How do I know?


Making Decisions and the Freedom of the Gospel

You have heard it as well as I have. An answer is needed, a change is desired, a need has been “laid on your heart.” How do you determine whether it is the right thing to do, how do you determine if it is God’s will? Do you go to horoscopes? Do you wait for God to speak through random Bible verses? Do you pray that God would give you an answer, a sign?

how-do-i-knowThe quest to discern God’s will for an individual’s life is putting oneself back under the Law, and not living in the freedom of the Gospel. It is God’s will that we believe in Jesus Christ. It is God’s will to accomplish all that is necessary for this to occur. Trusting in Him who obeyed God’s Law perfectly in our place and paid for our waywardness on the cross is what your faith does. So, by grace through faith we are considered to be in obedience and therefore living in accordance to God’s will. That is how God sees the believer.

When one’s Christian freedom is applied to choosing a vocation, determining the level of giving to the church, or making some other decision (should I buy a house, marry this person, change jobs, etc.), the Christian has no worries since whatever decision he/she makes will be in accordance with God’s will (assuming the activity is in accordance with the Ten Commandments). In other words, in freedom, the Christian, making life-changing decisions or even day-to-day decisions, does not have to worry that they will be choosing a path which God has not chosen for them. They can evaluate and assess the options with their God-given abilities and step forward in faith.

huhThis is the beautiful Gospel answer to all WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”)-type questions. There is no “sign” or earthly “wisdom” which will be a sure-fire guarantee that the Christian is doing God’s will. As I tell my confirmands and speak in Bible class, “Go and be what you are, and when a door opens for you, consider the possibilities.”

Actually, such an attitude toward life is truly not only freeing, but often brings much more joy. Instead of worry, we are free to pursue things that bring pleasure as long as they are not contrary to God’s command. Instead of “having” to go to church, we “get” to go. Instead of “having” to submit to husband or “having” to love the wife with the kind of love only God has, we “get” to enjoy companionship, friendship, mutual support, and God willing, such extras as passionate sex and wonderful children–all under his blessing. Instead of “having” to get up and go to work we are allowed to serve God by maximizing our talents in a certain field or endeavor–and we get “paid” for doing it too!

Notice how our loving God has provided such excellent means of keeping his holy Commandments too: We “get” to keep the first table (Commandments 1-3) when we find the church unlocked and the saints gathered in the pews. We “get” to love our neighbor as our self in the context of Christian marriage and family and on the job. Our labor and work not only benefit us, but our employment is part of His plan to provide daily bread to others. When we busy ourselves in the “mundane,” we are busy in the work of the kingdom.

Originally posted on Blog My Soul (prkinnaman.blogspot.com) on October 24, 2004

Representatives of God’s Authority


 

The Source of All Authority

The Scriptures are the source of God’s authority, be it in the Church or in the civil realm. The authority God gives to the Church and government are signs of His love for us, providing for our spiritual and temporal well-being.

“The Church is the congregation of saints [Psalm 149:1] in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.” (AC VII 1)

The Church does not exercise secular, or civil, authority. She may not employ the power of the state to compel people to accept the teachings of the Gospel, to enforce Christian living, or to punish or imprison heretics. Lutherans teach that the state has the power of the sword, but the Church has the power of the Word. Christ gave His Word to His Church. The Word of the Gospel brings people to faith. Peter expresses this understanding when he speaks of the “ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Not by force or fines but by teaching and the work of the Holy Spirit the Church wins people for Christ and shepherds them to life under Christ in His kingdom.

Some teach that the Church’s authority comes from both the Scriptures and sacred tradition. Lutherans believe that the authority given by God is found in Scripture alone. A Roman Catholic, for example, asks the question, “What does the Church say?” A Lutheran asks, “What do the Scriptures say?” Therein lies a critical difference in understanding Church authority from a Lutheran point of view.

