of all Christians.  They are unwilling because they fear the world...

For this reason slanderers and those who wickedly judge and despise others cannot but receive death in the sacrament, as St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 11 [:29].  for they do not do unto their neighbor what they seek from Christ, and what the sacrament indicates.  They begrudge others anything good;  they have no sympathy for them;  they do not care for others as they themselves desire to be cared for by Christ.  And then they fall into such blindness that they do not know what else to do in this sacrament except to fear and honor Christ there present with their own prayers and devotion....

And Christ values his spiritual body, which is the fellowship of his saints, more than his own natural body.  To him it is more important, especially in this sacrament, that faith in the fellowship with him and with the saints may be properly exercised and become strong in it;  and that we, in keeping with it, may properly exercise our fellowship with one another.  This purpose of Christ the blind worshipers do not perceive.... 

In conclusion, the blessing of this sacrament is fellowship and love, by which we are strengthened against death and all evil.  This fellowship is twofold:  on the one hand we partake of Christ and all saints;  on the other hand we permit all Christians to be partakers of us, in whatever way they and we are able.  Thus by means of this which seeks the common good of all;  and through the change wrought by love there is one bread, one drink one body, one community. This is the true unity of Christian brethren.
(Lull, p. 243- 260.  Sacrament of the Body and Blood of  Christ.)

There is so much more. And already this is so much to think about.  Again, this quote I dug out and chose myself.  It is not from "Christ have Mercy", so as not to misrepresent the book.

Stressing this point is also not doing justice to chapter 7.  However, this is something Harrison does want to bring out.  Chapter 7 is actually a very nice overview on the teaching of the Lord's Supper and I would recommend it as an excellent introduction.
I'll quit here for now.  There is only so much one can blog about at a time.  My husband will want some supper.

I like this picture.  I sent it to my nephew.  He will start confirmation next year.  I am praying his father will go with him.

The Bride and I / 2

The bride and I did not purchase this veil.  We're making one.

What the mother of the bride will wear is still up in the air.  Nothing I tried was right.  I should have started looking sooner;  I would have gone on a diet sooner!  Would have's, could have's. --  Maybe we'll sew that, too.  (Better not.)

The Germans are arriving in 19 days--eight relatives, three generations. It  will be quite a wedding.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Bride and I

The bride and I are on errands.

Just for my memory and for anyone's interest:  the was an I-Monk post recently on Wright, linking to some talks of his.  My comment is the last one.  Wright is quite wrong on Luther.  Let's all pray he reads some.

There was a thread on Bonhoeffer, too, which was pretty mangled, in my opinion.  My comment is pretty much the last, as well.

Besides reading books, this is how I come to some of my opinions. 

Another thing:  I --sort of--asked someone for forgiveness this week and guess what he said:  "You could never offend me."

Now that was gracious.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Christ have Mercy/ Forgiveness

Let me try once more to go through the book.  Meanwhile I'm reading it with my husband, but blogging is worthwhile.  I'll try not to get sidetracked again.  Let's go back to Chapter 6.

We have here two powerful stories employed to convey what it is like to ask for and receive forgiveness from the people you associate with.  And to give it also.  These moments in life are very powerful, if we allow them to happen with us.  It brings me back to the gut-feeling of mercy.  These forgiving moments are also often deeply felt and treasured.  Harrison says:  "I will always treasure that moment.  Both of us will treasure it together in eternity.  My son knows something of being spoken free and living mercifully."  (p. 77)

I like also the part about treasuring this in eternity.  I think of life this way, too.  Why this life?  What the pain, the drama, the resolve, the happiness, the gifts?  Why anything at all?  It matters in the eternal frame.  We know what we are waiting for.  The trials sharpen the hope. The tears are counted.  The death is precious. The gifts have a giver.  The forgiveness cleanses us and binds us into an unspeakable care.  It matters somehow and it prepares us.

We have a section that explains the effectiveness of the divine word of forgiveness, the office of the keys.

And again Harrison brings it around to the "mutual conversation and consolation of bretheren".  "To forgive is the vocation of all Christians."   (p. 79)

Does this mean only pastors forgive sins? No!  Every Christian is able to speak forgiveness when sin besets us in our unique vocations and stations of life.  According to Luther not only can every Christian do this, but every Christian should do this.  There is never a shortage of sin!  But a word of Gospel, a word of forgiveness--even spoken by the humblest child ("Yes, I forgive you, dad"--is divine and effective).  The Lutheran Confessions call such words "mutual conversation and consolation of brethren."  Luther calls this lay absolution "confidential." p. 79

Then he tells something I find interesting about counselling couples.

