28 February 2014

A Link? I Think So

The great Lutheran theologian, pastor, and writer Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) uses what seems to current thought some massive stretches in seeing in various Old Testament narratives Christ, and thus also Mary. To him, Gideon's fleece was a type of the Virgin, upon which "the Christ dew came." Or she is depicted in Aaron's rod (a dead stump) that budded and brought forth blossom, thus showing the one on whom God's favor rested. Where on earth did the man come up with such, to many in these days, fanciful notions?

I have long suspected the answer was that he learned them as a child in choir. Now I think I have the proof.

Lossius' Psalmodia was perhaps the most popular Cantionale of the sixteenth century. The copy of the edition I'm looking at was printed in Wittenberg back in 1594. There, we find a sequence for the feast of the Visitation, addressed mostly to Mary, but with a careful introduction explaining that this is a "salutation" and not an "invocation" and thus it is in the genre of Gabriel's greeting to the holy Mother and not in the nature of a prayer, which ought be addressed to God alone. The sequence (originally sung between epistle and gospel) is titled Ave, praeclara maris stella, and though Lossius attributes the text to Ambrose, it is generally recognized as having been composed by Herman the Lame, Abbot of Reichenau (d. 1054).

Here are some of the words from the text:

Te plenam fide, virgam almae stirpis Jesse nascituram, priores desieravant patres et prophetae. Te lignum vitae, sancto rorante pneumate parituram divini floris amygdalum, signavit Gabriel.

The fathers of old and prophets longed for you, faithful branch, to come forth at last form the generous stock of Jesse. Gabriel revealed that you, tree of life, moist with the Holy Spirit’s dew, God’s divine almond blossom would bloom. (p. 223).

There, in the Church's music and song, is written what Gerhard would later preach from the pulpit for Christmas day:

"The mother of this Lord was a virgin, for thus it was proclaimed in advance in Isaiah 7:14: Look, a virgin is pregnant, and she will bear a Son who will be called Immanuel. God also witnessed this through many a prototype. In Numbers 17:8, it is announced that Aaron's stick greened up and bore almonds; by this is shown that Mary, foreign to every natural and fleshly bloodline, force, or power, as a natural mother yet bore a true Son in a supernatural manner—just as the stick also bore almonds and yet remained a natural stick. Thus, in Judges 6:38, 39 God performs a sign before Gideon so that the dew fell on the spread-out fleece, but the entire ground remained dry; the next morning the fleece remained dry, and the ground was wet. Thus the pure virgin Mary alone among all women, through the working of the Holy Spirit, received this heavenly Christ-dew, about which Isaiah 45:8 states: Drip down you heavens from above. Later, this dew came upon the entire earth, that is, the fruits of this birth pertain to all mankind; however, Mary once more became a dry pelt, that is, she remained a pure virgin after the birth, just as she was before the birth." (Postilla I:51)

The sequence also likens Mary to the burning bush, and this we also find in the self-same homily of Gerhard: "By this fiery bush is also indicated that the Son of God wanted to assume His human nature from a pure virgin, without violating her virginity. For, even though the virgin body of Mary became pregnant by being filled with the Holy Spirit and by the overshadowing of the highest, yet her virginal chastity was not damaged." (Postilla I:46).

The original sequence included an invocation of the virgin (side-ways, at least), asking Jesus to "save us who pray to your Virgin Mother." This, of course, was altered to bring it in line with the Lutheran conviction that all invocation is addressed only to the Blessed Trinity:  "Save us, Jesus, who pray to your Father."

What I think all this shows beyond doubt is that the Church teaches us in the liturgy how the Scriptures are all Christ's book and thus are filled with "prototypes," intimations, if you will, of the incarnation, crucifixion, return and reign of Christ. Fascinating, no?

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Man must have God's word and cleave to it by faith. As soon as he allows himself to be sundered from the Word he is lost and there is no help for him.—Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 109.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For nothing is so acceptable to God as to number one's self with the last. This is a first principle of all practical wisdom. For he that is humbled, and bruised in heart, will not be vainglorious, will not be wrathful, will not envy his neighbor, will not harbor any other passion. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on St. Matthew

27 February 2014

Homily for Specialized Pastoral Ministry Educational Event

[1 Kings 18:30–39 / 1 Peter 3:13–17 / Mark 8:34–38]

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tremendous irony, isn’t it? The massive success of Elijah in the confrontation at Carmel. The people’s hearts turned back to the Lord. And then, though we didn’t include it, his prayer for rain after the long drought (I’ve always wondered where the water came from that they poured over the sacrifice – did someone hike down the mountain to the Mediterranean to get it?), and then the answer from God as the skies open and not fire this time, but water pours down, and Elijah runs in triumph before the chariot of the king. Old man he may be, but energized by the Spirit he fairly dances along.