The Authority of the Church: The Office of the Keys

The Office of the Keys is the term used to designate the power given by Christ to the Church on earth. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending You. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:21–23). In the Book of Matthew, Jesus announces that He will give the disciples “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). This power was not exclusive to the apostles, but transmitted successively by the Church to those whom the Church ordains and places in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

“The Office of the Keys is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.” (SC Confession)

The Lutheran Confessions teach “It must be recognized that the Keys belong not to the person of one particular man, but to the Church. . . . This is why it is first the Church that has the right of calling” (Tr 24). The Church exercises the Office of the Keys through her ministers, who, in the stead of Christ, and on behalf of the congregation, assure that the Means of Grace are administered. Through these means the Holy Spirit imparts to people the blessings of Christ’s redemption. Christ obtained the forgiveness of sins and salvation for all people. Through the Means of Grace, the Holy Spirit imparts these blessings to the people. Through her ministers, the church administers these means.

“Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.” (AC XIV)

The Releasing Key

The releasing key is the power to remit sins (that is, to cancel the punishment of God against sin) and absolve the sinner (that is, declare the sinner free from the guilt of sin). This power is not separate from or above the Gospel of Christ, but is a specific application of the Gospel. The Lutheran Confessions hold that “the Power of the Keys administers and presents the Gospel through Absolution, which is the true voice of the Gospel” (Ap XIIA 39). In Christ, sinners are forgiven. In Absolution, the message of grace and forgiveness is applied to the individual in a more direct way.

The called ministers of Christ, who speak God’s Word in the Christian congregation, have the power and authority to remit sins.

The Binding Key

The binding key is the power to retain sins. To retain sins, or bind them to someone, does not mean that these sins were not atoned for by Jesus or that they are not forgiven before God. Instead, it is the announcement that the unrepentant sinner, by desiring to remain in sin, has rejected the gift of grace offered by Christ for all those who have faith in Him. Forgiveness is received in no other way than by faith (Romans 3:28). The impenitent, because they refuse to believe it, have excluded themselves from the general amnesty proclaimed by God, and hold themselves outside of God’s forgiveness.

Using the Power of the Keys

The Church does not use the power of the keys lightly. Instead, she strictly follows the instructions of Christ. The Church remits sins to penitent sinners and retains the sins of impenitent sinners as long as they do not repent. Whenever the Church on earth through her ministers deals with sinners in this way, her actions are certain and sure also in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

So, What about the Rest of Us?

While it is given to pastors to serve in their particular way, all of God’s people are given many opportunities to serve both God and others. There is a “flow” in every Christian’s life. The flow is to receive God’s gifts and then to serve God by serving others in daily vocations. The service of laypeople in the Church is referred to by Lutherans as “the priesthood of all believers.”

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Pastors serve as God’s representative in a congregation, but all believers have a role in serving God. Those who have received the gifts of God cannot help but thank and praise the Lord who gives them. As Christians live their daily lives fulfilling their vocations, they also have opportunity to tell about the gifts they have received from Jesus to those around them.

All Christians have the responsibility to grow in their faith and understanding of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ. All Christians have the privilege to serve as members of the “royal priesthood” by telling others about Jesus and pointing them to His gifts given in the Word and Sacraments in the Church.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

There is no “ranking” of service among Lutherans. Lutherans do not view the service of pastors as more important or holy than that of laypeople. Pastors are given certain things to do, and laypeople are given certain things to do. Together as the Church they work to the glory of God.

Authority Given to the Government

The Scriptures tell us that God has also given authority to the civil government. Instead of forgiving sin as the Church does, the government rules for the sake of order, safety, and peace in the world. God tells us to obey those who are in authority over us unless they command us to sin.

Civil power and authority to rule and govern originates with God. The apostle Paul writes: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). It is the will of God that there should be government because anarchy is contrary to His will. This power of government is not invested in any particular person, family, or class but in God’s Word. With this understanding, you can understand that the vocation of governing is divinely instituted and through it, God works in the world.

