The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s message is based upon what cannot, must not change: Jesus Christ and His eternal word for our salvation.
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s message is based upon what cannot, must not change: Jesus Christ and His eternal word for our salvation.
The more general liturgical practices of Lent and Holy Week are assumed and taken into account, but they are not necessarily specified in connection with each of the particular services of this Lenten series. For the sake of clarity, some of these traditional practices are as follows:
Accompanying the restraint of celebration, and serving the catechetical purpose of the Lenten season, it is well to emphasize, teach, and encourage the practice of individual confession and absolution during Lent.
It is recommended that during Lent the so-called “declaration of grace” (the right-hand column in the settings of the Divine Service, as for example on p. 167 of Lutheran Service Book) be used in the rite of preparation instead of the indicative-active “I forgive you.” Historically, the “declaration of grace” was by far the more common practice in this context among Lutherans and is less easily confused with the absolution of individual confession (from which the indicative-active form derives).
The Annunciation of Our Lord (March 25) will occasionally fall on a Sunday in Lent. While normally a feast day of Christ (sometimes called a ‘first-rank’ festival) would displace the ‘ordinary’ Sunday celebration, the traditional rule is that no feast may displace a Sunday in Lent. Should March 25 fall on a Sunday in Lent, the Annunciation is not omitted, but transferred to the next available day. The reason the Annunciation does not take precedence in this case is that the Sundays in Lent are also feast days of the first rank. In addition, if the Annunciation falls at any time during Holy Week, it is transferred to the first available day after the Easter Octave.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and sets the tone of the season. It is a pointed call to repentance, which is to say that it is a return to the death and resurrection of Holy Baptism by way of confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. Thus the imposition of ashes, from which the day receives its name, recalls both the mortality of sinful man and the redemption of Christ into which His followers have been baptized. This context of contrition and repentance, fully and firmly centered in the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus, is the framework within which the Lenten fast is undertaken. A focus on Christ’s Passion will not be chiefly an emotional or intellectual exercise, though the Word and Spirit of God engage both the intellect and the emotions. Rather, in faith the Passion is approached as the very heart of the Gospel, which the Lord our Savior has accomplished for us and now bestows on us with His Means of Grace.
There is a liturgical connection between Ash Wednesday and Holy (Maundy) Thursday. The penitential discipline begun on this day is resolved in the Lord’s cleansing of His disciples, and the fasting of repentance is ended with the Lord’s feeding of His disciples in Holy Communion. Of course, this cleansing and feeding occur also on Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, but they come into special focus on Holy Thursday at the beginning of the Paschal Triduum. On a seasonal level, one may think of the relationship between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday as following the rhythmic pattern of each Divine Service: a liturgical progression from contrition and confession, through the catechesis of the Word, to the feasting of the Lord’s Supper.
Ideally, the imposition of ashes may be done in the morning of Ash Wednesday, so that the entire day is spent in penitential contemplation of our sin and mortality in view of God’s grace and forgiveness. The rite is best administered in connection with confession and absolution, lest the penitent simply be turned upon himself. If it is unreasonable to suppose that many members of the congregation will be able to avail themselves of such an opportunity in the morning, the imposition of ashes and corporate confession may be repeated in the late afternoon or early evening, prior to the Divine Service allowing for a period of reflection and confession between the two ceremonies.
The color of the day is violet (or black). The pastor(s) may prefer to wear cassock and surplice for the imposition of ashes and the Service of Corporate Confession and Absolution, but alb (and chasuble) is appropriate for the Divine Service.
Holy Thursday marks a transition within Holy Week from Lent to the Holy Triduum. In this it serves as something of a bookend to Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. The historic Gospel for this day (John 13) recounts the washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord. Although this is an example of Christian love for the neighbor, the foot washing is first and foremost a demonstration of the Lord’s enduring love for His own and a depiction of our return to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition and repentance, confession and faith in the forgiveness of sins. The penitential discipline of Lent has brought us to this point, and Christ Jesus, our Savior, loves us to the end. The dust and ashes of sin and death are washed away by Jesus’ word of Holy Absolution, and the One who humbles Himself, even to death, in order to serve us in love with His own holy body and precious blood, exalts those who have been humbled by the Law.