Growing up, I had never experienced or even contemplated private confession to a clergyman.  But during my first years in the parish, I began to comprehend the importance of private confession and absolution.  Like every other pastor, I worked with those experiencing trouble in their marriage, broken families, individuals caught in unspeakable sins those in mourning and numerous other challenging situations.  I was struggling o provide the needed care until I overheard an older pastor say that once he began using private confession and absolution in his pastoral care of married couples, the number of repeat visits diminished markedly.  Having the conflict and the sin named, confessed, and forgiven was extremely salutary in distressed lives.  It also helped the pastor to apply appropriate portions of God's Word as advice and salve in that situation.... Like every pastor, after a decade in the parish, I had heard it all.  Yet I bear absolutely no burden, because Christ bore everyone's burden on the cross.  All is forgiven.  Moreover, hearing those saints confess and receive absolution gave me courage to name and confess my own sins.  (p. 80)

This reminds me of something I read in the Christless Christianity (Michael Horton) over the weekend:

It is just as easy to lose Christ by distraction as it is by denial.  We keep expecting the ball to be fumbled by the liberals, when conservative churches are often as likely to be interested in someone or something other than Christ crucified this week.  A woman who was struggling in her marriage told a pastor friend of mine that she decided to visit his church because her home church was going through a series on "How to Have a Better Marriage."  "What I need to hear most right now is who God is and what Christ has done for me even though I'm a wreck.  My marriage needs a lot of things, but that more than anything else."  She was right.  (p. 144)

I think Michael Horton is Reformed, so I don't know for sure what he could say about absolution.  He is talking about a general presentation of the gospel, where Harrison talks about actual delivery of it through persons.  The latter is more powerful because more direct and pointed.

It also reminds me of my own grief and how I am not interested in grief groups.  Please, just give me the sacrament.  I don't want to cry.  I don't need to talk about how to cope with every little thing.  One step at a time. The hole in life will be there.  Other gifts will be given. You have to live with it and try to make the best of it, indeed, but the rainbow is up above.  You have to look somewhere else.

Anyhow, the observation about confession and absolution is probably most astute.

And hearts are only changed and healed through the Gospel, anyways, come to think of that, together with the attendant humility and generosity.

Then we get an admonition. It makes me think of Bonhoeffer, too.  "Forgiveness without confession" is cheap grace, if we shan't shy away from that term.  We need to practice speaking both.

"As much as we Lutherans harp on the importance of forgiveness, it forever amazes me that we can be so inept, so silent, so unable to speak absolution to one another.  We daily live the parable of the unforgiving servant.  Our innumerable sins (even those of which we are unaware) are forgiven in Christ. We obsess, we stew, we fret, and we grind our axes, over one sin committed against us.  After one untoward word from a  brother or sister in Christ or one off-the-cuff remark from  a family member, we are shouting, "Pay what you owe!"

Sad indeed.   Lord give us the needed courage and humility.  I find since the Treasury of Daily Prayer came out and we sometimes have a Compline at night, which includes a general confession and absolution, it at least opens the heart and the avenue.

The chapter ends with a section called "Freed for a Purpose."  Again, we get the idea, that this forgivness is not just for ourselves in isolation.  The freedom achieved through forgiveness is a "freedom toward community."  This makes sense to me, as without the community, forgiveness hardly matters. Again we are admonished:

God freely gives out His grace, so we also serve Him freely.  According to David Yeago, throughout the Lutheran world today freedom has come to mean something quite different from what Luther understood it to be.  Yeago wrote that "the notion of freedom is essentially negative:  release from pressure, the lifting of the burden of an unendurable expectation."  However, Luther places a unique emphasis on that fact that freedom in Christ is toward something, not only away from something.  Freedom in Christ has an object, as result.  During confirmation instruction, most Lutherans learned these words form Luther's explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed:  "He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil."  But Luther does not stop there.  Instead, he continues:  "That I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness."  Luther adapted the long-standing Augustinian tradition of defining the self in terms of love and the "innate directedness toward the good..  By contrast, modernity finds the dignity of the self in terms of power and free will, including "the power to impose its will on the world, or to realize is own authentic uniqueness despite the world."  The will of God came to be viewed as something fundamentally limiting--and post- modernity concurs with this view.  For "we are free insofar as we can do what we want, insofar as our power is unchecked, unhindered by expectations or prohibitions imposed form outside ourselves."  How completely different is our freedom spoken in Christ.

This is really important for us to realize.  This also comes up often in conversation with other Christians.  Sometimes one wants to talk about justification with someone and we are in the second article of the creed and it is so profoundly wonderful about redemption with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death;  and then it finished off, like tacked on, but it is not tacked on:  that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom...  (Small Catechism)

Some people really want to emphasize this living and working in the kingdom, like Bishop N.T. Wright and because of that they don't understand Lutheran (Christian) justification.  The point is:  we want to get both right.  Justification through the atonement, forgiveness of sins, all for the purpose of coming into Christ's kingdom AND living under Him.  If we understand everything correctly, there is no dichotomy. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend notes

It was a somewhat momentous weekend.
For it we were blessed with very fine weather.

