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What Luther Says

Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane (Saturday 3/22/2014)

Remember when Saturday mornings used to be so much fun when you were a kid?

For me, I'd usually stay up as late as I could the night before (after what I thought was such a "hard" and "long" week at school), and then sleep in as late as I wanted to on Saturday morning.

The best part? Whether Dad would make us breakfast or not (his French Toast!), the even better part of my Saturday mornings growing up was plopping myself down in front of our TV to watch cartoon after cartoon! You know, the kind that were only on once-a-week and not available in an instant through YouTube and/or Netflix?

I thought about that recently and decided it might be cool to come up with a new weekly tradition of sorts for us adults to enjoy each and every Saturday morning now that we're all grown up (ok, at least some of us more than others anyway). I mean, isn't it time for us to look forward to Saturday mornings again?

Besides, it will be good for us to recall that childlike faith in fun and laughter if only for a few moments each week. You'll remember that laughter was for Luther a sign of divine grace and also an antidote against the devil too.

From the very beginning, humor had been a theological topic for Martin Luther, embracing the dramatic scope of his whole world view. He himself explained: "When I was unable to chase away the devil with serious words of with the Scripture, I often expelled him with pranks." And so this unique concept is born! Ok, so it's really not all that "cool" or "original" or "fun" to be sure, but it will be our new tradition here, and I'll try to make it worthwhile too. So who's with me then?

Please keep in mind, it won't be flashy, and it will hardly grab and hold your attention like a classic episode of the Care Bears, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, or Voltron would, but these "Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane" should satisfy the Confessional Lutheran's appetite for a balanced breakfast that includes your VDMA Vitamins like Vitamin A (Amusement), Vitamin B (Best of the Blogs), Vitamin C (Confessional), Vitamin D (Doctrine), and Vitamin E (Everything Else).

Each Saturday morning, God willing, I'll do my best to share some of the things I remember coming across in my unpredictable journey through Cyberspace during the week (hence, the "Along Memory Lane" part). Of course, this is also where the things you send me via email (if any) will show up too.

Ok, enough with all the commercials! Let's get the show started already, shall we?

8:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN A (AMUSEMENT): The Blimey Cow YouTube Channel is also one of my favorites done in the same spirit as The Lutheran Satire. In short, they use humor (and brutal honesty) to educate people regarding Biblical truths. I hate to say it, but as an ex-Evangelical Pietist myself (and one who's noticing more and more that the LCMS Church that I belong to is actually an Evangelical Church under a Lutheran name) "The One About Missions Trips" is a video that is so spot on. You might want to follow it up by reading this short commentary called "Voluntourism And The Church" by Pastor Joshua Gale. Here's a small taste: "As a parting thought related to this topic, mercy to our neighbor begins at home. It is possible that your own (literal) neighbors could use your time. Ask your pastor what things around the church and community need your attention. Mission trips may be more interesting, but we should always remember that the necessary things are not always the ones that make for the best stories later in life."

Jimmy Fallon recently blasted "Contemporary Worship (CoWo)" for what it truly is without even realizing it...and millions of Christians probably laughed along with him without giving it the slightest second thought. My dear friends, this is why doctrine matters. Doctrine matters because it defines and determines our worship practices.

What is worship from a Lutheran perspective? "If you were to ask most people what 'worship' is, they might say, 'Worship is praising the Lord' or 'Worship is what human beings do to express their thanks to God' or 'Worship is going to church,' or something like that. While there is some truth to each of these answers, they do not adequately describe the main purpose of Lutheran worship. We Lutherans have a unique perspective on worship. We know that God’s Word and His holy Sacraments are His precious gifts to us. They are the tools the Holy Spirit uses to give us forgiveness, life and salvation. The main purpose of Lutheran worship is to receive these gifts from God. Our Lutheran Confessions explain this truth as follows: 'The service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God' (Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Article IV.310). I am not sure whether we have adequately emphasized this important truth. God gives His gifts. We receive them. That is the main purpose of Lutheran worship. He does this as His Gospel is proclaimed, as His Word is read, as His forgiveness is announced and sinners are absolved, and as we receive our Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion. In these wonderful ways, God is present with us, His people, drawing us to Himself and giving us what we need so much-His mercy, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, power and comfort! The purpose of worship, therefore, is to be gathered by God around His gifts. Having clearly established this important point, I need to say that it would be wrong to assume that we are merely passive participants in the worship service. Listen to the beautiful introduction to Lutheran Worship. Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts, received with eager thankfulness and praise. Saying back to Him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure... The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Lutheran Worship, p. 6). How true! God speaks. We listen. Then we speak the great 'amen' of faith, saying, 'Yes, yes, this is true!' Praise God for His mercy in permitting us to receive His gifts! Praise God for drawing us together around His gifts!" Dr. A.L. Barry

9:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN D (DOCTRINE): "Except you be born of water and the Spirit, you cannot see the Kingdom of God. . . Can it be that we hear Jesus' words in this Gospel and NOT think baptism? It is amazing how much we miss as we spiritualize texts that are meant to be concrete and real! Nicodemus understood water and washing. Every Jew dealt with water used practically and symbolically all day long -- from the washing of the feet to the cleansing of the food from the market. Nicodemus also understood the Spirit. As a vaunted teacher, he knew better than to deny the expansiveness of God who fills all things whether we see or acknowledge this or not. What he did not get is water AND the Spirit. This was new. That the Spirit of God would be attached to a concrete earthly element like water was the surprise of grace Nicodemus did not get. . . and maybe we miss it, too. The greatest danger to the faith is the spiritualization of the Kingdom of God and the grace that gains us entrance into that kingdom. Unless we have the concrete forms of the means of grace, we meet God only on the plane of feelings, choice, and emotion. Jesus insists that God is only known where He reveals Himself. We know that He has revealed Himself and tied Himself to the concrete forms of the means of grace -- the Word and the Sacraments. The kingdom of God is about grace but this grace is tied to mortal form – in the flesh of Jesus. The incarnation is behind all sacramental theology -- from the water of His promise to the bread and wine of His body and blood to the living voice of His Word that speaks and bestows what it says. What surprised Nicodemus and us is that God hides Himself in earthly forms and works through them. Born of water and the Spirit, says Jesus. I think Nicodemus knew that Jesus was pointing not to some vague spiritual idea because he asked how he was to enter his mother's womb and be born anew. Jesus points to a new womb, the womb of baptismal water and a birth not of flesh, from below, but of the Spirit from above. But here is where it gets pointed. Refuse the earthly form that gives this heavenly grace and there is no kingdom left. This is the shock. If you will not meet Jesus where Christ has chosen to be met in the Word and Sacraments, then there is no Jesus to know, no kingdom to enter, and no access to grace. But. . . and here the but awakens our hope. . . but trust the mystery of the grace of God hidden in earthly form and the Kingdom of God is YOURS forevermore. We have disfigured the face of faith and turned it into an individual's feeling, emotion, or choice. It is all me. My feeling, my choice, my emotion, my decision. Where is God in this? Where is His grace? If we choose it, then we can unchoose it. If we create it by believing, then we can destroy it by our refusal to believe. This is not how Scripture speaks. This is not what Jesus says. The Kingdom of God comes in the concrete forms of the means of grace. It is there or it is no where at all. It does not depends upon our believing but our benefit from that grace comes only to those who believe. To be saved is no private relationship or choice. It is God bringing us into His kingdom through the entrance of baptism. We do not come to God. God comes to us. God opens the door through which we enter into the community of His chosen people, the people of His promise. We wear the promise as the mark of baptism and the sign of the Kingdom. We belong not by choice but by God's call and by the door to that kingdom which we enter through the means of grace, specifically, baptism." Do continue reading the rest from Pastor Peters' sermon "Born Again Or Baptism Or The Same?" which was his sermon for The Second Sunday In Lent.

I'm mostly staying off of Facebook during Lent, but I thought you folks might like to read this 2011 Lenten sermon from Pastor David Petersen on unity and disunity in the LCMS that’s still very relevant for us today. It caught my eye after a recent discussion I had with a sweet old Lutheran lady who’s a friend of the family as we discussed Christ’s Church then and now as well as the current and future challenges within the Lutheran Church. Boy, was I certainly convicted by a good portion of this piece (and that’s always a great thing)! I’m praying we’ll all be able to prayerfully consider (and perhaps even one day discuss openly) the issues raised here in an honest, humble, loving and transparent way as I know we all seek unity not just in fellowship and love, but more so in both His Word and His Sacraments (Ephesians 4:1-12; Proverbs 27:6; Proverbs 28:23).

Sorry, but that's all I have for you this week.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, you've been fed and, hopefully, you're wide awake by now so go and serve your neighbor in love today.

Grace and peace to you and yours!

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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