Although Holy Thursday is a culmination and completion of Lent, it is also the beginning of the Paschal Feast, which remembers with thanksgiving the sacrificial death and great salvation of the Lamb of God. Holy Thursday is the first of three sacred days that together constitute the Church’s celebration of both the cross and the resurrection of the Lord. Jesus Christ is the true Passover Lamb, who is sacrificed for us, whose blood covers us from death, whose body feeds us for life and salvation in the freedom of the Gospel; yet He is the same Lord God who by His mighty, outstretched arms brings us out of slavery, through the water and the wilderness, into the promised land, and He feeds us on the way.
One note on the title for the day. Lutheran Service Book calls the day Holy Thursday, and this is the common name for the day in most of world Christendom. It has, however, been called Maundy Thursday for many years in various Lutheran churches. There is no clear history behind the word, though it is most likely from the words of our Lord, “A new commandment (mandate) I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). Less likely is from the words of our Lord at the Last Supper, “do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24).
With its rich and varied emphases, there are different ways and means of observing Holy Thursday. It may be best to consider the day incrementally. Thus the congregation may gather in the morning for The Litany and for Corporate Confession and Absolution, both in culmination of the Lenten fast and in expectation of the evening Feast.
If it is unlikely that many members of the congregation will be able to participate in such a morning service, the same opportunity may be provided in the late afternoon or early evening, but still prior to and distinct from the Divine Service. If this option were used, the evening Divine Service would begin with the Introit.
Prior to sundown, the color of Holy Thursday is appropriately the scarlet of Passion Sunday (or the violet of Lent). This fits the penitential character of The Litany and of corporate confession.
After sundown, the color of the day at an evening Divine Service is preferably white. For this reason, also, there should be a clear separation of the penitential rites and services from the evening feast. Although Holy Thursday may be observed with a more penitential emphasis, it rightly bears a festive mood. Although the Alleluia continues to be omitted and now during Holy Week the Gloria Patri is omitted, traditionally the Gloria in Excelsis is sung on this occasion. Typically, the Holy Thursday service is marked by restrained exuberance throughout the Divine Service, until the stripping of the altar concludes this portion of the Triduum with a distinct turning toward the solemn depths of Good Friday. Holy Thursday looks ahead to both the Passion and the resurrection, and so looks to the Lord’s cross as the very tree of life from which our Savior feeds us.
Good Friday stands at the heart and center of the Triduum even as Christ’s death on the cross, which it commemorates and celebrates, stands at the heart and center of the Christian faith and life. The service of this day is marked by the Church’s deepest humility and most solemn reverence, for she gives her attention to the cross and Passion of her dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her sorrow and contrition do not give way to despair, however; nor does she mourn the death of Christ. Rather, in repentant faith the Church gives thanks for Christ’s atoning sacrifice and lays hold of His redemption in the hearing of His Gospel (and in the eating and drinking of His body and blood).
Although the Chief Service of Good Friday is appropriately held between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., nevertheless it may be held whenever the majority of the congregation will be able to attend.
The rites and ceremonies of the Good Friday service are profound and powerful and invite deliberate care, calm, and an unhurried approach that allows for a quietly eloquent proclamation of the Passion of the Christ. It is easy to overdo the drama of the day and of the service with theatrical effort, but careful study of the notes and rubrics of the service will help to maintain the appropriate focus.
The color of the day is black, though the altar remains bare (other than for the vessels of the Lord’s Supper, at that point in the service when the Sacrament of the Altar may be celebrated). For the bulk of the service, the pastor(s) may be vested in cassock and surplice; the preacher may wear a stole (preferably black) for the sermon.
