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Archive for November, 2013

On Serving Two Masters

matthew

“…every Christian, when he has the Word of God, honors and keeps it, regardless of whether this irritates the world or whether it costs him his success. This is his attitude: ‘There is my wallet and money bag, my house and home. But here is my Christ. Now, if I have to forsake and surrender one of them, I will let it all go in order to keep my Christ.’ That is what Christ means with the words: ‘No one can serve two masters.’ Eventually they will come into conflict and one will have to yield to the other.  Therefore it is vain for you to persuade yourself of the idea that you will keep them both as your masters…” Luther’s Works 21, 188-9

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Martin Luther thoughts for the day after Thanksgiving.

collosians

Contrast this to the maulings that some are taking in the stores on Black Friday,

“…my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true.  Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches?  I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.”

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Martin Luther Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Martin Luther

Excerpts from Luther’s Large Catechism (1529)

cornucopia 2

The Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles Creed

I hold and believe that I am God’s creature, that is, that he has given me and constantly sustains my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, my reason and understanding, and the like; my food and drink, clothing, nourishment, spouse and children, servants, house and farm, etc. Besides, he makes all creation help provide the benefits and necessities of life—sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; day and night; air, fire, water, the earth and all that it yields and brings forth; birds, fish, animals, grain, and all sorts of produce. Moreover, he gives all physical and temporal blessings—good government, peace, security. Thus we learn from this article that none of us has life—or anything else that has been mentioned here or can be mentioned—from ourselves, nor can we by ourselves preserve any of them, however small and unimportant. All this is comprehended in the word ―Creator.

Moreover, we also confess that God the Father has given us not only all that we have and what we see before our eyes, but also that he daily guards and defends us against every evil and misfortune, warding off all sorts of danger and disaster. All this he does out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a kind father who cares for us so that no evil may befall us.

Hence, because everything we possess, and everything in heaven and on earth besides, is daily given, sustained, and protected by God, it inevitably follows that we are in duty bound to love, praise, and thank him without ceasing, and, in short, to devote all these things to his service, as he has required and enjoined in the Ten Commandments.

Here much could be said if we were to describe how few people believe this article. We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honor, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served. This is the way the wretched, perverse world acts, drowned in its blindness, misusing all the blessings and gifts of God solely for its own pride, greed, pleasure, and enjoyment, and never once turning to God to thank him or acknowledge him as Lord or Creator.

Therefore, if we believe it, this article should humble and terrify all of us. For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and property, and with all that we have, especially those who even fight against the Word of God. Yet Christians have this advantage, that they acknowledge that they owe it to God to serve and obey him for all these things.

For this reason we ought daily to practice this article, impress it upon our minds, and remember it in everything we see and in every blessing that comes our way. Whenever we escape distress or danger, we should recognize how God gives and does all of this so that we may sense and see in them his fatherly heart and his boundless love toward us. Thus our hearts will be warmed and kindled with gratitude to God and a desire to use all these blessings to his glory and praise.

 

 

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Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the world……..

tornado in Washington Ill

 

typhoon 2

Last week when I was at a meeting I received word that the family of one of the members of the Board for International Mission had lost their home in the tornado that hit Washington, Illinois.  He said that they were thankful that all they lost was their house.  Today I heard on the news that Thanksgiving eve is notable for two reasons – travel, about 43 million of us will take off and travel at least 50 miles to be somewhere else, and partying.

I remember reacting angrily a few years ago at the news reporting on Thanksgiving.  while I was busy stuffing my face and watching football there would be news reports about the hungry and homeless with the subtext that I shouldn’t be enjoying the day because it was my fault that they were hungry and homeless.  An interesting study would also be the frequency of the stories when different political parties are in charge, but I digress.  I don’t usually do this – I want everyone to be thankful and enjoy the day, but when I read this I had to share and I politely ask you to think about and pray about it too.

In a deeply personal narrative, the Rev. Steve Schave, associate executive director, LCMS Office of International Mission, offers a powerful witness to the calling we have as children of God to proclaim the Gospel and share the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, particularly in the face of a devastating event. Schave recently returned from a week in the Philippines, where he served as a member of the LCMS advance disaster response team responding to a call for assistance from our partner church, the Lutheran Church in the Philippines, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Below is that narrative.


 

Mud, blood, tears . . . and hope.