First of all we had a large gathering of women at my house for Andrea, including her birth-mother, her sisters, her birth-grandmother, our Oma, our deceased son's birth-mother and more family, friends and neighbors, also the wife of our dear pastor (who is quite ill), who baptized both bride and groom,  the groom's mother, safely back from Afghanistan.  It was a wonderful to have them all together.  We had a lot of fun and the Erdbeerbowle disappeared in no time.  I should have made twice as much (or three times as much).

At the end of it I was kind of emotionally drained but grateful for some many great people in my life.  Really, truly, truly.  The birthfamilies, especially, have my complete respect.  They have been  tremendous over the years.

Marilyn P.  brought me some begonias, which are very special. 

At the end, I just sat on my front porch and listened to some Luther hymns on my I Pod and discovered one I had never listened to before.

"The Unwise tongue of man may say,
we give God honor royal.
But by their actions men display
a life that is disloyal
to God's most holy will untrue...
by the things they do;
they abandoned virtue."

Interesting.  Never sung one like that.  Not one with the word "virtue" in it.  Dr. Patrick from Augustin College always talks about virtue in relation to a philosophy of  justice (vs. "values").  I told him, it did not sound like Lutheran-speak to me, but another professor there, disagreed.  I wonder what it is in German.

Also, I managed to read all of Horton's "Christless Christianity".  Interesting, too.  I understand some of my friends' expressions better now.  It seems like a very worthwhile critique of American religion.  I don't find that I have been part of what he analyzes in the cultures I have inhabited, personally, to a great extent.  The closest that comes to it, is my Mormon friend's definition of religion as total involvement, laws for everything and faith based on emotion.  I am thinking about how it does or does not apply to a large church I am familiar with.

My husband has also scaled new height of achievement. Since the men were not welcome at the ladies' party, some were put to tree felling and mulch making.  This is a new skill for Martin, jack of all possible trades.  View the accomplished task. 

He was also very grateful at the end of the day, that all was done without injury. He also quite pleased with his pile of mulch.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Busy for a while

Busy with family things for a while.  Congratulations to our baby!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You have done it to ME/ Christ have Mercy

Ok, now, I think the antinomian controversy is settled.

We shall continue to preach the law to Christians.  As far as Christ is not raised in them, they still need to hear it.

We also deepened the concept of sin.  As Adam and Eve fell, they sinned against the first commandment.  When we fail to show mercy, or sin against the second table, we also sin against the first commandment.  (Thanks to Larry for this.)  This is what is means to deny God when you refuse to show mercy.  There are many layers to this.

I am sort of glad to give the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25)  a little different reading or emphasis from what is usually expounded in our circles.  Read Jesus words for what they are there.  What a relief.  Let's not beat around the bush.

Jesus is not emphasizing the fact that the sheep did all their merciful acts spontaneously because they have been justified by faith, (though this is also true).  He is emphasizing that when you do this for your needy neighbor, you are serving HIM in THEM.  And THESE are the KINDS of works to be doing, not, as Luther militated against, the pilgrimages, the venerating of relics, the asceticism.  Do not ever invent your own type of worship or works.

I personally think that I'm quite aware of what I am doing.  I may do some good spontaneously, i.e. freely, gladly, but nobody is going to say, "You went to see such and such in the hospital"  to me and I'm going to say "When did I do that?"  As long as I have a memory, I will know that I went to see such and such in the hospital. (just an example, not praising myself).  Jesus point is, if you want to do what I want you to do, then you  do these things.  And this is very serious.  You shall see ME in this needy person.  You deny them mercy, you deny me who has been merciful to you.

And, yet, all this without coercion because of the Gospel.

I get from this, too, that good deeds can be "planned", that while the primary "program" of the church is forgiveness, it can also have a "program" of mercy;  it need not be haphazard.

Another corollary is that we are also dignified in our suffering, which will surely come to us.

It's a fox, not a coyote!

Look at that face.  It's a fox.  I thought foxes are lower to the ground.

He seems to have a daily route past the crab apple tree.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Let's make today's blogging pain free.  I am at the moment sick of thinking about antinomiansm or no antinomianism.

For Gary, Nadine and Marilynn M.
Here is the promised non-recipe (you don't get many measurements).  First of the picture of the delicious result.  My returned soldier woman liked it quite a bit, though she has an iron discipline, as she should, being a soldier (ha, there we go again, more "law").  I am a true endomorph next to her.

Ah, still a little warm, with a slightly crusty edge, the delicious cheese flavor and a bit of yummy buttery streusel on top.

