Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 28, “The Confirmation Instruction”

Chapter 28, “The Confirmation Instruction” (pp. 188-190)

The pastor prepares confirmands with instruction on the Small Catechism. On p.188 he observes a Missouri Synod constitutional statement requiring that confirmands be able to recite the catechism “verbatim” and that they understand it sufficiently for self-examination. The suggested class time is a hundred hours, including such instruction and memorization of hymns. Based on Luke 2:41-42 Walther says children should normally not be confirmed until they are nearly thirteen years of age (p. 188). The most common dates for confirmation are Palm Sunday or the first Sunday after Easter. Walther suggests avoiding festival days such as Pentecost as the confirmation can detract from the importance of the holiday.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 27, “The Institution of Confirmation”

Chapter 27, “The Institution of Confirmation” (pp. 184-187)

Walther views confirmation as a blessing which should be preserved or reintroduced. In early times children and adults were confirmed after baptism. They received an anointing with oil and a laying on of the bishop’s hands. Through history it became separated from baptism, finally becoming a sacrament in the Roman church. In the Lutheran usage it is a time before first communion when young people can publicly affirm their faith. The rite has sometimes been more prominent than at other times. Walther endorses it as a good and profitable activity.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 26, “The Case of Desertion and Divorce”

Chapter 26, “The Case of Desertion and Divorce” (pp. 177-184)

Walther talks about the instance of an unbelieving spouse departing from a marriage. In such a case of abandonment without repentance, the civil authorities should grant a divorce. Walther reads 1 Corinthians 7:15 and Romans 7:1-3 as giving permission for the innocent party to marry again. Though there is only one reason to procure a divorce, infidelity, the person abandoned has in effect been divorced by the other party (pp. 177-178). On the other hand, “Malicious desertion does not occur if the one leaving is absent because of his profession or with the consent of the other” (p. 178).

How long of a desertion constitutes a genuine release from marriage? On p. 180 we read that this should be left to the civil judge who will dissolve the marriage. Walther also advises on p. 180 that in cases of anger or abuse a separation may be warranted to protect both parties and allow for reconciliation rather than an immediate divorce.

Walther adds clearly on p. 181 that imprisonment is not desertion.

Divorce due to adultery requires that the adultery be proven. Suspicion is inadequate. Walther also is consistent with other historical interpreter in refusing divorce due to adultery if the couple has been reconciled for a time after the adultery is made known.

On p. 182 Walther asserts that illness does not negate a marriage, rather creating an opportunity for loving service.

In instances where people have entered into marriages which are not approved by the Bible but are not incestuous Walther says the church should allow the marriage to continue rather than try to dissolve it (p. 184).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 25, “The Case of Adultery and Divorce”

Chapter 25, “The Case of Adultery and Divorce” (pp. 174-176)

Walther does observe that while the minister can marry people he does not have authority to grant a divorce. In case of infidelity the innocent party has a duty to forgive a repentant spouse. If there is no repentance the situation may lead to divorce and the innocent party may eventually seek marriage. Yet the pastor’s main goal when dealing with marital conflicts is to help the couple deal with those conflicts and have a happy marriage.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 24, “The Wedding Ceremony”

Chapter 24, “The Wedding Ceremony” (pp. 171-173)

When a marriage ceremony takes place in a church we should expect the ceremony would be in accord with the local congregational customs of the ceremony. It may be solemnized elsewhere as a civil ceremony. It is most normal for the pastor of the bride’s parish to perform the wedding. Weddings are regularly treated as public events, though not necessarily at the customary church service times. It is not considered good form to marry during Advent or Lent as the two penitential seasons of the Church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 23, “The Public Announcement of a Wedding”

Chapter 23, “The Public Announcement of a Wedding” (pp.169-170)

The custom of a public announcement of a wedding is positive. Walther considers that it allows public examination in case of reasons to refuse the marriage. It also allows the congregation to pray for the couple. Normally the announcement (publishing the banns) happens three Sundays in a row. In case of objection, the objection must be resolved before the couple may marry. Normally the banns were not published on Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost, though they could be on the second of each of those seasons.

