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Archive for the ‘Bernie’s Posts’ Category

Luther and the Pope Again ……..

There is a certain amount of hand wringing among those who care about such things that the Pope seems to want to rewrite the Lord’s Prayer.  Evidently he doesn’t like that bit about “lead us not into temptation”.  Being the “papa” that he is there is a certain amount of concern for “his children” worrying that God might lead them astray.  He is also trying to defend Jesus at the hint that God is a tempter like the devil.  Once again, 500 years too late.  Luther was way ahead of him.

Luther’s Explanation to the 6th Petition.

The Sixth Petition

And lead us not into temptation.

What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

So Pope, rest easy.  Let the handwringing cease.  Everybody take a deep breath and get a catechism of Luther.  Concordia Publishing House sells them.

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The Herald and the Hearers – Looking at Pathology



Sunday is the 2nd Sunday in Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  A memo to preachers.

Suidas, the tenth-century AD Greek lexicographer, said, ‘A herald is in time of war what an ambassador is in peace.’ The herald would go into ‘enemy territory ahead of an advancing army to warn the enemy of certain destruction unless they accepted the proffered terms for peace.’ Therefore, the king would invest the herald with power ‘either [to] accept surrender on behalf of his king or to declare war if those terms were rejected.’ The herald’s authority is completely derived and is legitimate only to the degree that he faithfully represents the one who sent him.

Martin Luther –

At the end of his lectures in 1531, Luther uttered a brief prayer and then dictated two Scriptural texts.  The prayer; “The Lord who has given us power to teach and to hear, let Him also give us the  power to serve and to do.”

LUKE 2 – Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, Good will to men.

ISAIAH 40 – The Word of our God shall stand forever.

Luther’s belief in the Biblical assertion that the word of God would stand forever does not mean that he believed that people would always believe it.  He listed all the places in the world where the Gospel had sped on and conquered and people believed and how after about a generation it all faded away and the people became pagan.  I have been reading and hearing more and more there is talk of a “churchless Christianity and a Christless Church.”  How is that possible if the Word of the Lord stands forever?  If most Christians have forsaken the public worship of the church at least in America, and the people who do go to church are going to hear a therapeutic “Jesus is your life coach” sermon are we not by Suidas definition both ambassadors and heralds?  How does our understanding of the distinction between the Law and the Gospel engaged here?

Luther’s list of these particular verses is important because the Prophet Isaiah gives us the wonderful prediction of the Messiah’s special precursor  (40: 3-8). He gives us the theme that we dare not speak until spoken to.  John the Baptizer preached what he was prepared and given to preach before he was born.  The modern day preacher is in the same boat.  We dare not preach unless we are called and we dare not preach what we want to but what God compels us to.


John the Baptist will forcefully proclaim and herald what Isaiah does poetically.  The self satisfied can remain self satisfied only when they force from their minds that they are “Grass”.  The grass withers and the flowers fade and the Baptist will declare that it gets burned up.  Self satisfaction in the face of annihilation is pathological.  We are confronted in these texts by the sickness persistent and rampant in life.  Isaiah changes our usual formula by pronouncing “comfort” and forgiveness before telling us that we are grass that will fade.



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Salvation and the Wide Open Spaces

This is a picture that was taken in Leadville Co.  I lived there for many years and graduated from High School there.  I was born in North Dakota and was always impressed to come back to the prairies and the wide open spaces.  We brought my grandfather back to Leadville several times and to get there we traveled through mountain passes and valleys where mountains rose up on both sides of the road to where you felt like you were in an alleyway in a big city.  My grandfather always said that he was uncomfortable and felt walled in.  He was happy to visit but happier to leave.  He liked being in the spacious places on the prairie.

