Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christless Chrisitanity

A few weeks ago, The White Horse Inn had an excellent program entitled "Christless Christianity." This is the bane of the Church, and in every generation there has been some movement that focuses less on Christ and more on other things. When this is done, the Church stops being the Church and she becomes just another club.

I believe it was the Rev. Dr. Prof. David Scaer who said that all heresies are Christological in nature. There is no greater heresy than to have no Christ at all in the Church. Now, this doesn't mean that Christless churches toss out Christ all together. Rather, a Christless Christianity is one in which Christ stops being the Son of God who was sent to redeem the world from sin, death, and the devil. Christ is our Redeemer, and when He is robbed of that office and given another in its place, such as a great moral teacher, a big buddy, or the means to be blessed with all that American culture and technology offers, well, then you have a Christless Christianity.

The American Christian landscape is rife with Christless churches. The Church's ministry is to preach Christ crucified. Yes, this proclamation is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others, but it is the power and wisdom of God to those who are called (1 Corinthians 1.23-24).

The danger of a Christless Christianity is what then do you do about sin? If there is no emphasis on Christ as our savior, then if you are concerned about sin there must be some method of meriting forgiveness. In 16th century Europe, the Catholic Church turned to indulgences, penance, saints, relics, and the like to appease Christians of their guilt. They should have pointed them to Christ alone. Here we see the real gem of the Reformation shine brightly. The chief article of the Church is that we are justified by faith through grace in Christ alone. There is no other mediator or propitiator, save Christ alone.

Christ is to be preached, and no other "ministry" can usurp the preaching office. When Christ is preached, then the people know that their sins have been absolved. This is the ministry of the Church. It may not be popular; it may not bring in hundreds or thousands of people each Sunday; but such preaching is the power of God that announces God's salvation and forgiveness through Christ alone who was sent to suffer, die, and rise again for our justification and redemption. We have one message: Christ crucified.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Faith Sustains Us

"Faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue -- that the whole of our lives is without meaning. Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet. You can travel farther with both than you can with just one."

That quote is from Babylon 5's episode "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars".

Like C. S. Lewis's Narnia series and J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, JMS' Babylon 5 series has a lot of Christian themes interspersed throughout. I think Babylon 5 is for late twentienth and early twenty-first century Westerners what Tolkien and Lewis envisioned for their works at their time in the early twentieth century: a way to tell the Christian story afresh.

Perhaps JMS didn't intend it to be the re-telling of the Christian message to the extent that Lewis and Tolkien did. Nevertheless, for the discerning Christian, there is much in his series that can tell the Christian message afresh, from an alien's point of view, so to speak.

If you want the Christian message properly and contextually told, well, then that's what the Church and preaching is all about. From the pulpit, Bible studies, and reading the Bible, there the gospel is preached and teached in all it's glorious purity -- for you.

Yes, faith sustains us in the hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue (JMS); moreover, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome to Title Town!

The NY Giants went into Big D yesterday and proved to a nationwide audience how well they can play. Eli Manning has led the Giants to success the last three weeks: they lost to the Patriots in Week 17, but showed he can go toe to toe with Tom Brady. Last week Eli and the Giants walked into Tampa and handed the Bucs a solid thumping. Yesterday, the Big Blue took out their NFC East rivals. The NFC road to the Super Bowl now goes through Green Bay (as it should have this season)!

Can either the Pack or the Giants knock down the New England Juggernaut? Time will tell ... unless the Super Chargers do it first. The Super Bowl is going to be great no matter who ends up at the big dance.

Last year, Peyton Manning won it all. Perhaps Eli will do it this year.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Löhe Fest

January 2 is set aside in the Lutheran Service Book as the commemoration for Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe. He was a Lutheran pastor born in 1808 in Fürth, Bavaria; his pastorate was in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. Furth is 4.5 miles west-northwest of Nuremberg, and Neuendettelsau is 17.5 miles southwest of Nuremberg. This Bavarian was an important person for the Missouri Synod. He founded and then gave Ft. Wayne Seminary to our beloved Synod. He did not send licensed laymen, but ordained German Lutheran pastors to serve the immigrants scattered throughout the Midwest; a number of these pastors were part of the original formation of the Synod, along with Walther and the Saxons. He had a passion for Native American missions in Michigan. We can do well to follow his zeal and practice of mission work.

Okay, I'm a week late in calling everyone's attention to Löhe. Since I am known to celebrate Oktoberfest throughout the entire months of September AND October, I figured I can celebrate Löhe for more than his customary "one" day. That's how we Bavarians are: we like to celebrate with gusto! This Bavarian is extremely happy and thankful for all the hard work the Bavarian Löhe did. It's good to know that the Missouri Synod isn't only about Saxon Lutherans. Ein Prosit for all the Christian men and women who have blessed the Church!