Walther advises (p. 170) that the pastor warn against marriages between Lutherans and those who might turn the family away from the faith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 22, “The Persons to be Married: Previous Marriages”

Chapter 22, “The Persons to be Married: Previous Marriages” (pp. 160-168)

It is important that a pastor determine whether those asking to marry are already married or in a legally binding engagement. Walther discusses the conditions in which an engagement would not be binding. Included are parental refusal, infidelity, and insanity, drunkenness, and criminality. Biblical betrothal is “as binding as a completed marriage” (p. 161). Walther cites from Gen. 29:21, Matt. 1:18-20, Deut. 22:22-23, and Hos. 4:13. He denies that the consummation constitutes marriage. “Rather the effective cause of marriage is a mutual consent” (p. 161). The work of the pastor and the ceremony is to make that consent public in a formal way before witnesses.

Citing Gerhard, on p. 162 Walther gives some reasons for a betrothal to be dissolved, observing they are more lenient than reasons to dissolve a marriage. Those living as man and wife while engaged are, due to the serious nature of the betrothal, not committing fornication but are acting deceitfully and are subject to church discipline. It is not an example of chastity.

Walther follows Gerhard on pp. 164-165 in discouraging marriage between an orthodox believer and one who is weak or unbelieving. He considers that a marriage between people of different religions is prohibited. In a case of the conversion of a polygamist all but the first wife should be dismissed. In cases of death of a spouse, it is best not to remarry too quickly due to an appearance of having changed affections earlier. In the case of divorce Walther advises (p. 167) that the guilty party should not be allowed to remarry quickly, especially if the innocent remains unmarried.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 21, “The Persons to be Married: Forbidden Degrees”

Chapter 21, “The Persons to be Married: Forbidden Degrees” (pp. 157-159)

The Bible speaks in several places about how a couple to be married may be related. In “Lev. 18:1-30; 20:10-23; Deut. 27:20-23” there are specifics. People of close relation are not to marry. Walther observes that the marriages of people closely related are a matter of lack of special regard accorded to those who deserve honor. There may be marriage permitted by civil law but not by Church law. Specifically, the case Walther considers common, is marrying to the sister of a deceased wife, which Leviticus 18 prohibits but which has, at times, been practiced frequently

Friday, December 19, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 20, “The Persons to be Married: Civil Laws”

Chapter 20, “The Persons to be Married: Civil Laws” pp. 155-156

Walther reminds us that laws of marriage vary from state to state. A pastor must be familiar with the laws of his state. He gives multiple examples of difference. For instance, some states require a certain marriage license, some do not, different jurisdictions require different types of notice, etc.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 19, “The Wedding and Marriage”

Chapter 19, “The Wedding and Marriage” pp. 152-154

The pastor’s duty in a wedding is to consecrate a marriage which is not forbidden by civil or divine law, to carry it out correctly, and to guard against later dissolution of the marriage. Luther viewed marriage primarily as a civil matter. Yet since marriage involves people with consciences it does have a relation to the Church.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 18, “The Persons to Be Communed”

Chapter 18, “The Persons to Be Communed” pp. 146-151

Walther reminds us that there are four basic qualifications to come for communion. [Those] “1. who have already been baptized; 2. who are able to examine themselves; 3. about whom it cannot be proven that they are non-Christians or erring believers and who would therefore receive the Sacrament unworthily; and finally, 4. in whom no reason is found that they first need to be reconciled or to make restitution” (p. 146).

