"Over against all that reason suggests or would measure and fathom, yes, all that our senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it."


- Martin Luther




Luther's Rose


I wish most importantly to state a case for Christ and His Cross for the unbeliever, but I also wish to make the case for both the unbeliever and the "blessedly inconsistent" towards the true apostolic and catholic teachings of the blessed and orthodox Lutheran Church.



SOLI DEO GLORIA



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What follows are two very well done Gospel sermons addressing the odd phenomenon of Lutheran Pastors abandoning, and in many cases bewildering, their congregation, let alone abandoning the pure doctrine of the Lutheran Confessions to head east. These sermons are a great explanation of what being a theologian of the cross is all about.





FOR THOSE WHO DIDN’T SWIM


Rev. Albert Collver, Ph.D.
Pastor, Hope Lutheran Church, DeWitt, MI
Assistant Visiting Professor, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, MI

In recent years a number of prominent Lutherans have left behind the Lutheran confession for either Rome or Constantinople. Many are well acquainted with Richard Neuhaus’ journey to Roman Catholicism, and with Jaroslav Pelican’s pilgrimage to the Orthodox. Recently we have heard of the “brain” drain from the Lutheran tradition; how the best minds are going elsewhere. If one holds that the Lutheran confession is true, as I do, one wonders if these are really the best minds, for if they were, would they be leaving? Occasionally, one hears of individual Lutheran pastors swimming across the Tiber or the Bosphorus River. Although these pastors receive at least a moderate amount of notice, little is said of those congregations who are confused, hurt, and feel betrayed. Some of these congregations even wonder if they are still church. When the pastor leaves for Rome or Constantinople, some of the congregation follows,causing even more divisions and strife.

The following sermon and essay were delivered to Epiphany Lutheran Church in Dorr, MI, on August 28, 2005 after their pastor left for the Antiochian Orthodox Church. It is offered in the hope that it may be helpful to others.

-- ABC3+

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I.N.I.

Matthew 16:21-26

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “traitor”? If you are an American, the word “traitor” and “Benedict Arnold” are nearly synonymous. Arnold was a man who worked his way up to the top of the Colonial military establishment. He began as an enlisted man, eventually becoming a general in the continental army. He fought bravely and won many victories against the British. He also had a number of set backs in his personal life and career which made him a bitter man. Eventually, this once trusted hero of the American cause switched his loyalties. His former friends became his enemies, while his former enemy became his friend. General Arnold petitioned to become the commander of West Point. Because of the trust General Washington had for Arnold, he was given this command. Only Arnold’s intentions were not pure; for he planned to surrender the fort to the British, dealing his former friends a blow that might have changed the outcome of the war. His treachery was discovered before the damage done. Benedict Arnold lived out his days embittered with remorse and as long as the United States remains his name will be associated with “traitor.”

The world has had its share of “traitors”, men and women who have betrayed each other for some cause, for some gain, or for love. The thing about traitors is that they oftentimes were heroes and even considered great or the best of the best before changing sides. Perhaps, you have suffered at the hand of a “Benedict Arnold” in your lifetime. Perhaps, you have felt betrayed by a person, a friend, or an institution. A secret shared was revealed – betraying your trust. A common cause was forsaken. It hurts to be betrayed. Perhaps you have even betrayed another person yourself and had to live with regret and remorse.

In the Gospel lesson for today, we hear of something worse than betrayal. Peter becomes worse than a traitor. Peter does anti-Christ. He opposes Christ and joins forces with Satan. What a dramatic change from last week’s Gospel lesson when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ.

In last week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus asked Peter what the crowds were saying about Jesus. He seemed at the top of his game being compared to famous prophets and men of God from the past. Jesus seemed destined for success. When Jesus asked the question, Peter got the answer right. He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Peter was commended for his confession. Jesus also promised to build his church on the rock, that is, the confession that he is the Christ.

In the reading for today, which may have happened only moments after Peter made the confession that Jesus is the Christ, we see something different. Jesus tells his disciples what is about to take place. The future Jesus describes does not match up with Peter’s vision. Jesus told his disciples that he would go to Jerusalem to suffer many things. He told his disciples that he would be rejected by all the power-brokers of the day. He told his disciples that he would die and then rise again on the third day. Peter could not stand to hear what was about to happen to Jesus. His visions of grandeur, of Jesus ruling majestically in Jerusalem – no doubt with the twelve disciples seated next to him – was shattered. Peter had no use for a Jesus who would be rejected,suffer, and die. So Peter did anti-Christ; he joined forces with Satan to oppose Jesus.

