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Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Hymn to the Triune God

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever desires to be saved
must, above all,
hold the catholic faith.

Whoever does not keep it
whole and undefiled
will without doubt perish eternally.

And the catholic faith is this,
that we worship one God in Trinity
and Trinity in Unity,

neither confusing the persons
nor dividing the substance.

The Trinity in Unity
For the Father is one person,
the Son is another,
and the Holy Spirit is another.

But the Godhead of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit
is one:
the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is,
such is the Son,
and such is the Holy Spirit:

the Father uncreated,
the Son uncreated,
the Holy Spirit uncreated;

the Father infinite,
the Son infinite,
the Holy Spirit infinite;

the Father eternal,
the Son eternal,
the Holy Spirit eternal.

And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal,
just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites,
but one Uncreated and one Infinite.

In the same way,
the Father is almighty,
the Son almighty,
the Holy Spirit almighty;
and yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God;
and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.

So the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord;
and yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

The Unity in Trinity
Just as we are compelled by the Christian truth
to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord,
so also are we prohibited by the catholic religion
to say that there are three Gods or Lords.

The Father is not made nor created
nor begotten by anyone.
The Son is neither made nor created,
but begotten of the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son,
neither made nor created nor begotten,
but proceeding.

Thus, there is one Father, not three Fathers;
one Son, not three Sons;
one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another;
none is greater or less than another;
but the whole three persons
are coeternal with each other and coequal,
so that in all things, as has been stated above,
the Trinity in Unity
and Unity in Trinity
is to be worshiped.

Therefore, whoever desires to be saved
must think thus about the Trinity.

The Incarnation of Our Lord
But it is also necessary for everlasting salvation
that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
is at the same time both God and man.

He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages;
and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age:

perfect God and perfect man,
composed of a rational soul and human flesh;

equal to the Father with respect to His divinity,
less than the Father with respect to His humanity.

Although He is God and man,
He is not two, but one Christ:

one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh,
but by the assumption of the humanity into God;

one altogether,
not by confusion of substance,
but by unity of person.

For as the rational soul and flesh is one man,
so God and man is one Christ,

The Atonement
who suffered for our salvation,
descended into hell,
rose again the third day from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty,
from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Judgement
At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies
and give an account concerning their own deeds.
And those who have done good will enter into eternal life,
and those who have done evil into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith;
whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly
cannot be saved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Augustine of Canterbury

On May 26, 604 Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, fell asleep in Jesus. Not to be confused with his more famous namesake, Augustine of Hippo, this Augustine is known chiefly as the apostle to the English. In 595 Pope Gregory the Great sent him to convert King Æthelberht and to re-christianize the Kingdom of Kent.

Thus, shortly after the death of St. Columba (who brought Irish Christianity to the Picts in Scotland) Augustine was bringing Roman Christianity to the south of England. These two traditions eventually met at the Synod of Whitby in 664 to be melded into one ecclesiastical structure.

The Venerable Bede tells his story beginning in chapter XXIII Book I on the Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, written in about 731.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

What does this mean?
God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.

How is God’s name kept holy?
God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!

Pray like this:
O Almighty God, dear heavenly Father, in this wretched vale of tears your holy name is sadly profaned, blasphemed, and reviled in so many ways. In so many instances it is regarded without honor to you and is often misused in sinning, so that to live a disgraceful life might well be regarded as the same as disgracing and dishonoring your holy name.

Therefore grant us your divine grace that we might guard against all that does not serve to the honor and glory of your holy name. Help us to do away with all sorcery and magic incantations. Help us to put an end to conjuring by the devil or other creatures by your name. Help us root out all false belief and superstition. Help us bring to naught all heresies and false doctrines which are spread under the guise of your name. Help that no one be deceived by the many kinds of falsehood which go under the pretense of truth, piety, and holiness. Help that no one may resort to using your name to swear, lie, or deceive.

Protect us from all false imaginary consolation which might be given in your name. Protect us against all spiritual arrogance and false pride based on temporal fame or reputation. Help us not to forget your holy name when we lie on our deathbed and our conscience is troubled. Help that we may use all our possessions, speech, and deeds to glorify and honor you alone and that we do not seek to claim or seek a reputation in doing this, but that all we do be done for you to whom alone everything belongs. Protect us from the shameful vice of ingratitude.