I have served as an inner city pastor acquainted with crime and violence. I have served as a hospital chaplain familiar with trauma and death. I have served as a prison minister experiencing some pretty rough criminal elements. I have also served as a disaster relief coordinator witnessing devastation and grief. But nothing could have prepared me for what I would witness in the Philippines. The chaos, the mourning, the whole-scale destruction and desperate need. I went to represent our Synod, to offer our support and concern to our partner church there and to ensure smooth operations were maintained with our Manila office, our missionaries from the Asia Pacific region and our Mercy Operations team. I thought our team might be the equivalent of a knight in shining armor coming to the rescue. But once we found ourselves in the areas that were affected the most, surrounded by endless cries for help and insurmountable unmet basic needs, all I could feel was empathy . . . and pure, unadulterated helplessness.

Surely I would be a changed man, fully aware of the weakness of our human frailty. When I sit at the dinner table, will the memory of a family kitchen turned watery grave be etched in my memory? When I embrace my children upon my return, will I hear the echoes of the father’s account of his children being snatched from his arms by wind and wave? When I walk down the halls of my kids’ school, will I see the faces of hundreds of beautiful children who lined the streets with their hands out begging for food to survive? Will I ever forget the smell of death that enveloped me, the sights of family members sifting through rubble to find the ones they love and the body bags placed on the curb among the debris to be taken away? Can I process the sheer force with which the inescapable beauty of a garden paradise was now covered by a thick layer of the deadly effect of sin, where so many were still reeling from the effects of a recent earthquake? Filled with images of God’s wrath and judgment, with doubts and fears, they were left to ask, “Why”? So much suffering: where to begin in this land of mud, blood and tears? A whole island ravaged: where to begin?

Where else can we begin . . . but the cross? The place where God meets us in our suffering and sorrow. In unspeakable grief and indescribable devastation, we find the mercy of God in His Son, the crucified Christ. At the place of the skull on Mt. Calvary, a hill covered in mud, blood, sweat and tears, the anchor of God’s grace was dropped into the depths of hell and death. Even as I stood at what can only be described as the gates of hell, I could walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.

A young man approached me as I stood at ground zero of Typhoon Yolanda (where they were still recovering bodies after 10 days with no end in sight). Seeing my clerical shirt and the crucifix that draped my neck, he asked me if I was a priest. I explained that I was a Lutheran pastor. Knowing then that I was one of Christ’s men, he asked, “Sir, would you come and pray for my dead.” I asked for the baptismal names of the three deceased family members, and while not expecting to be in this situation, I quickly turned to the end of the Commendation of the Dying in the Pastoral Care Companion that I had in hand. In this liturgy was a prayer of baptism, redemption, resurrection and a return to the garden paradise in a new creation restored. In this liturgy is the beautiful Nunc Dimittis that we so often sing after communion along with saints and angels. With it we announce to the world and the devil himself that we have received Christ’s body and blood, and we have seen our salvation and are ready to depart from this world in peace. We await the great reunion that is to come with all those who died in the faith before us. Those whom, even though it might seem they slipped through our fingers, we will once again embrace.

At one of the churches we visited, the nearby residents took refuge beneath the altar when the storms hit. Indeed, when we find our refuge at the altar, there is no tempest or whirlwind that can sweep us away because our hope is anchored in Christ. In Him alone are we ready to face the Son of Justice who sits on the throne of judgment. On Good Friday, the earth shook and the waters poured, as Christ bore the full wrath of God against sin. As a result, we can stand at the gates of death and hell, but they will not prevail. We will storm the gates, bringing Christ with us.

So here we find our place to begin on a ravaged island with that which is in most scarce supply — hope. Working with our missionaries, our church partners and our disaster response team, we will give not only shelter, food and water, but the water that gives eternal life — water that allows us to never thirst. We will give the food and drink that offer forgiveness, life and salvation that we would hunger no more. We will give shelter that is not only temporary, but an eternal dwelling place. We will give the Good News of Christ crucified and risen again and the message of how God can use all things for good. Yes, this may have been the strongest recorded typhoon in which 7 feet of water passed through the streets in front of one of our partner churches, carrying homes and bodies, but when the Word of God is attached to the water of Baptism, there is no stronger force on this earth. With all the strength of Noah’s flood or the walls of the parted Red Sea that came crashing down, the water of Baptism drowns our sinful nature and rescues us from death and the devil. It connects us to Christ’s death and resurrection, so that like Lazarus, Christ will one day call us from our tombs; the smell of death will no longer be able to cling to us, but only the sweet aroma of eternal life.