1.  First you throw everything for the yeast dough into a bowl.  Any yeast recipe will do.  In the end the dough will have to feel right when kneading.  This time I used about 6 cups of flour and a little less than 3 cups of water and a bit of butter and a bit of sugar.  And your yeast, of course.  One package of yeast, or one tablespoon, is a good average amount for all yeast recipies.  This will be a little on the moist side.  You can work in more flour in the end to get it just nice.  This will make two baking sheets worth.

2.  Throw together your cheese mixture.  Use quark or cottage cheese.  I like quark better, but it is more expensive and harder to find.  It can, however, be bought cheaper in bulk at the German store and kept in the freezer.  Blend the cheese with some sugar, some egg, some flour, some flavor (lemon, vanilla sugar).  Last time I also added in some yoghurt.  I make it not too sweet.

3.  Throw together your streusel.  By weight use twice as much flour as sugar and butter.  So you might take 400 gr. of flour and add 200 gr. of sugar and 200 gr. of butter. Work all of it through your fingers till you get the right crumbs.  Sometimes it needs a little more butter, or add a little milk or cream.  If you like it very sweet, use more streusel on top.  If you have left over, save in freezer to top something else with.

There you see the crumbs and the cheese mixture.

Now you go away for a bit and let your yeast dough rise until you're ready to work it (ca. 1.5 hours).  Then knead it well.  Place on sheet.  Let rise once more for 20 min.   Put cheese and streusel on top.  Bake and eat soon.  One of these is a little much for one person.  In that case, just slice it into strips.

(The streusel are not on yet.)

This can all be done very quickly because the measurements are not very important in this type of baking.  You can just "throw" it all together, as I've said.   You want to do it without thinking too much, otherwise, you'll say that there are too many steps.  Don't fuss.

It also freezes beautifully, and is great after microwaving.  One could call it lower fat and sugar baking if you don't put a lot of streusel on top.  A few will do nicely, as well.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Agricola/ Christ have Mercy

Why am I on this detour?  At some point a blogger I read called another blogger I read and "antinomian" and dropped all contact with him.  It has bothered me all this time, because I like both bloggers.

Today, I read  this article about Agricola, the antinomian, trying to figure out what the exact position of the antinomian is. The antinomian is one who thinks the law has no more role to play at all in the believer's life.

This is what Agricola said:

Christians do out of love and desire, everything God demands of them.
For they are sealed with the spontaneous Spirit of Christ. Therefore no law ought to force them,
for no law is given to the righteous (1 Timothy 1:9). Moreover, as
soon as the gospel becomes a matter of compulsion and a rule, then
it is no longer the gospel.

The truth is that the law still moves to repentance and that is how it has to be, otherwise we would already be perfect, which we are and are not, being simultaneously saint and sinner.  However, the primary role of the law is still this driving to Christ, not the measuring of  your performance, although, I don't see though how that could be separated.  If you want to be driven to Christ, you have to take the law seriously enough to check your performance and properly let that frighten you.  Otherwise it is a toothless law, which is no law.

You don't want to be merciful?  This is a denial of God, we are told.
Yes, it is definitely a cause for repentance.  It's working for me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chapter 6/ Christ have Mercy

Chapter 6.  "Spoken free and living mercifully" is the title.  We have now a chapter on receiving and giving forgiveness in various settings.  The baptismal life, which we learned about in the last chapter, which both frees and obligates to living in mercy, is about constant forgiveness.  There is some law here.  We could be so much more forgiving and merciful with each other. But much more we have the freedom to do something constructive with this forgiveness.

And seizing [his fellow servant], he began to choke him, saying, "Pay what you owe."  Matthew 18:28.

After [confession and absolution]  we can do a lot of good [works] -- to the glory of God alone and to the benefit of our fellow-men.... for God give us his grace freely and without cost;  so we should also serve him freely and without cost.  Martin Luther. (p.75)

As an aside, there are people who do not want to hear any "should's", "ought's" and "must's" in the Christian life.   Christ's words could not be clearer.   We "should" forgive.  I am going to use the word "should".   The Luther quote says we "should" do it "freely".  It does sound like a guilt trip still, to say you "should freely", but how else are you going to say it?  We know the ability to do freely is only as far as the Lord's own love has it's way with us and our nature does not get in the way.  Sometimes I do freely, sometimes I do not, sometimes half-way.  I still "should" do it "freely".

HOWEVER, in this chapter we have no heavy handed treatment, whatsoever.  We can see clearly that forgiveness is the most wonderful thing of all.  We desire it.  We get it.  We give it.  We have moments in time which we will treasure together for eternity.  I like it.  It is the most natural thing for the Christian.

