Sunday, January 30, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Ahead

We've had a little reprieve from the cold weather and tons of snow, but temperatures are expected to plunge again. We are scheduled for cross country skiing with a group, which we have not been doing much of over the years.  So I hope not to be hurting or straining anything.  Last time I injured my right hand on the Olympic Nordic ski track in Canmore in the Rocky Mountains on the downhill stretch and was in pain in my right hand from it for 6 months.

And we don't have any ski pants that fit.  Well, Martin might have some which need mending.  But they look a little small, too.  Maybe they are not his.

On the upside, we also have dinner guests this weekend and the food has been bought at the ethnic German butcher shop.  Maybe there will be potato dumplings to go with this.

I am somehow tired from a number of things including commenting at Called to Communion which made me sad.

Current reading includes the Luther Biography by Martin Brecht, which came this week.  It is very enjoyable material.  I will be glad to study it.  This will take some time but not feel like a chore.  I am only on page 60, beginning in the second book for some  reason.  We just finished the circumstances surrounding the translating of the New Testament. 

Now to the unpacking of groceries and boxes and checking snow pants.  I hope everybody stays happy and safe over the weekend.

Martin Luther 1521-1532: Shaping and Defining the Reformation

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Body of Christ

Saved this picture from a tract once.  So much could be said about it.  But today I am also thinking about it in relation to the last post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lacrimosa from Mozart's Requiem

This has been for a long time for me a favorite piece of music--Mozart at his best.  Something earthshattering.  The melancholy, the rising, the resurrection, the appeal to Jesus.  The violins.

Each note of the Requiem reverberates with me because in our house we listened to it practically daily for a year.  My mother was in a large choir and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra played for the choir performance.  She would practice her parts by playing the record over and over again.  In those days we did not have many records and we children were not allowed to touch the record player.

The pathways in my brain for the Requiem were laid down early and throroughly.  I can sing the whole thing in Latin without a book.  I did it over the cooking tonight.

The only thing--the good thing-- is that we need not pray for mercy for the dead and we need not fear and we need not be sad.

When I say the Apostle's creed I sometimes think that all is complete--only the resurrection and judgment is not.  "He will come again to judge the living and the dead."  It could be today, it could be my own quick or slow death.  We don't know how and when it will be.  But we should firmly trust and be hopeful and glad. 

When I go to communion after the creed I think, "How can I be still judged?  How can I still worry?  I am part of his body.  He cannot leave his body behind.  My sins will be covered and he will be my Savior."  It's all good.  It will not be "lacrimosa" for those in Christ.

Record Snowfalls

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King and his name

Cute little clip and theory on Martin Luther King's naming.

From Steve.  Thanks.

Plenty of inaccuracies, though--trying to make it short and catchy, I guess.  Why does not anyone check what they write or say?  These are not ancient legends, but all verifiable, thoroughly documented histories of great importance.  Does make you wonder how true the little anecdote re Martin Luther King Junior is.

Still it's nice to see the names connected, since North Americans only seem to have ever heard of Martin Luther King.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Against the Heavenly Prophets

The document:  Against the Heavenly Prophets.

In the Volume 9 of  The Christian History Project, I found a section that complained about the tone of Luther in this document and how even his contemporaries complained about it.  This is a recurrent theme in the book.

I just read the document and thought it was brilliant and important writing.  I am fully behind it.  No apologies.  He had very weighty reasons to speak this way.  The man had brains and courage and faith.  Thank God for him.

Someone wrote a very long dissertation on this recently and seems to also think it important.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feingold lecture.

I listened to this lecture basically on the sacrifice of the mass by Larry Feingold someone linked to at Called to Communion.  In it Luther is misquoted and maligned several times, having teachings associated with him that he did not hold or confess.  I've tried to comment, but the comments are not coming out of moderation.

These are my comments so far.

I have listened to the entire lecture by Larry Feingold. I don’t know anything else about him, but he seems to be a qualified man to speak on the subject. Much of the talk I enjoyed. Much of it I and most Christians can agree with. The background on sacrifices, natural law, OT, the efficacy of the means of grace according to God’s promises, is all very fine.

However, he does not from this many body of the talk repudiate Luther’s view, nor show that the eucharist is not now only a sacrifice of thanksgiving, not blood. He does not bring in scripture passages that deal with how the word “priest” is used in the NT, or what Christ and Paul say about the Lord’s supper. Our Lord is abundantly clear that the supper is a Promise, a Testament, not a sacrifice. Look at the words scripture itself uses, and teaching it teaches.

But Luther gets dragged in here, as a red herring to obfuscate that the RC teaching here is not scripturally underpinned or takes away from Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice, robbing him of his glory, thereby.

