Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Week

The German Church traditions have wonderfully descriptive names for the days of the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening).

Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin noun mandatum, which means "command" as is found in John 13,34. Compare the verse below:

»A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another« (ESV).

»mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos ut et vos diligatis invicem« (Vulgate).

In German, however, Maundy Thursday is called Gründonnerstag (literally "Green Thursday"). This may come from the German tradition to eat green vegetables, especially spinach, on this day (Bill Petro). I think perhaps more ecclesiastically the name dates back to Medieval Europe when it was customary in the Catholic Church to give penitents the gift of green branches on Thursday of Holy Week for the imminent completion of their fasting during Lent. The term certainly isn't derived from the liturgical color for the day, as Maundy Thursday/Gründonnerstag is traditionally the color "white."

Good Friday is Karfreitag or Charfreitag in German. Grim connects the old German Karfreitag with the Old High German chara, grief, suffering, Old Saxon cara, Gothic kara (Woerterbuch, S. V.). So old English care, Anglo-Saxon cearu, mean grief. Thus, Karfreitag translates as "suffering/mourning Friday". It is also important to note that the old Teutonic cara means preparation, and links the word back to Friday as the day of preparation for the Sabbath. See Grim's reference for documentation.

Linguistics are certainly grand!

The liturgical words point us to the theme of the day, and on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the theme is Christ and forgiveness, promised and given at Jesus last seder meal when He instituted the Lord's Supper to distribute the forgiveness of sins and purchased on the next day when Jesus offered up His very body and shed His precious blood as payment for the world's sin. And then comes blessed Easter ...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Walter E. Keller

20. February 1929 - 25. February 2011

Today you will be with Me in Paradise. So said Jesus to the rebel on the cross next to Him. So to is it for Dr. Keller.

Dr. Keller was a theology professor at Valparaiso University when I was a student there. He spent most of his ministry at the university teaching theology, especially the New Testament and Paul's Epistles. He was, quite frankly, the brightest light of my academic and theological studies at VU from 1988-1991. He had a salt and pepper beard, a deep bass voice, and a wonderful belly laugh. He was a Pauline scholar. I was so blessed and fortunate to have him for three separate classes my senior year: New Testament overview, Paul's Epistles, and Dept. of Theology Senior symposia. The symposia was wonderful because that class only had five or six students: those theology majors who were seniors. At least three of us in that class went on to the Lutheran seminary to become pastors.

I am indebted to Dr. Keller. He was a wonderful mentor who molded me into the scholar and theologian I am today. He preached the gospel with vigor and gusto. I remember a time when the Chapel of the Resurrection's audio system went out. VU's chapel can hold over 2000 people. Dr. Keller kept on preaching with his powerful voice and he could be heard throughout the entire chapel. Not only did I have Dr. Keller as a professor, but my first 8 years in the ministry was in northwest Indiana so I was blessed to be in Dr. Keller's presence as a fellow pastor.

I cannot calculate the number of men he encouraged and taught as they prepared to enter the pastoral ministry. Thousands, I would think, over the decades. He was mightily used by the Holy Spirit. He was one of the few bright, Lutheran lights at VU. May the LORD raise up a new generation. For me, I will continue to pass on to parishoners the great insights I first received from Dr. Keller.