Help that our good deeds and conduct may incite others to praise and honor you but not ourselves, exalting and praising your name because of us. Help us so that our evil actions and shortcomings may not offend anyone, leading them to dishonor your name or to neglect your praise. Protect us from asking you for anything temporal or eternal which would not serve the glory and honor of your name. Should we petition you in such a way, do not listen to our folly. Help us conduct all our life in such a way that we may be found to be true children of God, lest we call you Father falsely or in vain. Amen.

In this petition belong all psalms and prayers of praise, honor, and thanksgiving, all songs to His honor, and every alleluia.

Personal Prayer Book of 1522, Martin Luther

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Creator and Redeemer

It was not easy, but I have now finished Irenaeus’ first book against the gnostics of his day (ca. 180). As crazy and mixed up as the gnostic teachers were (and in disagreement with one another) one thing stood constant. None of them could or would confess that Jesus, the crucified Savior, is the very same God who created heaven and earth. And so, Irenaeus simply answers them with the Christian Creed. This confession still stands firm against all modernists who want to allow for something which is prior to, above, more powerful or more merciful than the God who created the heavens and the earth.

“There is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist.

Thus saith the Scripture, to that effect ‘By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them, by the spirit of His mouth.’ And again, ‘All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.

There is no exception or deduction stated; but the Father made all things by Him [the Word], whether visible or invisible, objects of sense or of intelligence, temporal, on account of a certain character given them, or eternal;

and these eternal things He did not make by angels, or by any powers separated from His Ennoea. For God needs none of all these things, but is He who, by His Word and Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and commands all things into existence,

-He who formed the world (for the world is of all),
-He who fashioned man,
-He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, above whom there is no other God, nor initial principle, nor power, nor pleroma,
-He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we shall prove.

Holding, therefore, this rule, we shall easily show, notwithstanding the great variety and multitude of their opinions, that these men have deviated from the truth; for almost all the different sects of heretics admit that there is one God; but then, by their pernicious doctrines, they change [this truth into error], even as the Gentiles do through idolatry,-thus proving themselves ungrateful to Him that created them.

Moreover, they despise the workmanship of God, speaking against their own salvation, becoming their own bitterest accusers, and being false witnesses [against themselves].

Yet, reluctant as they may be, these men shall one day rise again in the flesh, to confess the power of Him who raises them from the dead; but they shall not be numbered among the righteous on account of their unbelief.”

Against Heresies Book, Chapter XXII, Paragraph 1

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ipod Candy

I just found a great source of free audio books in MP3 and OGG Vorbis. I will be catching up on alot of overdue reading by listening to them on the go.  Books that I find particularly helpful and accessible to the parish I will tell you about as we go. In the mean time, you might want to give Luther’s Large Catechism a listen. It is a series of sermons on the basic texts of the Christian Church: 10 Commands, Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saints Cyril and Methodius of Thessalonika

In 862, at the request of Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia (present day Slovakia and the Czech Republic including parts of Hungary, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Germany), the Patriarch Photius sent the brothers Cyril and Methodius to bring Christianity to Moravia.

These brothers are credited with inventing the Glagolitic Alphabet, the first used to translate the Old Church Slavonic language. This was then simplified into the Cyrillic Alphabet (named after Cyril) which is still in use today.

If you are of Slavic origin, May 11 is your day to celebrate. This, according to the Greek Orthodox Calendar. The Romans and Anglicans celebrate this on February 14, the date of Cyril’s death.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Simple Way to Pray

Rogate Sunday gives us a special occasion to think about prayer and praying. The following advice is from a little gem of a book that Martin Luther wrote for his friend Peter, the Master Barber.

I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.

First, when I feel that I have become cool and indifferent in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always oppose and hinder prayer), I take my little prayer book, hurry to my room... and as time permits, I say quietly to myself, word-for-word, like a child, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. If I have extra time I also add some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself against those false and deceitful thoughts which tell you, “Wait a little bit. I will pray in a hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer and off to other things which keep your attention until the day is gone and you have not yet prayed.... Thus we become lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who haunts us is not lazy or careless, however, and our flesh is all too ready and eager to sin and resists the spirit of prayer.

