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Lutheranism 101

This book is worth checking out: Lutheranism 101

Reflections on Luke 14:25-35

25Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25–35)

In the above Gospel, Jesus says some pretty startling things.  He speaks of hating members of your own family, hating yourself, bearing your cross, and renouncing all that you have.  If you do not do these things, Jesus says, you cannot be His disciple.

Wait a minute!  I thought God gave the commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, 4th Commandment).  He commands fathers and mothers to love their children (Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4), husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5; Colossians 3:19), and, in general, to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; etc.).  Our Lord also says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

And with reference to cross, isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easier than when one becomes Christian.  What does Jesus mean when He says that every disciple is to “bear his own cross”?

At first glance, Jesus’ word, “hate,” might seem to contradict what we find elsewhere in the Bible.  But in actuality, it doesn’t.  Jesus is not here speaking of emotion.  He’s speaking of distinguishing between earthly and heavenly things.  It is true—God does command us to love one another—unconditionally, unequivocally, and unselfishly (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13).  But our Lord differentiates between what is to be first from what is not.

A related passage is in Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37, italics mine).

It’s a matter of true worship and honor of God or idolatry.  “No one can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13).  In the same way, no one can have God first and parent, child, spouse, self or anyone or anything else.  It’s an either/or kind of thing.  And this is just our problem.  God is not first in our lives.  If He was, everywhere and all the time, we wouldn’t doubt, we wouldn’t complain, we would willingly suffer the things said against us and the things done to us because we do what God desires.  As it is, however, we are not as God desires.  We put ourselves first, our families, our finances, our friends, and our time (i.e. on Sundays when we ought to be in the Word).

What these words of our Lord show us is that none are able, of themselves, to be His disciples.  Our crosses we want to throw off.  Our burdens we don’t want to carry.  The Christian life, we think, should be easier, not harder.  The Christian shouldn’t suffer as he/she does.  In effect, we aren’t able to be Jesus’ disciple because of who we are by nature, because of what we do, because of our sin.

The truth is—none are the Lord’s disciple because of who he/she is.  We are sinners—not worthy of the Lord—not worthy to be called disciple.  But no disciple who is a disciple is a disciple of themselves, by themselves, for themselves, or in their own strength.

God calls the unworthy, the sinner, the unable—to be His people.  It is such that Jesus came to deliver and save.  The disciple of our Lord recognizes this—that his/her worthiness is not his/her own, but Christ’s.  Therefore does Jesus say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The disciple of our Lord recognizes his need, and looks to Jesus for help and aid, forgiveness and salvation.  Thus will he/she also struggle and fight within, that Christ and His Word be first, and not something other.  So also does the disciple of the Lord seek to forsake all, for Christ is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  Christ is his everything, and where Christ is not, the disciple repents and seeks to do better.  And by God’s grace, he does, God giving strength to do so through His means of Word and Sacrament.  These, too, the disciple of our Lord seeks and desires, for they are His life, for there, God forgives sins and gives life and strength, and keeps His people in the faith.  Those who deny and refuse such gifts and blessings of our Lord show that they are not of the Lord and do not love God above all things, for they do not believe themselves to be in need of such help.  By doing so, they show that they are not disciples of the Lord, but disciples of another.

Reflections on the words ‘missionary,’ and ‘call’


In the rhetoric of today’s church, clarity is greatly lacking.  Confusion abounds, often due to sloppy language (of which I am also guilty).  Technical language is left to academics, while words in the non-academic world are thrown around left and right and can mean anything and everything under the sun.

Missionary

Take the word missionary, for example.  Today, without hesitation, men and women are called ‘missionaries,’ even with the LCMS.  Historically, the word missionary was reserved for the man only (like the pastor), for only the man was the called and ordained servant of the Word ‘called’ to preach and teach.  Missionary used to refer to one who proclaimed the Gospel to a foreign people, baptized, catechized, and even distributed the Lord’s Supper to those who were united in the same confession of faith.

