Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Treasury, Part 2

For more information about my blog post questions of yesterday, Pastor Weedon has written a response. [Actually, it's probably not a "response" - he's probably simply addressing the same questions.] Go check it out here.

My comment: Pastor Weedon gives good answers, though I am always a bit leery when too much of a distinction is made between the "early" Luther and the "late" Luther. I realize there is some validity to this, but I wonder if we do not sometimes make too much of this. I'm not saying Pastor Weedon does this here or not - only that that's not the first place my mind goes on these things. Secondly, as for "hell" - I had hoped to check out what Luther wrote in the German today when I got to school. That may or may not help, for even if he used the German word for hell, the meaning may be as Pastor Weedon spells out here. I have heard of the Hades belief, and of those in evangelical circles who buy into it today . . .

So now a question: why put a reading which seems to be ripe for misunderstanding and confusion into a devotional book that is meant to be used by our laity? Is that a wise decision?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Treasury of Daily Prayer

An interesting writing from Martin Luther was served up in the Treasury of Daily Prayer today. In speaking of the promise of God to send one to bruise the serpent's head (Gen 3:15), Luther writes: "Adam, together with his descendants, was carried as it were in God's bosom, and by faith in it he was preserved, waiting patiently for the woman who should bruise the serpent's head, as God had promised. And in that faith and expectation he died, not knowing when or who she would be, yet never doubting that she would come." It was jarring reading that - she, instead of he - and I'm sure confused some folks. I remember the first time I read that (last year) - I thought it was a misprint! But I looked it up in the American Edition of Luther's Works, and sure enough, that's what it says.

My guess here is that Luther writes of Adam waiting for the promised woman who would bear the promised Seed. I don't believe he thinks of Mary as the bruiser (such a theology I think comes into Romanism much later), but desires to keep a churchly focus on Mary, instead of leap-frogging her right to Christ. Interestingly, in his Genesis commentary, Luther writes of Adam and Eve believing already that Cain is the promised one ("I have gotten a man: the Lord!). Maybe Adam's waiting would have come after the disappointment of Cain.

But there is also a second interesting line: "For such a promise, being the truth of God, preserves even in hell those who believe it and wait for it." Was ist dass? The only way I can make this fit is if the hell Luther speaks of here is metaphorical - those who are enduring hell on earth in persecutions, suffering, and struggling. But to speak in this way seems quite un-Luther-like. He more often speaks of these things as crosses one must bear in this world and life - not as hell in any way.

So it was a strange day in the Treasury. Also, the Prayer of the Day was a bit odd as well . . .

Any of you who are reading this post - any ideas of these topics?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Law or Gospel?

In the Epistle for this Sunday from Romans 10, we will hear: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

Is this verse Law or Gospel?

In so many conversations I have had with folks not from my church, this verse is presented as Law - this is what you must do to be saved. I even talked with a man one time who went to a laundromat and told everyone in the place about Jesus so that he could be saved! Yet even after that, he wasn't sure. He contacted me because he wanted me to assure him that he did what he had to do to be saved.

That's what the Law does - it always accuses us and will never give the heart peace. If this is what we have to do to be saved, then we will never know if we have enough faith, if we confess enough, or good enough, or often enough. How can I know?

But you know what? This verse isn't Law, it's Gospel! St. Paul isn't giving us a new Law here, something else for us to do, but teaching us that Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us and that we are saved by Him and His work for us - saved by grace through faith. In fact, just before these verses, St. Paul said that very thing: "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

So how can that man who ran around the laundromat be sure? How can I know? Only when we take our eyes off ourselves and what we do and place them on the cross. For while the Law brings only uncertainty and despair, the Gospel of Christ brings joy and peace. For if Jesus has done it, then I can be sure. His Word is true, His work complete.

O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:2;
Liturgical Gradual for Lent)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Latin Befuddlement

Translating these crusty old medieval Latin prayers is going to drive me to the looney bin!

Monday, February 8, 2010


National Weather Service is predicting more snow for us tomorrow into Wednesday. Another 10-15 inches is the forecast. Ugh.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Rant

Yes, its time for another rant!

Why, O why, do people decide to shovel their snow into the street? Oh, I know - because its easier. But you know what? When the plow doesn't come, then it simply blocks the street for everyone. My cars both have low ground clearance, and so it would be difficult for me to get out anyway, but with these mounds dotting my street, I'll simply get stuck. Argh!

