Pastors’ Corner

Library Book of the Month: Why I Am a Lutheran

admin : September 25, 2017 5:56 pm : Pastors' Corner

Jesus at the Center

   Through a blend of understandable explanations and real-life stories, Why I Am a Lutheran explores the foundational teachings of the Christian church. In each chapter, Daniel Preus calls upon more than twenty years of pastoral experience to reveal Jesus as the center of the Christian faith. As he addresses central doctrines such as sin and grace, Law and Gospel, the person and work of Jesus Christ, worship, the Sacraments, and the office of the ministry, Preus keeps the focus on Jesus Christ—who is “always and only at the center of all Christian teaching.”

(Description taken from CPH) *Why I Am Lutheran can be found in the new arrival section of the library.
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VDMA

admin : September 25, 2017 5:47 pm : Pastors' Corner

          Hopefully by now you’ve seen the beautiful red banner that is hanging next to the kiosk in the Narthex of our church.  Across the top are the dates 1517 – 2017 over the word Reformation.  Then there is a depiction of Martin Luther’s rose seal and at the bottom stands a cross with the letters VDMA surrounding it, one letter in each quadrant.  I’m sure you already get the fact that we are celebrating 500 years of the Reformation, and you’ve seen Luther’s seal before, but those letters, VDMA, at the bottom surrounding the cross may be a curiosity to you.  With this little article, I hope to impress upon you the great importance of those letters first used by the reformers and why they are still so important to us today.

      The letters surrounding the cross stand for Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum, the Word of the Lord Endures Forever.  These words became the official motto of the Lutheran Reformation, and this symbol became the first official symbol of the Reformation, even before Luther’s rose.  In 1522, Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, had this symbol sewn onto the right sleeve of the official clothing worn by all members of his court, from the lowest servant all the way up, including himself. Frederick the Wise’s successors continued to use the symbol. Eventually, it became the official motto of the Smalcald League (the defensive alliance of Lutheran cities and territories). It was used on flags, banners, swords, and uniforms as the motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

      The words were carefully chosen by Frederick and are taken from 1 Peter 1:23-25, where the apostle Peter writes, “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ’All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

      But why these words? Because they point to the source and the goal of the Reformation.  The Reformation was not simply about correcting certain abuses such as indulgences or purgatory.  The Reformation wasn’t about breaking free from the tyrannical rule of the pope. The Reformation was about the Word of God.  That Word’s power and authority endures forever. The words of man, like their bodies, are like the grass that withers and decays. Human traditions and doctrines of men cannot give us peace with God or confidence of salvation. Only the Word of the Lord can do that. The Word of God is finally the only word that can be spoken that will endure forever.

      That’s why this is still a wonderful motto for the Church today, worth remembering and repeating: “The Word of the Lord endures forever.”  It’s a word given to the church to proclaim to the world. The world today, like the world of the Reformation, rants and raves against God’s Word and what it teaches.  But the word of this world will finally perish with the grass and be blown away in the wind. The Lord’s Word moves mountains.  It will endure the attacks of both the world and the devil. The Word of the Lord gives us peace which endures forever, for the Word of the Lord says “Take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

      Unfortunately, just as Luther found when he made visitations to churches in Germany, what we find today in our own church is incredible ignorance when it comes to the Word of God and what it teaches. 

      Luther wrote in the preface to the Small Catechism: “The deplorable, miserable conditions which I recently observed when visiting the parishes have constrained and pressed me to put this catechism of Christian doctrine into this brief, plain, and simple form. How pitiable, so help me God, were the things I saw: the common man, especially in the villages, knows practically nothing of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are almost entirely incompetent and unable to teach. Yet all the people are supposed to be Christians, have been baptized, and receive the Holy Sacrament even though they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments and live like poor animals of the barnyard and pigpen. What these people have mastered, however, is the fine art of tearing all Christian liberty to shreds.

      Oh, you bishops! How will you ever answer to Christ for letting the people carry on so disgracefully and not attending to the duties of your office even for a moment? One can only hope judgment does not strike you! You command the Sacrament in one kind only, insist on the observance of your human ways, and yet are unconcerned whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or indeed any of God’s Word. Woe, woe to you forever!

      …Although we cannot and should not force anyone to believe, we should insist and encourage the people.  That way they will know what is right and wrong for those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living.” 

      So as we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation I am encouraging you to be people who are in the Word.  Hear it regularly in Divine Service.  Study it diligently in Bible classes.  Meditate deeply on it in devotions.  Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum, the Word of the Lord Endures Forever, as excellent a motto today as it was 500 years ago for the Lutheran Reformers.

~ Pastor Christensen

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We Are All Catholic — Little “c”

admin : August 30, 2017 7:17 pm : Pastors' Corner

While at seminary, I had a professor who would always correct students if he heard, “The catholics believe or the catholics say….” The issue he had was with us using the word “catholic” – little “c” – indiscriminately. His desire was to emphasize the fact that we are all catholic. We’re just not all Roman Catholic.

To be catholic is to be part of the One Catholic Church, the universal Church throughout the world, the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

In about two months, Lutherans from around the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. As we prepare to celebrate the 500th, we do so in light of the fact that when we hear the word, “catholic,” we too think of the Roman Catholic Church. Without giving much thought to the use of language, the word catholic has become synonymous with Roman Catholicism.

