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Thursday, December 26, 2013

In Memoriam: Janice Dager

My dad told me this morning that Miss Janice Dager, my 5th and 6th grade teacher, had fallen asleep in the Lord Jesus Christ a few days earlier following a lengthy battle against cancer.

Jan taught at the Lutheran grade school I attended from 3rd through 8th grade and for many years attended the same Lutheran church I did. She spent her entire teaching career at St. Paul's Lutheran School in Kingsville, MD. She taught the same grades during her long tenure.

Jan was an awesome teacher. She encouraged us to read, and many of her homework assignments involved reading assignments. Every year she picked a few books and set aside about 20 minutes each day just reading to us. She introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia, and thus is responsible for my avid interest in C.S. Lewis’ books to this very day.

Part of our class schedule involved religion, and each morning we began our day with devotions. I do not recall the exact specifics of her devotions, but I do recall her piety and knowledge as she taught us the Lutheran faith and reinforced what we learned through Wednesday chapel services and for many of us in class who were members of the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church that supported the school.

One of Jan's talents was singing. For many years she sang in our church choir and in a four-person harmony quartet.

Even after teaching me for two years, she remained a positive influence in my life. She would ask how things were going in high school and college.

I know she touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of students like she did me, and her compassion and zeal for reading and singing must surely have influenced the many of us who passed through her classroom.

At our school, the 5th and 6th grades were responsible for the spring pageant. I recall that one year we focused on American history and sang many songs about Native Americans, national folk songs and patriotic songs. The other year was European history, and we sang French, English and German songs and anthems (among other nationalities). I was brave enough to dance at these pageants, and still remember learning the Charleston and the Maypole dances. The 7th and 8th grades were responsible for the Christmas pageant, and the 5th and 6th grades were the choir for the play so we learned many Christmas songs and lead the audience in singing them.

The spring also brought with it the President's Physical Fitness test. I never was able to earn the award and patch, but I tried my best and had much fun in the activities. Jan always cheered us on and encouraged us to work hard and never give up.

These are fond memories shared with a beloved teacher. I mourn her death, but know one day we will be reunited again in Paradise as we await the return of Jesus and the resurrection of our bodies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Luther's 95 Theses

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1517

Published in:
Works of Martin Luther
Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.
(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38.


OCTOBER 31, 1517
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.  
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said poenitentiam agite [“Repent”], willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance. [Matthew 4,17] 
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.  
 3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work several mortifications of the flesh.  
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the reign of heaven. 
5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons. 
6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.  
7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.  
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.  
9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity. 
10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.  
11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept. [Matthew 13,25]
12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.  
13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them. 
14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.  
15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near the horror of despair.  
16. Hell, purgatory and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear and the assurance of salvation.
17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.  
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of  increasing love.  
19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.  
20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.  
21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;  
22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.  
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.  
24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.  
25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.  
26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.  
27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory]. 
28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.  
29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.  
30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.  
31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.  
32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon. 
33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;  
34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man. 
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.  
36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.  
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded for they are, as I have said [Thesis 6], the proclamation of the divine remission.
39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.  
40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].  
41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.  
42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.  
43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons. 
44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.  
45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.  
46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.  
47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.  
48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.  
49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them, but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God. 
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.  
51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.  
52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.  
53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.  
54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word. 
55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 
56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.  
57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.
58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.  
60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure.
61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.  
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.  
63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last. [Matt. 20,16]
64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.  
65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.  
66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.  
67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain. 
68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.  
69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.  
70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.  
71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!  
72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed! 
73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.  
74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.  
75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God – this is madness. 
76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned. 
77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.  
78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in 1. Corinthians 12[,28].  
79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.  
80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.  
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.  
82. Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”  
83. Again: “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”  
84. Again: “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”  
85. Again: “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”  
86. Again: “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”  
87. Again: “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?” 
88. Again: “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”  
89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?” 
90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.  
91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.  
92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! [Jeremiah 6,14]
93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross! 
94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths and hell,

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace. [Acts 14,22]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Importance of a Confessional Faith

This week, the Church of Sweden elected Antje Jackelén as the new archbishop of the 6.5 million member Lutheran Church. You can read an article about it here

This is a historic election for the Church of Sweden for a number of reasons. Jackelén is Sweden’s first female archbishop, and she joins the ranks of other female presiding bishops like those in the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For Sweden, this is not a bold move as they have had female bishops for a number of years. While Lutherans of a conservative strain bemoan her election on the basis of gender, there are even more serious concerns raised by Lutherans both in and outside Sweden. 

