Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christmas Catichization: Christ: God and Man

Christ: God and Man

Christos Theanthropos

Χριστος Θεανθρωπος

For unto you is born this day,
in the city of David,
a Savior, Who is Christ, the Lord!

Christmas Catechization

All Sing: O Come All Ye Faithful

Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant;
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo, He comes forth from the Virgin's womb.
Our Very God, begotten not created,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation,
Sing all ye citizens of heaven above.
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Yea, Lord we greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee, all glory be giv'n;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh, come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Opening Prayer (Pastor)

Part 1: Who Is Our God?

Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void;
and darkness was on the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The Athanasian Creed

Whoever will be saved, shall above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except it be kept whole and undefiled, without doubt one will perish eternally.

And the true Christian faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confusing the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

All Sing: To God be Glory, Peace on Earth (Tune 127)

To God be glory, peace on earth,
To all mankind good will!
We bless, we praise, we sorship Thee,
And glorify Thee still.

And Thou, begotten Son of God,
Before all time begun;
O Jesus Christ, Thou Lamb of God,
The Father's only Son;

O Thou, who sitt'st at God's right hand,
Upon the Father's throne,
Have mercy on us Thou, O Christ,
Who art the Holy One!

Thou only, with the Holy Ghost,
Whom earth and heav'n adore,
In glory of the Father art
Most high forevermore

Matthew 28:18-29

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

The Athanasian Creed

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three uncreated nor three infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinites.

Likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty. And yet there are not three almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods, but one God. Likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.

All Sing: Come, Thou Almighty King

Come, Thou almighty King; Help us Thy name to sing,
help us to praise,
Father all glorious, O’re all victorious,
come and reign over us, Ancient of days.

Come, Thou Incarnate word, Gird on Thy mighty sword;
Our pray’r attend.
Come and Thy people bless; And give thy Word success;
Spirit of holiness, On us descend.

Come, Holy Comforter; Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour.
Thou who almighty art; Now rule in ev’ry heart;
And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of pow’r.

To the great One in Three, Eternal praises be,
Hence evermore!
His sov’reign majesty may we in glory see
And to eternity love and adore.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The Athanasian Creed

For as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the true Christian faith to say that there are three gods or three lords.

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

Children Sing: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord'rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem
From ev'ry fo deliver them
That trust Thy mighty pow'r to save,
And give them victr'y o'er the grave.

The Athanasian Creed

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; But all three Persons are coeternal together and coequal, so that in all things, as said before, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.

Whoever will be saved is compelled thus think of the Trinity.

Part 2: What Is Our Relationship to Our God?

All Sing: All Mankind Fell in Adam's Fall

1. All mankind fell in Adam's fall,
One common sin infects them all;
From sire to son the bane descends,
And over all the curse impends.

2. Through all man's powers corruption creeps
And him in dreadful bondage keeps;
In guilt he draws his infant breath
And reaps its fruits of woe and death.

3. From hearts depraved, to evil prone,
Flow thoughts and deeds of sin alone;
God's image lost, the darkened soul
Nor seeks nor finds its heavenly goal.

Genesis 3:14-15

So the LORD God said to the serpent:
"Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel."

Genesis 3:22-23

Then the LORD God said,
"Behold, the man has become like one of Us,
to know good and evil.
And now, lest he put out his hand
and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"
therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden
to till the ground from which he was taken.

Romans 5:12-14

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world,
and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men,
because all sinned—
(For until the law sin was in the world,
but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam,
who is a type of Him who was to come.

Children Sing: Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!

Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ, by highest heav'n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail th' incarnate Deity!
Pleased as Man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Immanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Part 3: What Has God Done to Save Us?

The Athanasian Creed

Furthermore, it is necessary for everlasting salvation that one also believe faithfully the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting.

Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He is God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by changing of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One indeed; not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of Person. For just as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;

Children Sing: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Luke 2: 1-7

And it came to pass in those days
that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be registered.
This census first took place
while Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee,
out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea,
to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and lineage of David,
to be registered with Mary,
his betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was, that while they were there,
the days were completed for her to be delivered.
And She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Children Sing: Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels we have heard on high,
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains.
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo;
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo.

