When the Angel of the empty tomb appeared to the Roman guards, those courageous battle-hardened soldiers were so afraid that they passed out. When the same Angel appeared to the women who came to care for the body of Jesus, they were also afraid, but they left “with fear and great joy.” What was the difference? The women had the Word of God proclaimed to them. So explained our pastor in an illuminating Easter sermon, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more...]
Not long ago we posted about the theological and philosophical movement known as Radical Orthodoxy, asking whether Lutherans could have a seat at that table. Well, in another context, my friend George Strieter put me on to Johann Georg Hamann, a devout Lutheran who was friends with Kant and Hegel but who critiqued their philosophies with some extremely innovative philosophy of his own. It turns out, Hamann’s thought is said to be a major influence on ” Oswald Bayer, John Milbank and David Bentley Hart.” The latter two are the most prominent figures in Radical Orthodoxy. And that Oswald Bayer , perhaps the favorite contemporary German theologian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, is mentioned here puts him in the company of the radically orthodox. [Read more...]
Yesterday was the climax of the Epiphany season, Transfiguration Sunday, marking the most explicit epiphany of Jesus during His time on earth. St. Peter saw witnessed it personally, as he describes in His second epistle. But he goes on to say that we have something even better, even more certain, than witnessing the Transfiguration. [Read more...]
More from Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon last Sunday, on the connection between Scripture and Jesus:
Luke tells us: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Like the parent who after embracing her child opens the closet to show him that there are no monsters, or who kneels and shows her that there is nothing under the bed, so Jesus next opens the Scriptures to show His children the truth – the truth of His Word. That what happened the past few days was no accident, no series of unfortunate events, and not things spinning out of control – but what had been prophesied and spoken of from the beginning and all through the Scriptures. Everything that had been written, spoke of and pointed to Him and His Easter work.
And so Jesus opened the Scriptures to them and filled their minds with the truth. He told them about the cross and Isaac’s burden of wood in Genesis. He told them about His Supper and the flesh and blood of the passover lamb in Exodus. He told them about His atonement for sin and the sacrifices in Leviticus. He told them about His death for the life of the world, like it was with Joseph. He told them how He was the real strong man, like Samson, who came to crash the gates of his enemy. He told them about the hatred and villainy He and a former King of Israel – David – received, even from their own people. He told them about the being pierced from Zechariah as He showed them His hands and side. He told them how He was Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He told them about dry bones and resurrection. And with each teaching, each story, each shadow revealed, their fears were taken away and their faith increased. The monsters of uncertainty and the ghosts of sin were taken away, and replaced with the Spirit and Word of God.
Oh, they were still children! They would always be children, just as we will always be. But they were learning as they drank the pure spiritual milk of the Word, and growing up to and into their salvation – which is not a what, but a who. Growing up and into Christ – the one who was speaking to them and not only informing, but forming, them.
And that distinction is important. That the Word of God not only informs us, but also forms us. For being a child of God is not simply a matter of the head, but of the heart. Of life that is not just known, but lived. Perhaps we have too often put asunder these two things that God has joined together. The Word of God became flesh, and He still does, as He now comes and lives in and through us. That we live who we are; who we have been made in our baptism.
That is what John means when he goes on to talk about the “practice of sinning” and the “practice of righteousness.” That is not simply of matter of knowing what is right and wrong, or of will power and determination to follow the Law. It is a matter of being, of abiding in Christ. That born anew as children of God, we no longer follow the false promises and lies of the devil, but instead, follow the true and sure promises of God, and find our life in Him. Practicing righteousness by repenting of our sin and abiding in His forgiveness and love, and thus growing into Him.
There is that passage in Matthew 16 in which Jesus says that there are among those listening to him at that moment who will not taste death until He comes in His kingdom. Liberal Bible critics say, “See, Jesus and the early church thought that the Second Coming would be imminent, and of course they were wrong.” Some more conservative Bible scholars say, “See, Christ’s Second Coming happened with His resurrection, or was some kind of spiritual event that happened before the Romans destroyed the Temple,” while others explain it in other ways.
But look what our pastor, Rev. Douthwaite, did with it in his sermon on Sunday (part of the sermon I linked to yesterday):
You are among those who will not taste death until you see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. For the Son of Man and His kingdom is coming not just in the future, on the last day – His kingdom is coming already now, and is here, where His Word and Spirit are working, gathering, forgiving, sanctifying, and strengthening. For as the catechism teaches us to understand the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come: How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity (Small Catechism: Explanation of the Second Petition).
And so as our heavenly Father gives His Holy Spirit here in baptism, in the preaching of the Word, in absolution, in His Supper, His kingdom is coming. Coming to you. It is His work, the work of the cross, for you. For the cross is how Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God for you. The cross is everything. Or as Luther put it around the start of the Reformation: The cross is our only theology.
Jesus must go to the cross. You must bear your cross. This talk should not surprise us. For it is how your Father in heaven loves you and saves you. Which doesn’t make it easy, but does make it good.
Many people treat the Bible as just an assemblage of facts, history, and doctrine. Of course it includes such things. But consider another dimension: It is God’s Word; that is, God’s voice personally addressing those who hear it, with the purpose of bringing them to repentance and faith.
A lot of texts we fight over, perhaps with good reason (the details of creation; the last days), and yet what does it do to them to read them as means of grace?