30 June 2007
A few of my favorites so far (only on page 161 - a long way to go):
Lutherans are characterized as "possessing liturgical life without liturgical bondage."
"The Lutheran Church does claim that it is God's truth which she confesses, and by logical necessity regards the deviations from the doctrines of the Confession as deviations from divine truth, but she does not claim to be the whole Church."
"She says: 'The Catholic Church consists of men scattered throughout the whole world, from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.' She unchurches none of other names, even though they may be unsound. It is not her business to do this. They have their own Master, to whom they stand or fall. She protests against error; she removes it by spiritual means from her own midst; but she judges not those who are without. God is her judge and theirs, and to Him she commits herself and them."
"In the former [Reformed theology], Scripture is regarded more exclusively as the sole source; in the latter [Lutheran theology], more as the norm of a doctrine which is evolved from the analogy of faith, and to which consequently, the pure exegetical and confessional tradition of the Church possess more value."
28 June 2007
"Yes, Luther does not hesitate to characterize joy as the real motive of ethical behavior... He who is no longer sensible of the joy of Luther's Christmas hymns, of the jubilation in our Easter hymns, of Paul Gerhardt's 'God for us' and 'Christ for me,' should examine himself to see whether his theology is not more closely related to the Koran than to the Gospel." pp. 69,70
Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. Against Heresies IV.18.5
People loved by God, in today’s collect we prayed that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by God’s governance that His Church would joyfully serve Him – and here’s the phrase we need to think about – “in all godly quietness.”
What is this “godly quietness” for which we ask? It is the peace of heart, the quiet and calm that can rule in our hearts, even in the midst of the most difficult and trying times. The peace that passes understanding and that doesn’t fret and get all worked up, but instead entrusts itself into the hands of God. Godly quietness of heart is one of the fruits of faith. To get a handle on it, think of today’s Old Testament reading.
Joseph – all those dreams from his youth, everyone bowing down to him, honoring him. God had told him that’s how it would be. And what happened? Betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, an exile who then is falsely accused and, because he would not compromise with wickedness, was tossed into jail, and there he was promptly forgotten by those to whom he did nothing but good. And at many points along that journey, I wonder if he struggled to hold onto the promises that God had made so many years earlier. Could it possibly be that God really meant them? Why then was He allowing such awful things to befall Joseph time and time again? But in true worship, which is “the exercises of faith struggling with despair,” [Tractatus 44] Joseph held to the promise, and in peace of heart, in godly quietness, he sought to serve in whatever new position he found himself.
“Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Think of how Joseph experienced the truth of those words! Joseph humbled himself and in godly quietness cast his cares on the Lord, and look at what happened! That moment came when in a single day he went from being Pharaoh’s prisoner to being the Prime Minister of Egypt. And he went on serving, saving the lives of countless Egyptians, and yes, of his own family, who did indeed come and kneel before him as his servants.
But if godly quiet reigned in Joseph’s heart, fear reigned in the hearts of his brothers who had so ill-treated him. “What if he pays us back?” they wonder when they see that their father Jacob has died. “What if Joseph decides to get even now?” How little they understood their brother’s heart! And so they come and plead with him for forgiveness one more time.
Joseph speaks those astonishing words: “Do not fear. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” He spoke out of the godly quiet of his heart. He did not excuse their wickedness, but invited them to behold the miracle of God: that our Lord knows how to take the evil and sin we suffer at the hands of others and even do ourselves and in sheer grace, turn it into blessing for us and also for others.
Joseph, of course, was a type of our Lord. In Christ’s divine human heart there reigned this quietness for which we pray. His trust in His Father was unshakeable, and so He would urge us to be merciful just as Father is merciful. It was His trust in His Father’s final plan and vindication of Him that led Him to call to us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you – more than you ask, desire or deserve.” He’s not inviting you there into anything else than the life He lived. He’s reaching it to you to be your life. A life where the godly quietness of heart that trusts the Father’s plan, knows that He is the master of turning ill to good, and making evil and hatred serve the designs of His gracious kingdom.
And so the Cross. For our Lord too was betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, wrongfully arrested, and then condemned to die, despite His innocence. And He willingly accepted all this in utter godly quietness of heart – the quietness of heart that comes from submission to the will of the Father. “Not my will, but thine be done” He had prayed, and then in peace had gone forth to drink the cup His Father reached Him. And just like with Joseph, a grand reversal took place. Through the very act of His betrayal, suffering, and death, our new Joseph was raised from death in an incorruptible and immortal body not to rule some measly piece of earthly real estate but the whole of the universe, and instead of hating us for what we did, He uses it to forgive us and love us, and He says to us too: “Do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.” Joseph gave them grain. Jesus gives us the living bread of heaven, His own true body and blood – the body and blood that were on the cross for us, crying out for our forgiveness there for all the times that we have shamefully treated one another, betraying each other, hating each other and wishing each other ill. His body and blood cry out for our forgiveness still. They speak into our hearts the unfathomable truth that despite our wretchedness and sin, we are the beloved of the Father in His Son and that His will for us is to share with Him a life that never ends, the life of forgiveness and mercy.
The Eucharist comes to us as the gift of godly quietness. It frees us to live in that forgiveness ourselves. Like our Lord, no need to avenge ourselves, looking out for ourselves. That is God’s job. Instead, the joy that Paul exhorts us to in the Epistle: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all…. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Which is all to say, O Lord, grant us to serve You joyfully in godly quietness, to trust that our lives are governed by You and that all things are indeed working together to bring us blessing – especially when we are called to suffer for Your name. Then we are utterly free in our Jesus to love and bless, forgive and give to all who mistreat us, all who hate and seek our ruin. In our Jesus, by the strength of His Spirit, we are set free to love them and to seek God’s richest blessing on their lives. Give us, O Lord, this godly quietness of heart to trust in You at all times and in all places, for You are merciful and You love Your whole creation, and we Your creatures glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
We cheerfully hold the old traditions, made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and peace. We interpret them in a more moderate way and reject the opinion that holds they justify...