On p. 147 Walther observes that people may need to show their understanding in different ways. The example of one who cannot speak is used to illustrate. The person should be able to demonstrate a desire but need not be able to explain in the same terms as the general public. Walther also advises that the pastor is not making an exhaustive survey of the communicants’ doctrine but merely being satisfied that he is a Christian. The example given on p. 148 is that of Judas, who received the Supper. Yet he goes on to say the communicant must confess the true presence of Jesus’ body received by all communicants. It seems then there is a little variation - be certain but accepting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Walther, 1906. Chapter 17, “The Administration of Holy Communion”

Chapter 17, “The Administration of Holy Communion” pp. 130-145

Here Walther discusses the consecration, distribution, and reception of the bread and wine. First he considers it a matter of adiaphoron what kind of bread is used, so long as it is made with water and grain, as well as how the wine is prepared, whether red or white, pure or mixed. Bread and wine must be used and not substituted for. It is neither necessary nor forbidden to break the bread apart publicly.

The Words of Institution and distribution are critical as Jesus commands his people to do as He did. On p. 132 Walther cites Gerhard’s insistence that there is a genuine change in consecration so that Jesus is bodily present.

Beginning on p. 134 Walther discusses administration of the Supper by a lay person. Because there cannot be a necessity, as there is in baptism or absolution, lay administration is not positive. While such lay administration is not viewed as correct, all Lutherans confess it is valid (p. 135).

On p. 139 Walther asserts that where the real bodily presence of Jesus is denied there is no Sacrament, only bread and wine, regardless of the words used.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kleinig, 2008. Chapter 5, “Hidden Holiness”

Chapter 5, “Hidden Holiness” pp. 271-287

“Our spiritual life is a hidden journey with the risen Lord Jesus. As we travel with Him, we receive everything from Him. We share in His divine life as the Son of God the Father; we stand in His shoes and identify ourselves with Him. With Him we travel on a holy way in which He makes and keep (sic) us holy” (p. 271). This holy pathway, Kleinig says, is in our life of holiness found “in the Divine Service and our daily devotions” (p. 273). The way we go along this journey is incidental. It is not our journey. The path is “the way by which the triune God comes from heaven to earth to join us in our journey from birth to death and admit us to heaven even as we are here on earth” (p. 276). As we share with Christ in this journey, taking in God’s Word, we are cleansed and become partakers of a holy vocation. We live out the grace of God in our world and serve as his instruments of redemptive love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kleinig, 2008. Chapter 4, “The Hidden Battle”

Chapter 4, “The Hidden Battle”  pp. 218-270

In chapter 4 Kleinig turns his attention to spiritual warfare. Since prayer is a spiritual work we can expect spiritual opposition when we pray. This battle requires a level head. “Satan promotes a reckless kind of spiritual intoxication with the offer of heady experience, mind-blowing ecstasy, and disembodied spiritual highflying. We therefore need to remain ‘sober’ so as not to confuse spiritual darkness with light and lose our sense of spiritual reality (1 Thess. 5:8; 2 tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8)” (p. 220). It is our tendency to look for vivid and dynamic, public battles. Kleinig discusses the idea that true spiritual warfare in light of Romans 5:10 must “begin with Paul’s teaching that we were all, without exception, God’s enemies” (p. 222). The battle lines are confusing and the war is one we cannot actually fight. The battle “is won by retaining and using what we have received from God, faith in Christ and the good conscience that comes through faith in Christ” (p. 226). Satan’s attack, says Kleinig (p. 230) is against the Church and against individual consciences. Jesus fights back with his forgiving blood shed for us (p. 231) and his word (p. 232). At the same time, attacks against our consciences and trust toward God try to distract us from the truth. Kleinig continues with examples of how Jesus guards his people who are under attack in the Gospel records. He is the mighty one who is known by Satan as the victor.

