Greetings from the southwest corner of Wyoming

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

St. Mark, Evangelist

April 25th is the Feast of St. Mark, also known as John Mark. He is a cousin of Barnabas and is related to the woman whose house in Jerusalem was the first Church of Christendom.

Mark’s Gospel is set off by his very earthy telling of the story of Jesus. It is short, action-packed and tactile. The link above tells of Mark’s martyrdom.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Johann Walter, Kantor

April 24 commemorates the death of Johann Walter who was called to glory 440 years ago. You can read about his life by clicking on his name above.

Lutheran Service Book lists him as the composer of the tunes for nine different hymns:

332 Savior of the Nations, Come
352 Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
406 To Jordan Came the Christ Our Lord
458 Christ Jesus Lay in Death's Strong Bands
505 God the Father, Be Our Stay
617 O Lord, We Praise Thee
755 In the Very Midst of Life
768 To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray
938 In Peace and Joy I Now Depart

As a poet, Walther is the author of hymn 514

1 The Bridegroom soon will call us,
“Come to the wedding feast.”
May slumber not befall us
Nor watchfulness decrease.
May all our lamps be burning
With oil enough and more
That we, with Him returning,
May find an open door!

2 There shall we see in glory
Our dear Redeemer’s face;
The long-awaited story
Of heav’nly joy takes place:
The patriarchs shall meet us,
The prophets’ holy band;
Apostles, martyrs greet us
In that celestial land.

3 There God shall from all evil
Forever make us free,
From sin and from the devil,
From all adversity,
From sickness, pain, and sadness,
From troubles, cares, and fears,
And grant us heav’nly gladness
And wipe away our tears.

4 In that fair home shall never
Be silent music’s voice;
With hearts and lips forever
We shall in God rejoice,
While angel hosts are raising
With saints from great to least
A mighty hymn for praising
The Giver of the feast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Today is the commemoration of the author of Cur Deus Homo? (Why did God become man?)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Luther and Calvin on Church and state

Pastor Bror Erickson of Toole, Utah reviews the book: Luther and Calvin on Secular Authority (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) (Paperback).

Johannes Bugenhagen

Today, April 20, commemorates the pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Although his first encounter with Martin Luther’s thought (On the Babylonian Captivity of the Chuch) did not meet a favorable impression, he studied further and came to appreciate the doctrine of the Reformation.

As Martin Luther’s pastor and confessor, Bugenhagen came to occupy a prominent place in the Reformation. It is especially in the areas of biblical and liturgical studies that he made his greatest impact. Bugenhagen (Pastor Pomer) greatly assisted in Luther’s work of translating the Holy Scriptures into the German tongue.

In a letter to Hamburg in 1528, Pomer outlined a set of church regulations (Kirchenordnungen) which established him a the great organizer of the Reformation in northern Germany and Scandinavia. He either wrote, or had a hand in writing nine different Kirchenordnungen in these areas, earning for himself the name “Apostle of the North.”

Bugenhagen’s greatest influence on me came through his commentary on the Psalms which has not yet been translated into English. In this work, he helps the reader to see that every Psalm is ultimately about Jesus of Nazareth and, by extension, all those who are baptized into His body, namely the Church. See Maurice Schild, “Approaches to Bugenhagen’s Psalms Commentary (1524),” Lutheran Theological Journal, 1992 26:1, 63-71.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Greatest of These Is Love

We are never told that God is faith or that God is hope. But we are told that “God is Love.”

And that’s what makes love “the greatest of these.” Love is the very nature of God. It is who He IS.

This is confessed in all three articles of the Creed.

He is “the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” He creates out of nothing because it’s His nature to love. He creates not because He needs to... Not because we asked Him to... Not because we deserve to be created... Rather, God is our Maker out of sheer will to bestow His love on that which is nothing.

Likewise, He redeems me from sin without any merit or worthiness in me. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.”

And He Makes us holy out of his abundant giving and not because we deserve it. I cannot by my own reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel...

God, by His very nature gives freely and fully to that which is nothing.

This is the image of God which He also gives to us by His love. The imago Dei consists in our sharing God’s own freely-giving nature. “We love because He first loved us.”

Divine Love (agape) is sourced in the giver of the love and not to any extent in the recipient. God loves not because you are lovely but to make you lovely. (Eph 5)

Now, as soon as I state it that way, it’s upsetting because it’s offputting. To think of ourselves as having no intrinsic worth or value but only that which our Creator and Lover bestows upon us, insults our self-esteem (self-love).

And it doesn’t seem to matter how much value God thus gives us. Even though He freely and willingly exalts us to sit at His own right hand, the very fact that this is purely a gift and undeserved, unearned is maddening. We don’t want God to love us like this. We want to be loved for our own inner qualities—for something that we have apart from God's giving or in addition to God’s giving—something that we can bring to the relationship.

But it is this very desire which is our fallenness. By this we reject and refuse our lover-God and run off to other gods who cannot give us anything that we need, but who whisper sweet nothings in our ears about how lovely we are in and of ourselves without God.

Even though we fight this sinful desire to have another God, the very fact that we have the desire at all, is our greatest need.

It is in response to this utter inability to willingly receive the love of God that God Himself became a man. God becomes a man in order that, as a man, He might receive this abundant love “for us men and for our salvation.”

Jesus, according to His human nature, does not share our idolatrous desire. Rather, He truly, fully and without qualification WANTS to be loved by God. And He IS loved by God. “This is My beloved Son.” He receives for us what we cannot receive for ourselves. And He gives this received love to all who are united with Him.

And by being baptized into Christ’s Person, we receive with Him all of God’s good gifts
...including the image of God which was lost in desire for autonomy. In Christ, and only in Christ, are we restored to our created capacity to love one another as God loves us. In Christ we love freely and willingly—not for our own sakes or because of the qualities of those we love—but purely out of sheer goodness. The love which is the image of God “does not seek it’s own.”

...nor is it “puffed up.” To have Christ’s true human nature given to us means not only that we can truly love as God loves...but also that we have the capacity to receive this love from others. To be loved in spite of our faults and sins and not because of our innate goodness is what we need the most but want the least.

Fallen humanity is always puffed up—unable and unwilling to receive what you haven’t earned and don’t deserve. But the new humanity created by God by His incarnation in Jesus is now given to receive such love not only from God but also from our neighbors.

Humbling ourselves before one another to receive also from each other what we don’t deserve, this too is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ. The love that God bestows upon us in Christ both recreates us in the image of God to give freely to others while also restoring us to our true place as creatures receiving freely from God through all of our neighbors.

This is the love of God being giving and being received in the body of Christ, His holy Church.

Tomorrow is Good Shepherd Sunday

“I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” Our Church teaches that, “a seven-year-old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice”(Smalcald Articles XII). These words teach that the Church is, at heart, made up of two things: 1) the voice of the Good Shepherd, and 2) those who know His voice. Accordingly, if a person wishes to be certain of salvation, it is necessary first, that he be certain that the voice which he hears is the voice of the Good Shepherd and not some hireling. Second, he should ask whether he is listening to that voice or ignoring it. For it is in hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd that the saving power of His death and resurrection comes to you. As He says, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” Namely, if you are a sheep of His fold, it is for you that Christ gave His life. Nowhere is this dynamic so concretely played out than in the Divine Service. Here the flock of the Good Shepherd hears His voice from heaven and is healed by His stripes.