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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recommended Reading/Listening

I just finished listening to a librivox recording of G. K. Chesterton's The New Jerusalem. Immediately upon finishing it, I went back to the beginning again. If you have never experienced Chesterton's writing, you will spend the first pages -- even the first chapters -- wondering if his rambling, poetical style has any theme or point at all. But you will soon discover that every seemingly haphazard word is precisely chosen and every rambling path leads you to a breathtaking vista.

Written in 1920 shortly after the close of the Great War, 19 years before the beginning of the Holocaust and 27 years before the charter of the nation of Israel, this book takes an historico-theologico-practical approach to the politics of the Middle East which is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The chapter on the Crusades, alone, would be worth your time. Here you have a devastating critique of the past two centuries of Western evaluations of their purpose and value. In modern histories, we are told few of the actual facts and even less about the stated motives of either side. Instead, rather, we are fed only enough information to form a negative opinion of the masses of well-meaning Christians who gave their wealth and health and lives in pursuit of we-know-not-what. If Chesterton can help you fill in this blank, you will not only see the past more clearly, but the present as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When did Christians Start Baptizing Infants?

"When Polycarp at the trial preceding his martyrdom testifies that he has been serving the Lord for eighty-six years (Mart. Pol., 9), the reference can only be to his membership in the church. Accordingly, his baptism must have taken place in the apostolic age, even prior to the year ad 70. The statement of Justin (Apol. 1:15) that at that time there were many Christians sixty and seventy years old who from the days of their childhood ematheteuthesan to Christo [who had become disciples of Christ] can refer only to members of the church who were baptized as children during the period between ad 80 and 90. We have already mentioned Irenaeus. He testifies that Christ came to save all, “all who by Him are regenerated unto God; babes (infantes), little children, boys, youths and men” (Adv. Haer., II 22:4). In the Church Order of his disciple Hippolytus (ca. 170- c. 235) the baptism of little children is mentioned in so many words. They are to be baptized before the adults, and their parents or some relative are to take their places at the “Amen” and confession of faith by speaking vicariously for them.

"When Tertullian (ca. 155-220) in his Treatise on Baptism directs his polemics against the custom of infant baptism, he certainly is not attacking it as an innovation; even as, later on, Pelagius in his battle against Augustine’s doctrine of original sin had to admit the argument that, after all, infants were baptized too; at least he does not deny the fact. Likewise, Origen (ca. 185- ca. 254) and Cyprian (ca. 200-258) presuppose the baptism of infants: the former in the claim later transmitted to the Middle Ages by Dionysius the Areopagite that the baptism of infants goes back to a tradition given by the Lord to his apostles (Commentary on Romans, 5:9); Cyprian in the well-known instruction given to Bishop Fidus (Ep. 64) not to defer baptism to the eighth day analogous to circumcision. Jeremias is right when he claims that a later introduction of infant baptism would have stirred up a great excitement and thus have left definite traces in the history of the Church. The results of church-historical investigation rather indicate that in the ancient church, precisely as in our modern mission fields, both forms of baptism, adult and infant, have always existed side by side. If that is true, then infant baptism must go back to the apostolic age. The baptism of children must then be included in the baptism of entire families, of which we have examples in the New Testament, even though the children are not specifically mentioned.
Translated from Hermann Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors vol. V, 1949. Found at Mercy Journey's blog.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CrossTalk: To Be Like Your Father

Be merciful just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Christian behaviour flows out of Christian belief. That doesn’t just mean that if you believe in God, you will obey Him. Anybody can act according to a set of rules. But Christian behavior is no act. It is a way of being.

“Be merciful!” Jesus says. Don't just act that way. These words invite you into a whole different life. More than actions and words, this life includes thoughts, attitudes and feelings. Jesus calls you to be as God the Father is—to be merciful.

When you think of God the Father, do you think of mercy? Sadly, this is the last word many would use to describe God. They feel that God is their enemy who does not love but hates them. Many think that God is a vengeful judge and not a merciful Father. Of course, people rarely say this in polite company. Rather, such thoughts show up in how we think and act.

What we think about the life God has given us says alot about what we think of God. When I complain about the health or money, family or work that God has given me, I am really saying that God is not giving enough but is stingy, that He is not merciful but vengeful. If I try to avoid thinking ill about God by saying that He is not the source of these things, I don't think more of God but less. For then, I am only saying that He is not really God at all.