On p. 244 Kleinig begins to discuss resisting spiritual attacks. He compares our lives to a compost heap which attracts rats. If there were nothing attractive the enemy would not care. Jesus fights off our enemy by cleaning the garbage from our lives. He does this by his own work, as we faithfully believe he can bring us forgiveness and life. We resist the devil by trusting Jesus’ resistance.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kleinig, 2008. Chapter 3, “The Mystery of Prayer”

Chapter 3, “The Mystery of Prayer” pp. 151-217

Christians are called by the Lord to be people of prayer. Yet we fail in prayer. Maybe we need to try harder, maybe we need special empowerment. Yet we fall short over and over again. Kleinig’s answer to this frustration follows.  “I now no longer regard prayer as an obligation, a duty that I must fulfill, but as something that is given to me, something that I receive from the triune God. The main thing in prayer is a trustful, receptive heart that takes in what God has to offer” (pp. 152-153). Kleinig compares us to friends of an ancient king. We know the plans and will of God through the Bible. In prayer, we ask the Lord to work according to his will in the situations we think he should change (p. 155). Why do we fail in prayer? “Christ lets us fail when we pray by ourselves so that we rely on His intercession for us” (p. 157). “Jesus taught that God-pleasing prayer depended entirely on Him rather than the person at prayer” (p. 162). How do we identify this God-pleasing prayer? Kleinig tells us it is prompted yb the words Jesus gave us. As we pray, we pray what God has already spoken (p. 173). We learn to pray as we attend church regularly and practice in communal prayer, which was historically the normal way to pray (p. 179). As we pray together we realize the depth of our dependence on Jesus (p. 182). We are also able to turn our needs over to God, knowing He is the one who gives all the gifts (p. 200).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kleinig, 2008. Chapter 2, “The Mystery of Meditation”

Chapter 2, “The Mystery of Meditation” pp. 87-150

In 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks God for wisdom. God gives him a heart to hear, which results in great wisdom. This is consistent with the classic view of Christian meditation, which emphasizes listening and considering God’s Word. Kleinig details a decline in this practice, then a renewal of interest, which unfortunately sent many to Eastern and New Age forms of meditation and prayer (p. 89).

Kleinig suggests that spontaneous meditation often takes the form of daydreaming or worrying (p. 90). “Meditation is, if I may hazard a definition, a relaxed form of concentration; we dwell on something, so that it, in turn, affects us in some way” (p. 92). Meditation is, then, almost the opposite of a process. It is something that happens.

How is this different in Christian meditation? “The key is not how we meditate, but on what we meditate” (p. 95). “Christian meditation focuses on Christ and His Word. It starts with Jesus and ends with him” (p. 96). Kleinig continues to explain in some detail how various people, including Jesus, meditate on God’s Word and are shaped by that Word. This is how we are fed spiritually (p. 104). On pp. 107-111, Kleinig considers that the Holy Spirit is our guide as we meditate on Scripture. What outcome do we expect? We expect a fruitful spiritual harvest (p. 114). Kleinig spends the rest of the chapter illustrating how God’s Word can speak to us at any and every time of the day, all the more as we meditate eagerly on it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kleinig, 2008. Chapter 1, “The Mystery of Christ”

Chapter 1, “The Mystery of Christ” pp. 27-86

Begging in antiquity was always despised. Yet Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by affirming those who are spiritually destitute (p. 28). “This countercultural beatitude sums up the whole of Christian spirituality. It contradicts popular religion and common piety. Popular piety presupposes our unrealized spiritual potential” (p. 29). Jesus says we do not have any spiritual potential. It is only in Jesus that we take on an exalted status and may approach God the Father. Kleinig then views our growth in Christ as a moving away from trust in ourselves and toward trust in Jesus (p. 33). This, Kleinig says, is contrary to the piety seen often in Christians, which frequently resembles that of the Pharisees. “Their problem was that they put their own brand on their acts of piety; they claimed their achievements for themselves rather than for God” (p. 37). On the contrary, Scripture calls us to trust Christ’s work for us. This is no one-size-fits-all faith, but just as we are different so Jesus engages us differently (p. 44). As Jesus engages us through Word and Spirit we learn to breathe, so to speak, receiving and being nourished by what he gives us (p. 46). Kleinig ties this work to our conscience, which is fed by God’s Word. “Our conscience functions properly only when it is governed by faith in God’s Word and when it attends both to the voice of the Lw and the voice of the Gospel” (p. 53). We need both the check of the Law and the freedom of the Gospel.

