Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

On June 25th, 1530, at the Diet of Augsburg, several German princes presented to Emperor Charles V a confession of their beliefs. This Augsburg Confession, written chiefly by Philip Melanchton, Luther’s colleague at the University of Wittenberg, serves as the principal statement of what Lutheran Christians believe. Even today, the cornerstones of many Lutheran churches are engraved with the letters U.A.C., declaring their belief that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true and faithful exposition of Holy Scripture.

From the Lutheran Hymnal Project:
“Jesus said, ‘Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father in heaven’ (Matt 10:26–33). To confess Christ before men is to speak the truth openly about who He is and what He has done to save us. It is to give public voice to our belief in Him who made the good confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim 6:11–16), and by whose cross alone we are justified and restored to the Father. It is to say in faith what He has first said to us in His holy Word, not fearing those who can destroy the body, but honoring above all Him who is the Lord of both body and soul. On this day we give thanks to God that our Lutheran forefathers confessed the truth of the Scriptures with courage and clarity. This is a holy day in which we rejoice greatly to understand the words of the Lord (Neh 8:1–12) and to share in Augsburg’s confession of the true faith. The Spirit of God grant us all continually to fight the good fight of faith until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.”

The LORD of hosts is / with us;*
the God of Jacob is our / refuge.
Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth / be removed,*
and though the mountains be carried into the midst / of the sea. (Psalm 46:7, 2)
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the ci- / ty of God,*
the holy place of the tabernacle of the / Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall / not be moved;*
God shall help her, just at the / break of dawn.
The nations raged, the king- / doms were moved;*
He uttered His voice, the earth / melted.
Be still, and know that / I am God;*
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted / in the earth! (Psalm 46:4–6, 10)

O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Great is the LORD, and greatly / to be praised*
in the city of our God, in His holy / mountain.
Walk about Zion, count her towers; mark well her bulwarks, onsider her / palaces;*
that you may tell it to the generation / following. (Psalm 48:1, 12a, 13b)

Readings: Nehemiah 8:1–2, 5–6, 9–12
Psalm 84
1 Timothy 6:11b-16
Matthew 10:26–33

Hymn for the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
(The 12 verses correspond to the first 12 articles of the Augsburg Confession)

You Have Preserved

You have preserved Your Gospel here
In words of humble speech;
Your Spirit speaks Your truth, o Lord,
To chasten and to teach.

1 One holy essence: God divine,
Three Persons unified,
Father, Son, Spirit: Trinity
Alone is glorified.

2 Since Adam’s fall all human beings
Are born condemned by sin.
Death is our sole inheritance;
No person life can win.

3 Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ,
In flesh the Virgin’s Son,
Completely God and wholly man,
Salvation He has won.

4 What we ourselves cannot obtain—
Forgiveness, life, and grace—
These we receive for Jesus’ sake,
Who suffered in our place.

5 To give us faith, the Holy Ghost
Works through the Holy Word,
Creating faith and giving life
When e’er the Word is heard.

6 Man recreated lives by faith,
God’s Law his paths gives light.
To serve his neighbor is his call;
Good works are his delight.

7 One Holy, Apostolic Church
Immortal will endure.
Existing where the Gospel’s preached
And sacraments are pure.

8 God’s precious gifts come through His Church
Apart from human stain;
Regardless of the pastor’s faith,
God’s gifts we still obtain.

9 Through simple water and God’s Word,
His children God elects:
Once sinners buried in Christ’s death,
Now saints he resurrects.

10 This Christ who calls us to His feast
In presence here is real.
His Body and His Blood He gives
Here in this Holy Meal.

11 Here stands before God’s gathered saints
The man whom God selects.
At our confession, God absolves;
Our sins He now forgets.

12 A recreated saint may fall
In sin and be defiled.
A contrite heart God gives to him;
In love, forgives His child.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Three months ago was the Annunciation of Our Lord, the date when we celebrate the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that she would be the bearer of the Christ. At the same time, Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was already six months pregnant with the one who would prepare the way for the Christ. So today, three months after the Annunciation and six months before the Nativity of Our Lord, we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. The earliest celebrations of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are recorded by the Council of Agde in 506.

John’s announcing the Lordship of Jesus began even before John was born. When Mary came to visit Elizabeth, John leapt in her womb, announcing the arrival of the not-yet-born Christ. The purpose of celebrating the feast of St. John’s Nativity, as with all feasts and festivals, is to remember the One to whom St. John the Baptist pointed: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way / of the LORD*
Make straight in the desert a highway / for our God.
And the glory / of the LORD*
shall / be revealed. (Isaiah 40:3, 5a)
It is good to give thanks / to the LORD,*
and to sing praises to Your name, / O Most High.
To declare Your lovingkindness in the / morning,*
and Your faithfulness / ev’ry night.
For You, LORD, have made me glad / through Your work;*
I will triumph in the works / of Your hands.
O LORD, how great / are Your works!*
Your thoughts are / very deep. (Psalm 92:1–2, 4–5)

O Lord God, heavenly Father, who through Your servant Saint John the Baptist did bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and that all who believe in Him shall inherit eternal life, we humbly implore You to enlighten us by Your Holy Spirit that we may at all times find comfort and joy in this witness, continue steadfast in the true faith, and at last with all believers attain unto eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

"Before I formed you in the womb I / knew you;*
before you were born I sancti- / fied you."
Then the LORD put forth His hand and / touched my mouth,*
and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words / in your mouth."(Jeremiah 1:5, 9)

Readings: Isaiah 40:1–8
Psalm 141
Acts 19:1–7
Luke 1:57–80

Monday, June 16, 2008

Was Walther "Too Roman Catholic"?

The first president of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther addressed accusations of being too Roman Catholic for encouraging things like chanting, vestments, and the historic liturgy. In the synod's first magazine, Der Lutheraner, July 19, 1853, Wather argues,

"Whenever the divine service once again follows the old Evangelical-Lutheran agendas (or church books), it seems that many raise a great cry that it is "Roman Catholic": "Roman Catholic" when the pastor chants "The Lord be with you" and the congregation responds by chanting "and with thy spirit"; "Roman Catholic" when the pastor chants the collect and the blessing and the people respond with a chanted "Amen." Even the simplest Christian can respond to this outcry: "Prove to me that this chanting is contrary to the Word of God, then I too will call it `Roman Catholic' and have nothing more to do with it. However, you cannot prove this to me." If you insist upon calling every element in the divine service "Romish" that has been used by the Roman Catholic Church, it must follow that the reading of the Epistle and Gospel is also "Romish." Indeed, it is mischief to sing or preach in church, for the Roman Church has done this also . . .Those who cry out should remember that the Roman Catholic Church possesses every beautiful song of the old orthodox church. The chants and antiphons and responses were brought into the church long before the false teachings of Rome crept in. This Christian Church since the beginning, even in the Old Testament, has derived great joy from chanting... For more than 1700 years orthodox Christians have participated joyfully in the divine service. Should we, today, carry on by saying that such joyful participation is "Roman Catholic"? God forbid! Therefore, as we continue to hold and to restore our wonderful divine services in places where they have been forgotten, let us boldly confess that our worship forms do not tie us with the modern sects or with the church of Rome; rather, they join us to the one, holy Christian Church that is as old as the world and is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets."
(Translation by Rev. Paul McCain)