Among us many use the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. They do so after they have been first instructed, examined, and absolved. The children sing psalms in order to learn. The people also sing that they may either learn or pray...
Among us the pastors and ministers of the churches are encouraged publicly to instruct and hear the youth. This ceremony produces the best fruit...
...in our churches all sermons are filled with such topics as these: repentance; the fear of God; faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, the comfort of consciences by faith; the exercises of faith; prayer, what its nature should be, and that we should be fully confident that it is power, that is is heard; the cross; the authority of officials and all civil ordinances; the distinction between the kingdom of Christ, or the spiritual kingdom, and political affairs; marriage; the education and instruction of children; chastity; all the offices of love. From this condition of the churches it may be determined that we earnestly keep Church discipline, godly ceremonies, and good Church customs...
In addition to this putting to death, which happens through the cross [involuntary suffering is meant], there is also a necessary, voluntary exercise.... These exercises are accepted not because they are services that justify, but because they are assumed to control the flesh, should overindulgence overpower us, and make us secure and unconcerned. This results in people indulging and obeying the tendencies of the flesh. This effort at mortification should be constant because it has God's permanent command.
27 June 2007
This Lutheran watches from the sidelines with interest and sympathy. And I wonder.
You see, there is a parallel in a way with our own liturgy. If I may put it so, LSB contains both the results of the second Vatican Council and the liturgy prior to it. You can worship with Divine Service I or II and the revised three year lectionary, and the very heart of the council's reforms are yours (right down to the "and also with you"). Or you can worship with Divine Service III and the one year (better called the historic) lectionary and you are essentially worshipping in the manner that Lutherans in this country worshipped prior to the heady liturgical reforms in the middle of the 20th century - granted, not in Latin, but the Latin mass largely in direct translation (right down to the "and with thy spirit").
I confess to being a traditionalist in this regard. My parish at its sung Divine Services over the weekend uses only Divine Service 3. We still use the old calendar (gesimas and such, and yes, Visitation is coming up on July 2!) and the traditional collects to the traditional tones.
But we are not exclusively Vatican II, if you will. During Advent and Lent we use Evening Prayer (rather than Vespers) and this ordo owes much to the liturgical reforms. And at our Thursday Divine Services (spoken) which will begin in July, we'll be using Divine Service I.
Which is all to say to any Roman brothers or sisters who read this, I don't think the allowance of the old Tridentine mass will be a bad thing for Rome, not at all. It will restore much that was beautiful and lost with Vatican II. I trust it will counter the man-centered treatment of the liturgy and restore it as a prayer addressed to the All-holy Father through the Son and in the Spirit. But I hope that some of the best of Vatican II is not lost: celebration in the language of the people (at least for the Scripture readings and the sermon!), and the realization that there is more than one way to pray Eucharistically than the recitation of the Roman canon (that throughout much of the history of the Western church there have been other ways). Frankly, from my perspective, the ideal would be to see the old service rendered in the vernacular without all the changes that came with Vatican II. We can witness from our perspective, it is possible to live from the best of both pre and post the Council, and that is what we hope and pray for you and your parishes.
26 June 2007
Among the other heroes of Christian philosophy we also knew Abbot Daniel, who was not only the equal of those who dwelt in the desert of Scete in every sort of virtue, but was specially marked by the grace of humility. This man on account of his purity and gentleness, though in age the junior of most, was preferred to the office of the diaconate by the blessed Paphnutius, presbyter in the same desert: for the blessed Paphnutius was so delighted with his excellent qualities, that, as he knew that he was his equal in virtue and grace of life, he was anxious also to make him his equal in the order of the priesthood. And since he could not bear that he should remain any longer in an inferior office, and was also anxious to provide a worthy successor to himself in his lifetime, he promoted him to the dignity of the priesthood. He however relinquished nothing of his former customary humility, and when the other was present, never took upon himself anything from his advance to a higher order, but when Abbot Paphnutius was offering spiritual sacrifices, ever continued to act as a deacon in the office of his former ministry. However, the blessed Paphnutius though so great a saint as to possess the grace of foreknowledge in many matters, yet in this case was disappointed of his hope of the succession and the choice he had made, for he himself passed to God no long time after him whom he had prepared as his successor. -- Blessed John Cassian (360-435), *Conferences* 4:1
For all Your loving-kindness,
That You have patiently
Borne with me in my blindness!
When dead in many sins
And trespasses I lay,
I kindled, holy God,
Your anger every day.
It is Your work alone
That I am now converted;
O’er Satan’s work in me
You have Your pow’r asserted.
Your mercy and Your grace
That arise afresh each morn
Have turned my stony heart
Into a heart newborn.
Lord, You have raised me up
To joy and exultation
And clearly shown the way
That leads me to salvation.
My sins are washed away;
For this I thank You, Lord.
Now with my heart and soul
All evil I abhor.
Grant that Your Spirit’s help
To me be always given
Lest I should fall again
And lose the way to heaven.
Grant that He give me strength
In my infirmity;
May He renew my heart
To serve You willingly.
O Father, God of love,
Now hear my supplication;
O Savior, Son of God,
Accept my adoration;
O Holy Spirit be
My ever faithful guide
That I may serve You here
And there with You abide.
25 June 2007
Star of our night and hope of ev'ry nation:
Hear and receive Your church's supplication,
Lord God almighty.
See round Your ark the angry billows curling;
See how Your foes their banners are unfurling
And with great spite their fiery darts are hurling,
O Lord, preserve us.
Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us;
Lord, be our shield when earthly armor fails us;
And in the day when hell itself assails us,
Grant us Your peace, Lord.
Peace in our hearts, where sinful thoughts are raging;
Peace in Your Church, our troubled souls assuaging,
Peace when the world its endless war is waging,
Peace in Your heaven.