Yet, we also can be stingy with it.  And here the "should" comes in.  We do fail and we are harsh.  And we stand admonished.  And Jesus himself is the harshest of all, when it comes to someone not wanting to live mercifully.  We are not going to get around him.

The law is still the law and that's why forgiveness is so wonderful.  And this forgiveness is also there to serve the neighbor with.

So much for tonight.

Erdbeerbowle/ Strawberry alcoholic punch with champagne

This is a very common German party drink.   I think I'll make one for a very large party at our house next week.

Everything wedding is slowly shaping up now and coming to the crunch soon.  Visitors are expected from the North (Yukon), the East (Germany and Ontario) and the West (Vancouver) and Southern Alberta.  Long lost friends and relatives have announced themselves.  

There are versions that also add mineral water.  I think we will add some mineral water.  We don't need everyone too happy and we are talking about an afternoon party.  

Erdbeerbowle for a Summer Party
Erdbeerbowle for a Summer Party

"Erdbeerbowle" is a wine punch with strawberries served at summer parties and German BBQs. Made with sweetened strawberries, lemon, wine and sparkling wine (German Sekt), it sets the mood of warm summer nights and tiki torches. Serve with cocktail picks to spear the fruit.
Makes about 10 cups, or 20 five-ounce servings.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 quarts of strawberries, washed, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 c. sugar, or to taste
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bottle of dry, white wine
  • 1 bottle of white, sparkling wine
  • Mint or lemon balm to garnish


Sprinkle the sugar over the sliced strawberries in a bowl. Zest the washed lemons and then squeeze the juice. Add both juice and zest to the strawberries and let sit for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Drain and reserve the strawberry juice. Add the white wine to the strawberries and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the guests start arriving. Pour the wine and berries into a punch bowl, add the reserved juice and stir. Pour the sparkling wine into the bowl and serve.
To serve, ladle punch and strawberries into the glass, garnish with mint, if desired, and serve with a cocktail pick, so that the guests can eat the strawberries.

Christ have mercy 9/ Does this jive?

6. Naught, naught, can now condemn me
        Nor set my hope aside;
        Now hell no more can claim me,
        Its fury I deride.
        No sentence e'er reproves me,
        No ill destroys my peace;
        For Christ, my Savior, loves me
        And shields me with His grace.
"To deny mercy--even worse, to reject the demonstration of mercy and care to those in need--is more than breaking God's Law.  Denying mercy denies and rejects the Gospel of Holy Baptism.  It denies the mercy of God in Baptism.  It denies the triune God, who is named in Baptism.  It denies the gracious word of the Father ("this is My beloved son, "  Matthew 3:17).  It denies the Son who undergoes and opens Baptism to us.  It denies the Spirit, who descends also upon us in Baptism.  It denies the gifts of that same Spirit, among which are charity, mercy, humility, and love.  Denial of mercy to the unbaptized fails to recognize that we, too, were once outside the church, outside of Christ.  We, too, were brought in the body of Christ through mercy, despite ourselves."

What do with think of this juxtaposition?  Does this fit together?  These quotes come from the last two posts.  I've debated this a bit somewhere else the last couple of days and in my head.   And what is the best way to talk about it?  I've convinced myself through this discussion that the second quote is also true, and from thinking about what Jesus said and what Paul said and what Luther said.

The thing is, God is not mocked and the law still applies.  There are ways to nullify the gift.  And Jesus is not joking when he says some things.  Everything about faith is a serious business.  Joyful, but serious.

We are back to the old discussion about the "necessity" of  love and good works.  We should refer to our confessions.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ist Gott fuer mich so trete gleich alles wieder mich/ If God himself be for me

This is version done for a TV special on Paul Gerhard.  This hymn has to be my very favorite.
It's a kind of jazzed up version set on an industrial site, set in Gräfenhainichen, a small town between Halle and Wittenberg, where Paul Gerhard was from.

"If God Himself Be for Me"
                      by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676
                               Text From:
        (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1942), pp. 370-372

        1. If God Himself be for me,
        I may a host defy;
        For when I pray, before me
        My foes, confounded, fly.
        If Christ, my Head and Master,
        Befriend me from above,
        What foe or what disaster
        Can drive me from His love?

        2. This I believe, yea, rather,
        Of this I make my boast,
        That God is my dear Father,
        The Friend who loves me most,
        And that, whate'er betide me,
        My Savior is at hand
        Through stormy seas to guide me
        And bring me safe to land.

        3. I build on this foundation,
        That Jesus and His blood
        Alone are my salvation,
        The true, eternal good.
        Without Him all that pleases
        Is valueless on earth;
        The gifts I owe to Jesus
        Alone my love are worth.

