From the Treasury of Daily Prayer, Dec. 29

“God became Man that man might become God!” This truth, cast in parallel phrases, summarized the Christian mystery to the Christians of old. It impinged itself deeply in their spirituality; in almost identical words the truth occurs frequently in the Fathers and in ancient liturgical texts. God assumed a human nature to effect man’s participation in the divine nature; God became a Child that we might become children of God. The birthday of Christ inaugurates our divine birth. With Christ we were born God’s children. God became Man! This truth is utterly incomprehensible to our puny human minds. That the eternal God, whom heaven and earth cannot contain, who bears the world in His hand as a nutshell, before whom a thousand years are as one day–that this eternal, omnipotent God should become Man! Would it not have proved His loving mercy had He appeared for a mere moment in the splendor of His majesty, amid thunder and lightening, as once on Sinai? No! Such would have shown far too little of His love and kindness. He wanted to be like us, to become a child of man, a poor child of poorest people. He wished to be born, in a cave, in a strange land, in hostile surroundings. Cold wind, hard straw, dumb animals–these were there to greet Him. The scene fills with amazement. What can we do, other than fall down in silence and adore! God put on the beggar’s garb, became a tiny, crying Babe in order to offer man His divinity. In paradise, a fallen angel had promised: “Eat of this fruit and you will be like God.” Man ate and became a prisoner of hell. On Christmas night another angel, the Church, stands before man, offers him a Food and says: “Eat of this and you will be like God.” For the divine Food, the Flesh of the incarnate Son of God, makes us “partakers of the divine nature.””

–Pius Parsch

From Treasury of Daily Prayer, December 29

Giving things up for Lent

This came from the Ash Wednesday devotion from Higher Things.

Giving things up in Lent isn’t to make ourselves feel bad. It’s to remind ourselves that the things we think are most important aren’t. That the things we think are our treasures aren’t the true treasures. So what is the true treasure? It’s not self-denial or feeling a certain amount of sorrow for our sins. The treasure, as it is in every season of the Church Year, is Jesus!

Just something to think about.

Unnatural Things

There are things in life that are natural: peanut butter and jelly; pizza and beer; salsa and chips.  Another thing that is natural in a world sense is this: a child buries a parent.  That is the natural order of things, or that is how it should be.  What is not natural is this: a  parent should NEVER bury a child!  Unfortunately, that has just recently taken place in my congregation.  This last Sunday, a 22-year old member of my congregation passed away (on All Saints’ Day).  The family was naturally distraught.  So why is it that a parent is now burying their child?

Sin.  Because of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, we now have a world that has been infested with sin, from the top to the bottom, inside and outside.  Paul writes to the Romans, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)  Because of that, sin has become the “unnatural natural” part of life.  That means that we will have unnatural things as a result of the sin that we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and a result of the sin that we commit daily in our lives. 

But praise be to God that there is a natural result to this “unnatural natural” called sin.  The natural result is Jesus Christ and what it is that He has done for us.  Later to the Romans, Paul writes, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:9-11)

For His saints, for those who die in the faith, we have the assurance of life everlasting.  The Psalmist writes, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Ps. 116:15)  This is the joy that we have.

When we face the unnatural things of this life, we are ever reminded of the natural result of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has made all things natural, that is, holy and sinless.

Bonhoeffer on the Temptations of the Pastor

I have to say that I haven’t been in God’s Word as much as I should be in recent months.  I use a wonderful devotional entitled Treasury of Daily Prayer by Concordia Publishing House.  I don’t really have an excuse.  I could say that I’ve been busy, I’ve had too much going on, not enough time in a day, etc.  There really is no good excuse.  So tomorrow morning, I will get myself back into God’s Word.  What good is a pastor if he is not in God’s Word as much as he can be?  Here’s a wonderful quote from Bonhoeffer on the subject.

