Flags

Flags
Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Monday, December 22, 2008

Europeana

Europeana is a European online database showcasing the history and culture of Europe. The site was scheduled to debut around Thanksgiving Day, but when I went to the site it was down due to too much traffic. The site was redesigned to handle more internet traffic and the beta version is now partially running.

I went to the site to see what it was all about. There is still some work to be done as the beta version isn't fully complete yet. This seems to involve mainly icons and such.

I did a search for the quintessential German, Martin Luther. There was lots of stuff about him but I did not have time to go into great depth. I did notice some links to his Small Catechism.

Originally, when I saw a clip about Europeana on DW-TV it was stated that the German culture was not as much as other countries. I think France had the most data at that time a month ago.

I do like the fact that you have options of language. So you can choose Norwegian and search for Luther. I tried that and found some data hits. Not sure how much you will find in English regarding Luther and the Lutheran Church, but I hope the website can showcase a good deal of European history, culture, and religion.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

St. Lucia Festival

The St. Lucia festival still seems to be very popular in Sweden. Every year girls are chosen to be St. Lucia, walk in with a crown of lit candles, and boys are chosen to be acolytes who wear conical hats.

This festival was never mentioned when growing up in the Lutheran church we attended. It seems to be more common for Swedish Lutherans, although I did see St. Lucia listed on Dec. 13 in the Treasury of Daily Prayer. So some attempt is being made to enlighten German Saxon Lutherans about the traditions of other Lutherans. It is encouraging to see the Synod recognizing a more broad Lutheran tradition and customs.

I am not sure how much the St. Lucia festival remains in Sweden as a solemn rite or is it now their version of our Americanized watering down of St. Nicholas into a commerical jolly Santa Claus.

Anyway, here's a neat clip from Stockholm, Sweden on Dec. 13, 2007.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wetten Dass ..? - The Autobahn

Wetten Dass ..? (Wanna Bet?) is the most watched German TV show. It is a combination of stars and ordinary folk. There are some interviews, singing, and betting on whether someone will perform a silly task or not. A fare number of American stars show up on this ZDF program.

This guy is trying to determine what part of the Autobahn is being shown. It's quite amazing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ewigkeitssonntag (Eternity Sunday)

I thoroughly enjoy the last Sundays in the Church year, and I am glad that the new lectionary the LCMS is using (with the Proper system) returns us to the traditional German Lutheran practice of holding the last few series of pericope readings in such high regard that they are read every year.

I read an article why researching for this past Sunday's Eternity Sunday sermon that recently all the Germany states (except Saxony) have repealed the day of repentance and prayer as an official state holiday. Pious Christians who wise to celebrate this repentance service (usually observed on the Wednesday of the last week of the Church year, which happens to be Thanksgiving Eve's day for Americans) must take a personal holiday from work.

In some ways, Eternity Sunday is similar to All Saints' Day, but with a more last day theme to it. I recall a professor at the seminary who encouraged us to once a year preach a really in depth sermon full of meaty theology (preferably on justification) and another on the glories of eternal life in heaven. I have followed his advice for the past decade.

Some churches call the last Sunday in the Church year ,,Christ the King Sunday". This follows the example of the Roman Catholic Church which transitioned to this theme in the 1960s or '70s. The traditional, one year lectionary uses Matthew 25.1's parable of the maidens as the text for Eternity Sunday, but the revised common lectionary as revised by the LCMS uses Matthew 25.31's parable of the final judgment. Matthew 25 is just packed full of great parables and a true joy to preach upon every three years.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Fateful Day


Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse, 1961


Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse, 2008


At least six historic events have occured in Germany on November 9th. Some have been quite horrendous, and others cheerful. The most recent event to occur on this day was in 1989 with the opening of the Berlin Wall. This night became a key date in German reunification.

Deutsche Welle has some good articles about the event.

Bridging the Divide

Germany also marks this date as the anniversary of the 'Kristallnacht', known in English as the Night of Broken Glass. German Chancellor Angela Merkel marked the event with Jewish leaders at Germany's biggest synagogue in Berlin. She called on all Germans to reject anti-Semitism and racism, and said that the crimes that began 70 years ago, on November 9, must never be repeated. On this day in 1938, Nazi Germany launched its first pogrom against Jews, killing scores, injuring and arresting thousands of others, and attacking Jewish property. The night is considered a harbinger of the Jewish holocaust (Deutsche Welle).

Recently, the largest synagogue in Berlin was renovated.

Germany's Largest Synagogue Reopens in Berlin

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Political Parties

I don't know about you, but in my polling district we had several political parties on the ballot. There are the obvious ones, and some lesser known small ones. Here's what appeared on our ballot for presidental choices:

Democrat
Republican
Green Party
Socialism and Liberation
Socialist Party USA
Vote Here
Libertarian Party
Socialist Workers Party
Independent
Constitution Party

While we have a plethora of political parties, our Congress is essentially a two-party system: Democrats and Republicans (with two Independents in the Senate, but I don't think they are affiliated with the Independent Party).

Germany has a number of political parties, and their Bundestag (Federal Parliament, which is similar to our Congress) has at least four parties that get elected to seats. This is why German political parties often form coalitions after elections because no single party seems to garner a majority of seats, so the party with the most seats often forms a coalition with a smaller party to form the majority. These coalitions are temporary and are constantly changing. Right now there are 612 members seated in the Bundestag.

Here are Germany's parties with seats in the Bundestag. Like us, their parties are identified by colors:

Alliance 90/The Greens - Green
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - Black
Christian-Social Union (CSU) - Black
Free Democratic Party (Liberal Party)(FDP) - Blue and Yellow
Left Party - Dark Red
Social Democratic Party (SPD) - Red

Here's a Wikipedia link that identifies the current breakdown in the Bundestag:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Germany_blank

Here's the Bundestag's homepage: http://www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/

And the U.S. Congress:

House

Senate

Monday, November 03, 2008

Christianity in Germany

Below is the link for Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto's discussion on Issues, Etc. It is from Wednesday, October 29, 2008. The discussion is a good summary of the state of Christianity in Germany today. I highly recommend any thing by Dr. Netto. He has wise insights regarding Christianity in Germany and America.

http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/Show88102908H1S1.mp3

Saturday, November 01, 2008

AC 21: Regarding the Worship of the Saints

Vom Heiligendienst wird von den Unseren also gelehrt, daß man der Heiligen gedenken soll, auf daß wir unseren Glauben stärken, so wir sehen, wie ihnen Gnade widerfahren, auch wie ihnen durch Glauben geholfen ist; dazu, daß man Exempel nehme von ihren guten Werken, ein jeder nach seinem Beruf, gleichwie die Kaiserliche. Majestät seliglich und göttlich dem Exempel Davids folgen mag, Kriege wider den Türken zu führen; denn beide sind sie in königlichem Amt, welches Schutz und Schirm ihrer Untertanen fordert. Durch Schrift aber mag man nicht beweisen, daß man die Heiligen anrufen oder Hilfe bei ihnen suchen soll. ,,Denn es ist allein ein einiger Versuhner und Mittler gesetzt zwischen Gott und den Menschen, Jesus Christus,“ 1 Tim. 2,5, welcher ist der einige Heiland, der einige oberste Priester, Gnadenstuhl und Fürsprecher vor Gott, Röm. 8,34. Und er hat allein zugesagt, daß er unser Gebet erhören wolle. Das ist auch der höchste Gottesdienst nach der Schrift, daß man denselbigen Jesus Christus in allen Nöten und Anliegen von Herzen suche und anrufe. 1 Joh. 2,1: ,,So jemand sündigt, haben wir einen Fürsprecher bei Gott, der gerecht ist, Jesus“.

Of the worship of saints our Lutheran churches teach that we should remember the saints, so that we strengthen our faith, so we see how they received grace, and also how they are helped through faith; also, that we take the example of their good works, each one according to his vocation, just as his Imperial Majesty might follow the holy and godly example of David to lead wars against the Turk; because both are in a royal office, which demands protection and shield of their subjects. Through Scripture we one is shown not to call upon or look for help from the saints. ,,Because there is one alone who is a reconciler and mediator placed between God and mankind, Jesus Christ,“ 1 Timothy 2,5, who is the one savior, that one high priest, chair of grace, and advocate before God, Romans 8,34. And He alone has said that He wants to hear to our prayer. This is also the highest Divine Service to the Scriptures, that one looks for and calls upon that same Jesus Christ in all necessities and concerns from the heart. 1 John 2,1: ,,If someone sins, we have an advocate with God, Jesus, the righteous one.“

Friday, October 31, 2008

What the Reformation is all about


Faith Alone


Here I Stand


God's Friendly Heart

A Reformation Sermon from Dr. Armin Wenz

Reformation Festival - 31.10.2006 - Galatians 5,1-6 - Oberursel - Armin Wenz

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

Dear congregation!
,,The Open Society and their Enemies,” is the title of a book by the English philosopher Charles Popper. Inside the scholar sits apart with the enemies of freedom on a political level. Since freedom is a lofty estate, it is necessary, always again to truly engage and repel what endangers freedom.