Purpose of Government

Since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, humanity’s relationship with God has been disrupted. By means of civil government God works to provide for security and peace. Governments, therefore, are to protect the lives, the property, the honor, and the reputation of the people. Those in civil authority are to preserve order, discipline, and safeguard the people as they pursue their occupations and enjoy their liberties. Government wields the sword of God’s justice as “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4).

The government may also engage in other activities that will promote and secure the general welfare of the people. This would include the education of its citizens, conservation and promotion of natural resources, the improvement of adverse conditions and suffering, combating those who threaten the peace, both within and from outside its borders, and improving living conditions in general.

Right of Government

To fulfill its purpose, the government has the right to enact suitable laws (1 Peter 2:13), to enforce these laws, to judge people in accordance with these laws (John 18:31), and to impose penalties on those who break these laws. To support these activities and other purposes, the government has the right to levy taxes (Matthew 22:17–21; Romans 13:7). The government has the right to wage war for the protection of its citizens.

Some churches teach that Christians should not be involved in politics or government. But not Lutherans! Our Confessions encourage us to be as involved as possible so that our Christian lives can witness to and shape society. The Lutheran Confessions hold that Christians who serve as government authorities may “impose just punishments . . . engage in just wars, [and] serve as soldiers” (AC XVI 2). Also, it is not sinful for Christians to take an oath when required to do so by the magistrates.

“Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God. They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage.” (AC XVI 1–2)

The Basic Principle of Government

God appoints the governing authority, but this does not mean that the authority must govern according to the Scriptures or make the Bible the fundamental law book of the land. The Roman emperor Nero certainly did not rule according to the precepts of the Bible. However, the authority he represented was appointed by God. The Bible is the sole authority in the Church or the kingdom of grace. It is not the sole authority in those institutions that, like civil government, belong to the kingdom of power.

The basic principle in civil government is human reason, which turns natural knowledge of God into the organization and laws that promise and promote the achievement of the purpose of government. It is by the structures and laws that government rules, and government enforces these laws by the power of the sword.

It should be noted. This article was written for, and subsequently included in Lutheranism 101 © 2010 Concordia Publishing House.

You Are Dying


Note: That which follows is a presentation made by me to a teacher’s symposium, held June 19, 2002 at Peterschule (the St. Peter School), St. Petersburg, Russia. The purpose of the presentation was to introduce to the group the book by Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live, a volume that had just been translated into Russian by Lutheran Heritage Foundation.]

… In Adam all Sin: An Introduction to
Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness

by The Rev. Dr. Harold L. Senkbeil

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:10-15) –From the book

I. YOU ARE DYING.

One day you will be dead. Hopefully not today, hopefully not even tomorrow, but with certainty I can say “you are dying and one day you will be dead.”

“The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23

“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

From the account of Adam’s sin in Genesis, to the teachings and writings of the Apostle Saint Paul years after the death of Jesus, all of salvation, surely all of history, is predicated on the fact that because of sin you and I will die. From the moment of our conception in our mother’s womb, you and I are walking the road to our grave.

Dying to Live, Russian Edition

Dying to Live, Russian edition

Yet we were not created to die. Man was created by God to live with him forever. This knowledge, this shadow of what was to be, causes us to revolt against the idea of our death. We make laws to, ultimately, protect and safeguard life and a way to live. We send our men and women to war, to die, that a country may continue to protect the lives of many more of its citizens. We go to doctors when we are sick, we pay for research to find wonderful new cures for illness; we transplant hearts and livers and we employ amazing drugs to lengthen the number of our days as long as possible

The fact of our death scares us, and we will do nearly anything to prevent it or put it off as long as humanly possible. We can create life in a test tube, we can recombine DNA to make a better human, we can make five sheep out of one through cloning, but we have not found a way to stop death. For all have sinned (Romans 3:22), and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

