Monthly Archives: January 2013

Septuagesima – Matthew 20:1-16

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            The doctrine of grace is perhaps the most misunderstood doctrine in all of Holy Scripture. Saint Paul explains grace in the best way in Ephesians chapter two: For you all are saved by grace through faith, and this is not yours: it is God’s gift, not by works, so that any man should boast. The key words here are this is not yours, it is God’s gift. However, many Christians still misunderstand the fact that God’s gift does not mean that God’s gives you the gift to help Him save you.

            Remember that grace is a gift. When you receive a gift there are no strings attached. Someone intentionally purchased something or perhaps made something for you. They present it to you. It’s yours. All you do is reach out and take it. Even the reaching out and taking it is not your work. It is how you appropriate the gift to yourself, the action of taking something that already belongs to you and receiving it as yours. Simply put, grace is a gift that wasn’t yours at first, but now is yours at no cost to you.

            So, on the one hand, grace is not a substance that you use to work out your salvation with God. On the other hand, grace is not something given outside of or alongside of the Gifts Christ gives His Church. Grace is forgiveness offered in and working for you in the Gifts: in preaching, Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.

            Why all this hubbub about grace? Our Lord’s parable in Matthew chapter 20 shows how God sees His grace in His kingdom, and how you see His grace in His kingdom. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is Jesus’ response to Peter’s words in the previous chapter: Behold: we have forsaken everything and have followed you! What then will there be for us?

            Peter speaks like a true sinner! He sounds like the stereotypical Chicagoan: Ubi est mea? Where is mine? What’s in it for me? Hey, Dad! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this [prodigal] son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

            Sinful human nature always looks for the angle to take some credit away from God and put it in our column. Nevertheless, human nature always forgets to remember that God’s grace calls sinners into the vineyard. You are, by nature, outside of the vineyard and stand idle in the marketplace of the world. You can do nothing to be taken into the vineyard. King David says in Psalm 14: The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of men, that He might see whether someone is wise and asks for God. But they have all strayed and all of them are unfit; there is none that does good, not even one. Nevertheless, the heavenly householder proceeds according to His unreasonable mercy to seek you and include you in His vineyard. That is grace. You did nothing. God did it all.

            God doesn’t need you in His vineyard. He honors you with a place in His vineyard. Only through His gracious acceptance of you into His vineyard are you able to work and to do good works pleasing to God. Saint Paul proclaims But by the grace of God I am what I am. And his grace to me has not been in vain, but rather I have worked for all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Our capability comes from God. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.

            God owes you nothing. However, He has graciously offered to provide a wage besides faith that apprehends salvation, even to give a wage for work. Recall the words of the householder: You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you. Nevertheless, you begrudge His generosity. Luther’s translation really knocks it out of the park: Are you looking cross-eyed that I am so gracious? Mom always said not to cross your eyes lest they get stuck that way, but when you look cross-eyed you can’t see anything. You are momentarily blind. God’s goodness in giving His grace equally to those who labor for one hour or eleven hours blinds you with anger. Longer hours deserve better wages. Not so in God’s vineyard.

            God distributes the promised wage according to His free graciousness. No one dictates to Him how much they should be paid. Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Are you looking cross-eyed that I am so gracious?

            That’s a good question to ask yourself as we prepare for the innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ. You are so used to using freedom to get what you want that when God gives you true freedom from sin and death, you become cross-eyed at His generosity. You are so blind because of sin that you refuse to recognize the cost of eternal life. The false freedom of this world captivates you. You are a slave to death and consider the life given by our heavenly Father in His Son’s innocent life, death, and resurrection to be a return to slavery, working for the Man every night and day, and receiving an unfair wage.

            Arrogant, self-righteous, wage-seeking slaves to money, power, prestige, and earthly glory have cause to be frightened. When they demand to be judged according to the justice and righteousness they demand, they will be literally scared to death. God’s kingdom is all about grace. When you reject God’s grace because your crossed eyes refuse to see His generosity, then your eyes refuse to focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. You miss seeing God’s grace, His undeserved love for you, paying all you owe Him in full. When you miss Christ dying for your sin, then you miss the kingdom of God. You are rejected.