When you have “warmed up” with the recitation [of the Ten Commandments and the Creed, etc.] and are intent upon the business at hand, then kneel or stand with your hands folded, look toward heaven and say or think this little prayer:

“Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to lift up my hands and eyes to you in prayer. But because you have commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us and through your dear Son Jesus Christ have even taught us exactly how and what to pray, I come to you in obedience to your word, trusting in your gracious promise. Together with all your saints and Christians on earth I now pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ as He has taught us: Our Father who are in heaven, etc., (through the whole Lord’s Prayer, word for word).”

Then repeat one part or as much as you wish, perhaps the first petition, “Hallowed be Thy name,” and then say something like: “Yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallowed be Thy name, both in us and throughout the whole world.... Convert those who are still to be converted what they with us and we with them may hallow and praise your name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Amen.”

Perhaps you will repeat the second petition, “Thy Kingdom Come,” and then say something like: “Dear Lord, God and Father, ...Defend us against those who will not turn away their might and power from the destruction of your Kingdom so that they will be cast down from their thrones and humbled and so cease from their efforts. Amen....” [Perhaps you will do the same with the rest of the petitions, repeating each aloud, then saying a little prayer based upon your own need and God’s petition.]

Finally note this: you must always speak the “Amen” firmly, never doubting that God in His mercy will surely hear you and say “Yes” to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone. Remember that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot ignore. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well then, God has heard my prayer; this I know is sure and certain.” This is the meaning of the word “Amen.”

This in short is the way I use the Lord’s Prayer when I pray it. To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer (even better than the Psalms, which are so dear to me). It is surely evident that a real master composed and taught it...
[Luther goes on to suggest that he sometimes takes up the Commandments and/or the Creed in a similar fashion, if he has “the time and the strength before he prays the Lord’s Prayer.”]
Adapted from the American Edition of Luther’s Works, 43:193 ff.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our Lectionary Series

“You are as likely to find the perfect lectionary as you are to find the perfect Bible translation. Like translations, it may be said of lectionaries that some are better than others, that inevitably you end up dealing with factors of taste and individual preference, and that even the worst of them is probably better than nothing at all.
Yet we should be aware of one other point of comparison: that just as there is no such thing as a theologically neutral translation, so there is no such thing as a theologically neutral lectionary. This is especially true of the three year lectionaries published in the past thirty years. Created by committees with definite theological leanings, these lectionaries often display an agenda which at times finds itself at cross purposes with confessional Lutheranism. Considering this, it may be worthwhile to re-examine the use of the Historic Lectionary. Its use was a tradition that united generations of Christians, and one which was perhaps too quickly cast aside.”

This quote comes from a paper by Alexander Ring that is a very helpful discussion of why we use the lectionary series that we do.

Friday, May 7, 2010

C. F. W. Walther, President (1811-1887)

May 7 commemorates the first president of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States (later called the LCMS). In 1838 Walther joined with nearly 1100 Lutherans to flee from the religious persecution of the Prussion Union in Germany. 750 made it to America while one ship was lost at sea. Shortly after their arrival Walther rose to leadership of the settlement.

He was a churchman and one of the strongest theologians of the 19th century. In my opinion, his best and most enduring work is “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel”. This book is a collection of 39 lectures delivered to the seminary students in St. Louis, MO between September 12, 1884 and November 6, 1885.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rev. Matthew Harrison (mpeg 6:40)

...before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.”
The Book of Concord Formula of Concord, (Tappert) Solid Declaration XI.49
Last week 22 graduating seminarians received word that there had not been called to serve in any congregation. In the midst of this sorrow and uncertain financial future, Rev. Matthew Harrison preached a chapel homily that you will want to hear by clicking on the above link.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Frederick the Wise, Christian Ruler

May 5, 1525 commemorates the death of Frederick III, Elector of Saxony. Without his protection, Martin Luther would likely have been burned at the stake like John Huss before him. Today we thank God for his wise leadership of the civil affairs of Saxony.

The God who gives Himself

These are the three persons and one God, who has given himself to us all wholly and completely, with all that he is and has.

The Father gives himself to us, with heaven and earth and all the creatures, in order that they may serve us and benefit us. But this gift has become obscured and useless through Adam’s fall.

