Monthly Archives: January 2014

Simeon and Sola Fide

Lord, now let Your servant go in peace, as You have said.

This clarion call is all because [Simeon] had received the promise from the Holy Ghost that he should not die before he had seen the Savior of Israel. Now as he held Him in his arms and the Holy Ghost told his heart that this child was the Savior, he was so glad. He was even ready to die because he had seen the Savior. The eyes of faith are so sharp that can see such a mean, poor and ignorable child and yet consider Him the One of whom such great things were prophesied. No one could have believed on such a child, for it came from Mary and Joseph. It was against all reason and nature. Yet this old Simeon saw this by the gift of the Holy Ghost. That is, he saw the kingdom of this child and all the miracles and deeds that this child would do. These matters are altogether unbelievable and ungraspable to reason.

Here you see the skill of faith, which relies upon what it cannot see or touch. As the epistle to the Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and gives attention to that which does not appear.” So we must also believe that eternal mercy is ours, that we are saved and rescued from death, sins, devil and hell and will live forever with God. Nature or reason does not believe these things. Reason says “good” when things are going well. But faith acts and believes against all the experience of nature and reason.

It is wondrous to say that I should believe and hold that I am in God’s hands even if I am stuck in the Devil’s jaws, and feel death and sins. Yet I should say that neither sins nor death can harm me, as Saint Paul says, “We are as those being led to death and yet we live, etc.” (1 Cor. 6) And so he says to the Romans, “Who can separate us from the Lord of God? Trials? Or fear? Or persecution? Or hunger? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or sword? As it is written (Ps. 44), ‘For Your sake we are put to death all day long. We are considered sheep for the slaughter.’ But in all this we are more than conquerors, for the sake of Him who has loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, nor powers, neither the past nor the future, neither height nor depth nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Rom. 8)

This Simeon, because of his true faith, regarded this poor miserable baby as the king  and redeemer of the whole world. No natural man could ever have done that. Now do you see how faith makes one courageous and bold? This observation which Simeon makes about the child makes him so confident that he goes on to say, “LORD, now let Your servant go in peace.” He is saying, “From now on I fear nothing; neither sins, death nor hell. I am completely intoxicated by faith.” Why are you so free, dear Simeon? Because of this:

For my eyes have seen Your salvation

Outwardly I am dying, but faith swallows up death. My eyes have received the Savior who takes away sins, death and  hell. So if you would die safely and gladly, then treasure this verse, that Christ your Savior has taken away all your need and misfortune. You have received Him in your eyes through faith. This sight makes you secure from all sins and death which are taken away and conquered through Christ.

So we see how faith alone overcomes sins and death. Therefore I am so glad because of it that I could gladly die (says Simeon) since I have seen the Savior, that is, I confess Christ. That is all I need.

– Martin Luther, Church Postil for The Purification of Mary, translated by Rev. Joel Baseley.

Progression, Regression, Transgression, Opposition, and the Refreshment That Satisfies

This is My body and blood, given and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Briefly that is as much as to say: For this reason we go to the Sacrament because there we receive such a treasure by and in which we obtain forgiveness of sins. Why so? Because the words stand here and give us this; for on this account He bids me eat and drink, that it may be my own and may benefit me, as a sure pledge and token, yea, the very same treasure that is appointed for me against my sins, death, and every calamity.

On this account it is indeed called a food of souls, which nourishes and strengthens the new man. For by Baptism we are first born anew; but (as we said before) there still remains, besides, the old vicious nature of flesh and blood in man, and there are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and of the world that we often become weary and faint, and sometimes also stumble.

Therefore it is given for a daily pasture and sustenance, that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so as not to fall back in such a battle, but become ever stronger and stronger. For the new life must be so regulated that it continually increase and progress; but it must suffer much opposition. For the devil is such a furious enemy that when he sees that we oppose him and attack the old man, and that he cannot topple us over by force, he prowls and moves about on all sides, tries all devices, and does not desist, until he finally wearies us, so that we either renounce our faith or yield hands and feet and become listless or impatient. Now to this end the consolation is here given when the heart feels that the burden is becoming too heavy, that it may here obtain new power and refreshment.

