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Archive for July, 2017

The Wedding Feast

I remember the long walk up a hill to a church in the mountains and attending a wedding in Africa.  This was the spot where the reception would be held.  The silhouette of this women intrigues me every time I see it.  She is waiting to wait.  She is preparing to prepare and serve.  She is there to do whatever the Bride and the Groom need to have done.  Is she happy, jealous, nervous?  Can’t tell.  All we know is that she is there at service.

Jesus came to serve and wait on us.  He gave himself for us that we can serve as well.  Our friends in Africa are working and serving one another out of love for Christ.  We as their partners continue to work with them and pray for them as they do for us.

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The Thankful Heart

Luther says –

The Gospel is nothing but pure mercy. For he forgives you the debt, not because of your works and merit, but because he pities your cries, complaints and humiliation. This means that God has regard for an humble heart, as the Prophet David says in Psalm 51, 19: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.” Such a heart, he says, is broken and cast down and cannot help itself, and is glad when God gives it a helping hand; this is the best Sacrifice before God, and the true way to heaven.

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J.S. Bach Commemoration

Over the cliff from the Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the Scriptures into German is the town of Eisenach.  There you can find the Bach house and hear glorious music that he created.  I was in Germany for a Bach festival and was amazed to see the crowds who came to celebrate his music and his life.  Young people from China and Japan were especially involved and it was clear that Bach’s music is timeless and still moves people.

He is considered a Lutheran Theologian.  Another theologian, David Scaer is obviously a fan.  He wrote, “With the Reformation attention to hymn singing, towns and princes soon supported their own organists, music directors known as Kantors, and choirs for their churches, courts, and special occasions like marriages and funerals. From the mid-1500s up through much of the 1700s rivulets flowed from small towns and courts
into brooks, and brooks merged into streams and rivers, and the rivers flowed into an ocean, which ocean was a Bach, the German word for “brook.” Johann Sebastian Bach, however, was an ocean in whose music we are drowned in God’s own majesty”. David Scaer, “Johann Sebastian Bach as Lutheran Theologian”, CTQ July/October 2004.

Bach died on this day in 1750.

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Inclusive and Exclusive Gospel.



(We have to continue to witness to) the fact that God’s grace is as wide and as inclusive as man’s need, that the kingdom of heaven is given to the poor, to the beggars who bring nothing but their need to God, the fact that the Christ of God has come to call sinners and not the righteous to repentance, that the Son of God is revealed by the Father to the simple and not to the wise, that the grace of God comes to man in spontaneous, universal fullness; and, as the obverse of this, there is the brusque exclusiveness of the Gospel over against all earthly-human claims, conditions, and magnitudes, the fact that the grace of God which will refuse no petition will annihilate every demand of man; the fact that those who will not justify God and bow before Him when He calls their sin sin and offers them salvation on terms of forgiveness purely are setting aside the counsel of God for themselves.

Martin Franzmann

 

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The Politically Correct Luther

Luther, Lectures on Galatians ( 1535 ), 295 –96 : “Whoever falls from the doctrine of justification is ignorant of God and is an idolater. Therefore it is all the same whether he then returns to the Law or to the worship of idols; it is all the same whether he is called a monk or a Turk or a Jew or an Anabaptist.”

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Perfecting His Praise

Luther was asked why he took up the job of writing a commentary on Genesis.

“I undertook the work in order that I might be found at death among that “little flock” and of those “babes,” out of whose mouth “God perfects praise” or establishes strength, by which he destroys the enemy and the avenger, Ps. 8:2. For the world always has enough monsters and devils, who blaspheme, corrupt and pervert the Word of God, so that God be not adorned with his glory, but Satan instead is adored.”

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

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The Word is Like a River.

In the introduction to his commentary of Genesis Luther quotes from an early church father St. Gregory who wrote a commentary on Job, and Luther in his inimitable style gives us this gem.

“According to Gregory, Scripture is a river, in which a lamb wades and an elephant floats. It is God’s wisdom, which makes the wise men of this world fools; and it is the prince of this world who makes children eloquent and eloquent people like children. Not he is the best, who understands everything or even who has no shortcomings, but he who loves the most, like Psalm 1:2 says: “Happy is the man, who loves and meditates on the Law of the Lord.” It would be more than sufficient, if this wisdom would please us, if this meditated wisdom would be loved and held day and night.”

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Missionary in Our Midst

We have a LCMS Missionary in Grand Forks this Summer attending the Summer Institute of Linguistcs, the Rev. Doug Thompson. Doug was a parish pastor in ND for two years and then was called to ministry in Montana where he spent another 16 years. For the last two years he has served overseas in Ghana and now in Sierra Leone. His task is to train the local pastors and for simplicity sake help them establish a seminary based training program by training their pastors in advanced theology more than the limited Bible education they currently have. His wife Angela serves as a librarian to keep the theological bboks coming in and organized for use.  Click the link below to see their prayer card.

Thompson_Sierra Leone June 2017prayercard

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On the Writing of Books

I thought about writing a book about writing sermons.  It takes a certain amount of hubris to think that you can write a book to begin with, and then there is a certain amount of vanity that thinks anyone would read it.  Then there has to be a certain amount of self promotion to get the thing up and running and I have come to the conclusion that it is probably too much work. The idea of preaching itself is daunting and when I read essays about the task it gets down right scary.  In an essay called “Categorical Preaching”, Steven Paulson says, “preachers are not just playing to a tough audience, they are speaking to people who literally cannot hear them”.

There is enough in that statement to write a book about I suppose, but the same people who literally can’t hear a preacher are just as likely not to read a book about preaching.  Then there is the words of our Lord thanking the Father in heaven that He has “hidden these things from the wise and understanding and has revealed them to little children”.  What are these things that are hidden?  Luther says it is Christ himself and God the Father, and that knowledge cannot be attained, it has to be revealed.  Paul says it is revealed by preaching, “faith comes by hearing” and all.  And now we are back to the beginning.  How can they hear without a preacher?  When the preacher comes they cannot hear anyway?  It gets pretty confusing.  That is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

Speaking of Luther, he watched the multiplication of books by preachers and wasn’t really thrilled.

“Were I to speak of what goes on in pulpits, however, then things would really become boundless. The monks daily preached their new visions, dreams, and notions, new miracles and examples, and that without moderation. There was scarcely a monk who, when he had been a preacher for two or three years, did not publish a new sermon book which was to rule the pulpit for a time. Though the world was full of such books there was still nothing in them about Christ and faith, but all about our works, merits, and devotion with many false and scandalous illustrations”.
LW 34:26 Exhortation to clergy assembled at Augsburg

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Indicatives and Imperatives

What God commands us to do (the imperative) is based upon what he has done, is doing or will do (the indicatives).  Example –

Philippians 2:12b-13

. . .work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

“To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as he  wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade,  is godless.” Graeme Goldsworthy, “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”, Grand Rapids; Eerdmans 2000

 

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