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.”

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