In the United States we have an idiom “I would die for…” Since we fear death and would rather do just about anything but die, to say “I would die for” shows the terrific need or desire that one has for something. An alcoholic might say, “I would die for a shot of vodka.” “A smoker might be “dying for” his next cigarette. A young woman in love would just die, if only her true love would ask her to marry. Our desire is expressed as we offer to give up that which is most dear to us—our life. Continue reading

Solemn Feast: Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. During the 40 days of Lent, God’s baptized people cleanse their hearts through the discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and alms giving. “The readings for the Sundays in Lent lead us in examining our life to discover attitudes, practices, and habits that are incongruous with the new life into which we have been born in the Holy Spirit. Lent is a time of penitence, of putting out of our lives all that remains of the old life or has crept in once more. It is a time of special prayer, for without the help of the Holy Spirit nothing will be accomplished in us.

“In speaking of Lent it is difficult to avoid the word “fasting,” which is misunderstood and regarded with disfavor by many. Yet it cannot be ignored or disregarded, for both the historic Epistle (Joel 2:12-19) and the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21) for Ash Wednesday speak of it, and Luther’s Small Catechism brings us face to face with the term (Sacrament of the Altar: Who receives this sacrament worthily?). Surely it is to be preferred to “keeping Lent.” For practical purposes fasting may be defined as the avoidance of anything that could interfere with, distract from, or disturb in the preparations for the new life with the risen Christ. This may call for a restriction in diet as excessive eating or drinking may cause dullness and apathy which are far from conducive to a searching self-examination and to resolute spiritual life. On the other hand, should the one who has determined to fast in such a way confine his dietary limitations to Lent and return to his old habits when at Easter he rises with Christ to a new life?

“A number of questions arise also regarding the fad of “keeping Lent.” Does such “keeper” of Lent smoke so heavily,” drink so heavily, consume excessive amounts of recreation, or work such lengthy hours, “that his or her indulgence interferes with the preparations for the new life in Christ? If so, is he or she to resume his or her excess when at Easter the new life begins? The same applies to” any of the excessive habits or our lives. “Whatever is done, or not done, in observance of Lent has value and purpose only if it serves to prepare and train for the newness of life, for the new life to be entered at Easter with the risen Christ.

“Lent is a time in which God’s people prepare with joy for the paschal feast (Easter). It is a time in which God renews His people’s zeal in faith and life. It is a time in which we pray that we may be given the fullness of grace that belongs to the children of God” (The Sermon and the Propers:Volume II, 45-46),

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, it is with humble and contrite hearts that we enter this day the holy season of Lent to meditate on Your bitter suffering and death that you, the innocent Lamb of God, endured for us. With deep sorrow we confess that also our sins, which justly anger God and call for our punishment. were the cause of Your suffering and dying. God chose to spare us by laying upon you the iniquity of us all.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Be gracious to us.
Spare us, good Lord. Amen.

What are Ember Days?


The publication of Treasury of Daily Prayer included an essay on the Ember Days, and this has lead to some questions, both to me as the author of the essay and the general editor of the book, and on various e-mail lists. This is a legitimate question, especially in the Lutheran community that, by and large, has probably not heard of them or think of them as something only quirky liturgical extremists do. So maybe we should extend the question to: what are Ember Days, and why would a Lutheran care?

The Catholic Encyclopedia has a entry for Ember Days, but it leaves much unanswered. Actually, the conservative Catholic site, Fisheaters, has a very fine article on the origin and development of Ember Days in the Roman Church. Pulling liberally from the article on Fisheaters as well as from my essay in Treasury of Daily Prayer, we can understand Ember Days as the time set aside four times a year to focus on God through His marvelous creation: seeking God’s blessings upon the fruits of the earth and acknowledging that all food comes from Him. The three days of each Embertide were marked by fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as prescribed by the church. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons:

Winter — Advent Embertide

Spring — Lenten Embertide

Summer — Whit Embertide

Autumn — Michaelmas Embertide.