Father of mercies and God of all consolation, before You all hearts are laid bare and no secrets are concealed. Open the lips of Your children that they may not hide their iniquity and so waste away in deceit, but in truth acknowledge their sin and receive Your Word of absolution. Guide me, Your servant, by Your Word and Spirit, that I may rightly discharge this holy office with faithfulness and mercy, wisdom and compassion. Guard the door of my lips that I never utter what is divulged in confession and, by the word of pardon that You have placed on my lips, grant that those whose bones have been crushed by the weight of Your wrath might be restored with the forgiveness purchased with the blood of Your Son. Protect them from the accusations of the evil one as he strives to rob them of Your peace. Save them from temptation and keep them in the company of Your holy Church to sing of Your saving righteousness forever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
I honestly wonder where this book has been all my ministry. I've needed it for years and years. It helps, brothers. If you don't have it, order it today!
[Obviously a riff on The Church's One Foundation: Though with a scornful wonder The world sees her oppressed, By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed, Yet saints their watch are keeping, Their cry goes up, "how long?" And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song. LSB 644:3]
Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. By His death, Christ has made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight. (IV)
So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. (V)
Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit. It is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God's will. (VI)
The Church is the congregation of the saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. (VII)
Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call. (XIV)
Our churches teach that ceremonies ought to be observed that may be observed without sin. Also, ceremonies and other practices that are profitable for tranquility and good order in the Church (in particular, holy days, festivals and the like) ought to be observed. (XV)
Our churches do not dissent from any article of the faith held by the Church catholic. They only omit some of the newer abuses. (Part II, 1)
Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. The Mass is held among us with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved... (XXIV)
Confession in the churches is not abolished among us. The body of the Lord is not usually given to those who have not been examined and absolved. (XXV)
Furthermore, we teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors. Then neither over-indulgence nor laziness may tempt him to sin... Such outward discipline ought to be taught at all times, not only on a few set days. (XXVI)
It is lawful for bishops or pastors to make ordinances so that things will be done orderly in the Church, but not to teach that we merit grace or make satisfaction for sins. (XXVIII)
It is proper for churches to keep such ordinances for the sake of love and tranquility, to avoid giving offense to another, so that all things be done in the churches in order, and without confusion. (XXVIII)
...in doctrine and ceremonies we have received nothing contrary to Scripture or the Church universal. (Conclusion)
Much in there to call us to repentance...
The Scriptures provide a negative critique on Tradition; whatever in Tradition is contrary to the witness of the Sacred Scriptures, must be rejected; whatever is not, is accepted.
The Scriptural principle - often called sola Scriptura (but that term is also used by those who reject the catholic priniple entirely) - is normatively stated for Lutheranism in the Smalcald Articles II, II, 15:
The true rule is this: God's Word shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel can do so.
My good friend, Fr. Heath Curtis, published a critique of Fr. Hogg's paper in Lutheran Forum some years back in which he offers some thoughts on whether or not these two principles are in fact in tension. His paper is very worth reading, as also are Fr. Hogg's and Fr. Fenton's works on the topic.
I'd like to offer a further comment on the relation of these two principles and to what they properly apply. My argument is not how they *should* operate, but noting how they *did* operate in our Churches in the 16th and 17th century. Simply put:
Lutherans used the catholic principle in their critique and reformation of church practice; they used the Scriptural principle in regards to church dogma.
Obviously there is not a neat and tidy division between the two! But it is the conviction of the Lutheran Church that what the church practices should be built upon the foundation of what she teaches and be in complete harmony with the Sacred Scriptures; if anything conflicts with the teaching of Sacred Scripture in the practice of the church, it must go; if anything is not in conflict with the Sacred Scriptures in church practice, the Lutheran Church confesses that she rejoices to keep and follow such in Christian freedom. This is weight of AC XV.
[The matter of Christian freedom is a separate topic, but in sum we may note that the present Church in every place has the freedom to receive the ceremonies that have come down to her from antiquity, but that she does not receive them in the way of the law (as divinely mandated, for they are not), but in the way of the Gospel (as gifts from the Holy Spirit through the Church for her use) which she (the present church) has authority to regulate in whatever way best serves the Gospel itself in the present situation and with an eye toward the heritage of posterity; she has an obligation not just to the present generation of the Church, but to any future generations, should our Lord's glorious appearing not occur in this generation. ]
Now, my internet buddy and Roman Catholic correspondant, David Schütz has noted that the approach I suggest above leads to a breakdown of the equation "lex orandi, lex credendi." Perhaps so; but it appears to me that what I am proposing actually follows along the lines laid down by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical of 1947 on the sacred liturgy (Mediator Dei). There he insisted that lex orandi, lex credendi can and must also be inverted: "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" - "let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer." Obviously, as Lutheran, I think Pius XII was quite correct.
So, I'll throw it out for discussion: catholic principle in church practice (the application of the Scriptural faith); scriptural principle in church dogma (the content of the faith being explicitly grounded in the witness of Sacred Scripture).
24 June 2007
Saint Paul Lutheran Church
June 24, 2007
(This is my first sermon as an ordained pastor.)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
At the beginning of our text for today, Zechariah is mute. When Gabriel had told Zechariah that he would have a son, he did not believe. For this he is struck mute. Since he did not believe God's promise that Elizabeth would conceive, he was silent during the months of her pregnancy. The lips that denied are judged, and for a time the joy of confessing is removed.
We like stories like this one. We like to hear about Sarai laughing at God. We like to hear about Thomas demanding to see the Lord's hands and side. We hear the stories and rejoice that we believe, but more than that, we like to think that we're a little better than these saints of old. If we would have received the word of Lord, surely we would have believed.
But these games don't work. You have received the word of the Lord. You hear it from this pulpit every week as your pastors proclaim it to you. But you still disbelieve. You still wiggle your way out of what the Scriptures say. You still live as if Jesus has not come. You constantly seek ways to trust yourself or some other created thing instead of the eternal creator of all, the one who has redeemed you.
You try to justify yourself by thinking that these saints of old had better reasons to believe. They had miracles and signs from heaven. They had fire and cloud and miracles of healing. And that's true. Some of them did. But not Zechariah. Not when that strange preacher, the angel Gabriel, showed up in the temple.