We mentioned in the last blog that salvation means, in one sense having space to move around in.  When Lutherans’ talk salvation we mean being saved from sin and death and the power of the devil all of which hem us in.  Luther comments on David’ words in Psalm 118  and he said “just as distress is a narrow place, which casts us down and cramps us, so Gods help is our large place which makes us free and happy” (Luthers Works” 14:59).  Oswald Bayer says that the German word is better translated as a spacious place.   So just as our distress or anxiety,our frustration,our fear is a narrow place that  casts us down and cramps us Gods help is a spacious place. Remember how Luther after years of trying to figure out what Paul was talking about when he finally understood what justification by faith meant,said it was as if he had entered paradise itself. Matthew Harrison in  his book “Christ Have Mercy” talks about how baptism saves us because Christ sticks himself into the waters of baptism. Then he describes the voice of God confirming Jesus as his Son, and the coming of the Holy Spirit showing Heaven was open. Harrison explains quoting Luther, that “heaven is nothing but open windows and doors”.   It’s a spacious place.  It is so spacious it has many mansions.  Modern translations say “rooms”.  We are so puny, we are so narrow, we can never quite grasp the spaciousness of God’s mercy and grace and His abundant love for us the fallen children of men. We can’t even accept the translation of Jesus words – “in my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” Those words come in the middle of that marvelous statement were Jesus declares himself to be the way and the truth and the life, a super abundance of God’s mercy and grace. Because He is the way we can walk in the spacious places even though we are confined in the valley of the shadow of death. Because He is the truth we are opened up in the spacious place of absolute recognition of who we are – we are completely free lords of all, and also constrained by God’s love to be servants of everyone. We are free to serve. Because Jesus is the life we are not confined to the narrow place of constantly worrying about the cords of death entangling us. We’re going to a spacious place and in this life we are spoken to in an eternal and immortal way. God speaks to us as His immortal children. He speaks to us as a fruit of His Spirits grooming and His Son’s harvesting. He speaks to us as those who have everlasting life right now.

[1] Oswald Bayer,  “Living by Faith”





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Living the Dream.

One of the things that I worry about in all the changes and chances that take place in the world is whether or not we are communicating the truth of the Gospel in ways that people actually understand.  I have a friend that answers my greeting of “how you doing?” with “living the dream”.  I can take that as a statement of contentment and freedom or I can take that as a sarcastic commentary of life with it toils and vicissitudes.  It all depends on tone and expression and a certain amount of sensitivity.  There is a real thing called a “tin ear”.

How do we know in the church whether someone knows, or can hear what we are saying when we talk about things like justification or redemption or sanctification etc.  Fewer people are even aware of what used to be a common language of faith.

I was just reminded about what an old professor of mine said about the word “salvation”.   He wrote, “When the last Israelite with his possessions got safely through the waters of the Red Sea, salvation had come to that people. This is, in
part, the significance of the term “salvation.” Fundamentally it refers to having room enough to move around in. It also contains the thought of healing, of living beyond the frustrations and irritations which trouble us. The Word of truth, the Gospel  is good news because it consists of the proclamation that such salvation is already a sure prospect since we have been sealed by the gift of God’s Spirit in Baptism.”  We are living the dream, God’s dream dreamt for us to life in His story; the story of salvation.



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Advent and Noah and Jesus Entry Into Jerusalem

Conditions are ripe today -“the earth is filled with violence” (Gen. 6: 11); “scoffers will come in the last day with scoffing, following their own passions” (2 Peter 3: 3-7); and we ourselves have need to have some-thing written to us about the
end time. (1 Thess. 5: 1 ) Be ready. A. Prepared -not with physical safe-guards, guards, burglar alarms; nor with delusions that if we do our best that we will make out all right. B. Prepared -with the preparation only God can provide: total trust in His message; total faith in His Son and way of salvation; total reliance on His grace -all that the Spirit Himself gives us. C. Prepared -to live the new life His coming brings. 1. Noah built his ark and “by this he condemned the world and be-came an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb. 11: 7) . The rain was a relief -after all the ridicule, the testing of his faith, to know for sure that the forbearing God was washing out the old to begin a new earth (1 Pet.3:20). And when “Noah went forth” he “built an altar to the Lord” (Gen. 8: 18-20) and lived the new life on the new world. 2. Many were ready to accept His entry into Jerusalem as the beginning of blessing for all-“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 21: 9) 3.  For “those who love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4: 8) the faith that Jesus “makes all things new” (Rev. 21: 5) makes each day new.

The above is an example of a sermon outline for the First Sunday in Advent from Theodore Delaney back in 1971

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Advent and Project 24 Memories

I spent Advent in Kenya 13 years ago I believe it was.  Amazing trip and I brought back some of these manger scenes.  I thought they were some of the neatest things I had ever seen.  They were made of corn silk and yarn and I loved them.  At one point I brought a whole lot back and sold them to support Project 24.  This showed up on Facebook and I wonder if any of the blog followers know where this is?

