Monthly Archives: March 2010

Palm/Passion Sunday: “The Passion: A Place of Seeking and Saving”

Download it.

Listen to it:

Lenten Midweek VI: “The Trial: A Place of God’s Will”

Download it.

Listen to it:

The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Download it.

Listen to it:

Lenten Midweek V: “The Courtyard: A Place of Renewal”

Download it.

Listen to it:

Bishop and Christian*, March 2010

What follows are some passages from the Scriptures, from the Lutheran Confessions, and from a book by Adolf Köberle addressing the traditional Lenten disciplines (meaning, they are to discipline us for the rest of our lives, not just during Lent.)  I pray they are beneficial to you in your Lenten preparation.

[Jesus said:] “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…. [Jesus said:] “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21, ESV).

“And they said to him, ‘The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.’  And Jesus said to them, ‘Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:33-35, ESV). 

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get’” (Luke 18:11, ESV). 

See also: 2 Samuel 1:12; 12:15-23; Ezra 8:21-23; Joel 2:12-17; Matthew 4:2; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23

“For concerning the holy cross [the Evangelicals (Lutherans)] have always taught that Christians are obliged to suffer, and that this is proper and real, not contrived, mortification.  In addition, it is also taught that all are obliged to conduct themselves regarding bodily discipline, such as fasting and other work, in such a way as not to give an occasion to sin, but not as if they earned grace by such works.  Such bodily discipline should not be limited only to specific days but should be maintained continually” [cf. Luke 21:34; Mark 9:29; 1 Corinthians 9:27] (Augsburg Confession XXVI:31-34 [German Text; Kolb/Wengert 78]). 

“To be sure, we hold that repentance ought to produce good fruits on account of the glory and commandment of God and that good fruits, such as true fasting, true prayer, true almsgiving, and the like, have God’s command” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XII:139 [Kolb/Wengert 210]).

“With regard to the mortification of the flesh and discipline of the flesh, we teach—just as the [Augsburg] Confession states—that a genuine rather than a counterfeit death takes place through the cross and afflictions by which God exercises us….  Alongside this true putting to death, which takes place through the cross, a voluntary and necessary kind of exercise also exists, about which Christ [speaks in Luke 21:34]…and Paul [in 1 Corinthians 9:27]…. We should undertake these exercises not because they are devotional exercises that justify but as restraints on our flesh, lest satiety overcome us and render us complacent and lazy.  This results in people indulging the flesh and catering to its desires.  Such diligence must be constant, because God constantly commands it” (Apol. XV:45-47 [Kolb/Wengert 229-230]).

“Who, then, receives such [a] Sacrament worthily?” “Fasting and bodily preparation are indeed a fine outward training…” (SC, The Sacrament of the Altar, V).   

“Therefore the almsgiving that pleases God is that which follows rather than precedes reconciliation” (Apol. IV [Octavo Edition, Kolb/Wengert 163]). 

“Now follows the third part [after the Ten Commandments and the Creed], how we are to pray.  We are in such a situation that no one can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly, even though he or she has begun to believe.  Besides, the devil, along with the world and our flesh, resists them with all his power.  Consequently, nothing is so necessary as to call upon God incessantly and to drum into his ears our prayer that he may give, preserve, and increase in us faith and the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments and remove all that stands in our way and hinders us in this regard” (LC, III:2 [Kolb/Wengert 440-441]).  “The first thing to know is this: It is our duty to pray because of God’s command” (LC III:5).  “In the second place, what ought to impel and arouse us to pray all the more is the fact that God has made and affirmed a promise: that what we pray is a certain and sure thing” (LC III:19).  “This I say because I would like to see people learn again to pray properly and not act so crudely and coldly that they daily become more inept in praying.  This is just what the devil wants and works for with all his might, for he is well aware what damage and harm he suffers when prayer is used properly” (LC III:29).

“The motive for bodily discipline is no longer the mortification of nature because of contempt for it, but it becomes a disciplinary culture that springs from reverence for that body, which God has prepared to be a temple for His Spirit and which shall have a share in the resurrection” (Adolf Köberle, The Quest for Holiness [Evansville, IN: Ballast Press, 1999; reprint of 1938 ed.], 191). 

“There is an observation true to life in the statement of Claus Harms: ‘Whoever does not pray at determined times does not pray at undetermined ones.’  It is fanaticism and a disregard of our situation as sinners to think we can dispense with such a regulated custom, usage and rule of prayer.  If the observance of such order be lacking, if prayer is left to inner impulse or fancy, it will practically end, as a result of the slothfulness and lukewarmness of our nature, in omission” (Köberle, 175). 