These four times are each kept on a successive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and are known as “Ember Days” (supposedly a corruption from Latin, quatuor tempora = four times, corrupted to quatember, then to ember). The first of these four times comes in Winter, after the the Feast of St. Lucy; the second comes in Spring, the week after Ash Wednesday; the third comes in Summer, after Pentecost Sunday; and the last comes in Autumn, after Holy Cross Day. Their dates can be remembered by this old mnemonic:

Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.

Which for those of us who don’t think in Latin:

Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost,
are when the quarter holidays follow.

The handy shortcut for remembering the holidays that herald the Ember Days is “Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross.”

Well, as I said, good information at Fisheaters about the origin and development of the Ember Days in the Roman Catholic tradition.

The Ember Days comprise the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday:

following the Commemoration of St. Lucia (December 13).

of the week following the first Sunday in Lent;

of the week between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday;

following the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14);

Then came the Reformation.

In the Church of the Reformation, the Ember days marked a season of piety especially devoted to preaching on the Catechism.
bugenhagen

Martin Brecht writes: “In Wittenberg it appears that Pastor Bugenhagen treated the catechism four times a year. When he was in Brunswick in 1528, Luther substituted for him at the task” Martin Luther, Martin Brecht (Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 1994) II:274.

In the editor’s preface to the last of Luther’s 1528 series of sermons on the Catechism we hear Luther: “It has hitherto been our custom to teach the elements and fundamentals of Christian knowledge and life four times each year.” Luther’s Works – American Edition

The Ember Days were originally days of prayer, repentance, and fasting. After the Reformation, the Ember Days themselves became for Lutherans one of the roots of the evangelical “days of repentance” Paul Graff.

Pastor Benjamin Mayes, a colleague of mine, did a little bit of work in the German sources. Some of this was for his presentation of the Ember Days’ propers for the Brotherhood Prayer Book, some specifically to help me in the Treasury’s presentation. Pastor Mayes:

In Braunschweig 1657/1709, the Ember Days had the order of service for a day of repentance as their liturgy (I:221). Here, all four [sets of] Ember Days were expressly retained (I:228). Some areas put their days of repentance on other days, not necessarily on the Ember Days.

“The ‘repentance services’ are either simple prayer hours held on certain days of the week, or services similar to the chief service on certain high ‘days of repentance, prayer, and fasting.’ These prayer hours cannot, as already mentioned, be confused with the prayer hours already described–occurring one or several times weekly, i.e. morning and evening devotions –although they are very similar in their structure. The prayer hours in question here are in the whole more or less similar to a public festival of repentance. Hymns of repentance are often prescribed. In the prayers, one asks to be forgiven of guilt (Litany) and spared from punishment (war and other distresses, collect for peace and ‘Grant peace, we pray, in mercy, Lord’). In short: these prayer hours –whether daily, whether once or more weekly, whether monthly, such as depending on the change of the moon, whether quarterly, such as depending on the Ember Days, (also perhaps with the command to fast,) or otherwise regularly repeating–give these days a character completely their own, so that such a day becomes itself a day or prayer (day of repentance).” (I:221)

Even in the 16th cent., the Lutherans in north Germany regularly observed the Ember Days as Days of Repentance. (I:225).

[In preparing the] Brotherhood Prayer Book, I researched Roman, Anglican, and German Lutheran books. Often I didn’t find much in the way of special propers or rubrics for the Ember Days. Some of them have their own readings and collects which have the theme of the season they’re in. This is especially the case for the Lent Ember Days (after Invocavit) and the Pentecost Ember Days (during the octave of Pentecost), because those days have proper readings anyway. (Here by proper readings, I mean a distinct set of propers for office and mass.)

Here’s what the 1613 Magdeburg Cathedral Service Book has for propers on the Ember Days.

Wednesday after Advent 3: Invitatory and antiphons and responsory with an Advent theme or from the ordinary. Collect as in the Brotherhood Prayer Book. It is not marked as being an Ember Day. The readings appear to be a lectio continua. Antiphon for Magnificat: O Antiphon.
Friday after Advent 3: Same as above, except: Antiphon for Benedictus, same as Brotherhood Prayer Book text edition, p. 235. Different collect.
Saturday after Advent 3: Same as Wednesday, except: Antiphon for Benedictus: “Behold how glorious is he who goes forth to save the peoples.” Different collect.

