Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving? Why?

Someone recently asked me why we were getting ready to move.  There has to be some sort of reason for someone to repaint the interior of a house, finally take care of this, that, and the other homeowner project he has been dodging for years, and look seriously at uprooting his family to move somewhere else.  So what's going on with the idea of a move?  Why are we getting ourselves ready to look for a house near Fort Wayne, Indiana, of all places?

First and foremost, I've looked at the community and it is a community I wouldn't mind living in.  Neither is the place where we live now.  Nothing rules Fort Wayne out.  And there are some community advantages.  It's a larger city.  There's even a ballet company.  There are more opportunities in the arts, a few more museums, a huge library, and different things to see and do than there are here.  So we can't see a good reason to rule it out.

Indiana has fewer testing and reporting requirements for homeschoolers than West Virginia does.  Neither state is really hard to deal with, but Indiana is a little easier.  It will be nice to stop having the annual burden that says we need to be sure our daughter is prepared for whatever testing or the person who reviews her portfolio feels like looking for.  Like anyone else, Hannah is better at some things than at other things.  She's more interested in some things than other things.  I think the Indiana laws will make it easier for us to provide her with the education that is well rounded and still fits her personality and interests.

Housing and cost of living are similar.  But we're interested in leaving our present house to move to a smaller house.  I know, some people think we have a nice little house, at about 1800 square feet.  At the same time, some people think it is a pretty large house.  We think it has more room than we really need.  More room adds up to more utilities, more repairs, more taxes, you name it.  Our family has just shrunk a little bit.  We're ready to deal with a little less living space.

At the same time, we've been wanting to become less dependent on the cash economy.  If we can do more of our heating with wood, if we can grow a good portion of the food we eat, including raising some chickens and maybe even a goat for milk and cheese, we don't think that will be a bad move.  We can't do that here.  Our entire property is 30 by 60 feet, including the space taken up by our house.  And somehow I don't think the neighbors would be amused by our cultivating the entire yard and keeping a bunch of "exotic pets."  I try not to grumble too openly about taxes, but let's be real.  As a self-employed person, once you count all the various taxes I end up playing, the total tax burden ends up close to 50% of my income.  If I want to have another dollar, I have to earn two more.  If I manage to save a dollar, that means two dollars I don't need to earn.  Along those same lines, there's something really positive in my mind about having an exercise program which serves to keep the house warm.  There's something very comforting about the idea that much of what we are planning to eat is outside growing.  There's a big comfort in the idea that if I can cut several thousand dollars a year from the cash needs we have I could afford a pay cut or an emergency expense more easily.

Fort Wayne came to the surface of my inquiries because of my interest in historic Lutheran belief and practice.  As the home of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne ( www.ctsfw.edu ) It's not only a place where I could study for the pastoral ministry if that remains a desire, but it is certainly a place where I could find a wide variety of solid Lutheran churches.  When I last counted there were over 15 LCMS congregations in the greater Fort Wayne area.  Compare that to two small congregations within 30 miles of my current home.  Of course, we don't want to say that because there are more they are necessarily better.  And I don't wish to say anything negative about those near my home.  But I'd like to see some of the broader world of confessional Lutherans.

Since about 1984 I have toyed, sometimes more seriously than other times, with the idea of training for pastoral ministry.  Within the Calvinistic and Baptistic churches that I have attended in the past it would have been relatively easy to make that jump.  Lutherans are a little more guarded about the way they view the pastoral ministry.  If I think it is right to make that move, I will need to go attend a seminary.  

So, back to the original question.  Why am I wanting to move to the Fort Wayne area?  I don't know.  There are a lot of things to do there.  It's a good environment for homeschooling.  I can surely find a property where I'm free to garden and have some animals.  I like the idea of barbecued chicken, homegrown eggs, fresh tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, and carrots, as well as fresh milk and cheese.  If we don't like the gardening and animals we can choose not to do that and not be worse off.  There are some different church congregations, as well as some educational opportunities.  Yet I can't give an overriding reason to want to move.  Maybe I just like moving boxes.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Observations on the Use of the Synoptic Gospels in the Writings of Justin Martyr

Martens, Gottfried. "Observations on the Use of the Synoptic Gospels in the Writings of Justin Martyr." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 49-65.

This is one of the more hard-core academic articles I've seen in a while.  I hope I understood it adequately.  By the way, it's the kind of writing and topic that I'm interested in early Christian literature.  Cuts right to the chase of how the Scripture is understood by early orthodox believers.

Justin Martyr (ca. 110-165) makes many quotations or alleged quotations from the synoptic gospels but often his wording doesn't seem to match up with the gospels as we have received them.  How do we explain this?  Is it due to a faulty memory?  Is it due to Justin's use of non-canonical gospels?  Does Justin use some sort of a harmony that has errors?  Is there a form criticism thing going on?  Martens lays out the problems but does not settle on a solution immediately. He considers the work of Arthur Bellinzoni, a scholar who has tried to resolve these problems using Form Criticism, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of Bellinzoni's work.

Martens compares some of Justin's quotations of texts in the synoptic gospels and observes that while Justin tends to say approximately the same thing as he has said elsewhere in his written works, and while the concepts are quite the same as those found in the synoptic gospels, the wording is significantly different.  Bellinzoni assumes this to be evidence that Justin did not have access to the definitive text of the synoptic gospels.  Unfortunately, Bellinzoni is unable to show where Justin has the same reading of the gospel text that any other church father does.  This would be highly unlikely.  If there were a text in circulation, one would think some other church father would have used it as well.

Is this oddity of Justin's quotation a matter of a faulty memory?  That would be a nice assumption, but Justin says quite specifically that he is quoting from a written source.  Is it a harmonization that has paraphrases?  Again, we can't seem to find any other evidence of such a document with those particular readings.  Martens goes on to discuss what we do know from Justin's writings about his understanding of the synoptic gospels.  First, he refers to them as being three in number, and in written form.  He considers them authoritative texts.  Justin's arguments are also clearly dependent on the concepts in the synoptic gospels, with Matthew being the most important and Luke less so.    Justin is also someone who clearly thinks highly of the written Scriptures, taking issue with the Marcionite canon.  So we don't want to assume Justin is taking the Scripture lightly in any way.

In the end, Martens does not tell us why he thinks Justin would have this oddity in his quotations.  Justin is obviously someone who thinks very highly of Scripture and to whom the specific meaning of what Jesus did and taught was of the utmost importance.

I personally find it worth considering that maybe Justin was holding to a different standard of quotation than the standard we would hold someone to today.  I recall some of the reading I did in the Journal of Early Christian Studies indicating that the idea of a "translation" was often extended to a new, expanded, paraphrased, or otherwise altered edition of a work.  It may be that we need to reconsider the rigid definition we have of a quotation, at least when we look at ancient authors.

That said, if you quote me, please use today's standards for what a quotation is.  Otherwise, claim credit for the words and ideas yourself!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Asaph and Jerusalem

Scaer, Peter. "Asaph and Jerusalem." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 35-47.

Asaph, the temple musician and psalmist from the Davidic and Solomonic period, is not studied much.  When he has been studied, it is primarily through the eyes of 1 Chronicles.  Scaer sets out to study Asaph including the Psalm superscriptions.