It is a hallmark of dictators, that they lull the people while they say: ,,Simply trust us with your needs; do not be concerned about the risk to your freedom.” In the Church, one also encounters this under the devout clothing, when the impression is awakened, that whoever shall warn against heresies that alter the gospel must not have any faith in God.

Paul and Martin Luther proceeded differently. For they heard the mission-task of the Lord Christ to His Church to faithfully teach only the gospel. And furthermore Paul and Luther were uncompromising in their quarrels against the enemies of the freedom of the gospel in the Church.

The Reformation thereby came about when Luther, charging through the holy Scriptures, calls out to the Church of his time, about the same sorrowful temptations he had experienced: You have lost Christ. Like Paul, Luther was not arbitrary with his unrelenting criticism, but reminded them about the reason of salvation for the lost: For freedom we have been released by Christ!

Reformation, therefore, means: Discovering again the freedom that we have from Christ as a gift. Reformation means: Discovering again Jesus Christ and His salvation. If the Son now sets you free, then you really are free; so says Jesus in John’s Gospel (8,36).

There rings with that freedom that Christ gives it as a present or gift, and it must not be added to. Freedom is lost to us if we attempt to obtain it through our own mighty works instead of receiving the gift. Whoever the Son has made free, he is really free.

Luther has summarized it with the famous solus Christus - Christ alone. He alone is the reason of our salvation and our freedom. However, adversaries surely then arise who endanger this freedom, in that they want to add to the work of Christ.

Against these enemies of freedom, Paul holds firm about a certain salvation, that we can only have salvation in Christ, if He alone comes to us by grace. And secondly he remains firm against the enemies of freedom, that we can receive the salvation in Christ alone by faith. With the Latin phrases it says: The solus Christus is inseparable from the sola gratia, that is: by grace alone, and likewise it is inseparable from the sola fide, that is: faith alone.

We come to the first argument of Paul against the enemies of freedom: Solus Christus stands only if sola gratia stands. That is: The salvation of Jesus Christ for us is grace and nothing but grace. Paul cries out to these same Galatians: You have Christ lost; you have fallen from grace.
What brings the apostle to speak these piercing words? It is the piety of the Galatians that has brought them to this serious danger. The Galatians had not all of a sudden reversed and become atheists. In the end, one must take ,,by faith” seriously.

Christ has released us from the yoke of sin and death. They believed that also. However they experienced just as we do that sin and death are still a painful reality. This is the temptation.
Was the sin really forgiven if you must still ask for forgiveness? Was one now really a child of God with eternal life when you still had to suffer painful sickness and death?

What could be more appropriate than the visible signs of faith which help his own deeds? Jesus, however, had been a Jew. And Christians should nevertheless model their lives after Him. If it was so difficult to live as righteous and holy as He could, then at least one could let himself be circumcised.

Such regulations like the law of the circumcision can at least clearly redeem someone. If one is circumcised, then one has, so to speak, a mark of certainty on his body. What’s the objection? Paul doesn’t exaggerate here, when he exclaims: If you allow yourselves to be circumcised, then Christ will be of no use to you? For Paul, freedom is at stake here. You have lost Christ, if you want to be justified through the law, and you have fallen from grace.

He says that you cannot secure freedom by your own power and discretion. You may not help Christ. Whomever Christ has made free, is completely free; no additional mark of this freedom is needed, for Christ is the proof of this freedom.

Do not put on again the yoke of slavery! What does this mean for us? What does this mean for us, when we waver, become uncertain, and before long we are unsure whether we really belong to God? The question is then: Where do we look for help?

The answer to these questions is clear when Paul says, either you are looking for your salvation in Christ alone, or you have lost Christ. In medicine, many diseases simultaneously need different medications and treatment methods. Not so with freedom.

The answer to the question: ,,Who will I call on to help me when my faith wavers?” is: Christ alone. As soon as we join Christ ,,and” fill-in-the-blank, then we have lost our freedom and will become enslaved. Such examples of this enslavement are: Christ and circumcision or Christ and Buddha, Christ and the Anthroposophy, Christ and my holiness, Christ and my good works, Christ and my sacrificial life to family and career.

The whole system of relics and the countless works of penance in the Middle Ages go back to this desire of the Christian to reassure himself by imagining that God approves of me, and He does so rightly. Anyone can see it, because I have obtained it.

Luther’s Reformation turned itself against this mania beginning with his 95 Theses against indulgences. Whoever grounds his freedom and Christianity on own performances or on the performances of others, builds on sand. Why must Christ die, if we can achieve freedom with our works? Christ wants to give away His freedom, but if we want to even partially obtain this freedom by our own works, then aren’t we guilty of making Christ a liar?

Grace is not a measurable thing, that we can supplement or multiply. The grace of God in Christ is rather our recent acquittal in the court by virtue of the power of Baptism, because Christ bears eternal death for us and we have been reconciled with God. And that works itself also out of the question, how we properly receive the grace of Christ.

Again, the solus Christus, that is ,,Christ alone” shall not be encroached upon. Therefore, the second argument of the apostle against the enemies of freedom is: Solus Christus stands only if grace alone is received by faith.

For what applies for grace also applies for faith: it is not a work of the people, by which we complete or supplement God’s work or make it valid for us, but faith is entirely and truly a gift of Jesus Christ through the proclamation. In the third chapter Paul asks the Galatians: I just want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the preaching of faith? (3,2) As the acquittal stands by grace alone, so also faith as a gift of the Spirit is contrary to any notion that we are justified by the law.

This justification, which you still miss and cannot see, says Paul, is not fabricated through your chosen works, but by trusting on it, that God will accomplish what He has begun in you, as He has planted the seed of the word God into your hearts. Therefore he says: We wait in a spirit of faith for the justification on which we must hope.

We are completely justified for Christ’s sake, because He has acquitted us from our sin. At the same time, our justification is still hidden, it still waxes, because we repeatedly fall into sin. But in such situations our works don’t compensate, but our only help is that we take refuge in Jesus, receive His Absolution, and strengthen our faith through His holy meal.

The life from the Sacraments and from the proclamation is the only right answer for all temptations and doubts. It is no wonder that when the works of man and the pride in them become important, then one gives little respect to the work of God in preaching and the Sacraments. But this was exactly the situation that Luther interrupts at the end of the Middle Ages. Only in the intense life from God’s Word and Christ’s Sacraments do we remain in freedom, because we only receive Christ’s grace. The freedom must always be received anew and strengthened by the rescuer.

The tension is over now, so that only the right fulfillment of the law in the form of love becomes possible in us. Because if I am exempt from the necessity to achieve my salvation, then Christ makes me free to love the neighbor. I must now no longer devote my life’s strength to the purchase of my salvation. Circumcision is not necessary; an indulgence is not necessary. I must no longer be like a humming-top that is only spinning around for myself. So I find time and freedom in the works of life, that I don’t do so I will be saved, but I do them because I am saved and I want my neighbors to also find and experience this freedom.

Just as by faith, we put our hope in God alone and our relationship to God is repaired, so also faith that is active in love repairs the damage of our relationship to our neighbors.

The soul breathes because it is free from the coercion that it must continually prove something before God and the world, just what it always means, that we believe that we are obedient to God and man. With Christ’s forgiveness and grace, a person therefore also gladly and freely gives to the neighbor so that he can also breathe, in that he grants forgiveness and love to him, he also gladly gives everything as a gift, just as what he has received from God.

Luther had uniquely described this life of Christian freedom as: ,,The Christian lives in Christ by faith, and lives in the neighbor by love. By faith he runs to God, and from God he runs again by love and remains always in God and divine love. This Christian freedom, which makes the heart free, surpasses all other freedoms, just as heaven surpasses the earth.” Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What a difference 3 points make!