Beginning on p. 56 Kleinig begins describing the Christian life in terms of a mystery. It is not a secret, but something revealed. Yet it remains a mystery because it is rather hidden no matter how much we know. Jesus, in fact, is that revealed mystery, the one in whom we hope. It is the mystery of his life and death which brings us life. Jesus, in fact, is the one who presents us beggars to the Father. In response to that, Christians act as God’s messengers of grace to the world (pp. 63ff). Yet even in that act, Kleinig sees spirituality as receptive, comparing it with the Sabbath rest (p. 70). To conclude the chapter, Kleinig turns to daily prayer on p. 71, drawing from Old Testament roots of worship which contiue into the New Testament context. In daily devotion and prayer we continue to live in Christ, being nourished by his grace.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kleinig's Grace Upon Grace - Introduction

Kleinig, John W. Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2008.

“Introduction: Receptive Spirituality” pp. 7-26

Kleinig’s thesis is that we receive our spirituality from others. We never create it for ourselves, in a vacuum. “We do not invent spirituality for ourselves; we do not cobble it together to suit our desire for personal fulfillment. Its power does not depend on us or on our performance. Rather, we receive our spiritual life from others and are drawn into it, just as we are initiated into family life and marriage” (pp. 8-9). Specifically, all our life of worship, according to 1 Corinthians 4:7-8, is something we receive. On p. 13 Kleinig ties this idea to Luther’s concept of “the interplay between three forces as we pray, meditate and are tempted: the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and Satan.” Kleinig continues describing this process for several pages. Luther “does not envisage the spiritual life as a process of self-development, but as a process of reception from the triune God” (p. 16). What is the means of our receptivity? Not our internal impressions or even an illumination of the Holy Spirit, but God’s Word itself (p. 17). Because of this view, Luther sees meditation as a very verbal thing, based on God’s read Word from outside ourselves. As this life goes on we are changed and find many opportunities to evaluate what Christ is doing in us. Though Satan would attempt to undo us, we are driven again into God’s Word.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 9, “Practicing Spiritual Direction”

Chapter 9, “Practicing Spiritual Direction” (Loc. 1697-1910)

It is easy for a pastor to do a poor job of spiritual direction. Peterson illustrates this by looking at five pastors who attempted to help George Fox, as recorded in his journals. The first made Fox’s concerns a subject for theological debate rather than an opportunity for care and help. Though the theology can be interesting a person is not a case study. The second pastor gave some folk wisdom but failed to reach to the root issues. Fox was a consumer of his remedies. Because they didn’t work for him the pastor rejected Fox. The third pastor had a good reputation but could not hold up to the inquiry Fox had. He proved empty and unable to help in the times of deep trouble. The fourth pastor was concerned that Fox should be theologically orthodox. If his theology were right he would be entirely fine. Yet he could not deal with divergence between doctrine and behavior. The fifth pastor was an activist - medicine as actions, seeking cure by being busy. Yet spiritual health is not in doing but in being.

What are Peterson’s positive reactions? Practicing wonder in God’s world (Loc. 1786) is a start. The pastor should also realize his own ignorance (Loc. 1803). Then it is possible to help others in their walk, knowing that we seek God together.

Final Observations:

In this book Peterson calls pastors to focus on the main point of their work - being used by God in Scripture and prayer to change lives. His analysis is solid. The ideas presented could use more fleshing out, but he presents many interesting ideas which can be built upon.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 8, "Getting a Spiritual Director"

Chapter 8, “Getting a Spiritual Director” (Loc. 1572-1697)

Physicians look for other physicians to care for them. Pastors also need other pastors to engage in spiritual care. For many generations it was always expected that a pastor would have someone engaged in care for him. This is no longer the case. Peterson sees this as a great matter of concern. “We find pastors who don’t pray, pastors who don’t grow in faith, pastors who can’t tell the difference between culture and the Christ, pastors who chase fads, pastors who are cynical and shopworn, pastors who know less about prayer after twenty years of praying than they did on the day of their ordination, pastors with arrogant, outsized egos puffed up by years of hot-air flattery from well-meaning parishoners…” (Loc. 1581).