Psalms 50 and 73-83 are ascribed to Asaph.  In these psamls we see Asaph has a preference for the name "El" for God.  God as the Judge is common in Asaph's thought.  We also see that Asaph has God speaking directly, not quoted.  Half of the times in the Psalms that this happens, Asaph is the author.  Asaph uses images of sheep and shepherd.  He alludes to the Exodus and wanderings of Israel.  He talks about Joseph and his sons, as opposed to the more common mentions of Jacob and his sons.  

Scaer observes that Joseph and his sons were important players in the Northern Kingdom narratives, while other descendants of Jacob were important players in the South.  Ephraim and Manasseh were the dominant geographical denotations within Israel, being the two tribes which claimed a land inheritance in the stead of Levi.  Shiloh, in Ephraim, is the home of the tabernacle, the center of activity prior to the establishment of the temple in Jerusalem.  Four of the five times that Joseph is mentioned in the psalms, Asaph is the one who wrote the psalm.

It appears, then that maybe Asaph came from the North.  Of course, we have no way of knowing this with certainty, but his emphases certainly suggest it.

Asaph views the temple as the place of God's revelation.  When confronted by evil and even questioning God's goodness, Asaph turns to the temple, seeks God's face there, and finds that God brings solace.

In Psalms 77 and 78, Asaph depicts the sorrow of the dwellers of the Northern Kingdom as it appears that God has departed from the North and established his home in Jerusalem.  He has rejected the Northern Kingdom as the people who have rejected God's covenant.  And in these psalms, Asaph links Moses and David, depicting David as the one who is now raised up to lead Israel.

In many ways Asaph serves to point us to the historic things of our faith.  He expresses God's real presence and steadfastness.  He expresses that God's people are commanded to depend on God for all things.  He emphasizes the joy of following the Lord in all circumstances, even when evil is a prominent feature in our lives.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Luke Is Indebted to Matthew as the First Gospel

Just, Arthur. "Why Luke is (sic) Indebted to Matthew as the First Gospel." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer.  Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press. 19-33.

Just sets out to demonstrate that Luke is indebted to Matthew in his missiological context, his ecclesiology, and the similarities between Matthew 28 and Luke 24.  Matthew and Luke were both written to catechize believers.  Matthew appears to have been written with a primarily Jewish audience in mind, as he assumes a knowledge of the Old Testament and Jewish customs.  Luke, likely written in a later period and clearly drawing on previous written sources, does not make the assumption that the reader would already know anything about the Old Testament.  Both authors seek to tell their particular audiences about Jesus in terms that they would readily understand.  Both clearly view their mission as evangelism and catechism, simply to different cultural groups.

When considering Luke's ecclesiology, it is interesting to see that Luke draws on Matthew's character as he depicts the nature of the Church.  When Luke discusses the call of Levi (Matthew) he identifies him as a tax collector and thus an outcast.  Luke then shows that Levi is the one who throws a big dinner party, welcoming all his fellow tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus is shown to be the friend and savior to outcasts and sinners of all sorts, from the first big banquet with Matthew to the last banquet with the apostles at the Passover.

When Just looks at Matthew 28 and Luke 24 he identifies them both as a form of "church order' similar to what we see in the Didache and other early Christian writings.  In these concluding chapters, the evangelists make a description of the way things are in the Church.  Recall that neither Matthew nor Luke was written at the time of Jesus' ascension, but some years later.  Christians had established practices by this time.  Matthew and Luke detail some of the normative practices, explaining that they are practices instituted by Jesus.  What is this normative practice of Christians?  When in contact with adults, the believers evangelize, catechize, baptize, and celebrate communion, in that order.  We first bring the Word of God to people's attention.  We tell them what they need to know.  They are baptized as they confess the fundamental beliefs of the Christian.  They continue in the life of the Church through communion.  The very same pattern exists in Matthew 28 and Luke 24, with the distinction that in Luke we see some specifics about the extent of the work of bringing the Gospel to all nations.    

Matthew, written clearly before Luke, is apparently foundational to Luke's understanding of mission, ecclesiology, and church order. The unity of the message of these two evangelists is striking.  Though they are clearly speaking differently, they hold the same message.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dying to Live

Senkbeil, Harold L. Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness. St. Louis: Concordia.  1994.

This is an interesting book.  Since it isn't a particularly scholarly tome I'll just write up what I observe about it rather briefly rather than a chapter-by-chapter post.  The book was recommended to me by Jason Braaten at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne.  We picked it up from paperback swap and gave it a read.

For this book, Senkbeil writes in a self-consciously chatty tone.  He uses no footnotes, no cross-references, none of the trappings of academia.  It's kind of like sitting by his fireplace in Wisconsin and hearing him tell about some of the central aspects of the Christian life.  If you like that kind of tone, you'll like this book.  He covers historic and orthodox life in Christ quite well, with some very striking insights, especially in the last three chapters of the book.

The book is organized around three pillars.  In the first part, "The Incarnational Foundation of the Christian Life" Senkbeil discusses our world's suffering and need for a savior, how Jesus was lord of life, and why his death on our behalf is so very important.  In the second part, "The Sacramental Focus of the Christian Life" he talks about the centrality of baptism, absolution, and communion in the life of the Church.  Since almost all Christians accept the spoken and preached Word of God as authoritative and powerful but many believers don't take a sacramental view of baptism, absolution, and communion, Senkbeil rightly focuses on those features of his Lutheran faith.  In the final part, "The Liturgical Shape of the Christian Life" Senkbeil talks about how the divine service is a liturgical life together, prayer is liturgical life alone, and vocation is liturgical life in the world.  His emphasis is on what liturgy really is -- worship and service to our neighbor in the light of Christ's care for us.  

Senkbeil is quite plain about the fact that we are never alone, even when we seem to be alone.  Christ is working in and through us, and we are always in not only his company but in the company of the world of believers who happen to be living, rejoicing, mourning, and praying along with us.  When we pray we are always agreeing with someone else.  Someone else is always praying!  A proper view of the supernaturality of this life will remind us that we are indeed in a great company of believers all the time.

I said above that if you liked books written in a conversational tone you'll like this one.  I freely confess that the tone of this book made it very difficult for me to continue reading.  I'm predisposed against such things.  Maybe I read too much beatnik stuff in the past.  My initial reaction was to send the book back to paperback swap.  But I'm glad I didn't.  It had some good insights, particularly in the chapters on prayer and vocation.

After such a literary foray, I'm going to pull back and put All Theology is Christology edited by Dean O. Wenthe at the top of my reading list.  I think a festschrift like that will have enough footnotes and scholarly allusions to bring me out of the funk I fell into working through Dying to Live.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Through the Shadowlands

Senkbeil, Harold.  "Through the Shadowlands: A Christian Handbook on Death and Life." A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  143-145.

It's appropriate that a book about pastoral theology should have at least one article on death.  Why not conclude with it?  Senkbeil starts off with observations and Scriptural quotations reminding us of the encouragement for Christians facing death.  Death is not victorious.  Christ is risen from the dead and has defeated death.  So while a temporal life may be coming to a close in death, the eternal life is not harmed in any way.

During prolonged illness and at the time of death, the attendance of a pastor is helpful on many levels.  The pastor brings consolation, comfort, and reminds us of the real presence of Christ, possibly even communing the sick or dying.  And the person who is dying is often comforted by the presence, voice, and touch of family and friends, including the pastor.  

Often today funerals are carried out in funeral chapels rather  than in the local church.  As a divine service, it is more appropriate to have the funeral in the church building.  The pastor can help significantly with appropriate hymns, prayers, litanies, and the like.  The personal reflections of family members are good, but they don't really belong in the funeral.  The funeral is a sacred service, centered around Law and Gospel.

