Paragraph to Ponder

For seeing that truth of itself has a bitter taste for most people, and that it is of itself a
subversive thing to uproot what has long been commonly accepted, it would have been
wiser to soften a naturally painful subject by the courtesy of one’s handling than to pile
one cause of hatred on another….A prudent steward will husband the truth–bring it out, I
mean, when the business requires it and bring it out so much as is requisite and bring out
for every man what is appropriate for him–[but] Luther in this torrent of pamphlets has
poured it all out at once, making everything public and giving even cobblers a share in
what is normally handled by scholars as mysteries reserved for the initiated.
– Desiderius Erasmus to Justus Jonas, May 10, 1521, in Correspondence, 8:203

I’m Lutheran, So I can do this…

Cheap Beers

And from there they continued to Beer; that is the well of which the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, so that I may give them water.” (Num 21:16 ESV)

Old Ben Franklin wasn’t far off when he said the Beer is proof God loves us, see it is even biblical.

The picture comes from this (crude language alert) review of 36 cheap American beers.

Gotta love the Genny Cream Ale making the list.

One spot above Old #33. How I miss the glass lined tanks of old Latrobe. Once the St. Louis monster (and I don’t mean the seminary or the International Center of the LCMS) got a hold of it, Rolling Rock went from being a great brew that both guys and girl would drink to bad tasting water. The kind those Israelites might have pulled out of the well until the Lord led them to Beer.

Iron City, nobody drank IC other than Jack. IC Light, now that was some good cheap beer.

And I’ve got to quote this, just because sexy and Lutheran are in the same paragraph…

1. Grain Belt Premium. I always think of Minnesota as a secretly sexy place, and not just because of Kent Hrbek and Al Franken. Maybe it’s all the trout and music and Lutherans. Toss in a smooth, creamy, and dreamy local budget brew like Grain Belt and it’s a wonder Minnesota hasn’t seceded to form its own naked blond utopia. Grain Belt Premium is America’s finest cheap beer.

“God took care of the Reformation while Philip and I sat out back drinking Katie’s beer”…Martin Luther. Being a former nun I’m thinking it must have been a good Double Bock.

Get Insulted by Luther

This site pulls up random Luther insults. (If you can take the language it is quite funny.)

It is interesting to me how so many public men seem to have two sides (cross reference the outpouring about Andrew Breitbart this week). People that know them personally would throw themselves in front of cars to save the guy. And at the same time a significant amount of people take them as the devil themselves and not without supporting evidence.

What is the phrase, you can’t make omelets without breaking a few eggs? But figures like St. Francis haunt the background and phrases about turning the cheek.

Hymns We Sing – Reformation Day Edition

You all know the big Reformation Day Hymn – A Mighty Fortress is Our God. If you want to start a real fight, ask a Lutheran which tune is the better – the Bach setting or the original Luther. Parson and Parson’s mother disagree on this. It’s not a pretty fight.

But Ein Feste Burg is not what I want to talk about. Instead I want to talk about a more obscure yet more numerous genre of hymns that Luther loved to write. This Reformation Day the choir is going to sing a couple of verses from Lutheran Service Book #766 – Our Father, Who from Heaven Above during the offering. The congregation will echo the same hymn at the close of service with different verses. This is a great example of a catechetical hymn. By that I mean it is a hymn that is teaches to music. Like A Mighty Fortress, words and tune are by Luther.

The Small Catechism – the short basic teachings of the Christian Faith by Luther that he thought everyone should have memorized – contain the 10 Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. It was quickly expanded to include baptism and the Lord’s Supper and Confession (or the office of the Keys). It all fits in a few page or one “poster sized” wall hanging. Printing a catechism poster was one of the first uses of the printing press at the time. The head of every household for a couple of pennies could have the catechism in his home to teach both the basics of the faith and reading.

This hymn takes up the Lord’s Prayer.  The Choir is singing 1 & 5 over the offering.  The congregation will be singing 1 & 9 at the close of service.

1) Our Father who from heaven above

Bids all of us to live in love

As members of one family

And pray to you in unity

Teach us no thoughtless words to say

But from our inmost hearts to pray

5) Give us this day our daily bread

And lets us all be clothed and fed

Save us from hardship, war and strife

In plague and famine, spare our life

That we in honest peace may live

To care and greed no entrance give

9) Amen, that is, so shall it be

Make strong our faith in You, that we

May doubt not but with trust believe

That what we ask we shall receive

Thus in your name and at your word

We say, Amen, O hear us, Lord


Observe how each stanza begins with a petition from the Lord’s prayer, and the rest of the verse answers – “What does this mean?” Luther would follow a similar format with:
Baptism – #406, To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord
10 Commandments – #581, These Are the Holy Ten Commandments
Creed – #954, We All Believe in One True God
Confession – #607, From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee

We don’t do that much anymore. In fact you could say that catechism style teaching is out of vogue. Asking a question, writing or memorizing the answer and building upon it in another Q&A seems to break our post-modern sensibility. As Steve Jobs would say – don’t just accept the dogma which is accepting someone else’s thinking. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was conflicted about that. At some level a catechism is invaluable. It gives you a starting point. Bloom’s taxonomy and all knowledge starts somewhere. Even Steve Jobs didn’t question Wozniak’s circuit board layout. I guess the synthesis I’d come to is a combination. Instead of the endpoint it too often became, the catechism is a start. We used to accept the memorization of Luther’s answers as proper catechizing. Now, its a good start, but you need to make the answers your own. That is the task of the disciple and of the Christian life – that we can truly say: Amen, so shall it be to “Make strong our Faith in You”.