But here our wise spirits contort themselves with their great art and wisdom, crying out and bawling: How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith? Although they hear and know that we do not say this of bread and wine, because in itself bread is bread, but of such bread and wine as is the body and blood of Christ, and has the words attached to it. That, we say, is verily the treasure, and nothing else, through which such forgiveness is obtained. Now the only way in which it is conveyed and appropriated to us is in the words (Given and shed for you). For herein you have both truths, that it is the body and blood of Christ, and that it is yours as a treasure and gift. Now the body of Christ can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, that effects or profits nothing. Yet, however great is the treasure in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and administered to us, else we should never be able to know or seek it.

– Martin Luther, Large Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, paragraphs 21-30

A Truly Blessed Assurance

From an outline for a sermon for the Purification of Mary from 1882. Good stuff.

So there you have, my dear ones, the answer, what is the basis of the assurance of a blessed departure from this world and a joyful going home to the eternal heavenly fatherland, namely that we

1. view Christ with Simeon’s eyes of faith, i.e. recognize Him from His Word and Gospel as the eternal, almighty Son of God, Whom the Father in heaven has thrown in and sent, that He enters in our place, pays for all our debt of sin, makes perfect satisfaction with His righteousness, as He has already done under the Law at His circumcision and at His presentation in the temple, so that He fulfills the Law in our place with His active and passive obedience, and finally accomplishes the great work of redemption on the cross.

2. that we hold Him with Simeon’s arms of faith, i.e. devote Christ to ourselves with all His merit in confident trust. For that’s the main thing with faith. If you lack the trust that He has gifted and given you from the Father, that He is your Savior, then you lack everything. But if God gives you the grace that you can believe that even your sin in paid, your guilt is taken away, your punishment is atoned for, that the heavenly Father no longer looks at you as cursed in Adam, but as righteous in Christ, and already received you for the sake of His dear Son by baptism into His covenant of grace as His dear child, then you can joyfully sing: “Thank God! My Jesus cleanses me/From all sins I committed” etc.[1]

So our assurance of a blessed farewell from this world is based on faith alone.


[1] KELG 63:1

Epiphany 3 – Matthew 8:1-13

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

There are actually three miracles in today’s Gospel. The first is the healing of the leper. The second is the healing of the centurion’s servant. The third and greatest miracle is the faith of these two men, especially the centurion. Even Jesus was astonished at this Gentile’s faith. If Jesus Himself is astonished at the centurion’s faith, then this must be a miracle and worth contemplating. True faith in Jesus Christ is a divine miracle.

First, let’s consider the leper. He had little opportunity to hear and learn God’s Word because of his leprosy. He was excluded from the community because of his disease. Perhaps he heard the Word as a youth, but as he grew older and leprosy contaminated his flesh he was not able to hear the Word with family or with neighbors. Maybe he had only heard our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, which concluded in Matthew chapter seven. At any rate, this leper truly believed Jesus could and would make him clean from leprosy. The leper believed Jesus is God and Messiah. This is a miracle – a miracle of faith.

The centurion had even greater obstacles to faith. He was a Gentile, a soldier, and lived in Capernaum, a very wicked city. Jesus says about Capernaum in Matthew chapter 11: will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Even with three strikes against him, this centurion has great faith, so great that Jesus cannot help but be astonished about it. The centurion believes Jesus can help where no other man can help, for his servant was sick unto death. Doctors gave up on him, but he believes Jesus is able to do what doctors cannot do.

What is more, the centurion adds these words to his request: Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. This is truly remarkable faith! No wonder Jesus was astonished. The centurion believes Jesus does not need to be present in order to heal his servant. This is as much a divine miracle as the healing itself.

Consider these words from the author of the epistle to the Hebrews: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith has to do with nothing but unseen divine things, yet faith is certainly irrefutable. You have by nature a heart that is set apart from God and all heavenly things, a heart that is full of unbelief, hatred of God, pride, self-righteousness, blindness, and folly, Though you recognize yourself as an accursed sinner before God, you, like the centurion, embrace God as your dear Father with confidence because of the merit of Jesus Christ’s blood and righteousness. Jesus is your Savior just as He is the Savior of the centurion and the leper. That is as much a miracle as the two healings in today’s Gospel.