The funeral is not really complete until the body is buried appropriately.  There is a respect and dignity appropriate to this person who has borne the image of God through life and has now entered into death.  The actual burial is often very helpful to families as they grieve.  They can look forward to the resurrection and the fact that the dead will be raised in the last day.

Some liturgical items may be helpful in case of a funeral.  Senkbeil suggests that it is appropriate to light the paschal candle which is also lit between Easter adn Ascension as well as during baptisms.  It is quite appropriate to light it and place it near the casket as a sign of the resurrection.  The funeral pall may be used to cover the casket.  Its ornamental crosses are signs of the true Sabbath rest saints have.  The processional cross and torches or candles are an appropriate symbol of Christ's victory over death and his leading his people into eternity.

Senkbeil closes by observing that it is appropriate for Christians to grieve, but that we do not grieve in hopelessness over Christians who have died.  We know that they have died in Christ and that he is victorious over death.  While we are sad due to the earthly parting, we can rejoice in the life to come.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Search of Adequate Wedding Vows

Hoger, Allen C.  "In Search of Adequate Wedding Vows"  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  141-142.

For several years I went to a lot of weddings.  I was playing in a musical group which provided pre- and post-wedding music.  So I got to see a lot of weddings in a lot of different churches.  There were two features which were almost entirely consistent.  First, the vows were identical.  Second, the ring was addressed as a symbol of undying love, a circle with no beginning and no end, something made of a metal that is imperishable.  The ring thing is kind of nice but a little cheesy.  How about the identical vows?  Those have bothered me for a long time.  If men and women are different from each other, if they have different roles in society and marriage, why are they promising exactly the same things?

Hoger discusses Thomas Cranmer's work from 1549, included in the Book of Common Prayer.  This service, The Forme of Solemnizacion of Matrimonie has a tremendous impact on us.  This is where we get "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here."  This is where we get "to have and to hold from this day forward."  This is where we get the typical order of events in a wedding ceremony.  What are some of the significant aspects of Cranmer's wedding ceremony which could stand to be rediscovered?

1) Cranmer gives us three reasons for marriage: procreation, "a remedie agaynst sinne" and "mutuall societie, helpe and comfort."  Oh, I've got to interject that I love the way people spelled in English at this time period!  My computer software doesn't seem to think too highly of it.

2) Cranmer has an emphasis against marriage to satisfy our carnal lusts.  We are not "brute beasts."  

3) In the speech accompanying the ring, Cranmer said "With thys ring I thee wed: thys golde and siluer I thee giue: with my body I thee wurship: and withall my worldly Goodes I thee endowe."  He then has a prayer asking God's blessing and mentioning Isaac and Rebekah's exchange of jewelry as a sign of economic alliance.  In the intervening years we seem to have lost the idea that marriage is at least in part an economic relationship, as well as one in which we give ourselves wholly to the one we marry.  In fact, in the 1549 service, it was quite obvious that the giving of "jewelry to the woman was a statement of material providence" (p. 141).  

4) The vows made by couples have changed a great deal.  Cranmer's vows for the husband were to love, comfort, honor and keep the wife.  The vows for the wife were to obey, serve, love, honor, and keep the husband.  These are significantly different vows, and they are in a different order.  Recalling the historical meaning of "comfort" we see that the man's role involves love, protection, honor and provision.  Protection is high up on the list of things a husband does.  It is absent from the wife's role.  The husband is to "comfort" his wife though she does not do the same for him.  Notice that first and foremost the wife is to obey?  This isn't too hard provided the husband keeps his vows.  See how the husband is first to love his wife, but the wife is to love her husband but obeying and serving him are ranked above that love?  Both lists end with "honor" and "keep" - vows which remain in most wedding services but which many married couples seem to ignore.

Hoger observes that our emphasis on the husband and wife having the same roles tends to erode the idea of gender identity.  It opens the door to practices such as homosexual marriage, as well as less oddities of egalitarianism.  Rather, we should try to show a distinctively biblical view of gender roles and the nature of marriage when marrying couples.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Case for Chastity

Kleinig, John W.  "A Case for Chastity"  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  136-140.

Historically, particularly among Christians, chastity was considered a virtue.  Kleinig observes that in recent history it has been viewed, possibly even among Christians, as a burden.  Those who defend the virtue of chastity are on the defensive.  They are fighting against the mass of public opinion.  Sadly, it appears that often Christian pastors, teachers, and parents are not always defending chastity as we might.  Those young people who value chastity are made to feel like something at a freak show, some sort of social oddity, if they avoid extramarital sexual activity.

Kleinig tries to form a positive case for chastity, hoping that he can help provide the positive ammunition needed by people committed to chastity.  I'll just try to format the points he makes in a set of bullet points.

- Sexual intercourse is often viewed as a merely natural activity.  Yet it involves more than one person.  It is clearly not merely a matter of individual physicality.

- Sexual intercourse is often viewed as a means of self-fulfillment.  We don't have cultural rites of passage.  Sexual activity has seemed to become a rite of passage.  But in fact it doesn't fulfill.  Studies have actually shown the opposite.  It tends to accentuate existing feelings of confidence, respect, or disrespect.

- Chastity is an important aspect of self-giving in marriage.  It allows both people to release themselves and their entire past to each other in marriage.  

- Unchastity can be seen as apostasy.  It is a departure from God's commands and standards.  Like any other sin it must be dealt with.

- Chastity is an aspect of our relationship with God.  It enhances that relationship.  There is spiritual value of faithfulness, not that it earns any merit before God, but that it encourages and nurtures our positive relationship with God.  The relationship with God is one of faithfulness, like a chaste life.

Chastity is not the supreme Christian virtue.  Love is the greatest gift of the Spirit.  But "Christian chastity is a byproduct of that kind of love" (p. 140).  It is a good thing to defend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Marriage as Holy Ground

Bruzek, Scott. "Marriage as Holy Ground"   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  130-135.

Bruzek observes that pastors are often treated not as pastors, but as vendors when it comes to marriage.  People who are getting married often look to pastors and the Church simply as a provider of a service that will make the nice atmosphere they wish for their "special day."  Why has this happened?

In 1996, the Wall Street Journal showed 75% of marriage ceremonies to be religious.  That's surprising, as we don't find anywhere near 75% of Americans engaging in overt religious behavior on a regular basis. They certainly aren't in churches on Sundays.  Yet Christian clergy indulge those who wish to be married by marrying almost anybody who comes with the rental for the church and an honorarium for the pastor.

It would be more appropriate, Bruzek comments, for pastors to work to join those who are fit for marriage into marriage.  He urges significant and relevant pastoral counseling which directs the couple toward the Lord.  He points out to the young couple that they are joined in marriage only as they are joined to Christ.  As they walk in the Gospel, they can walk together with each other.

Scripture tells us a lot about marriage, from creation, fall, pictures of good and bad relationships within marriage, commands to those who are married, etc.  And if marriage is first and foremost life together in Christ we see yet another dynamic.  We rightly look at matters such as baptism, communion, child-rearing, conflict resolution, the whole gamut of Christian faith and practice.  The more solid the couple is in their understanding of their life in Christ the more solid they will be in their marriage.  

Bruzek vividly reminds us that marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman both looking to Christ together.  It is a place of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration, just like the Church.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Venture of Marriage

Meilaender, Gilbert.  "The Venture of Marriage"   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  124-129.

