Tag Archives: lutherans

Lutherans and Music

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This article, written by my husband, our Pastor was included in the congregation’s December newsletter.  If you would like to read more articles he has written, his blog is goodnewsforabadworld.wordpress.com 

The Lutheran Church has often been called “the singing church.” Prior to the Reformation there was no congregational singing in most worship services. What singing occurred was done by choirs and specially trained cantors. Martin Luther decided to change that and published the first hymnal in German with a number of hymns written by him and by his colleagues in the reform movement.

Luther was, himself, a talented musician who enjoyed playing and singing. His love of music led him to the belief that lay people, many of whom were illiterate at the time, could learn more about the faith by being taught to sing of the doctrines and truths of the Church during regular worship services. While other reformers encouraged only the singing of the Psalms, Luther’s work was much more expansive.

Over time a great tradition of hymnody developed in the Lutheran Churches and this was copied by others, especially in England and in the United States. Now the Church has thousands of hymns to choose from as part of its function as the teacher of the true faith.

It is important for us to maintain this tradition of hymnody. Without it we would, as a Church, be much the poorer. At St, Paul’s we are trying to expand our repertoire of hymns, searching for ones that, while they might be unfamiliar are, indeed, gems that we have yet to unearth.

Unfortunately, not all hymns in our hymnal are gems. Some of them are difficult to play and sing and a very few others have theological problems. When we try one of those less than stellar hymns and it doesn’t work well we have to decide if we’ll keep working on it or just drop it. But it’s a process. In the last 2 years we’ve used over 200 hymns in our worship. Some we’ll see again, some we won’t. But all singing is for the glory of God.

 

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Learning Grace: Book Learning #3

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We Lutherans are big on grace.  It’s one of the five “solas” of the reformation:  we are saved by grace alone.  If you’re interested in reading a spiritual autobiography about someone who believed in God’s grace in his life, check this one out:  it’s an easy read, I finished in one day..

Brennan Manning was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood to marry;  he eventually divorced;  he was an alcoholic who struggled with his addiction on and off throughout his life.  He made many mistakes.  He was also a writer, speaker, teacher and evangelist who touched many with his spiritual insights.  Throughout everything he continued to believe that God loves us, and extends grace to us, wherever we are in our lives.

“Like Christian, the everyman character in The Pilgrim’s Progress, he progressed not always by making right decisions, but by responding appropriately to wrong ones”

from “All is Grace” by Brennan Manning

I like this quote because isn’t it true of most of the “heroes” of the Bible, David, for instance?  His life was a mess, too.  He committed adultery and murder, among other things.  However, he was also “a man after God’s heart.”  He sinned, but he repented, he never turned away from God, he accepted what came from God’s hand, the good and the bad.  Like all of us, he was saint and sinner.  Just like Brennan Manning.  Just like you and me.

A Reformation Reading List

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You know I can’t let a month go by without recommending some reading.  I found this Reading List for Lutherans.  What could be more appropriate for our month on the Reformation.  Let us know if you plan to read some of these.

