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Anglicans and Lutherans

Anglican_LutheranAn interesting article about two of my favorite “families” in Christianity.

Confessional Lutherans & Anglicans Draw Closer Together

As I have sought out denominational families to which I could be tethered in a wholehearted and fulfilling way, these have been the two that emerge.

– EO

 

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“The Day is Surely Drawing Near” 4th Sunday of Advent – 14.12.21

castle church

Castle Church, Wittenberg

Today’s Sunday Advent hymn text comes from the 16th century. Bartholomaus Ringwaldt puts a comprehensive theology of the second coming of Jesus into poetic form. It combines both the glories and tragedies of the apocalyptic events on the world’s horizon. I seldom “get” to sing about all of these things during the holidays.

The day is surely drawing near when Jesus, God’s anointed,
in all his power shall appear as judge whom God appointed.
Then fright shall banish idle mirth, and hungry flames shall ravage earth as Scripture long has warned us.

The final trumpet then shall sound and all the earth be shaken,
and all who rest beneath the ground shall from their sleep awaken.
But all who live will in that hour, by God’s almighty, boundless power, be changed at his commanding.

The books are opened then to all, a record truly telling 
what each has done, both great and small, when He on earth was dwelling.
And every heart be clearly seen, and all be known as they have been in thoughts and words and actions. *

Then woe to those who scorned the Lord and sought but carnal pleasures,
who here despised His precious Word and loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand and at the judge’s stern command to Satan be delivered.

My Savior paid the debt I owe, and for my sin was smitten; 
Within the Book of Life I know my name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free, and Satan cannot threaten me; There is no condemnation!

May Christ our intercessor be and through his blood and merit
read from his book that we are free with all who life inherit.
Then we shall see him face to face, with all his saints in that blest place which he has purchased for us.

O Jesus Christ, do not delay, but hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way in fear and tribulation.
Oh, hear and grant our fervent plea; Come, mighty judge, and set us free from death and every evil.

* (I wonder about this – will our sins be public domain at the judgment? Isaiah 43:25 says ““I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” If God won’t remember, why would he have us and others remember our sins? Isaiah 54:4 says ““Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”  And, in Isaiah 65:17 it says ““See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”)

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Advent 2014, Lutheran

 

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Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers! 3rd Sunday of Advent – 14.12.14

Another Lutheran hymn for you on this Advent Sunday. It was our “hymn of the day” this morning. The text was written by Laurentias Laurenti in 1700, and was translated from German into English in 1854 for the hymn compilation Hymns from the Land of Luther. Laurenti was the music director at the cathedral in Bremen.

A true Advent text! I love the acknowledgement of the tough, dark side of waiting for Christ’s coming.

Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear.
The evening is advancing, and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising, and soon He draweth nigh.
Up, pray, and watch, and wrestle: At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning; replenish them with oil.
And wait for your salvation, the end of earthly toil.
The watchers on the mountain proclaim the Bridegroom near.
Go meet Him as He cometh, with alleluias clear.

O wise and holy virgins, now raise your voices higher,
Until in songs of triumph ye meet the angel choir.
The marriage feast is waiting, the gates wide open stand;
Rise up, ye heirs of glory, the Bridegroom is at hand.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that brings us unto Thee.

Ye saints, who here in patience your cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever, when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb ye shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him your diadems of gold!

 
 

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Home for Christmas? 2nd Friday of Advent – 14.12.12

BingHome. It’s all the more important during Christmastime. We hear it in those familiar songs, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”, and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

I’m trying to synthesize this warm notion of these holiday favorites with the words of Peter, who instructs us that, when we are born again in Christ, our definition of “home” changes. “Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims…” (1 Pet. 2:11).

ComoAs Christians, we’re not at home here. Home is somewhere else. During Advent, we long for the home – that final resting place we will experience when Jesus returns. So, it’s true – there’s no place like home for the holidays, and we really wish we could be there! In fact, the words from “I’ll Be Home” actually have a strikingly Adventy feel to them: “I am dreaming tonight of a place I love even more than I usually do … home … where the love light gleams.” Might those become words about our true home, the coming Kingdom?

