Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What to Do if You Don't Believe Jesus' Words?

Change them.

Or at least that's what one of the children's Bibles we've stumbled across does. In the story of the Last Supper, Jesus says this to His disciples: "Remember my broken body when you eat the Passover bread again. Remember the blood I shed when you drink the Passover wine again."

Terrible. Terrible. Terrible. For so many reasons. First of all, it misquotes Jesus. A large swath of Protestantism refuses to take Jesus at His words when He says "This is my body" and "This is my blood." So, they have to change His simple words into something altogether different.

Moreover, Jesus at the Last Supper, Jesus wasn't continuing the Passover. We don't eat the Passover bread or drink the Passover wine anymore. What Jesus institutes is the cup of the new covenant. The Passover meal pointed forward to the Lord's Supper. Once the latter has come, the former is done.

Lastly, the misquoting Jesus omits something rather significant: the Gospel. What Jesus actually said gives comfort; these words do not. Missing are two vital parts of Jesus' words: "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins."

Sad, really. Is means is.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Holy Week Schedule

Holy Week Schedule

Holy Monday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Holy Tuesday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Holy Wednesday:
Private Confession 6:30-6:50 p.m.
Spoken Vespers 7 p.m.

Maundy Thursday Divine Service 7 p.m.

Good Friday Tre Ore Noon-3 p.m. (7 25-minute services)
Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers 7 p.m.

Easter Vigil, Saturday 7:30 p.m.

Easter Dawn, Sunday 6:00 a.m.

Easter Day, Sunday 9:30 a.m.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

ATP: Prayers for the Dead

If it doesn’t do any good to pray for the dead, does it do any harm?

When the Lutheran reformers argued against prayers for the dead, what they were contending against is the false hope that because of our prayers, God might posthumously forgive those who had been impenitent. Also, while there is ample evidence in the early church of prayers for the dead, this practice had become so entwined with the Roman Catholic belief in purgatory that the Lutherans found these nearly inextricable.

And yet, the Lutheran Confessions say, “"We know that the ancients spoke of prayer for the dead. We do not prohibit this. . . .Epiphanius testifies that Aerius believed that prayers for the dead were useless. This he rejects. We do not support Aerius either" (Ap. XXIV.94, 96).

So may we pray for the dead? We teach and confess against the Roman Catholic error. And yet, there is Christian prayer for the dead, even as we pray for all the Church in heaven and on earth. The first prayer in the Prayer of the Church in the Funeral Service is “Almighty God, You have knit Your chosen people together into one communion in the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Give to Your whole Church in heaven and on earth Your light and Your peace.” We do not pray so that God would grant to the faithful departed some new or extra light and peace. They already have His light and peace in the fullest. As one Lutheran pastor explained, “to extrapolate the Small Catechism: God certainly gives his light and peace to those who rest with him, even to those for whom no one prays, but we pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would lead us to realize this and receive this gift with thanksgiving.”

The Christian Cyclopedia notes, “Luther's position is best summarized: ‘Nothing has been commanded or enjoined upon us concerning the dead. Therefore all this may be safely omitted, even if it were no error and idolatry’ (SA-II II 12). He inclines to a cautious toleration of the practice, points out that we have no command to pray for the dead, inasmuch as those who are in heaven do not need prayers, and those who are in hell cannot be helped thereby, and suggests that Christians make their prayers conditional (WA 10-III, 194–195, 409 to 410; 11, 130; 12, 596; 26, 508; 44, 203).”

We do not pray for the damned, those who died impenitently, without faith in Jesus. But, as long as we do not hope falsely like Roman Catholics that God might change the already-declared verdict on the dead, we may pray for the faithful departed, as we do in the liturgy and in hymns.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Book Worthy of an Answer

I started reading Bryan Hodge's A Christian Case against Contraception. So far, so good. Hodge examines contraception in light of the four disciplines of theology. Beginning with an historical perspective of the Church toward preventing conception, Hodge makes the argument, as the title of the book suggests, that contraception is sinful. He then moves to an exegetical look at procreation and contraception in the Scriptures, a systematic look at contraception, and a practical look at issues of contraception. So far, I'm only into the exegetical section, but the look at contraception in the history if the church was pretty good.