The future Jesus described for himself was one of humility, suffering, rejection, betrayal,and death. Jesus told of a future any person would try to avoid at all costs. Who would knowingly walk to death when death could be avoided simply by taking a different path? Who would willingly face public humiliation when it could easily be avoided? Who would submit to terrible suffering? Who would follow a leader that told his disciples that grief, suffering, and death awaited? Not Peter. He had much grander plans for Jesus. And so it is often with us. We do anti-Christ when we go against how Jesus would be Lord to us and to his church, when we go against being transformed into his image, into the image of the cross.

The Lord’s church, the Lord’s people, are made and formed in his image. The church takes on the image of her Savior Jesus. In this life, the image of Jesus that we see is of him suffering and dying on the cross. This is not a pretty picture. The world does not want to see a suffering Jesus. This is why St. Paul wrote, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17) The cross of Jesus never makes sense to the world. It does not make sense to us at times either. By nature we desire to see a glorious, powerful Jesus who does away with his enemies, who comes down from the cross, so to speak, to take care of those who mock and jeer him, a Jesus who uses his power and might to make his church strong and respected.

To put it another way, do you feel better when the church has ten people or one hundred in worship? Most people and pastors, if they are honest, will say they feel better when more people are present for worship. Oftentimes the counting of people is equated with the success of a congregation. When problems arise in congregations, when attendance drops, when programs don’t seem to get off the ground, often times we feel as if Jesus is not helping and supporting us. We may feel as if Jesus has failed us. Yet no matter what problems a congregation may face – whether attendance is soaring or dropping, whether there is heartache and strife, whether there is troubles with the pastor or the congregation – Jesus never fails his church. Jesus never fails his people. No matter what difficulties and sufferings a congregation goes through Jesus is still giving out his forgiveness through his Word and forgiving gifts. Jesus still gives out his true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the nourishment of your soul.

The church on this earth has her beauty hidden – hidden behind the scars, blows, and wounds inflicted upon her by the devil and world. There is no ideal congregation; all have their warts and blemishes. Quite frankly, the Lord’s church here on earth is nothing to look at. Yet Jesus sees beauty in his bride and he transforms her through his suffering and death on the cross into his holy, pure, and virgin bride. He sees beauty where all we see are problems, hurts, pain, and suffering. Yet the church remains because he has promised that the church will remain wherever he is. Jesus has promised to be where his Word is preached purely and his forgiving gifts are given out according to his institution.

So it also goes in our lives. Is it any surprise that the lives of the Lord’s people would parallel the life of his church? We, also, face sufferings, hardships, and trials in our lives. We get sick, have disappointments in our job, career, family, and relationships, and face the attacks of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. We struggle with temptation. At times we may be tempted to think that Jesus has failed us. We may be tempted to do anti-Christ, to seek the message of prosperity, success, and positive thinking – to avoid the cross that Jesus has laid in our lives.

Jesus tells his disciples to take up their cross and follow him. No one wants to bear a cross. Even Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that his Father take the cup of suffering, that he take the cross away. Yet bearing the cross for Jesus is not something we decide to do, or something we take upon ourselves. We have enough sorrow in our lives without having to go out and look for more. The stuff we face in our lives, the crosses that we bear, comes to us because we are being transformed into the image of Jesus. We belong to him and he gives us these crosses, these sufferings, so that we learn to trust him all the more, so that we cling to his Word and promises. He gives us these crosses and sufferings so that our sinful nature is put to death. Death is a painful thing and our sinful nature does not like being put to death. Yet it has been drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism and every day a new person emerges from the font. Every day our sinful nature is put to death and every day we face the struggles and crosses of this life as the devil and world wage battle against us. Yet no matter what we face as individuals or as a congregation, Jesus never fails us.

Look how Jesus treated Peter. Jesus exorcised Peter. He cast Satan out when he said, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you do not setting your mind on the things of God but the things of men.” Jesus also cast Satan out of you at your Baptism. There in his Name with the water Jesus delivered you from Satan’s kingdom. There Jesus turned your mind away from the things of men to be focused on the things of God. In your Baptism, Jesus transformed you into his image. From that moment on your life in Christ takes on his imagine,including the image of his suffering and death. Therefore, our lives here on earth are often full of suffering and grief.