Let there be no doubt, brothers and sisters in Christ, there is hope in the Philippines. We saw it in the smiling faces of the brothers and sisters in the faith who were there. We heard it when they spoke of how God gave His only Son, and if that was all they had, it would be enough. We shared in it when we sat at their tables, and they gave to us from what little they had. We participated in it as we gathered together around God’s Word. There is hope, and you, too, can be a part of it. You can help your Synod to work with the Lutheran Church in the Philippines to pick up the pieces of so many shattered lives and lost livelihoods. With the right team in place, your Synod was able to get to the most affected areas bringing the most needed resources and spiritual care to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. This is what the body of Christ does–it bears one another’s burdens, it suffers together, it brings relief and it comforts. This is what God does–He turns panic into fervent hope, and He turns chaos, violence and danger into order, peace and safety. Yes, even from out of death, God brings new life in the most storm-torn nation . . . AND YOU CAN HELP.

Prayerfully consider joining with your baptized brothers and sisters in Christ to share the baptized hope that is in Christ Jesus. You can make a Giving Tuesday (Dec. 3) gift to the LCMS Global Mission fund athttp://www.lcms.org/givenow/givingtuesday. To share hope with typhoon victims in the Philippines or tornado victims in Illinois, visit www.lcms.org/disaster. Together as the Synod, we can make a difference.

– Rev. Steve Schave

Reposted from http://wmltblog.org/

 

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Was Jesus an Alpha Male?

alpha maleThere’s been off a lot of talk in my circles lately about “alpha males”. Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins was accused of being a bully but was also called by some a typical “alpha male”. Back in the olden days of the 60s rock ‘n roll the Alpha male was considered the “leader of the pack”.  In fact the term really comes from Wolf packs and studies as to which Wolf is the alpha male.  When the Missouri synod Council of Presidents met last week someone said that they couldn’t enter a room with that many “alpha males” inside.  I wonder if our District Presidents consider themselves to be alpha males?
Pres. Obama is supposed to be an alpha male. Pres. Kennedy was supposedly an alpha male and I might have to do some digging but I think some people called Bill Clinton and George Bush 42 alpha males.
Of course the first question I have to ask is were they or are they?  Then in my weird and some would say twisted brain I actually asked another question and that is “was Jesus an alpha male”?
So I went to a social media site in which women answer the questions of what really is an alpha male. And according to a bunch of women that were surveyed the first criterion for being an alpha male is not to be concerned about your image.
So from the list of politicians above I would say that almost all of them miss out on the very first criteria. What about Jesus?
Criterion 2.  Alpha males are respectful of other leaders, but they don’t kowtow to anyone. How do our politicians stack up? What about Jesus?
Criterion 3. An alpha males natural element is change. They don’t panic when surrounded by insecurity or difficulty.  Think politicians. What about Jesus?
Criterion 4.  they take responsibility for their actions and the actions of those who either help them, work for them, or want to do their bidding.  Wow. Same questions.
Criterion 5.  Alpha males never lie and they don’t betray anyone and they never bully anyone. Same questions.
So let’s forget about the politicians and the sports figures. My new rule is that if someone in the news media, social media, or a magazine says that someone is an alpha male I automatically believe they are not.
So what about Jesus?  Was Jesus concerned about his image?  Well we don’t know much about his image but we know that the Bible says about him that” he was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows”, and that there was no beauty or comeliness in him that we might notice him.  He says of himself that he had no place to lay his head.  He did not seek the adulation of the crowds in fact in many case he runs from it.  Interestingly there is no Biblical New Testament attempt to even tell us a little bit about what he looked like.  He had one suit of clothes that he mist have worn all the time because when he died that was all he had.
Did Jesus ever apologize when he was wrong. The problem with the question is as Christians we believe he was never wrong.
Did Jesus kowtow to leaders.  Jesus was respectful to leaders even those who tried to kill him and eventually did. He was respectful to the leaders of the church and the government. He did say things like “do as they say but don’t do as they do” about the religious leaders, but he was respectful to them until they hurt “these little ones who believed” in him and then he got angry.
Did Jesus thrive, or at least hold his composure in the midst of stress, difficulty, or adversity? It would seem to me that anyone who could have nails driven into his hands and feet and yet ask God to forgive the ones who did that to him would have to be described as someone who held their composure.
Did Jesus take responsibility? On the night before he died in a prayer to his Father he claimed responsibilities for the ones that the Father had given to him. He claimed responsibility for all the trouble when the mob came to arrest him and told him to release the disciples. In fact we believe that he took responsibility for the sins of the whole world and paid the penalty for all of those sins and gave us the benefits.
He never lied and as near as I can tell the only time he bullied anyone was when he chased the money changers out of the temple.  (See kowtowing to leaders).
In fact Jesus seems to be the definition of an alpha male.
So for all you politician wannabes, all you jocks and sports guys, and all you fellas that want to be alpha males I would refer you to Philippians chapter 2
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
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“A pretty good sense of what is good……..”