The Great Vigil of Easter, kept on the Eve of the Resurrection of Our Lord, is the culmination of the Holy Triduum. It brings to a festive completion the three-day service that began on Holy Thursday and continued on Good Friday. In itself, the Easter Vigil is a transitional service. In much the same way that Holy Thursday was both the conclusion of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum, so the Easter Vigil both completes the Triduum and ushers in the Fifty Days of Eastertide. This transition is poignantly manifested in the course of the vigil, which progresses purposefully from darkness to light. It celebrates specifically the passage of Christ from death into life, and the Church’s passage through death into life with Him through Holy Baptism. The night begins with hushed anticipation, proceeds with eager expectation, and finally climaxes in the exuberant celebration of the Paschal Feast.
The Easter Vigil is very much a Christian “Passover,” that is, a celebration of the great exodus that Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, accomplished by His sacrificial death and brought to light in His resurrection from the dead. All that the Lord God did for Israel in bringing His people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land He has perfectly fulfilled for all the baptized, who are the new Israel, in His cross and resurrection. In Holy Baptism we have come out of Egypt and have crossed the Red Sea with Him, and have entered with Him into Canaan through the Jordan. In the Paschal Feast of Holy Communion, we eat and drink the true Passover Lamb. His blood covers us and protects us from sin, death, and hell; His body feeds and sustains us on our way. (Pless)
In particular, the Easter Vigil proclaims and confesses that as we have died with Christ by our Baptism into His death, so do we also rise with Him and live with Him in newness of life. It is for us that He died and rose from the dead. The Vigil lays hold of that sure and certain hope in the Gospel, or, better, the Vigil lays hold of us and brings us with Christ out of death into His life. It does so not by any sort of magic, but by the Word and Spirit of God.
With its rites, ceremonies, and propers, the vigil itself catechizes pastors and their congregations in the paschal mystery celebrated on this night. The most important preparation, therefore, is for service participants to study carefully and rehearse the notes and rubrics of the Easter Vigil. When all is well prepared and the service can proceed according to its proper rhythm, the Word of God in the readings and prayers of the Easter Vigil will do its own work among the people of God.
The Easter Vigil is presented in six parts: the Service of Light, the Service of Readings, the Service of Holy Baptism, the Service of Prayer, the Service of the Word, and the Service of the Sacrament. Each part has its own integrity and contributes to the progression of the whole. The Service of Light, in which the paschal candle is consecrated for use and lighted as a sign of the Lord’s resurrection, may take place at a bonfire outside the church building. To accentuate the continuity of this night with the Passion of our Lord, the gathering may occur where the congregation assembled for the procession with palms on Passion Sunday. After the consecration of the paschal candle, the people follow it into the church, as Israel followed the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the exodus from Egypt. During this procession, “The Light of Christ” (“Thanks be to God”) is chanted at three points, which may replicate the points at which the sentence “Behold, the life-giving cross” was stated during the adoration of the cross in the Good Friday service. These ceremonial associations contribute to the way in which the Easter Vigil holds together the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the New Testament Passover.
The Service of Light crescendos in the chanting of the Exsultet (which ideally is sung rather than spoken). This beautiful proclamation of the paschal mystery sets the tone of the entire Easter Vigil, celebrating the fulfillment of the Old Testament exodus in the resurrection of the Christ. It rings out in the night, in much the same way that the candles break into the darkness with their shimmering light. There is the tension of waiting, a pregnant expectation of that which has already been accomplished but has yet to be openly announced. It is no secret that Christ has risen from the dead—no more so now than on Ash Wednesday or at any other time throughout Lent. Yet the Church on earth lives in, with, and under the cross of Christ; thus she experiences the now-and-not-yet of the resurrection in the Word of the Lord.