Though faith has to do with unseen divine things, it is worked through means: the seemingly inconspicuous Biblical Word, the Gospel of a crucified Christ. Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter two: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. No wonder so many wise men of the world laugh at Holy Scripture. They want to master the Word rather than let the Word master them. Faith is also worked through the easily despised means of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. Every baptism, every word of absolution, every time you eat and drink Christ’s true Body and true Blood, is a miracle. Consider an infant baptism. It is amazing that a little child comes to faith through baptismal water. That little child has the kingdom of heaven, just as Jesus says: Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Consider also the effect of faith on the leper and the centurion. The leper came to Him and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” The leper completely submits to God’s will. He is ready to suffer patiently for a while longer if that is the Lord’s will. That last part about patiently suffering is something we often forget as Christians. God’s will may be for you to endure an affliction patiently for a while in order to humble you. He also may be trying to teach you patience under the cross. Whatever the reason, we still pray that difficult, yet comforting petition, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

The centurion is not used to humbling himself before anyone. Usually it is the other way around. He tells Jesus, I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, “Go,” and he goes, and to another, “Come,” and he comes, and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it. The centurion does not have to be kind to the people of Capernaum. He is a Roman soldier. He could have nothing to do with them. Yet the centurion does care for his slave as other Gentiles perhaps would not. Consider also in Luke’s account of today’s Gospel that some Jewish elders came to our Lord to ask Him to heal the centurion’s servant. The reason why is that [the centurion] is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue. Whoever heard of a Gentile showing such love to Jews? We do here. This centurion puts all of us to shame.

Faith brings a change of heart. We see this in all the good things the centurion does for the people of Capernaum. Martin Luther saw the unbroken connection between faith and good works in his preface to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Faith is a living, daring confidence on God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad, bold, and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace; and thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God to work faith in you; else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do.

True faith in Jesus Christ is a divine miracle. Only God can work such faith in His Gifts. This faith then shows itself with love toward both God and men. Though we are not worthy of this gift, we receive it in hearing and keeping His Word in preaching. We receive what the Word bestows: forgiveness of sins and eternal life. These are greater gifts than healing from leprosy or sickness unto death. Healing from earthly illness is the icing on the cake. We have everlasting healing of our soul because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Believe it for His sake.

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

Martin Franzmann on the Miracles of Christ

For Matthew, and for our Gospels generally, the miracles are revelation, attestations of the unparalleled fact of the Christ and proclamations of the unique eschatological event of the Kingdom come. Therefore their account of the miracles always remains reverent and chaste. There is no thaumaturgic theatricality in the record. There is nothing which verges on the magical, no attempt to look into the “how” of the miracle, no curious inquiry into the technique of the miracle, no attempt to make the miracle credible by somehow explaining it, as later apocryphal gospels sometimes do. the evangelists saw in them the creative act of God before which man can only submit and bow in repentance, as Job once bowed when his eyes were opened to the splendor and might of the Creator: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 RSV; cf. Luke 5:1-11)

The church must learn to face the miracle freely and joyously again if she would stand where the disciples stood, in the presence of the Christ.

Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew, pages 68-69

MHF

Epiphany 2 – John 2:1-11

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

Psalm 107 says, He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Our problem with that verse is that God’s time and our time are not the same. If there is something that is difficult for us in times of tribulation, it is when we seek help and can’t find it. There are times when help is absent just longer than we want it. These are the times when true faith shows itself. True faith waits patiently for the Lord’s time.

We are impatient with God. We murmur and blaspheme Him when He’s tardy with help…or never seems to show up with help. This doesn’t mean that we should never ask the Lord to hurry up. Daniel once prayed to God, O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. What is not true faith is when we put time constraints on God or, worse yet, stop asking for His help. Patient endurance is a characteristic of true faith in Jesus Christ. He lets us sweat it for a while in order that we rejoice in His merciful goodness when He answers prayer. The delay of divine help is an exercise of faith in Christ.

Our Lord’s first miracle at the wedding in Cana gives clear evidence for divine delayed gratification. The lack of wine at the wedding is a picture of all of our distresses, all our days of suffering, the tests and temptations that come over us. Our Lord’s answer to all these ills is My hour has not yet come.

Perhaps the first thing we think when our Lord delays help is that He will not help or that He could not help. Maybe we think that His loving hand that always remains open to us has now closed into a fist. Worse yet, perhaps His love for us has cooled.