a good thing 2

 

 

a good thing 1

 I wonder how many of you actually think that this is a good thing?  I’ve written before that those who think they know better about just about everything are in charge and just about everything seems to be falling apart.  We were told by the press that these were the smartest, brightest, and best when we elected them, and maybe by this generations standards they are (see 10/01/13).  They obviously think they are better than others because they view them as sex starved drunken fools.  They can spend money on thrash like this because they have the IRS.  The IRS can send me letters telling me to the penny what I owe when my well educated CPA friend tells me different, but who wins?  Meanwhile they send billions to China in fraudulent tax refunds and no one can explain under oath how stuff like that happens.

They, the smart and brilliant in charge, spent almost a billion dollars because they thought they had a pretty good sense of what is good and all we got was a lousy website.  The money spent could have paid for a catastrophic insurance plan for all the un-insured and left the rest of us alone but those who have a pretty good sense of what is good can’t or won’t do that.  I hope that people remember the need for this whole thing to have young people enroll is hamstrung because the same people that got us into this mess have spent the last 40 years making sure that generations that could be contributing were never born.

This over riding conceit that those in power know better than we what is good means that they can tell you that your insurance plan wasn’t good and that you can do better.  The unctuous know it all from Iowa said it the other day in the Senate hearing.  He actually sermonized that you shouldn’t be angry if you have a maternity clause in your insurance if you are a man because you are paying for a mother somewhere that can’t pay for it.  Don’t be whiny!  We are better than that in this country.  No one asked him why he is exempt from joining this good thing but such is life in the transformed America.

One other thing as I vent my spleen so that I won’t have to go to the Doctor.  Remember the word “period”.  That is an important word.  It means end of discussion.  While one of the brilliant was using that in every speech and campaign stop the Vice know it all sat on a stage in a debate setting and said that the ACA (Affordable Care Act for the unenlightened) would not require that St. Mary’s hospital down the street would have to pay for the abortions of their workers -period!  We are not allowed to call these people liars because that is not nice – period!  Since I can’t call them liars I will say delusional because the know it all in chief actually said that the vice know it all was the best vice know it all in all history.  Remember now he is speaking about a man who believes that his relatives worked in a coal mine and played soccer on lunch breaks, even though his father was a used car salesman in Delaware (see http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2008/08/the_write_stuff.html).

Meanwhile all the regimes that we supported in the middle east to keep the crazies at bay are gone and we are Neville Chamberlain to Iran’s Hitler, but the ketsup king believes he has a pretty good sense of what is good for the region.  No one asks what the Israelis or the Turks or the Europeans that we used to think were allies consider good.

In the meantime there is an eternal word that gives us a pretty good sense of what is good.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Justice is not lying and legislated theft.  Mercy is not free contraception and helping you to save your beer money. Humility is not apologies that center around your sorrow for the stupidity of those that don’t recognize how smart you think you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“He who has nothing to live should be aided, and if he deceives us what of it?”

hungry hands

A saw a survey of food agencies and a study they did with local volunteers at local agencies who reported that a pretty good percentage of people coming in for food were known in the community to be people of means.  That is why most of the agencies have a policy that limits the number of times in a year you can come to that pantry and some are even thinking of “means testing”.

Luther’s understanding of living by faith makes us the free Lords of all, and the absolute slaves of all.  Paradoxes are what Lutherans thrive on.  I work believing that God will supply all my need and yet I also work as if God did not exist.  I plan but I do not trust in planning.  I do good works but I don’t believe they count for anything except to my neighbor.  I am a saint and a sinner at the same time.  When discussing the need to care for the neighbor and the possibility that the neighbor might defraud us Luther said……

“He who has nothing to live should be aided, and if he deceives us what of it?  He should be aided again”.