Although the handheld candles of the congregation should be carefully extinguished at the end of the Exsultet, the Service of Readings should proceed in semidarkness, with only as much light as necessary for the reading of the Holy Scriptures and for the prayers and canticles of the people. The Readings are the distinctive and definitive heart of the Easter Vigil. They set forth a series of Old Testament prophecies and types of the Christ, of His cross and resurrection, and of the Church’s participation in His dying and rising again. It is not expected that congregations will employ all twelve Readings, but as many of these as possible should be used. At least the first three Readings should always be used (the creation, the flood, and the exodus), and preferably the twelfth Reading (the three men in the fiery furnace). A selection of four Readings is given here, along with congregational responses in the form of two psalms and two canticles. The congregation should sit for the Readings, kneel for the collects that follow each Reading, and stand for the psalms or canticles that are interspersed with the Readings. Because the Church waits on the Lord in steadfast faith and hope by giving attention to His Word, there is no need to hurry through the Readings. Congregations comprised largely of younger members may arrange to observe the Easter Vigil through the hours of the night, culminating in the early dawn of Easter Sunday. In such a case (presumably rare), all of the Readings would be used; each followed by its collect, the appropriate psalm or canticle, and separated with periods of silence. The Readings do not require commentary because within the context of the entire week, the collects, psalms, and canticles provide appropriate and sufficient reflection of the Word by which the Lord catechizes His people and accomplishes His purposes among them.
Whether or not there are catechumens to be baptized at the Easter Vigil, the Service of Baptism follows the Readings as a return to the death and resurrection of repentance and faith that all the baptized share with Christ by the washing of water with His Word and Spirit. Here is the crossing of the Red Sea with the One who is greater than Moses, which already anticipates the crossing of the Jordan with the New Testament Joshua (Jesus, the Christ). This returning to the significance of Holy Baptism through contrition, repentance, and faith in the forgiveness of sins is to be the daily and lifelong discipline of every Christian. It is here embraced at the very heart of the Easter Vigil, in remembrance and celebration of the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is not meant to replace the daily taking up of the cross to follow Jesus as His disciples, but it is observed in service and support of that Christian faith and life. This is the fulfillment of Lent and the rebirth of an Easter life.
The Divine Service of the Easter Vigil is somewhat simpler than the usual Sunday observance, yet it is not as full and festive as the chief Divine Service on Easter Sunday will be. The same basic movement takes place: from the Word of the Gospel to the Word made flesh in Holy Communion, received in faith and with thanksgiving. In this case, the Prayer of the Church (in the Litany of the Resurrection) precedes the basic pattern of the Word preached and the Sacrament administered, which serves to further heighten the unity of the Holy Gospel and Holy Communion.
The Service of the Word at the Easter Vigil is really as much or more a part of the entire Eucharistic rite rather than a separate component. In contrast to the deliberate and steady pacing of the Readings, the Service of the Word proceeds forward swiftly. Ideally, this would occur after night fall as there is now a striking transition from darkness to light, from the sobriety of Holy Week to the sights and sounds and celebration of the Easter feast. That is signaled by the Easter acclamation: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” The altar candles are now lighted from the paschal candle, the lights in the church are turned on, bells are rung, the organ opens up in jubilation, the Gloria in Excelsis is sung, and the Lord’s altar is prepared for the Sacrament (there is no offering or offertory in the usual manner).
The proclamation of the Easter Gospel (John 20:1–18) testifies that the Jesus who died and was buried is not only no longer in the tomb, but has been raised bodily from the dead. The preaching of this Gospel should be straightforward and direct, brief and to the point. All of Holy Week and the entire Easter Vigil have been an extended proclamation and catechesis of the Word, the Law and the Gospel, to repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is neither necessary nor desirable to have a lengthy sermon at this point.
The Service of the Sacrament will follow according to one of the usual settings of the Divine Service, beginning with the Preface. Here it is suggested that Setting Four continued to be used as it has throughout this Lenten series. While other settings may surely be preferred in some congregations, Setting Five should not be chosen for use at the Easter Vigil. Note the special Post-Communion Collect appointed for the Easter Vigil.
The color of the day at the Easter Vigil is white and/or gold. However, the church should be kept in semidarkness until the Service of the Word, at which point there is a transition to all the trappings of Easter, as previously indicated. Depending on the circumstances, the altar may be dressed and adorned with the appropriate paraments, Easter flowers, and other accoutrements at this point in the service. The logistics for such a transition require planning and rehearsal to avoid awkwardness or uncertainty. Similarly, the celebrant and his assistant(s) may prefer to be vested in cassock and surplice, but at this point they would vest in alb (and chasuble for the celebrant) for the Service of the Word and Sacrament.