Zechariah was no different than you. He thought he knew how the world works. Angels don't appear in temples except in those old stories that no one really takes seriously anyway. He was surrounded every day by Sadducees who denied the resurrection. Dead people stay dead. Let's keep it real.
Is it really so different for you? In the modern world we're skeptical of much of what we read in the Scriptures. Water to wine? Maybe. Healing the sick. Sure, we'll grant that. But casting out demons? Most of us at one time or another have tried to dismiss that as a primitive misunderstanding of mental illness. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a modern man to believe the mighty acts of God.
We envy the people who saw Jesus during His earthly ministry because we sometimes don't really believe that he did it at all. And so we hold Zechariah to a higher standard. He lived in biblical times. He should have known better.
But it was no different for Zechariah. The prophets had been silent for centuries. Gabriel's prophecy to Zechariah in the temple was the first for hundreds of years. Zechariah in the temple hearing the word of the Lord through Gabriel. This wasn't normal day to day stuff. It hadn't happened in at least ten generations.
Did Zechariah know it could happen? Sure. He knew it through the Word of God that he had heard and learned. It shouldn't have surprised, shocked, and terrified him. He should have believed the gracious promises of God, but he didn't.
He looked to himself and saw that God's promise couldn't be true. Old men don't beget babies. Grey haired ladies don't go into labor. The world just doesn't work that way. You do the same things with God's promises. You hear that salvation is free and you laugh. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
Surely you have to do something. Sometimes when you help on church-cleaning days or wash windows or cook the Easter breakfast you think that God might love you a little more than the person who stayed home that day.
When you are struck with illness or have a long hard recovery from surgery you might wonder what sin God is punishing you for. You live in unbelief just like Zechariah. God's promises are too good and you're too evil. God's way is too easy, and you're a hard worker... you want to do your part.
Unbelief is easy. Faith is hard. All you have to go on is words. Words read from the lectern. Words read from a book in the midst of you. Words spoken by a guy standing in a pulpit. And you know better than anyone that I am not holy. I am not wise. I have no pearls of my own wisdom to drop. I'm an unexpected preacher talking to you in the temple. The only authority I have are the words, the ones God gave me to preach to you.
The words of eternal life which I preach are on their face weak words, simple words, the words of ordinary sinful men. It doesn't make sense that they should have the power to kill and to make alive, to condemn and forgive sin. We all disbelieve and deserve to be struck mute. We all doubt the promises of God and deserve to be thrown into a silent hell.
But Zechariah's months of silence bring repentance. We know that he believed the word he had first denied. His words written on a tablet before his gathered friends confess the truth Gabriel had told him. “His name is John.”
He confessed what the angel told him, and so the Holy Spirit loosed his lips and gave him more to say. As you heard the song read, you probably recognized it. You sing it every Thanksgiving and Easter morning in the order of matins.
It is fitting that Zechariah sings of the Lord's promises, promises that he disbelieved now, nine months later, he confesses. The neighbors are amazed. They want to know about John. Though Zechariah will get to that, that's not where he starts.
It is the Holy Spirit who is speaking through the old man, and when the Holy Spirit speaks, He speaks of Jesus. Christ has been conceived. Even at this moment He grows in the womb of His mother Mary. A horn of salvation has been raised up, sings Zechariah, and the Lord has visited his people. He knows this because his son John has told him so. He leaped in Elizabeth's womb when Mary visited. The father of the prophet has heard the prophet's word, even before his birth.
And Zechariah knows that the word he sees being fulfilled is the word sworn to his father Abraham. The promise to Abraham fills the song of Zechariah. The Lord saves us from our enemies. He fulfills the oath he swore to Abraham. Zechariah knows well the words the Lord spoke to Abraham when he had freely chosen not to withhold his only son.
“By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
In Abraham's seed, Christ, all the nations of the earth are blessed. In Abraham's seed, Jesus, your sins are forgiven, carried by Him to the cross and destroyed there. Through the words that Abraham's seed has given to be spoken here in the liturgy, your sins are absolved, the Gospel is put into your ears, and the Lord's body and blood will be placed on your tongue.
Zechariah, filled by the Holy Spirit, sings of it all. But he knows that his little prophecy happens only on this day, the day that John receives the mark of the covenant, the day that Zechariah speaks with Gabriel, “His name is John.”
John, not Zechariah, is the prophet of the Most High. John goes before the Lord to prepare His way. John preaches salvation. John forgives sins. Well prepared for Jesus is every ear that has heard, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Well tilled is the field that is fertilized with simple words.
And so you confess eternal truths with words. Your sins are forgiven by sounds coming from these sinful lips. Simple bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ in your mouth. There is no work you can do to make yourself more forgiven. There is no suffering you can bear that Jesus has not destroyed on the cross. There is no accusation that can stand against God's elect.
Jesus blood cries out for you and all humanity, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus, the Lord God, King of the Universe is your Savior. His word does what it says even when it's spoken by a former vicar.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Charles R. Lehmann
Assistant Pastor-Elect, Youth and Education
Peace with Christ Lutheran Church
Fort Collins, CO
It was the venerable Bede who observed long ago that the words of St. John are fulfilled for us in the natural realm: "He must increase, but I must decrease." Thus, after the birth of our Lord we note that the daylight in the sky begins to grow more and more; after the birth of St. John, it begins to decline a bit more each day. In the entire calendar of the Church only two births are observed: that of our Lord and that of His forerunner, St. John.
As we sang this morning:
Before he yet was born,
He leaped in joyful meeting,
Confessing Him as Lord
Whose Mother he was greeting.
By Jordan's rolling stream,
A new Elijah bold,
He testified of Him
Of whom the prophets told.
23 June 2007
I was ten when Granddaddy Chance died and 24 when my brother died in a car wreck. My grandfather was a very quiet man - of course, he had to be because my grandmother was not. :) My favorite memories of my grandfather are his visiting us in MD and sitting with me out on the swings. Yup, that almost 90 year old man got on the swing with his grandson. You gotta love a fellow who would do that!