Joyous triumph, no? A ministry moment when it all seemed worthwhile. When the Word of the Lord actually seemed to work and that there might be a modicum of honor for the man of God. Moment is the key word.

You know the story. It didn’t last long. Minutes don't. Jezebel, Mafia Queen of the Old Testament, let’s Elijah know that she’s ticked off now and that he is toast. His life is forfeit. And suddenly vanished the euphoria of his ministry. Gone in the twinkling of an eye his hope that his nation might hear and heed the words of God and turn back. Gone everything. He feels so isolated, so alone. He turns to the desert and leaves even his servant behind. He thinks he’s it.

But he’s not alone. There was One with him. One who watched over His Word to perform it. One whose angels tended and cared for Elijah even when he was ready to throw in the towel. Miraculous food, angelically prepared, sends the man of God to the mountain of God where he prepares to tender his resignation for he is nothing but a failure, just like all those before him.

The God of Israel, of course, ignores this and gives him his next assignments. Success or not wasn’t to be his concern. His concern was to go and do His Master’s bidding.

And as we reflect on that, isn’t it massively comforting? You know the moments of success, the moments where the prayers are answered and the gifts of God rejoice the heart. You also know that they are but isolated moments in your life and ministry. You know the weakness and failure of the Word you’ve been sent forth to share – how often it is rejected, mocked, ridiculed and before long I fear we’ll see even here, persecuted once again. You know the moments of wanting to just throw in the towel and be done. To walk away from the living God’s assignments to you that seem so hopeless. But He doesn’t hold you responsible for the failure of His Word even as He doesn’t allow you the credit for its success. That’s entirely in His hands. That’s the joy of the Augsburg V’s ubi et quando visum est Deo – where and when it pleases God. The giving of faith that is. It happens in those who hear the Gospel and He sends us out to speak that good news into the sadness and brokenness of this age and yet we have zero control – zero – over its taking hold or not. And God won’t be holding us accountable for that, but He does expect an accounting of us of our stewardship of speaking it.

So our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel. He summons us to the losing of life. Bonhoeffer nailed: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” But it’s okay. The life that we’d try to save and preserve is a life we’re going to lose anyway. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe three or thirty years from now. Who knows. Elijah figured it wouldn’t take Jezebel long to get him. But you can hold onto your life in this age with a lose hold when you know that He’s got a life to give you that simply has no end. More life for you than you’ve got death, more forgiveness for you, than you’ve got sin. This is the hope that His words hold out to you, and are summoned to hold them out to the world, to the concrete persons that the Lord has sent you to serve in your various settings. The Lord speaks a frightful judgment of being ashamed of His words. The Lord Jesus will also then be ashamed of such a one when He comes in the glory of the Father with the holy angels.

It’s in view of the certainty of that coming, the final fulfillment of His every promises to you, the making of a new heaven and a new earth, the future of this world really being the triumph of Love, and the destruction of everything that is not love, that fills you with the courage to speak His words and not to be ashamed.

But there is speaking and there is speaking. The Westboro Baptists are not afraid to speak out, and to give them their due, they have something of the fire of Elijah of old in their witness to judgment, death, damnation. But can you see the instance that St. Peter foresaw happening to them with their signs of judgment upon the streets of America" “…Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience.” People loved by God, be so filled with the hope of your Lord’s return, and with the certainty wrought by His blood that He will not being ashamed to own you as His own family, that people inquire of you about the reason for your hope. You be a people so brimming with the hope of the gospel that even the suffering that comes your way can’t quench your joy in the Lord.