I am never impressed hearing myself during these opportunities… evidently my favorite word in talking about Lutheranism 101 is “ah.” I don’t realize, as I am trying to speak, that I do this–evidently it is my thinking word. Good golly, I hate listening to interviews where an otherwise interesting topic is punctuated by frequent “ahs.” Those of you who do interviews and public presentations, how do you break this unconscious habit, what do you do to give yourself room to think as you’re responding to a question?
Click on the microphone to hear the interview. Studio A with Rolland Lettner on KFUO.
The following note and letter were received from Presbyterian layman, Dan Delph. In giving me permission to share his words, it is his prayer that those who worked on Treasury of Daily Prayer are encouraged, and that as they move forward, “his Lutheran brothers and sisters” are encouraged as well.
In early November of 2008, I was lead to search for a new approach to my daily devotional life. I discovered your Treasury of Daily Prayer just when it was newly published and available only from Concordia. Not even Amazon had it in stock at that time.
I knew I had found something extraordinary; something of historical significance. You will understand what your work has meant to me and my family when you read the attached letter that I wrote today to my daughter and her fiancé who will be married in October. You should know that I have been a Presbyterian for most of my redeemed life, and never a member of the Lutheran tradition. I will be mailing the letter today, along with their personal copies of the Treasury.
Your work has changed my devotional life, Scot, and given back to me the rich heritage of the historical church. Thank you for following God’s leading to bring this profound gift to the Body of Christ in our day.
________ , Texas
Dan’s letter to his daughter and her fiancé:
______ and ______,
Mom and I are excited that you have begun your Premarital Program at __________. We want to supplement that instruction with something that will help you continue to grow individually—and consequently together—for the rest of your lives.
The book you now hold is a work of extraordinary significance. It is a treasure trove of the ancient traditions of the Christian faith. In order to truly appreciate this book, a little background is in order.
To my knowledge, I and my siblings are the first generation of regenerated believers in a very long line of Roman Catholics. Many centuries ago the Roman Catholic Church became corrupt and lost its way. The Protestant Reformation, led by the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, was a movement by God to restore the Roman Church.
It is important to realize that Luther’s desire was to reform the Church of Rome, not abandon it. However, when the Roman leadership refused to repent, Luther endeavored to retain the historical and biblical truth, goodness, and beauty that had been entrusted to the church before its decline.
As such, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Lutheran denomination for faithfully preserving over the centuries the historical traditions of the early church—sacred liturgy, hymnody, written prayers, ancient music, the daily office, propers for daily prayer, sacramental preparations, biographies of early saints, writings of the church fathers, sung prayers (chant melodies), catechisms, psalter, invitatories, antiphons, responsories, and the ancient church calendar.
So many in post-modern Christianity have thrown the baby out with the bath water. They consider the ancient traditions to be obsolete, lifeless, and guilty by association with some denominations in spiritual decline. However, it is only the hearts of men that grow lifeless, not the Word of God. Any man or woman filled with God’s Spirit and genuinely seeking him will find in these pages great depth and life. These are the forms of worship and spiritual disciplines of the early church. They are meat, not milk. As such, they may be an acquired taste to a generation raised on spiritual fast food.
In a historical sense, we are all reformed Catholics. That may be hard for some to swallow, but the living Body of Christ today stands on the shoulders of the early church, whose practices were handed down from the teachings and instruction of the apostles and early church fathers. This volume represents the rich legacy of our early Roman Catholic heritage, preserved for us by our Lutheran brethren.
What makes this particular work so extraordinary is how the editorial team, led by Scot Kinnaman, has harmonized the content. In the readings of any given day, they have skillfully correlated a psalm, an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, a verse of a hymn, a historical writing, and a written prayer. It is powerful, and a thing of beauty.