You might ask, “How is my suffering as a Christian different from a person who is not?” Although your hardships and sufferings may look like other people’s, the Lord has given you a cross to bear that is uniquely yours. He places crosses in your life so that you trust in him and his promises rather than yourself. He has given you his promise that he will never leave or forsake you. He has promised you that he will not give you more than you can endure. He has given you his promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

If Satan had his way with us, we would all become traitors to our Lord. If Satan had his way, all of us would do anti-Christ. Just as Jesus exorcised Peter and kept him on the rock, on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, so too, Jesus has exorcised you in Holy Baptism. He has delivered you from all your sins and has transformed you into his image. In this life we are transformed into the image of our crucified Savior, who bears the lashes of affliction, grief,suffering and death. In the life to come, we will be transformed into the image of our resurrected Savior, shining in his glory. When our Lord returns on the clouds in his glory and his people see him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Lord’s church will be presented to him as the pure, beautiful, virgin bride redeemed in his blood. On that day, she will no longer bear the marks of suffering or indignity. Her warts and blemishes will be gone. Then the Lord’s church and his people will be in harmony as they celebrate at the marriage banquet,which our Lord Jesus gives us a foretaste in Holy Communion.

When the Lord gave you his Name, when he exorcised you in Holy Baptism, you were made in his image – in his image under the cross and his image in glory. Remember that Jesus never fails you. What a Lord we have.

Go in peace. Amen.

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A CASTLE FOR JESUS

“This article also affords a glorious testimony that the Church of God will exist and abide in opposition to all the gates of hell, and likewise teaches which is the true Church of God, lest we be offended by the great authority and majestic appearance of the false Church, Rom. 9, 24. 25.”(FC SD XI, 50.)

One evening when I was tied up in meetings at church, my wife went to a funeral visitation for a co-worker. Being unable to procure a baby-sitter, she took our then four year-old son with her. As they drove to the place of the visitation, my wife explained to my son what had happened, what he would see, and why they were going. The funeral home was directly across from a large Roman Catholic church that nearly took up an entire city block. The architecture was impressive and gothic. The stained glass was magnificent. Large wooden doors provided entry into this majestic church. When my son saw this church, he could hardly contain his awe. He blurted out, “Look, mommy, a castle for Jesus.”

This story is the kind of memory parents will cherish about their children all their days. But it is more than simply a cute story; it illustrates an important theological point. One might be minimally impressed that a pastor’s four-year-old son recognized that this building belonged to Jesus. He knew it was a church. To be able to recognize the church at four years old seems slightly better than the Augsburg Confession’s expectation of children when it says, “a seven year old child knows what the church is.” (AC XII, 2) You might be wondering why we can sometimes be so confused about the church, if a four year old and a seven year old can recognize the church. Before you feel badly about your own church recognizing abilities notice what the four-year-old saw? He saw a majestic and glorious building as the church. He saw the splendor, the awesome architecture, and the authority as the church. He saw a castle for Jesus.

Now castles were not designed primarily for comfort or luxury. Castles were designed as strongholds and fortresses. Castles were designed to display power, majesty, and authority. Castles were for kings who displayed their power and might in the act of war. Castles were for conquerors. The phrase “a castle for Jesus” contains a lot of theology. Out of the mouths of babes, we see the kind of portrait we would like to paint of Jesus and of his church. In the words “a castle for Jesus,” we see that our natural desire is for Jesus to rule over the world in his castle, that is, his church, by displaying his great power, majesty, and authority. Naturally, a powerful, mighty king needs to have a glorious, majestic, and authoritative castle from which to reign. Thus, the church we desire by nature is a church that is outwardly impressive, successful, and majestic. We want people to gaze at the church with awe. From a little boy who found a castle for Jesus, we see that from as early as we can speak we are all theologians of glory at heart.

You may not be inclined to consider yourself a theologian but you are. As Gerhard Forde explains, “Being a theologian just means thinking and speaking about God.” (1) Every person thinks and speaks of God during his lifetime. Tragic events such as sickness and death, as well as momentous occasions such as the birth of a child often make people think of God. People think of God by cursing and swearing in his name. People also chose not to think of God. The thinking and speaking of God makes a theologian, which is part of the reason there are so many different religions in the world. Without the true knowledge of God, people will invent their own gods. All people are theologians in that everyone thinks and speaks of God.