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heav'nly song?
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo;
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo.

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo;
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo.

See, within a manger laid,
Jesus, Lord of heav'n and earth,
Lend your voices, lend your aid
To procalim the Savior's birth!
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo;
Glo—ria in excelsis Deo.

Luke 2:8-16

Now there were in the same country shepherds
living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them "Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

Children Sing: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

So it was, when the angels
had gone away from them into heaven,
that the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us now go to Bethlehem and see
this thing that has come to pass,
which the Lord has made known to us."
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.

Children Sing: Jeg er så Glad

Jeg er så glad hver julekveld
Ti da blev Jesus født,
Da lys te stjer nen som en sol,
Og engler sang så sødt

Jeg er så glad hver julekveld
Da synger vi hans pris
Da åpner han for alle små
Sit søde paradis

Luke 2: 17-20

Now when the shepherds had seen Him,
they made widely know the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
And all those who heard it marveled at those things
which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all the things that they had heard and seen,
as it was told them.

The Athanasian Creed

Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven; He is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

Children Sing: I Sing the Birth

1. I sing the birth was born to-night,
The Author both of life and light;
The angels so did sound it.
And like the ravished shepherds said,
Who saw the light, and were afraid,
Yet searched, and true they found it.

2. The Son of God, th' eternal king,
That did us all salvation bring,
And freed the world from danger;
He whom the whole world could not take,
The Lord, which heaven and earth did make,
Was now laid in a manger

3. The Father's wisdom willed it so,
The Son's obedience knew no 'No,'
Both wills were in one stature;
And, as that wisdom hath decreed,
The Word was now made flesh indeed,
And took on Him our nature.

4. What comfort by Him do we win,
Who made Himself the price of sin,
To make us heirs of glory!
To see this Babe, all innocence;
A martyr born in our defense:
Can man forget the story?

The Athanasian Creed

At whose coming all will rise again with their bodies, and will give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.

Romans 3:21-26

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ,
to all and on all who believe.
For there is no difference;
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
being justified freely by His grace
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness,
that He might be just
and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Closing Prayer: Pastor

All Sing: Silent Night

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy Night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav'nly hosts sing, "Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is Born!"

Silent night! Holy Night!
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Silent night! Holy Night!
Wondrous star, lend they light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is Born.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Christian Songs Latin and German, For Use at Funerals

There has always been pressure from the laity to incorporate non-Christian and poorly written so-called "Christian" songs into the funeral service. What follows is Martin Luther's letter of 1542 on the subject. This version is from pages 287-92 of the Works of Martin Luther, vol 6, Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, 1932. The translation is by P.Z. Strodach.

Christian Songs Latin and German, For Use at Funerals
D. Martinus Luther
Wittenberg, Anno 1542
Printed by Joseph Klug

To the Christian Reader. D. Mart. Luther.
Christian Songs, Latin and German, for use at Funerals.

St. paul writes to those at Thessalonica [I Thess. 4:13], that they should not sorrow over the dead as others who have no hope, but that they should comfort themselves with God's Word, as those who possess sure hope of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead. For it is no wonder that those who have no hope grieve; nor can they be blamed for this. Since they are beyond the pale of the faith in Christ they either must cherish this tempopral life alone and love it and be unwilling to lose it, or store up for themselves, after this life, eternal death and the wrath of God in hell, and go there unwillingly. But we Christians, who have been redeemed from all this through the precious blood of God's [p. 288] Son, should train and accustom ourselves in faith to despise death and regard it as a deep, strong, sweet sleep; to consider the coffin as nothing other than our Lord Jesus' bosom or paradise, the grave as nothing other than a soft couch of ease or rest. As verily, before God, it truly is just this; for he testifies, John 11:21: Lazarus, our friend sleeps; Matthew 9:24: The maiden is not dead, she sleeps. Thus, too, St. Paul, in I Corinthians 15, removes from sight all hateful aspects of death as related to our mortal body and brings forward nothing but charming and joyful aspects of the promised life. He says there [vv. 42ff]: It is sown in corruption and will rise in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor (that is, a hateful, shameful form) and will rise in glory; it is sown in weakness and will rise in strength; it is sown a natural body and will rise a spiritual body.