Wednesday after Lent 1 (Invocavit) is listed as an Ember Day. Matins: Reading as in BPB, p. 255. Antiphon for Benedictus as in BPB (ant. for Magn.). Collect from Quinquagesima (which is very similar to the collect in BPB, p. 255). Vespers: Lectio continua from Gen. 44. Ant. for Magn.: “If anyone does the will of My Father, he is my brother, sister, and mother.” Collect from Sunday.
Friday after Lent 1. Not listed as Ember Day. Ant. for Ben. “Lord, I do not have a man, that when the water is moved, he may cast me into the pool.” Lectio continua. Vespers: Ant. for Magn., same as BPB, p. 255. Lectio continua. Collect from Sunday.
Saturday after Lent 1. Not listed as Ember Day. Lauds: Ant. for Ben., same as BPB (ant. for Magn.). Lectio Continua. Collect for Peace (same as in TLH Vespers). Vespers: Lectio continua. Ant. for Magn., same as at Matins.

Wednesday in the Octave of Pentecost. Not listed as Ember Day. Matins: Reading same as BPB, p. 279. Lauds: Ant. for Ben. “When the dies of Pentecost were completed, alleluia, praise came to Jerusalem, alleluia, to Zion.” Collect from Sunday. Vespers: Lectio continua. Ant. for Magn. “On the last day of the feast, Jesus said, Whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from his belly, and He said this concerning the Spirit, whom there were to receive, who believe in Him, alleluia.” Different collect.

Well, that gives you a taste of what’s going on in the Magdeburg Cathedral.

Martin Chemnitz, in the Braunschweig-Wölfenbüttel KO, which is referenced above, writes:

Also, since up to the present the quatember [fasts] have been conducted in papal fashion, henceforth all pastors and preachers in the cities shall at every quatember, instead of the regular preaching, for fourteen consecutive days, take up the catechism and divide it up, that all of it may be set before the people and usefully explained throughout. And they shall also earnestly admonish the people that they, together with their children and domestic servants, be diligent in attending such useful and very necessary teaching and not be absent.

And also during the quatember mentioned the pastors [pfarner] in the villages shall be diligent, so much as the time and place permit, to very carefully explain and inform the people regarding the catechism, which is a measure of all preaching.

Taken together, this is the basis for the suggestion to treat the Ember Days as “A Day of Humiliation and Prayer” and for promoting the Ember Days as a time to give special attention to the elements and fundamentals of Christian knowledge and life found in the Catechisms. Review and meditation on the Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism could be added to one’s daily devotion: Wednesday: Ten Commandments and Creed, Friday: Lord’s Prayer and Holy Baptism, Saturday: Confession and Sacrament of the Altar

confessionThe traditional themes of repentance can be used in one’s personal daily prayer in a way that is already familiar, as a Day of Supplication and Prayer. (Propers appointed for a Day of Supplication and Prayer can be found in the LSB: Altar Book, page 992.) Hymns of confession and absolution would be suitable. The appointed lectio continua readings of daily prayer is retained. In prayers, it would be fitting of the days to ask to be forgiven of guilt (cf. the Litany), to be spared from punishment (war and other distresses), and to pray the collect for peace (Vespers, LSB, 233).

In the Lutheran congregation Individual Confession and Absolution could be offered quarterly on the Saturdays of the Embertides. More challenging, but no doubt it would garner great rewards in faith and understanding, would be to reestablish the practice of Luther, Bugenhagen and others “to teach the elements and fundamentals of Christian knowledge and life four times each year.