Elijah had his miracle food to sustain him on his journey, and you have yours. Tonight once again He who will come again to make all things new, comes to you even now hidden beneath the bread and wine with His body and blood, His forgiveness, life, and salvation. He comes to you who have been discouraged and ready to throw in the towel. Who have been silent when you should have spoken and at times filled with fear. Who have been troubled and filled with doubts. He comes with blood-bought mercy and compassion. He comes whispering: You are mine. Be not afraid. My undying body will be your life. Your sins are covered in my blood. Your death was left behind in my tomb. My Father, is now your Father; my home, your home. Be refreshed and then go forth from this place renewed to share the hope. My Word will not return to me empty. It will accomplish what I send it to do. Be of good cheer. Amen.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

God's wrath is never greater than when He is silent and does not speak to us, but leaves us to follow our own mind and will, and do as we please.—Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 110.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Yes, for a word from the divine Scriptures, made to sound in the ear, does more than fire soften the hardened soul, and renders it fit for all good things.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on St. Matthew

25 February 2014

An Old Chorale...A Contemporary Setting

Ist Gott Für Mich

I like that the tune and words are being heard and treasured by contemporary audience....BUT give me this any day:

Ist Gott Für Mich

Patristic Quote of the Day

Before then the coming of our Saviour, the father of darkness, even Satan, had made the world dark, and blackened all things with an intellectual gloom; but in this state the Father gave us the Son, to be as it were a lamp to the world, to irradiate us with divine light, and rescue us from Satanic darkness.—St. Cyril of Alexandria, Sermon 82 on Luke

24 February 2014

Fox or King?

St. Irenaeus wrote once: "Their [the gnostics'] manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skilful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king." (Against Heresies 1.8.1)

I love that quote, for it invites to a reflection that Christians should always make: does the beauty of the King shine forth through our exposition of the Scriptures, or do we depict Someone less beautiful and wonderful than He who is the Lord of heaven and earth, assuming flesh in the Virgin's womb, that He might bear the sin of the world, even of us who hated Him and despised Him and rejected Him, to death on Golgotha, pouring out His blood to blot out the handwriting that was against us, rising from the dead as Death's Destruction, and coming again in glory to raise the dead and bring His believers into the joys of the Feast He has prepared?

It is worthwhile for us always to examine what IS the picture of Christ that the preaching, teaching, liturgy and hymnody of our Church holds forth?

The Lutheran Symbols basically borrow from St. Irenaeus when they note that the litmus test of the true doctrine received in the Church is this: "does it give all glory to Christ and all comfort to poor sinners?"

We know that the King is truly seen in His glory when we see His glory where He saw it: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies... And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Lord, help us in all our preaching, teaching, praying and singing to follow the path of Your Apostle that we may know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, publicly portraying before the eyes of all Christ Jesus as crucified.

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: "Neither do I condemn you."—Martin Luther, Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1235.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 43 on Matthew

22 February 2014

Looking ahead to Ash Wednesday

Ashes. Dust. Death.

"You are dust," God told the man on the day that Eden was lost "and to dust you shall return."

Earlier he had said to the serpent: "Dust you shall eat."


"Like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

To eat that is.

Lent reminds us that we have an enemy who is intent on devouring us.

Lent reminds us that we have a Savior who became dust and ashes for us, to make our dust immortal.

Lent reminds us that at the end of the journey, at the end of return, there awaits the God who has mercy on and abhors nothing He has made and who looks past the sins of men that they may repent (Ash Wednesday Introit).

Memento! You are dust to dust you shall return.

Memento! Dust you shall eat.

Memento! He took upon Himself not the nature of angels, but the Seed of Abraham.

Memento! He made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Memento! Resist him, firm in the faith!


21 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Whoever wants to blessed arise must also die blessedly and well; for in whatever status a person dies, that's the status in which he will arise.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 272.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Upon this then let us build, and as a foundation let us cleave to it, as a branch to a vine; and let there be no interval between us and Christ. For if there be any interval, immediately we perish. For the branch by its adherence draws in the fatness, and the building stands because it is cemented together. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 8 on First Corinthians

20 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For the renewal, which is begun by the Holy Spirit in this life and which increases every day, will be completely fulfilled on the Day of Judgment and in eternal life.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 270.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Let those who will be saved attend to the Scriptures.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on First Corinthians.

19 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Ornate speaking does not produce followers of Christ; rather, holy living does.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 265.

Patristic Quote of the Day

And not even now persuade we by argumentation; but from the Divine Scriptures and from the miracles done at that time we produce the proof of what we say. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

18 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Mankind at all times takes heed more of deeds than of words; they more readily allow themselves to be inspired to godliness with works than with words.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 263.