            On the other hand, when you recognize how miserable you are, when you deem yourselves unworthy of any wage the householder gives, when you labor either for one hour or for eleven hours in the vineyard of the Lord and, at the end of the day, say I am an unprofitable servant, you have cause to rejoice. Why rejoice in loathing yourself? Doesn’t that go against everything the world says and does? It does go against everything, even your own reckoning. However, the Lord God does you no wrong. He gives to His laborers the promised wage, even though you don’t deserve it and you certainly didn’t earn it. This is grace. This is how it is in the kingdom of God.

            These Gesima Sundays are the time to strip yourself of all that gets in the way of seeing Jesus Christ and His righteous, innocence, and blessedness. Today God straightens your crossed-eyes and allows you to see how things operate in His kingdom. The vineyard God puts you in is not about grabbing the brass ring or climbing the corporate stepladder. His vineyard is about doing what is given you to do, for your station in life is a gift from God. As you do what is given you to do, you receive food for the journey through the valley of the shadow of death. This food is His Gifts: His Word that declares you pardoned from everlasting death in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, His Son. His Baptism that cleanses you from all sin and makes you a new creation in Him. His Supper that nourishes you with His forgiveness. His Absolution that declares your sin forgiven and forgotten for the sake of Jesus Christ.

            God in Christ Jesus now accepts what was once condemned in Adam. That’s grace. Open your hands wide and receive His grace, His undeserved love for you. Proclaim with King David in today’s Gradual psalm: Those who know Your Name put their trust in you, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit


The Transfiguration of Our Lord – Matthew 17:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            The short Epiphany season this church year gives the opportunity to focus on three core events in Christ’s life that set the scene for the remainder of the festival half of the church year. The three core events are 1. His birth and subsequent epiphany to the Magi; 2. His baptism in the Jordan River and; 3. His transfiguration. All three accounts point to one thing: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believing on Him, you have life in His Name.

All three accounts also have the breaking in of God our Father. The angels appear to shepherds to announce His birth. A star proclaims the Christ Child resides in Bethlehem, the city of David. The Father’s voice proclaims Jesus to be His beloved Son as the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove. The Father’s voice is heard again in the Transfiguration proclaiming the same message as at His baptism with one important clause added: listen to Him.

You’ll want to hang on to that phrase as we prepare to enter Lententide in a few weeks. There are many voices wanting your attention. The voice of sin and death whisper for you not to listen to Christ. Jesus’ way is a hard way full of struggle and frustration. The broad way of sin and Satan is a far easier road to walk. You don’t have to worry about anything. Do as you please. Let your word be the final say in every matter. You’re only here for a little while, so you might as well live it up and not try to conform to any standard except your own.

Listening to Jesus is not about conforming to a standard. Listening to Jesus is listening to spirit and truth. If the Savior of the Jew and Gentile comes according to the flesh to lay down a new standard of living, then you would never fit the mold. Consider Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand. The skin of his face shone and [the Israelites] were afraid to come near him. Moses had to veil his face when speaking to the Israelites. He was in the holy presence of the Lord. The Israelites could not stand to see Moses’ shining face. It reminded them how holy God was, and how sinful they were.

Elijah the Tishbite confirmed Moses’ message. Elijah proclaimed the coming of the Lord among a people violently opposed to the Lord’s Word. Elijah sat under a broom tree, moaning to the Lord that he was the only one left who followed the Lord God. Talk about a lonely way to walk! Nevertheless, God promised seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. The Lord used Elijah to show there was no other God but the one true God amid a world that had almost, to a man, turned away from hearing the Lord’s Word.

The message remains the same as it was in the days of Moses, Elijah, and even Jesus Christ: listen to Him. Listen to Jesus, for He comes to suffer and die for your sin as a man. No man born of woman in the passion of sin can make perfect atonement for his sin. Only Jesus Christ, begotten of His Father before the world began, and born of the Virgin Mary by a miraculous conception of the Holy Spirit, only Jesus Christ cleanses mankind from all sin through His innocent suffering and death. Only Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead, rises from the tomb as victorious Lord of all creation. This is the message of Moses, Elijah, and all the patriarchs and prophets down to John the Baptist. They placed their trust, they staked everything they had in believing that God would save them from sin and everlasting death by sending a Savior.