Going into Saturday's game (10-25) against VfL Wolfsburg, Bayern Muenich was in 11th place and in desperate need of a win to stay near the top. The match started badly, with Bayern getting behind by two scores and finally being only one score down by halftime, and finally beating Wolfsburg 4-2 at home to a cheering crowd. These three points moved Bayern from 11th place to 5th place, putting them only 4 points behind first place 1899 Hoffenheim.

An English recap of the match is here:

http://www.fcbayern.t-com.de/en/news/matchreport/2008/17500.php

Bastian Schweinsteiger had been wanting more playing time for Bayern. He started the game and played for about 75 minutes, when the coach substituted him out. They didn't make eye contact on the sideline. Hopefully, Schweinstiger will get quality playing time as he is a key player on the German national team and always brings excitement in Bayern's matches.

This match capped off a three match victory run. Bayern fans were getting a bit unnerved with the team's lackluster performance this year, especially at the backfield defense. Bayern has won the championship 7 times in the past 10 years, with an impressive championship last season. We Bayern fans have high expectations for this great team, and I am happy to see them on the road to winning again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Matthew 22.34-46


In the Name of Jesus


Matthew 22.34-46
Pentecost 24A (Proper 25) -- Reformation Day (observed)
26. October 2008

Our sermon text this morning, dear brothers and sisters, is from St. Matthew’s Gospel, where the holy apostle writes: And having heard that Jesus made the Sadducees speechless, the Pharisees gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: ,,Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And Jesus said to him, ,,You will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your life and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You will love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." This is our text.

Martin Luther considered his most important writings to be his translation of the Bible into German, his Large and Small Catechisms, and The Bondage of the Will. This last writing was Luther’s 1526 response to Erasmus’ tract On the Freedom of the Will. Luther understood the issue of the human will to be the core of the Reformation. Erasmus was primarily interested in morals, whereas Luther was more concerned about whether doing right, even if it is possible, can affect a person’s fate (Bainton 196).

This theme is found in our Gospel Reading for today. Isn’t it interesting that out of everything in the holy Scriptures, the lawyer asked Jesus what is the great commandment in the Bible. It seems to me that given this question was asked during the week of Passover, why didn’t this lawyer ask Jesus what is the great redemptive act in the Bible? Clearly the great gospel act in the Law and the Prophets is God leading Israel out of Egyptian slavery and leading them into the Promised Land.

Jesus answers the lawyer’s question as he had asked it. The great commandment of the holy Scriptures is to love God with all your being which leads to loving your neighbor as yourself. Everything from Genesis to Deuteronomy and from Joshua to Malachi hang on these two commandments. God expects, yes, He demands, that we love Him and our neighbors.

The next question would then be: Do we then love God and our neighbors, or is it even possible to love God and our neighbors? We do not love God and our neighbors as God commands us. We curse with God’s Name. We hoard our treasures and only give God a pittance in offerings compared to how greatly He has blessed us. We hurt, steal from, and slander our neighbors. Such actions are not done out of love, but they are done out of depravity. Because of our sins, we deserve God’s wrath, displeasure, physical death, and eternal damnation.

The great commandment, therefore, convicts us to be sinners, for this is the primary function of the Law and the Prophets. The Pharisees (as seen through the lawyer’s question) believed that they could really and truly keep the Ten Commandments. Even today this pharisaical approach infects Christianity. Some Christians actually think that we need a second reformation that is based on behavior. ,,Deeds, not creeds" is their Siren call. With their emphasis on the law, such Christians are really proclaiming that we are going to stand before God on the basis of our works and thereby prove that we are Christians. As such, a Christless and a cross-less proclamation sounds forth from their lips. In Greek mythology, the Sirens lured sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast, and so do Christian preachers who preach that we must reassure ourselves of salvation based on our works of the law to love God and our neighbors.

True proclamation follows the premise of the Apostle Paul, »For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord« (Romans 6,23). All along Luther had declared that the contest of the Reformation was over the faith and not over the life, and that if the morals were amended the teaching would still be unsound (Bainton 191). The focus must be creedal and doctrinal, and the foremost teaching is ,,faith alone".

God’s law shows us to be sinners who do not love God and our neighbors. Such imperfect obedience deserves eternal damnation. The whole point of the Law and the Prophets is to show us that we cannot keep the great commandment, and to then direct us to the promise that God is going to send someone to us who will keep the great commandment. The great commandment, therefore, is first and foremost about Jesus Christ; He is the only person who keeps the law perfectly. He loves God, He loves His neighbors, and the gospel tells us that He fulfills the great commandment in our place. Jesus Christ loved God with all His heart and He loved His neighbors as Himself. His love and obedience was shown by His suffering and death on the cross for the redemption of our sins.

Philip Melanchthon (who was Luther’s right hand man during the Reformation) put is very succinctly, writing ,,For in the Christian Church this is no minor article, but it is the highest and chief article, that we receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ without our merit, and that not our works, but Christ’s work is the atonement for our sins, as Peter says: »All the prophets give witness to Jesus that whosoever believes in Him receives the forgiveness of sins« (Acts 10,43)" (BKS 313; Apology 20.2 [33-42]).

The law is about Christ. The gospel is about Christ. Christ fulfilled the law for us. Christ suffered and died for us. Christ rose again for us. Christ has sent the Holy Spirit who creates our faith in Jesus. Christ is the active agent and we are the passive recipients. This faith alone refreshes and sustains us in the great struggle with death and in the violent fears (BKS 314-15; Apology 20.85 [5-7]) for when we face our final end, we want to die in the confession of these articles, that we obtain the forgiveness of sins by faith through the blood of Christ, and that we do not obtain the forgiveness of sins by our merit and work (BKS 314; Apology 20.84 [52-55]).

So how does the great commandment fit in with the gospel that declares we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone? ,,We receive the forgiveness of sins and become righteous before God by grace for Christ’s sake through faith, so we believe, that Christ has suffered for us and that it is His will to forgive sins, righteousness and eternal life are a gift. Then God preserves and imputes this faith for righteousness in His sight (BKS 56; AC 4 [6-13]). This means that when God looks at us, He sees us as having perfectly done the great commandment because He sees Christ’s merit and obedience imputed onto us.

Justification leads to sanctification. Faith leads to good works. Apple trees produce apples. You don’t have to go out and tell an apple tree to bear apples. The apple tree automatically bears apples because it is an apple tree; that is what an apple tree does. Likewise, good works follow faith. ,,For Paul says, »we do not make void the law, but we establish the law« (Romans 3,31). Because when we have received the Holy Spirit by faith, thus good fruits follow, because we grow in love, in patience, in virtue, and other fruits of the Spirit" (BKS 316; Apology 20.92 [38-44]).

Faith comes first, then the fruit follows. The gospel creates faith in Jesus Christ, and then the gospel nurtures the love of God and our neighbors to sprout forth from us. The gospel changes our lives, and it does it gradually. Young apple trees do not produce the best apples right away. As apple trees mature and grow they produce bigger and better apples. So it is with Christians. The gospel creates faith in Christ. The gospel then begins to create fruit in our lives. The good works that stem from our faith now may not be the best, but the Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives through the gospel to strengthen our faith and to bring to fruition the love of God and neighbors.

»The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, for we are justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law« (Romans 3,21.28). The Holy Spirit tells us, ,,We live in Christ because we have been baptized, we live in Christ because His absolution covers us in His righteousness, we live in Christ because He is with us and always joins with us in the Lord’s Supper. That’s enough, that’s enough without any ,and’ without any ,ifs and buts’" (Martens).

We live by Christ alone, we are justified by Christ alone, we enter eternal life by Christ alone. It is not by our will or our merit, but only by Christ. Such is the proclamation of the gospel today, such is the theme of the Reformation, the Apostle Paul, and Christ Himself, for Jesus is the fulfillment of the great commandment and His righteousness is imputed to us for salvation. Believe it. Amen.

Let us pray. O Holy Spirit, who proclaims Christ alone to His Church through the Word and the Sacraments, calm our fears with the truth of God, that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom, so that we may confidently live as Christians who are justified by faith alone on account of Christ alone through grace alone. Amen.

One Message--Christ!

All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the New Testament Greek Manuscripts, Matthew © 1995 by Reuben Joseph Swanson.

All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12th Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Copyright © 1978 Roland H. Bainton.
Martens, Gottfried. A sermon preached on Galatians 5,1-6 for the Commemoration of the Reformation, October 31, 2006. Copyright © 2006 The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens. Translated by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind, 2008.