Accordingly we have driven the pestilential abominations from our churches, such as vigils, masses for the dead, processions, purgatory, and all other mockery and hocus pocus on behalf of the dead. We have abolished all these and have cleaned them out thoroughly and do not want our churches to be houses of wailing and places of mourning any longer, but koemiteria, as the old fathers were wont to call them, that is, dormitories and resting places. Nor do we sing any funeral hymns or doleful songs over our dead at th graves, but comforting hymns, of the forgiveness of sins, of rest, of sleep, of life, and of the resurrection of Christians who have died, in order that our faith may be strengthened and the people may be moved to proper devotion.

For it is also meet and right that one conduct and carry out the burials decently and fittingly in praise and honor of that joyful article of our faith, namely that of the resurrection of the dead, and in defiance and contempt of that dreadful enemy, death, who incessantly devours us so shamefully in all manner of terrible and ghastly forms and ways. Thus, we read the holy patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc., conducted their burials with much splendor and left very explicit directions concerning them. Later the kings of Judah made great show and pomp over the dead, [p. 289] accompanying this with costly incense composed of all kinds of goodly, precious herbs; all of this was done to smother stinking, shameful death and to praise and confess the resurrection of the dead, so that the weak in faith and the sorrowful might be comforted thereby. Hereto, also, belong the customs which the Christians practiced heretofor and which they continue to practice in connection wit hthe dead and their graves, namely that they are carried forth in splendor, decked beautifully, sung over, and adorned with grave markers. All is to be done for the sake of this article of the resurrection to the end that it be founded in us firmly, for it is our final, blessed, eternal comfort and joy against death, hell, devil and all sorrow.

As a good example to serve to this end we have hosen fine musical settings or songs which are used in the papacy at vigils, masses for the dead, and funerals. Some of these we have had printed in this little book, and purpose in the future to choose more of them, -or whoever is better able than we, can;-but we have substituted other texts to these settings in order to honor our article concerning the resurrection and not to honor purgatory with its torment and satisfaction, on account o which their dead can neither sleep nor rest. The songs and the notes are precious; it would be a shame and a loss were they to disappear; but the texts or words are unchristian, unfit and absurd; these should perish. In the same way they far outstrip us in all other directions: the have the most beautiful services, beautiful, splendid cathedrals and cloisters, but the preaching and the teaching which they practice in these in grater part serve the devil and blaspheme God. For he is the world's prince an god, therefore he must have the most elegant, the best and the most beautiful. They also possess costly, golden and silver monstrances and pictures, embellished with rich ornaments and precious stones, but within are dead bones, quite as probably from the cadavers of the flaying-ground as from other places. They have costly vestments, chasubles, palliums, copes, capes, mitres, but who is under these or clothed [p.290] in these? Lazy bellies, evil wolves, godless hogs, who persecute and blaspheme God's Word.

And indeed they also possess many admirable, beautiful musical compositions or songs, especially in the cathedral and parish churches, but they have "beautified" them with many obscene, idolatrous, superstitious texts. Therefore, we have removed such idolatrous, dead and dumb texts, separating them from the noble music, and in their stead we have set the livin, holy word of God, to sing, to praise, to glorify with the same, so that this beautiful ornament, music, may, in proper use, serve her dear Creator and His Christians so that He be praised and honored thereby, but we, through the Holy Word united with sweet song, may be incited and confirmed and strengthened in faith
. To this help us God and Father together with the Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

But it is not our opinion or intention that these precise notes must be sung, just as they are, in all churches; let every church use its notes according to its own book and usage. For I myself do not hear gladly when the notes of a responsory or song have been changed and it is sung among us in a different way from that to which I was accustomed in my youth.