Luther did not abolish the Eucharist or the mass, only the abuse of it (have a look at the confessions). Also it is wrong to say that Luther taught that Christ suffered in hell. Again, have a look at the confessions. Feingold calls him in one breath an innovator and heretic, but then alleges teachings he did not hold, and does not explore the false teachings which he deplored. There is no fairness in this. Feingold sounds like a man who should know better. And Cross would also know better, I would expect. The never-ending demands on man’s conscience by requiring repeated masses, ceremonies, sufficient contrition (who can know when he has sufficient contrition?), payments–all never-ending or enough and all for merit and the power of the pope–this is what is being deplored. The right use of the Eucharist is not.

I can bring in all the necessary quotes of scripture and the confessions, if anyone cares to hear them.

And regarding Christ's descent into hell:

Just to follow up with what Luther and Lutherans do confess regarding Christ's descent into hell, without having to change the words or the Apostle's Creed to "limbo of the just" (not scriptural, just in case someone does not know that.)

Luther's response to the conundrum is the proper one, to stick with the creed, to not teach things not contained in the scriptures (apostolic witness), to be faithful to what has been revealed and not speculate on what has not been revealed and then make the teaching binding on consciences. This is what the confession is:

'Even in the Ancient Christian teachers of the Church, as well as among some of our teachers, different explanations of the article about Christ's descent to hell are found. Therefore, we abide in the simplicity of our christian faith. Dr. Luther has pointed us to this in a sermon about Christ's descent to hell, which he delivered in the castle at Torgau in the year 1533. In the Creed we confess, "I believe... in Jesus Christ. His only Son, our Lord, who... was crucified died and was buried. He descended into hell." In this Confession Christ's burial and descent to hell are distinguished as different articles. We simply believe that the entire person (God and man) descended into hell after the burial, conquered the devil, destroyed hell's power, and took from the devil all his might. We should not, however, trouble ourselves with high and difficult thoughts about how this happened. With our reason and our five senses this article can be understood as little as the preceding one about how Christ is placed at the right hand of God's almighty power and majesty. We are simply to believe it and cling to the Word. So we hold to the substance and consolation that neither hell nor the devil can take captive or injure us and all who believe in Christ.'

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration. Article IX."

I want to say some things about the mass, but I'm still reviewing it from the Apology to the Augsburg confession.  This apology is most helpful, actually.

It seems to me from reading Calvin's position as quoted by the Catholics on the blog, that Christ's supposed suffering in hell is important to Calvin's theology.  Of course, we agree with the Roman Catholics that there is much very wrong with Calvin's views.

I am starting to appreciate the Book of Concord more and more.  If everyone read it, I'd think we could agree on many things, and that would be wonderful.

To cross-post, this is also on James' blog, from which I have not been expelled, yet, or moderated into silence on, to his credit, I would say.

Atheists and Anger with God

Interesting article I need to save.

We learn that atheists are frequently "angry" with "God".  There is an irony here because how can you be angry with someone who you say does not exist.  But it sounds true to life.  Human being engage in this oxymoronic thought-process not infrequently.  Homosexuals, of all people, want to be "married", is the other thing that comes to mind.

People who have lost a child doubt God at a rate of 33% in the first year.  Mother's who give birth to a severely retarded child doubt God at a rate of 90%, says the article.

It is understandable.  When Stefan died people asked me:  "How could this happen to you?"  implying that as people well know to be committed to  faith in God we should not be suffering this kind of tragedy.  They are angry at God for us and doubting him also.  Tragedy brings everyone to face the God-question, or as someone else puts it "makes theologians" of us all.  So also does and joy and gratitude.  Somehow you have to deal with it all.  And somehow suddenly God has to be there, whether you believe in him or not.

Stefan's death was not the first tragedy in my life, though the worst, so I think I had some practice bearing such set backs, though his loss and the pain is something that goes on and on, and is distinct from other losses.  Still, we have never been promised that such things won't happen to us.  We have the example of Job.  I am not even going to waste so much breath as he did and not ask for a reason.  What we have is not an explanation but the hope for the future.  Such said even Job already.  (When I see him, I will thank him for that.)

I can't be angry with God.  I have been angry with people; but anger is not a normal response for me.  Maybe it is the lack of testosterone or maybe something else.  I've grown up singing Paul Gerhardt songs, taught to fit myself into situations with a Christian equanimity, to sing through tears and mean it, and I've been mostly given the strength to do so.  I have even found deep joy and grace in trusting while being so needy.  This is really quite supernatural.

The other day on CBC television, in a documentary on the anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, a doctor spoke about all the amputations that had to be performed in a hurry, on the street.  He spoke of women who were holding hands while they were both being amputated and the doctor exclaimed even now a year later:  they were singing.  They were singing while being amputated.  After he said that several times, he added-- they were singing songs of faith.

I thought so.

What else is there to sing?

