4/30/18

Ways the Gospel is at the heart of our liturgy

1) Invocation:  The words “In the name of the Father and of Son and of the Holy Spirit”, which are quoted from the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28:19, recall us to our baptism. And what takes place at our baptism, through faith? We have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16). We have our sins forgiven (Acts 2:38). We have Christ of whom we called on, clothed with and joined to His death and resurrection (Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:26-27, Romans 6:1-4, Colossians 2:11-13). We are saved by His resurrection (1 Peter 3:21). In other words, we have the Gospel that says in Christ, we are forgiven sinners, who have the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

2) Confession: Even as we confess we are sinners (which the law in its mirror use continues to make us aware of that fact), asking as the tax collector did (Luke 18:13), to have mercy on us sinners, we speak the words of the gospel as well when we say that this is for the sake of Christ who paid for all our sins (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:1-2).

3) Absolution: The words of the pastor forgiving our sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit recall us, as did the Invocation, to our baptism. Such words also guard our assurance that we are indeed given forgiveness continually. That is the gospel authority given in John 20:22. That is why right before pronouncing forgiveness, the pastor would cite such verse and/or refer to passages referring to Christ’s death for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We hear the words of the Gospel, in other words.

4) Prayer of the Day: We acknowledge Christ crucified for our sins (staying focus on the Gospel) as to whom we are in, even as we pray that we be sanctified unto good works. And we pray acknowledging that Jesus is, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit worshipped and glorified, echoing the faith of Polycarp, the Nicene creed and others through the ages, who were baptized children of God, in Christ crucified (Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:4-6, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Philippians 2:13).

5) Bible readings: With the mindset all Scriptures point to Christ, we hear the words from whole paragraphs of different passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament in addition to from the Gospels, of which we stand for to honor the words and actions of our Savior because of the Gospel He gives us.

6) Creed: Every time we speak the words, we both say and hear the Gospel that Christ was crucified and rose again. That is also true when we say (from the Nicene Creed) our belief in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16, Ephesians 4:4-6), which is gospel to us.

7) Lord’s Prayer: Whenever we pray to our Father, we do so as children of God precisely because we are saved by the Gospel (John 1:12-13). In Christ, God accepts and hears our prayers John 16:23). Whenever we ask to give us our daily bread, we are asking not just for physical food but also for the Bread of Life to give us His word (Matthew 6:11, John 6:48-51). And when we say forgive us our trespasses we do so knowing we have that forgiveness because of what Christ did for us (1 John 1:9, 2:2). We have that certainty the Gospel is for us.


8) Preface: We recall Christ’s promise that He would be with us to the end of the ages, and words of prayer are spoken on our behalf thanking God the Father for all things, acknowledging we have access to Him through Christ who by His sacrifice took away the sin of the world (Matthew 28:20, John 1:29).

9) Sanctus: Because we have the gospel of forgiveness won for us by Christ at the Cross, we can with all the saints on earth and hosts of heaven praise God’s holy name and sing this glorious song (Isaiah 6:3). And as in Palm Sunday, the words “hosanna in the highest” are sung to our Lord knowing we are blessed in Him by the fact we are justified in Him alone who bore the curses due us at the Cross (Matthew 21:9, Galatians 3:13).

10) Words of Institution/Distribution: This is Christ’s body given for us and this is Christ’s blood poured out for forgiveness are what we hear (Matthew 26:26-28). We have that Gospel spoken to us. The good news come to us in tangible means. We get to commune on the very body and blood that provided our forgiveness at the Cross, that what was won for us may be delivered to us to continually assure us that we are in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

11) Agnus Dei: In singing the words from John 1:29 in regards to Christ being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that Paul wrote is the gospel, we have our minds and hearts set on that we are about to receive His person in the sacrament (1 Corinthians 15:2-3). Jesus has come to us to continually give us His peace, which is not as the world gives, but the peace with God through His saving work for us  (John 14:27, Romans 5:1-5).