Not so. Consider how Jesus deals with His mother. We’ve been taught, and rightly so, that it is improper to talk back to your mother. Jesus seems to talk back to Mary when He tells her, Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come. Jesus is putting her faith to the test here. Jesus wants to see whether she believes that her Son is also God and Lord. Is Mary willing to put aside her motherly privilege and take instruction from her Son? The answer is yes.

Are you willing to take instruction from Jesus when He delays His help? In happy days, being a good Christian seems easy. After all, we have a faith that can move mountains even if faith is as small as a mustard seed. Jesus Himself says so. Then God puts a cross on us. When we beg for help, Jesus suddenly seems to be deaf. When we bear our crosses and ask Jesus for help, then the rubber hits the road, so to speak, when it comes to patient waiting. This is what separates heroes of the faith from fair-weather Christians.

Mary casts off all signs of being a fair-weather believer in her Son. She tells the servants, Do whatever He tells you. She knows He will help, but only in His hour and not her hour. What seems to be a setback for Mary actually helps her to realize her unworthiness. The same thing happens to us when help is delayed. We seem only to ask God for something when we need it. When we ask, and what we ask for doesn’t appear right away, we perhaps notice that God owes us nothing. Nevertheless we ask, for Jesus wants us to ask. He tells His disciples in Luke chapter 11, Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

The most striking proof of strengthened faith in divine delay is the fact that His disciples believed in Him after Jesus changed water into wine. Before this moment they believed, but their faith was a smoldering wick. Now that they saw that He desires to help, but only in His time, their faith is strong. So it is today with us. Our faith in Jesus wanes when it seems that He won’t help. But when that help comes, even when that help is not exactly what we asked, what joy we have in believing!

Notice again what Mary tells Jesus: They have no wine. She makes her request, but she doesn’t dictate anything to Him. Mary gives her Son a free hand. We also give the Lord a free hand. We make our requests known to Him, but we let the way, time, and hour of His help to His discretion. We are unafraid to ask for what we desire because we believe Jesus hears us and will answer us. King David says in Psalm 27, You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Even when Jesus does not answer right away, we wait with patience for His answer. He promises to hear. He promises to help, even when crosses burden us with suffering and pain.

Consider Mary again when Jesus seems to sass her. She doesn’t slap Him. She doesn’t reprimand Him in front of the wedding guests. She doesn’t grumble when Jesus tells her to wait. She embodies Solomon’s proverb: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. All of us have seen this play out in our lives. We have our own hopes that we lay before the Lord in prayer. We would like to see those hopes come true soon. But nothing happens, at least the way we see it. When our desires are fulfilled, we give thanks to God for His never-ending mercy. We also believe that we can return to Him in prayer at any time to ask again.

The prophet Isaiah says, In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. When divine delay occurs, do not despair. Listen again to King David in Psalm 27: Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Simeon waited for the Lord many years, and His patience was rewarded as God kept His promise to Simeon. He would not die before seeing the Lord’s Christ.

At Cana it happened with the miracle of water into wine. At Golgotha it happened with the shedding of blood. At Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb it happened with Christ bursting from His three-day prison. In bread and wine and Word we eat the modern-day miracle of Christ’s Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. In water and Word we are united to Christ’s death and life while our sins are washed clean. Faith is gloriously crowned on those who wait for His response to our prayers. While we wait for His next appearance, we cling to the words of Psalm 66: Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

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

Epiphany 1 – Luke 2:41-52

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

The greater majority of the Gospels focus on three years of the thirty-three years Jesus Christ lived among us. Where are the other thirty years? You would think that someone would have written an exhaustive account of the life of Jesus Christ as the God-man. More biographical accounts of what Jesus said and did, especially in His younger years, perhaps would make for a more believable God.

All we receive about Jesus before the age of thirty is that He was born, was visited by wise men around the age of one, fled to Egypt and then to Nazareth in Galilee some time later, and then went with His parents to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover at the age of twelve. The rest of Jesus’ life with His parents is summarized in one verse: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

All sorts of false gospels proclaim phony stories about Jesus’ childhood. Have you heard the one about Jesus raising one of His playmates from the dead? Or maybe Jesus grabbing a hunk of dirt, fashioning a bird out of the dirt, blowing on the dirt bird, and the bird comes to life and flies out of His hand? There are all sorts of stories you can find about “the missing years” of our Lord’s life on earth. What’s important, what is truly inspired by God, about Jesus’ life is that He increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. In other words, Jesus’ childhood, outside of this one event in Luke chapter two, is mundane…maybe even boring. He obeyed God and His parents, in that order.