Nagel, Norman. Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis. Frederick W. Baue, Ed. Copyright © 2004 Concordia Publishing House.

Warren, Rick. Spoken at the Global Day of Prayer on May 15, 2005. http://www.discernment-ministries.org/NLJulyAugust_2005.htm

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reformation History

Below is an insert I put in the bulletin for October 26: Reformation Day (observed):



What was the Reformation all about?
The Reformation was not only about Martin Luther and Germany. The movement spanned a number of years and countries. Here are only some of the many important people and ideas.

John Wycliffe (1320 – December 31, 1384)
Wycliffe was an English theologian and early proponent of reform in the Catholic Church during the 14th century. He made a hand-written English translation of the Bible in one complete edition and is considered a precursor of the Protestant Reformation. His family was of early Saxon origin. Wycliffe was born at Yorkshire, England, and died at Lutterworth (near Leicester).
Wycliffe’s doctrines

+ the Bible alone was authoritative

+ people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language

+ people should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution

+ justification by faith, though not in fully worked out form as Luther achieved. In Christ stilling the Storm he wrote: "If a man believe in Christ, and make a point of his belief, then the promise that God hath made to come into the land of light shall be given by virtue of Christ, to all men that make this the chief matter."

+ attacks upon the papacy and the entire hierarchy of his times; in his last years he identified the papacy with anti-Christianity

+ he fought his hardest against the Roman-scholastic doctrine of its transformation. The sacrament of the altar is rather natural bread and wine, but sacramentally it is body and blood.

John Hus (1372-1415)
John Hus was an pastor and reformer in the 15th century in the Czech Republic and Bohemia. He refused to recant of his doctrines, was summarily burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, and his ashes were thrown into a lake. However, Hus’ beliefs had already taken hold in Bohemia.

Hus’ doctrines:
+ regarded the Scriptures as an infallible authority and the supreme standard of conduct.

+ people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language (Wycliffe taught this, too).

+ people should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution

+ the Church is not that hierarchy which is generally designated as Church; the Church is the entire body of those who from eternity have been predestined for salvation. Christ, not the pope, is its head. It is no article of faith that one must obey the pope to be saved. Neither external membership in the Church nor churchly offices and dignities are an infallible sign of election.

+ approved the communion under both kinds to the laity, but did not oppose the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Luther was an Augustinian monk, a pastor, a doctor of theology, and the reformer of the 16th century. He produced the first substantial German Bible; the New Testament was published in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534. He transitioned the liturgy and worship from Latin to German, marking the first use of the vernacular language in the Church after 1000 years.

Many think that the Reformation began on October 31, 1517 when Luther posted his now famous 95 Theses for a debate on indulgences. However, Luther’s reformation work began much earlier. Already in 1509 the “righteousness of God” was on his mind. Early on, Luther struggled on how to see God’s mercy rather than His fierce wrath. He followed the prescribed rituals and practices that the Church prescribed; none of them allayed his guilty conscience and the terrifying fear of God’s wrath over his many sins.

In 1545 Luther described when the gospel finally opened his eyes: ,,At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, »In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written: ,,He who through faith is righteous shall live.”« There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: »He who through faith is righteous shall live.« Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.”

Luther wrote many hymns (at least 25), was a prolific writer in German and Latin (54 volumes of his writings have been translated to date, and another 10 volumes are due to be published in the upcoming years). Luther once remarked, “We are all Hussites.” paying homage to Hus’ influence in the Church.

Christian III (1503-59)
The Danish King, Christian III, was at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and heard Luther defend himself before the Holy Roman emperor; he soon became a Lutheran. He ordered the introduction of the Lutheran reformation in Denmark and Norway in 1536. A Norwegian church council officially adopted the Lutheran reformation in 1539. Norway had no university of her own; the Norwegian clergy received their education at the University of Copenhagen. Martin Luther wrote him and congratulated him on his success of peacefully bringing the reformation to Denmark and Norway. Christian remained political and theological allies with the German Lutheran princes during his reign.

Gustavus Adolphus (1594 - 1632)
The Lutheran reformation reached Sweden in 1529. Adolphus was a Swedish king and he is one of the greatest examples of a Christian ruler. He was known in his lifetime as “the Protector of Lutheranism” and “the Deliverer of Germany”. His timely intervention stopped the onward march and devastation caused by the Catholic League and the Austrian Empire. This Thirty Years War (1618–1648) was waged between Lutheran and Roman Catholic princes and armies with the intention of conquering and forcing Lutheran territories to return to Roman Catholicism. Adolphus answered the call for help from Lutheran princes, and his leadership ensured that the Lutheran territories in Europe remained Lutheran.

The Four Solas (Alones)
The Reformation can be summarized by this four-fold phrase: grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, and Christ alone which reveals that we are saved by justification alone.

The Chief Article by which the Church stands or falls
Our (Lutheran) churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but 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, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4 (Augsburg Confession, Article 4).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Which Set of Readings?

I have been meditating on this since Sunday afternoon: Do I go with the readings for Proper 25 or for Reformation Day this Sunday (sincer there will be no service on Friday)? Next year is a whole other situation with Reformation Day falling on a Saturday and the likelihood of an afternoon worship service!

The readings for Proper 25 continue the theme from the last couple of Sundays, namely, Jesus' increasing Anfechtung (spiritual attack) at the hands of the chief priests and the Pharisees as they seek to question Him so as to find a legal reason to arrest Him and kill Him.

The readings for Reformation summarize some of the key themes of the movement, namely, that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by doing the works of the law.

Either way, this Sunday will be a celebration of the Reformation at church. I am leaning toward using the readings for Proper 25 to keep the lectionary continuity going as the church year draws to a close. The Matthew 22.34-46 reading has some good themes that can easily be tied into the work of the Reformation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

,,I was a good monk." - Luther

I have been trying to find the source of the following quote all day. Does anyone have a reference in Luther's Works where he says this?

,,I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils, prayers, reading, and other work."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ouch!

Saturday's match (18. October) between Karlsruher SC and FC Bayern is a must win for FCB. With 7 matches down and 10 to go before the winter break, FCB is having a disappointing and challenging season after winning both the German Cup and the Bundesliga Championship last year (they missed out on taking the triple crown when they were knocked out early in the Champions League).

FCB's mid-field defense seems to be the team's weak point this year, but with all the great players on this team it is hard to imagine why this is so.

Fortunately, FCB is only 7 points down from first place Hamburger SV, but that puts FCB 11th place out of 18 teams in Bundesliga I.

I have to say, UEFA knows how to run a football program, juggling league matches, Euro or World Cup qualifiers, Champions League matches, and friendlies throughout a ten month season. Right now their playing World Cup 2010 Qualifiers in Europe. This is what makes European football so exciting!

Friday, October 03, 2008

German Unification Day: 3. October

On 3. October 1990, the five states of East Germany joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and Berlin was united into a single city-state. What a great day! I remember celebrating this in 1990 with my neighbor next door in the college dormitory: Andy was from West Germany and we sang and laughed and rejoiced that fall night in Valparaiso, IN. Below are some good links for this special day.

German National Flag
Germany.info

Berlin Civil Flag

Berlin

http://www.berlin.de/english/

And let's not forget Bavaria!

http://www.bayern.de/English-.594/index.htm


Deutsche Welle has a good article entitled ,,Opinion: At 18, Germany Has Come of Age"

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3687946,00.html


What's Left of the Berlin Wall?
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3547883,00.html


Monday, September 29, 2008

Luther's ,,Faith Alone"


If you've ever seen the 1953 movie ,,Martin Luther" (and what Lutheran hasn't seen it?), you will remember the scene where Luther writes in the margins of Romans 3,28 ,,sola" as he says, ,,The just shall live by faith alone." (It's at the 32:55 minute mark in the movie). Check out this seven minute clip on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-wi0kcLLr0.

In doing so, was Luther adding to Scripture? Let's look at the text:

We maintain that a person is justified by faith without works of the law (English).

So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben (Luther's Bible).

I italicized Luther's addition (,,allein" or ,,alone"); it's not found in the Greek text. So why did Luther add the word when he translated the Bible from Greek into German?

