The Law hurts, it's meant to. The Law makes the Gospel all the more sweet and without it the Gospel is not free, but worthless. The Law gives the Gospel its value and worth.
Friday, June 29, 2007
(From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg 180- Gregory I, Epistles 2.48)
Gregory I (540-604). Gregory was born into a godly family of considerable influence in Rome. After the death of his father, he proceeded to set up seven monasteries, one of which he became abbot. Gregory wasn't allowed to stay for long; the pope called him to be one of the seven deacons of Rome and subsequently sent him to Constantinople to be a representative at the imperial court. In 590, after the death of the pope, he was called to take his place. Gregory called himself "servant of the servants of God," a title every pope has used since. His most important writings are the Pastoral Rule, a handbook for bishops; numerous teachings, letters, dialogues; and the Exposition of Job.
(From Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg 175- Origen, First Principles 3.1)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
As the July LCMS convention approaches, I have been pondering the struggles of the Synod and my place in it all. I have been thinking for some time about the two camps in the LCMS and how I managed to start in one and migrate to the other.
Coming from the East Coast and out of Concordia, Bronxville, I was a prime candidate to end up in the "moderate" wing of the synod. Going into seminary, I wasn't totally convinced of Closed Communion, and had my doubts about women's ordination.
I remember even in Seminary getting into an argument about whether the LCMS should even be discussing women's ordination (I thought then, that we should - my wiser adversary saying it was a settled matter.)
Back then, I didn't like contemporary and praise type music, but still didn't really "get" the liturgy.
I remember firmly thinking that style and substance were completely unrelated.
I also figured I could and would remain neutral in all the various squabbles of the LCMS, and be "above it all."
Honestly, I also didn't study the Confessions as seriously as I should have in seminary. It didn't seem so "relevant" to me then.
How that changed. While I still am careful about how and when and where I participate in our synod's political process, I find myself increasingly taking sides with the confessional/conservative/traditionalist camp. My growing appreciation for and understanding of Lutheran theology is to blame for this.
The Yankee Stadium controversy was, for me, and for many I think, a turning point. It almost drew a line in the sand. You kind of HAD to take sides. And as I examined what happened there and studied the issues carefully, I found myself siding with a new and strange group of people. The people who used to scare me.
I was, originally, quite intimidated by the Confessional crowd in the LCMS. I think I understand why. To me, they represented the Law. Their very existence suggested there was something "less pure" or "less faithful" or "less Lutheran" about me. And I resented that. I guess I also internally knew that it was true, and so these guys became a sort of walking talking embodiment of the Law for me. By identifying themselves as certain things, they implicitly identified others as not those things. Liturgical, traditional, Biblical, concerned about Law and Gospel, faithful, confession-minded... all these have an opposite.
I have heard moderates in the synod speak derisively of the "ultra-conservatives," as they assumed I sympathized with them. I honestly don't know what the problem is, other than a feeling that because that guy wears a collar all the time and doesn't do contemporary worship, he must think he's better than us. And in a sense, I guess that's true. But perhaps he simply thinks what he is doing is better.
Sure there's arrogance and condescension on the confessional side too. And to the extent that we allow this we are sure to turn off the moderates even more. But even without it, I think a certain amount of Law will prick the honest moderate's conscience, as he sees a faithful pastor doing things he knows he should be doing - but is either too lazy, or afraid, or uninformed to do.
I have come a long way in the last 7 years. I still feel like I am on the road to becoming truly Lutheran. I appreciate the internet and all I have learned here, in the blogs and on the email lists and forums... and it gives me hope. Issues Etc. is another gem.
I hope that many who were or are like me - once the Squishy Missouri Middle - can grow and learn and see why it is we want to build Lutheran identity and stem the tide of the Neo-Evangelical influence in our Synod.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
This afternoon while reading Luther, I came across this very beautiful description of our hidden lives. While we are redeemed and share presently in the glory of our resurrected and ascended Lord, that reality is often hidden.
Luther says: But faith must close its eyes and refuse to pass judgment on what it sees or feels in the world. You won't become aware of eternal life until Christ raises you from the dead. Meanwhile, your eternal life is hidden in death. It's covered up and out of sight. But you have forgiveness. If you feel the weight of sin crushing you, you can still say, "My sins are forgiven." When your sins hunt you down, bite at you, and terrify you, you can look to Christ, put your feeble faith in Him, and hold on tightly.*
It seems at times that telling people to just look to Christ isn't enough. Our sinful nature wants to take the reigns from God. That is where so many church bodies and pastors get into trouble. When you get to a point where Christ's sacrificial and atoning death, His justifying resurrection and glorious ascension and mediation are no longer enough you may as well hand your soul to the devil. Faith closes its eyes to everything but Christ and Him crucified. There we have our sufficiency.
*Luther's Works AE 23:74
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
This morning I was struck by this beautiful and pregnant line about the reason for Creation:
God did not need creatures. He is an ocean of eternal love that overflowed in the creation of countless beings to whom He revealed His love and with whom He shared His goodness.*
Now, this is a great thought to start out my day!
O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
O Lord God Almighty, I know that I owe You the devotion of all my words and thoughts as my main duty. The greatest reward of speech You have given me is the opportunity to serve by preaching You and displaying You as You are to a blind and rebellious world. For You are our Father and Father of God the Only-begotten Son. But I am only expressing my own desires. I must also pray for Your help and compassion. Then Your Spirit's breath will fill the sails of faith and confession which I have spread out, and a favorable wind will move me forward on my voyage of instruction. We can trust the promise of Christ who said, "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." In whatever we lack, we will pray for the things we need. We will be untiring and energetic as we study Your prophets and apostles. We will knock to enter every gate of hidden knowledge. But You are the One who answers these prayers, who gives us the things we seek, who opens the door we beat on.
* Hilary of Poitiers (c. 315-367) is best known for his stands against the Arian sect in his two treatises, On the Trinity and On the Synods. His early years were devoted to the study of pagan philosophy and rhetoric before he was converted to the Christian faith. Around 350, he was appointed as bishop of Poitiers despite having a wife. His six years as bishop were spent refuting the Arians and upholding the teachings of Athanasius. Under the emperor Constantius he was banished to Phyrgia in Asia Minor, where he composed his treatises. Hilary returned to Poitiers and spent the rest of his life defending the Christian faith from heretical teachings. The passage in this blog post is from On the Trinity 1.37, from Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers, pg.169 & 374.
What an indescribable joy and honor it is to feed the Good Shepherd's sheep! May He always go before me to prepare their hearts, with me that I may be made worthy and faithful of the task and after me to nourish and fortify the seed of His Word!
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I am also blessed with a tremendously warm, hospitable and welcoming congregation. What a day! And the meal afterward was just wonderful! Another day I will never forget. I pray that God would bless me with many years of faithful and fruitful service in Middleville.
I will post pictures later. Tomorrow it's off to work!!
Friday, June 08, 2007
My beloved saints at Good Shepherd, do not hesitate to call on me to be your pastor. It is my great privilege and joy to share God's Word in your life.
Thursday, June 07, 2007