If it is desired to honor the graves in additional ways, it would be fitting to carve or write (paint) good epitaphs on the walls (when there are such) or verses from Holy Scripture, so that they may be present before the eyes of those who go to the funeral or to the church-yard; namely these or the like:

  • He has fallen asleep with his fathers and has been gathered to his people.
  • I know that my redeemer lives, and he will waken me out of the earth and I will go about in my body and in my flesh I will see God. [Job 19:25f]
  • I laid down and slept and awakened, for the Lord kept me. [Ps. 3:5]
  • I lay me down and sleep wholly in peace. [Ps. 4:8]
  • I will behold thy countenance in righteousness; I will be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness. [Ps. 17:15] [p. 291]
  • God will redeem my soul from the power of hell, because he has accepted me. [Ps. 49:15]
  • The death of his holy ones is held precious before the Lord. [Ps. 116:15]
  • The Lord will remove in this mountain the covering with which al peoples are covered, and the veil (lid) with which all holy ones are shrouded; for he will devour death eternally. [Is. 25:7f]
  • The dead shall live and rise with the body. Awake and sing ye who lie uner the earth, for thy dew is the dew of the green field. [Is. 26:19]
  • Enter, O my people, into thy chamber and close the door after thee; hide thyself a small moment until the wrath be passed over. [Is 26:20]
  • The righteous will be snatched away from the calamity, and they who have walked uprightly shall enter into peace and rest in their chambers.[Is. 57:1-2]
  • Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will open your graves, and fetch you, O my people, out of the same. [Ez. 37:12]
  • Many who lie sleeping under the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, some to everlasting dishonor and shame. [Dan 12:2]
  • I will redeem them from hell and rescue them from death; O death, i will be a poison to you; O hell, I will be a pestilence to you. [Hos. 13:14]
  • I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. But God is not a God of the dead but of the living. [Ex. 3:6; Matt. 22:32]
  • this is the will of the Father, who hath sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but that i shall raise it up at the last day. [Jn. 6:39]
  • I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes on me, that one shall live, even though he should die forthwith. and he who lives and believes on me, that one will never die. [Jn 11:25f]
  • No one lives to himself and no one dies to himself. if we live, then we live unto the Lord; i we die, then we die unto the Lord. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ also died and rose and became alive again, so that he might become lord over he dead and the living. [Rom. 14:7-9] [p. 292]
  • If we hope in Christ only in this life, then we are the most miserable among all people. [I Cor. 15:19]
  • As in Adam they all die, thus, too, in Christ they all will be made living. [I Cor. 15:22]
  • death is swallowed up in the victory. Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? But the sting of death is sin, but the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [ I Cor. 15:54-57]
  • Christ is my life, and death is my prize. [Phil. 1:21]
  • If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so shall God also lead with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. [I th. 4:14]

Such verses and inscriptions will ornament the church-yard better than other worldly symbols, -shield, helmet, etc.

If any one were able and had the desire to put such verses into good rhymes, this would be an advantage: they would be remembered more easily and read more gladly. For rhyme or verse make ecellent sentences or proverbs, more gladly used than other smooth-flowing words.

[Then follow two versifications of S.t Luke 2, the Nunc Dimittis, a versifiction of St. John 11: The Resurrection and the Life; and a versification of Job 19.]

The German songs: Mit Fried und Freud, Wir glauben all an einen, Nu bitten wir den heiligen, Nu laszt uns den Leib, etc., may be sung one after the other as one returns homeward from the burial; in the same way one may use the Latin songs: Jam moesta quiesce, Si enim credimus, Corpora sanctorum, In pace summus, etc.

---end of article.

The hymns listed in the last paragraph are:
Mit Fried und Freud, ELH 48 "In Peace and Joy I Now Depart"
Wir glauben all an einen, ELH 38 "We All Believe in One True God"
Nu bitten wir den heiligen, ELH 33 "We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost"
Nu laszt uns den Leib, TLH 596 "This Body in the Grave We Lay"
Jam moesta quiesce, "Despair not, O heart, in thy sorrow"
Si enim credimus, "For If We Believe"
Corpora sanctorum, "The Bodies of the Saints"
In pace summus, "We are in Peace"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Scripture, Homosexuality, and the ELCA

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has produced it's latest version of it's Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality. The document is here Draftstatement.pdf

Very few writings have provoked me to as great a sadness for the laity of a church body as this. It is probably true that there are a few Bible believing, and possibly even Lutheran (as in a quia subscription to the Confessions) pastors and congregations in the ELCA--and it is likely there may be a few traditionally conservative or politically conservative pastors and congregations in the ELCA. This document is a strong testimony concerning the direction that church body desires to go. And that direction is not toward Scripture alone and the teaching of Justification by Faith in Christ alone.