Often, when you translate from one language into another you need to add or subtract words to make it understandable. For example, in German there are some words you don't need to translate into English because the context explains the omitted words. In the German of Romans 3,28, you don't usually translate the adverb ,,dafür" (which means ,,for it") but let the sentence's context run the translation. What is important is not merely a word for word literal translation (which is always wooden and lacks sound grammar when done), but a translation that is faithful to the sentence and its context is of utmost importance. I still remember Dr. Brighton telling us at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis that any translation is a just a commentary on the original text; the first commentary he encouraged us to read is the English Bible.

In the context of Romans 3,28 St. Paul could have simply written: ,,We maintain that a person is justified by faith" and the context would cry out that St. Paul is talking about faith ,,alone". When he adds the phrase ,,without works of the law", the apostle is emphasising that we are justified by faith alone. Luther, therefore, rightly understood the origninal Greek and St. Paul's wording (under the Holy Spirit's inspiration) to be describing faith ,,alone".

In addition, Luther was not being innovative when saying Romans 3,28 is talking about justification by faith ,,alone". Thirteen other theologians had said the same thing long before Luther's translation. Among those theologians were Thomas Aquinas (a heavyweight among Medieval theologians) and Augustine (one of the most acclaimed Western theologians of all times). Check out this post at the blog Beggars All:

Luther's insistence on faith alone is perhaps the most essential aspects of the Reformation and the Protestant denominations that were born from a renewed proclamation of the gospel in the early 16th century. The concept permeates many of Luther's writings and is the cornerstone of the Augsburg Confession. Justification by faith is truly the chief doctrine of the Church and it remains the balm for tortured consciences that lament over their many sins.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest 2008 kicked off in Munich on Saturday, September 20. It runs for two weeks.

You can enjoy the feel for Oktoberfest at http://www.muenchen-tv.de/

Click on the Livestream button and then the muenchen.tv livestream button, and you can watch the festivities at various times throughout the day. Try the muenchen2.tv button also, because they show some festivities there, too. Last year, they liked to sing John Denver's ,,Country Road"; I heard that over and over again while listening to the livestream. They are singing it this year as well; it's probably a staple now at the fair.

Remember that Germany is 6 hours ahead of EST.


Alex Onkel and Marion Schieder host Wiesn for Muenchen TV. They are funny and great! Here they are singing Robbie Williams' ,,Angels".



Alex and Marion often sit at this table and interview different people! She is such a comedian.


Oktoberfest (aka Wiesn) was first celebrated in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of Prince Ludwig (of Bavaria) to Princess Theresa Von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The festival was held in a beautiful meadow called Theresienwiess, in honor of the Princess; 30,000 people showed up!


The beer is served in one liter steins, called ,,ein Mass". The Bavarian custom at the table is not to drink until everyone has a stein. You toast the steins, put the stein on the table with a thud, and then drink and say ,,Prost!" (Cheers!). Btw, Norm from ,,Cheers" would love Oktoberfest; in fact, I think the character celebrated Oktoberfest every day in Cheers. (Did you know that in DS9, the alien patron always at the bar in Quark's, named Morn, is a based on the character Norm from ,,Cheers"? They just swapped the first and last letters in the name!).


The closest I've come to Oktoberfest is Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA. I can't remember the place of the restaruant hall in the German section of the park, but it was full of dancing, oompah music, singing, and good food all in a style and atmosphere of Oktoberfest. I bought my first German stein there. Also, there used to be an elderly man always singing and hosting, but he is proabably deceased now, as I remember seeing him every time we went to Busch Gardens throughout the 70's and 80's. Plus, the park has Clysdesdale horses that you used to be able to pet and feed. Don't know if they still allow that.


Other common Oktoberfest toasts are ,,Ein Prosit" (A Toast) and ,,Eins, zwei, drei, gesuffe!" (1, 2, 3, down the hatch!).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Korskirken in Bergen, Norway


One of the things I love about the church I serve is the ethnic diversity of the members. Although many have roots in Germany, there are also descendents of Norwegians, Swedes, Slavs, Philippinos, and Native Americans. One of my members hails from Bergen, Norway and her father was a Lutheran pastor there. He is deceased now, but he served Korskirken (Holy Cross Church). The church is built in the form of a cross.


Here is a link to Korskirken's history (via a Google translation):




Olav Tryggvason, a Norwegian Viking, became a Christian when he was baptized in London in 994. He returned to Norway to bring Christianity to the Vikings. In 1536 the Lutheran Reformation came to Norway. Olav only reigned as king from 995-1000, but Olav II Haraldsson (who reigned from 1015-30) brought priests from England to organize the Norwegian Church.


Norway has a state church (Lutheranism), but other denominations have roots there too. The State-Church relationship will soon be modified in the future. Check out the English version of the Church of Norway for more information about that here:




Harald V is the current king of Norway. He is Lutheran, and takes his duties as the defender of the Church seriously. He is also the first Norwegian-born King to sit on the throne since 1370.


Sissel, an internationally renowned Norwegian singer (she sang at the 1991 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway and sang for the movie "Titanic") sang as a girl in Korskirken.

Monday, September 08, 2008

FC Bayern "Star of the South"

Okay, here's the translation of Billy Astor's 1998 song ,,Stern des Suenden". I just did a straight translation because it takes much more time to get the lines to rhyme. You'll get the drift of the song.


FC Bayern "Star of the South"

Billy Astor "star of the south," 1998

Which Munich soccer team is known around the whole world?
What is this club, which holds these records here?
Who has already won what it ever was to win?
Who brings decades since our Federal League fully on trap?

Refrain:
FC Bavaria, star of the south, you will never go under,
Because we stand together in the good times as well as the bad.
FC Bavaria, German champions, so my club is called
Yes, so it was and so it is and so it will always be.

Where is clearly already under attack, who spies on us every day?
Where is the press, where is the hype, where is always discussed?
Who plays in each stadium before a sold out house?
Who endures the pressure from the adversary?

Refrain

Whether the trophy is in the Federal League or Champions League
Yes, because what is more beautiful than a Bavarian victory?
Here is life, here is love, here is fire that remains around
Munich, Germany's best for all eternity!

Refrain (3x)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

FC Bayern ,,Stern des Suedens" (Star of the South)


Here's a tribute to the BEST German football team: Bayern Munich!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4CgRfuLhwE

Here's the lyrics (I'll post the translation soon):

Willy Astor "Stern des Suedens"

Welche Münchner Fußballmannschaft kennt man auf der ganzen Welt?
Wie heißt dieser Klub, der hierzulande die Rekorde hählt?
Wer hat schon gewonnen, was es jemals zu gewinnen gab?
Wer bringt seit Jahrzenten unsre Bundesliga voll auf Trap?

Refrain:
FC Bayern, Stern des Südens, du wirst niemals untergehn,
weil wir in guten wie in schlechten Zeiten zu einander stehen.
FC Bayern, Deutscher Meister, ja so heißt er, mein Verein,
ja so war es und so ist es und so wird es immer sein

Wo wird klar schon angegriffen, wo wird täglich spioniert?
Wo ist die Presse, wo ist Rummel, wo wird immer diskutiert?
Wer spiel in jedem Stadion vor ausverkauftem Haus?
Wer hält den Druck der Gegner aus?

Refrain

Ob Bundesliga im Pokal oder Champions League
ja gibt es denn was Schöneres als einen Bayern Sieg?
Hier ist Leben, hier ist Liebe, hier ist Feuer und drum bleibt
München Deutschlands bester bis in alle Ewigkeit!

Refrain (3x)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Atonement and Salvation in Matthew

I just finished reading an article by Dr. Jeffrey A. Gibbs in the July 2008 volume of Concordia Theological Quarterly. It's entitled ,,The Son of God and the Father's Wrath: Atonement and Salvation in Matthew's Gospel".



Gibbs' article is rich in Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) language. Gibbs spends time unpacking Heilsgeschichte as it relates to Jesus as God's Son -- as Israel reduced to one. I believe Dr. Horace Hummel coined the term "Israel reduced to one". This obviously has a strong vicarious nature to it.



Gibbs writes, ,,Jesus ... begins to show the necessity -- presumably the divine necessity -- of his rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem" (CTQ 218). He stands for the people -- Israel, you, and me. His death is vicarious, taking wrath and judgment in the place of the people (CTQ 223).



Gibbs concludes by highlighting not only Jesus' vicarious death for us, but also His vicarious resurrection from the dead for us (CTQ 225). This is the theological and heilsgeschichtlische application of Pauls declaration in Romans 6 that we have been buried with Christ in our Baptism....