Patristic Quote of the Day

That there will, then, be a hell, we have, as I think, sufficiently proved, bringing forward the deluge, and former evils, and arguing that it is not possible that He who performed these things should leave the men of the present age unpunished. For if thus He chastised those who sinned before the Law, He will not let those go unpunished who after grace have committed greater wickedness.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 3 on Philemon

17 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Just as in the Old Testament the priests of God the Lord sacrificed, so also we must offer up to God the Lord the spiritual sacrifices of prayer, thanksgiving, the killing of the flesh, kind actions and good works.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 195.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For this also is the glory of a Master, to have grateful slaves. And this is the glory of a Master, that He should thus love His slaves. And this is the glory of a Master, to claim for His own what is theirs. And this is the glory of a Master, not to be ashamed to confess them before all. Let us therefore be stricken with awe at this so great love of Christ. Let us be inflamed with this love-potion. —St. John Chrysostom, Homily 2 on Philemon

15 February 2014

LSB One Year Peculiarities, Etc.

As we prepare to go into pre-Lent (can it already be here?), a few changes liturgically to note:

Beginning with the Divine Service for Septuagesima, the plaintive Tract replaces the joyous Alleluia and Verse.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the Gloria in Excelsis (or any Hymn of Praise) is omitted from the Divine Service.

Beginning with Judica, the Gloria Patri is omitted from the Introit.

Note that the Gloria in Excelsis MAY be used on Holy Thursday, if the service does not begin with the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution.

Now the usual discussion of the color mess.

First, remember that uniform use of the colors is relatively late.  Read through Stiller's work on Leipzig at the time of Bach and you'll readily see how different from our current expectations the color scheme in use at the time was!  But if we pay attention to the rubrics of our hymnal, then we have the following:

Pre-Lent - Green, with the Epiphany Preface continuing in use (see, Altar Book, pp. 862-865).

Ash Wednesday - Black or Violet with the Lenten Preface (see Altar Book, p. 867).

Invocabit through the week of Judica - Violet with the Lenten Preface (see Altar Book, pp. 868-875).

Palmarum through Holy Wednesday- Scarlet or violet with Holy Week Preface (see Altar Book, pp. 876-880).

Holy Thursday - White, scarlet or violet with Holy Week Preface (see Altar Book, p. 881).

Good Friday - Black (if paraments are used, but see note on p. 511  "the altar remains bare, having been stripped on Holy Thursday") with Holy Week Preface (see Altar Book, p. 883).

Easter Vigil- Easter Wednesday- White or gold with Easter preface (see Altar Book, p. 885-891).

14 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

The renewal consists in this: that the Holy Spirit enlightens us, sanctifies us, works a new motivation in our understanding, will, and heart. With His power, He stifles the old man within us, crucifies the flesh with its lusts; and, contrariwise, puts on us the new man.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 185.

Patristic Quote of the Day

This is it seasonable for us also now to say, Let us draw near asking boldly: let us only bring Faith and He gives all things. Now is the time of the gift; let no man despair of himself.—St. John Chrysostom on Homily 7 on Hebrews

13 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Instead, in His compassion, He had pity on our great misfortune. That's why He ordained His Son as our Mediator and Savior, so that through His merits, offered to us in the Gospel, and through the rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, the image of God was once more established and renewed within us.—Johann Gerhard, Schola Pietatis, p. 184.

Patristic Quote of the Day

He then who is so anxious to be loved by us, and does everything for this end, and did not spare even His only begotten Son on account of His love towards us, and who counts it a desirable thing if at any time we become reconciled to Himself, how shall He not welcome and love us when we repent?—St. John Chrysostom, To Theodore After His Fall, par. 15

12 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

He is victor over sin, death, the devil, and hell, and is able to save and uphold in the midst of death all those who believe in Him through His Word.—Martin Luther, Day by Day, p. 92.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Now that sheep which had got separated from the ninety and nine, and then was brought back again, represents to us nothing else than the fall and return of the faithful; for it was a sheep not of some alien flock, but belonging to the same number as the rest, and was formerly pastured by the same shepherd, and it strayed on no common straying, but wandered away to the mountains and in valleys, that is to say some long journey, far distant from the right path. Did he then suffer it to stray? By no means, but brought it back neither driving it, nor beating it, but taking it upon his shoulders.—St. John Chrysostom, To Theodore After His Fall I:7.