        4. My Jesus is my Splendor,
        My Sun, my Light, alone;
        Were He not my Defender
        Before God's awe-full throne,
        I never should find favor
        And mercy in His sight,
        But be destroyed forever
        As darkness by the light.

        5. He canceled my offenses,
        Delivered me from death;
        He is the Lord who cleanses
        My soul from sin through faith.
        In Him I can be cheerful,
        Bold, and undaunted aye;
        In Him I am not fearful
        Of God's great Judgment Day.

        6. Naught, naught, can now condemn me
        Nor set my hope aside;
        Now hell no more can claim me,
        Its fury I deride.
        No sentence e'er reproves me,
        No ill destroys my peace;
        For Christ, my Savior, loves me
        And shields me with His grace.

        7. His Spirit in me dwelleth,
        And o'er my mind He reigns.
        All sorrow He dispelleth
        And soothes away all pains.
        He crowns His work with blessing
        And helpeth me to cry,
        "My Father!" without ceasing,
        To Him who dwells on high.

        8. And when my soul is lying
        Weak, trembling, and oppressed,
        He pleads with groans and sighing
        That cannot be exprest;
        But God's quick eye discerns them,
        Although they give no sound,
        And into language turns them
        E'en in the heart's deep ground.

        9. To mine His Spirit speaketh
        Sweet word of holy cheer,
        How God to him that seeketh
        For rest is always near
        And how He hath erected
        A city fair and new,
        Where what our faith expected
        We evermore shall view.

        10. In yonder home doth flourish
        My heritage, my lot;
        Though here I die and perish,
        My heaven shall fail me not.
        Though care my life oft saddens
        And causeth tears to flow,
        The light of Jesus gladdens
        And sweetens every woe.

        11. Who clings with resolution
        To Him whom Satan hates
        Must look for persecution;
        For him the burden waits
        Of mockery, shame, and losses,
        Heaped on his blameless head;
        A thousand plagues and crosses
        Will be his daily bread.

        12. From me this is not hidden,
        Yet I am not afraid;
        I leave my cares, as bidden,
        To whom my vows were paid.
        Though life and limb it cost me
        And everything I won,
        Unshaken shall I trust Thee
        And cleave to Thee alone.

        13. Though earth be rent asunder,
        Thou'rt mine eternally;
        Not fire nor sword nor thunder
        Shall sever me from Thee;
        Not hunger, thirst, nor danger,
        Not pain nor poverty
        Nor mighty princes' anger
        Shall ever hinder me.

        14. No angel and no gladness,
        No throne, no pomp, no show,
        No love, no hate, no sadness,
        No pain, no depth of woe,
        No scheme of man's contrivance,
        However small or great,
        Shall draw me from Thy guidance
        Nor from Thee separate.

        15. My heart for joy is springing
        And can no more be sad,
        'Tis full of mirth and singing,
        Sees naught but sunshine glad.
        The Sun that cheers my spirit
        Is Jesus Christ, my King;
        That which I shall inherit
        Makes me rejoice and sing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baptism/ Christ have Mercy 8/ The rubber hits the road.

Chapter 5 is titled:  "Baptized for This Moment".

It is a smart title.  The chapter deals with the Sacrament of Baptism, what it means, what it means within the community and how it bears us up in all manner of crises and demands AND how this is becoming part of a body that works together and helps each other.

The chapter reminds me again of Stefan's death.  When the accident happened and the pastors were wondering how we were doing, my husband always told them, that he had been going to church for exactly a moment like this.  They thought it was the best answer they had ever heard.  It's a similar situation.-- The rubber hits the road.

We hear in this chapter the story of the relief effort in the New Orleans disaster.  There are some thoughtful and sensitive accounts.  I appreciated the way the needs of the traumatized are recognized and addressed.  DP Schulz asked to be prayed with and this was the prayer:  "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  Grant Your servant Kurt, O Lord,  the strength to bear up under this challenge in the name of Christ." 

Well, yes, Amen.  Nice and short and to the point and there is not much else to pray.  Strength is really what it is about in a disaster.  I found that when people insisted I deal with my grief properly and attend grief sessions, that that was not giving me strength.  It made me really sad and zapped my energy.  I stopped going.  I was better without it, but that may just be me.  I had lots of real people in my life to stand by me, I did not need a specially formed group to dig everything up.  I also had a blog.  And there was really not that much else to say.

To bless the Lord in such a situation is also a special grace and something to experience when it happens to you.  We obviously don't look for this or ask for this.  But you can just simply say what Job said.  It works.  We know from the Bible that it's a good prayer and it's ready for you and God pleasing.  So just have it.

Then we have in the chapter various actions to save people in New Orleans, and we have the congregation at worship and volunteering to help other, etc.  We see how Word and Sacrament strengthens people to reach out again.