12) Song of Simeon: Just as Simeon acknowledged he was before the true presence of God Incarnate, we sing that same acknowledge that we truly were in His true and substantial presence (Luke 2:28-32). And we can depart as His servants in peace with the forgiveness He gives us with His body and blood we had just communed on and with our faith strengthened in Him by the Visible Gospel (what we call the Sacrament).

13) Benediction: In Christ, we have His blessing that we are justified sinners . It is this gospel that gives us peace in Him, by the grace of God that saves us. We pray God keeps us in the saving grace of the gospel He gives us in Christ, as we go our way (Numbers 6:22-26).

Here we stand.

4/23/18

Remembering your baptism through our liturgy

Ways the Lutheran liturgy helps us remember our baptism:

1) Invocation: the words “in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit” recall our baptism which is administered to us in that name as the object of our faith.

2) Confession of sins: when we confess our sins out of contrition or sorrow for our sins and ask God to forgive us for Christ’s sake, we are living out our daily baptism which really is daily repentance. We also remember the promise that is given unto us in baptism which is Christ died for our sins.

3) Words of Absolution: we hear Christ crucified as in whom there is no condemnation, which is the baptismal promise we received and continued to look to. More, the words forgive us our sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which (as is the case with the invocation) recalls our baptism in regards to the name it is administered in.

4) Prayer of the Day: we pray for our daily renewal (which is our daily baptism), trusting in our Savior of whom we are clothed with in our baptism. And we give thanks to our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which once again recalls the Trinity as object of our baptismal faith.

5) Bible readings and sermon: since baptism is really God’s word to us, not just water, hearing God’s word read regularly from selective parts of the Old and New Testaments serve as means to nourish us in our baptismal faith in God’s word, especially in the gospels of which we stand to give honor to the words and actions of Christ, whom we are joined to in baptism.

6) Creed: in speaking the creed out loud we recall our baptismal faith in the Trinity, as well continue to confess to our trust in the baptismal promises of Christ’s forgiveness won at the Cross for us and reception of the Holy Spirit. That is particularly true when we confess to one baptism for the forgiveness of sins in the Nicene Creed.

7) Lord’s Prayer: as baptized children of God, forgiven of our sins, for Christ’s sake, we have access to our Heavenly Father, we can ask in prayer of Him. Asking Him to forgive us our sins recall His baptismal promise to do exactly that and saying we forgive those who sinned against us recalls our baptismal regeneration that makes us a new creation who can forgive since we have been forgiven in holy baptism of infinitely more sins.

8) Preface: we have the baptismal promises God is with us, we can as baptized children, in Christ, give Him thanks, and in unity with all those baptized into Christ and saved in Him we can glorify Him for saving us.

9) Sanctus: in glorying God for saving us, by His power and mighty we recall our baptism when He indeed saved us and continues to save us, by freeing us from bondage to sin.

10) Words of Institution/Distribution: we are given the word that the body of Christ is given for us and the blood of Christ is poured out to forgive us our sins, and in receiving the forgiveness Christ delivers us, our baptismal faith that we are forgiven sinners in Christ is strengthened.

11) Agnus Dei: in singing John 1:29 out loud, we are singing of the baptismal faith we daily possess that Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God that takes away our sin, and baptism provides us the means of receiving what He did for us and gives us the faith to receive our Savior in the Lamb’s Supper.

12) Song of Simeon: baptism and communion alike give us what Simeon and others in the gospels got and that is be in the real presence of Christ. And like Simeon, we have Christ’s peace and assurance we are His as baptized children of God who partake of Christ’s body and blood to strengthen that baptismal assurance.

13) Benediction: we say we are baptized not just we were baptized because our baptism stays with us daily in regards to God keeping us daily in Christ, blessing us with His justification and giving us His peace that Christ can only give us.

Here we stand.

1/8/18

THERE IS NO "MAY" IN THE GOSPEL

I have observed the various "absolutions" in different sacramental traditions. And although the liturgies are similar to ours as Lutherans, there is a yuuuuge difference.


The word "may."


The Lutheran Absolution is clear: Your sins *are* forgiven.


But other sacramental traditions, in their "absolution", say "May God forgive your sins and bring you to eternal life."


This is no small difference.


We sinners need assurance. Comfort. Certainty.