Just as all people are theologians, all people have a theology. In one sense, there are as many theologies as there are people in this world, and for us to try to catalog all the various theologies would be an exercise in futility. But as with most things a multitude of variation can be summarized into a few broad categories. Dr. Martin Luther in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518 (2) placed all theology into two categories. He described theology as either being a theology of glory, or being a theology of the cross. A theologian of glory does not know God hidden in suffering. (3) Such a person prefers “works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general good to evil.” (4) He seeks the biggest, the best, the most impressive, the most successful, the most alive, and the most ancient as marks of the true church. In summary, the theologian of glory seeks to find, or if he cannot find it to build a castle for Jesus.

Those who are seeking a castle for Jesus find that castle by comparison and measurement. Anytime we compare or measure something we are in the realm of the Law, which sizes up things to see if they met the goal or requirement. In the case of a church, one might measure whether the attendance is at a certain level, or compare the age of its traditions, liturgy, and practices, or size up how alive a congregation or church body is in comparison to another. Such comparisons are similar to how a first down is determined in football. The referee gets out the measuring stick to see if the tackled player crossed the line or not. In the case of the church such measuring results in determinations of whether or not that congregation is the church or not. The Law knows no exceptions – close does not cut it. One problem with using measurements and comparisons as the security of the church is that in a fallen and sinful world nothing will measure up perfectly. Doubt is never totally removed. Attendance has dropped for three months in a row perhaps there is something wrong with the congregation; perhaps it has ceased to be church. Giving is down and now the congregation is spilling red ink, perhaps the Lord has taken away his favor. The pastor doesn’t speak well and his sermons don’t seem to connect with the people, perhaps he is not really from the Lord. Add your own test of a successful church. How many faults can a congregation have and still be church? How many aberrations and flaws? What if there is a 50/50 mix? Is it still at church? How do you decide?

Ultimately the question comes down to what guarantees the church. If the way to discern the church is wrapped up in the measuring and comparing of a congregation to some benchmark be it history, tradition, apostolic succession, success, size, majesty, or glory the church was presented in the Scriptures fails the test. The Scriptures tell us of Noah a preacher of righteousness. The Lord gave him one of the most difficult calls imaginable for a pastor to have. The Lord called Noah to preach repentance and forgiveness for 120 years. What a lousy preacher Noah must have been by any reasonable standard. His sermons were boring and irrelevant to a world unable to see the approaching danger and destruction. Where were Noah’s converts? When the Lord sealed up the ark, all Noah had to show for his 120 years of preaching was eight people. Imagine that, over the course of 120 years only eight people believed Noah’s preaching. If you recall what happened after the flood was over, you might wonder how effective Noah’s preaching was – one of Noah’s sons didn’t turn out too good. What of the church? At the time of the flood, the church consisted of eight people sealed in a wooden ark, full of two of every kind of animal. Hardly an impressive sight as the ark bobbed helplessly over the surface of the water.

Throughout the Scriptures the church appears rather unimpressive, rather helpless, and quite frankly like it is about to die. The church at the time of Elijah was so weak and unimpressive that Elijah thought he was the only person left on earth who believed. He prayed that the Lord kill him so he did not have to endure being the only one. The Lord responded by showing Elijah fire and an earthquake, yet in all that power and might Elijah did not find the Lord. Elijah finally found the Lord in a quiet and unimpressive whisper. The Lord told Elijah that he had not been left behind, for there were still 7,000 left. Imagine that there were only 7,000 and 1 people in the Lord’s church in the entire world. There isn’t time to go through all the other pathetic examples of church in the Old Testament such as the church in captivity, which prevented it from even doing the liturgy correctly. No temple, no sacrifices, no church one would logically conclude – yet the Lord preserved for himself a people; he preserved his church.

To take an example from the New Testament consider the congregation in Corinth. The congregation had been founded by St. Paul, or had it? The congregation was fighting among themselves who really was the leader. Some said St. Paul, others said Apollos, and others said Peter, and still others Christ. Another way to put it is that some wanted to go West to Rome, others East to Constantinople, some to Wittenberg to follow Luther, and others just simply wanted to be called Christians. The congregation refused to discipline people who lived in open and manifest sin that was so shameful even the pagans would not consider living that way. There were divisions and great strife among members. Congregational members even took each other to court in lawsuits. To make matters worse they couldn’t agree on doctrine. Some even denied the Resurrection of the dead, not only of the dead but also of Christ himself. Some of the congregation thought Christ had already returned and that they had been left behind. Then there were the worship problems. The Corinthians had women preachers. They couldn’t follow the rubrics in the hymnal. They had charismatic and contemporary worship – you can’t get more contemporary than making it up on the spot. They even managed to mess up the Lord’s Supper’s liturgy.