Martin Luther picks up this notion, and drives it home with force: “You are to conduct yourselves as those who are no longer citizens of the world … since you are not of this world, act as a stranger in an inn – one who has not his possessions with him but procures food and gives his gold for it … we should use worldly blessings no more than is needful for health and appetite, and then leave them and go to another land. We are citizens of heaven; on earth we are pilgrims and guests.”

christmas pictures 005Joseph, Mary and Jesus were strangers at an inn. I’m sure they carried with them very little. They present a great Advent image of following the will of God even though it takes them away from their true home, with few possessions, all for the sake of fulfilling the divine plan of God. What happens to them in that obedience? They are blessed by a malleable innkeeper, stray shepherds, senior saints on the temple mount, and eventually by foreign astrologers who bring them amazing treasures, and divine direction to temporarily move to Egypt (which would have been harder to do with all of their possessions!). Stripped of their things and their relationships, they remain faithful, and God provides for them on their extraordinary journey.

Cozy Christmas ideals urge us to burrow into our houses all the more, and heap possessions on ourselves that often we don’t even need. We really do turn our houses into little slices of heaven. Ironically, the season which is designed to focus our hope on our real home can functionally turn our temporal prosperity into the idol of our worship.

new jerusalemWhat if, as an Advent exercise, we chose to purge instead of horde? To give instead of accumulate? To focus on the alien and stranger instead of isolate ourselves with our favorites?

Really, I’m not trying to be a downer! I just truly believe that there is something WAY better to be longing for than the best this world, and even this season, has to offer. When our hearts are gripped by that “home” the way our hearts can be gripped by the coziness of our Christmas celebrations, perhaps our spirits will be appropriately revitalized … the goal of Advent.

E     *     O

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Advent 2014, Eschatology

 

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Second Sunday of Advent – 14.12.07

St.-Ambrose (1)I have personally celebrated the seasons of the church calendar for decades. I have always been saddened by the lack of Advent-themed worship music in the contemporary Evangelical church world. But I have recently become a part of the Lutheran tradition, which has a wealth of Advent hymns! On the remaining Advent Sundays, I’ll share a few of my favorites.

Savior of the Nations, Come is a hymn text written by St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the great Doctors of the early church. It was written in the 4th century – and era when the church was crystalizing its theological understanding about the person and nature of Jesus in the incarnation (e.g., The Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the Nicene Creed, which we read together today in church). This hymn reflects those theological themes, which Ambrose championed strongly.

Savior of the nations, come! Virgin’s son, make here Your home!

Marvel now, O heaven and earth, that the Lord chose such a birth.

 

nativity-icon-1Not by human flesh and blood, by the Spirit of our God,

was the Word of God made flesh – woman’s offspring, pure and fresh.

 

Here a maid was found with child, yet remained a virgin mild.

In her womb this truth was sown: God was there upon His throne.

 

Then stepped forth the Lord of all from His pure and kingly hall;

God of God, yet fully man, His heroic course began.

 

250px-Nicaea_iconGod the Father was His source; Back to God He ran His course.

Into hell His road went down, back then to His throne and crown.

 

For You are the Father’s Son Who in flesh the victory won.

By Your mighty power make whole all our ills of flesh and soul.

 

From the manger newborn light shines in glory through the night.

Darkness there no more resides; In this light faith now abides.

 

Glory to the Father sing,

Glory to the Son our king.

Glory to the Spirit be now, and through eternity.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Advent 2014, ambrose, Early Church, Hope

 

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Advent 2014 with Peter and Martin

adventAdvent, 2014

This year for the Advent season, I will once again offer a daily blog. Some have used these blogs as seasonal devotionals that encourage them to remain focused in the appropriate, counter-cultural approach to the embrace of a classical Advent.

(…Which, by the way, is to enter into a season of preparation and hope. not carnal indulgence. Classically, Advent has been a season of elevated discipline and thoughtful preparation – “what would you do if you knew Jesus was returning on the 25th?” Our culture has taken the weeks before Christmas and turned them into a season of undisciplined license, particularly in terms of spending and diet. “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?” Perhaps not, if he comes during the holidays! So, rather than being duped to believe that unbridling our fleshly appetites is the path to happiness…believers in Christ, who know better, instead take the season to re-up their longing for lives well-lived – both in heaven to come, and on earth as it is in heaven.)