There is another phrase that bears hearing and remembering. Rise and have no fear. When Peter, James, and John lifted up their eyes after witnessing the Transfiguration of our Lord, they saw no one but Jesus only. Recall the words of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It is easy to grow weary and lose heart when so much sadness and unexplained tragedy are before your eyes. Better to shield your eyes from Christ and focus on yourself. Better to shield your eyes from Jesus and focus on why God allows you to suffer. Rather than shield your eyes from the crosses that are given you to bear, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He bore the cross of your sin in your place that you might bear the crosses laid on you every day. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, for He cares for you. Fix your eyes upon Jesus in His holy Word proclaiming your pardon from sin. Fix your eyes upon Jesus bestowing sonship and eternal life in your Baptism. Fix your eyes upon Jesus feeding you with His true Body and Blood in His Supper. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, for He is not a cleverly devised myth. He is your Savior, your hope for everlasting life.

Epiphany, whether it is a long or short season, prepares you to see Jesus in His passion and death. As human beings reckon it, it is impossible for God to die for something as decrepit as human beings. God created all things good. It is His loving will that you are rescued from everlasting death. Listen to Him. Rise, and have no fear. Look to Jesus only in His holy Gifts that deliver forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The Hard Work Happens On One’s Knees

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” – 1 Timothy 2:1.

A preacher who does not exercise himself in prayer above all things, will be either a reckless boy or a wretched man, he should study what and how much he always would. A true preacher must above all things and first of all pray, first for himself, when he reads and studies the Scriptures, when he prepares his sermon, when he ascends the pulpit and opens his mouth, when he practices private pastoral care or otherwise wants to perform an official act. But he should also pray for other people, in particular for those who are under his pastoral care, whether they are high or low, old or young. If he does not pray, then he is not surprised when he, despite his ongoing reading, does not have much success. A preacher watched a man who knocked stones with astonishment and then said to his companion: “How easily the man smashes the hard stones that they are suitable, as I often with the greatest difficulty can smash a heart.” “Yes”, said the companion, “but the man also does his work on his knees.” The preacher understood the hint and took it to heart.”

How and In What Order Should A Pastor Read the Books of Holy Scripture, so that He is Rightly Adept for His Office?
Magazin für ev.-luth. Homiletik, Volume 35 (1911)

Wilhelm Sihler on the Importance of Seminaries and Teacher Training Schools

Thesis 16

It stands in precise connection with the confession that every Lutheran synod in its part uses all diligence to call and to help obtain orthodox schools for development of faithful and capable preachers and school teachers for the preservation of the church in life.

When it says in the thesis: “that every Lutheran synod in its part uses all diligence” etc, then it does not mean that every Lutheran synod must have its own seminary and teacher training school; no, they should take part wherever possible in the work of educating orthodox preachers and teachers. It is contradictory to the confession and is a gross piece of Unionism if Lutheran synods call their preachers and teachers from United seminaries rather than from Lutheran institutions. It is positively frivolous to allow vagabonding teachers in Lutheran schools, and to entrust the souls of the poor children to vagabonding subjects while we, as we should, warn about visits to the local state schools on the part of Lutheran children.

The importance of the thesis in question was brought to light beside the history of the Lutheran Church in this country. The decline of the Lutheran Church in America at the beginning of this century can be attributed in large part to the lack of training of her preachers. Once the Lutheran Church had a good beginning under blessed Pastor [Heinrich] Mühlenberg servants of God, America was supplied with Lutheran pastors from Halle. However, the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars has interrupted the further sending of pastors. Hartwick Seminary, the oldest Lutheran seminary in America, was founded in 1815 and the Gettysburg Seminary was founded in 1826. Apart from the false doctrine that was presented in them, these seminaries could only provide a poor education and could not send into the field the required number of preachers. Due to the latter reason, some older preachers then took young people to themselves, instructed them and sent them, provided with a license from the synod, into office, in order to let them be further trained practically and, after they had proven themselves, engage them as a proper pastor. Therefore, there was then capable, faithful Lutheran preachers, and as now all now completely comprehended Methodism and Rationalism, then the Lutheran church declined in very many places. The best Lutheran synod in previous times in this country still has been the Tennessee Synod. She has followed the strange principle to have no seminary, but has let the individual preachers train young men for service in the vineyard of the Lord. The result has been that even this Synod has passed away. Only in recent times she seems to show some life in her again, in that members of her remembered to undertake the training of pastors in their own seminary.