THE DAILY OFFICE


pantocrator_aChristian prayer is rooted in the revelatory Word of God. We hear the voice of God addressed to us and to the Church through the Holy Scriptures. As we receive this Word from God, the heart of faith desires to respond. It is out of this receiving of God’s Word and the desire to respond, that the conversation with God, which is prayer, happens.

The ancient form of structured prayer through the day, often called the Daily Office and the Liturgy of the Hours, is not simply a vehicle by which Christians are brought to prayer, rather it is a tool developed by the Church to instruct us in prayer and faith, and a means to keep our conversation with God rooted in His Word.

Praying at appointed times during the day can be traced back to the Old Testament practice of praying at fixed hours of the day. God commanded the Israelite priests to offer morning and evening sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-39, Exodus 30:6-8). Psalm 1:2 instructs: “but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” When sacrifices were outlawed during Israel’s forced exile in Babylon prayer services were developed in the synagogues as sacrifices of praise. Upon the return of the Jewish people to judea, those prayer services were brought into the Temple. In addition to the prayers accompanying ht morning and evening sacrifices, there was prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day (Psalm 119:164). Much evidence suggests that this structured schedule of prayers, a feature of liturgical life at the time of Christ, was passed on as a legacy to the Early Church, providing the form, if not the content, for the daily prayers.

Although the Christians no longer shared the Temple sacrifices–for they had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ–they were devoted to “the prayers” (Acts 2:42) and continued to pray at the customary hours (Acts 10:9), and even frequent the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1) Continue reading

Lutheran Lecture Series — Marcus, Iowa


catechismThe Lutheran Lecture Series will be holding its 4th annual meeting on Saturday, April 25th in Marcus Iowa. The topic is

Reason For Hope: The Lutheran’s Defense in the Battle for Our Minds, Bodies, and Souls.

Scheduled presenters and topics are:

  • Dr. John Nordling, The Paideia of the LORD: Teaching the Person not just the Mind
  • Rev. Sean Smallwood, The Triangular Shape of Lutheran Catechesis: Scripture, Catechism, and Hymnal
  • Rev. Joel Brondos, Back to the Source: A Truly Lutheran Education is a Classical Education
  • Rev. Scot Kinnaman, Lutherans at Prayer: Robust Theological Study Begets A Robust Life of Prayer.

Each 45-50 minute presentation will be followed by a time for Q&A. The presenters will also be available for informal questions and conversation.

I look forward to meeting the pastors and laypeople who are in the area and can attend!

A Simple Way to Pray


Dr. Rick Stuckwisch writes:

As several of my good friends and colleagues have pointed out, one of the most wonderful things about the new Treasury of Daily Prayer is its flexible adaptability to a variety of contexts and circumstances. An individual can easily use it, whether a pastor or a layperson, whether in the closet or the chancel, at the desk or in the den. Couples can use it together, as can parents with their children, or small groups within a congregation, as part of the discipline of daily prayer, or as an opening devotion at a meeting. It can supply and support the orders of Matins and Vespers, Morning and Evening Prayer, Suffrages, or any other form of Christian prayer. This is a tremendous benefit of the book, for which its editor and CPH are greatly to be commended.

Read more of this informative post on thinking out loud.

Repetitive Prayers and Standardized Devotions


Many Protestants and even some Lutherans often express scorn for the repetitive nature of doctrinal memory work and standardized daily devotion. The emblematic illustration for this rejection is the Rosary of Roman Catholic piety. Support for the rejection of the Rosary can be found from a cursory reading of Luther’s works. However, careful attention will reveal that Luther preaches against the overuse and the misuse of the rosary rather than against the rosary itself. Central to Luther’s criticisms are the widespread understanding of the praying of the rosary as a good work in and of itself earning merit for salvation; and as a prayer audible and visible to others rather than silent and interior. (Matt. 6:6) This clearly violates the Lutheran position of sola fide, or salvation by faith alone. In addition, Luther objects to what he sees as the overuse of the rosary to the neglect of “the truly spiritual, inner, and true Lord’s Prayer” (Works, vol. 42, p. 22). Much of this was due in Luther’s time to praying the rosary out of obedience rather than out of the motivations of the heart.