The document's writers quickly distance themselves from Scripture as the only source and norm for the Doctrine of God.

Scripture and moral discernment (Page 14)
Lutherans understand that Scripture sometimes can be abused and misunderstood through selective use as a moral guide. Bible verses once were used, for example, to justify slavery. Scripture passages have been cited both by legalists and by those who seek to live as if there is no need for law under the gospel.19 Particularly in the area of sexuality, the Bible can be misused to support an ethics of legalism on one hand or an ethics of relativity on the other. For this reason the Lutheran Confessions are particularly focused on protecting the purity of the gospel and properly distinguishing God’s promises from God’s commands.
Notice how quickly the proclamations of Divine Law are shoved aside with the fallacy of Accidence.
Premise: The "Scripture can sometimes be abused and misunderstood"
Evidence: "for example, to justify slavery"
False implication: Those who wish to use Scripture's Divine Law to object to Homosexuality are doing the same thing as those who used it to justify Slavery.

"Legalism" is given a new, non-Confessional meaning:

Footnote 19
“Legalism” indicates a belief in the need for literal adherence to or trust in commands and “shoulds,” whether from Scripture or elsewhere. “…no need for law under the gospel” indicates a belief or practice that moral guidance from Scripture or elsewhere is unnecessary because the principle of Christian love by itself is a sufficient moral guide.
Anyone then who believes that God really means what He wrote down in Scripture is therefore a legalist. And while this note and the text above states that it is avoiding moral relativism excused by "the principle of Christian love," the paragraph that follows shows their study and pronouncements to be based on morally relative grounds.

From Page 15
Scripture cannot be used in isolation as the norm for Christian life and the source of knowledge for the exercise of moral judgment. Scripture sheds light on human experience and culture. At the same time, society’s changing circumstances and growing knowledge help us to see how Scripture can speak to us. Scripture, especially in the law, must be interpreted continually under the Spirit’s guidance within the Church and in thoughtful dialogue with insights of culture and human knowledge.
Scripture "cannot be the norm for Christian life." These words should make every reader realize that this is the same as "Did God really say...." (Gn 3) Oh, yes, they use the crafty words "in isolation." But what does that mean? They mean simply this: That Scripture cannot stand on its own. It needs to be understood according to historical and cultural situations. These are made clear by the words " society’s changing circumstances and growing knowledge help us to see how Scripture can speak to us" God's Law is supposed to be especially subjugated to the "insights of culture and human knowledge".

"For in the day that you eat of it you will become like God, knowing good and evil." (Gn. 3)

Now, on to what the document says about Homosexuality.

