Praying the Catechism

Many Christians have problems praying.  Our minds wander; we run through our wants and needs; we forget what to pray for; and we soon turn to something else.

Christians in the past, though, often prayed “with” a text that would direct, inspire, and be a catalyst for their prayers.  The Lord’s Prayer was not just repeated verbatim, though that was part of it.  Each petition of the prayer sparked personal prayer–how can I do God’s will?  What “daily bread” do I need?  What temptations do I need to be delivered from?

Scriptures such as the Ten Commandments would also be prayed.  Luther suggested finding in each commandment, an instruction (“I must honor my father and my mother”), a thanksgiving (“Thank you, God, for giving me my parents”), a confession (“I have been neglecting my mother”), and a petition (“Lord, help my parents with their health and money problems. . . .”).

Luther also advocated praying the Creed, and in doing so, addressing the Triune God and receiving His promises of grace.

The Catechism itself is not just an educational handbook for the instruction of children.  Rather, it is an inexhaustible source book for prayer, meditation, and the richest, deepest devotions.

John Pless unpacks all of this in his book Praying the Catechism. [Read more…]

Holy Sepulchre needs more repair or it might collapse

Domes_of_the_Church_of_the_Holy_SepulchreRestoration work on the shrine built around the likely spot of Christ’s tomb has been completed.  (See this and this and this.)  But researchers have found that the shrine and the surrounding complex have been built on unstable ground.  Without more work, there could someday be a “catastrophic” collapse.

The “edicule,” the small building around the tomb that has been restored, preserves the remnants of a cave.  It was once part of a quarry that had been turned into grave sites for wealthy Jews.  (Note the confirmation of what the Bible says about Joseph of Arimathea, who offered the grave that he owned for the body of Jesus.)  A number of those other grave sites have also been discovered on the property.  The quarry is also thought to have been the site of “the Place of the Skull,” the Golgotha where criminals were executed.  This is why the Church of the Holy Sepulchre complex also includes the reported site of the crucifixion.

The site over the ancient quarry is honeycombed with other caves and tunnels from the mining.  The current structure is also built on top of tons of rubble, not only from the quarry but from layers of  building and rebuilding over the centuries.  Plus, the graves were dug into a slope.  Drainage problems and damage from so many visitors are compounding the problem.

Researchers are proposing a six million euro project to shore up the buildings and to stabilize the foundations.  The construction work would be accompanied with more archaeological excavation.
[Read more…]

Work on Jesus’ burial site completed

Aedicule_which_supposedly_encloses_the_tomb_of_Jesus-LR1We blogged about the excavation and renovation of Jesus’ tomb at our post “See the Place Where They Laid Him.”  Now, just in time for Easter, the renovation work and the preservation of the site at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem have been completed.

The shrine had been in danger of collapse, but it has now been reinforced and protected.

When researchers opened the actual tomb, they removed a marble slab that had been put over the rock shelf on which the body of Jesus would have rested.  The slab dated from the Middle Ages. Underneath, they found yet another marble slab. This one dated from the 4th century, which would have been when Constantine’s mother Helena identified the site and built the first shrine over it.

Experts who put the site back together cut a window into the marble slabs so that the bare rock where Jesus’ body lay before His resurrection can be seen.

Photos of the restoration work are copyrighted, so go here for a bird’s eye view of where our Lord’s body was laid.

Photo of Aedicule, which encloses what is thought to be Christ’s tomb by Jlascar (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/10350934835/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

[Read more…]

Saying Christ is the only way to God is “abusive and criminal”?

coexist-1211709_640Two British street preachers were arrested for publicly reading the Bible, particularly the parts about Jesus being the only way to God.

In their trial, the prosecutor said,“To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”

The prosecutor apparently thought that those teachings were just quirks of the King James translation of the Bible, rather than basic doctrines of Christianity.  He said, “to use words translated in 1611 in a very different context, in the context of modern British society, must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”

The court agreed, sentencing the two Christians to a fine of £2,016 each ($2,452.42). [Read more…]

Converts to “religion of freedom” are boosting church attendance in Europe

refugees-A-INThe Muslim immigrants converting to Christianity are having a noticeable effect on church growth and church attendance in Europe.  (See this, this, and this.)

For the last few decades, churches have been almost empty on Sunday mornings. But congregations that have evangelized Muslims are coming back to life.  For example, theTrinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, which we have blogged about, used to have 150 parishioners.  Now they have 700.

The phenomenon has spread to England.  One Anglican bishop says that one out of four of the confirmations he performs are for Muslims converting to Christianity.

Two stories from British sources after the jump.  They give some inspiring testimonies about how some of these immigrants came to Christ.  A common theme:  the realization that Christianity is “the religion of freedom.”

I suppose there is a connection between the freedom of religion and the religion of freedom! [Read more…]

Mortification of the flesh

Lent has traditionally been a time to practice “mortification of the flesh.”  That’s another concept we don’t hear too much about today.

But isn’t that Catholic?  An example of that medieval asceticism that the Reformation reacted against?  Not at all.  Reformation Christians also emphasized mortification.  In fact, it’s enshrined in the Lutheran confessions:

“We teach this about the putting to death of the flesh and discipline of the body. A true and not a false putting to death [mortification] happens through the cross and troubles, by which God exercises us . . . .There is also a necessary voluntary exercise. . . .This effort [at mortification] should be constant.”

Philip Melanchthon,“The Apology of the Augsburg Confession,” Article XV, in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), pp. 193-194.

This is pretty much the opposite of the “prosperity gospel.”  God gives us the crosses we have to bear and the troubles of our lives in order to “exercise” us.  Such problems and sufferings drive us to prayer, to greater dependence on God, and thus to the growth of our faith.  Furthermore, we voluntarily mortify ourselves–not doing what we want, depriving ourselves of certain pleasures, denying ourselves for our neighbor–in a “constant” effort at self-discipline.

More on mortification, including its Biblical and theological basis, after the jump.  [Read more…]