My brother Joe was not quiet. Not by a long shot. He and I loved to argue. Not fight, mind you. But argue about this, that, and everything. We ENJOYED it, but it drove the rest of the family crazy. I remember drinking my first whiskey sour with Joe, and spending one precious afternoon and evening and night together, talking and talking until the sun rose. He was far more intelligent than I could ever hope to be. I miss him more than words can say.
Oh, and he was a male chauvinist pig of the highest order. I remember his advice to me when I got married: "Remember, don't pick up the clothes. Just drop them on the floor and make HER pick them up and wash them." Ha! He was never married to Cindi. I still remember the day I ran out of clothes to wear and she looked at me innocently and said: "I assumed you didn't want them washed since you didn't put them in the clothes hamper." I don't think I ever had the nerve to share with him my colossal failure with the clothes...
22 June 2007
Thinking back over the years, I am grateful, humbled and astonished that God would have placed me into this holy office - do I ever resonante to the words of Luther's sacristy prayer! Their truth rings deeper in my soul with each passing year:
O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known Your glory and to nurture and serve this congregation.
But since You have appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teaching and instruction, be my helper and let Your holy angels attend me.
Then if You are pleased to accomplish anything through me, to Your glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of Your pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of Your Word and that I may also diligently perform it.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, shepherd and bishop of our souls, send Your Holy Spirit that He may work with me to will and to do according to Your divine strength according to Your good pleasure. Amen. (Pastoral Care Companion, p. xviii)
21 June 2007
Moreover, this language teaches that each individual justly owes as a great debt of gratitude to Christ, as if He had come for his sake alone, for He would not have grudged this His condescension though but for one, so that the measure of His love to each is as great as to the whole world. Truly the Sacrifice was offered for all mankind, and was sufficient to save all, but those who enjoy the blessing are the believing only.
- St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians 2:20
20 June 2007
And still waiting for CPH to ship the Builder (and me to learn to use it!) and the arrival of the saline solution for the pool. Tonight the ladies of the Weedon family are at the Muny watching Oklahoma! David's been in Word of Warcraft all day. Just caught EWTN's mass. Past Elder, it never ceases to fascinate and irritate me!
Pastor Lehmann will preach this Sunday (Nativity of St. John the Baptist), so I've been focusing my attention on next week: the call to live in mercy.
Running through it all: the restful presence of our Lord through whom we gain the strength and comfort to keep on going on. Glory to You, Lord Jesus! Glory to You!
"We grant that revenge or punishment is necessary in repentance. Yet it is not necessary as merit or price, as the adversaries imagine that satisfactions are necessary. But revenge is in repentance formally, that is, because rebirth itself happens by a continuous putting to death of the oldness of life." (XII:51)
"Although these afflictions are for the most part the punishment of sin, yet in the godly they have a better end, namely, to exercise them, that they may learn amid trials to seek God's aid, to acknowledge the distrust of their own hearts, and so forth." (XII:54)
"Afflictions are a discipline by which God exercises the saints. Likewise, afflictions are inflicted because of present sin, since in the saints they put to death and extinguish lustful desires, so that they may be renewed by the Spirit." (XII:55)
"It has been said before that saints suffer punishments, which are God's works. They suffer contrition or terrors; they also suffer other common troubles." (XII:59)
"Therefore, troubles are not always punishments or signs of wrath. Indeed, terrified consciences should be taught that there are more important purposes for afflictions, so that they do not think God is rejected them when they see nothing but God's punishment and anger in troubles. The other important purposes are to be considered, that is, that God is doing His strange work so that He may be albe to do His own work, as Isaiah 28 teaches in a long speech." (XII:61)
"[Troubles] are God's works, intended for our benefit, that God's power might be made more apparent in our weakness." (XII:63)
Sound words of great importance for those who deal constantly with people suffering under various trials!
19 June 2007
On the Roman (and Orthodox) side of the equation, he sees the Sacred Scriptures plus. Stuff gets added to the witness of the Scriptures and those additions are also held to be normative. One thinks of certain theories of apostolic succession as a divinely mandated condition for the existence of the holy ministry; various teachings about the Blessed Virgin (immaculate conception and assumption); the invocation of the saints (as distinguished from the intercession of the saints), and so on.
On the "other Protestant" side of the equation, he sees stuff subtracted from the Scriptures: the saving efficacy of Baptism, the sacramental union of the bread and wine with our Lord's body and blood in the Supper, the authority of the pastor to forgive sins in Christ's name, the rejection of whatever is not explicit in the Scriptures (for example, the liturgy).
Lutheranism has always felt the tug both ways. We experience the temptation to add and to take away; plus and minus, if you will. The beauty of the Lutheran Symbols is that they don't give in to the temptations on either side. The same, sadly, cannot be said of us Lutheran pastors and parishes. We live in the dynamic tension between the two forces, and are always being allured to one side or the other. To teach more or to teach less than God has revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures. The Symbols point a true media via. May God give us the grace to walk it - for the sake of the whole Church!
18 June 2007
Thou drivest night and gloom away;
O Light of Light, whose Word doth show
The light of heaven to us below.
All-holy Lord, in humble prayer
We ask tonight Thy watchful care.
O grant us calm repose in Thee,
A quiet night, from perils free.
Our sleep be pure from sinful stain;
Let not the tempter vantage gain
Or our unguarded flesh surpise
And make us guiltly in Thine eyes.
Asleep though wearied eyes may be,
Still keep the heart awake to Thee;
Let Thy right hand outstretched avbove
Guard those who serve the Lord they love.
Behold, O God, our shield and quell
The crafts and subtleties of hell;
Direct Thy servants in all good,
Whom Thou hast purchased with Thy blood.
O Lord, remember us who bear
The burden of the flesh we wear;
Thou who doest e'er our souls defend,
Be with us even to the end.
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore. Amen.
"When we talk about eating the flesh and drinking the blood, many don't understand how that can be. He warns us that unless we do we will have no life in us. We wil be condemned. When you eat the bread and drink the blood you shall live forever... We don't do it as a symbol but as the actual body and blood of our Lord."
"Satan and sin were destroyed at the cross. We are now freed from Satan's hold. Christ died so that we may live forever."