It has become my daily devotional guide. One day, God may lead you to do the same. Wait until then. Don’t force it, and don’t force each other. Just keep it in a handy place. If that day comes, purpose to slowly and prayerfully make your way through, each at your own pace. Although the daily offices (readings) are aligned with the annual church calendar, don’t expect to read through it in one year. Rather, approach it like a fine wine, to be sipped, savored, and contemplated. Mediate your way through it, asking God to grow your spiritual tastes and appetites.
The editors have taken the pains to also record the ancient chant melodies of the prayer offices (e.g., Matins, Vespers, Compline, the Litany, etc.) found in section O in the middle. Meditative prayer is a lost discipline in our day. The early church understood what the psalmist meant by “I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
I have included special pens that work well on the paper of this book. Make notes as you go. Mark and underline passages that speak to you. Place question marks where you need more understanding and revelation. Talk to God in the margins. Document your thoughts, desires, and prayers as you read and meditate. Make this something your children will one day page through and discover insights into your walk with God.
God promises rich blessings as you engage his grace and encounter his steadfast love and mercies in these pages, new every morning.
All our love.
To the assisting editors, to countless contributors, to the production editors, the copy editors, the designer and the many others who had their hand in bringing this book from dream to reality: congratulations. My name cannot appear in association with Treasury without the complete understanding that it could not have been done alone. Together we are part of something bigger than ourselves, something that God has been pleased to use for the care and life of His Bride, the Church. Praise be to God. To Him alone be the glory.
“Singing the Faith is a DVD-based study of the history of Lutheran congregational song. It “invites viewers and listeners to discover God’s Word proclaimed in a rich heritage of music that faithfully confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“It is a study of the history of Lutheran congregational song – an accessible educational tool for teachers and students, pastors and congregations, parents and their children. “
In the heady early days of Lutherans blogging, I had just opened the tentative predecessor of Blog My Soul for business and somewhat regularly participated in discussions on others’ blogs. One of these discussions ended up in a personal exchange, both in blog comments and in e-mail, with “Martin,” a seminary student who, at the time of the conversation, was serving as vicar. The purpose of posting the conversation is not to evoke a defense of the Scriptures or the Confessions, but to get you thinking about what is it that defines or demonstrates a Lutheran identity (vs. a Christian identity)? Is there a difference? And if there is, what does this mean for us as Lutherans?
Martin: ScotK, Honestly! Just when I think you and I are starting to see eye-to-eye on some things. Do you really think that only the Book of Concord (BoC) has the genuine faith of Scripture?!? I really find it hard to believe that you would make such an assertion. Please tell me I am misunderstanding you.
ScotK: Martin, the only place, no. Anytime the doctrine of Scripture is truly proclaimed I rejoice. …However, what I think will annoy you is that the Symbols and Confessions of the 1580 Book of Concord-in that they faithfully expound the Scriptures-are the benchmark by which I do theology. Yes, Martin, to be Lutheran is a confession. And that confession is, in sum, in the BoC. Continue reading
God has two messages. He speaks Law and he speaks Gospel. The Law is God’s message of judgment against my sin. The Gospel is God’s word of forgiveness in Christ. It is his gracious response to my guilt.
The Law differentiates. It distinguishes. It says that I have failed God and I have failed you, my brothers and sisters. You might have something against me, as well. The Law forces me to measure myself against the standard of the Ten Commandments. And the Law has the nasty ability of making me better or worse than you.
The Gospel makes us all the same. When I am serving my neighbor then I am different and unique. But when I am being served by the Gospel, then I am just like every other sinner. I am equally as sinful as you. And I am equally as forgiven as you. We are the same. We are identical. Of course my sins might be more profound, more heinous, and more creative than yours. But in Christ both you and I are declared righteous, clothed and covered in the righteousness of the heavenly Bridegroom and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb. Sin, which makes us different and which divides, is forgiven. Good works, which distinguish and divide us, are irrelevant when it comes to salvation. So we are the same. The Divine Service reflects this.
If we are all the same, the services we attend should be pretty much the same. And if all the Christians in the world are the same, if the church is really “catholic,” then the worship services throughout the world should be pretty close to the same. If the saints from age to age are the same, and they are, then the worship services from age to age reflect our oneness and sameness in Christ.