Same-gender committed relationships (pp. 36-38)
This church recognizes that it is in relationships of life-long companionship and commitment with public accountability that both interpersonal and social trust may be nurtured. It is within committed binding relationships, lived out within community, that relational and physical intimacy may be expressed and may have the capacity to offer worth and value to society. This church understands and affirms that such relationships reflect God’s love for the world and the vocation to love the neighbor.
Homosexuality is then to be encouraged, affirmed, nurtured. The ELCA claims that Homosexuality is not a sin, but a relationship that "reflect God’s love for the world".
It is only within the last decades that this church has begun to deal in a new way with the longing of same-gender persons to seek relationships of life-long companionship and commitment and to seek public accountability for those commitments. In response, this church has drawn deeply on its Lutheran heritage to dwell in Scripture and listen to the Word of God. This listening has brought biblical scholars, theologians, and rostered and lay persons to different conclusions.39 After many years of study and conversation, this church does not have consensus regarding loving and committed same-gender relationships. This church has committed itself to continuing to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, and pastoral care.
So the issue is not settled within the ELCA, but this document is the direction the leaders want to take the members through their study. Notice that the appeal to the lay-member is that they have experts who've been studying this for decades. The rhetorical effects are: "You, lay reader, we love, but you cannot possibly study everything you need to know to make a good, loving decision on this without our leadership and expertise. You must trust us.. Even though we said that Christian love can't be the final reason, we appeal to you to make this your final reason because we're the experts and have told you so."
Although this church lacks consensus, it encourages all people to live out their faith in the community of the baptized. Following previous decisions of this church, we call on congregations to welcome,41 care for and support42 same-gender-oriented people and their families, and to advocate for their legal protection.43
Rhetorically: "So keep going to church and don't let this document keep you from giving your offerings. But you need to accept Homosexuality as a God pleasing lifestyle, not a sin. Remember, you can't use God's law this way. That would be legalism of the worst form."

Notice the ironic twist? This document binds all ELCA members to become political agitators for the cause of Homosexuality even while the writers acknowledge that some members might have a problem with Homosexuality.
We believe that this church has a pastoral responsibility to all children of God. This includes pastoral response to those who are same-gender in their orientation and to those who are seeking counsel about their sexual self-understanding. We encourage all to avail themselves of the means of grace and pastoral care.
Rhetorically: "See, we are concerned about Homosexuals and their spiritual situation. We are even concerned about you and would like you to tell your sex stories to our pastors. They look forward with anticipation in hearing them so they can help you."
In their pastoral response, some pastors and congregations will advocate repentance and celibacy. Other pastors and congregations will call our same-gender-oriented brothers and sisters in Christ to establish relationships that are chaste, mutual, monogamous, and lifelong. These relationships are to be held to the same rigorous standards and sexual ethics as all others. Further, they will encourage same-gender couples to model their relationships according to the teachings of the Small and Large Catechisms pertaining to the sixth commandment. This suggests that dissolution of a committed same-gender relationship be treated with the same gravity as the dissolution of a marriage.
Notice the redefinition of the word "chaste?" Homosexuality is presumed "chaste" by the writers. Lip service is paid to the Catechisms--forgetting "husband and wife" for the moment, and hoping that the laity don't really know their Catechisms. After all, why should they? The Catechism's haven't been taught with any rigor in the ELCA for just as many decades as this debate has been taking place.
This church recognizes the historic origin of the term “marriage” as a life-long and committed relationship between a woman and man, and does not wish to alter this understanding. It recognizes, however, that some states have enacted or are in the process of enacting legislation in which the term “marriage” is used. This is the prerogative of the state, which is the realm in which civil marriage and the laws governing it exist.
Now the term "marriage" is redefined as a historical artifact and a civil construct. Marriage is no longer specifically instituted by God in the Creation of Adam and Eve-which is where Christ taught us it was instituted. Acts 5:29 "We ought to obey God rather than men" is probably too Legalistic in this context. In the ELCA this passage really only applies when the US refuses to sign onto the Kyoto agreement or such things.

From the Conclusion (pp. 45-46)
This church understands that responsible action requires both ethics and discernment. The work of moral discernment is an important dimension of this church’s identity. It is carried on by all members of the ELCA community and is lived out best when all participate as full members of this community. We come as we are—teens, young adults, middleaged adults, and mature adults; single, married, divorced, and partnered; straight and gay; right, left, and center—with a good will and, in Paul’s words, a heart “widened” by God’s mercy (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).
"Moral discernment" is, however, engineered by the body politic in the ELCA through documents like this that reject the authority of Scripture and leave people in the clutches of Satan, freely sinning and condoning sin to damnation.
This social statement represents a contribution to the ongoing work of moral discernment within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is circumscribed necessarily by the broadness of the subject of human sexuality, by disagreements in matters of sexual ethics, and by our rapidly changing social context.
So their teaching will change in the future. Not for the better, I fear. Despite the hand-wringing in the document concerning pornography, harrasment, and child sexual abuse, if the ELCA can cave into pressure from pro-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual groups, then NAMBLA is not far behind on these issues in that church. That progressive spirit away from God's Law is what "our rapidly changing social context" reflects in these liberal congregations.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How to Kill a Small Lutheran Congregation

