The Discipline of Lent


As we approach the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday is March 1st this year), I am beginning to mention the history of Lent and referring to it as a season of repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love (almsgiving). I’m also starting to hear the old-saw response from some Lutherans. Here’s a note from Bill as an example:

This is in no way Lutheran!!!!!!!!! We are saved by God’s GRACE not WORKS of discipline. We cannot cleanse our own hearts.
I would like to know who is responsible for this error so that I can speak to them.
I’ll post my response to Bill as an open letter.
Dear Mr. Lindeman,
You are correct. Lent is not about our giving up something to somehow please God by our good work.  Lent is about what Jesus Christ gave up to pay the penalty for the sins of the world — His holy and innocent life. This is the message of the Gospel.
 
If during Lent Christians choose to give up something or rededicate themselves to helping those in need as a way to proclaim the salvation Christ has won for all by His suffering and death, then such activities are sacrifices that glorify God. Yet as you say in your note, nothing we do through discipline, self-denial, or good works can ever earn the Lord’s forgiveness or repay Him for what He accomplished for us.  We are saved by grace.
 
Though the Scriptures do not mention Lent, it has a longstanding tradition in the Church. Though we are not certain how it developed, by A.D. 350 the forty-day fast that we now have was already part of the Church’s practice in most places. Many identify the Second Festal letter of Athanasius in A.D. 330 as the earliest reference to a forty-day day fast leading up to Easter. 
 
For Christians living in the Fourth Century Lent had two major emphases: First, it was seen as a time of repentance and denial of self. All Christians were to examine their lives according to the Ten Commandments and other Christian ethical precepts and repent where necessary. They were to remember what it cost their Savior to save them, The second emphasis of Lent was as a time of instruction and preparation for those who wanted to become members of the Christian Church, i.e., the catechumens. During Lent they learned the Christian doctrine by studying the Creed. They were led step by step through prayer and special rites toward baptism. The instruction of the catechumen led to baptism and receiving the Lord’s Supper in the service on Easter.
 
At the time of the Reformation, some Christians wanted to eliminate Lent since Scripture didn’t command it. Luther, however, urged that it be kept, for he saw Lent as an opportunity for the strengthening of faith. “Lent, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week shall be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the Gospels appointed for that season” (Luther’s Works AE, 53:90). Here Luther instructs that Lent should be preserved, in part, because it reminded Christians of the Passion (suffering and death) of Jesus and encouraged them to meditate upon it. However, no one should be forced to participate. It should be voluntary.
 
Lutherans retain Lent to this day, because we see it as a salutary outward discipline that gives Christians a wonderful opportunity for spiritual renewal. As Lent begins, we are invited to struggle against everything that leads us away from love of God and love of neighbor by exercising the discipline of Lent: repentance, fasting, prayer and works of love (almsgiving). These may become specific occasions and opportunities for spiritual renewal during this season of renewal as we come face to face with the sin that hinders our walk with Christ. Living out a discipline takes our Lord’s words about self-denial seriously (Matthew 16:24). In the Lenten discipline, we come face to face with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we focus (or refocus) on His self-sacrificing passion, death and resurrection, which has brought us acceptance, forgiveness and redemption by God. Through that same discipline, we make a loving response to God who gives us the power to live anew.
Blessed Lent,
Pastor Scot Kinnaman
And to you too, dear blog reader, my prayer is that you have a blessed Lent and a joyous Easter celebration.

Lenten Catechesis—Monday of Lent 5


Gethseme_w-angel

The Keys

The authority of the Keys [Matthew 16:19], or the authority of the bishops—according to the Gospel—is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments. Christ sends out His apostles with this command, “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you … Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld” (john 20:21-22). And in Mark 16:15, Christ says, “Go … proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.”

This authority is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, either to many or to individuals, according to their calling. In this way are given not only bodily, but also eternal things: eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. These things cannot reach us except by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, “The Gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone that believes” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, the Church has the authority to grant eternal things and exercises this authority only by the ministry of the Word.

The only authority that belongs to the bishops is what they have according to the Gospel, or by divine right, as they say. For they have been given the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. They have no other authority according to the Gospel than the authority to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the Church wicked people, whose wickedness is known.… According to this Gospel authority, as a matter of necessity, by divine right, congregations must obey them, for Luke 10:16 says, “The one who hears you hears Me.” But when they teach or establish anything against the Gospel, then the congregations are forbidden by God’s command to obey them.
—Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII: 5-7, 8-10, 21

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

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TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Fifth Sunday in Lent


Gethseme_w-angel

Confession

This is what St. John the Evangelist writes in chapter twenty: The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
— John 20:22-23

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Saturday of Lent 4


Ecce-Homo-e

Holy Baptism—Who receives what Baptism gives and profits?

Baptism does not become invalid even though it is wrongly received or used. As stated above, it is not bound to our faith, but to the Word.

