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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!

6 comments:

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

Please post the entire sermon if you are able to do so. Thanks.

Peter said...

Thanks for your interest in Dr. Martens' sermon. I'll make it my next post.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for translating Dr. Martens Sermon. I worship at St. Marien (Dr. Martens Congregation) when I am in Berlin, Germany and away from my LCMS home in Mississippi. Dr. Martens has abundant knowledge of the church fathers writings and scripture and it is a delight to learn from him each week, as I am so blessed as to be on his email list and receive all his sermons via email.
I have often contemplated translating them for my pastor and friends here, but so far have not had the nerve or time to do so. So thank you much.

Peter said...

From the articles and sermons I've read by Pastor Martens, he brings out his knowledge and wisdom of the Scriptures, Confessions, and the Church Fathers in a straightforward manner that is right to the point and right on target. It is a joy to read anything he writes or preaches. If I ever get to Berlin, I want to attend his church and hear him preach in person.

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