Today, the word missionary has additional meanings.  It sometimes means the above, but more often than not, it refers to a person who serves (often in another country, but not necessarily so) the physical needs of the people and not primarily the Gospel proclamation.  Thus, missionary today has a broader definition, which is not a little confusing.

Churches now call husbands and wives missionaries, though according to Scripture, only men are to preach publicly (1 Timothy 2:12).  This is not in the least consistent with proper theology.

Certainly, needs exist for humanitarian aid.  But why call them ‘missionaries,’ esp. since that word implies public proclamation of the Word?  It wouldn’t hurt to refer to those who help others simply as Christians, or even servants.  It at least would keep the distinctions clearer.  Perhaps such terms might sound less ‘godly’ or pious to our human ego.  But they are according to Holy Scripture.

By the way, in the dictionary, missionary is someone who is sent on a mission.  One might ask, then, what kind of mission is the missionary sent on?  Maybe this would help clarify.  For some reason, we in the church seem to have guilt if somehow we only help others in their physical need, as if we shouldn’t take joy in this, or as if this is ‘not enough’.  Certainly, the Gospel is to be proclaimed.  But I find it interesting that few, it seem, rejoice in simply helping others, and in alone helping others.  Guilt seems to pervade among Christians if only physical help is given.  Maybe that’s why that word missionary is used today.  We don’t want to imply that we only help people in their physical needs and nothing more.  Would it be so wrong, however, simply to do so, and give thanks to the Lord for doing so, rejoicing even in it? (Luke 10:37).

Call

“Call” in the church historically meant a solemn call from God to serve in a particular service (i.e. A pastor is “called” to serve a congregation as pastor).  St. Paul also talks about “callings,” with the sense of vocation (i.e. parent, spouse, child, teacher, etc.; 1 Corinthians 7).

In the LCMS, call in the past has referred exclusively to pastors “called” to congregations.   This kind of call is non-durative.  It is a call with no established time limits (Today there is debate about this in  our circles, for missionaries, interim pastors, and others, though “called,” are given a certain time frame for their service, though this is contrary to a Scriptural understanding of “call” and our understanding of the word).  Stopping at this point, again, confusion ensues.

Now, add the word “call” for a Parochial school teacher, principal, or District executive for schools.  The word “call” here is often used in connection with a contract, based on the performance of the “called worker,” with an “evaluation” of that performance by an individual or group given such responsibility (by the congregation, school, or even district).  Such a process sounds a lot like “hiring” and not calling in the Scriptural sense—more in line with the secular world, but not the church.  Another question raised is the basis/content of such evaluation (the Word, character, activity, performance, results, etc.).

The word “call” here might be used to sound more ‘churchly,’ even as the word “missionary” has now taken on the meaning of “helper” apart from the public proclamation of the Gospel.  But what would be wrong in simply saying “hire,” even for a teacher or principal or district executive for schools?  Maybe the answer is…nothing.  At least in this way, we would be more honest and consistent in our vocabulary, calling a thing what it is and not further blurring distinctions.

What are some differences between Historical-Liturgical Worship and “Contemporary” Worship? Some thoughts from a former advocate of “Contemporary Worship.”

“The primary question in relation to any kind of worship style is to determine whether it is Christian and to what extent it is Christian…” With these words, Rev. Rippy directs the reader to evaluate “worship.” May the Lord use this to give direction and appreciation for His great gifts, and to direct us to Christ and His Word. This is what true worship is about and does. Soli Deo Gloria.

InDefenseOfHistoricalWorship.SeanRippy.pdf

Preachers and Preaching…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

What’s so important about Paul, or the disciples, or preachers who claim that they are “called and ordained servants of the Word?”  Why ought we to hear them and their words as they speak God’s Word to us?  Because they speak their own word?  Are we to listen to them simply because they say that we should, on account of their dynamism, their charisma, their “flare” in the pulpit, because they’re easy to listen to?