A German Pope at the Erfurt Agustinian Monastery

Benedict XVI, a German, is on a trip to Germany. One of his stops is in Erfurt at the monastery that trained and sheltered Luther. Here is the link to the full text of his comments. The full comments are short, but this is a clip. Benedict has clearly been formed in some way by Luther’s thoughts. He doesn’t mention Law and Gospel, but he talks about the revealed God/(hidden god) and talks about the deep question of how does God interact with me. You don’t get more Lutheran. Especially coming from the Anti-Christ whore of babylon Roman Pontiff. Interesting through-out….

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the EKD here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Reformation Day Sermons

Full Text

Two choices with any Special Day sermons, preach the day or preach the text. Preaching the day is by far the more popular. People expect it. It is actually easier (maybe why it is more popular) – no translations to do, find some simple stories preferably cute about the people involved. But I think that puts the cart before the horse with most things Christian. The text or the Word drives the Christian story…drives the Christian. Preaching the day drains it of its vitality. The day becomes just another museum piece. One more birthday, anniversary or commemoration to remember. Preach the text and the living Word might show up.

Russell Saltzman here has heard or given one to many sermons on the Day. He gives some great examples of the species. It is also a great example of loss of hope. When the day has lost its vitality, it can’t inspire hope. The Word that inspires is absent.

Red flag of the parsons own views here – we made/make too much of the politics and the piety that came out of the reformation, and not enough of the original insight. For centuries the camps of Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed have gloried in their people and places and documents. And those things are important, but they don’t capture the complexity of the people – their tragic incompleteness. The original reformation insight allows for that incompleteness, and lets God complete things. And that insight came from the Word.

For no one is justified by works of the law…but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the the Law – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:19-22).

If you read Saltzman’s last paragraph – he put his hope in the wrong place. Even the church, which will be protected until the end, is an imperfect and incomplete vessel – waiting to be made complete…waiting for the saints to be revealed…waiting for the righteousness of God through faith.

A Thousand Miles in the Footsteps of Martin Luther

Here is a WSJ article about an interesting trip. Here are the author’s ongoing site.

a snipet…

But we and Luther do share one significant similarity: We’re both living in the midst of a communication revolution. For Luther it was the printing press. He and his followers were able to use pamphlets and ever-cheaper printed books to promote the Reformation cause. This ability to spread the word also hardened the opposing teams in a divided and dividing church…In the discourse between Lutheran and Catholic ecumenists over the past half-century, however, a new picture of Luther has emerged. Both sides have acknowledged that the claim of a severe cleavage between pre- and post-Reformation Luther is simply inaccurate. Luther’s revolutionary insights were firmly grounded in the long tradition of the church. Both Catholic rejection and Protestant triumphalism fail to do justice to the real man and his work.

Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Word Alone. Those are the three “solas” of the reformation. And they are all radical positions. By radical I mean that put on a spectrum, none of them are the middle path, a reasonable man would not gravitate to those poles. And I think that order is telling. Nobody ever really debated grace alone. There were debates over obscure terms like prevenient grace and saving grace, but that was splitting hairs. It was all grace. The debates intensified at faith alone. Faith alone to Lutherans really repeated grace alone. We are saved through faith which is a gift of God by grace. Faith is a visible form of grace. The Catholics of the time and still today will nod that yes it is faith that saves, but faith is fruitful in works. The last sola, Word Alone, is often misrepresented. We often take it today as just the scriptures. The Scriptures were definitely the source, but the reformation understanding is larger. Think through the foolishness of preaching, the proclaimed word, an almost mystical understanding of the active Word in our lives. The Catholics made the same leap we often do. They heard Word Alone as sola scriptura and gagged. The scriptures require interpretation. Tradition, the church, the creeds and the teachers of the church are required. The mystic monk met the legal institution and they talked past each other.

Its a blog, so I can be grossly wrong and retract it later. At heart I’m real simple. It’s all grace. The Christian proclamation is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were driving the nails and saying we don’t want this grace, the Father gave it anyway. Faith alone, yes, true, but because its all grace. Word alone? That one also, but because God condescended to tell us anything. Everything else kinda falls under Paul’s words, “All things are possible, but not all things are profitable.” Am I going to divide over Word alone – no. Am I going to divide over Faith alone – very doubtful. Am I going to divide over grace alone – yep. If you think anything you do will earn you merit, we part company. I’m not strong enough or wise enough to figure it all out. I need the grace.

So, I wish Sara Wilson grace on her 1000 miles. And in her endeavor. Once things are divided, putting them back together takes a lot of grace. Thankfully I believe in the resurrection – when things do get put back together.