white rosary

As long as the rosary is used as a means of gaining merit in heaven, it will be against Lutheran theology. However, if it is not seen as a good work but instead as a true devotional practice, there is nothing in it inherently contrary to Lutheran teaching to using a prayer counter such as the Rosary (I will affirm, however, there specific Lutheran objections to Rosary’s prayers centered on St. Mary). It is more the beliefs surrounding the rosary that should be at issue, rather than the practice of the rosary, or any formalized prayer or devotion, itself.

Luther certainly objected to the rote repetition involved in the rosary, which to his mind did not always command the heart, mind and spirit to follow what the lips said. Many Lutherans today object to this repetition, appealing to scripture:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)

It is certainly true that repetition for the sake of repetition is to be condemned, particularly when viewed as a good work. Thus Article XXVII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession argues that

the rosary of the blessed Virgin . . . is mere babbling, as stupid as it is wicked, nourishing a false confidence.

This is indeed strong language which reflects the time of its writing, and is motivated by the medieval Roman Catholic understanding of the rosary as a good work earning merit for salvation. Continue reading

Treasury of Daily Prayer: It is Christmas morning!


The first two cases of Treasury of Daily Prayer have arrived by FedEx in advance of the main shipment coming by freight.

It is like Christmas morning! And I am both the toymaker who ultimately finds joy in the fact that other are enjoying his creation AND the child who eagerly tears open the wrapping and can’t wait to begin to play.

And what a playground it is. I turn it over in my hands, I carefully break in the binding, I flip through the pages stopping here, stopping there. There are certainly words on these pages, important words, God’s words. But I see so much more as I look at the pages, trail my fingers over the smooth surface, around one rounded corner and than another. I see on these pages my assisting editors, who through extended e-mails and phone calls “caught” the vision of what I hoped this resource would be, and then poured themselves into the project, loving it and caring for it every bit as much as I do. I see e-mails almost without number that flew between Dave Petersen, myself, and the numerous contributors of the writings from the Church fathers. Todd Peperkorn, whose own personal attachment and knowledge of the Psalms so wonderfully shaped the daily psalmody. The love for our hymnic heritage that is evident in Henry Gerike’s selection of hymnody. Nathan Higgins, a fan of the Book of Concord, who took the pencil-sketch idea for Lenten catechesis and crafted a masterpiece. Arthur Just, chairman of the LSB lectionary committee, drew upon his deep love and knowledge of the collects and matched them to the texts, and then wrote 157 new collects as well. I am humbled and very proud to call each of these men not only brothers in the Ministry, but my friends.

The indents, the paragraphs, the precisely placed punctuation and breathing marks, all stand as a testimony to Dawn Weinstock. Dawn invested, literally, hundreds of hours in manuscript preparation, copy editing, the securing of permissions, the assembly of the acknowledgments, and more. With care and dedication she followed behind straightening, correcting, and rejoicing in the details. She quite simply made me look better than I am.

The beautiful typography and the elegant layout of the Treasury come from the hand of artist Stacy Johnston, our designer extraordinare. She listened so carefully to my hopes and dreams; and then with her years of experience and her immense talent, she saw what 3,000+ pages of manuscript and notes could be. And it is.

There are so many more hands that assisted in making this dream, this effort, this obsession come to pass in the beautiful way that it has—in deep gratitude, I will always see and cherish each of them as part of the treasure that is the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Behind the pages, yet as essential to the Treasury as is the spine to a book, is the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, especially the Lectionary Committee of what came to be know as Lutheran Service Book. It was these dedicated individuals who set out the first sketches for an all-in-one resource that would be centered on God’s Word and faithfully express the richness of our Lutheran heritage and understanding of prayer and meditation. Their work to establish the Daily Lectionary and the expanded sanctoral calendar is the beating heart of the Treasury.

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone be the Glory!