Imagine telling someone who cannot find their child that the police and search party "may" have found them.


Is that comforting?


No.


We sinners need to know for *certain* that our sins *are* forgiven.


Lutheranism alone has this pure Gospel.

10/9/17

THE LUTHERAN REFORMATION: THE DIFFERENCES STILL MATTER

It is the month of October, 2017, and we are about to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church.


Over the past 500 years, Rome has not taken back her dogmas from her Council of Trent.


And over the past 500 years, the Zwinglians and the Calvinists have remained firm in their doctrines.


500 years later, the differences still matter.


Here's why.


WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT JUSTIFICATION?


Martin Luther's concern was always pastoral in nature. His concern was for Christian assurance and comfort. Rome had placed the focus of salvation on works and merit, and turned the Sacraments into law. The Sacraments were supposed to be comfort. Instead, Rome had turned them into works that we did for God.


Rome views the doctrine of justification, still to this day, as infused righteousness in our hearts through which we cooperate with God toward charity toward final salvation. Although sins are forgiven at Baptism for Rome, one still has to cooperate with the infused grace given to them in the Sacraments to merit eternal life, albeit this merit is considered gracious.


Luther rightly saw that this still turns salvation into a work of man. If I am constantly worrying about striving to cooperate, or to be good enough, then this will leave me no assurance.


Luther saw sin for what it is--a condition of the heart. Rome sees it primarily as actions, and does not see sinful desire (concupiscence) as sin.


Luther believed it is the heart that needs to be justified. Not actions.


Therefore, for Luther, justification had to be a free and gracious act of God, whereby God declares the sinner righteous completely because of what Christ did for him on the Cross. After our sins are forgiven, we still have need of constant forgiveness. We remain sinners after we are saved. Luther said we are "simul iustus et peccator"--at the same time justified and sinners.


To ignore this fact is to not deal in the real world, and is to soften sin and its utter sinfulness.


WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THE SACRAMENTS?


But as Luther was dealing with Rome's errors on one side, he was also dealing with the errors of the sacramentarians on the other side. Today's reformed and evangelicals, although they have different understandings of the sacraments, nonetheless agree that God is not always present in the Sacraments to forgive, all the time. The evangelicals and Baptists see baptism and the supper as mere memorials or remembrances of what Christ did for us; the reformed see them as mere covenant signs that may or may not have grace present to effect salvation, but this only for the elect.


For Luther, this came down to the following question: Is God gracious?


How do I know that I have a gracious God?


Luther saw that God does not want us to look to His strange work or to the hidden G-d in creation. But God wants us to look at and see His heart in Jesus at the Cross, and delivered to us in the Sacraments as pure Gospel.


For Luther, Christ is always in the Sacraments graciously forgiving, because His Word forgives, and His Sacraments are His visible Word.


This is why confessional Lutherans also consider Absolution a Sacrament as well. (See the Apology.)


So Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and the Holy Supper are truly Sacraments because they truly forgive and effect forgiveness. Every time. All the time.


ROME, EVANGELICALS, AND THE REFORMED ARE THE SAME


We can see in the above that, although the various theological nuances can be differentiated, Rome, evangelicals, and the reformed share in common the denial of the gracious nature of God's Word. For Luther, it came down to nothing less than this:


God's Word does what it says.


No qualifications. No reinterpretations.


Rome denies that God is that gracious in justification.


The reformed and evangelicals deny that God is that gracious in the Sacraments.


LET IT BE ENOUGH FOR YOU THAT YOU HAVE A GRACIOUS GOD


To this day, only the Lutheran faith, by God's grace alone, recognizes the beauty of this Good News. God continues to be gracious and forgiving. He knows that we always need forgiveness.


In a day where many so-called Lutherans tend to flirt with Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy, the Lutheran Reformation still matters.


In a day where Calvinists and Baptists try to say that they are really "not that different" from Lutherans, the Lutheran Reformation still matters.


It is all about assurance and comfort.


How do we know we have a gracious God?


Because God's Word does what it says.


It gives forgiveness, life, and salvation.


All the time.


For you.


For me.