One would be hard pressed to find a congregation or church body today with as many problems as the congregation in Corinth. Yet notice how St. Paul addresses this messed up congregation. He writes, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:2 – ESV) St. Paul calls this messed up congregation the “church of God.” It was the church of God because Jesus was there. What makes a group of people into the church is Jesus, not tradition, glory, or majesty. Jesus can even make a group of people as troubled as the Corinthians into his church.

Where Jesus is, there is his church. The only guarantee of the church is Jesus. No matter what a person would like to see in the church; no matter what should be present in a healthy congregation, ultimately in the end what makes that group of people a church is Jesus. St. Paul can even call the troubled group of people at Corinth the church because Jesus was there among those people calling, gathering, and sanctifying them as his holy people, as his church.

The only question that really needs to be answered is how does one find Jesus? The Scriptures tell us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” Yet our Lord is so gracious that he doesn’t leave us to wander around in search of him. He tells us exactly where to find him. When Jesus instituted both Holy Baptism and the Holy Ministry he promised his church, “And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 – ESV) When Jesus instituted Holy Absolution he promised his church, “For where two or three are gathered in my Name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 – ESV) When Jesus instituted Holy Communion, he told his church, “This is my body… This is my blood.”

In the things the Lutheran Confessions call the Sacraments, or the means of grace, Jesus has promised to be located at for his people. Where the means of grace are going on, where Baptisms are done in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, where sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name, where the Lord’s true body and blood are given out according to his institution and mandate, where his Word is preached, there is Jesus and there is his church. The Augsburg Confession confesses that the holy church is “the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.” (AC VII) So if you want to find the church, you find Jesus. To find Jesus you go to where there is baptism, absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel.

Our problem is that Jesus does not seem to do a very good job preserving his church. The means of grace do not seem like very effective tools to build a castle for Jesus. People can be baptized and then turn around and act as if the Name of God was never inscribed on their forehead. People can hear that they are forgiven and not live as if they were. The swine can even trample the Lord’s body and blood under foot. People can tune out the preaching of the Word and pastors can preach poorly, stumbling over their words. Congregations, pastors, and even church bodies can fail to discipline those who have erred – just as the church in Corinth failed to expel the sinner from their midst. Historic and ancient practices can be discarded in favor of innovations that have no standing in the historic church. The historic liturgy can be replaced. Pastors may be less than faithful, even to the point of forsaking the vows they took at their ordination. No matter how wrong, tragic, or sad all this is, no matter how these things blemish the church and hurt people – so long as Jesus remains in his Word and forgiving gifts there his church is also. The church’s future and foundation does not depend on our faithfulness, rather it depends on Jesus’ faithfulness to his word and promises. When we are faithless, Jesus remains faithful.

To the church at Corinth St. Paul wrote, “The Word of the cross is folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) The cross is foolishness because it is an instrument of suffering, shame, and humiliation. The cross was such a horrible symbol the church did not widely adopt its use in art and decoration until the 3rd or 4th century. The cross caused Peter to do anti-Christ when he forbad (sic) Jesus from going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Jesus responded by exorcising him and by telling the disciples to pick up their cross and follow him. Discipleship is following Jesus to the cross, that is to say, following Jesus involves being transformed into the image of the crucified Jesus. Just as Jesus appeared beaten, bloody, and in anguish when he suffered on the cross, so too the lives of individual Christians and of the Lord’s church on earth appear to the world. In the second letter to the Corinthian congregation, St. Paul tells them that he is always “carrying in the body the death of Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 4:10 – ESV) Literally, this passage speaks of carrying around the corpse of Jesus with the accompanying stench of death. To the world, Christians and the church reek of rotting flesh; they smell to the world like a dead body. This is what it means to live under the cross.

In the Heidelberg Disputation Luther wrote, “Therefore, in the crucified Christ is true theology and the recognition of God.” (5) The true words about God are related to the crucified Christ. It is only in Christ crucified that we see God. The purpose of the Gospel of St. Mark is to show you that Jesus is the Son of God. Read through Mark and note when Jesus is called the Son of God. First, at his Baptism, the Father identifies Jesus as his Son. The demons call him the Son of God, but Jesus always silences them. On occasion the crowd will call him the Son of God after he performs a miracle or displays his power, yet once again Jesus silences the crowd. He does not want to be known as the Son of God for displaying his power. The only time that Jesus allows himself to be called the Son of God is when the centurion exclaims, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39) Jesus wants you to see that he is most your Savior, most the Son of God for you when he hangs dead on the cross. We see Jesus as our Lord when he is crucified. When Jesus seems most helpless and lest able to help you and me, then he is most our Savior; then we see him as the Son of God. This is the theology of the cross.