In Luke 10, our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus says these words to His disciples.  As they speak His Word, those who hear are hearing God’s Word and not the Word of man.  Not hearing this word, however, is not only rejecting the Word which Christ sent the preachers to preach, but is, in truth, rejecting Christ.

We, however, don’t like to hear these words of our Lord.  If it was the Lord’s Word that the pastor was speaking, and if the Lord had truly sent him, where is the charisma?  Where is the Spirit empowering the preacher to be such a preacher that all eyes are on him, all ears attentive to every word that he speaks, and every word flowing from his mouth seems ‘heaven sent.’

What we often find seems to be just the opposite!  The pastor lacks charisma.  He’s not a Tony Robbins or another motivational speaker.  The sermon might sound unstructured and sometimes seem to have little point.

In essence, the pastor and the words that he preaches appear so ordinary, so ‘ho-hum,’ that for those seeking something else, they become quite dissatisfied, cast stones at the preacher, and question whether God is really and truly present.

The test of a Godly sent preacher, however, is NOT his dynamism, charisma, delivery, or style of sermon.  Those who look for such things will largely not only be disappointed, but are judging things by their own standards and not according to God’s Word.

The test of a Godly preacher is one who preaches the Word—not just one who says that he (not she) does, but one who actually does, distinguishing and preaching Law and Gospel.  Evaluations of performance in the secular world are one thing.  But evaluating a preacher and His words are to be done differently than in the secular world—not according to what or how we want to hear, but according to what God has already revealed in His Word.  And where a preacher preaches faithfully according to the Word, there is where we ought to be when the Word of God (not man) is preached.  Those who keep themselves away are very close to despising “preaching and God’s Word” (Explanation to the Third Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism).

Luther

In these first two chapters (Paul) does almost nothing else but sent forth his calling, his ministry, and his Gospel.  He affirms that it was not from men; that he had not received it from men but from the revelation of Jesus Christ; and that if he or an angel from heaven were to bring any gospel other than that which he had preached, he should be accursed. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us faithful preachers who preach nothing but your Holy Word.  Grant us discernment that we might resist the temptation to despise our pastor and his word because of how he preaches, and rather, that we hear him as he rightly is—your messenger and servant who proclaims salvation through Christ Jesus alone.  Amen.

Feelings…Nothing but feelings…Hope in the other

The following is from: Memorial Moment, smurray@mlchouston.org

To sign up

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

Hope in the Other

Wednesday of Pentecost 16

15 September 2010

We are a people obsessed with our feelings. One of the standard greetings we use is: “How are you feeling?” This is a sign of the self-centeredness of humans after the fall. We spend a lot of time considering how we feel. Despite all our efforts to feel good, we always fail to reach the nirvana of feeling really good. In fact, some of our efforts to improve how we feel fall into painful pitfalls. Witness the number of people who have fallen into drug or alcohol addiction, sexual license, or vocationally unproductive lives. We’re told by the cultural elites: “If it feels good, do it.” The modern offense industry is indicative of this preoccupation with feelings. If anyone is in the least bit offended or made to feel bad by us, even by an unintentional and inadvertent word or action, we have committed the ultimate sin. If you make me feel bad for any reason, you are a satanic being.