I realized at that moment how I had underestimated the body of Christ there, at the point of duress.  They confidently chose to act in mercy for their neighbors.  God baptized and preached them into one body through Pastors Schmieling and David Buss and countless others.  They responded as "one body" because they had "one Lord, one faith, one baptism"  (Ephesians 4:5).  Truly, they "were baptized for this moment." (p. 65)
The rubber hits the road again.  We learn in this section what Baptism is, what it means, how it is commanded, and yet a gift and God's doing.  We begin to see how the book is a lovely primer on theology and everything flows from word and sacrament.  One can really give this book to anyone to understand all the basics and more.

Then in another rubber-hits-the-road moment we learn how all this goes together:

When Christians are baptized, they give ear to the Gospel, read Holy Scripture, partake of Holy Communion, and love their neighbor. Luther. (p.68)

This is also one of the heading quotes for the chapter.  And of course scripture's witness:

How can we [plural] who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us [plural] who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  In order that... we [plural] too might walk in newness of life.  If we [plural] have been united with Him in a death like His, we [plural] shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.  We [plural] know that our [plural] old self was crucified with Him.  Now if we [plural] have died with Christ, we  [plural] believe that we [plural] will also live with Him.  Romans 6:2-8.  (p. 68,69)

Apparently, the "plurals" in Romans 6 "jump off the page."  The verbs, too, are something to think about.  Such as "ebptistheemen" which is "were-baptized-together-in" Christ.  The other verbs are like this.   Seems like an interesting verb construction in Greek.  But I don't know any Greek.  Anyhow, it looks like we are missing some things from not knowing Greek.

From this we get a little dissertation which strikes me as one of the key points of this theology.

This is not symbolic language.  the Church really and truly is the body of Christ.  Baptized into Christ and made members of His Body, because we are in Him, we become ever more what he is--merciful one to another.  Luther writes:  "Thus we Christians, through our rebirth in baptism, become children of God.  and if we pattern ourselves after our Father and all his ways, all his goods and names are likewise our inheritance forever.  Now, our Father is and is called merciful and good, as Christ says, 'Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful' [Luke 6:36]."

To deny mercy--even worse, to reject the demonstration of mercy and care to those in need--is more than breaking god's Law.  denying mercy denies and rejects the gospel of Holy Baptism.  It denies the mercy of God in Baptism.  It denies the triune God, who is named in Baptism.  It denies the gracious word of the Father ("this is My beloved son, "  Matthew 3:17).  It denies the Son who undergoes and opens Baptism to us.  It denies the Spirit, who descends also upon us in Baptism.  It denies the gifts of that same Spirit, among which are charity, mercy, humility, and love.  Denial of mercy to the unbaptized fails to recognize that we, too were once outside the church, outside of Christ.  We, too, were brought in the body of Christ through mercy, despite ourselves.

Infant baptism beautifully demonstrates this.  Born into the flesh, we are children of the flesh, "dead in our trespasses"  (Ephesians 2;5). God's mercy seeks and creates the object of its love--though that object is quite unlovable!  Denial of mercy to needy Christians in particular is a denial of Christ's Body, the church.  It is a denial of Christ in my neighbor, as we read in Scripture:  "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ"  (Galatians 3:27) or "As you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me"  (Matthew 25:40).  So Luther can say that Baptism (like the Lord's Supper) makes us all, with Christ, "one loaf".  Denial of mercy, even to non-Christians, is a denial of the way the Lord has sought and claimed us who were unlovable and condemned sinners.  Baptism is mercy. 

 There is a little bit more about this and then we talk about being "daring", daring to believe that "because of Jesus we are wholly pleasing and acceptable to God.  And it becomes daring to live life outside ourselves and in and for others:  "'The Father of infinite mercies has by the gospel made us daring lords.'" (p. 70).   We nevertheless bear crosses but are comforted by the promises of baptism.  And once more the exhortation to love:

I [Christ] have imposed the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament on you.  And... it is your treasure, which I have given you gratis.... but now, since you have all received the treasure that you should have, do just this one thing:  be joined together in the bonds of love. (Luther)  (p. 71)

About this daring action, joyfully based on the joyful knowledge of God's grace and favor, I read an interesting thing on confessingevangelical, the other day.   "What would it be fun to present the Master with upon his return?"

It's just that maybe "fun" is not quite the right word, or maybe it is,  and it's not for the Master per se,  it is for the neighbor, in whom we find the Master, remember. That would be being merciful like him.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Justification/ Christ have Mercy 7

We are in "Christ have Mercy.  How to put your Faith in Action".  Chapter 4, the second half.