Suppose a Jewish person should come dishonestly today and with evil intent, and we should baptize him in all good faith. We must say that his Baptism is still genuine. For here is the water together with God’s Word, even though the person does not receive it as he should.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:53-4

So you see that the objection of the sectarians is empty. As we have said, even though infants did not believe (which, however, is not the case), still their Baptism would be valid. We have now shown this. No one should rebaptize infants. Nothing is taken away from the Sacrament even though someone approaches it with evil purpose. So he could not be allowed to take it a second time the self-same hour on account of his abuse, as though he had not received the true Sacrament at first. That would blaspheme and profane the Sacrament in the worst way. How dare we think that God’s Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid because we make a wrong use of it?
—Large Catechism, Part 4:55

I say, if you did not believe then, believe now and say this: The Baptism certainly was right. But I, unfortunately, did not receive it aright. I myself also, and all who are baptized, must say this before God, “I come here in my faith and in that of others. Yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me. But in this I rest, that Baptism is Your Word and command. It is just like when I go to the Sacrament trusting not in my faith, but in Christ’s Word.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:56

We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith [Luke 17:2; Ephesians 2:8]. But we do not baptize it for that reason, but solely because of God’s command. Why? Because we know that God does not lie [Titus 1:2].
—Large Catechism, Part 4:57

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Friday of Lent 4


Ecce-Homo-e

Holy Baptism—Who receives what Baptism gives and profits?

The Baptism of infants is pleasing to Christ, as is proved well enough from His own work. For God sanctifies many of those who have been baptized as infants and has given them the Holy Spirit. There are still many people even today in whom we perceive that they have the Holy Spirit both because of their doctrine and life. It is also given to us by God’s grace that we can explain the Scriptures and come to the knowledge of Christ, which is impossible without the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:3]. But if God did not accept the Baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Spirit nor any of His gifts to any of them. In short, during the long time up to this day, no person on earth could have been a Christian.… Since the holy Christian Church cannot perish until the end of the world, the sects must acknowledge that such infant Baptism is pleasing to God. For God can never be opposed to Himself or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit.… The sects shall not take from us or overthrow this article: “I believe in… the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”
—Large Catechism, Part 4:49-51

Further, we say that we are not very concerned to know whether the person baptized believes or not. For Baptism does not become invalid on that account. But everything depends on God’s Word and command. Now this point… rests entirely on what I have said, that Baptism is nothing other than water and God’s Word in and with each other [Ephesians 5:26]. That is, when the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith is lacking. For my faith does not make Baptism, but receives it.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:52-3

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Thursday of Lent 4


Ecce-Homo-e

Holy Baptism—What does such Baptizing with water signify?

We are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterward are drawn out again. These two parts… signify Baptism’s power and work. It is nothing other than putting to death the old Adam and affecting the new man’s resurrection after that [Romans 6:4-6]. Both of these things must take place in us all our lives. So a truly Christian life is nothing other than a daily Baptism, once begun and ever to be continued.… Without ceasing… we always keep purging away whatever belongs to the old Adam. Then what belongs to the new man may come forth. But what is the old man? It is what is born in human beings from Adam: anger, hate, envy, unchastity, stinginess, laziness, arrogance—yes, unbelief. The old man is infected with all vices and has by nature nothing good in him [Romans 7:18]. Now, when we have come into Christ’s kingdom [John 3:5], these things must daily decrease. The longer we live the more we become gentle, patient, meek, and ever turn away from unbelief, greed, hatred, envy, and arrogance.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:65

Faith alone makes the person worthy to receive profitably the saving, divine water. Since these blessings are presented here and promised through the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart [Romans 10:9]. Without faith it profits nothing, even though Baptism is in itself a divine overwhelming treasure. Therefore, this single phrase, “Whoever believes,” does so much.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:33-4

You see plainly that this is no work done here by us, but a treasure, which God gives us and faith grasps [Ephesians 2:8-9]. It is like the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, which is not a work, but a treasure included in the Word. It is offered to us and received by faith.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:37

When our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say, “Nevertheless, I am baptized. And if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.”
—Large Catechism, Part 4:44

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Wenesday of Lent 4


Ecce-Homo-e

Holy Baptism—How can water do such great things?

In the water is God’s Word or command and God’s name. His name is a treasure greater and nobler than heaven and earth.

Baptism is quite a different thing from all other water. This is not because of its natural quality but because something more noble has been added here. God Himself stakes His honor, His power, and His might on it. Therefore, Baptism is not only natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water, and whatever other terms we can find to praise it. This is all because of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, which no one can praise enough. For it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do [Isaiah 55:10-11]. In this way it also gets its essence as a Sacrament, as St. Augustine also taught, “When the Word is joined to the element or natural substance, it becomes a Sacrament,” that is, a holy and divine matter and sign.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:16-8

You must honor Baptism and consider it glorious because of the Word. For God Himself has honored it both by words and deeds. Furthermore, He has confirmed it with miracles from heaven. Do you think that it was a joke that, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended visibly, and everything was divine glory and majesty [Luke 3:21-22]?
—Large Catechism, Part 4:21

I encourage again that these two—the water and the Word—by no means be separated from each other and parted. For if the Word is separated from it, the water is the same as the water that the servant cooks with. It may indeed be called a bathkeeper’s baptism. But when the Word is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament. It is called Christ’s Baptism.
—Large Catechism, Part 4:22

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.