Jackelén has said things that are clearly out of step with the historic confession of the Church for the past two thousand years. 

On 1. October the candidates for archbishop were asked a number of doctrinal questions. She was asked if she thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer, Jackelén was seen as someone who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) choose between Jesus and Muhammed. 

She also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth.

While not listed in the articles I’ve read, I suspect she also rejects the validity of the resurrection of Jesus. The rejection of the resurrection is usually the first doctrine jettisoned by liberal Christians, and it would be hard to believe that someone who views the virgin birth Jesus as a metaphor does not hold the same toward the resurrection on Easter. 

Rejection of one of these doctrines would raise red flags among Christians, but this whole domino effect of rejecting doctrine after doctrine raises serious doubt regarding Jackelén’s confession of the faith and those who elected her to the office of archbishop. 

Corners of the 21. century Church have slid far down the slippery slope. Those like Jackelén who toss aside the historic confession of the Church to be culturally sensitive and politically correct appear spineless when compared to the first Christians who were persecuted and martyred for their faith in such things as the Divinity of Jesus and His resurrection on Easter. 

The Church faces many cultural and religious challenges around the world. She still faces persecution and martyrdom for her faith in Jesus. It would be easy to take the route Jackelén and others take, for it is a path of comfort and little conflict. The rough path is the path that follows Jesus; it is a path that leads to suffering and the cross, but ultimately a path that arrives at the resurrection and eternal life in God’s presence. Those who follow Jesus do not reject the Church’s doctrines for any reason but remain faithful to them, to Jesus, in good times and bad. Jesus will not forsake us and that is why we stand faithful to Him and the confession of our Christian faith. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Christ the Victor

The Rev. Dr. Norman E. Nagel was one of my professors at the seminary. He continues to be one of my mentors to this very day. I share something he preached on Matthew 6,28 in 1954: 

„Sin brought the world into such a cursed mess that only the Son of God could rescue it. This He did by becoming part of our sin-cursed world, making Himself our brother and subject to the curse. Jesus stake Himself with us. If He is crushed by the curse, there is no hope. If He overcomes the curse, then death cannot have its way with us. The fate of Christ and the fate of me are one. I can only be destroyed by death if Christ can be destroyed by death. Christ did die, but He rose again. His resurrection means my resurrection…. When I come to die, I can now die … quietly and without complaint“ (Select Sermons of Norman Nagel 216). 

In this paragraph, Dr. Nagel is, in part, referring to the Apostle Paul, who wrote: »Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His« (Romans 6,3.5). 

Christianity is a religion (and a theology) grounded in historical facts: Jesus was born, lived and died. His tomb was empty three days later. These are verifiable facts attested to in the Bible, the historians of the time and even those opposed to Jesus (like the scribes and Pharisees). The point of contention is: what happened to Jesus’ body? 

Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity loses its unique claim and joins the rank and file of every other religion out there. Without the resurrection, Christianity has its teacher and a set of virtues by which a person may order his or her life, and that is about it. 

The apostles, however, contend and preach that Christianity is something far and above all the other religions and philosophies that clamor for our attention. The heart and soul of Christianity is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles proclaim that Jesus is the Lamb of God sacrificed on the cross as payment for our sin, and His resurrection is the evidence that His sacrifice is accepted by God the Father and that Jesus has triumphed over death, hell and the devil. 

Our fate is, therefore, linked to Christ’s. His victory is our victory. His death is our death. His resurrection is our resurrection. His life in heaven is our life in heaven. Sin, death, hell and the devil cannot have their way with us or over us, for Christ has conquered them. 

For those who mourn the loss of loved ones on September 11, 2001, we commend them to the mercy of the Triune God. For those in Christ who died that day, they are in His blessed presence, free from the trials and sufferings of this world. On the last day, they and all who die in Christ will be reunited in heavenly glory with a resurrected body.  Amen. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ten Important Dates in Western History

At the beginning of the summer, I compiled a list of what I considered were important dates in Western history. I limited the list to ten, but I could have easily doubled it. There are other important events that I did not list. In high school, my world history teacher told us there were three dates in Western history that we should always remember: the death of Jesus, the Fall of Rome and the Fall of Constantinople. 