But, if worship is primarily me serving God, then my worship will be different than yours because we are different in our good works. Worship will then be far from uniform. If we get the direction of the communication right in worship then we will also understand that uniformity in worship is good.
Paul addressed the problem of divisions in the church in his letter to the Ephesians. The Christians of Jewish descent felt that they were closer to God than the Gentile Christians. They thought they were more advanced in the law and where therefore better Christians. What a divisive attitude. Christian people have always had the same temptations toward disunity. Today we hear the same. Some Christians are considered more advanced, more dynamic, more mature, more committed, more engaged, more vital, more something. How did God create unity according to the apostle Paul? Continue reading
Another part of my ongoing answer to the one who wanted to know about Lutheran worship. First let’s define the essence and dynamic of worship and then we’ll take a look at how the Lutheran Confessions talk about worship and the role of faith and works in the Divine Service.
I think Dr. Norman Nagel captured the essence of the Lutheran Gottesdienst (roughly translated as “worship”) best when he wrote in the Introduction to Lutheran Worship: “Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise.” “Saying back to him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are his.” “The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol him. We build each other up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition”
From the Book of Concord. Citations are given in the following form Symbol:Paragraph
Athanasian Creed:3, 28 –that our worship is catholic
And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.
For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.
Apology XXIV:27 -that we worship in spirit and in truth
Christ says, John 4, 23. 24: True worshipers shalt worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. This passage clearly condemns opinions concerning sacrifices which, they imagine, avail ex opere operato ["on account of the work having been performed"], and teaches that men ought to worship in spirit, i.e., with the dispositions of the heart and by faith.
Apology IV:49 -the Divine Service is objective and subjective
And the difference between this faith and the righteousness of the Law can be easily discerned. Faith is the Gottesdienst [divine service], which receives the benefits offered by God; the righteousness of the Law is the Gottesdienst [divine service] which offers to God our merits. By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers.
Apology IV:307-310 (186-189) -the Divine Service delivers to us God’s good gifts
But because the righteousness of Christ is given us by faith, faith is for this reason righteousness in us imputatively, i.e., it is that by which we are made acceptable to God on account of the imputation and ordinance of God, as Paul says, Rom. 4:3, 5: Faith is reckoned for righteousness. Although on account of certain captious persons we must say technically: Faith is truly righteousness, because it is obedience to the Gospel. For it is evident that obedience to the command of a superior is truly a species of distributive justice. And this obedience to the Gospel is reckoned for righteousness, so that, only on account of this, because by this we apprehend Christ as Propitiator, good works, or obedience to the Law, are pleasing. For we do not satisfy the Law, but for Christ’s sake this is forgiven us, as Paul says, Rom. 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. This faith gives God the honor, gives God that which is His own, in this, that, by receiving the promises, it obeys Him. Just as Paul also says, Rom. 4:20: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness.
Apology IV:154-158 (33-37) -through the Divine Service we recieve remission of sins and reconciliation
The woman [Luke 7:36-50, a sinful woman forgiven] came with the opinion concerning Christ that with Him the remission of sins should be sought. This worship is the highest worship of Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to Christ. To seek from Him the remission of sins was truly to acknowledge the Messiah. Now, thus to think of Christ, thus to worship Him, thus to embrace Him, is truly to believe. Christ, moreover, employed the word “love” not towards the woman, but against the Pharisee, because He contrasted the entire worship of the Pharisee with the entire worship of the woman. He reproved the Pharisee because he did not acknowledge that He was the Messiah, although he rendered Him the outward offices due to a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her worship, ointment, tears, etc., all of which were signs of faith and a confession, namely, that with Christ she sought the remission of sins. It is indeed a great example, which, not without reason, moved Christ to reprove the Pharisee, who was a wise and honorable man, but not a believer. He charges him with impiety, and admonishes him by the example of the woman, showing thereby that it is disgraceful to him, that, while an unlearned woman believes God, he, a doctor of the Law, does not believe, does not acknowledge the Messiah, and does not seek from Him remission of sins and salvation. Thus, therefore, He praises the entire worship, as it often occurs in the Scriptures that by one word we embrace many things; as below we shall speak at greater length in regard to similar passages, such as Luke 11:41: Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. He requires not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. Thus He here says: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much, i.e., because she has truly worshiped Me with faith and the exercises and signs of faith. He comprehends the entire worship. Meanwhile He teaches this, that the remission of sins is properly received by faith, although love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. Wherefore He does not mean this, that these fruits are the price, or are the propitiation, because of which the remission of sins, which reconciles us to God, is given. We are disputing concerning a great subject, concerning the honor of Christ, and whence good minds may seek for sure and firm consolation, whether confidence is to be placed in Christ or in our works. Now, if it is to be placed in our works, the honor of Mediator and Propitiator will be withdrawn from Christ. And yet we shall find, in God’s judgment, that this confidence is vain, and that consciences rush thence into despair. But if the remission of sins and reconciliation do not occur freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, no one will have remission of sins, unless when he has fulfilled the entire Law, because the Law does not justify as long as it can accuse us. Therefore it is manifest that, since justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake, we are justified by faith, because it is very certain that by faith alone the remission of sins is received.