11 February 2014

Thanks, Linda W!

Unbeknownst to me, our dear friend Linda had written a poem about Cathy, the cat, after her last visit. Just perfect:


I saw you walk across the floor
your once feline sleekness marred with age.
You had the look of battles won in years gone by.
Eyes that no longer saw the things your ears no longer heard
cared not for their loss as your nose scoured the bowl for bits of food.

I reached down to stroke your still vibrant fur
it’s orange and white splotches dotted with black.
The incredibly silkiness of your coat testified to a health
the jumble of bones belied underneath as they poked about
like a mass of rocks and barbed wire that had been left for years in the rain.

How can your deafening purr display content
when your joints must ache with their twisted movement?
I hesitated to stroke your back with its terrain of silk covered boulders
but you leaning into my touch and the increase of your content
told me you are not any less a cat as my hand learned how to caress you.

LMW 10.13.13

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

But who sees this? You are not meant to see it. His reign and His teaching are a testimony. It is a preaching which testifies to things which no man can hear, see, or read in books of the law or anywhere else in the world.... He shall do nothing but preach, and His preaching shall be a testimony to the Father, how He is inclined, how He desires to make men blessed and to redeem them from their sins, and from the power of death and the devil. That is His testimony.—Martin Luther, Exposition of John 3 (Day by Day, p. 91).

Patristic Quote of the Day

And speak not to me of those who have committed small sins, but suppose the case of one who is filled full of all wickedness, and let him practice everything which excludes him from the kingdom, and let us suppose that this man is not one of those who were unbelievers from the beginning, but formerly belonged to the believers, and such as were well pleasing to God, but afterwards has become a fornicator, adulterer, effeminate, a thief, a drunkard, a sodomite, a reviler, and everything else of this kind; I will not approve even of this man despairing of himself, although he may have gone on to extreme old age in the practice of this great and unspeakable wickedness. For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair as being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, he does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power ofrepentance. For even those who have sinned against Him He is not wont to visit with punishment for His own sake; for no harm can traverse that divine nature; but He acts with a view to our advantage, and to prevent our perverseness becoming worse by our making a practice of despising and neglecting Him.—St. John Chrysostom, To Theodore After His Fall I:4.

10 February 2014

A grandpa's double joy

On Temporal Consequences

What is the Church's attitude toward the temporal consequences of sin? First, we admit that they are there and that they are not remitted by the keys. Most crassly, the thief on the cross had his sins eternally forgiven, but he also temporally died as a thief nailed to a cross—his temporal punishment was not remitted.

And yet, having said so much, we've not yet thought with the mind of the Church. For when we confess our sins in the Divine Service, we do not exempt OURSELVES from being utterly worthy of temporal punishments for our sins, and yet we dare to ask forgiveness for ourselves and relief even from temporal consequences.

Further, in the great Litany we ask for more. We ask for one another's relief from the temporal consequences of sin. Consider the way the Church teaches us to conclude our prayers following the great Litany:

L: O Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
C: Do not reward us according to our iniquities.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, You desire not the death of a sinner, but rather tha we turn from our evil ways and live. Graciously spare us those punishments which we by our sins have deserved, and grant us always to serve You in holiness and pureness of living; through Jesus, Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.


L: Call on Me in the day of trouble.
C: I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.
L: Spare us, O Lord, and mercifully forgive us our sins. Though by our continual transgressions we have merited Your chastisements, be gracious to us. Grant that all these punishments which we have deserved may not come upon us, but that all things may work to our everlasting good; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
C: Amen.

Rather than ever saying to a brother or sister: "So sorry. You have to deal with the temporal consequences of your sins" (with the implied: "And thank God mine aren't as bad as YOURS!"), the Church teaches us to stand alongside our brother and sister and plead with them that the temporal consequences of OUR sin (theirs and mine, both equally worthy of punishments both in time and eternity) not be visited upon either of us. For who, indeed, then could ever hope to stand—now or in the coming Judgment?