The question, in light of liberal "Christianity"  (I put it in quotation marks, because largely it seems to put itself right outside of Christianity; see the "curriculum" mentioned a couple of posts ago), is:  "Can Justification mean anything today?" (p.54)

In liberal theology, the "focus changes from Christ to the needs of man, which are not seen in the context of sin and grace.  Thus mainline denominations are dying and dying quickly", writes Harrison  (p,55)  The Gospel is recast into different context and loses Christ.  

Harrison quotes Amos:

 "Behold, the days are coming,"  declares the Lord God, "when I will send a famine on the land--not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east;  they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12.

What a famine this is.  From here we get some interesting illustrations.
Traveling the world, I have seen the best and the worst of humanity.  I have seen the oppressed and the oppressor.  I have met Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Animists, and tribe after indigenous tribe.  There is no more fundamental desire of the human race than justification, that is, to justify one's being and existence.  It is a human universal.  I justify my wealth.  I justify the time spent working away from family.  I justify the approach I have taken toward my children.  I justify the treatment of my wife.  I justify my value to my employer.  I justify my right to pennies from a wealthier man.  I justify my right to your money.  I justify my plea for various commodities of humanitarian aid.  I justify  lethargy.  I justify my thievery by lying to others and believing the lies myself.  I justify my tribe's hatred of "those people."  Universally practiced and understood, the language of "justification" is a fundamental phenomenon of life in society.


There are other ways at looking at justification as a universal need/famine. Harrison supplies a quote from Oswald Bayer, who according to the footnote is a retired professor of systematic theology from Tuebingen.  The book is  Living by Faith:  Justification and Sanctification.

There is no escaping the questions and evaluations of others.  If one accepts and welcomes the other or not, if one greets the other or not, if one acknowledged the other--either through praise or reproach, affirmation or negation--or if one does not acknowledge the other and regards the others as worthless, a decision is made concerning our being or non-being.  Only a being that is recognized and acknowledged is a being that is alive.  If no one were to call and greet me by name, if no one were ready to speak to me and look at me, then I would be socially nonexistent.

In this sense we are all beggars.  Without the acknowledgment of others we don't really exist socially.  We deal with this in many ways and Harrison gives a number of examples, which I've had to think about.  You should get the book.  I can't put it all here.

The chapter finishes with God's answer to these universal problems.  We receive the proper teaching of justification.  "By nature, every person knows something of God's Law (Romans 2:14) and each person knows just enough to think he can justify himself.  However, justification and the peace it brings is a gift." ( p. 58).

We learn about the wrong path of self-justification and  find the beautiful Bible passages, teaching grace through faith, the undeserved gift from God himself.

"But the free gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died through one man's trespass.  For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many... If because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ"  (Romans 5:15, 17, emphasis added by Harrison).  (p.59)
One more important paragraph deals with mankind's customary ways of justifying itself.  This also needs to be recognized:

We are justified not because of something that has changed within us.  Adoplf  Koeberle's book the Quest for Holiness demonstrated how perpetual attempts at self-justification occur along three persistent paths;  attempts at perfecting the mind, the will, and the emotions.  In real life, it works out this way:  The intellectual seeks to comprehend and define the divine.  The moralist strives to possess pure moral thought and action.  The mystic seeks to empty himself of everything that is not "god" and seeks to feel god by his ecstatic presence.  All three of these are fruits from the same tree.

All of this is the antithesis of grace.  "For Christ's sake" we are just. The definitive work in justification is outside us, not inside us.  This work was performed by Jesus Christ, not us, and it occurred on Golgotha more than two thousand years ago.  "It is finished!"  Jesus cried out from the cross (John 19:30).  The apostle Paul explains:  In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself"  (2 corinthians5:19).  This act transcends all of history.  It was justification for me and for everyone who ever lived before and after Jesus.  Peter testifies"  there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved".  (Acts 4:12)

In reflecting on this entire section, I think we find here  a little apologetic written for liberals and for moralists alike, to explain how and why justification is the heart of the heart of our lives and of merciful action for neighbors.  Without forgiveness of sins of sinners, without the atonement, the shedding of blood, the death of God to salvage us--we have nothing to work with, hope for, live for, nothing to be justified by, nothing our neighbor is justified by.  In your quest for unity, do not jettison the thing that really matters, that really unites us.  Please, think it over.  We also find the Gospel proclaimed to us here.  It is a chance for all of us to hear it again and to ponder it.  What struck me today was the "how much more" in the Romans 5:15-17 passage.  If we think that our sins is so great, we should know that God's free gift and righteousness is even greater.  It is all encompassing.

One could really go launching into a lot of things here, but I'll stop myself, except to say that where we have this proper confession of Christ as Lord, God, and Savior, we also have a love that is quite unfathomable.  Pastor Bror Erickson wrote about it beautifully, the other morning.

Where I meet another blood-bought brother or sister, there is what Paul said to the Galatians:  "For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them for me."