A Reading List for Lutherans Quality, Lay-Friendly Books That Will Stretch and Shape the Lutheran Mind Easy reading: *                    More challenging: **                    Really challenging, but worth it: *** prepared by Gene Edward Veith
BASIC LUTHERANISM Gene Veith. Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals.* I wrote this one. It’s the book that I wish I had found before I became a Lutheran. It explains the Lutheran distinctives and the richness of Lutheran spirituality in what I hope is a lucid and engaging way. Scot A. Kinnaman, ed. Lutheranism 101.* A comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to Lutheranism, written in form of short articles, sound-bites, sidebars and illustrations. J. T. Mueller. Christian Dogmatics.** A systematic survey of Lutheran doctrine, as understood by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, with Bible verses to back up every point. This is a summary of Francis Pieper’s fourvolume Christian Dogmatics. Steven D. Paulson. Lutheran Theology.*** Some may think Lutheranism is staid and respectable, but this book shows just how radical and mind-blowing Lutheranism — with its teachings about the Law and Gospel, the Word and Sacraments — really is.
THE CONFESSIONS The Book of Concord. As the definitive authority in all things Lutheran, this book is in a category by itself. The creeds and the catechisms*; the Lutheran Confessions of faith (Augsburg, Smalcald Articles, Formula of Concord, Treatise on the Primacy of the Pope)**; the extended defenses of those Confessions (the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord***.
LUTHERAN CLASSICS C. F. W. Walther. Law & Gospel. ** The founder of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod explains to 19th-century seminary students how to properly distinguish the Law and the Gospel and how to preach them so as to bring sinners to Christ. This book offers both stimulating theology as it lays out the distinctive Lutheran approach to Scripture and comforting devotional reading as it plumbs the depths of what Christ has done for us. Bo Giertz. The Hammer of God.* This is a novel by a Swedish bishop, depicting three generations of Lutheran pastors, who each have to deal with the religious fads of their day — pietism, rationalism, liberalism — ultimately finding in their ministries the strength of Lutheran orthodoxy. Martin Chemnitz. The Two Natures in Christ.*** Chemnitz is second only to Luther among the great Lutheran theologians. His brilliant work on Christology — dealing with the incarnation, whereby Christ who is truly God and truly man atones for our sins and the “communication of the attributes,” whereby Christ’s body and blood are truly present in Holy Communion — is a hallmark of Lutheran theology. Charles Porterfield Krauth. The Conservative Reformation.** Written in 1871 by an American Lutheran scholar, this book is a masterpiece of historical theology, showing the differences between the conservative Reformation of the Lutherans and the more radical Reformation of the Calvinists and Anabaptists. Moreover, it shows how those differences remain important today.
WORKS BY MARTIN LUTHER The Freedom of the Christian.** This early work by the Reformer proclaims the freedom we have in the Gospel. It also lays the groundwork for Luther’s doctrine of vocation. This treatise sets forth the classic paradox of the Christian life: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” And it teaches how we are to be “little Christs to each other.” Sermons.* Luther is among the most pastoral of theologians, and his many published sermons show him as a vivid expositor of God’s Word and, for all of the polemical fury that sometimes breaks out, as a compassionate minister to troubled souls. In his sermons, we often see Luther’s humor as well as his wisdom as he applies God’s Word to the ordinary people of his time.
Letters of Spiritual Counsel.* Here we see Luther’s pastoral heart, as he offers spiritual counsel to ordinary Christians of his day who struggle with some of the same issues that we do today. Commentaries.** Luther’s theology is drawn from the Bible, so his Bible commentaries are some of his profoundest works. Two good places to start are his Commentary on Galatians, which is a sustained critique of works righteousness, and his Commentary on Romans, whose explanation of justification by grace through faith led to the conversion of John Bunyan and John Wesley. His commentaries on the Psalms make rich devotional reading and his multi-volume Commentary on Genesis contains, among other things, a thorough treatment of vocation and the Christian’s life in the world. Bondage of the Will.*** This full-throated argument against the humanism of the Renaissance genius Erasmus is considered some of Luther’s greatest theological writing, but it is not for the faint of heart.
BIOGRAPHIES OF MARTIN LUTHER Roland Bainton. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.* This is an acknowledged masterpiece of the art of biography — compelling, easy-to-read and insightful into Luther’s tumultuous life and times. Martin Brecht. Martin Luther. 3 vols.** This exhaustive multi-volume treatment is the definitive scholarly biography of Luther. Heiko Oberman. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil.*** A deep psychological and spiritual treatment of Luther.
LUTHERAN THEOLOGY Hermann Sasse. We Confess Anthology.** This German theologian defied Adolf Hitler and his attempts to Nazify the Christian Church. He later emigrated to Australia, where he served as a seminary professor and as a major influence on confessional Lutheranism around the world. This book collects a number of Sasse’s works on Christ, the Sacraments and contemporary theological issues. See also the two volume collection of Sasse’s letters and essays, The Lonely Way. Francis Pieper, Church Dogmatics. 4 vols.** The definitive systematic theology for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, sketching out each topic in detail with full Scriptural evidence. Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics.** An ongoing series of volumes — six so far with more to come — by different authors, updating Pieper’s work and addressing contemporary theological issues. Oswald Bayer. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation.*** A distinguished contemporary theologian shows how Luther’s theology addresses modern and postmodern thought in a sophisticated way. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand. The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Theology for the Contemporary Church.* Two major LCMS scholars of the Lutheran Confessions show their relevance and that of Luther to contemporary issues in the Church.
VOCATION Gene Veith. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.* My book explores Luther’s doctrine of vocation on a popular level. Paul Althaus. Ethics of Martin Luther.** An important theological scholar explores Luther’s teachings about life in the world, including both Luther’s doctrine of vocation and his doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Gustav Wingren. Luther on Vocation.*** The key book on vocation with paradigm-shifting insights on every page.
THEOLOGY OF THE CROSS Richard C. Eyer. Pastoral Care under the Cross: God in the Midst of Suffering.* A hospital chaplain tells about how he applies Luther’s theology of the cross — as opposed to the more common “theology of glory” — as he ministers to the sick, the suffering and the dying. Alister E. McGrath. Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough.** A prominent British theologian explores the centrality of the theology of the cross in Luther’s life and thought. Gerhard Forde. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.*** A sometimes controversial theologian, an advocate of what he called “radical Lutheranism” explores some of Luther’s most radical ideas. In addition to Forde’s commentary, the book includes an edition of Luther’s Heidelberg Theses, in which the reformer outlined his teachings about how God comes to us in suffering and weakness, rather than in success

Just for (Lutheran) Fun

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Yes, Lutherans do have fun!