I guess this post is about a week late.  At least, it's late in terms of my thoughts and plans, since the wedding is over.  Then again, the young married couple is out there on their big adventure.  Maybe they will see what a big adventure it is.

Meilaender points to marriage being, as Luther says, "the first of all institutions" (Large Catechism 1).  Yet this institution of God, intended to be as permanent as the earthly life of the participants, is in a strikingly impermanent world.  In a world of quick and short relationships, a world where we can have three thousand best friends on Facebook, a world where today's wonderful innovation is not worth anything at next year's yard sale, the idea of a permanent relationship between husband and wife is a little out of place.  But it is what our Lord has ordained.

The faithfulness of marriage goes beyond the sexual relationship.  It extends to bearing and raising children, not exactly an instantaneous process.  In marriage we see people who are in need, vulnerable, helping one another, standing with one another, no matter what.  This faithfulness and trust is something we simply don't see very often outside of Christian marriage.    The faithfulness and trust in marriage is not something which comes naturally to us, either.  It brings us face to face with our sin.  We are not faithful and trusting as we should be.  This lack of faithfulness, love, and trust in marriage to someone we can see serves to show our lack of faithfulness, love, and trust in our relationship with the God we cannot see.  It draws us to repentance.

Marriage, in fact, is something that is good for us.  It makes people better.  It teaches us how to love, trust, and be faithful.  It teaches us about our need for repentance and forgiveness.  It makes us a part of a team.  Though it is not a sacrament, it certainly works as a tool of God in our sanctification.  

Meilaender observes the historic Christian view that marriage is permanent, as long as both partners are alive.  Despite our tendency to stray, despite our fleeting fancy that binds us to someone else "as long as we both shall feel like it" those who have entered into marriage have entered into a lifelong covenant.  It should be protected as a lifelong covenant.  Divorce has historically been very difficult.  Those factors which lead to the breakdown of a marriage are serious and require repentance and forgiveness.  If husband and wife both realize they are making a lifelong covenant, and if their leaders in Christ confess that the Lord is in the business of forgiveness and reconciliation, there is no reason why married couples should divorce.  Their struggles, though often serious, can be worked through in a way which brings honor to God.

Living as a married person is a delight.  You can have lots of exciting experiences together.  You have an opportunity to live out your Christian life in the presence of and for the benefit of someone else day after day for the rest of your life.  Best of all, you have an opportunity to live a life which paints a picture of Christ and His Church.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shotgun Weddings

Once in a while I have a conversation that is worth reporting on the blog.  Here's my (slightly edited) response  a question a friend asked.  The gist of his question follows.

You know about a shotgun wedding.  When a man gets a woman pregnant, they are made to get married by the woman's father.  I've been working through 1 Corinthians 7 and related texts.  I used to think they should only enter into marriage if they were willing to commit to one another as any other couple might.  Now, I believe I'm persuaded that it is God's will for parents of a child to marry one another in every case.  In fact, the Old Testament teaches that a man who rapes a woman (whether she becomes pregnant or not) must marry her and never divorce her (Deut 22:28,29).  Sexual union seems to equal marriage, in God's eyes (except in the case of adultery).  

These ideas were at the forefront of my mind, though I don't have a shotgun and to my knowledge there would have been no reason whatsoever to use a shotgun for the recent wedding of my daughter and son-in-law.  But I'd been thinking a lot about biblical marriage lately.  Here's what I came up with.

Yes, I do know about shotgun weddings.  A topic related to it has been under discussion on Gene Edward Veith's blog since August 7 http://www.geneveith.com/ is the link.  About mid-day on Saturday some people started talking about whether it is right for a pastor to marry people who are living together.  After all, it does immediately stop the extramarital sexual relationship.  One of the people discussing it observes that, after all, if people come to the pastor and say they want to get married because they think it's wrong for them to be living together without marriage, the pastor can marry them on that day, provided there isn't a waiting period for a marriage license.  And you could even argue that the pastor can marry them and they can bring the marriage license back for the signature so the government finds out the couple is married.  Like any group of people discussing a blog there are some good ideas, some bad.

God clearly intends marriage to be more permanent than, for instance, buying a car or a house.  And as the wedding sermon we heard on Saturday observed, it's quite an adventure.  No doubt, sex is a much bigger deal than the world says it is. 

Why do people marry when they have entered a sexual relationship?  One historical reason is that the woman  is no longer marriageable.  The man has violated her purity and culturally she could not hope to marry well.  But there is more to it than that.  God seems to have wired us with this interdependence.  Ask some people who come to you with sexual problems in marriage.  If there was adultery or even use of pornography in the past it's highly likely that one or both partner is bringing some sort of division into the sexual relationship.  It isn't a one flesh relationship because there's someone else involved somehow.  That's highly damaging to everyone involved.  

Does the sexual relationship automatically equal marriage?  Probably not.  Here's why.  I'll let you look up the references.  Men were prohibited from marrying their brothers' wives, but if a man died, his next younger brother would be responsible for trying to get the widow pregnant so she could have an heir to inherit and take care of her in her old age.  The maids of Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah were never considered the wives of Abraham and Jacob.  A relationship with a prostitute was not considered a marriage. It was just considered wrong, particularly for a married man.

Assuming the fornicating (love those old terms) couple should marry, which I think is a good assumption of what they really ought to do, what does it require?  First and foremost, we would hope they are repentant and see that it is appropriate for their sexual relationship to be maintained within the bond of marriage.  Second, we hope that they will desire to follow Christ in their marriage relationship regardless of the difficulties.  It may be very difficult because they may not be the most ideal match for one another.  They may not have originally intended to marry.  It may take a lot of patience and self-sacrifice for both of them to make a marriage that glorifies and pleases the Lord and where their child(ren) will have a good upbringing.  What's the big monkey wrench?  How do you counsel a believer and an unbeliever in the situation?  There are a lot of problems inherent in that situation, as we normally don't encourage a believer and an unbeliever to marry but we do encourage parents to marry.  If the unbeliever is willing to give it a good try, do we take it at face value, marry them, and urge the unbeliever to give the young one a Christian upbringing?  

Something we want to realize is that these situations aren't much different for us than they were in the 1st century.  The only difference is that sex has effectively been separated from procreation by safe methods of birth control.  People today are likely no more or less promiscuous than they were 20 centuries ago.  Sin really hasn't changed over the millennia.

Something else we want to realize is how much baggage people carry.  How many people in the Church know they were engaging in sinful behavior prior to marriage or even after marriage?  What kind of baggage are they carrying around?  How much are they under attack, with Satan telling them their repentance was not good enough, they should have known better, they are flops, they deserve condemnation, etc.  This is a great opportunity to point out that Jesus died for that sin, that he granted repentance, that if the repentance is not sincere enough, he died for that sin too, and that when the Father looks at Christians he sees Christ's righteousness, not ours, which looks like filthy rags.  Yes, in ourselves, we deserve all the condemnation that Satan would heap upon us.  But in Christ we are indeed the righteousness of God.  We are free from the tyranny of sin and death.

That's my two cents.  And two cents is about all I have left.  Remember, walking down the aisle, the bride looks happy and the father looks poor.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A "Successful" Experiment, or, "What to Do with Wedding Reception Leftovers"

As the wedding is over and the dust is settling we are finding what no doubt countless families have found before.  After throwing a party for somewhere around 150 people, leftovers can be a problem.  Specifically, I found myself with a bunch of cherry tomatoes that were starting to soften, a large quantity of broccoli and cauliflower pieces, lots of baby carrots, and a big handful of celery sticks.  I also have found that the tomato plants in buckets under the kitchen window are very busy and I have a half dozen really big tomatoes turning redder by the day.  Throw a big bag of lemons into the equation as well.