There are not that many choices.  Being mad at a God who does not exist in your mind does not make sense.  Being mad a God who lets this happen makes more sense but does not comfort or help you through it. So be mad, get it out of your system, but only faith will keep you together.

One can be mad at others, and I've done that, but it does not help either.  Only faith will heal those relationships, because each one of us needs forgiveness and God is indeed in charge and has the overview and long-term view.  We can look up and need  not take it out on each other.

There is an amazing photo essay on Haiti here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inclement weather/stay at home/found a hymn book

So in comparing all the snow pictures on Facebook,who has the biggest piles of snow?

The new library-slash-gym.  I am looking at the hymnal on the table instead of getting on the treadmill.  I just discovered it in our piles of things.

It belonged to someone from Zwingenberg (see last post).

Now, I will really, really, truly, go on the treadmill and then I will cook dinner. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For a change of scenery: Zwingenberg

In this town I spent a considerable amount of time visiting my grandmother and grandfather on my mothers side.  Many other dear relatives of mine still reside there.  The medieval city wall is 800 years old.  My parents were married in the "Bergkirche" (mountain church).  My cousins and their children are married, baptized, etc. there still.  I used to go to this church with my grandpa and because he was an elder we would go early and pray with the pastor and the organist.  From this custom, I always appreciated it when the pastor comes early and prays with the organist.

On the market square is the city hall (visible in middle picture), where my grandpa worked in the finance department.  The family name goes back in this town for centuries.

The Thanksgiving picture is a plaque that was given to my grandpa for a special birthday.  The words behind on the wood are:  "Alles was Odem hat lobe den Herrn"  ("Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.")

Monday, January 10, 2011

Video on Tyndale and the first English Bible

A friend sent me a link to this excellent video released Dec. 14th on Tyndale and the first English Bible.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Epiphany and "Thy Strong Word"

Today, I am going to an Epiphany party, apparently a tradition passed down from someone's Roman Catholic grandmother featuring a charming custom involving coins in dumplings.  I am sure there will be a devotion, as well.  I'm bringing a contribution of food, which has turned out to be a cheesecake of recipe of my own mixing together German and Canadian recipes. My brother declared this cake "surprisingly good" the other day--which is high praise indeed coming from him. :)

The hymns for Sunday have been practiced already. I've been singing through them, also, since I won't be able to sing them on Sunday.  One of them is "Thy Strong Word Did Cleave the Darkness", a very favorite of many. The text is not in public domain, which has not stopped other people from posting the song, thankfully.  (See below). The melody is the stirring Welsh tune called Ebenezer, which is in public domain.

Here is a very dramatic presentation of the hymn.

And here is also the text.

Arthur Just also gave a wonderful talk discussing the hymn on Issues, etc.

All of the above is totally worth pondering, singing and listening to glorying in God's revelation and uttering his praise.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Devotions for 2011

If our dear Lord gives us life and breath and stamina for the remainder of the year, it looks like the "To Live with Christ" by Bo Giertz is going to be Martin's and my devotional book this year.  We've read it in bits and pieces  before while being faithful with the "Treasury of Daily Prayer" over the last two years. It is time to go through it day by day.

"To Live with Christ" is pretty deep and I find that I should read the devotion several times.  So, I think there will be a little notebook to go with it and the Bible readings will be done also; but from what version? The Lutheran Study Bible ESV is so thick, I rarely have it handy.   Plus we've been reading ESV for several years now.  Well, maybe we should stick with ESV and keep the Lutheran Study Bible handy.

There is a plan.

On top of that we read Myrtle's Snippets;  she is a good friend and does a great job.
If we need another devotion at the other end of the day, I tend to read Martin from "365 days with Luther.  Faith alone", which is my favorite.

I'll type out for you yesterday's devotion from the Giertz, so you can see.

Tuesday after the Sunday in the new year.
John 1:43-51

Come and see. John 1:46

We read here how Jesus called His disciples.  He did not ask them what they believed or investigate how they lived.  He never had to ask about these things.  He knew the answers from the beginning, whether it was righteous men like Nathanael or God's problem children like the Samaritan woman.  Neither faith nor deeds were of importance.  Jesus had come to help.  He came to the sick who needed a healer.  That is why He always began by saying, "Follow Me."  That meant the same thing as "Come and see."  Who is Jesus?  What does He desire, and what is He capable of?  You can learn these things only from experience.  There's no sense in sitting around wondering what is possible or probable.  What can you compare it to?  Someone like Jesus comes only once.  He can't be compared to anything we have known before. 

Phillip understood this.  When Nathanael wondered if anything good could come from the notorious city of Nazareth, Phillip simply answered, "Come and see."  There is no better answer even today, when people come with objections and theories that explain and excuse why they don't have time for Jesus.