Satan can use this feeling focus to get us set off the track of our true hope in Christ. It is easy to feel our sin. Our sin first and primarily is sin against God Himself and then also against our brother and community. When we do something that is an offense against God, we feel the crushing load of His wrath. That is a real thing. We truly ought to feel this way when we are faced with the holiness of God in comparison to our filthy sin. The work of Christ calls us beyond feeling, as real as it might seem. How freeing it is to know that we can be taken beyond our often roiled emotions. We feel our sin. We feel the wrath of God. We presume then that if we feel these trials in our hearts, we should also feel in our hearts the salvation that God has promised us in Christ. The problem with this view is that we are solving the feeling problem with another feeling. This is a solution that is simply a bigger problem.
We certainly have a growing hope in what is promised by God, but it is a hope in something entirely outside of us. The work of Christ, done in time, is that in which we have hope. Our righteousness is not dependent on a feeling, but dependent on something so much more certain and unchangeable: the person and work of Christ. We should not substitute one feeling for another, but substitute Christ who is not visible to us nor experienced outwardly by us for our faulty feelings. We need to have our pastor or Christian brother or sister take us aside and point us what is certain: the cross of Christ, what is greater than our hearts: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1Jn 3:20). The substance of what is hoped is far superior to the hope itself. Our hope is in a righteousness that cannot yet be called our condition. And so it is not the mirror image or analog of our sin. It is something entirely other, because it comes from the Other and it consists in the Other: Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Martin Luther

“As long as we live, sin still clings to our flesh; the law remains in our flesh and members battling with the law of our mind and making us captive to sinful compliance (Rm 7:23). While these passions of the flesh are raging and we, by the Spirit, are struggling against them, the location of hope remains elsewhere. We have indeed begun to be justified by faith, by which we have also received the first fruits of the Spirit; and the mortification of our flesh has begun. But we are not yet perfectly righteous. It remains for us yet to be perfectly justified and this is what we hope for. Thus our righteousness is not in our condition, but it is as yet in hope (Gal 5:5).
“This is the greatest and sweetest comfort by which to bring wonderful encouragement to minds afflicted and disturbed with a sense of sin and afraid of absolutely every flaming dart of the devil (Eph 6:16). For as we who teach know from our own experience, in such a struggle of conscience the sense of sin, of the wrath of God, of death, of hell, and of every terror holds powerful sway. One must say to the one who is suffering a trial: ‘Brother, you want to have a righteousness that you experience; that is, you want to feel your righteousness in the same way you feel your sin. This will not happen. But your righteousness must transcend your feeling of sin and you must hope that you are righteous in the presence of God. That is, your righteousness is not visible, and it is not experienced; but it is hoped for as something to be revealed in due time. Therefore you must not judge on the basis of your experience of sin, which terrifies and troubles you, but according the promise and doctrine of faith, by which Christ is promised to you, who is your perfect and eternal righteousness.’ Thus in the midst of fears and of the experience of sin my hope-that is, my feeling of hope-is aroused and strengthened by faith, so that it hopes that I am righteous. Consequently, hope that is, the thing hoped for-hopes that what it does not yet see will be made perfect and will be revealed in due time.”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.


Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, my hope is weak and imperfect. It is plagued by fear of my weakness and Your wrath. Through Your divine speech turn me out of myself to You alone, that when I look beyond my feelings I might see only You. Keep the substance of what I hope for Your righteousness. Grant the church pastors and teachers who will direct those struggling with their weakness to Your cross alone. Amen.

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that they might be signs of the divine righteousness in the world

Sermon Preached at Rev. Matthew Harrison’s Installation into the Office of LCMS President

Read it!!! May the Lord move us to repentance and remain faithful in the midst of today’s challenges and temptations.

ObareSermon.Sept11,2010.Harrison’sInstallation.pdf

Evolution and the Christian Faith

Believing the theory of evolution, as taught by most science books, really, is the denial of God’s inspired Word. Believing evolution is to say that God’s Word, the Bible, is not God’s Word, nor is it true.

ATP.AboutEvolution.pdf

The Use of Wine in the Lord’s Supper–Not Grapejuice

During Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper, Mt 26, Mk 14, and Lk 22, the Lord gave to His disciples unleavened bread and what is called ‘the cup’.

ATP.GrapejuiceOrWine.pdf

Use of the Crucifix

A common misunderstanding among some Lutherans is the opinion that a crucifix, or the use of a crucifix, is a “Roman Catholic” practice…

ATP.Crucifix.pdf

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