Time to do some kitchen experimentation.  Now I know that all experiments are successful.  You do something, something happens, and you learn from the experiment.  But once in a while a cooking experiment yields something that would be nice to replicate.  I threw the cherry tomatoes, lots of broccoli and cauliflower, baby carrots, and all the celery I had into a pot.  I added a tomato I had picked (seriously, these Beefmaster tomatoes are huge) and which was starting to be less firm in places.  I cut up a lemon and threw it into the pot.  Add a bit of onion, some salt, pepper, and basil, simmer in water until it's all pretty soft.  Now out comes the blender.  I blended it until it was uniform and smooth.  

Every time I've made vegetable juice before it has had one problem.  It comes out kind of pudding-like.  If you add a lot of water it tends to separate into pudding and water.  If you just leave it, well, it isn't so pleasant in a glass.  Rather than think about getting a vegetable juicer, I hit on a novel idea.  Put a strainer in the way and collect the bits that don't go through.  Now we have juice that pours.  We also have a strainer full of something that looks rather like spaghetti sauce, though it is a little orange from the carrots.  Hmm, I wonder.  Take out a spoon and try it.  Not bad!  Time to pour that thick pulp into an empty jar.  It will go great over pasta.  The juice tastes fine and is not thick like pudding.

This experiment has possible applications to Cap'n Salty's voyage.  You may notice the list of upcoming events in the right-hand margin of the blog.  When we can move, we want to move to a place that allows for more gardening, kind of like a cottage farm.  
We're thinking of some small livestock, at least some chickens and maybe taking the plunge to having a goat as well.  But for now, I can already taste the fresh vegetable juice (some of it put up in jars to enjoy in the other seasons) already!

Thanks to all those who came to Lizzie and Justin's wedding and who left me with some interesting ingredients for a yummy experiment!

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Monday, August 10, 2009

Communion: Consecration and Distribution

Stephenson, John R.  "Reflections on the Appropriate Vessels for Consecrating and Distributing the Precious Blood of Christ."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  116-123.

What is the appropriate way of handling, distributing, and disposing of the consecrated elements from communion?  As early as the late 1800's in North America some Lutheran congregations were beginning to use individual cups as opposed to a chalice.  What is appropriate in distribution?

Because the Reformed (i.e., radical Reformation, encompassing Calvinists and Zwinglians and their heirs) tradition had made a move to grape juice as opposed to wine in communion, there was some concern over spread of infection from a single chalice.  Yet there seemed to be more to this move, which may well have been related to the Calvinist view of a symbolic or spiritual presence of Christ as opposed to a real bodily presence of Christ in communion.  C.H. Little, a Lutheran scholar, in 1933 published a paper identifying five reasons not to use individual cups.  First, Jesus used only one cup.  Second, individual cups erode the concept of one mystical body.  Third, there does not seem to be reason to depart from historic Christian practice.  Fourth, copying Calvinist deviations from historic Christianity indicates a willingness to follow that group in their denial of a real physical presence.  Finally, alteration of the historic form may diminish the solemnity of the rite of communion.  This article by Stephenson investigates these claims and explores the historic practice in communion.

It seems that the point of communion is not to make sure everyone ingests bread and wine.  The ritual use appears to be important, as opposed to ease of distribution.  With this said, why is it not common to have one loaf broken bit by bit and placed in the mouth of the communicants?  Stephenson gives no answer except that, obviously, it is quite easy to distribute wine from one chalice but that bread must somehow be broken to be distributed.  

How about the effect of consecration?  Do we end up with one mystical body of Christ?  That would seem to be exactly what was confessed by the earliest Lutherans.  This is a very serious view of communion, viewing the elements with an importance which is not the norm within the radical Reformation.  Breaking with this view seems unnecessary at best.

Is there any reason to depart from historic Christian practice?  We do not depart from the earliest historic Christian belief that Christ is physically present in communion.  Why then would we wish to change the practice?  This is the concept on which Stephenson dwells the longest.  Lutherans have historically been distinct from Calvinists.  Copying the Calvinist practice therefore seems to be contradictory.

Stephenson wraps up his article with a discussion of how the communion elements have been treated historically.  If in fact the bread and wine are also the body and blood of Christ, this real physical presence begs for appropriate treatment.  The elements are to be consecrated prior to use.  A pastor administering the Sacrament who finds that he has an insufficient amount of bread or wine should consecrate more, not simply pull it out of the container and distribute it.  There is a long-standing view (Spotts remembers it being a view articulated by the third century, but doesn't remember where he learned that) that the bread which is not in the pyx and the wine which is not in the flagon is affected in consecration, but that the pyx and flagon hold unconsecrated bread and wine.  Similarly, if there is extra consecrated bread and wine, it is to be used during the administration, not returned to the pyx or flagon.  Elements are consecrated for use.

Lutherans view communion as a means of grace - something which has a genuine spiritual effect.  If we hold that view, it makes perfect sense to treat this supernatural meal as exactly that, something supernatural.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

1 Corinthians 11.29 "Discerning the Body"

Lassman, Ernie V. "1 Corinthians 11:29 - 'Discerning the Body' And Its Implications for Closed Communion." A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  112-115.

The phrase, "discerning the body" has been interpreted in two basic ways since the time of the Reformation.  In historic faith it has been interpreted as recognizing the real physical presence of Christ in communion.  The alternative interpretation is that the "body" here refers to the "Church."  Lassman considers this an important passage to interpret correctly as a protection against the believer eating and drinking judgment upon himself.  

It seems clear from the context that the "divisions" and "distinctions" the Corinthians were making were condemned by Paul.  Yet this is exactly the verb Paul uses to tell us to "judge" or "discern" in this passage.  It is used here in a positive manner, as something we are to do.  So what is that body we are to "discern"?  It makes little sense to say that it is the Church.  That would lead to a perplexing situation indeed.  We are not supposed to "discern" but we are supposed to "discern."  However, if indeed the "body" is the body of Christ, we do not have this issue with the verbs at all.

Is it legitimate to affirm that Paul is speaking about the physical body of Christ present in communion?  Paul elsewhere uses the word σῶμα to refer to the Lord's Supper at 1 Corinthians 10.16, 11.24, and 11.27.  In chapters 10-11 of 1 Corinthians, three of the four references other than 1 Cor. 11.29 refer to the Lord's Supper.  Furthermore, it seems clear that Paul is using the technique of synecdoche (say "Gesundheit" when someone says synecdoche), mentioning a part to refer to a whole.  Think about "head" of cattle or a ship being crewed by a number of hands.  Paul seems to use "eat" to include drinking as well.  For instance, in 1 Corinthians 11.20-21, 33, we see people "eating" and becoming drunk, which clearly indicates drinking as well.  If Paul had mentioned "not discerning the body and the blood" the passage would make immediate sense as a reference to the real physical presence of Christ.  However, he refers to only one of the elements.  Yet the context seems to be very clear that there is eating and drinking going on.  How then should we understand the term "body"?  We would understand it as the thing which is being eaten.