From the Symbols on the Sacraments and the Conscience

Piepkorn once wrote to a man thinking of leaving the Lutheran Church:

I believe that you have acted wisely in not deserting the Church of your Baptism and Confirmation for another obedience. In my experience there is nothing to which a Christian can legitimately aspire in any other communion that is not implicit in the Church of the Augsburg Confession. If, at a particular time or in a particular place, that which he seeks is not explicit, it may be that God has called him to that time and place in order patiently to recover something that the Church of the Augsburg Confession has lost or neglected or overlooked. Let me counsel you therefore to stay where you are and faithfully to pray, to study, to witness and to work for a restoration of sacramental life to the Church that above all others is capable of most fully utilizing it. 

That last sentence deserves explication from the Symbols. In what way is the Lutheran Church "the Church that above all others" is "capable of most fully utilizing" the sacramental life? Consider these pertinent citations from the Symbols.


We must think this way about Baptism and make it profitable for ourselves. So when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, ‘Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life in both body and soul.’” LC


Now strictly speaking, repentance consists of two parts. One part is contrition, that is, terrors striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. The other part is faith, which is born of the Gospel or the Absolution and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven. It comforts the conscience and delivers it from terror. AC 

The people are very carefully taught about faith in the Absolution…Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution as being God’s voice and pronounced by God’s command. The power of the keys is set forth in its beauty. They are reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences and that God requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven. They are taught that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives forgiveness of sins. AC


No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined. The people also are advised about the dignity and use of the Sacrament, about how it brings great consolation to anxious consciences, so that they too may learn to believe God and to expect and ask from Him all that is good. This worship pleases God. AC 

In general:

This whole matter was made up by idle men. They did not know how forgiveness of sins happens and how, by God’s judgment and the terrors of conscience, trust in works is driven from us. AP

Spiritually inexperienced people despise this teaching. However, God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the greatest consolation. Consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s sake they have a gracious God. As Paul teaches, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine must be related to the conflict of terrified conscience. It cannot be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore, inexperienced and irreverent people have poor judgment in this matter because they dream that Christian righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness. AP

A conscience full of fear has need of much consolation. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are signs that continually remind, cheer, and encourage despairing minds to believe more firmly that their sins are forgiven. AP

Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered toward this goal: we shall daily receive in the Church nothing but forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. LC


Note especially the import of that last summary: how differently might our congregational life look today if everything, absolutely everything in them, and similarly in our transparochial life, were ordered toward that one goal? I think we'd see a genuine and deep renewal in the Church of the Augsburg Confession and it would, in this way, offer profound assistance in other jurisdictions as well. How differently would the Lutheran Church appear in today's world if she lived out and professed by action what she confesses in her Symbols of the relationship between the sacraments and the comfort of the troubled conscience? 

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

For He has not commanded thee to fly up to heaven to stare at what He does there, with His angels, but this is His command: 'This is my beloved Son; hear ye him.' In Him I have come down to you, so that you can see Me, and hear Me, and touch Me. There and nowhere else shall find Me, who desire Me and long to be free from their sins and be saved.—Martin Luther, Exposition of John xiv. (Day by Day, p. 89)

Patristic Quote of the Day

And not only is this the wonderful thing that he remits our sins, but that he not even reveals them nor makes them manifest and patent, nor compels us to come forward into the midst, and to tell out our errors, but bids us make our defense to him alone, and to confess ourselves to him. And yet among secular judges, if any tell any of the robbers or grave-riflers, when they are arrested, to tell their errors and be quit of their punishment, they would accede to this with all readiness, despising the shame through desire of safety. But in this case there is nothing of this kind, but he both remits the sins, nor compels us to marshal them in array before any spectators. But one thing alone he seeks, that he who enjoys this remission should learn the greatness of the gift. —St. John Chrysostom, Instructions to Catechumens, par. 4.

08 February 2014

The vast majority of the time...