Luther TreeThis year, I’m going to spend time in a New Testament book that speaks much of our living hope in Christ, and to preparing one’s mind for action to live out the appropriate daily life as we await His coming. The book is 1 Peter. And, I’ll be walking through it with a commentary on that book from Martin Luther. You see, during the past year, I have sojourned over to the Lutheran tradition. So, to walk hand in hand with a newly-adopted spiritual father will be a real treat. And, knowing Dr. Luther, it will be quite challenging as well.

Welcome. And a blessed Advent season to you all.

Bill

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Lutherans, Pastors, Authority

Hosanna LutheranI worshiped with the local Lutherans today (LCMS). It was a very nice morning. The liturgy was rich, the hymnody stimulating, the preaching thoughtful, and the people seemingly very friendly. Though I don’t know it well, I was blessed to share the morning with this part of my family tree.

As a career pastor, I was struck by the wardrobe adorned by the leadership. The white robes, green sashes, crosses around the neck – it was clear who the consecrated ministers were. And there were several men adorned this way…which made me wonder about how leadership is chosen in this tradition.

what about pastorsSo, as I headed out, I picked up a publication in the foyer entitled “What About…Pastors.” In it, an explanation is given for what pastors are, what they do, how they are ordained, and how they should be treated. That’s when I stumbled on this quote from Luther’s Small Catechism:

Book-MartinLuthersCatechism-1868-Fair“When the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command…this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”

Wow.

I’ve been a leader in the church for a quarter century. Not only have I never been treated like this by the people I’ve led, but I have never expected this kind of response. Rather, I have always thought that no right-minded person would have the audacity to equate the validity of his or her leadership to being as valid as Christ’s. To do so would be an over-reach of one’s appropriate role, correct?

In this month’s edition of Christianity Today (Oct. 2013), there is a thoughtful article by Andy Crouch about the role of power in the church. In speaking about “power distance,” he juxtaposes those who create distance between themselves and those they lead through visible expressions of power (high distance), and those who try to look less powerful than they really are (low distance). He then remarks that, “America, today, is about as low power distance as it has ever been – and so is the American Church.”

pastor authorityI get this, and feel it. I remember from the days of my youth the bumper stickers on many hippie-driven cars and microbuses in Southern California that called us to “Question Authority.” That cultural ethos, coupled with some colossal leadership failures in the public world (Nixon, Bakker, Swaggert, Clinton, Edwards, Haggard, Weiner), have left us with little honor for, and therefore little allegiance to, our leaders. So, we’re uneasy when any leaders claim or flaunt their authority. (As an example…the image to the left is the first one that appears when I did an internet search for “pastor authority.” I think it represents our stereotypes well.)

Still, the Bible tells us that authority is both God-given, and very important. Peter tells us to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” This is for our protection, and our advantage, because they are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14). But not only do we miss a blessing if we are out from under authority, we are also in incredible danger. Peter tells us elsewhere that “the Lord knows how…to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Peter 2:9-10). Despising authority is an especially grievous offence to God – and it is standard practice in our 21st century western culture.

Francis ObedienceMy ancient and medieval brothers and sisters had an understanding of the value of obedience to authorities. The standard vow made by vocational monks and nuns was always to lives of poverty, chastity, and obedienceFrom the day they were received into the monastery, it was expected that they would give unquestioned obedience to their abbot or abbess – as a sign of their consecration to God Himself. We see that as strange today, don’t we? Do you think they would see our aversion of authority as even more troubling?

So…as I try to reconnect myself to the fullness of my Christian lineage, I do find myself longing to be under Biblcial, God-ordained authorities. I know there is blessing for me there. But where do I find it? Who truly has it, and might even expect it? Who exercises it well? And, if they do, whose expression of “power distance” is high enough that I can recognize it?

Lord, forgive me for despising authority. Teach me godly submission. May your church experience your provision of authority in increasingly healthy ways. For your honor’s sake, and for the blessings that are promised.

-EO

 
 

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