Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Big 4-0

Well, I have officially moved into that stage of life that has traditionally been called middle-aged. However, all I hear now is that 40 is the new 30. And, since I don't know how long I am going to live, I don't know if I am at the half-way mark or not! Maybe not, since I have a lot of grandparents who lived/are living a long time. Anyway, what I do know is that I am thankful for another year of life. There is nowhere I would rather be than right here, with the people, places, and things that entails. Most of all I am thankful for the forgiveness of sins, so I can look forward to being with Christ forever, and not just back on all of my sins. One thing I do know: every day is one day closer to seeing Jesus face-to-face. Now that is something to look forward to!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Glory of God in the Face of Christ

Phillip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Phillip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" John 14:8-10a

How do we know what God is like? Look to Jesus. This Jesus, who healed the sick, raised the dead, drove the moneychangers out of the temple, rebuked the Pharisees, washed the feet of the disciples, instructed and fed the multitudes, fulfilled the Law perfectly, sweat drops of blood, and died on the cross for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." (Hebrews 1:3a).

God is not a cold, distant being, concerned with self-promotion. God came to us in Christ, as a lowly servant. God still comes to us through His unchanging Word, by His Spirit speaking faith into our cold, lifeless hearts (Romans 10:17,Eph. 2:1,Hebrews 13:8). He forgives us our sins for Christ's sake, coming to us in our Baptism and in Holy Communion in physical means connected to His Word. He is still a servant, despised and rejected. In His servanthood His glory is found. This is what Lutherans refer to as the theology of the cross: God, the creator of the universe- holy, holy, holy-would condescend to serve us poor, miserable sinners.

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:24

What does this mean for the Christian? Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Christianity is about Christ, not how great of a Christian life I can live, or the "look what Christ has done for me, don't you want Him to do it for you?" type of mentality. Or trying to climb to higher levels of holiness, without concern for loving the neighbor. That is the theology of glory. The only advertisement for Christianity that my life can be is summed up in the phrase, "I am a poor miserable sinner, ask me how." That is the only thing I am good at! But I can tell you about the one who died for the sins of the whole world, and who still forgives me. I am a baptized child of God, and can return to my baptism daily in contrition and repentance! Good works flow from the forgiveness God gives us in Christ. The Christian is continually convicted by the Law, and forgiven by the Gospel. Out of Christ's service to us, we love and serve our neighbor. This is the Christian life, according to the theology of the Cross.

"Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.'" John 15:20

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stan's Update

Well, we have been in Indiana for several months now, and I can honestly say that this has been an incredible journey so far. Words like “amazing”, “frightening”, “humbling”, “gut-wrenching”, “inspiring”, all come to mind. But despite our feelings, we are firmly convinced that God has guided us here. Concordia Theological Seminary is a fabulous place to learn and I am honored to be here and sit at the feet of some of the greatest theological minds around. Here's a brief summary of what I studied last quarter....

New Testament Greek: There's no way I can effectively express the experience I had last fall in words. I have told many people that it was like trying to take a drink from an open fire hyrdrant without getting washed away. I know that my Greek skills pale in comparison with many of my younger colleagues. (I try very hard not to be envious of the guys who can “sight translate” text “cold”!) But it is still an honor and privilege to continue learning God's Word in its original tongue. If I had more time, I would try “auditing” the 10 week course to help fill in some of the gaps that happened when I was sick. So much that I missed then. Maybe next year...

Gospels I (Matthew): One word: “WOW!” For so long, I had viewed the four gospels as merely a set of chronological discourses of the life and teachings of Jesus. One of the most renown scholars on the gospel of Matthew challenges you to dispel this belief. When you consider the likelihood that Matthew (as well as the other authors) wrote his gospel with the intention to use it for catechesis (teaching), and that the text is arranged in more by topic or subject matter, you start seeing familiar passages in a different light. Book recommendation: “Discourses in Matthew”, by Dr. David Scaer.
Dr. Scaer is well-known in Lutheran as well as non-Lutheran theological circles and has published numerous books and journal articles.

Church History I: One of the more pertinent things I learned is that God is actively creating and interacting with His creation, and it is through the Person of the Logos (Word) He does this. Also, the forms of error that attack the Church today are essentially the same as it was back in the days of the early Church – it's just more high-tech. Gnosticism, for example, is not something that only happened “way back when”. Forms of it are very much alive today, even in some spiritual expressions that (sadly) some people think are compatible with Christianity. The “gospel” according “Oprah” or “Olsteen” are prime examples.

Liturgics I: Another “WOW!” I had a deep appreciation for liturgical worship when I came to seminary, but after this course, I have almost fallen in love with it. I already knew that the Liturgy is firmly grounded in Scripture, but to think that some parts of it are dated back to Christian worship of 500 AD or earlier is mind-boggling. Here are some examples:
• The Introit – 500 AD
• Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might”) – 350 AD
• Gloria in Excelsis “Glory to God in the highest” – 500 AD (put into regular use around 1100 AD)
• Salutation (“The Lord be with you”... “and with thy Spirit”) - 300 AD
• The Collect – 500 -700 AD; some of these historic collects of prayer continue to be used today.
• Scripture Reading – Ancient Jewish custom in synagogues, continued in Christian Church
• “Alleluias”, used in association with the Gospel reading: 300 AD
• Nicene Creed – 451 AD
• Sermon - like the reading of Scripture and the “Prayers of the Church”, exposition of the Word of God was inherited from the worship of the Jewish synagogue. The decline of preaching during the Middle Ages was one of Luther's charges of “abuses of the Church”.

Book recommendation: “Heaven on Earth”, by Dr. Arthur Just – Get this book. His insights on the liturgy and its biblical ties to Word and Sacrament are incredible.

Dogmatics: A very challenging course, but well worth the time spent. Much of the time was spent with theological writings by great dogmaticians such as Francis Pieper, John Mueller, and Robert Preus; are great resources to have when learning (and eventually teaching) about subjects such as the Holy Trinity, Divine Providence, Authority of Scripture, Positive and Negative Attributes of God (yes, “negative”... but it's not what you're thinking!). I had a great time writing a paper comparing the viewpoints of Robert Preus and Arthur Piepkorn on the question of the inerrancy of Scripture.

My lineup for Spring quarter:
• Gospels II (Luke and Mark)
• Theologia – Baptism
• Homiletics I
• Confessing Christ in Today's World
• N.T. Greek Readings (yes, more!)

Also, I am so very grateful to so many of you who have been regularly praying for me and my family. Special thanks to our church family at Christ Lutheran in Kansas City. Thank you so much! To God be the glory!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He Is Risen!

Jesus lives! The victory's won!
Death no longer can appall me;
Jesus lives! Death's reign is done!
From the grave will Christ recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence;
This shall be my confidence!

Jesus lives! I know full well
Nothing me from Him shall sever.
Neither death nor powers of hell
Part me now from Christ forever.
God will be my sure defense;
This shall be my confidence.
Jesus Lives! The Victory's Won (LSB #490 vs. 1 and 4)