I had Dr. Gibbs at the seminary for a class on the Gospel of Matthew. He is an excellent theologian, and I highly recommend reading his articles and his commentaries on Matthew

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

,,Theology the Lutheran Way"

A couple of weeks ago, I began reading a book by Oswald Bayer entitled Theology the Lutheran Way. This book is an English translation of his Theologie. It seems that this book was written as a theology textbook for students. Bayer is professor of systematic theology at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. I believe he is now a professor emeritus.

The book approaches Luther's way of doing theology. One of the main points that Bayer has hammered in the 30 or so pages I've currently read is Luther's three rules for studying theology: prayer, studying the Bible, and spiritual attacks (oratio, meditatio, tentatio). I have especially found this interesting, since I had learned in the seminary Luther's three rules for studying theology, but never what it's larger context was. I was just taught the three Latin words. Bayer argues that Luther applied these three rules for reforming theological education in Wittenberg and other universities that sided with the Reformation.

Another point Bayer has made over and over is that the academic and liturgical sides of theology cannot be separated. I remember as a theology major at university that my courses were heavy on the academic, but little attention was given to the liturgical. Fortunately, at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis I received a very balanced approach to theology that focused on both academics and liturgy.

Here are some other great nuggets from Bayer:

The righteousness of faith is passive in the sense that we let God work in us by Himself and we with all our powers do nothing or our own. Faith kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different. Faith then is entirely God’s work and not a human achievement. We can only ,,suffer” it. Christian righteousness which is passive, is entirely opposite to works-righteousness. We can only receive it. Faith isn’t an intellectual or moral virtue, but it is given to us by God; it is His gift to us (page 24).

Luther: What a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith is. It is impossible for it not to be always doing good works. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them (LW 35:370) [page 26].

The cross alone is our theology (CRUX sola est nostra theologia) (WA 5:176, 32f.) [page 23].

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Sermon by The Rev. Dr. Martens on the Augsburg Confession

25.06.2008 1 Timothy 6,11b-16
Day of Commemoration of the Augsburg Confession
The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (ESV)

Today we examine another confession, not the Apostles’ Creed, which we have spent the the past few months looking at. Today is about the unaltered version of the Augsburg Confession, which was delivered 478 years ago today at the Diet in Augsburg to the Holy Roman Emperor, and yes, there is also an altered version of the Augsburg Confession that contains problematic content! The pastors of our Lutheran Church to this day will still bind themselves at their ordination to that unaltered version, just as the congregational bylaws of St. Mary’s Church cite the unaltered version as the basis for all our doctrines and confessions. Yes, the Augsburg Confession is the only confession in our Lutheran confessional writings which the Church year has given its very own day of commemoration, and so this evening we will again reflect on what we actually confess and what the Confession themselves say.

And so the Epistle for today’s Feast Day from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy is an important help. Certainly, the verses that we have heard in the Epistle have originally been a reminder of an ordination: Paul reminds his student Timothy about the confession, which he had sworn at his holy Ordination before many witnesses, and about the words, which he had spoken at his Ordination. However in this reminder of ordination, in this encouragement to Timothy to also live from the gift of his ordination, is that some fundamentals of the Christian confession will also become clear, which can also help us today, since most of us have not had the office transferred to us as Paul had passed on to Timothy. St. Paul shows us here that the confession is, always

a disputed confession
an accepted confession
a prayed confession

I.

Why does one actually need a confession? To be completely straightforward, you need it because what one confesses there in and with this confession, and has called into question because of this confession, therefore this confession is always a disputed confession.

This struggle has very different counterparts: It is first of all a struggle with the devil and the powers of evil that want to hinder us from confessing Christ, our Lord. And so it belongs to the Church already at the confession of Baptism when for the first time the rejection of the devil and all his work and ways occurs. Whoever confesses Christ altogether renounces Satan and engages in a struggle with him. By this confession we continually challenge the opposing natures of the world and men, so that we want to know nothing except Christ. Yes, such a confession, such a confession of Christ, expects Christ our Lord, so we have heard it even in the holy Gospel: Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My heavenly Father. And finally the confession also serves to differentiate true doctrine from false doctrine within the Church, so the confession always has as its reverse the rejection of the false doctrine.

In our epistle, Paul also speaks of the good struggle of the faith, encouraging Timothy to fight this good fight of the faith by reminding him that he, Timothy, has sworn the good confession before many witness at his ordination. Yes, to put everything into this good fight of the faith: he is involved in the struggle between Satan and Christ, which everyone has put on through our Baptism, and it is also the struggle with the world when our confession disagrees with their reflected confessions. Paul reminds Timothy of the good confession that Christ had testified under Pontius Pilate, a confession before the pagan public, a confession, that He has finally been introduced by His death on the cross. And likewise Paul forcefully warns Timothy in both letters about the false doctrine, which also penetrated into the Church, namely that the resurrection is only a spiritual resurrection and not a resurrection of the flesh, the body; such false doctrine has been around for nearly 2000 years.

The Augsburg Confession also laid out disputes when it was presented to the emperor 478 years ago. Yes, they even had to calculate that this confession could possibly cost them their lives.

Certainly, the particular concern of the Augsburg Confession was to clearly show that with their teaching they represented the doctrine of the true Catholic Church, that they stood in the continuity of the Church. They even reiterate in their confession the doctrines that the Church rejected in the first few centuries, and that they have no desire to establish a new Church. They claim, however, that they are and remain catholic, which put them into conflict with the Roman Church of the of that time, yes, specifically over what they taught and preached concerning the justification of the sinner before God. And so the Augsburg Confession became and also remained a confession born in controversy.

We are not surprised, therefore, when we, as a confessional Lutheran Church, always encounter opposition; we are not surprised when we are challenged from the devil, from the world that surrounds us, yes even within the Christian Church because of our adherence to confess Christ. Our confession is and remains a disputed confession.

II.

As we can infer it from the words of St. Paul, our confession is also an accepted confession.

Today, we are easily at risk to look at the Confessions, to which we as the Lutheran Church have been bound, as a type of collective bargaining: Sometimes we as a church are perhaps open and accommodating to a different teaching. What can we surrender from what we have confessed until now? And that includes what the other side claims and confesses, which is really heresy? Perhaps one could rightly understand, and then we need what we have confessed before, but it is no longer formulated quite as clearly as before! And when specific clauses of faith that were previously confessed in the company that surrounds us, is now no longer accepted – can one formulate something non-offensive and comply with those who thus make something heavy? For example, must one still speak today about Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross? Is it not surprising when one does confess that God is love?

St. Paul teaches that our confession distinguishes us from an entirely different perspective: We put this confession first and foremost not before other people, but first and foremost before God.

Before Him, all things are made alive, before Him, we have Jesus Christ’s confession under Pontius Pilate, we have first and foremost responsibility. Yes, the proper direction of all our confessions is Christ’s return, which asks for our confession. No, it is not that in the course of time the Confessions become obsolete and must be replaced with new ones, but it is to confess Christ, what He has done for us, and that He gives us a present or gift, this confession is always current, given the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, just as Paul formulates it here. It is precisely this proper distinction, this responsibility before Christ’s judgment bench, that the publisher of the Book of Concord, the collection of the Lutheran Confessions, also designates at the end of the 16th century in his Preface, and it is precisely why today that the proper distinction of all doctrines and the proclamation of the Church must also occur: not: What is good for the people, what is clever church-politics, by which we feel good? But: What can I be responsible for before Christ, when He comes? Have I actually held on to His word and believed it, or can I change something about it, tone it down, and go against the grain? No, our confession shall never become an item of collective bargaining; it is and remains an accepted confession, responsible before none other than to the return of the Lord.

III.

The words of our Epistle finally make a third point: Our confession is also always a prayed confession.

The words of St. Paul immediately exhorts his student to praise the living God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, how Paul formulates it here in deliberate contrast to the claims of the Roman emperor. God is praised and worshipped – that is the last and most sovereign form that the Christian confession has.