The life of the pastor completes itself in reading, meditation, prayer, and struggle.  The means is the word of Scripture with which everything begins and to which everything returns.  We read Scripture in order that our hearts may be moved.  It will lead us into prayer for the church, for brothers and sisters in the faith, for our work, and for our own soul.  Prayer leads us into the world in which we must keep the faith.  Where Scripture, prayer, and keeping the faith exist, temptation will always find its way in.  Temptation is the sign that our hearing, prayer, and faith have touched down in reality.  There is no escape from temptation except by giving ourselves to renewed reading and meditation.  So the circle is complete.  We will not often be permitted to see the fruits of our labors; but through the joy of community with brothers and sisters who offer us spiritual care, we become certain of the proclamation and the ministry. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Spiritual Care (Fortress Press, 1985), p. 69


Remembering September 11

On September 11, 2001, it was my second day of classes in my first quarter of studies at Concordia Theological Seminary.  As I was leaving my class and heading to Kramer Chapel, people were talking about a plane accident where a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  Shortly thereafter, a second plane crashed into the second tower.  Needless to say, we were stunned by the morning’s events.  Our chapel service that day was led by Rev. Richard Radtke, then senior pastor of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The following is his sermon which he preached that day.

Text: Luke 11:25-35

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The news this morning is very grim.  A commercial airliner crashed into one of the buildings of the World Trade Center in New York City.  A few minutes later, another airline crashed into the second World Trade Center building.  Then another commercial airline crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C.  Just a few minutes ago, we heard news that one of the World Trade Center building collapsed.  There is a great deal of confusion and horror about all this.  In the midst of this tragic news, we ask: How can this be?  How can this happen in our own land – in America?  Yet, this terrible tragedy shows the brokenness of this world, and how this world is truly a culture of death.  This means that today we can see even more than ever the need for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is why you are here – as professor, student, staff, or pastor.  In his words of comfort before the service began, President Wenthe said that the work of the seminary will go on because of what has happened this morning.  Nothing else can give us the true hope that we need other then the word of our Lord.  And so, in my homily this morning, I will spend a few moments on today’s Gospel, which is our calling to follow Jesus, and then apply our calling to this morning’s tragic events.

The call to follow Jesus surpasses all else.  But on our own, who could qualify?  Not one of us here, or anywhere, for that matter.  Because of our sin, we are all not only spiritually impoverished, but the Scriptures call us spiritually dead.  The call to follow Jesus is serious and severe.  We must renounce all to follow Him – and not depend on family, possessions, works, or self.

But the One who calls us is gracious.  The One who is sinless became sin for us, and carried our sin in His flesh to the cross.  In Jesus Christ we find our life and our hope.  His gospel. is our invitation.  He invites us to come to Him and find rest for our souls.  He invites us to come and follow Him.

The call to follow Jesus is especially meaningful for us today as we witness the horrifying events of this morning.  We know that the evil one, satan, is working ever so hard to silence the word of God.  He is working evil in this world to confuse and mislead all people, even the people of God.  He wants us to take our eyes off the gospel and the Lord Jess.  And so, we must trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Lord our God has promised in His word: “I will never leave your nor forsake you.”  Our Lord Jesus invited us to come to Him with these words: “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  The Scriptures are filled with words of comfort that remind us of the presence and power of our Lord at all times, and especially when we face these difficult and perilous times.

Things will never be the same in the United States.  More tragedies may yet happen this day.  It will be “a day of infamy.”  I would urge all of us to pray for our nation, for President Bush, and for all our leaders, that God would give them strength and courage for today and for all the days to come.

In a few moments, we will have the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion.  We so need the strength that God gives in the true body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  We so need the presence of our Lord among us as we struggle with questions about this national tragedy.  Here at this altar we will be nourished, and we will receive the strength that only our Lord can give – strength for the moment and for the days that are ahead of us with all the uncertainties of these times.  Therefore I commend you to our gracious and loving God, and I pray with you for His strength for our nation and all our leaders and for those who proclaim the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  May His peace be with you.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The importance of the Catechism

Luther's seal

Following recent events with regards to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Churchwide Assembly, it is all the more important now to be in God’s Word faithfully.