Inasmuch as an opposition to contraception was nearly universal in the Church until 1930, the burden of proof to demonstrate that contraception is an acceptable avenue for Christian married couples falls to the pro-contraception crowd.

Here's my challenge: pony up; get the book; read it; and let's discuss it. Email me if you'd rather not make a public answer to the book but would still be interested in the dialogue. I genuinely want a fraternal--not an antagonistic--discussion. Takers?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ATP: Forgiven of sin not yet committed?

Can you be forgiven of sins you have not yet committed?

The answer to this question exposes a huge difference between Lutherans and Roman Catholics in their understanding of forgiveness. Case in point: Baptism. For a Roman Catholic, in Baptism, God only forgives past sins. For a Lutheran, when God baptizes you, He places you into His forgiveness. That forgiveness covers past sins, current sins, and future sins. As Luther explained it, we live in our Baptism every day.

So, to the person who is worried that Jesus might return before he has the chance to confess sins and receive forgiveness for those sins, the answer is, “Yes, as long as you remain in the forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, you are already forgiven of those future sins.” There’s no partial forgiveness. Either all of your sins are answered for by Jesus or none of them is.

But to the person who wants a license to sin, the answer is “No, you may not plan to sin and also remain in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism.” Plain and simple, Christians don’t plan to sin. Planned repentance (“If I do this, God will still forgive me”) is not repentance. And to plan to sin is to fight against faith and forgiveness. “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).

The means through which God forgives our sins, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word, are means by which God holds us in the water of our Baptism. They don’t bestow new forgiveness or extra forgiveness. They do deliver forgiveness, but they do so in concert with Holy Baptism, not in addition to it. All of God’s means of grace have this as their goal: to hold you in the forgiveness delivered to you in Baptism. If you remain in the faith and forgiveness delivered to you at Baptism, all your sins are forgiven, taken away and given to Jesus, who has already answered for them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Next Adult Bible Class

Beginning the Sunday after Easter, the Sunday morning Bible class will take a look at Lutheran worship, exploring the whys, whats, and hows of the Divine Service. Come check it out Sunday mornings at 8:30. A few of us gather for Matins beforehand (8:00), followed by time for fellowship (and sometimes coffee and sweets) before Bible class and Sunday school begin.

There are lots of resources that you might check out to prepare you for the class, ranging from the simple to the academic. Here are a couple I'd recommend.

CPH has a book by Pr. Scot Kinnaman, Worshiping with Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service. The book is aimed at all ages but would be particularly useful for children and those new to the Lutheran way of worship in order to help them understand the Divine Service. Pr. Kinnaman's blog has two tremandous resources, as well: a primer on Lutheran Worship and a glossary of ecclesiastical terms. Check these out.

Another book from CPH that would make a great companion volume to Bible class is Pr. Timothy Maschke's Gathered Guests: A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church.

Other volumes you will find helpful include some of those that should be on the bookshelf of every Lutheran family: a hymnal, The Lutheran Study Bible, the Treasury of Daily Prayer, and the Book of Concord.

For a more academic look at the Divine Service these resources may prove helpful:
Luther's Works, volume 53
The journal Gottesdienst as well as Gottesdienst Online, the accompanying blog, are also great resources for learners of the Lutheran Divine Service.

So, there you have it. Come and learn!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Product Placement

During an emergency run for diapers this morning, I noticed the proximity of two items across the aisle from each other in Wal-Mart that brought to mind this song from 80s band The Fixx. Across from the rack of diapers is the rack of ladies' unmentionables. That's right, kids. One day you're shopping for pink and black thongs. The next it's diapers. One thing leads to another.