A lot of good comes from that obedience to His heavenly Father and His earthly parents. This seems not to be the case when they all go to Jerusalem for Passover. Mary and Joseph are heading back to Nazareth with a group. They get twenty or so miles outside Jerusalem when the worst thing that could happen to them happens. Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it. Today an event like this would get you in trouble with the Department of Children and Family Services. What sort of parents are Joseph and Mary? They are not able to keep track of a twelve-year-old boy. They assume He is among their group. Yet He is not there!

They return to Jerusalem and search for three days. When they do find Jesus, He is in the temple listening to the doctors of the Law and asking questions. It’s as if Jesus is attending catechism instruction, but who is instructing whom? Seems as if Jesus is the one doing the instructing. All who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

At first glance, this account seems to be a “gotcha”. How can Jesus be obedient to His parents when He abandons them and stays behind in Jerusalem to hear and talk to the teachers in the temple? An obedient child would have been right by His parents’ side. There would be no frantic three-day search in a large city looking for Him. The difficult thing for us to believe about this account is that Jesus is obedient to His heavenly Father and His earthly parents at the same time.

How is this so? It is so because Jesus is, above all things, obedient to His heavenly Father. This is why Jesus is surprised when His parents scold Him about disappearing from them. Our Lord responds, Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Another way to say it is, Did you not know that I must be in the place where My Father is? The heavenly Father dwells in the temple. There the Word of the Law and the prophets reigns supreme. Jesus must be where this Word dwells. He is there not only to hear it, but also learn from it and, when necessary, to correct earthly teachers about what that Word says about Him.

Here we recall the third commandment about preaching and the Word of God. Jesus gladly hears and learns from the Word, even as He is the Word made flesh. Our thoughts and prayers about the Word are soiled in sin. Even when we gladly hear and learn the Word, we still want our itching ears scratched. Perhaps this is why we love to hear stories about so-called Biblical scholars finding new evidence about Jesus that contradicts what Scripture says. This is also why we tend to trust our own thoughts and opinions about God’s Word, especially when it proclaims the free, full forgiveness of sins because of Jesus Christ. We are always on the lookout for something new, something that sets us apart from others.

Though Jesus amazed those who saw Him listening and questioning, it should not amaze us that this is the extraordinary Savior doing something quite ordinary. He is about His Father’s business, just as He would be almost two decades later. He is about His Father’s business by being submissive to His parents. Our sinful selfish nature only cares about ourselves. Jesus, on the other hand, did as He was told by His earthly parents. But what about this incident? He seems to run off and do His own thing. Not so. We must obey God rather than men. His first priority, our first priority, is to hear preaching and the Word of God. Then comes submission to our neighbor. Where these two things are in conflict, submission to God’s Word always comes first.

We fail in both realms of submission. We choose other words over God’s Word. We care about our own self rather than our neighbor. Where we fall short, Jesus does not fall short. His perfect obedience is for our sake. By God’s merciful grace, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, we receive the benefits of our Lord’s unfailing obedience to both His heavenly Father and His earthly mother and father. When Jesus is about His Father’s business, when He is where His Father is, He is there for us, doing what He is given to do in order to redeem mankind.

His is an extraordinary life wrapped in ordinary flesh. One minute He confounds people in the Jerusalem temple. The next minute He fetches carpentry tools for Joseph and perhaps helps Mary clean up after supper. When our submission to God and to neighbor fails, Christ’s submission to both never fails on our behalf. In Him there is forgiveness and life, even when that life seems all too mundane. Once again, God is at work in the little things of life. In the little things, in hearkening to the Word of God, in water, in bread and wine, there are great things, even forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness.

Blesséd be the Lord, the God of Israel, Who alone does wondrous things.

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

Martin Luther on The Mundane Jesus Christ

There is no need for great volumes to be written about what the child Jesus did in his youth. One need only observe what father and mother require around the house, the tasks they ask their children to perform as they say, Come here, do this, run yonder, do that! For it is very evident that Jesus did not enter a monastery and become a monk, but went back to Nazareth, remained among the people, was obedient to father and mother, and, like other children, permitted himself to be directed, but never transgressed the Ten Commandments.