How much do you really know about Lutherans?  Go to this website and take the quiz, How Lutheran are you?

http://www.gotoquiz.com/how_lutheran_are_you

Tell us how you did!

Don’t know the answers?  Then it is a great opportunity for studying!  Ask your Pastor or other Lutheran friends to help you learn the answers.

Who are these Free Lutherans?

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I thought since our theme this month is freedom, it might be a good time to talk a little about Free Lutherans.  When I was younger, I didn’t know there were different kinds of Lutherans, but there are actually  quite a number of Lutheran denominations.  Sometimes the history goes back to different countries or ethnic groups (in our case, Norwegian) and different ideas about church polity (that means how the church should be organized).

The Bible verse on our church banner says:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom 2 Corinthians 3:17

You can read the history of Free Lutherans by clicking on “AFLC” at the top of our home page, so I am not going to go into that here.  Instead I will just tell you that a big difference in our denomination is organization.  We are not a Synod, just an association.  The final human authority is vested in the local congregation, subject to the word of God and the Holy Spirit.  This means each congregation is free to decide most things on their own:  decisions made at the annual conference are “suggestions” and not binding.  We are not assessed any contributions for the larger organization, whatever they receive is given freely by congregations and individuals.  We are not “sent” a pastor or even required to choose a pastor from the AFLC clergy rolls.

Yes, we are one of those groups who consider the Bible infallible and we agree to accept the standard Christian creeds and Lutheran confessions.  Freedom does not mean believing anything you want.

We have a seminary, a Bible school, publications of our own, missionaries, home missionaries and an evangelism department.  They are separately incorporated entities, with boards that are elected at the annual AFLC conference.  And here’s another thing–anyone from an AFLC congregation who goes to the conference can speak and vote on any issue.  There are no designated delegates.  In fact, at the conference there is a great deal of prayer and fellowship: it is regarded as a time of spiritual refreshment instead of just a business meeting.  Anyone is free to attend.

What does all this freedom mean? Like the quotes I have been posting, it’s something of a paradox.  More freedom means more responsibility.  The congregation must make decisions for itself.  They decide how much to give and which ministries to support.  They decide who to call as a Pastor.  They decide what the worship service will be like.  They can decide whenever they wish, to terminate their association with the AFLC and associate with a different group.

That being said, the larger organization is there to help and advise.  Our congregation has received visits from three AFLC presidents, the chairmen of the Mission and Home Mission Departments, students from the Bible School and others.

I hope this has given you a taste of why we are free Lutherans and if you have further interest please visit our church website (or our church if you live in our area), the AFLC website, or email us at freelutherans@myactv.net.

 

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;  and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;  and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Matthew 5:38-41

In this verse, Jesus is telling us not to seek revenge, but to forgive and even do good to the person who has wronged us.  I guess I have always looked at that as my Christian “duty.”  Something I was required to do instead of what I really wanted to do.  Recently I decided I am thinking about it the wrong way.  What if I made it gospel instead of law?  (Lutherans love to talk about the difference).  This kind of situation gives me a chance to show God’s grace to someone.

My husband loves to tell a story about our good friend, Gary.  Gary and his family had moved to a house they were renting.  The first evening they were there, the renter of the other half of the house came home and Gary went out to greet him and introduce himself.  His neighbor responded with curses and a basic message of “leave me alone.”  Gary’s response?  “Gee, you must have had a terrible day, what’s wrong?”  The two became friends because Gary saw his neighbor’s rudeness as an opportunity to share God’s love.  He let him see Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance in the actions of another person.

How often do I let this same opportunity pass?

 

Spiritually Reborn in Baptism

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Most Lutherans, like Michele, would say their faith story started with baptism, usually as an infant or small child.  We believe that in baptism we are reborn as God’s child through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work, not ours. Here is what Luther says about the spiritual benefits of baptism in his Small Catechism:

What is Baptism?
Baptism is not just water, but it is the water used according to God’s command and connected with His Word.

What is that Word and command of God concerning Bap­tism?
Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20.

The Blessings of Baptism

What does Baptism give or profit?
Baptism effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, just as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are these words and promises of God?
Christ our Lord says, Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The Power of Baptism

How can water do such great things?
It is not the water that does these things, but the Word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without the Word of God the water is simply water, and no baptism; but with the Word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says, Titus 3:5-8: “According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”

The Meaning of Baptism

What does such baptizing with water mean?
Such baptizing with water means that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts; and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?
St. Paul writes, Romans 6:4: “We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that just as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

 

 

 

 

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