No, when we describe and understand ourselves as a confessional Lutheran Church, then this does not mean that we are in an ecclesiastical order where a series of confessional writings is listed, or that the Lutheran Confessions are distributed in any proper Lutheran pastoral office.
But we see that we are a confessional Lutheran Church, as it is proven to us in the Divine Service, proven in the Confessions, proven in our prayers, and proven in the liturgy, so that we have nothing other than the prayed dogma. No, I cannot merely report the content of the Confessions as I would report about a soccer game. But when I speak about God, when I speak about Christ, when I confess that He, the Triune God, has done and does for us, then I am turned to praise God in the worship, just as it also occurs here in our Epistle. If in our Divine Service we no longer stand upon what our Lutheran Confessional writings stand upon, and even the Augsburg Confession stands upon, then we cannot describe ourselves as a very confessional Lutheran Church. Let us continually study anew the Confessions of our Church – not because they are interesting historic documents, but because by them we are trained to pray, to celebrate the Divine service, to worship the Triune God, to which all the Confessions ultimately aim. Yes, to Him, the Triune God, be honor and eternal power! Amen.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Augsburg Confession

I just finished translating a sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens on the Commemoration of the Augsburg Confession (June 25, 2008). He had an interesting approach to the Confessions. I print the pertinent paragraph below:

,,And so the Epistle for today’s Feast Day from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy is an important help. Certainly, the verses, that we have heard in the Epistle, have originally been a reminder of an ordination: Paul reminds his student Timothy about the confession, which he had sworn at his holy Ordination before many witnesses, and about the words, which he had spoken at his Ordination. However in this reminder of ordination, in this encouragement to Timothy, to also live from the gift of his ordination, is that some fundamentals of the Christian confession will also become clear, which can also help us today, when most of us have not had the office transferred to us as Paul had passed on to Timothy. The confession is such that it shows us St. Paul here, always

a disputed confession
an accepted confession
a prayed confession"

He then summarizes each phrase with a short theme:

1. ,,Why does one actually need a confession? To be completely straightforward, you need it because what one confesses there in and with this confession, and has called into question because of this confession, therefore this confession is always a disputed confession."

2. ,,What can I be responsible for before Christ, when He comes? Have I held actually on to His word, or have I believed it, can I change something about it or tone it down, what if I go against the grain? No, our confession shall never become an item of collective bargaining; it is and remains an accepted confession, responsible before none other than to the return of the Lord."

3. ,,The words of St. Paul immediately exhorts his student to praise the living God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords, how Paul formulates it here in deliberate contrast to the claims of the Roman emperor. God is praised and worshipped – that is the last and most sovereign form that the Christian confession has. "

Dr. Martens goes into detail regarding each phrase in his sermon, but I liked how he spoke about our Lutheran Confessions as disputed and prayed Confessions. All to often I think of the Confessions only in terms of accepted Confessions. I bound myself to them as the proper teaching of the holy Scriptures in my ordination vows. Sometimes I view them in terms of dispute, mainly since they challenged Catholic abuses in the 16th century that the Lutherans had reformed. The Confessions shape our debates and theological discourse we have with other Christians. The Confessions also shape how we worship God, by focusing us on the chief article of justification and how all the other articles of faith flow from that main article. Likewise, what we believe, teach, and confess will influence how we worship and pray.

Dr. Martens concluding sentences are very powerful:

,,If in our Divine Service we no longer stand upon what our Lutheran Confessional writings stand, and even the Augsburg Confession stands upon, then we cannot describe ourselves as a very confessional Lutheran Church. Let us continually study anew the Confessions of our Church – not because they are interesting historic documents, but because by them we are trained to pray, to celebrate the Divine service, to worship the Triune God, to which all the Confessions ultimately aim. Yes, to Him, the Triune God, be honor and eternal power! Amen. "

Yes, Amen, indeed!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

While I was going through my internet file that contains a bunch of German-Lutheran websites. One I got around to viewing was for a SELK church in Berlin, Germany. It is Evangelisch-Lutherische St. Mariengemeinde in Berlin-Zehlendorf und -Steglitz (Evangelical-Lutheran Church of St. Mary in Berlin, Zehlendorf, and Steglitz). Zehlendorf and Steglitz are communities in Berlin, both are southwest of the city-center, past Tempelhof. The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens is the pastor there.

I first heard of Dr. Martens when I read an article of his that was published in LOGIA a few years ago. I found his essay scholarly and theologically inciteful. I was happy to discover his church on the Internet. He posts his sermons online and even has four or five audio sermons available for listening. I am reading and translating his sermon from June 28, 2008.

Check out the church's site at:

http://lutherisch.de/

Also, The Rev. Armin Wenz is a pastor in the SELK; he is the pastor of Evangelisch-Lutherische St. Johannes-Gemeinde (Evangelical-Lutheran Church of St. John) in Oberursel, Hessen. I have translated some of his sermons.

Check out the church's site at:

http://www.selk-oberursel.de/index.htm

Pastor Wenz obtained for me the SELK hymnal, and sent it to me via a professor at Concordia Seminary in Ft. Wayne. I was so happy to receive the hymnal, and I hav enjoyed using it. It is a great hymanl resource for Lutheran pastors to have.

A third SELK church I surf on the web is Trinitatis-Gemeinde (Trinity Church) in München, Bavaria under The Rev. Frank-Christian Schmitt.

Check out the church's site at:

http://freenet-homepage.de/Trinitatis/

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heilsgeschichte, Part 3

Heilsgeschichte is the understanding that God does redeeming acts throughout history. Numerous examples could be given, but the two big acts were: the Exodus and Calvary.



S. G. De Graaf writes in his four-volume set, Promise and Deliverance: ,,We must not tell chiefly of people, of their faith as an attracting example and of their sins as a repelling example, but we must tell of the revelation of the grace of God in Christ” (Horton, Modern Reformation May/June Vol. 5 No. 3 1996).



Sadly, we don't find this kind of preaching in American churches; Europeans don't find this in their churches either. One of the reasons Europeans have left the churches vacant is because many of the pastors don't preach Christ crucified and risen. Strangely, I've noticed that in America the churches that preach Christ crucified and risen seem to be small and sparsely attended, while churches that preach a different gospel, a gospel of prosperity and positive self-image seem to be large and filled to the max. I know there are churches full of Christians where they hear Christ crucified and risen. I'm not sure why churches that preach a different gospel are so attractive and filled every Sunday. Perhaps American Christians haven't reached the depth of despair that our European brothers and sisters in Christ have reached; or perhaps our general attitude toward ,,me" as the most important person in my life is naturally attracted to the kind of preaching one can find on any Christian TV channel.



I am so glad that Issues, Etc. is back on the air. That show is focused on Christ crucified, and that is nothing other than Heilsgeschichte.



The Bible isn't about me and how I can succeed in life. Yes, there are directives in holy Scripture that tell us to trust in God who will bless us. But the real theme and core of the Bible is about God redeeming His fallen creation from sin. He redeems us in history. The saving acts of God are historical activities; other historians mention them in their histories. The crucifixion of Christ is mentioned by other Roman historians of that era. When we realize that God acts in history (He is immanent in, not transcendant from, our lives and from history), then we realize that He acts in my life. When Christ crucified is preached, then the proper doctrine of the Bible is being proclaimed. God is concerned about me; God died for me; God rose from the dead for me. That's Jesus who did that for me! Christ crucified and risen for my justification is the fulfillment of Heilsgeschichte, and so He is to be the focus of preaching. Jesus just can't be tacked onto a sermon, but Jesus must be permeate the sermon. Walther said that the gospel must predominate the sermon.



I just watched about a half an hour of an American Christian preacher having a crusade in Uppsala, Sweden. I recently read an article that said Sweden is one of the most secularized countries in the world and has the worst church attendance. The Church of Sweden (which is officially Lutheran) has essentially collapsed because Heilsgeschichte is not being preached from the pulpits. Well, this American preacher was going on and on about God. He tacked on the name of Jesus a few times, but he never got down to the real message of Christ crucified. The Swedes don't need a prosperity/positive self image gospel proclaimed to them, but they need a Christ crucified for their sins preached to them. Then, and only then, will the Swedes come to faith and seek out those few churches that actually preach the gospel in all its fullness and sweetness. And when more and more of them clamor for pure gospel preaching, then the Church of Sweden will (hopefully) get back on track and take Heilsgeschichte seriously.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day and Embassy Opening

July 4th is an important holiday in America. We celebrate with cookouts, fireworks, and patriotic music. This is great. I also set aside a few moments every July 4th to read the Declaration of Independence. It is one of the foundational documents for our country.

Today is also a special day for American-German relationships: the newly built American embassy opened today in central Berlin. The embassy has now returned to its old home next to the Brandenburg Gate.