The command to come and see pertains to all disciples and throughout life.  There's always something new to discover.  When Nathanael was impressed and surprised at Jesus' knowledge about him, Jesus said, "You will see greater things than these"  (John 1:50).  This statement remains true all through life.  We will never learn everything.  There is always something new to discover.  There is only one thing we need to see (and it is necessary):  we have to come to see, to constantly return to the gospel and to Jesus Himself, to listen to the Word and speak with God in prayer.  We will never cease being astonished over everything that is still to be discovered.  And the biggest surprise is yet to come, when we can see Him as He is.

My Lord and Master, I thank You because You let me come and see with my own eyes.  Here I come now, Lord.  Open my eyes and my heart so I can see.  there were so many who saw You and still missed seeing You.  Give me an open heart that can receive You and eyes that can see You.  Let me follow You so I see with my own eyes and hear all the voices and experience what happened and become one of them who walks with You.

Giertz does not put an Amen at the end of the prayer, because it is our cue to add our own prayer.

May the Lord bless yours and our devotional life this year, as can't fail to happen when we stay in God's word.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A sample "Snippet" from Myrtle

I just wanted to cross-post one of Myrtle's "Snippets" here.  This is the kind of work she does in writing the daily e-mails in connection to the Lutheran confessions sent out from the site anyone can sign up to receive the mails.  I believe that Pastor Stuckwisch tries to go over most of them before they go out.) Today we have her thoughts on the restricting of the word of absolution, which should be God's grace freely and abundantly poured out for the penitent.

It strikes me personally, because I think I can be quite harsh myself on others, not understanding all the distress others are in.  Myrtle likes to read Psalms to people with their names in them, as has been done for her.  It is an interesting experience.  She has also done it for me choosing Psalm139.  I encourage you to try it sometime, too.

Tyranny: arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
To teach that the pope and only the pope has the ability to forgive or withhold the forgiveness of sins is tyranny. It is tyranny made even more egregious when considering the anguish soul burdened by his sin, burdened by the choices/actions she has made, laboring further beneath the weight of such cruelty,teaching that forgiveness is at the whim of man, not the free gift of God.
A while back, I was with a woman who was being held under observation because she had gone a wee bit crazy. Well, actually, she had lost sight of who she was in Christ, became convinced that she was evil and needed to be punished, and set about doing so. She was heartily sorry for what she had done and was quite fearful of the spiritual consequence of her actions. I prayed the Psalter with her and spent time talking about forgiveness, even though sometimes I barely even understand it myself.
With great tears welling in her eyes and constant wringing of hands, she told me she was quite certain her Catholic priest was not going to forgive her for what she had done, especially since this was not the first time she had forgotten the truth of who she is in Christ. At least, she said, not until she had worked a long time at the things he would surely set her to do to show herself worthy of that forgiveness. She was weary and worried that she would not have the strength to earn her forgiveness.
I tried to tell her that even if her priest, the man, did not offer her forgiveness, the Living Word, one of the means of grace God has given us, had already spoken that forgiveness to her. To my immense sorrow, I watched as her heart quickened at what I was telling her about how God only sees her through Christ and therefore already sees her as forgiven only to then lose hope at the thought of the large penance she would surely be set.
Her terror was so great that she could not hear the Gospel I was speaking to her, but she craved the Living Word that fell from my lips into her ears. For hours, she asked me to read another “forgiveness” psalm to her with her name in it as I had done when I first came upon her because she was fearful that she might never have the Word of Absolution spoken to her again.
Her anguish…her fear…her despair is exactly why Luther worked so hard to strip out the things of man that had crept into the things of God. The Office of the Keys is an office God gave to the church, not merely to one man or the men beneath his civil authority. The Office of the Keys bestows the very Word of Absolution from Christ Himself because the called and ordained servant is holding the position of undershepherd to our Good Shepherd, upon whose righteousness our forgiveness is based. Yet the Office of the Keys are just one of the means of grace, just one of the ways our Lord bestows forgiveness on His children. He washes us in it. He speaks it in our ears. He places it in our bodies. This is why Luther clung so fiercely to the pure doctrine. For he knew our foe has a serpent’s head. When he finds the smallest opening, the whole body will follow (LC, III, 111).
Let not one word--especially the Word of absolution--be distorted, but rather may the pure Gospel be taught and taught so as to point us to the riches God gave us on the cross rather than to the futile dross that is our own effort at earning forgiveness.
Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article VII
The Keys
The Keys are an office and power given by Christ to the Church for binding and loosing sin. This applies not only to gross and well-known sins, but also the subtle, hidden sins that are known only to God. As it is written, “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12). And St. Paul himself complains that “with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). It is not in our power to judge which, how great, and how many the sins are. This belongs to God alone. As it is written, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:2). Paul says, I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted” (I Corinthians 4:4).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

24 months

"Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Gospel for today.