Luther thus testifies about the thesis in question: “So I can by no means commend the Waldensian Brethren for their neglect of the languages. For even though they may teach the truth, they inevitably often miss the true meaning of the text, and thus are neither equipped nor fit for defending the faith against error…. [T]hey may lead saintly lives and teach sacred things among themselves, but so long as they remain without the languages they cannot but lack what all the rest lack, namely, the ability to treat Scripture with certainty and thoroughness and to be useful to other nations. Because they could do this, but will not, they have to figure out for themselves how they will answer for it to God.”[1]

Without academically educated preachers, a larger church fellowship cannot exist in the long run. We need colleges or Latin schools. The three ancient languages, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, in which was written on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, are necessary; namely Latin, because the greatest treasures of knowledge of the Church are set forth in it; Greek, because the New Testament was originally written in it; Hebrew, because Moses and the prophets have composed the Old Testament in it. While not every preacher must be proficient in these languages; yes, one who has not learned them is often a better preacher than another who has studied them; but the church, as such, cannot do without classically educated preachers, and if a church fellowship will do nothing in this respect, then she digs her own grave.

With the expression: “It stands in precise connection with the confession…to help” it should be cautioned that one should not hope in an enthusiastic manner God will keep His Church without means, without colleges! No! The Methodists should be also therein a cautionary tale to us, who always wanted nothing to do with the education and scholarliness of preachers and thought “The Spirit! The Spirit!” must form preachers and Latin schools were despicable. But they have to learn to sing another song and now also have colleges.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 45: Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (366). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Martin Luther on Brotherly Admonition

What hinders excommunication now at our time? Nothing but that in this matter no one does what is right for a Christian. You have a neighbor whose life and walk are well known to you but are either not at all known or not so well known to your pastor. For how can he know everyone’s life in detail, how it is? So if you see that your neighbor is getting rich by unrighteous business or trade; see that he is practicing immorality or adultery or that he is lazy and negligent in raising and governing his household; you should first admonish and warn him in a Christian way so that he would pay attention to his salvation and avoid offense. And, oh, what a very good and blessed work you have done if you gain him in this way! But, dear fellow, who does it? For, in the first place, truth is a hostile thing. People get angry at anyone who speaks the truth. So you prefer to retain your neighbor’s friendship and favor, especially if he is rich and powerful, rather than to anger him and make him your enemy. The same if the second, third, and fourth neighbor also do so, so that the second and third admonitions also fall into the well with the first one, through which the neighbor could have been brought to the right way again if only you had done your duty and obligation in admonishing.

– On Joel 3:17, Walch Ed. VI:2404-2405. English Translation by +John Drickamer+ in Pastoral Theology by C.F.W. Walther, page 238

The Baptism of Our Lord (Octave of the Epiphany) – Matthew 3:13-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            A former pastor of this congregation stopped by this past summer on his way from Wisconsin back to Florida. I think I just gave away whom it was by telling you where he is now. I saw him peek his head around the corner of the church building from the parsonage. I asked him if he wanted to see the inside of the building. He said yes.

Upon seeing our baptismal font in the narthex, he told me that when he arrived here in 1974 (again, I just gave away who it was) the font was kept in a closet…maybe the one right behind me. He brought the font out of the closet and put it in a conspicuous place. Through the years, the font has moved to an even more conspicuous place: smack dab in the middle of the narthex. Needless to say, this former pastor was tickled to death that the font was in the narthex. After all, you can’t enter the Church unless you are baptized. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in and one of the last things you see when you walk out.

God’s Word, plain water, and faith in the promise of Baptism does such great things. You learned this in confirmation instruction when you learned the answer to the question How can water do such great things? You also learned four verses from Titus chapter three, some of which you heard Christmas Day in the Epistle. [God] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.

When you see Paul adding those last five words to anything in his epistles, it should perk your ears either to pay close attention to what was just said, or what will be said. He is teaching you something. Listen carefully to these words, for they are spirit and they are life.

It’s a shame that our font was once stored in a closet, only to be brought out when it was needed then stashed again until another baptism. There isn’t a lot of space in our building, so you might see why it was necessary to put the font in the closet. Nevertheless, there should be ample room for the font. The font is where children young and young at heart are washed clean of sin and united with Jesus Christ.

