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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Learning from Löhe

Loehe has an awesome Holy Trinity Sunday sermon on John 3,1-15. Here is the seventh paragraph from his sermon:

"7. Praise God that we will not be dismissed by our ardent desire! The Lord calls the new birth from the Holy Spirit a new birth from the water, and that He relieve us of all embarrassment. For what we certainly meant by the new water birth is: it is the water of Baptism, the grace-filled water of life, the washing of rebirth in the Holy Spirit. This, water is available – and because we now know that the Holy Spirit works through the water, thus we know where the hem of the garments of Christ are that makes us recover from all of our diseases. Or about the water Baptism would it not be the Baptism of the Spirit? Are those people right, who tear apart the two things that Christ has joined , namely is it correct to separate Spirit Baptism from water Baptism and thusmake this thing unapproachable and but those times unapproachable and completely useless? Or vice versa: The Lord said that one must be born again of water and of the Spirit: Does He teach here about a double path of regeneration, one by water and another one by the Spirit, so that He who ascribes what is attributed to the Spirit, also the water? What kind of teaching should this be? No! Not vain the water and the Spirit is not treated, but the Lord sets together water and Spirit, because the child water belongs to the omnipotent Spirit, because water and the Spirit are together only one Baptism, a gracious water of life and a washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit. If we seek the Spirit by whom we are born anew: He’s in the water of Baptism. Where the water is, there the Spirit is. The water Baptism cannot be divorced from the Spirit Baptism. There is only one Baptism – of water and spirit. Whoever wants to be born again must be baptized. Here the path of regeneration is clearly described. This impossible, hidden secret has become for a man a sweet, easy road, for what is easier for people than the new birth, when one is baptized? The angels sing of this Baptism as the greatest act of God: but how easily do we come to this? How beautiful, how gently, the Lord moves along with His powerful water bath gives birth so that one is born anew, and He scarcely wakes a sleeping child from his bodily sleep!"

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

U.S. Constitution

On June 21, 1788 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The Constitutional Convention had written the document on September 17, 1787. It took nine months for nine of the thirteen States to vote to adopt it, and it thus became law. I grew up in Maryland which was the seventh State to adopt the Constitution and I live in New Jersey which was third State to adopt it.

The Constitution replaced the ineffective Articles of Confederation that was the ruling document among the States from 1781-1788. The Federal government lacked the authority to do things that a country needs to do to run effectively.

Howard Chandler Christy painted the renowned "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States" in 1940.

America is a hybrid of values influenced by Christianity and 18th Century Enlightenment/legal codes. Daniel Hannan's The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America (2010) is a delightful British commentary on America, the Revolution, and the Constitution. One of the points Hannan makes is that the Revolution was a working out of the struggle in England that England could not or would not ultimately engage in but the colonists across the pond could and did. He makes solid arguments that the Constitution is based on English law and jurisprudence.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Berlin's 20th anniversary

Today, 20. June 2011, is the 20th anniversary of the return of Berlin as Germany's capital. I would have thought it would have been an obvious and easy vote to transition the government from Bonn back to Berlin. According to the Berliner Morgenpost, however, the vote was very close: 338 for Berlin and 320 for Bonn as the German capital. You can read an English translation of the Berliner Morgenpost here.

When I was studying German from 1981-85 in high school, the capital of West Germany was Bonn. I fondly remember our dear Frau Ira Hooper (who was also fluent in French) teaching us High German with textbooks printed in the 1970s complete with those 70s era photos of Germany. Frau Hooper was a teenager when World War 2 broke out. She lived in Berlin. Her father was in the German Navy (a commander on a cruiser or destroyer). She told us many fascinating stories about the Germany of her youth, and I especially remember her describing those pesky cuckoo birds that lived in the Black Forest.

Although the vote was taken in 1991, Berlin did not officially become the German capital until 1999. Even now, Bonn retains about one-half of the Federal government's jobs. I still nostalgically think of Bonn as West Germany's capital from 1949-90. Berlin now houses the center of Germany's government: the Bundestag (German Parliament/Congress), the Bundesrat (council of the German State governors), the Chancellery, and the President's residence.

Happy anniversary, Berlin, as the capital of a united Germany!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Holy Trinity Sunday

The Athanasian Creed begins: 1 Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. 2 Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. 3 And the catholic faith is this, 4 that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the substance.

This Creed is the third and last of the great Creeds in the Western Church. The Roman Catholic Church and all the major Protestant Churches affirm it as a true, Scriptural teaching. Every Holy Trinity Sunday, many Lutheran churches confess this Creed in their Divine Service. For all its verbosity, the Athanasian Creed wonderfully and majestically confesses that the God of the Holy Scriptures is a Triune God: Three Distinct Persons comprising One God. Here Christianity distinguishes herself from the world's other two monotheistic religions, namely, Judaism and Islam.

And yet, if George Barna's 2009 poll accurately reflects the state of American Evangelical Protestantism, over 50% of Protestants do not believe in the Trinity or they are so Biblically illiterate that they cannot properly bear witness to what they confess to believe.

American culture does a superb job of muddying Christian beliefs. George Lucas and his Star Wars franchise have been influencing Christians since 1977. Star Wars is a great franchise with exciting story-telling and good battling and defeating evil.

But many people now, when they think and speak about the Holy Spirit, think of Him in terms of "the force", a mystical and universal power that can be tapped into and used either for good or evil. If we dig deep into the Greco-Roman culture that is the foundation of Western Society, we would probably discover the seeds of this "force" philosophy found in the Greek myths and pantheon. VW has a great commercial using this iconic concept that debuted in the 2011 Super Bowl.