Lassman, then, concludes that Paul is clearly referring to a right discernment of the true body and blood of Christ as physically present in communion.  Though we can't understand it and don't perceive it rightly with our senses, the Scripture says this is what is present.  Paul tells us that if we do not discern it rightly we eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves.  It is therefore correct to withhold communion from those who do not discern it rightly, as a caring protective measure.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pastoral Letter Regarding the Divine Service and the Sacrament of the Altar

Schone, Jobst.  "Pastoral Letter Regarding the Divine Service and the Sacrament of the Altar."  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  103-111

Schone, a Bishop Emeritus for the Selbstandigen Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche of Germany, wrote this pastoral letter in 1997.  He observed that there was a new liturgy for communion adopted in 1995 which will "help us to preserve the richness of service order that distinguishes the Lutheran Church" (p. 103).  This job of preserving and, if necessary, reclaiming the unique identity of the church body, is very important in making a distinctive and recognizable statement for Christ in the community.

Schone observes that the distinctives of the Lutheran church are most clearly recognized in the Lord's Supper.  This is where we see the real presence of Christ and proclaim the forgiveness of sins and nourishment of faith for life.  Schone makes the following important observations.

1) It is appropriate to make the celebration of the sacrament a regular and obvious part of our gatherings.  It is central to the life of the Christian.  It is central to the life of the Church.

2) The vessels should be treated with appropriate attention.  The altar cloth should be clean, as should the chalice linen, coverings of the pyx and flagon, and whatever other furnishings are present.  They should be placed carefully and neatly, in plain view.  Schone objects strongly to the use of individual cups, observing that it is hardly used in Germany but that in North America it is a frequent situation.  He observes that the common cup is a far better way to celebrate our common calling and participation in Christ.  The individual cup is no more sanitary than a properly cared for calice (edge wiped with a cloth and some sort of safe pure alcohol if needed.   The individual cup causes difficulties in consumption of the relictio as well.He is disturbed by the use of paper towels for cleaning he chalice due to the cheapness and impermanence of the materials.

3) The preparation of the elements is important.  Schone observes that  the bread/host should be appropriately fresh and that the wine should be pure and unadulterated.  He speaks very plainly that "grape juice cannot be tolerated, because, without question, in doing so a different element from that used by Christ at the institution of the holy supper would be introduced into the service."  Jesus used wine, we should also.  When preparing the communion, only bring out the amount of host and wine that is expected to be distributed.  

4) In the consecration, use the Lord's words of institution.  The Holy Spirit was very clear in inspiring the evangelists and Paul to write the words in a particular manner.  Thatis what to say in consecrating the elements.  This recitation "can be traced in an unbroken succession since the second century" (p. 105).  "On them hangs the validity of the celebration of the sacrament.  They provide the presence of the body and blood of Christ for the reception that follows" (p. 105).

5) In the event that not enough has been consecrated, bring out additional elements and consecrate them.

6) What about elevating the consecrated elements so as to make it clear we are worshiping the truly present Christ?  There is no reason not to do so, though it is not necessary.  

7) Concerning distritution, we use care that nothing is spilled or dropped.  This is a holy rite.  It is a sacrament.  Christ is present in the elements.  They are for consumption, not for being dropped or spilled.  The officiating pastor may have communion assistants, but the pastor is the one who makes the consecration.  It is his office, as Christ has given the pastor to act as his agent.  The placement of the host in the hand or in the mouth is a matter requiring caution.  In general, since the historical pattern is to place the host in the mouth this would be preferred.  Communicants receive both elements, though there may be ways to show concern for people who are endangered by alcohol (Schone doesn't mention allergies to gluten, which were not well known when he wrote).  One may consider a minute amount of the element, such as giving the wine by intinction or getting just a drop on the lips.  But a substitution of grape juice is again not acceptable.

8) The celebrant should participate in the sacrament as well.  He is communing as well.

9) What about the relicta?  If the consecrated elements are the true body and blood of Christ, they remain the true body and blood of Christ, intended for consumption.  This is why we consecrate only the amount which is to be used.  The last consuming people or the clergy therefore consume the remaining consecrated bread and drink the chalice.  Under no circumstance are elements discarded down the drain, in a trash can, or put back into a bag or bottle to be used elsewhere.  Luther considered burning the partially consumed host from communing the sick as a dignified manner of disposition.  Schone considers that drinking the remainder of the consecrated wine is most appropriate.  Historically, many churches had a sacrarium, a place to conduct baptismal water and other liquids to the soil.  But this is not the case in many churches constructed in recent times.

10) Schone closes his pastoral letter by observing that it is inappropriate to administer communion frivolously or indifferently.  It is a true sacrament and must be treated seriously as such.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Friday, August 7, 2009

Your Pastor Is Not Your Therapist

Pless, John T.  "Your Pastor Is Not Your Therapist: Private Confession - The Ministry of Repentance and Faith."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  97-102.

Historically, the pastor was concerned with, well, pastoral care.  He was the person who shepherded the soul, using the Scripture, sacraments, prayer, confession and absolution, and exhortation.  For nineteen centuries the Church often worked faithfully with these tools and saw countless people converted, hungering for God, and living stable lives.  Are there failings inherent in such an approach?  Ultimately it does not always live up to the desires the pastor might have for those people who are unrepentant of their sin and do not wish to be changed by the power of God

The field of psychology was growing, taking the world by storm, in the early 20th century.  In 1925, Anton Boisen, a graduate of Union Seminary in New York, began training seminarians at the Worchester State Hospital, teaching them "Clinical Pastoral Education," in which the pastors would use the tools of psychology to supplement or replace their theological work.  This appears to have been an attempt at "relevance" and "care for the whole person."  The influence of this movement eventually reached from liberal Protestantism into every major seminary in the country by the 1960s.  

Pless makes an interesting comment on p. 97.  "Within conservative evangelical denominations there emerged those such as Jay Adams and James Dobson who advocated 'Christian counseling,' hoping to avoid the secular humanism that dominated the social sciences.  Nevertheless, they, like their liberal counterparts, cast the gospel in the mold of the therapeutic."  This is an intriguing statement to me, as Adams is quite different from Dobson in his theological orientation.  Adams set out specifically to divorce himself from the psychological community, though Dobson did not.  I'd be especially interested in what any blog readers who are familiar with Adams' work would be able to say about his view of psychology.

In recent years there has been a growing swell of people who reject the psychological model of pastoral care, while there has also been a broad mindset that the pastor either works very much like a psychological counselor or else would freely refer people to a counselor for, as they put it when I was in a fundamentalist Bible college, "situations that need a real professional."

This therapeutic view of the pastoral ministry falls far short of a biblical ideal.  It fails to see the power of the Gospel.  It fails to see the efficacy of the sacraments.  It fails to see how the big picture problem in all our lives is sin and our need for forgiveness and restoration.  

Pless draws distinctions between confession, absolution, and exhortation to righteousness and the view that the pastoral counselor will hear your troubles and tell you how to live.  In the former view we see a sinner pleading for grace.  In the latter view we see a sinner asking how to cope with sin but not necessarly begging for forgiveness.  Pless views the pastoral counselor model as inadequate.  It erodes the view that sin is powerful and that Christ's forgiveness is the genuine cure for sin.  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the Public Reading of the Scriptures

Lanier, Leslie.  "On the Public Reading of the Scriptures."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  93-96.

Who should read the Scriptures in a church service?  This was a controversy which arose in the church I served as an elder in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Is this a duty which is limited to the pastor?  The elders?  Laymen?  Women as well?  Lanier looks at the relevant Scriptures (1 Timothy 4.13, 1 Corinthians 14.26-37, 1 Timothy 2.11-14) and testimony of the early church.