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Two Churches Will Exist Until the End of Time

Going back to Genesis and Luther’s Commentary has been a fun and fruitful thing to do.  Checking him out with an early morning cup of coffee is always a treat but seeing how he does what he said he did with the scriptures is fascinating.  He shook it like a tree until he got all the fruit that was ripe, then he went branch by branch and leaf by leaf until he had covered everything that it had to offer.  In the story of Cain and Able Luther sees the beginning of two churches

“Moreover, here the church begins to be divided into two churches: the one which is the church in name but in reality is nothing but a hypocritical and bloodthirsty church; and the other one, which is without influence, forsaken, and exposed to suffering and the cross, and which before the world and in the sight of that hypocritical church is truly Abel, that is, vanity and nothing. For Christ also calls Abel righteous and makes him the beginning of the church of the godly, which will continue until the end (Matt. 23:35). Similarly, Cain is the beginning of the church of the wicked and of the bloodthirsty until the end of the world. “



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Due Process.


Accused and automatically presumed guilty.  Accused and automatically presumed innocent.  There is a lot of talk about due process today and the right we have as citizens to considered innocent until proven guilty.  Here is an interesting perspective.

“The first sinners in the Bible – Adam, Eve and Cain – were given divine due process: they were confronted with the evidence, asked to defend themselves, given a chance to repent, spared the ultimate sanction of death and then assured of a second trial on the Day of Judgment, with appointed divine counsel. The only time that God deliberately withheld divine due process, Luther reminds us, was in the capital trial of His Son – and that was the only time it was and has been necessary. The political implications of this are very simple: if God gives due process in judging us, we should give due process in judging others. If God’s tribunals feature at least basic rules of procedure, evidence, representation and advocacy, human tribunals should feature at least the same.”

God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition By John Witte







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Will Disney Finally Do the Right Thing?

We have learned from the media and from Senator Elizabeth Warren that the use of the name Pocahontas is a “racial slur”.  She said so in an interview and the dutiful press repeated it verbatim about 100 times and evidently some Native American “leaders” said the same  So will Disney finally do the right things and take the movie “Pocahontas” off the shelves and try to buy back all the copies that have been released and sold?  We are told not to read “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Gone With the Wind” and other classics because of racial sensitivity, why would we allow a movie whose very title is a racial slur to see the light of day?  Will Disney finally do the right thing and remove this travesty?  We are all learning so much about race and sexual harassment in the last few week.  As Senator Al Franken, has said the charges of sexual harassment are “teachable moments” and he wants to learn as much as he can.  We can only hope that Disney learns the lesson and does the right thing.  We can hope but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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Right after Thanksgiving I watch as the Christmas decorations and the ladders come out and the outside lighting laboriously created usually in the snow and ice.  The church decorations come out and the work of decorating for Advent and Christmas goes on.

There is a small town not far away from me where a gentlemen turned an old building into a Christmas store. It was a fascinating concept. Year-round he would sell Christmas decorations and other things, but it appeared to me that he made his living by making Christmas trees on demand. He would make them at your request and with some of your ideas in mind, or he would make Christmas trees and people would come in and buy them. He would come to your house and set them up and some of them were on revolving stands so that you stand and look at the Christmas tree and every few seconds you had a different view of the different decorations and ornamentation put on them. Some were multicolored; some one color with varied decorations. Some were  more traditional and some were quite outlandish. He advertised them as being richly ornamented and ornately decorated, and they were.

There is a word that occurs only once in the New Testament. It occurs in Ephesians were Paul was talking about the plan of God and he calls it manifold, the manifold plan of God.  In our English translations one word is trying to describe an entire concept of what Paul was trying to express the plan of God being. This is Ephesians 3:10 – 10His purpose was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to the eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.…

The adjective form of this word that Paul uses is in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which describes the coat that Joseph’s father gave him that made his brothers so angry. We have a lot of descriptions of it. The coat of many colors, Josephs amazing Technicolor dream coat as some have called it. Some commentators describe it is simply an ornately woven long coat that made Joseph look like a king compared to the laboring outfits that his brothers wore. Whatever it looked like another translation of the coat of many colors would be richly ornamented and ornately decorated.

The Gospel, justification, the plan of God is richly ornamented and ornately decorated.  This is hard to say without being judged wrongly but it seems to me that we have reduced it to the forgiveness of sins.  It is the central doctrine of the Christian faith that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and it is immensely, eternally important and yet what difference does it make in a world that has done away with sin?  How can we get back to asking questions that have Christ as the answer?  We need to reengage the richly ornamented and ornately decorated plan of God, in a world that wants quick fixes and everything done lightening fast.  Paul says the plan was hidden for ages.  Now it revealed in the church and through the church and the plan basically is the church.

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