The monks, in their crude imagining, had the child Jesus making new little birds, fawns, and other small animals. They ascribed to him such deeds as did not serve obedience nor belong to the fourth commandment. Father and mother would not have asked him to make new birds, for childhood obedience required other tasks connected to the household, the kind almost no one wants to do. The Evangelist implies such things as fit with the household routine and the fourth commandment, thus simply attesting his childhood obedience toward his parents.

This we should diligently note, so that we not only know what the child Jesus did in his youth and follow his example, but also that we do not doubt but believe that such works, like obedience to parents, have been sanctified and blessed through the child Jesus. Because he, through his person, sanctified these tasks, we should quietly strive to do the same. But you can’t tell the world anything. that is why we have disdained such tasks and obedience, and have rushed into the monasteries. Everyone thinks he can do it better and more excellently than the dear child Jesus. Do they not see that such household chores and obedience to father and mother have been sanctified through this holy person, God’s Son, who in his youth gathered wood, picked up shavings, started the fire, fetched water, and did other household chores? Truly we are not worthy even to follow his example.

Luther’s House Postil for Epiphany 1 (Luke 2:41-52)

Martin Luther on Right Priorities

One of the products of our depraved nature is that in our ignorance and blindness we are much more inclined to serve men rather than God. Therefore, we should learn from this example of our dear Lord Jesus that if a situation arises where we must choose whether to be disobedient to God or to our parents, or those in authority, we must answer with Christ: “I must be about the business of my Father in heaven.” Other than in such a case, I will with all my heart, be obedient to father, mother, emperor, king, lord and lady of the house. But in this instance there is no other way than this: Dear father and mother, I have another Father to whom I owe greater esteem than to you. This is what Mary and Joseph had forgotten; therefore, he had to remind them and teach them.

————

In this Gospel (Luke 2:41-52), our Lord Jesus Christ manifests himself not only for the sake of our faith and comfort, that he is our God and Savior, but also as example of how in those matters that pertain to God, no one should take precedence, be it father, mother, sovereign, or whatever. For there is another Lord, a higher authority, that says, “I am your God.” Him you should obey, do as he directs, and above all, serve. When you have fulfilled this obedience, then do what father, mother, sovereign, or government wish; but they may not hinder you in this higher obedience which, as said, must be carried out before anything else.

House Postil for Epiphany 1

C.F.W. Walther: Lutheran Is As Lutheran Does

Note: This short commentary appears in the 1862 edition of “Lehre und Wehre”, the Missouri Synod’s German language theological journal. Dr. Walther writes about what some in the General Synod (now part of the ELCA) call “Symbolism”. Symbolism means adherence to Symbols such as the Augsburg Confession, the Creeds, the Smalcald Articles, etc. In other words, Symbolism is clinging to “old” Lutheranism rather than the “New Measures” of Samuel Simon Schmucker, Benjamin Kurtz, and others in the General Synod. Dr. Walther’s comments here are still relevant today as they were over 150 years ago. His words should give us pause to consider our practices in the light of sola Scriptura, sola fide, and the doctrine of justification. All errors of translation are mine. Enjoy! DMJ+