In 1 Timothy 4.13 Timothy is to "provide for" the reading of the Scriptures.  This does not indicate that Timothy is the one who must do all the reading.  It indicates that someone is to be in charge of making sure it happens.  

Justin Martyr indicates that there is a reader to proclaim the Word of God, as well as a pastor who would instruct and exhort.  This was apparently a quite common situation by the beginning of the third century with Tertullian.  

According to 1 Corinthians 14.26-37 it seems quite clear that people other than the pastor would be involved in bringing psalms, teachings, revelations, tongues, and interpretations.  These activities were not restricted to the pastoral office.  That is clear.  It appears also from this passage that women were not to be involved in the theological discussion and bringing the psalms, teachings, etc.  Lanier indicates that 1 Corinthians 11.3 indicates women praying and prophesying in a non-congregational setting.  This would appear to be very consistent with 1 Timothy 2.11-14 where the woman is not to instruct or hold authority over a man.  

Nobody is going to say that women are not perfectly capable of reading aloud, or even explaining theological concepts.  Yet we see that the Scripture does place limitations on the roles of men and women in the setting of a corporate worship service.   As far as the reading of Scripture is concerned, it should be done by men, both pastors and responsible lay men, who can be relied upon not to bring distortion into what the Spirit would say to his Church through the Scripture.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Divine Service: Delivering Forgiveness of Sins

Pless, John T.  "Divine Service: Delivering Forgiveness of Sins."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  88-92.

There's a debate in American Christianity over the way a church service should be conducted.  Pless observes that some indicate the difference is "merely style" and some indicate the difference affects the "substance."  So is the practice in a worship service primarily stylistic or is it truly substantial?  Historically, the Lutheran church has been defined in a liturgical manner.  Article 7 of the Augsburg Confession (Tappert) says that "it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in confirmity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word" (p. 88 in Reader).  So is the Church identified by the presence of word and sacrament?  No.  It is identified by the use of them according to the Scripture.  This requires some sort of liturgy.  It won't simply happen by accident.  And it is not something that must be re-fashioned frequently to "keep it fresh."  Unlike the radical Reformation, we do not consider the divine worship to be something done by man.  It is something done by God, where God comes and gives gifts to man.

The "worship war" within American Lutheranism has been closely related to confusion about forgiveness.  Within Evangelicalism, it is relatively rare for people to be confronted with their sin, be given a chance to confess, and to have the forgiveness of their sins proclaimed.  At best, Pless observes, "troubled sinners are pointed back to Calvary.  The problem is, as Luther has reminded us, that forgiveness was achieved at Calvary but not delivered there" (p. 89).  So where is this forgiveness delivered?  It is delivered through Word and Sacrament, administered among the assembled people of God.  As we look at some of the modern Lutherans, though, we see them warning against having confession and absolution in a service, avoiding hymnody that proclaims God's greatness and his forgiveness, eroding the idea of closed communion which may alienate some people.  

If we follow those recommendations, which seem to come from broad evangelical church growth tactics, we will remove the special characteristics that make the body of Christ distinctive.  Are we not the people gathered because of sin and forgiveness?  Do we not confess that there is a very real spiritual world and that it is populated by supernatural beings who proclaim God's glory and work as his servants in this world?  Are we not people who confess that the Lord is present in sacraments?  Do we no longer believe that the person who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation upon himself?  These are the hallmarks of the Christian faith.  If we remove them, we apparently don't appreciate how different God is from us or how he works to save and forgive us.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Luther's Theology of the Cross in Preaching And as Spiritual Warfare

Toso, Perry.  "Luther's Theology of the Cross in Preaching And as Spiritual Warfare."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  77-87.

One of the primary elements of Luther's theology which is recognized as foundational in sound exposition is what Luther referred to as the "theology of the cross."  Toso looks at several elements of the theology of the cross.  I'll try to address them briefly in order.

1) God is present.  "The Scriptures are about Christ alone and him crucified" (p. 77).  All Scripture, Old and New Testament, is about Jesus.

2) Man is created, questioned, and either a recipient of blessing or curse.  There is no middle ground.  We cannot escape God and his holiness.

3) The devil is real and seeks to deceive people.  He seeks to deceive the apathetic by giving them the Gospel.  He seeks to deceive the penitent by giving them the Law.  Observe that this will further enervate the apathetic and will condemn the penitent.

4) What makes a human human is the fact that we have a conscience.  All our belief is mediated through a conscience. Our greatest need in life is to have a clear conscience before God, which requires God to remove the guilt from our conscience.

After a summary of these four principles, Toso quotes and discusses various passages from Luther's writing in which he deals with Luther's view of all these concepts.  In summary, Luther's desire in all his theology was to articulate the way the Law and Gospel are to be proclaimed in their purity.  The theology of the cross leaves us dependent on God for all we have.  It shows us that we are not able to accomplish an part of our salvation.  It all must come from our Lord. 

This theology of the cross is of great comfort to believers, as it shows us that Jesus has indeed accomplished our salvation.  He began salvation.  He brings it to its fulfillment.  It is all of him, all the time.  Armed with this understanding we are able to combat all the spiritual attacks we may endure.  We see that the battle is not ours.  It is in the hands of the mighty God who loved us while we were still offensive to him.  This is most certainly a true and living hope.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Law-Gospel Preaching: Giving the Gifts

Quill, Timothy.  "Law-Gospel Preaching: Giving the Gifts."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  71-76.

The first word in Matthew 28.18 is the verb, ἐδόθη.  "It has been given."  What, then, is the mission of the Church?  What is the pastor to do?  The recipients of this authoritative Word of God are to take the effectual means of grace, given by Christ to the apostles on the authority of the Father, and are to pass along this mighty proclamation of the Gospel.  Quill asks what we are doing when we decide that the pastor's job is that of a kind nurturer, that the ministry is one of the "helping professions."  No, the pastor's job is to give out the mighty gift of God's Word and Sacraments.  This is the giving of the Gospel, which Paul addresses as the power of God to salvation (Romans 1.16).

How is this done?  "His Word bestows what it says" is a quotation from the introduction to Lutheran Worship.  God's Word declares in the Law that man is guilty because he has not done what God requires.  God's Word declares in the Gospel that Christ has become sin for sinners and purchased their salvation by taking the place of sinners in the place of punishment.  

A term some Lutherans use for speaking of the Word of God is that it is 'performative" in nature.  That's a fancy way for saying that God's Word accomplishes what it says it will, regardless of the persuasive abilities or lack thereof of the person proclaiming it.  God's Word accomplishes God's will regardless of the level of cognitive development of the hearer.  God's Word is, to put it bluntly, effective.  The pastor, then, is the instrument by means of which God speaks his Word and accomplishes his purposes.  The pastor does not have to be the authority.  God's Word will do that.  The pastor merely has to be faithful to his task.

Quill talks about a paradigm of preaching in which "delivering information and moving the hearer to action is the purpose of the sermon" (p. 74).  In this paradigm, the communicative abilities of the pastor are of the greatest importance.  He must be persuasive. He must do everything possible to gain a hearing for the Scripture so maybe he can persuade some people and they will respond.  Quill observes that this is a fine idea for a classroom lecture on the Bible, church history, or citizenship.  But it is not the purpose of the sermon from the pulpit.  In that time, God speaks from his powerful Word through his servant, and God alone changes people's hearts and lives.

This view of preaching places the sermon on the same level as the other means of grace - baptism and communion, for in those sacraments we confess God is working actively to convert and nurture people.  Why the hesitation, then, about the proclamation of the Word of God?  Maybe we simply don't believe that God really means what he says.