In short, the worship of the New Testament is spiritual, i.e., it is the righteousness of faith in the heart and the fruits of faith.
Apology VII, 35-36 -our works are not necessary for righteousness before God
Paul clearly teaches this to the Colossians, 2:16-17: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Likewise, 2:20–23 sqq.: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using), after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have, indeed, a show of wisdom in will-worship (Geistlichkeit) and humility. For the meaning is: Since righteousness of the heart is a spiritual matter, quickening hearts, and it is evident that human traditions do not quicken hearts, and are not effects of the Holy Ghost, as are love to one’s neighbor, chastity, etc., and are not instruments through which God moves hearts to believe, as are the divinely given Word and Sacraments, but are usages with regard to matters that pertain in no respect to the heart, which perish with the using, we must not believe that they are necessary for righteousness before God. [They are nothing eternal; hence, they do not procure eternal life, but are an external bodily discipline, which does not change the heart.]
· Rites and ceremonies are not used as works to satisfy the law of God. That is what God prohibits. On the contrary, the (Gottesdienst) is the righteousness God delivered to us.
· When humanly-invented customs like gathering on the Lord’s Day for divine service (to hear God’s Word, to receive the Lord’s Supper, to praise God and to pray) are useful innovations for assisting people toward faith and a life of service to God, they should be continued and be interpreted in a Gospel way.
· A service like the Service of Holy Communion does not confer God’s grace ex opere operato or merit remission of sins as some kind of sacrifice to God. It is rather a “liturgy,” that is, a public ministry offering the forgiveness of sins, won by Christ, which is conveyed through the means of grace and received by faith.
The Lutheran Confessions address central questions about worship (Gottesdienst), teaching what worship is, what it is not and how human traditions can be used in the worship of God.
The Lutheran Confessions teach that worship is a spiritual act, not an outward act. This spiritual worship is a trusting in God and a desiring of the forgiveness, grace and righteousness of God. The righteousness of faith truly honors and obeys God for through the Gospel (Word and Sacrament) the Holy Spirit overcomes distrust and creates faith. The Spirit does not come directly (subjectively), through an inner experience or by one’s own efforts, but through this ministry of the Gospel in teaching the Word of God and rightly administering the sacraments (objectively). Reliance on one’s own works as a way of making peace with God has no place in this kind of faith; Christ has earned salvation for us and God freely and graciously gives it to us. Without faith there can be no worship nor can there be any fruits of faith.
Human traditions are no divine worship yet when they contribute to order and tranquility and are used in love, without offense or confusion, they may be profitably used. They are not necessary to salvation; they are not essential to the unity of the church. However, it may be that in times of persecution, for the sake of confessing Christ, it is necessary not to give them up. When used properly, rites and ceremonies contribute to the public ministry of conveying forgiveness of sins that is received by faith. This faith also bears fruit, thanking and serving God.
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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 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 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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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 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.
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