How to Kill a Small Country Church
(perhaps this was your pastor)

[The author of this article insists on anonymity at the present. The author gave me permission to publish it with the explicit warning to the reader that the article is sarcasm. If the reader does not understand what sarcasm is, then the fault is the reader's]

For the past few years there have been more and more requests at Synod Convention for advice on how to deal with the problems facing small rural congregations. This article has been assembled to answer many of those problems and is based on many years of practical research.

We start with the family because the family is the basic unit of congregational life. Anything that can be done to keep families busy is a benefit to destroying a congregation.

One of the most basic things you can do is encourage both husband and wife to work jobs away from home. The practical benefits of this are manifold. First, instead of just one worker who needs to work out a vacation schedule, both spouses need to coordinate their work schedules. In most cases this reduces the total time available for family and church to Saturday, Sunday, and 5-9pm weekdays, plus a 10 day vacation. The vacations can only count as family time if they are taken together. Fortunately, there are events-like funerals- to which the lady of the house may be obliged to serve at church, thus eliminating a vacation day or two.

Collateral damage can be multiplied if the couple have children. This next suggestion is especially valuable for single parents or families where both parents work. Get your kid(s) involved in every extracurricular school sport or activity that you can. This can easily eat up the 5-9pm weekday hours. It very often takes care of most of Saturday and part of Sunday. Under this plan, not only do families have the complexity of two work schedules and vacations, they add to it the complexity of a school event schedule. This brings the family's total contact with each other down to a manageable 4 to 8 hours a week. Much of that time will be occupied by shuttling kids back and forth from events. And there is always the radio to supply relief from uncomfortable conversation which might distract you from driving.

This brings up another fantastic suggestion. Occupy your family time with great activities like shopping. Make there are as many TVs and video players and video games as members of your family. That way there won't be any fighting over viewing choices.

Now, it is also important to fortify the family members with good defense and justification for these lifestyle choices. After all, they've earned it. So, if someone should point out that both parents working might not be in the best interest of the children, encourage the parents, especially the female, to become indignant and offended. Anyway, who do these busybodies think they are judging dual-income families? If those know-it-alls have one parent staying at home, it obviously means they don't know what it means to sacrifice.

Now we turn to training all the members of the congregation.

Grudges are essential. Nourish them. Feed them. Every time someone apologizes, realize that they are only bringing the issue up to hurt you and to soothe their consciences at your expense-especially if the apology is public! The more you can encourage each other to act like selfish ten-year-old girls the better. Almost no one would want to join a congregation where years of bad blood have been spilled on the doorposts and lintel of the church. The more irrational the grudge the better. Why? Because you don't have to think so hard about it. It is easier to hold in the heart and much, much harder to let go.

Along with grudges you need to nourish the feeling of under appreciation. The Bible tells us that when we are giving we should not “Let our right hand know what the left hand is doing.” Encourage the feeling of martyrdom and apathy towards those who do things for the congregation. And encourage those people to grumble softly to others about lack of appreciation.

If there are troubles, the pastor should not be informed directly. Instead, encourage the members to speak discretely to relatives outside the congregation so they can pass the message to others inside the congregation. Eventually the information should get to the pastor through his wife. And if the pastor hasn't done anything about it in the next week, then use the same channels to pass the concern and complaint to the pastor.

If at all possible, when there are troubles, a member should take it upon himself to call other pastors or synod officials before going to his pastor. The member should then talk with a few members he can trust to make use of the advice he's received. That way the strongest possible case can be made to the pastor through the synodical officials and the official will have the support of a significant part of the congregation.

Nostalgia is an important tool. It is the basis for good complaints like: “The old hymnal had good hymns, not these hard hymns.” Or, “Pastor Sø Åndso never did it that way.” It doesn't matter if he did. What matters is the authority with which the older members can use nostalgia. Former pastors and old hymnals or Bible translations are great sources of controversy. The former pastors are especially good resources if they are deceased and therefore unable to be asked about what actually took place.