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One Cake with Christ – What More Do You Want?

cakeI don’t care much for cake but I like this picture that Luther paints of one cake or one loaf with Christ.

 

Saint Paul said, “we are all one bread and one drink, for we all participate in one bread and drink.” Likewise in the same passage he says, “Is it not so that the bread which we break is the distribution or participation of the body of Christ? And the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the participation of the blood of Christ?” These words should be in full use and well-known in Christendom, since so much depends upon them.

When we eat the bread, he says, we all have one food. You have that which I have, and it makes no difference that you are man or woman. In that which we all have in common in the Sacrament, we all receive what Christ has and is. When I believe that His body and blood are mine, I have the Lord Christ whole and complete. Thus He makes my heart joyous and confident since I leave nothing to my own piety, but depend upon the innocent blood and the pure body that I receive there.  Now what does Christ have and what does He bring about?  His body and blood are without sin, full of grace—yes, the corporal dwelling of the divine majesty. In short, everything God has is Christ’s. The benefits here become altogether mine, and because of this I have a sign and seal, or assurance, that such great and unspeakable benefits are mine when I receive the flesh and blood of Christ. Therefore in the Sacrament no sin is removed because

of my work, as the poor, stupid people have been deluded. Sin is removed there because I truly believe that the body and blood are given for me. Therefore I am certain and sure that Christ graciously gives me all good things that He has, and all His strength and power. Thus He gives His wisdom, truth and godliness, and takes away all my sins. His eternal life gobbles up death for me. Through His strength and power I defeat the devil. In the sacrament then a Christian man becomes an heir of eternal life and of all good things and an heir over all things, for which he can do nothing himself.  Such great benefits you cannot obtain by means of any work, though you conducted a thousand masses every day. Christ is such a high person, who gives Himself for you, that it is impossible that sin, death, hell and devil can remain for Him. Much less could you suppress the high majesty. Where His flesh and blood are, there He will certainly have one eye open, and not let that flesh and blood be trampled underfoot. Therefore since you have His flesh and blood, thus you have all the power which God Himself has. That is, we become one cake with the Lord Christ; we walk in the fellowship of His benefits and He in the fellowship of our misfortune. For here are thrown together His godliness and my sin,

 

weakness and His strength, and thus all is held in common. What is mine becomes His. What is His, I also have. This is a high unspeakable grace, over which the heart must become joyous and courageous.

Now if you are one cake with Christ, what more do you want?

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Taking the worry out of the religious life.

dont think about time

Living by faith changes our relationship to the fury of penalties and the slavery of perfection.  It changes the way we think about time and success.  It is empowering and at the same time humbling.

“In classic Lutheran teaching, the salvation of the believer “by faith alone” does not curtail the need for constant charitable good works, as ill-informed critics allege. Faith, rather, empowers the believer to act in the world by taking the worry out of his present and future religious life.”  So says Steve Ozment in his article from the New York Times Opinion page on the nature of Germanys austerity program.  He has succinctly tied up a conundrum about living by faith.  We don’t live in optimism or pessimism.  We know that we are not really in control of outcomes.  On the one hand “whatever is at hand” we do to the best of our ability even acting as if God did not exist (we’ll explain that at another time), and at the same time recognizing that God controls all things.

Someone once said that if you “get” Psalm 127 verses 1-2  “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  2In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he provides food to those he loves while they sleep”.”  That passage is so counter intuitive that some have translated the last few words as “he grants sleep tothose he loves.”   A famous theologian has said, that if you understand this Psalm you understand what it means to live by faith.

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“Human life cannot thrive in deadbeat towns and profligate lands.”

Key to common chest 2

This is a copy of the Key to the Common Chest of Wittenberg Germany.  Luther established the concept of a community chest as a answer to the sporadic and un – Christian nature of almsgiving after the turmoil of the Reformation.

 

There are days when all kinds of diverse information forms itself into one rather overarching thought.  The title is the thought and it was brought about by these varied thoughts and questions –

Where does “mercy” enter into a welfare State?

I just heard a commentary on the radio that asked “what kind of nation have we become where people in Detroit abandon dogs on rooftops and walk away from a house after destroying all the belongings that were still there?”