On a lighter note . . . saw this "cancellation" notice on the TV last night, from a local church (name not given to protect the guilty): "Classes cancelled, all services cancelled, Super Bowl Party pending." (!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow So Far

This is what we woke up to this morning. About half this tree is now in our yard. Snow is extremely wet and heavy. In my backyard we have 16 or so inches, with another 5-10 being forecast still to come today. This won't be like the big December snow which was all light and fluffy - this is going to be hard work to shovel and clear. Hard work.

Update (10:00 am) - Kids wanted to go out and sled but couldn't get the front door open; the snow is too high and heavy. Also couldn't get the back gate open. So had to send them out the living room window! And yes, its still coming down . . .

Update (1:00 pm) - Still snowing . . . my kids and I just went out and took some video. More of our tree has come down. About 2 feet pretty consistently all around our house. The main road looks pretty bad.

Update (7:00 pm) - Last update for the night . . . The snow stopped sometime between 3-4 pm. We probably got an additional inch or so, so let's call it 25 inches here. Went out and cleared off the cars and shoveled a bit. Still lots more to go, but it will wait until tomorrow. Hopefully the plow will come and clear the road tonight. Otherwise, not going anywhere tomorrow. Got plans anyway - some sledding and snowman building with the kids! :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More Snow. Lots More Snow!

Yes, more snow is on the way for DC. Lots of it! 16 to 22 inches are the lower end of their estimates as of lunchtime. Now, I like snow. I do. That we've had a lot this winter has made me happy. But even I am getting a bit shovel weary now. And the specter of canceling church again makes me unhappy. Some of my brothers will never cancel church; I respect them for that. Yet I recognize the reality of my situation also, of folks showing up and not being able to get in the driveway, which I am 99% sure will not be plowed. So, stay tuned. If necessary, we'll have Matins on the Internet again, and at least you will be able to hear the preaching of the Word.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How Do We Know God?

One of the classes I am taking this semester is Trinitarian Catechesis and the Baptismal Creed. The professor is using his own book in which he asserts that we should try to teach folks about God on the basis of the "economic trinity" rather than the "immanent trinity." Now, you're asking, what the heck do those things mean? The immanent trinity refers to God as He is in Himself; the Godhead; three persons in one God and one God in three persons. Which is a mystery for us to understand fully. The economic trinity is how God is outside of Himself, or how He deals with and interacts with man and creation. And so we know God as Creator, and as our Redeemer, for that is how He is working outside of Himself for us.

Therefore, I called my professor (at The *Catholic* University of America) very Lutheran! For this is how the Small Catechism teaches God, and Luther taught to begin with how God has revealed Himself to us through Christ and His cross, and not to try to see into the "hidden" God, or God as He is in heaven. And actually, my professor said: "I've been called that before!"

However, we continued our conversation, and I sort of cornered him. He began talking about a time he spoke to a Muslim man in a hotel, and how he believed that with a Muslim, you *need* to start with the immanent trinity. So I asked him: How come you are teaching us (and have written) to teach the economic trinity, and yet here you say start with the immanent? A bit inconsistent, yes? He thought a bit but stuck to his point: With a Muslim, have to start with the immanent.

No, I said. My good friend Pastor Josh Hollmann taught me that there is a way to begin economically. For Muslims believe that the Koran is the living word of God that came down from heaven. Well, we believe that yes, the living word of God came down from heaven, but not in a book, but in a man! In Jesus, the Word made flesh. How come, I asked him, we can't start there, economically, rather than immanently? He thought, but really gave no answer. I still think his book (and I, and Luther, and the Small Catechism) are right. Start with Jesus, God as He has come into this world and revealed His love and mercy for us on the cross. That is how and where we know God and how and where He wants to be known. For as Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

So I'll keep working on my professor. Maybe he'll come around . . . :-)


I was privileged to spend Monday night and most of yesterday with my brother pastors at a circuit conference in New Jersey. I was able because my usual class at CUA yesterday was canceled - the professor was traveling. With my new school schedule, I now have to miss most of my circuit conferences, so this was truly a treat. One of the presentations was particularly timely for me as well, and I am grateful for the Lord's hand at work to get me there for it.

This morning, the Treasury of Daily Prayer had a good writing about reverence for the Sacrament of the Altar. One line in particular struck me: "For where the Word is rightly seen, considered, and believed, the adoration of the Sacrament will happen of itself." I think this is done largely by the Pastor in His preaching, in how He conducts the service, in how He handles the Body and Blood of the Lord. As He does, so will His people do. So if I treat the Lord's Supper as something not very holy, the people will learn from that and regard it the same way. However, if I show reverence and care, the people will learn from that as well.

Finally, how blessed I am to have good and godly Elders in my congregation. I thank God for them, and for their wisdom, counsel, and friendship. They are truly gifts from my Heavenly Father.