This should make it apparent that the best ally to nostalgia is selective memory. The dining hall may have been built originally to benefit the Sunday-school as a teaching space for the young. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is that the kids keep messing it up, and the teachers don't do a good enough job cleaning. So it all falls on the ladies' group to clean up the mess when they are trying to host a baby shower for a former member's unmarried cousin.

That brings us to scheduling. Keep the schedule changing. That way your neighbors won't be able to visit the service easily. This keeps you from having to constantly explain why we have closed Communion. And it's a handy excuse when the relatives show up and you want to avoid the embarrassment of closed Communion. After all, many of us have relatives in the ELCA and their lady pastors tell them that they're Lutheran just like us.

An added plus to a changing schedule is that it amplifies the use of nostalgia and selective memory. Great complaints can help build grudges. For example, “We used to have more visitors.” And, “How come we can't have church the same time every Sunday?”

Scheduling is a very effective tool in parishes with more than one congregation. There are no ends to the arguments that can be generated over who gets to have early or who gets to have late services. Just the addition of hosting dinner at one church can throw the whole schedule for the rest of the churches. Sunday school has to be rearranged, all the families made aware of the schedule changes through the bother of a telephone call-out list. Placing the burden of responsibility to call out these changes on one or two people at each congregation can quickly generate a feeling of under appreciation and help feed grudges.

If the pastor asks for all events for the upcoming year, don't give them to him. Hold out on two or three at each congregation so that he is left in the dark until the calendar for the month has already been printed. He makes enough mistakes already for it to look like his fault anyway.
And if the pastor tries to lay down the line for consistent scheduling remind him that his authority is limited to the proper administration of the Means of Grace. He shouldn't meddle in the civil affairs of the congregation. Again, nostalgia and selective memory are very handy tools in such a confrontation. “Pastor Sø Åndso never complained about the service times!”

This guide is meant to be an introductory help. It is by no means exhaustive. But these techniques work. They are well tested.

Before this article ends there is a very important point that needs to be made about destroying a small congregation. Several of the techniques listed above are examples of this basic way to destroy a small congregation. The basic technique behind all others is to allow people to be members no matter what they believe. Learn from the huge mega-churches “Doctrine divides, deeds unite!” Always emphasize what is socially appealing and your church will grow. Thus, it will not be a small congregation anymore, but a bustling, gossiping, socially engaged and theologically ignorant group of busybodies.

Wherever Scripture is uncomfortable dismiss those passages as “culturally conditioned,” or mere “historical information” valuable in that it shows us today what kinds of different struggles the early Church had to endure. Use the term “relevance” with respect to what kinds of deeds and experiences the assembly will accept, emphasize what they can do: boycotts, protests, packing shoe-boxes full of human relief for children, anything that can keep the congregation filled with the idea that they are really doing something “relevant” to help someone somewhere in their very “real” life experience. Do not let theology or the Doctrine of Scripture interfere. By all means, cause doubt in the minds of those who would want to emphasize Doctrine. Show them a tolerant God and their own intolerance. Hold before them the woman caught in adultery and Jesus' rescue of her. Emphasize the ignorance of the Apostles, after all, weren't they just some dumb fishermen? (of course, no one can prove how well educated they were, so this becomes a strong argument—remember argument from ignorance is the strong position)

And finally, if someone emphasizes the Lutheran Confessions, ask them why they don't trust the Bible more than the Confessions. Remember the slogan “Deeds, not Creeds.” Point to humanitarian relief efforts and how well they work with inter-faith groups. It doesn't matter that you've already decided that most of the Bible isn't relevant to the current social situation. What matters is that you can put the person off guard. If the person appeals to the Lutheran Confessions as an authority on what the Bible means, reply simply “All I know is that I'm supposed to love my neighbor. How can I love my neighbor if you insist on all these divisive doctrinal lines? Aren't you a sinner too? Don't you love your neighbor and want to help him in his time of trouble?”