Martin Luther, in his preface to the Large Catechism, writes the following with regards to the need of being in the Catechims:

14 If these reasons were not enough to move us to read the catechism daily, we should feel bound well enough by God’s command alone. He solemnly commands in Deuteronomy 6:6–8 that we should always meditate on His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising. We should have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant mark and sign. Clearly He did not solemnly require and command this without a purpose. For He knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils. He wants to warn, equip, and preserve us against them, as with a good armor against their fiery darts [Ephesians 6:10–17] and with good medicine against their evil infection and temptation.

15 Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we! While we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils, we still despise our weapons and defense [2 Corinthians 10:4], and we are too lazy to look at or think of them!

16 What else are such proud, arrogant saints doing who are unwilling to read and study the catechism daily? They think they are much more learned than God Himself with all His saints, angels, prophets, apostles, and all Christians. God Himself is not ashamed to teach these things daily. He knows nothing better to teach. He always keeps teaching the same thing and does not take up anything new or different. All the saints know nothing better or different to learn and cannot finish learning this. Are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine that if we have once read or heard the catechism, we know it all and have no further need to read and learn? Can we finish learning in one hour what God Himself cannot finish teaching? He is engaged in teaching this from the beginning to the end of the world. All prophets, together with all saints, have been busy learning it, have ever remained students, and must continue to be students.†

Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (354). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Luther quotes

I’ve been bad…I haven’t been keeping up with the Treasury of Daily Prayer like I should have been.  I have to say that I really enjoy the Writings for each day.  Here are two writings from Martin Luther that should remain at the forefront of our minds.  The first writing is about baptism and the value and importance and meaning of it.  The second writing is about the office of holy ministry, something very important, as I am one who holds that office.  Enjoy these snippets from Luther.

Wednesday After Easter

For just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues until death, so our faith in it ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in baptism.  Therefore, when we rise from our sins or repent, we are merely returning to the power and the faith of baptism from which we fell, and finding our way back to the promise then made to us, which we deserted when we sinned.  For the truth of the promise once made remains steadfast, always ready to receive us back with open arms when we return….

It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his Lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth.  His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he consideres that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (II Tim. 2[:13]): “If we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.”  This truth of God, I say, will sustain him, so that if all else should fail, this truth, if he believes in it, will not fail him.  In it the penitent has a shield against all assaults of the scornful enemy, an answer to the sins that disturb his conscience, an antidote for the dread of death and judgment, and a comfort in every temptation–namely, this one truth–when he says: “God is faithful in his promises [Heb. 10:23; 11:11], and I received his sign in baptism.  If God is for me, who is against me?” [Rom. 8:31].1

Thursday After Easter

This ministry [that is, the Word of God, Baptism, and Holy Communion] will endure and is not to be replaced by any other.  But the incumbents of this ministry do not remain; they die.  This necessitates an ever-new supply of preachers, which calls for the employment of certain means.  [This ministry] came directly from Christ; but later Christ departed from this earth.  Now a new way of sending was instituted, which works through man but is not of man.  We were sent according to this method; according to it, we elect and send others, and we install them in their ministry to preach and to administer the Sacraments.  This type of sending is also of God and commanded by God.  Even though God resorts to our aid and to human agency, it is He Himself who sends laboreres into His vineyard.

There everyone [who preaches] must realize that he has been sent.  That is, he must know that he has been called; he dare not venture to sneak into the office furtively and without authorization.  It must be done in the open.  The sending is done through man, for example, when a city, a prince, or a congregation calls someone into office.  But at the same time this person is sent by God.2

1) Writing from Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” pp. 59-60 in vol. 36 of Luther’s Works, American Edition
2) Writing from Martin Luther’s sermons on the Gospel of St. John, p. 482 in vol. 22 of Luther’s Works

Devotional Thoughts, Part 2

The following comes from Section 3 of Luther’s Small Catechism: Table of Duties

What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.  — 1 Cor. 9:14

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he

sows.  — Gal. 6:6-7

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his

wages.”  — 1 Tim. 5:17-18

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other.  — 1 Thess. 5:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.  They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.  — Heb. 13:17

Devotional Thoughts, Part 1

The following comes from Section 3 of Luther’s Small Catechism: Table of Duties

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers

The overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  — 1 Tim. 3:2-4

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  — 1 Tim. 3:6

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.  — Titus 1:9