"When we come to the table it must be with a clean heart, for we are meeting Christ there. It is not a symbol of remembrance, but the true body and blood of our Lord."
"It goes deeper than that. We are not seeing the Christ in each other nor are we seeing the power of the Word to change lives."
"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. This brings up the situation of pastors standing in (the) stead of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. According to the scripture, this is one of their duties."
Wow. Good stuff. Have you thought of writing down your conversations with the Lord on the basis of His Word? It allows your personal conversation to be a blessing to others also. I've not done this before, but after reading a bit in this work on John, I'm beginning to think I should.
17 June 2007
O God, my faithful God,
True fountain ever flowing,
Without whom nothing is,
All perfect gifts bestowing:
Give me a healthy frame,
And may I have within
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unstained by sin.
Grant me the strength to do
With ready heart and willing
Whatever You command,
My calling here fulfilling;
That I do what I should,
While trusting You to bless
The outcome for my good,
For You must give success.
Keep me from saying words
That latter need recalling;
Guard me lest idle speech
May from my lips be falling;
But when within my place
I must and ought to speak,
Then to my words give grace
Lest I offend the weak.
Lord, let me win my foes
With kindly words and actions
And let me find good friends
For counsel and correction.
Help me, as You have taught,
To love both great and small
And by Your Spirit’s might
To live in peace with all.
Let me depart this life
Confiding in my Savior;
By grace receive my soul
That it may live forever;
And let my body have
A quiet resting place
Within a Christian grave;
And let it sleep in peace.
And on that final day
When all the dead are waking,
Stretch out Your mighty hand,
My deathly slumber breaking.
Then let me hear Your voice,
Redeem this earthly frame,
And bid me to rejoice
With those who love Your name.
What could it be? I unpacked it to find this:
Which is megacool, since my old bike was stolen from our garage something like ten years ago and I've talked about replacing it for years and never got around to it. Now Cindi and I can ride together again.
But today was much too hot to ride the bike. Instead, after Cindi prepared a delicious shrimp fest for us, the girls decided to do this:
Then we headed out for some Coldstone Creamery goodies, and back for liverpool. Yours truly got to go out on the last hand, but that made no difference. Yours truly also had a ton of points before he went out. :(
Jo and Dave are headed back to MD tomorrow. May God's angels guard and protect them, and bring them back to us in safety again.
Now the old tummy is suggesting that some left over shrimp might be exactly what is needed to kill the appetite.
16 June 2007
I must say, though, that the set up was quite simple, despite a few hiccups along the way. I'm wondering if it will be hot enough (and warm enough in the water) to enjoy it tomorrow for Father's Day. We decided to order the saltwater system to see if it will make it easier than dealing with chemicals. As far as chemicals today, I just dumped a bit of bleach in it to see if it would clean up the water. If the pump starts up tonight, it *should* be ready for use tomorrow.
And the order of the day tomorrow will be shrimp - after church we're planning on firing up the grill and doing some shrimp on that, and we've got shrimp to heat up in the oven and shrimp cocktail to serve cold. It will be great celebrating Father's Day with Dave around. They're getting ready to head to Md for a nephew's wedding next weekend, and I'm already missing them. :( Hopefully, they won't be gone long, though.
While waiting for the pool to finish up, turned on EWTN to check out today's mass. AWFUL! So much about the Blessed Virgin and next to nothing about the Blessed Virgin's Son. Grr! And Fr. Mark was the preacher - he's usually better than that. Nothing like the Saturday masses dedicated to the Virgin to remind me of why I am a Lutheran Christian!!!
15 June 2007
We're off in a bit to buy one of those Walmart pools. Bekah has been begging for it, and it will be fun to have it in place when she gets back from camp tonight. I suspect we'll all enjoy it, and hopefully it will last more than one summer?
Cindi is singing in the Collinsville Chorale this evening - all Patriotic Music. Including that wretched "Battle Hymn." I told her that I do not know if this southern boy can sit through THAT.
Well, that coffee calls.
14 June 2007
[Makes an interesting contrast with Synodical Catechism question #201, eh? You tell ME which is in better accord with Apology XXIV:94, 96]
The master of the feast made doubly sure that the guests received their invites. He issued two to each: the first was to tell each one that he was invited; and second, on the day of the great supper itself, He sent a special messenger to announce that dinner is served: "Come for everything is now ready!"
All of which teaches us much about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Come!" The Gospel is not so much a command as an offer; not so much a demand, as a gift -- an invitation to share in the unbelievable joy of the kingdom of God.
"Come!" God is expecting you! He is ready for the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame. He is ready for those who spend their lives in the highways and byways of life. He invites all: "Come; for all is now ready."
As a shepherd seeks for the lost sheep, as a woman gets down on her knees to look for a lost coin, and, yes, as a father looks down the road, waiting for his lost son to come home again, so God is ever seeking, calling, inviting us into relationship and communion with Himself. In that he shows us what "fatherhood" is to be about: seeking opportunity and opening doors for relationships, for sharing both hurts and happiness, sorrows and joys. The godly father is the one who keeps the door of his heart open to his children, a picture of God the Father's open heart and constant invitation to us.
God cries out: "Come; for all is now ready!" Come, you who seek meaning for life. Come, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come, you who falter under the burden of sin and shame. Come, you who are anxious and fearful. Come, you who mourn.
"Come you all; enter into the joy of your Lord. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted on; let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let none grieve over their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no weep over their sins, for pardon has shone forth from the grave; let none fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free." (John Chrysostom - Easter homily)
Christianity is not first and foremost a "should" religion. It is first and foremost a "come" religion. The great drawing power of Jesus Christ is not in His "Thou shalts and thou shalt nots" but in His "Come to me." Come, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Come, be filled with the power of God's presence. If we come to him, then we shall do certain things, not because we "should" do them, but because we delight in doing them as an expression of our love for the One who laid down His life to give us life.