1. 3. April 33, the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. 

2. 325, the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed.

3. 31. October 1517, Luther nails the 95 Theses inaugurating the Reformation. 

4. 4. September 476, the fall of Rome.

5. 29. May 1453, the fall of Constantinople. 

6. 25. December 800 Charlemagne is crowned Holy Roman emperor. He became king of the Franks on 9. October 768 and king of the Lombards on 10. July 774.  

7. 4. July 1776, the Declaration of Independence. 

8. 9. November 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

9. 20. January 1981, Ronald Reagan is inaugurated president. 

10. 1000, Leif Ericson establishes a colony at Vinland, Newfoundland. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

50th German Champions 2013

Life is good! Congrats, FC Bayern on your championship. Bring home the Champions League trophy in two weeks. 

Löhe on Mark 16,16

baptismJesus said to the Eleven: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16,16 ESV). 
from: http://kwaweber.org/2013/05/10/lohe-on-mark-1616/
What did the Lord Jesus Christ leave those, whom he left behind when he ascended into heaven? According to the gospel of Saint Mark, we can answer this question as follows: He left them holy Baptism and also gifts of miracles and wonders. That’s his coat – much richer and more potent than the coat of Elijah ever was. Holy Baptism can cover the entire world with God’s peace and blessing. It is wide and big enough and also has a very great promise that it will not cease nor stop granting fountains of living water just as little as all the oceans, rivers and fountains of this world will stop to pour forth precious fluid. They will remain doing so until the end comes.
And the miracles and wonders? They all have this one commonality that they strive to overcome and remove the evil disturbing the godly creation. So the talking in many languages is nothing else than overcoming the evil of Babylonian confusion. All the detrimental consequences and outgrowths of sin and evil must finally disappear and be eradicated by the power of salvation and the blessed cure of holy Baptism. This holy Baptism is the blessed beginning and sanctified start while the miracles and wonders point us to the end, the finalization and completion of all in Jesus Christ. Beginning and end, way and goal, means and purpose are all given and present in him, who has ascended gloriously into the highest heaven and received gifts and graces for his people.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Löhe on 1. Peter 2,11

pilgrim»Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul« (1. Peter 2,11 ESV).

from http://kwaweber.org/2013/04/23/lohe-on-1-peter-211-2/

The Apostle encourages the Christians to live chaste and pure lives. This does not only relate to the 6th commandment, but goes further than that. Even the fifth and seventh commandments are directed against sinful desires, which war against our souls. Anger, revenge, theft, corruption and many other sinful desires war against our souls. They destroy the joy and gladness in our hearts. They work like frost in a spring night – destroying the blossoming fruits of the season in no time.
The word “war against your soul” can be understood in more than one way, but all will agree that the happiness of our souls and the associated holy lives are severely damaged by these sinful desires. How is the pilgrim to make his way home steadily if these things preoccupy him and keep him from going about his real business. Where is the joy and courage to come from to reach out to heaven if these things are pulling him back and holding him down? That is why we should concentrate our energy, strength and capacities to abstain from sinful desires, to rid ourselves of sinful ways and to put off all that holds us back and makes us sluggish in our Christian pilgrimage.
O holy God, who will be perceived only by those with clean hearts, grant us your Holy Spirit, that he cleanse our hearts from all sin and sanctify us through and through. Work in us both the will to do and the doing of good works. Strengthen, empower, confirm and capacitate us that we will be found pure and without blame on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Whoever strives to accommodate himself to this world, will be put to shame. The sinful world does not hold its promises. It is not dependable.
Whoever depends on God and the world, will limp on both sides. His heart will remain divided and won’t find peace. It’ll have trouble and pain – no end.
On God alone – that’s how it should be – he is the true sanctuary. Who trusts in God, builds on him alone, is blessed here and saved eternally. (Julius Sturm, 1816-1896)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Tuesday after the third Sunday after Easter: Jubilate. It is found on Pg. 182 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu!   (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.