You were there

You know that old spiritual that asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?. . .when they nailed Him to the tree?. . .when they laid Him in the tomb?. . . .when God raised Him from the tomb?”  Well, the answer to that question is YES.

According to the Bible, if you were baptized, you died with Him, you were buried with Him, and you rose from the dead with Him. [Read more...]

He descended into Hell

Great reflections on Hell and what it means that Jesus “descended into Hell,” from Dale M. Coulter:

In the Torgau sermon on Christ’s descent, Luther remarks that the paintings depicting this event “show well how powerful and useful this article is, why it took place, why it is to be preached and believed that Christ destroyed hell’s power and took all his power away from the devil. When I have that, then I have the true core and meaning of this article of faith.” Theological precision about the exact conditions under which it occurred, the mode of Christ’s presence, the composition of hell’s gates, etc., distract from the essential point, and to demythologize this part of the church’s teaching is a failure to see the crucial importance of Holy Saturday. [Read more...]

“God suffered, God died”

Some of the deepest waters of Lutheran theology and where it makes some of its greatest contributions are in the realm of Christology.  For Lent I have been reading The Two Natures in Christ by Martin Chemnitz, that master of Biblical, Medieval, and Patristic (not only Latin but also Greek) sources and the principal author of the Formula of Concord.

Studying all of this has given me some new understanding and appreciation for the magnitude of what happened on that first Good Friday.   Article VIII of the Formula of Concord turns an assertion that was highly controversial at the time into a matter of confessional subscription:  That we are to understand the Incarnation and the Atonement in such a way that we can affirm that “God suffered” and “God died.” [Read more...]

A God who doesn’t act like a God

Our pastor on Palm Sunday said that people’s confusion over Jesus–so that they hailed Him with palms and soon thereafter demanded His crucifixion–was because they wondered, “Can a king who doesn’t act like a king be a king?  Can a God who doesn’t act like a God be a God?”

It occurred to me that the same confusions are rampant today, and that this is precisely what the events we commemorate during Passion Week are all about.  God is supposed to be an abstract philosophical proposition; here is a God who made Himself a tangible, material human being.  God is supposed to be  transcendent and glorious; here is a God who descends down into the depths, subjecting Himself to humiliation and suffering.  God is supposed to punish sin; here is a God who forgives sin, atoning for it by taking into Himself the sins of the world and punishing Himself for them.  God demands sacrifices from human beings; here is a God who sacrifices Himself for human beings.  God is supposed to be far above the world of suffering, looking down upon it all; here is a God who bears the world’s evil and the world’s griefs.  God is supposed to either exist or not exist; here is a God who died and rose again.


Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist dies

Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas, is dead.  This congregation of 80 members–most of which are members of the large Phelps family–made a name for itself with its “God hates fags” protest signs and its protests at military funerals with signs reading “Thank God for dead soldiers.”

Read this to learn about the Westboro congregation and its beliefs.  Phelps was reportedly excommunicated from his own church recently for advocating “kinder” treatment of fellow members, though this has not been confirmed.

Here we see the dysfunctions of legalism, in which a zeal for righteousness results in unrighteousness, in which the Christian gospel that proclaims “God loves you” is countered by the proclamation that “God hates you.”  Isn’t this a pretty clear example of  the Devil having his way in the church to undermine its message and to discredit Christianity? [Read more...]

Coming, calling, and promising

More from our pastor’s sermon last Sunday on Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus (John 3).  From Rev. James Douthwaite,  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 2 Sermon:

Nicodemus is thinking about what man does or can do; Jesus is talking about what God does, and what God has promised. Nicodemus was thinking of how man can get to God; Jesus is talking about God coming to man. Nicodemus is thinking works; Jesus is talking grace, or gift. [Read more...]