Commenting on this word "Come" and in particular on the words of Jesus, "Come to me all you who labor..." John Chrysostom wrote these precious words: "His invitation is one of kindness, His goodness is beyond description. 'Come to me, all' not only rulers but also their subjects, not only the rich, but also the poor, not only the free, but also the slaves, not only men but also women, not only the youth, but also the old, not only those of sound body, but also the maimed. All of you, He says, come! For such are the Master's gifts. He knows no distinction of slave and free, nor of rich and poor, but all such inequality is cast aside. 'Come,' He says, 'all you who labor and are burdened!' And see whom He calls! Those who have spent their strength in breaking the law, those who are burdened with their sins, those who can no longer lift up their heads, those who are filled with shame, those who can no longer speak out. Why does He call them? Not to demand an accounting, nor to hold court. But why? To relieve them of their pain, to take away their heavy burdens."
Now when Jesus says, "Come!" He does not stand on the top rung of a long, high ladder in heaven to signal us to start climbing. For He himself has climbed down the ladder to stand at our very elbows. He has come to us. "Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man." "She brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger." He came, born in a stable. He came and died on the cross. He came to prepare the banquet of salvation for us. And now--today--He sends His servants to extend us His invitation: "Come, for all things are now ready." There is nothing you can add to this feast. He has done the lot. "It is finished!" He cried from the cross. He has prepared the feast of salvation for you and the only request He asks of you is that you let Him serve it to you.
Ah, but far from being accepted, this gracious invitation was rejected. "I have bought a field...I have bought five yoke of oxen...I have married a wife...I cannot come. Have me excused..." This was the response. The response of so many of His own people. "He came to His own and His own received Him not." Is it not the same response today? Our great tragedy is that we end up accepting the wrong invitations in life. We miss the banquet, the abundant life of Christ, and settle for the lesser, for the fleeting. And Jesus still laments, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you would not."
"Come, for all is now ready." "But" you object "I am not worthy to come. My clothes are not suitable. I wouldn't know how to act in the Master's palace." None of this makes any difference. The invitation goes out to all:to those who are on the back streets, to those who live in little, dirty places, as well as to those who live in fine houses. Come! The good news is that you don't have to be perfect to come. Come as you are -- with all of your sins and sorrows, weaknesses and failures, problems and anxieties. Come to the only one who can forgive you and heal you. Come to the one who on His cross opened His arms wide to you. "Come, for all is now ready."
Coming to Jesus isn't a one time thing. None can say: "Oh, I did that years ago." Coming to Jesus is a way of life. It begins with baptism. It involves living out our baptism in daily repentance and sorrow for sin and turning from sin to God. We come to Him and find Him where He has promised to be for us. We come to Him in worship for "where two or three gather in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We come to Him in Bible reading, for "if anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." We come to Him in regular communion, for "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in Him." You see He who came down from heaven to meet us on our level, meets us on our level still.
No, He doesn't stand at the top of the ladder and call us home. He stands at the bottom and lifts us up on His strong shoulders and carries us up the ladder Himself. None of us will ever know the wonder of the brightly lit banquet hall, the goodness of the food, and the joy of being part of this amazing fellowship until we lay aside the excuses and dare to accept the invitation. Yes, dare to accept it daily! Come to Him now, come to Him today and tomorrow and the next day and the next and so live in the assurance that on the last day He will direct to you the greatest "Come" of all: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Amen
Therefore, if the love of God does not reside in a person's heart, he boasts of faith and relies upon it in vain. Faith is not an intention to acquire all the comfort of the Gospel. It is a heavenly light, a divine power that God, with His grace, implants in the heart. Faith without love for God is an empty product of our imagining, a hull without fruit, a shell without kernel, a painted picture without life. Wherever there is true faith, love comes forth like the shining of the sun. Wherever love is absent from the heart, God, the eternal love, cannot be found there.... If you do not remain in love, you also will not remain in faith. *God Grant It!* p. 495
What never ceases to strike me in this hymn is stanza three:
Maker of all things, all Thy creatures praise Thee;
All for Thy worship were and are created;
Now, as we also worship Thee devoutly,
Hear Thou our voices! (LSB 504:3)
Everything there is was created to worship the Blessed Trinity. The flowers worship by being flowers. The trees worship by being trees. The dogs worship by chasing their tails. And humans worship by being humans - being what we were intended to be: the image and temple of God upon the earth. We were created to worship. To spend our time in anything else is to miss out.
And because that is so, because of the fallness of our world, we had in today's reading from Proverbs 14:11
The house of the wicked will be destroyed;
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
House verses tent. It's the difference between the wicked and the upright. The wicked have here in this world their permanent home. They settle down and live it for all its worth. But its worth, its true worth, is how it manifests and declares to us ceaselessly that it is NOT our final home, but that we are meant be pilgrims, that we are passing through this age to the age that is to come, which is our true and lasting home. Here the righteous live only in tents - even if the tents are made of brick and mortar. They know that nothing here lasts. "The form of this world is passing away." We are journeying to that Age and that home where praise and worship of the Blessed Trinity will be all in all. Even now we get the teasing taste of what it will be in the Church - the colony from the future, the life of the age to come planted on this soil so that we might ever remember that we live in tents.
13 June 2007
What does it mean to me? This is just personal reflection, understand. But when I hear Lutheran...
It calls to mind my first encounter with the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. I can still see the young people at St. Andrew kneeling to receive and then walking back and spending time in prayer afterwards. Their heads bowed, their faces, well, grateful.
It calls to mind my brother Maupin ribbing my side as the water was poured into the font and him saying: "That's for you!"
It calls to mind Palm Sunday services with palms! Maundy Thursday solemn celebrations of the Supper. Good Friday with seven sermons on the seven last words. And Easter with overflowing joy. It calls to mind Advent and Lenten Vespers in the middle of the week, and learning Psalm 130 by heart from the back of TLH, with pastor singing the bass-line.
It calls to mind spending six weeks each year with the Passion of Jesus in sermon, hymn, anthem, and prayer.
It calls to mind joining the choir and processing in to the music of "Built on the Rock" as we celebrated a jubilant Reformation Day; and this was when I still had not the foggiest notion how to sing in parts. But the others did - and what a rich sound.