Someone unfamiliar with what God’s Word says about Baptism might think it odd to bring someone to the font, pray God’s blessing over the child, pour water over them three time, and bless their new life in Christ. Why all the fuss over pouring water over someone’s head? John the Baptist had a similar attitude. John wonders why Jesus needs to be baptized. Why not switch places? Let the sinless Son of God baptize the sinful son of Elizabeth and Zechariah? You might think the same thing as John. Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. Jesus should tell John to stop this foolishness, step aside, and let people come to repentance and faith in another way.

Putting the font front and center when you enter the church building makes a statement of faith to the world. This lavish washing instituted by Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins is a BIG DEAL. If Baptism wasn’t a big deal, then neither Matthew nor Luke would have never put our Lord’s baptism in their Gospels. John the Evangelist would never have put any comment about John the Baptist saying he learned Jesus is the Son of God when he baptized Him in the Jordan. Paul and Peter would never have written one word about Baptism in the epistles. The Christian Church would have taught and performed another way to wash away sins and unite people into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells John the Baptist; Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Here you see what Jesus was sent by the Father in heaven to do: fulfill all righteousness. If Jesus refuses to be baptized, then Jesus cannot be the Savior of both Jew and Gentile. His presence according to the flesh means nothing. Jesus, the sinless eternal Son of God, unites His flesh with sinners so He may bear your sin to death upon a cross, into the tomb, and burst forth from the tomb as the first-born from the dead. This is what is means to fulfill all righteousness.

As the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of God’s presence among His people, stands in the midst of the Jordan, parting the water in order that the Israelites may enter the Promised Land, so Jesus Christ, God’s Son, stands in the midst of the Jordan, preparing the way into the Promised Land for both Jew and Gentile who believe in Him as the conqueror over sin, death, and Satan. As you sang in today’s Chief Hymn: “This heavenly washing now shall be/A cleansing from transgression/And by His blood and agony/Release from death’s oppression./A new life now awaits us.

You were killed and brought back to life when you were baptized. God is well pleased with you because of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. By virtue of your baptism, everything Jesus says and does, He says and does for you. Saint Paul says in Romans chapter six: If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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.

Paul also writes in today’s Epistle: God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. There’s nothing special about water. There’s nothing special about words. When there is faith in the promise of what Baptism gives put with water and the Word of God, there is something special going on at the font. The font is where you received your passport to everlasting glory. Every special event in your life pales in comparison to the day you were baptized. You can’t take awards and honor into everlasting life. Your baptism, on the other hand, opens the door to eternity, for you are united with Christ’s death and resurrection. You belong to Him. You live. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Make Them Kick You Out

Even errorists from weakness are scattered in the orthodox church; but that does not take away the character of orthodoxy from a church fellowship, so long as the attitude prevails to dismiss the error, once one is convinced of his Scriptural adversity. An example from the Fathers is Augustine in his famous remark: Errare potero, haereticus esse non potero (I am able to err, but I am not a heretic). Augustine gave credit to his weakness that he could be wrong; however, he gave confidence to his unfeigned faith that he would therefore not be wrong, that he would apostatize, in that he would be persistently holding fast to an error despite remitting, and that makes someone a heretic. If one appears in a church fellowship who preaches false doctrine and seeks to introduce [it] into the Church, then love for the Lord, love for the Church, love for false teachers themselves must impel the remaining members to witness and, if witness and exhortation are fruitless, for exclusion of the false teacher according to the remark of St. Paul: “Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:13). But if it is the case that an entire church fellowship should take up a false position in doctrine and tolerate error in doctrines of faith and wanted to hold fast, then the individual member that has the better knowledge in this fellowship must correct not only false teachers, but also the entire fellowship, even if they should purge him over it, as the Roman Church did to Dr. Luther and the Jewish Synagogue to the apostle Paul. If such an erring fellowship or synod perhaps puts up with hearing testimony about their false position, but does not improve and does not dismiss the false position, then the concerned person must leave, first of all for the sake of the evil appearance that he would otherwise give; because everyone would think he must not sincerely still mean it, otherwise he could not remain in such a fellowship, yet it does not improve. Secondly, for the sake of the risk in which such a witness hangs in the balance. Every error is something very dangerous, and the continuing life in an ecclesiastical atmosphere pregnant with error dulls the conscience again little by little and will be thereby corrected by God that one finally again falls prey to error and hostility to the orthodox Church that one escaped.