Sadly, for generations there have been and continues to be a divide in doctrine among Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Even as this divide exists, we continue to pray for the day when unity and fellowship comes. However, as we approach this exciting celebration of the Reformation, we do so recognizing that we are all part of the “one holy catholic church.” The Reformation was not about new teachings or a revolution within the Church, but rather a return to God’s Word in Holy Scripture.

The idea that we Lutherans can call ourselves catholic may sound like an identity crisis to some. But this is exactly what we are; we are part of the catholic faith and the universal Church on earth.

In the conclusion of the first part of the Augsburg Confession, it is written regarding the articles of faith presented to Emperor Charles V in 1530:

 “This then is nearly a complete summary of our teaching. As can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the catholic church (universal), or from the Church of Rome, as known from its writers.”

One of the themes of the Reformation is that the faith confessed by Luther and others was not new, rather it was the Roman Catholic Church that had departed from the one true faith.

Our catholic beliefs don’t end with doctrine. Just as Luther and the Reformers did not do away with the ceremonies and traditions, we retain those that are not in conflict with the Gospel. However, over the years we have sought to differentiate ourselves from the traditional ceremonies and traditions of both the Roman Catholic Church and the historic Lutheran Church in favor of American Christianity. In some ways, this may be a reaction to say that we are not Roman Catholic or in revolt of the Roman Catholic Church. But these departures have hurt the Church, its doctrine and theology, its liturgy, and its unity.

As it was not the intention of Luther to create a new Church, nor was it the intention to depart from the liturgy the Church has shared for centuries. Rather the intention was to retain the liturgy, rejoicing in how God is worshiped through Word and song, how the grace of God is poured out on the believer in Word and Sacrament, and the one holy catholic church is united in one voice and one body of faith.

As we approach the Reformation, remember we too are catholic. And next time we confess in the Athanasian Creed, “Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith,” you don’t have to be squirmish about the word “catholic.” We are all catholic. That is, we belong to the universal church, the Body of Christ. Thanks be to God!

In Christ,
Pastor Rogness

 

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Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

admin : June 27, 2017 8:00 am : Pastors' Corner

While looking at the Old Lutheran website the other day I saw a few T-shirts that made me chuckle.  One of them read, “I’m proud to be an Old Lutheran” and then in parentheses below that it read “but not too proud”.  I guess that pride can be a problem, especially this year, as we approach the 500th anniversary celebration of the Reformation and take a nostalgic look back and thank God for Martin Luther who stood for the truth of the Gospel even though it placed his life in jeopardy.

I think celebrating the Reformation is a very good thing, but rather than only look back into history, might I suggest that we also look at where we are today?  How do you think our church would look if Luther had kept silent?  What if, for the sake of peace and harmony, Luther and the other Reformers had compromised the truth of the Gospel?  What if they had taken the position that to keep the peace a little bit of error in teaching is okay?

Thank God that was not the case then and that now we actually have something to celebrate!  Unfortunately when we get lazy, error has a way of sneaking in the back door of the Church. Consequently, each generation must contend for the truth of God’s Word and the doctrine it teaches.  So once again the question is before us, how much error is too much?  On this side of heaven the Church will always be plagued by error, but this “sad but true” reality must never make us complacent or lazy.

Quoting Johann Baier, one of the great Lutheran theologians, C. F. W. Walther teaches that toleration of error is as bad as or even worse than the original error itself.  He writes: “Such toleration of errors, first, is in opposition to the Scripture passages which command us to preserve the whole Christian doctrine free from error (II Thessalonians 2:15), to keep the good thing committed unto us (II Timothy 1:14), that is, to keep it intact, uncurtailed and unadulterated, and to continue in the things which we have learned (II Timothy 3:14). But the doctrine will not be kept pure if opposing errors are tolerated at the same time and in an equal manner or are permitted to become mingled with it. Secondly, such toleration is in opposition to the duty of reproving imposed upon faithful teachers by God, through which [errors] are rebuked and condemned (cf. Titus 1:9, 13; II Timothy 4:2; 3:16), to which correspond the examples of Christ (Matthew 5:12ff.; 16:6) and of Paul (Galatians 1:6). Thirdly, such toleration is very dangerous, for those errors and corruptions, unless they are restrained, assailed, and condemned, will spread ever more widely; the truth of the doctrine is rendered doubtful and suspicious, or at least it is regarded as a matter of indifference; and finally those that err are confirmed, and the deceivers are given a chance to infect ever more [people].” (Walther, Essays For the Church, Volume I, p. 122-123)

Summarizing Baier, Walther cites the threefold danger that arises from the toleration of errors. If they are not stopped, they will spread, truth will become suspect, and those who teach error will be confirmed in their error.
But why, for the sake of peace and love, don’t we just overlook false doctrine and errors?  Why must Lutherans be so intolerant?  It is for this reason Lutherans are often portrayed as trouble-makers, uneducated, and unloving.  Walther counters, and I agree, “to remain silent in the face of false doctrine is not a demonstration of love, but rather of hate; for how then can errorists be saved?”  Our aim must always be to proclaim the whole council of God’s Holy Word, so that the Gospel may be proclaimed in its truth and purity and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution.
May the Reformation spirit of Luther, Baier, Walther and others work mightily among us as we continue to proclaim and contend for the whole truth of the Gospel, that many may hear it and be saved.

Yep, I’m proud to be an old Lutheran, but not too proud.

~Pastor Christensen

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