So also, the way we think about His word speaks volumes. When we are reluctant to hear and follow God's word in our lives, we are really saying that He wants to kill our joy or prevent us from having what we need to live. This is anything but seeing God as merciful.

When we do not consider God to be merciful, our behavior becomes unmerciful too—especially when we are afraid or hurt. When I am afraid for the future, I become a taker instead of a giver. I act like everybody owes me something and no longer see people through God’s eyes—as people that I can care for.

When we are wronged, instead of giving mercy, we demand justice. We use whatever leverage or strength that we have to punish, or to abandon the one who hurts us. But this is exactly the opposite of how God is towards you. Even though He is almighty, He does not use His might against you, but for you. Even though He is transcendent, He does not stay aloof from you but comes to you.

God is so merciful, in fact, that He doesn't just tell you to change your thinking and leave you alone to figure out how. Instead, God is so merciful that "He gave His only-begotten Son" (John 3:16). The Father gave the Son to become a true, believing Man and to rescue you from unbelief and the unmerciful life that follows.

This Jesus is not just one face of God--one way of explaining God or knowing Him. If that were the case, you might see Jesus in all His mercy, but still not know that God Himself is merciful. To know Jesus is to know the Father. To know Jesus’ mercy is to know that the Father’s mercy is not just an act, but the real thing.

Thus knowing Jesus, you know the Father and knowing the Father, you are made merciful as He Himself is merciful. This new life is what God mercifully gives to all who come to Him. So come to Church. Receive all that He gives there and become as Jesus invites you to be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Joy of Koinonia

On Sunday, Pastor Lincoln Winter and his family joined us around the altar of our Lord. Here are the comments that he made when he arrived home. He is absolutely right about the joy that the Holy Spirit gives us by our unity with Christians across space and time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Looking for things to pray about???

Here's a short list from President Harrison to get you started.

What do I hope for at this moment? My hope is for time, for patience, for prayer, for love, for kindness. My hope is for a time of peace, as God wills. My hope is for a church, which is and remains faithful to the inerrant word of God, and unreservedly to the Lutheran Confessions. My hope is for pastors and people who love the Word of God and read it vigorously. My hope is that wherever I fail, wherever we fail, whatever we have done or do to make our life together bitter, that God grant us repentance, and faith. My hope and dream is for a church which loves its pastors, pastors care for their people, pastors who visit their members’ homes as possible, pastors who head into their communities to “seek and save the lost.” My hope is for preaching which is lively and pulsing with damning law and the joyous, forgiving and faith-creating gospel of free forgiveness in Jesus’ cross. My desire is preaching which is both textual (biblical) and grabs the hearer by the neck, heart and toes, throws him/her to hell, then carries them to heaven. My hope is for laypeople equipped to share Christ in their vocations. My hope and prayer is for laypeople who are delighted to invite friends and family to church. My hope is for a lively mission of mercy where zeal is as great for orthodoxy as for mercy and vice versa. My hope is for continuing joy and success in reaching different ethnic communities, and through them, reaching the nations of the world. My hope is for a growing appreciation for the Synod’s national and international mission, for improvement in that mission, for advancement in what is good, and the support and participation of our pastors, congregations, districts, and people. My hope is for a continued healthy and healthier Concordia University System, schools free to meet the challenges they face, but resolved to maintain and even increase fidelity to the Lutheran confession of the faith. Our schools have missions and capacity well worth celebrating, a cause to rejoice in hope. My hope is for a growing number of grade schools reaching into their communities. My hope is for a renewal in teaching the faith to the youth, and a profound love of the simple Small Catechism.

My humble hope is for greater agreement among us on communion practice and especially issues of worship and other things, which cause angst and impede our common joy, mission and life together. God have mercy upon us as we attempt to come to a meeting of the minds under the living and mighty and active word of God.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A / V Resources

I have recently put together a new collection of audio books, mp3 lectures and video resources. These are great for learning while you drive or while you work out. Resources range from Josephus to Rod Rosenblatt and from Athanasius to Luther.

Look to the column on the right in the section called "Parish Resources" and click on "Audio Books and Lectures" (just under "Pastor's Sermons."

This list will be continually updated as I find more worthwhile resources.