Pastor Will Weedon's four-part presentation on Issues, Etc. and his blog (Weedon's Blog) post on Tuesday June 14, 2011 are wonderful resources on the Creed and the Holy Trinity.

The true, Christian Church worships the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We worship this Triune God because this Triune God has worked out our redemption from all sin and brought us eternal life and salvation. God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ into this fallen world. The Son of God merited the world’s salvation by suffering, dying, and rising again. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. He speaks through the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures and through them reminds us of all that Christ has done and said. We confess and worship Three Persons in One God and One God who is Three Persons. We worship and confess this Biblical Triune God not just on Holy Trinity Sunday, but each week in the Historic Liturgy of the Divine Service we worship and confess the Three Distinct Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are One God. Every Sunday, then, is not only a mini-Easter and a mini-Pentecost but also a mini-Trinity Sunday.

Blessed Holy Trinity Sunday to you all.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Historic Lectionary

At the beginning of Advent last year, I made the switch from using the 3-year lectionary to using the Historic Lectionary. With Holy Trinity Sunday tomorrow, it has been about six months that I have been using the 1-year lectionary. My entire life I have only remembered the 3-year lectionary. I used the 3-year throughout my ministry from 1995-2010. Why, after, all that time, did I switch to the Historic Lectionary?

1. I have been working on translating Wilhelm Loehe's sermons on the Gospel readings for over a year now. Loehe, obviously, used the Historic Lectionary. Switching to that lectionary gave me more connectedness to what I was translating from Loehe.

2. There are MANY Lutheran sermons available on the Historic lectionary. Preachers like Luther, Walther, and friends in Germany used/use the Historic lectionary. It is nice to sync up with those resources.

Now, here is where I show my independent streak. I had several choices to go with for the Historic lectionary: LCMS TLH or LSB version, ELS version, Anglican version, SELK version, etc. I ultimately chose the SELK's Historic lectionary. I found that the Old Testament lections, in general, drew from Genesis and Isaiah. Genesis is the foundational Scripture from which the other 65 books flow, and Isaiah is often called the "Fifth Evangelist". In general, however, most of the Historic lectionary variants use the same Gospel lection. There is a fair degree of commonality regarding the Epistle lections. The Old Testament lections show the great variety that exists in the Historic variants.

Overall, I have enjoyed preaching on the Historic lectionary this past year (mostly from the Gospel lections). The themes for the Sundays are well-chosen and time-tested. It was different using the Gesima Sundays before Lent, and a great joy to do so. The great strengths in the Historic lectionary are drawn out in seasons like Advent, Christmas, Holy Week/Easter, and the final three Sundays of the Church year.

There are a few rough edges in the Historic lectionary. Not every lectionary is perfect. Sometimes I thought the LCMS LSB variant was better than the SELK variant for a given Sunday. But Scripture is Scripture. You can't go wrong preaching on the Word of God.

As the Church enters the long Trinity Season, I am looking forward to the Historic lectionary. There are lots of great themes on the horizon, and there are some great, old sermons to be read from Lutheran preachers of the past and present.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ludwig's Castles

I like castles, and Germany has plenty of castles throughout the countryside. Bavaria is home to many famous castles, and Ludwig II had several memorable ones built, including the castle that Walt Disney based his Disney World castle after. One day I would like to see the remains of Bauernfeind Castle in Bavaria. It's probably a small mound of stones at this point on a grassy knoll, but it would still be cool to stand on that spot.

Castle Neuschwanstein: the most famous Ludwig castle; this one is used by Disney

Castle Herrenchiemsee: a replica of Louis XIV's palace in Versailles, France

Castle Linderhof: a French style with gardens

Ludwig, you see, was fond of Greco and French architecture. A man after my own heart!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Learning from Loehe

From Pastor Loehe's Pentecost sermon on John 14,23-27:

Which from then on to urge all nations with power, which was begun in the Temple in Jerusalem. From then on, the people began to change by the light of Zion, and the knowledge of the Lord flooded the earth just as water covers the sea floor. The last big moment in the world, the last portion of their temporal existence, the beginning of a new life had come. All the time, and history of the Church has sprung forth today: today is still Pentecost, as then, because at that time the spread and establishment of the Church was still celebrated. The first Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, and today it is no less even though everyone has since departed. The Apostles, the believers of the first days have gone to sleep. The wind of the first day of Pentecost no longer roars, and tongues of flame and shared language and wonderful gifts are no longer perceived. In this respect, what we celebrate today is over. But that wonderful event that occurred to the first believers through the Apostles also occurs now: by the power of language, the peoples of all languages are related in the unity of faith, and they are triumphant, just as we victoriously sing or pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine love, by diversity of languages You have gathered the peoples of the world in the unity of faith.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

King Ludwig II of Bavaria


Ludwig II (25. August 1845 - 13. June 1886) ruled as King of Bavaria from 1864-86. He is sometimes referred to as the "Mad King" but really he was a bit eccentric; he lived in the real world but he loved castles and Wagner's operas. He built several castles in Bavaria, using his own personal fortunes, and this got him in hot water with a number of politicians, for they claimed his indebtedness was hurting the Bavarian economy. Today, however, Bavaria reaps the whirlwind of tourist money from the castles Ludwig had constructed. He is much beloved by many Bavarians.

Ludwig II coronation portrait, 1865

Ludwig memorial in Starnberger Lake