Here's an article from Deutsche Welle: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3461973,00.html

On June 12, 1987, Pres. Ronald Reagan gave his historic speech at the Brandenburg Gate in what was then West Berlin. His most famous line was: ,,Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan's speech captured the heart of July 4th and the Declaration of Independence. He spoke about freedom, a freedom that America desired a divided Germany and a divided Berlin to have. He reminded the Germans: You have a friend in America. They still do; and we still have a friend in Germany. There are many cultural and political ties between our countries, ties that have lead to freedom in Germany and other countries around the world. Reagan said it best in his speech: ,,Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor."
And now there is a U.S. embassy on the site of the previous embassy, next to the Brandenburg Gate, show-casing the friendship and the freedom that German and Americans have long enjoyed together: June 12, 1987; October 3, 1990; July 4, 2008.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Are you supporting Issues, Etc.?

Yesterday afternoon, Issues, Etc. returned to the AM airwaves and the Internet. You can also download episodes from iTunes.

The Issues, Etc. website is http://issuesetc.org/index.html

I had the time to listen to the broadcast live from their website (3-5 p.m. CST). A couple of times I lost the feed, but was able to get it restored a few minutes later each time. I downloaded the episode this morning so I could listen to the parts I missed. The show was excellent, especially the discussion with Dr. Carl Fickenscher, who is a professor of homiletics (preaching) at Ft. Wayne Seminary, on the gospel. I have heard Dr. Fickenscher present several times at different synodical events over the last decade; he has always been a wonderful presenter.

If you are a long-time fan of Issues, Etc. or become a new listener, please consider supporting the show with donations. Issues, Etc. is now completely independent, and self-sufficient from the LCMS, and the show needs the support of churches and individuals to remain on the air and pay the salaries of Todd, Jeff, and other staff.

The postman arrived early today, but later I will walk across the street and mail my donation I have made to Issues, Etc.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Heilsgeschichte, Part 2

Johann K. von Hofmann (1810-77) coined the term ,,Heilsgeschichte”, but the principle or theme seems to have been used by all the prophets and apostles who wrote the Old and New Testaments (Francis Pieper derogatoratively called Hofmann an ,,Ich-theologe” – a theologian focusing on the Christian self). The Heilsgeschichte concept was used in Medieval Europe and the Reformation. In the 1950s, Heilsgeschichte was used in Old Testament studies as a theological principle, reading Scripture as the story of God’s redeeming acts in history.

Four theologians are credited with emphasizing various points that would eventually be collected under the Heilsgeschichte umbrella: Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Joachim of Floris (1135-1202, Italian mystic and theologian), Johannes Cocceius (1603-69, Dutch theologian), and Johann Bengel (1687-1752), a Lutheran pietist minister. Joachim presented the view of ,,three ages”: the ages of the Father (OT), Son (NT, specifically from Jesus to 1260), and Spirit (1260: when mankind was to come in direct contact with God, reaching the total freedom preached by the Christian message) [Wikipedia]. Cocceius developed covenant theology: before as much as after the fall of man, the relation between God and man was a covenant. The first covenant was a Covenant of Works. For this was substituted, after the Fall, the Covenant of Grace, necessitating the coming of Jesus for its fulfillment (Wikipedia). Bengel's contribution was his devotion to the historical-grammatical method of reading the Scriptures.

I am not sure what exactly Augustine's contribution was to Heilsgeschichte; perhaps it was just his overall theology.

The Heilsgeschichte concept developed in the Erlangen school, with its emphases on Biblical hermeneutics, confessional ecclesiology, our communion with Christ as a starting point, and Scripture as witness to God’s redemptive acts in history (The Encyclopedia of Christianity).
Hofmann coined the word ,,Heilsgeschichte” in 1841. Individual theologians like Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938) kept Heilsgeschichte prominent, as in the design of Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (The Encyclopedia of Christianity). Oscar Cullmann (1902-99) brought Heilsgeschichte to its fullest expression and, with pupils and allies, its peak of influence in Biblical and ecumenical theology (The Encyclopedia of Christianity).

Still more to follow ...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

On June 25, 1530, in Augsburg, Germany, the Lutheran princes signed their names to the Augsburg Confession. Thirteen years had past since The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther -- Augustinian monk, priest, theologian, and professor -- had nailed his 95 Theses to the church doors of St. Mary's Church in little Wittenberg.

Some Lutheran churches still set aside this day as the day when they confirm new members in the fellowship of the Christian faith. What a wonderful connection to be made between new confirmands confessing their Baptismal faith on the same day when princes confessed their faith before the Holy Roman emperor and the assembled state and Catholic representatives. Those princes, like Luther and other Reformers, put their lives on the line that day.

Tonight our weekly Bible study continued to read and work through the Augsburg Confession and its Apology. We've been at it for at least nine months now. We recently finished Article 4 on justification. We spent at least 3 or 4 months unpacking that article alone in the Apology. We are currently on Article 11: Confession (of sins).

I am truly thankful for the faithful band of Christians who come out week after week to study the Augsburg Confession and the Scriptural doctrines of the Church. God has truly blessed us with these confessional writings that even 478 years later focus our attention on Christ crucified for our sins and risen for our justification. Eternal life is ours through Christ alone!

May God help us to follow the example of the Lutheran princes, who at Augsburg put their lives, their finances, their citizens, their states, their reputation, and their faith on the line. They trusted in Christ alone, knowing that whatever happened to them in this earthly life it could not and would not separate them from the eternal life in heaven that Christ promises at His return when He raises our bodies from the grave to live with Him and all the saints forever and ever.

Happy Birthday Lutheran Church!

P. S. What a fitting day for the German national team to advance to the Euro 2008 Finals! Das is sehr gut!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heilsgeschichte

I mentioned ,,Heilsgeschichte" (salvation history) in my sermon last Sunday. I thought I'd flesh out the concept a bit more, since I utilize it often in sermons.

I don't know a whole lot about the historical background of the concept. The basic premise I've seen is that the the term was used in Old Testament studies in the 1950s as a theological principle, reading Scripture as the story of God’s redeeming acts in history. That's a fairly decent understanding of the term, but I suspect there is more historical background, and I intend to do more research on it.

I found a website that had a few paragraphs on Heilsgeschichte, and I translated them from the original German. Here is a paragraph that gives a brief summary of the principle. It is from

http://www.geistigenahrung.org/ftopic9637.html

,,The salvation history covers the Christian faith, and is centered (,,fullness of the time” Gal. 4.4; Eph. 1.10) spatially in the Roman province of Judea and temporally in the first decades of the Christian era in the life and deeds, the crucifixion and resurrection, of Jesus of Nazareth. The creation story of the Bible with the fall into sin are regarded as the announcement and preparation of salvation history, especially the story of Israel from Abraham to Moses (Exodus), David, the Prophets until the Babylonian Exile, and the rebuilding of the temple. The history of Christ is regarded as the ,,last time” or ,,end time,” for the gospel comes to all people until the number who are saved is fulfilled and the Christian Messiah Jesus Christ will come again in glory (Messiah, final judgment, eschatology, apocalypse)" (Geistige Nahrung).

More to follow ...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day +1

The best thing my father (and my mother) did for me was to get me baptized six weeks or so after I was born. I don't remember the event. I have a little picture from that day and my Baptism certificate that I have framed. I know who my God-parents are. On that day I received three fathers: my natural father, my God-father, and my heavenly Father. What a blessing, especially in a time in our society where fatherhood seems to be maligned by certain groups with an ax to grind.

Dr. Nagel once mentioned in a sermon that we are "chrismed, Christed, and christened". What a short, simple, and powerful declaration. Chrism is the act of putting oil on the forehead of the soon-to-be-baptized individual. Christening is another way of saying "Baptism". Both references to holy Baptism bracket Christ. He is in the middle and in our midst. I have pondered on this image and have realized how talented a wordsmith Dr. Nagel has been over the years. His words tell us that it's all about Christ and what He has done for us: the Sacrament of Baptism brings us to Christ and gives us forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. Christ is the centerpiece in God's salvation history and the means of grace point us to Him alone.

Luther mentions in his Large Catechism that it is the father's duty to bring his children to Christ by getting them baptized, teaching them the holy Scriptures, and the Small Catechism. Such an important responsibility God has given to human fathers. I am blessed and proud that my father did all this and much more for me and my siblings!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Euro 2008

Euro 2008 begins Saturday 7 June at 6:00 p.m. CZE (12 p.m. EST) with Switzerland and Czech Republic kicking off on the pitch! One of the ESPN channels will be televising many of the matches.