It is evident enough from the aforementioned [remarks] that doctrines of faith could never be “open questions”. And if we are asked, we ought to recognize the theory of “open questions”, then one does not demand of us the principle of the Lutheran Church, i.e. “Only Truth and no error!” But one demands the principle of the Union, which says: “Tolerate error next to the truth!”

Wilhelm Sihler, “Theses on Church Fellowship”, trans. DMJ

Luther on How to Prepare for Death

This is today’s reading from Treasury of Daily Prayer, without the ellipsis points.

First, one must admonish the people to attend church and listen to the sermon so that they learn through God’s word how to live and how to die. It must be noted that those who are so uncouth and wicked as to despise God’s word while they are in good health should be left unattended when they are sick unless they demonstrate their remorse and repentance with great earnestness, tears, and lamentation. A person who wants to live like a heathen or a dog and does not publicly repent should not expect us to administer the sacrament to him or have us count him a Christian. Let him die as he has lived because we shall not throw pearls before swine nor give to dogs what is holy [Matt. 7:6]. Sad to say, there are many churlish, hardened ruffians who do not care for their souls when they live or when they die. They simply lie down and die like unthinking hulks.

Second, everyone should prepare in time and get ready for death by going to confession and taking the sacrament once every week or fortnight. He should become reconciled with his neighbor and make his will so that if the Lord knocks and he departs before a pastor or chaplain can arrive, he has provided for his soul, has left nothing undone, and has committed himself to God. When there are many fatalities and only two or three pastors on duty, it is impossible to visit everyone, to give instruction, and to teach each one what a Christian ought to know in the anguish of death. Those who have been careless and negligent in these matters must account for themselves. That is their own fault. After all, we cannot set up a private pulpit and altar daily at their bedside simply because they have despised the public pulpit and altar to which God has summoned and called them.

Third, if someone wants the chaplain or pastor to come, let the sick person send word in time to call him and let him do so early enough while he is still in his right mind before the illness overwhelms the patient. The reason I say this is that some are so negligent that they make no request and send no message until the soul is perched for flight on the tip of their tongues and they are no longer rational or able to speak. Then we are told, “Dear Sir, say the very best you can to him,” etc. But earlier, when the illness first began, they wanted no visit from the pastor, but would say, “Oh, there’s no need. I hope he’ll get better.” What should a diligent pastor do with such people who neglect both body and soul? They live and die like beasts in the field. They want us to teach them the gospel at the last minute and administer the sacrament to them as they were accustomed to it under the papacy when nobody asked whether they believed or understood the gospel but just stuffed the sacrament down their throats as if into a bread bag.

This won’t do. If someone cannot talk or indicate by a sign that he believes, understands, and desires the sacrament—particularly if he has wilfully neglected it—we will not give it to him just anytime he asks for it. We have been commanded not to offer the holy sacrament to unbelievers but rather to believers who can state and confess their faith. Let the others alone in their unbelief; we are guiltless because we have not been slothful in preaching, teaching, exhortation, consolation, visitation, or in anything else that pertains to our ministry and office. This, in brief, is our instruction and what we practice here. We do not write this for you in Breslau, because Christ is with you and without our aid he will amply instruct you and supply your needs with his own ointment. To him be praise and honor together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 43: Luther’s works, vol. 43: Devotional Writings II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (134–135). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Cost of “Freedom”

…the reason people under forty are sleeping in on Sunday (or getting up to do any number of other wonderfully fulfilling hobbies instead of going to Church), is precisely because they’ve embraced the way we’ve trained them to go. They believe confidently in the spirituality of Freedom. Ask any one of them, and you will quickly learn their deepest conviction is that people need to do what is right for them. To each his own.” If you need to tell a few lies or want to enjoy sex without marriage, that’s all good.” There is just one thing you cannot do, and that is to suggest that what someone else is doing is spiritually wrong. In a generation as self-centered and amoral as the day is long, the one unquestionable morality is that everyone must be free to worship God in any way right for them…which is precisely why you do not need to go to Church. That’s not my style.

– Rev. Jonathan Fisk, “Broken