I entered a conversation with someone that said they thought acts of mercy led to a welfare mentality that could bring about more Detroits.

There was a huge outcry over the fact the NSA was tapping the cell phone of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany and one of the commentators had mentioned that her Dad had been a Lutheran Minister.  Another commentator called her something like the “Iron Maiden” which was what they called Maggie Thatcher because she was a monetary and social conservative.  The idea was that Angela Merkel’s conservative government and success with many things was an attack on the left flank of our Presidents policies.  I don’t think the President has listened to her conversations.

Finally I remembered that I actually carried around the real key to the real Common Chest established by Luther in Wittenberg Germany around Germany for about a day before someone explained to me that it was not a copy but the real original key that Luther himself probably touched and used.  That thought  gets my heartbeat going but that is a story for another day because I found this article that was written in the opinion section of the New York Times.

German Austerity’s Lutheran Core

By  STEVEN OZMENT

Published: August 11, 2012 in the New York Times Sunday Review

………. we should read much deeper into Germany’s incomparably rich history, and in particular the indelible mark left by Martin Luther and the “mighty fortress” he built with his strain of Protestantism. Even today Germany, though religiously diverse and politically secular, defines itself and its mission through the writings and actions of the 16th century reformer, who left a succinct definition of Lutheran society in his treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he summarized in two sentences: “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none, and a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all.”

Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.”

How little has changed in 500 years. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a born-and-baptized daughter of an East German Lutheran pastor, clearly believes the age-old moral virtues and remedies are the best medicine for the euro crisis. She has no desire to press a secular ideology, let alone an institutional religious faith, on her country, but her politics draws unmistakably from an austere and self-sacrificing, yet charitable and fair, Protestantism.

If Ms. Merkel refuses to support so-called euro bonds, it is not because it would be like giving free money to the undeserving poor but because it would not help the redeemed poor take responsibility for their own houses and grow strong for both themselves and their needy neighbors. He who receives, recovers and profits from society in a time of need has a moral responsibility to pay society back by acting in turn as a strong citizen who can help fill the common chests and sacrifice for his now needy neighbors, who had once helped him. Such is the sacrificial Lutheran society.

For this point of view Ms. Merkel has been derided as the “austerity queen,” and worse. But she is undeterred. She admits that austerity is the toughest road home but hastens to add that it is also the surest and quickest way to recover the economy and gain full emancipation from the crisis. Luther would agree.

According to polls, so do Ms. Merkel’s fellow Germans. They hold tight to their belief, born of staunch Lutheran teachings, that human life cannot thrive in deadbeat towns and profligate lands. They know that money is a scarce commodity that has to be systematically processed, recorded and safeguarded before being put out to new borrowers and petitioners.

And they take comfort in the fact that, unlike what they consider the disenchanted, spendthrift countries of Greece and Italy, those living in model German lands have obeyed the chancellor’s austerity laws and other survival programs designed for a fair, shared recovery.

But if their Lutheran heritage of sacrificing for their neighbors makes Germans choose austerity, it also leads them to social engagement. In classic Lutheran teaching, the salvation of the believer “by faith alone” does not curtail the need for constant charitable good works, as ill-informed critics allege. Faith, rather, empowers the believer to act in the world by taking the worry out of his present and future religious life.

It is true that Lutheranism, as a faith, has declined in Germany in recent decades, as the forces of multiculturalism and secularism have washed over the country. And yet witness the warmth with which Germans of all backgrounds embraced their new president, Joachim Gauck, a former Lutheran pastor.

And it is true that Lutheranism is hardly the only social force alive in Germany today. Yet it is of a piece with the country’s two millenniums of history, filled as it is with redemptive self-sacrifice and bootstrapping. In the fourth century A.D., German warriors controlled virtually every senior military post in the Roman army. Later, Germans turned the wilds of northern Central Europe into a bountiful breadbasket — and, most recently, an industrial machine.

What’s more, Lutheranism survived both right-wing Nazism and left-wing Communism, both of which tried to replace its values with their own. If anything, its resilience comes to the fore when challenged by change.

With the steady advance of Islam into Europe over the last two decades and in the face of unrelenting economic pressure from their neighbors, it is no surprise that Germans of all backgrounds have now again quietly found “a mighty fortress” for themselves in their own Judeo-Christian heritage.

Steven Ozment is a professor of history at Harvard and the author of “The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation.

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