...I love being "the daddy." But I HATE it when it comes time to put down an animal. We sadly had reached that point with our cat, Cathy. Been with us for 14 years or so. Was always an outdoors animal until we moved to the village almost two years ago. I was prepared to let her remain outside and ask the Gleasons to take over feeding her, but Bekah wouldn't hear of not bringing her along with us. So she moved into our new home. She was already sick - horribly thin - and continued to get so. We switched her to a completely non-cereal diet and she perked right back up. But she grew steadily more deaf and blind and finally was just acting confused (as in, where DID I leave that litter box?).  So I knew we'd have to do the dirty deed. Bekah is steadfastly opposed to euthanizing animals and I get that, but, well, I can't afford to replace a carpet. So today we took her in. Bekah held her much of the way. She and Cindi waited in the car, while I took her in and stayed with her till she died. Very sad. She was a regular fixture for so many years on the playground of the school. The children would race out for recess and always some would come looking for Cathy to hold and pet. She ate it up. She'd run to meet the kids. Well, as I wrote on FB, we'll commend her to the hope of our Lord's words:  "Behold, I make all things new."

07 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

If we now have Christ as a gift through faith, we should go forward and do as He does for us. We should imitate Him in our whole life and in all our suffering. That is the way St. Peter presents this here—Martin Luther, on 1 Peter 4:3

Patristic Quote of the Day

All sinners are begotten of the devil, as sinners. Adam was made by God: but when he consented to the devil, he was begotten of the devil; and he begot all men such as he was himself. With lust itself we were born; even before we add our sins, from that condemnation we have our birth. For if we are born without any sin, wherefore this running with infants to baptism that they may be released? —St. Augustine, Homily on 1 John 3.

05 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Look at Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and all the saintly fathers. As soon as they began to rely on their own counsels apart from the Word of God, everything immediately slipped away from them, and they accomplished nothing. For unless God has preceded men with His Word, they accomplish nothing good. Without the action and the Word of God we do nothing, even though we may begin something.—Martin Luther, Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1.

Patrisic Quote of the Day

For see what He says; If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8). Consequently, if you have confessed yourself a sinner, the truth is in you: for the Truth itself is light. Your life has not yet shone in perfect brightness, because there are sins in you; but yet you have already begun to be enlightened, because there is in you the confession of sins.—St. Augustine, Homily on 1 John 1.

04 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Such cleanliness no longer has any validity, but there must be “the covenant of a good conscience with God”; that is, you must feel in yourself a good and cheerful conscience—a conscience that is in league with God and can say: “He gave me this promise. He will keep it, for He cannot lie.” When you cling and cleave to His Word in this way, then you must be saved. Now the covenant is faith, which saves us. —Martin Luther. Luther's works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (1 Pe 3:22). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Patristic Quote of the Day

For the promise of good things does not so strongly induce the multitude to virtue; as does the threat of evil things compel by fear, and arouse them to the care of the soul. So that, although hell be the opposite of the kingdom of heaven, yet each has respect to the same end— the salvation of men; the one alluring to itself, the other driving them towards its opposite, and by the operation of fear correcting those who are carelessly disposed.—St. John Chrysostom, On the Statues, Homily 7, par. 4

03 February 2014

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

In short, when you no longer accord the Word greater validity than your every feeling, your eyes, your senses, and your heart, you are doomed, and you can no longer be helped. For this is called an article of faith, not one of your reason or wisdom, nor of human power or ability. Therefore here, too, you must judge solely by the Word, regardless of what you feel or see.—Martin Luther, on 1 Corinthians 15.

Patristic Quote of the Day

If any man sin, an advocate, says he, have we. He says not, you have; nor says, you have me; nor says, you have Christ Himself: but he puts Christ, not himself, and says, also, We have, not, you have. He chose rather to put himself in the number of sinners that he might have Christ for his advocate, than to put himself in Christ's stead as advocate, and to be found among the proud that shall be condemned. Brethren, Jesus Christ the righteous, even Him have we for our advocate with the Father; He, even He, is the propitiation for our sins. This whoso has held fast, has made no heresy; this whoso has held fast, has made no schism. For whence came schisms? When men say, we are righteous, when men say, we sanctify the unclean, we justify the ungodly; we ask, we obtain. But what says John? And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.—St. Augustine, Homilies on First John (First Homily)

01 February 2014

A nice text to meditate on in anticipation of Purification

translated by our own dear Matthew Carver: Congaudent angelorum.

Patristic Quote of the Day

Wherefore this also Christ has done, to lead us to a closer friendship, and to show His love for us; He has given to those who desire Him not only to see Him, but even to touch, and eat Him, and fix their teeth in His flesh, and to embrace Him, andsatisfy all their love. Let us then return from that table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head, and on the love which He has shown for us.—St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46 on John 6, par. 3