Though pastors speak authoritatively they have a primary identity as a dervant of Christ. This is a difficult life.

Peterson observes that we actually learn and grow best when we have a teacher providing examples and accountability. As with his example of playing a musical instrument, so also with a life of prayer. We go astray when we have an attitude of dependence only on Jesus with no other human relationship. The spiritual director helps us see our condition clearly, bears burdens with us, and enables us to trust more freely in Christ.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 7, "Being a Spiritual Director"

Chapter 7, “Being a Spiritual Director” (Loc. 1415-1572)

Peterson begins this chapter reminding that “the Scriptures and our best pastoral traditions train us [to]...notice the small, persevere in the commonplace, appreciate the obscure” (Loc. 1415). The Christian life consists largely of dealing with everyday and common issues. “Spiritual direction is the aspect of ministry that explores and develops this absorbing and devout attentiveness” (Loc. 1419). As Peterson describes it, spiritual direction is little more than helping people live their lives while looking at their surroundings biblically. He gives an example (Loc. 1451) in which one of his elders helped him look beyond some more obvious issues to an underlying attitude which needed care.

Many pastors seem to practice this spiritual care only rarely, being made too busy with other items which Peterson would say are less important. Yet he observes that this attentiveness to detail is never taught in seminaries.

Peterson closes by observing that receiving good spiritual direction from others enables our growth as Christians. It is not to be neglected.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 6, "Gaza Notes"

Chapter 6, “Gaza Notes” (Loc. 1229)

Peterson observes from the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian the work of pastoral care. The two have little in common but the Ethiopian is seeking truth. Philip is God’s messenger of the truth - all Scripture points to Jesus. Philip’s work begins in Acts 8:30 with the subtle difference between reading and understanding. Philip is then called (Loc. 1240) not only to explain but to guide the Ethiopian. Is Philip willing to go on a journey? The true pastor is.

Peterson’s conclusion is that “Reading Scripture is not, it would seem, an autonomous activity” (Loc. 1260). The conversation includes the human writer, Jesus, and any people present.

This kind of interactive reading of Scripture brings us into an encounter with the living God. It is not just another thing t do. “But the very frequency of pastoral reading in Scripture mitigates its radical strangeness in our consciousness, the crisis conditions that are provoked in us whenever we enter its pages” (Loc. 1283). Peterson cautions against allowing the Scripture to become commonplace.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Peterson, 1987. Chapter 5, "Contemplating Exegesis"

Chapter 5, “Contemplative Exegesis” (Loc. 1033)

“Scriptural exegesis is surgical work: cutting through layers of history, culture, and grammar; laying bare the skeletal syntax and grammatical muscle; excising mistakes that were introduced inadvertently in the  transmission of the text; repairing misunderstandings that have crept into interpretations across the centuries; observing the incredible and fascinating complexity of the organism as the hidden parts are exposed to view” Loc. 1037). Peterson goes on to say that the tools available to us are superior to those held by previous generations. Yet often in our zeal to dissect Scripture we allow it to die on the operating table. We fail to contemplate the God revealed in Scripture.

Because words communicate real meaning to the inward, invisible man, it is very important that we attend to the meaning of those words. At Loc. 1081 Peterson asserts that we must avoid letting the Scriptures be a knowledge-base, or a textbook. Rather, they are the living God’s words of life. This view in religion is a radical departure from the other religions of antiquity, which were based on ceremonial actions (Loc. 1107).

Not only do we receive God’s Word as a spoken word, we also receive it in the way it was communicated. This means we are sensitive to the genre found in Scripture. Peterson observes (Loc. 1165ff) that all stories have similarities - a beginning, a catastrophe, a plan for salvation, and an ending. Within the story we also find motion, characters, and varied levels of significance. This is the case with all stories, including Scripture. It is the job of the exegete to contemplate and communicate this story.