It calls to mind Bible studies that wrestled with the sacred text and invited us not to be afraid to hear what was being said and honestly to react to it.
It calls to mind the beautiful Christmas trees and the real branches around the Advent wreath. The acolytes standing on tiptoe to reach the tall candles on the gradine.
It calls to mind the ringing of bells, the chanting of psalms, the huge "for you ness" of it all.
It calls to mind evangelism visits and visiting the booth at the county fair, replete with tracts from LLL.
It calls to mind listening to sermons that did not fail week after week to deliver the goods: real law that exposed and stripped me of all excuses and real Gospel that refreshed me and sent me on my way with joy.
It calls to mind hymns and chants that sounded different from anything I'd ever heard before. I still remember the first time Herzliebster Jesu made itself known to me.
It calls to mind memorizing the catechism and reciting it for Mrs. Bleckley and receiving her kind chastisement for not having it down exactly correct.
It calls to mind the heady years at Bronxville where the music of the Lutheran Church opened before me like a vast ocean waiting to be explored, and into which I got to plunge in chapel choir, tour choir, and chorus.
Lutheran to me calls to mind the people, the vast numbers of people, to whom p. 15; Trinity Sunday and the Athanasian Creed; and "this is most certainly true" brings the smile of shared experience to the face.
To me the word "Lutheran" conjures up all that to me and so much more. A negative? No way. A joy. The joy of a forgiven sinner, welcomed home to the Father's house and learning to rejoice in grace from so many who have gone before. Indeed, "this is most certainly true."
12 June 2007
Consider, too, the point that he who has received the Holy Ghost has also received the power of forgiving and of retaining sin. For thus it is written: "Receive the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." John 20:22-23 So, then, he who has not received power to forgive sins has not received the Holy Spirit. The office of the priest is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and His right it is specially to forgive and to retain sins. How, then, can they claim His gift who distrust His power and His right? – Repentance, Book I, par. 8
For we men are all born under sin, and our very origin is in evil, as we read in the words of David: "For lo, I was conceived in wickedness, and in sin did my mother bring me forth." -- Repentance, Book I, par 13
Is it not evident that the Lord Jesus is angry with us when we sin in order that He may convert us through fear of His indignation? His indignation, then, is not the carrying out of vengeance, but rather the working out of forgiveness, for these are His words:"If you shall turn and lament, you shall be saved." He waits for our lamentations here, that is, in time, that He may spare us those which shall be eternal. He waits for our tears, that He may pour forth His goodness. So in the Gospel, having pity on the tears of the widow, He raised her son. He waits for our conversion, that He may Himself restore us to grace, which would have continued with us had no fall overtaken us. But He is angry because we have by our sins incurred guilt, in order that we may be humbled; we are humbled, in order that we may be found worthy rather of pity than of punishment. – Repentance Book I, par 22
He does not bring down the sinner even to the earth with His whole heart Who raises the poor even from the dust and the needy from the dunghill. For He brings not down with His whole heart Who reserves the intention of forgiving. –Repentance Book I, par 23
Your Church does not excuse herself from Your supper, Novatian makes excuse. Your family says not, "I am whole, I need not the physician," but it says: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved." The likeness of Your Church is that woman who went behind and touched the hem of Your garment, saying within herself: "If I do but touch His garment I shall be whole." Matthew 9:21 So the Church confesses her wounds, but desires to be healed. Repentance Book I, par 31
[David Schütz, this next is for you!]
And this confession is indeed rightly made by them, for they have not the succession of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism; and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven even in the Church, whereas it was said to Peter: "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven." Matthew 16:19 – Repentance, Book I, par 33
do you say, "I am clean," when, as it is written, not even an infant of a day old is pure? – Repentance, Book I, par 38
Do you see that the same God Who requires repentance promises forgiveness? Repentance, Book I, par 46
If, then, you wish to reclaim any one of the lapsed, do you exhort him to believe, or not to believe? Undoubtedly you exhort him to believe. But, according to the Lord's words, he who believes shall have everlasting life. Repentance, Book I, par 48
He then who has faith has life, and he who has life is certainly not shut out from pardon; "that every one," it is said, "that believes in Him should not perish." Since it is said, Every one, no one is shut out, no one is excepted, for He does not except him who has lapsed, if only afterwards he believes effectually. Repentance, Book I, par 48
Therefore it is said: "That every one that believes in Him should not perish." Let no one, that is, of whatever condition, after whatever fall, fear that he will perish. Repentance, Book I, par. 51
Let us consider another similar passage: "He that believes in the Son has eternal life, but he that believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36 That which abides has certainly had a commencement, and that from some offence, viz., that first he not believe. When, then, any one believes, the wrath of God departs and life comes. To believe, then, in Christ is to gain life, for "he that believes in Him is not judged." John 3:18. Repentance, Book I, par. 53
And that you may not think that it is only our arguments which press you, consider the decision of Christ, Who said: "If the servant knew his Lord's will and did it not, he shall be beaten with many stripes, but if he knew it not, he shall be beaten with few stripes." Luke 12:47-48 Each, then, if he believes, is received, for God "chastens every son whom He receives," Hebrews 12:6 and him whom He chastens He does not give over unto death, for it is written: "The Lord has chastened me sore, but He has not given me over unto death." Repentance, Book I, par 58
For this is the sentence of condemnation on the serpent: "Dust shall be your food." Genesis 3:14 What dust? Surely that of which it is said: "Dust you are, and into dust shall you return." Genesis 3:19 Repentance, Book I, par. 67
The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325
The first Council of Nicaea was convened in the early summer of 325 by the Roman Emperor Constantine at what is today Isnuk, Turkey. The emperor presided at the opening of the council. The council ruled against the Arians, who taught that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was created by the Father and was called Son of God because of his righteousness. The chief opponents of the Arians were Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and his deacon, Athanasius. The council confessed the eternal divinity of Jesus and adopted the earliest version of the Nicene Creed, which in its entirety was adopted at the Council of Constantinople in 381.