Symbolism” – In the Lutheran Observer of March 21 a writer under the pseudonym “Spener” seeks to prove the barrenness of the so-called Symbolism in the small influence that the same and others has expressed to the German population of St. Louis, Missouri. He writes: “The case in St. Louis is an eye-catching one, because there the old Symbolic system of Europe has been in effect without hindrance and disruption for more than twenty years; and in twenty years it has brought 5,000 into the church from about 60,000 Lutherans from Europe! A sad testimony for Symbolism! – We do not wish to be understood as if we wanted to blame our brethren of the old symbolic party, and especially not of Saint Louis, because after all, what we know of them, they are good, learned and pious men. The system is wrong, and it is the system against which we fight. It is the system that one calls sacramental, specifically in a nutshell: the child is born again through baptism and therefore a member of the body of Christ; and falling from grace, what happens with all, the child is confirmed at the age of 12 or 14, generally without moral qualification, takes part in the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper and is thus fed by mouth with spiritual food. In this country, where people read and think they’ll soon see that this is certainly something other than the religion which Christ and his apostles taught, and as soon as they are enlightened by the Spirit of God, turn themselves away from it with disgust and go to other churches where Biblical Christianity prevails. Hence the success of Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and even Congregationalists among Germans. If you want to convert Germans, then you must preach conversion to God and faith in Jesus Christ and not confessional religion, through whose preaching they have been hardened in sin. They have already heard enough of that in Germany. Now this is the system that supports ‘Lutheran and Missionary’. It is true, this symbolic journal is too perceptive to go out boldly and defend such a system that is contradictory to the Bible; it gilds the pill; it has mixed some of the spiritual life and the energy of the other churches in the country with its sacramental religion. But the thing will not take effect; the two cannot go together. Sacramental religion is all or nothing; as a system it will not allow mixing with other systems; like Rome it must stand or fall by its own merits. If it is true that baptism regenerates the child, and the worship of the Church (the Lord’s Supper with included) has the duty to lead the regenerate child to heaven without repentance or faith, then they, who work for the conversion of souls to the biblical way, are great fools. The Lutheran Church has never been with this system and will never be able to provide their children with spiritual food [with this system]. The food that the immortal soul requires is not in this system. The crucified Christ, in all His offices, is what poor sinners need. The Lutheran Church in Germany and in this country needs religious revivals. Nothing else will save them. With the editor of the ‘Lutheran’ I am an admirer of the Augsburg Confession, he must only let me interpret it according to my sense, as I permit him [to interpret it according to his sense]. It is a noble deed, and receives all its moral strength from the Bible and is valuable only because of its conformity with the Bible.” So far the writer in the Observer.

We share this drivel as a means of demonstrating namely what Lutherans born of the General Synod have as ideas about the so-called system of the old Lutheran Church. Because the old Lutheran Church (according to clear word of God) believes and teaches that Holy Baptism is the washing of regeneration, the Lord’s Supper is the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, the absolution of servants of the Church is God’s forgiveness, then those people mean that the old Lutheran Church consequently teaches a salvation “without repentance and faith” through the opus operatum of the use of the Sacraments, through a mechanical efficacy of the Sacraments, as the Papists teach! This is a rather gross misunderstanding. The old Lutheran Church indeed teaches, and we with her, that the Holy Sacraments, along with absolution and the Word, chiefly have not only a significative, but also an equally collative (communicative), as well as effective (bringing forth inner spiritual effects) power. In other words, both are God’s hands that present to us the gifts of grace purchased by Christ alone, as well as to work, awaken, maintain, and strengthen the necessary faith for the apprehension of these gifts of grace as man’s hand. But she also teaches that man can resist the effects of these means of grace, and to the person who does not produce these effects in himself, the sacrament, absolution, Word does not help, yes, it serves to him as an odor of death to death, as a more heavier judgment. She teaches with all earnestness that whoever is not born again through the means of grace can and will not see the kingdom of God, that without a repentance wrought by the Holy Spirit, that without faith in the heart there is no salvation, that Word, Sacrament, and Absolution are not rebirth, are not justification, but they should effect, not grace, but are the means of grace.

The reason why Old Lutherans hold so firmly to the means of grace is not that they would save men without repentance and faith, as one is healed by medicine which only needs to be taken and works even while he is sleeping, but because they firmly hold that a poor sinner is justified before God and saved solely by faith, without works, without his merit, by grace, that is, that his salvation is due not to what he does, works, merits, but to God alone, who offers him full salvation in the means of grace. In that sense we are pleased that our religion is called “sacramental”. Yes, to teach salvation by faith and yet to deny the character to the Word and the Sacraments that they contain and present to us the gifts, that we have to take and appropriate to ourselves through faith, is a contradiction. To teach salvation by grace and yet want to know of no real means of grace is a self-deception. If there are no collative organs of grace, then the entire doctrine of justification of a poor sinner hovers in the air; for faith, which is something relative, lacks its correlative, or the entire doctrine of faith is pure enthusiasm.

Incidentally, from the small number of Germans who have been won here by us to the fellowship of the church, to conclude on the inaccuracy of the system is very premature. This would outright condemn the “system” of the Savior Himself, Who also won only a few by His personal administration of the public teaching office in Judea and Galilee. In addition to this there are several German churches here that follow the system of salvation of the General Synod. From where does it come, then, that these churches neither have been able to bring the remaining 55,000 (not initially Lutherans, but Germans of all types) to the Church? Would this therefore also not be directed to the doctrinal system of the General Synod?