The proclamation of the Law condemns us.  It shows us where we have failed.  It is a powerful tool which God uses to convict us of sin.  The proclamation of the Gospel brings us life and hope.  It is the power of God to salvation.  Both Law and Gospel must be present in their power if we are to proclaim the Word of God adequately.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I have to wonder sometimes.

So are these available with actual wine?  Are they also pre-consecrated?  And what would someone who takes a sacramental view of communion put on the contents label?

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Heave to, lighter ahoy!


The big wedding day is fast approaching - August 8, to be precise.  Maybe I'll figure out how to post some pictures sometime when it is all over.

We had our last meal together as just the four in our family on Friday evening.  Justin arrived yesterday, so our family is doing that amazing growing/shrinking thing that happens when there's a wedding.  I was up early this morning so I thought I'd put in a few thoughts that have been running around the deck of the Marmoset.  Here comes the interview.

Are you sad to see your daughter leave?  A lot of people have asked me that question.  It's a delicate question.  In fact, I'm glad to see Lizzie leaving.  I think that's a correct and biblical view.  The children leave their parents.  That's been on the radar screen forever.  It's been visible on the horizon for several years as we've seen Lizzie growing in grace, learning how to conduct herself, practicing how to manage responsibilities, care for others, and live a life of service.  We used to joke about having children so as to get chores done.  It isn't altogether a joke, and we still have one child at home to do chores.  But they aren't doing chores for our convenience.  They are learning how to care for things on their own, a skill they will be able to use to bless others throughout their lives.

What do you think of your future son in law?  Well, I'm not marrying him.  That's a good thing on many levels.  What do I think of the  person I was when my wife married me?  That may be a better question to ask.  I think more highly of Justin than I would think of someone like I was at his age.  He's got some qualities that I think will develop really nicely.  I can see him tenderly caring for and protecting my daughter.  That's a really good thing.

But the girl, what does she think?  I wonder if all brides are this way.  I have played music at a lot of weddings in my life.  Most of the time the bride is the one person you don't want to cross.  She tends to be a bundle of nerves and will pop her cork without a moment's notice.  But she rarely does it around her groom, and very rarely does it to her groom.  I see that in Lizzie.  Though she is normally quite the stable and easy-going person, she's got a bit of a tense edge much of the time.  There are a lot of changes going on in her life right now.  And she's preparing for a wedding ceremony along with all the responsibilities of a party for about 150 people.  It's kind of hectic.  That tense edge seems to disappear when Justin is around.   That's a good sign.  It means that his presence helps her maintain equilibrium.  She smiles more, laughs more, and generally appears more happy-go-lucky when her man is with her.  It seems like she's heartily in favor.

What will life be like without Lizzie in the house?  We've had some practice of this since she visited in Tennessee for several weeks and since she's basically shut herself into her room for hours on end recently figuring out how flowers will work, how much weight needs to be in the bottom of a vase, what the candles will do, what size and how many whatevers she needs, and who needs to be where when and with what items.   We moved almost all of Lizzie's things to the new apartment in Alabama last weekend, so there's a lot more room in our house than there used to be.  I think we can adjust to having one fewer person in the waiting line for the bathroom, one less plate to set out on the table, and all that.  

So is Saturday the bride's day?  No.  Decidedly not.  The wedding day is not the bride's day.  It is the day the Lord has made.  It is a day for rejoicing and serving our neighbors as Christ's hands.  It is the day Lizzie gets to go where people tell her to go, stand where they tell her to stand, say what they tell her to say, smile when they say to smile, and generally try to entertain the many, many guests the Lord has provided for us.  It is not the day to celebrate the bride.  It is the day to celebrate that the Lord has brought people into relationships, first with himself, then with one another. It is the day to provide kind hospitality to others which mirrors the hospitality the Lord gives us.  I hope the bride and groom have a great day.  But it isn't their day.  It's a day, much like any other, but very full of activities to be used wisely.

What would you pray for the young couple?  Lord, giver of life, who has called us into fellowship with you through your living and present Word, you have also called us into fellowship with one another.  Thank you for calling Justin and Lizzie into fellowship as husband and wife.  May they always see your love working in and through each other.  May they walk in your grace.  May they rejoice together, weep together, grow together, as long as they both live, knowing that you also live with them, as you ever live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.  Amen.

Catechesis for Life in the Royal Priesthood

Pless, John T. "Catechesis for Life in the Royal Priesthood."  A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  63-70.

Catechesis - that's a word that we NEVER used when I was one of those "broad Evangelicals."  It must be something the "liberals" do rather than study the Bible.  If we think about catechesis, though, it is merely a fancy word for systematic training in the faith.

"The goal of our catechesis is to shape the baptized to live in Christ as members of the Royal Priesthood.  Catechesis does not result in the formation of the autonomous spiritual ego, but in a priest living in the company of fellow priests under a common High Priest and sharing in a common cultus" (p. 63).  Pless observes this is a lifelong process.

How do we engage in this catechesis?  Luther's Small Catechism is one of the very valuable tools we have.  Of all the brief summaries of Scripture available, this is a very clear and reliable one.  It gives us a clear Law/Gospel focus.  It shows our place of honor in Christ and our place of service to our neighbor.  It shows our identity in Christ and his day to day provision for us.  We can learn the priestly work of biblical exposition, repentance, prayer, and thanksgiving in the Small Catechism.

Pless observes that one great hindrance to lifelong catechesis is pastors who are forced to act as a CEO, life coach, or therapist rather tan as a pastor.  We would do well to recover that shepherding view of the pastor.  Of course, even with that missing, individuals can commit to being lifelong learners, catechumens, people who are seeking to soak up the Scripture in an organized manner.  Who knows?  If enough people catch this vision, maybe they won't ask their pastors to do things other than be pastors any more.

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ministry to the Baptized

Wollenberg, George.  "Ministry to the Baptized."   A Reader in Pastoral Theology. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2002.  60-62.

Many children who are baptized in Lutheran congregations are never confirmed.  Many of those do not continue within the church in adulthood.  We would do well to consider why this is and how it relates to the act of baptism.

Wollenberg observes that baptism is a consecration for life as a believer and thus a "king and priest" (Rev. 1.5, 5.10).  Those who are priests before God take on the righteousenss of Christ and live in that righteousness.

Baptism is a seal, a sign of eternal service to God.  We cannot become unbaptized.  Our only appropriate response is to serve the Lord.

In Lutheran practice parents, sponsors, and those being baptized are told to live in the ten commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.  These give structure and specificity to our concepts of the Christian life.  Maybe we fail to emphasize these foundational elements.  Wollenberg aptly asks if we do an adequate job of nurturing whole families in their Christian faith.  He points out that if only 50% of those baptized are confirmed, we seem to do badly in nurturing the faith in the early formative years.  Then, if only 13% of those baptized remain active Christians as adults, we are apparently able to lose a whopping 74% of those we confirm.  Somewhere we manage not to inculcate Jesus' words of life into people.  It happens when they are young.

Is it a coincidence that only about 13% of those baptized continue in the faith and only about 13% of Lutheran families read the Scripture and pray together?  I think not.  Common sense says that if we wish to pass this Christian faith on to our children we will pray and read the Scripture together regularly.  It sure can't hurt!

Dave Spotts
blogging at http://capnsaltyslongvoyage.blogspot.com and http://alex-kirk.blogspot.com