“A Church that does not engage in works of love becomes a mere theory and perishes” (Köberle, 198). 

“The more unbridled the times become the more the freedom of the Christian must consist in surrendering his freedom and in abstinence rather than in the right of possessing and enjoying” (Köberle, 200).

 Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

Bishop and Christian*, February 2010

What about the General Confession?

The practice at Trinity and St. Paul’s has been to use a general confession and the absolution on Sundays when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, and an announcement of grace on the Sundays when we do not receive the Lord’s Body and Blood.  Before either of those confessions, we have (since I’ve been here) paused for a moment of silence prior to the confession.  Some people have wondered about this, so I’m going to take this space to give a little background to the practice of silence before the confession. 

In his book The Quest for Holiness, Adolf Köberle quotes the theologian Hermann Bezzel: “A general repentance is the death of repentance” (214).  That is, if we are content with the confession that we are “poor, miserable sinners” (which is true!), but forget how that general fact shows itself in specific and concrete sins, we will soon lose the absolute seriousness of our sin before God.  We do not sin generally, so we cannot confess sins generally (although we do confess sin generally).  To avoid the loss of repentance and real confession, we take a short time of silence prior to the confession.  This helps us focus on how our own sinfulness has shown itself in specific, sinful thoughts; in specific, sinful words; in specific, sinful actions.  We have actually damaged our relationships with God and with others, not generally, but specifically.  More than that, Jesus’ death and resurrection do not only forgive us generally; He died for specific sins. 

If you are not used to this time of silence, it may be hard at first to acquire the focus necessary for examination of yourself.  The amount of time may be too short, as well.  But because we know it is coming every single week, we should not wait until the actual moment of the confession to start thinking about what we are doing.  Right before the service starts, you may want to pray the prayer that is printed inside the front cover of your hymnal: “O Lord, my creator, redeemer, and comforter, as I come to worship You in spirit and in truth, I humbly pray that You would open my heart to the preaching of Your Word so that I may repent of my sins, believe in Jesus Christ as my only Savior, and grow in grace and holiness.  Hear me for the sake of His name.  Amen.”  You can also meditate on the Ten Commandments according to your vocation (wife, husband, child, etc.  See pp. 321-322, and 326.  (In order to allow people to do this, if you need to talk, please speak quietly in the sanctuary prior to the service.) 

If you are having trouble thinking of the words when it comes to the silence before the confession, try praying another prayer in the front of the hymnal (“Before confession and absolution”): “Almighty, everlasting God, for my many sins [here you may want to say, “especially…”] I justly deserve eternal condemnation.  In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, who won for me forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation.  Grant me a true confession that, dead to sin, I may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution.  Grant me Your Holy Spirit that I may ever be watchful and live a true and godly life in Your service; through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.”

All of this, however, is not meant as theological torture, but it is aimed at the absolution.  The primary reason for examining ourselves individually and recalling specific sins is that the absolution will be heard and trusted more firmly.  If sometimes you cannot recall particular sins during those few seconds of silence, that is okay.  “Do not trouble yourself or search for or invent other sins…mention one or two sins that you know and let that be enough” (LSB 292).  But view it as practice: lament your sin so that you may rejoice all the more in Christ’s absolution.  And if you are burdened by particular sins, individual confession and absolution is available every Saturday from 7-8 pm or by appointment.            

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

“Generous to a Fault”

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

 In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

            What kind of father is this, anyway?  Calling him “generous” would be putting it nicely.  Actually, he’s generous to a fault.  First he has a fire sale, selling off one-third of his property, or cattle, or flocks, and then he gives the proceeds to a son who, apparently, wishes the father was dead because he wants the inheritance now.  Then he lets his son go off to some distant, godless country to do who knows what, from the father’s perspective.  It’s like a scene from a movie where the main character has a drink in one hand and is surrounded by beautiful people, all laughing.  But slowly the room starts to spin, and everything slows down, and, at the end, he’s by himself, at his lowest point.  For the younger son, that point is out in the field with the pigs, about as unclean as it gets.  The son doesn’t think his father will be generous enough to take him back, so he decides to make a bargain that will at least put food in his stomach.  But when he’s still a long way off, his father sees him and runs out to him; no son of his is going to be seen like that, ragged and dirty and smelling like swine!  He won’t even hear the bargain or the excuses; he tells his slaves to get the best robe and put it on him, and put sandals on his feet, and the ring of the family back on his hand, and to kill the fattened calf; we must celebrate, because this son of mine was dead but is alive again; he was lost, but he is found.  So they go in and begin to celebrate.

Continue reading