Therefore the Son himself subsequently gave himself and bestowed all his works, sufferings, wisdom, and righteousness, and reconciled us to the Father, in order that restored to life and righteousness, we might also know and have the Father and his gifts.
But because this grace would benefit no one if it remained so profoundly hidden and could not come to us, the Holy Spirit comes and gives himself to us also, wholly and completely. He teaches us to understand this deed of Christ which has been manifested to us, helps us receive and preserve it, use it to our advantage and impart it to others, increase and extend it. He does this both inwardly and outwardly—inwardly by means of faith and other spiritual gifts, outwardly through the gospel, baptism, and the sacrament of the altar, through which as through three means or methods he comes to us and inculcates the sufferings of Christ for the benefit of our salvation.
Martin Luther, Confession Concerning the Sacrament,
Luther's works, vol. 37:366.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

CrossTalk: Cross and Christianity

Imagine what it would be like if you could bring a first-century Roman citizen forward in time and take him on a walk around our world. Even though our technology would be new to him, the general decay of our moral culture would probably make him feel quite at home. But one thing that would surely catch his eye and make him wonder is our prominent and regular display of the cross.

The cross is everywhere. You find it on jewelry and T-shirts, bumper stickers and hospitals. People trace it on themselves before meals, in church, in times of trouble and even while playing sports. White crosses are lined up in endless rows at cemeteries across the land. But nowhere is this iconic symbol more prominent or more ornately adorned than in and on Christian Churches. They are made of brass and gold and silver, encrusted with jewels, embossed onto hymnals, printed in bulletins, suspended from ceilings and standing on altars. You are even likely to see one or more with a lifeless body still hanging on it.

Upon seeing this, your time-travelling friend would realize that this was not just some abstract symbol but an intentional reminder of a brutal form of execution that he knows quite well. Realizing this would surely prompt the question: "Why, on earth, would you use that as a decoration in holy places? We used it to deter criminals and to frighten enemies. Now you make it out of chocolate and marshmallows or put it on hot cross buns?!"

It is a fair question that you should have an answer to. And the Christian answer is this: We confess that Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, was crucified for us. This is why we hold the cross in such esteem.

True, a lot of other things happened to Jesus as well--both good and bad--and we don't find these icons plastered everywhere. He was laid in a manger, anointed with perfume, beaten with canes, flayed with scourges, and tied up with ropes; and yet these are not symbolized everywhere. But the crucifixion alone caused His death, and it is in His death that we have life. That is what places the cross front and center in the Christian faith.

God was insistent on the crucifixion. Previous attempts to kill Him another way failed because they were not God's way. And so, in the Christian Creed, we confess not just that Jesus died, but that He was crucified. Crucifixion was determined by God for a reason. There is something so fitting and so unique about this method of execution that God would have it no other way.

This alone is enough for us to set the picture constantly before our eyes. For by it God would visually show us His Way and Truth and Life. We can spend a lifetime looking at the crucifixion and still learn more from it. And this is what moved Paul to say, "I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Let the poet Girolamo Savonarola end this article and be the beginning of many more of your own reflections on this most sacred symbol.

† † †

Do we pass that cross unheeding,
Breathing no repentant vow,
Though we see You wounded, bleeding,
See Your thorn-encircled brow?
Yet Your sinless death has brought us
Life eternal, peace, and rest;
Only what Your grace has taught us
Calms the sinner’s deep distress.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (298-373)

On May 2nd, 373 a.d. Bishop Athanasius fell asleep in Jesus who had given him as a gift to the Holy Christian Church. Through his faithful service, Jesus preserved the unity of His body which was under attach both from heretical teachers without and from pride and confusion within.

Three years after the adoption of the Nicene Creed, Athanasius was elevated to the rank of Bishop and spent the next 45 years as a consummate theologian and churchman clarifying and defending the biblical faith.

Perhaps his most important accomplishment was to help the Greek Christians and the Roman Christians better understand one another and come together in common cause against the Arians who denied the full Godhead of Jesus.

Translational nuances between Greek and Latin had caused confusion both before and since the issuance of the Nicene Creed. Athanasius saw that both groups held an identical view of the biblical God and were simply divided by terminology. By his careful listening and questioning of both sides, Athanasius brought us all to agree on the Trinitarian words that we still use to this day.

Even though he himself was not the author of it, the Athanasian Creed is still named after him in honor of his contributions to Christian worship.

Ss. James and Philip, Apostles

May 1 is the feast day of James and Philip. Other than brief references in the Gospel accounts, their lives remain obscure. So today we think on all the forgotten saints whom Christ has made pillars of his Church even while their lives have been forgotten by those who benefitted from them.