We as Christians, we who are called to be the church of God, live in the shadow of Jesus’ cross. The church at times is rather unchurchly. The church is full of problems and strife. The church has blemishes, bruises, and scars from being abused in this world by the devil. The church bears wounds inflicted by the sinners who dwell within her walls. And yet the church remains, endures, and thrives because Jesus is there. Jesus doesn’t build for himself a glorious palace, or a mighty castle that he can reign with power and glory. Rather Jesus builds his church with living stones. You with all your hurts, blemishes, flaws, sufferings, and trials are the living stones that Jesus uses to build a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5) When the world looks at the church and sees it built on the living stone the builders rejected, that is, on Christ, with all of us being stacked on Jesus as living stones, the world sees nothing attractive.

At times, we as members of this church see nothing attractive. At these times Satan tempts us to become theologians of glory. He tempts us to leave the shadow of the cross and to seek the glory and splendor the world has to offer. He tempts us to seek a church built on something other than Jesus and his means of grace. He tempts us to seek the security of tradition, the majesty of bishops, the impressiveness of numbers, and the power of success. He tempts us to leave behind the crucified Jesus. He tempts us to leave behind suffering and the cross.

Yet through the eyes of faith we see the church for what she is – the holy bride of Christ, founded on his Word and forgiving gifts. Through the eyes of faith we confess with C.F.W. Walther, “So what a miraculous building is the church! – She appears so weak and yet she stands so unshakably firm; she appears to be so poor and yet she possesses such an immeasurable wealth; she appears so small and yet she encompasses such a great uncountable host!”6 The true glory of the church is hidden in the shadow of the cross. Be not ashamed of the cross, nor of the sufferings and trials you face as the Lord’s people, as his church. “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:10) You were made into the people of God, into the Lord’s church, through Holy Baptism. And now the Lord continues to preserve you as his people, as his church, through his Word and gifts of forgiveness. Although people within the church can and will fail you, even if your pastor fails you, your Lord Jesus will never fail you. He will always be faithful to his promises to you. Through his Word and forgiveness the gates of hell will never prevail against you, his beloved people, his holy church.

Jesus does not need a castle, for he reigns from the tree of the cross. May we all become theologians of the cross.

1 Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518,(Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 1997), 10.

2 Martin Luther, “The Heidelberg Disputation, 1518.” AE 31, 39-70; Studienausgabe (SA) 1, 186-218.

3 Martin Luther, “Heidelberg Disputation,” Thesis 21. AE 31, 53.

4 Ibid.

5 SA 1, 208:17. “Ergo in Christo crucifixo est uera Theologia (et) cognitio Dei.” (Also compare my translation with that of AE 31, 53.)

6 C.F.W. Walther, “Sermon for the Dedication of a Church – Psalm 87, 1865,” translated by Rev. Joel Basely

H/T - Reformation Today
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1 comments:

Drew,

Pax in Christi,

I read your post with interest for several reasons. First because Dr Colver was a classmate, and my next door neighbor in Married Student housing at Concordia, Saint Louis. Second, in that this post purported to be about those who convert to either the Roman or Orthodox Church from Lutheranism. After reading Dr. Colver's sermon, nowhere did I see him make reference to either of these situations.
The Benedict Arnold appellation for those who out of conscience convert is a cruel, misguided comparison. For example, what was I supposed to do as a Lutheran pastor when my four year old Son reached out his hand for the Body of Christ, and I was forced to refuse Him his Savior until he would turn thirteen? In leaving, I did my best not to split up my last Lutheran parish, and took the tact that by my leaving; someday my parishioners would in some measure follow me into Orthodoxy WHEN the LCMS is revealed to them as heterodox. It already is- for example there is such widespread instances of laymen/Vicars consecrated the Eucharist that I am confident even Martin Luther himself would not remain in communion with you. But for all of us who see through the glass darkly, illumination takes place in stages day by day.
Without going on too long, despite my best efforts; I indeed am grieved over my broken relationship with my parish and Synod. But Benedict Arnold did what he did for financial gain. Those protestant clergy who convert almost always lose financially in the letting go over their salaries, health insurance and retirement. Perhaps the greatest treachery is perpetuated not by swimming across a river, but by preaching "peace", "peace" where there is no peace!

October 16, 2009 at 6:12 PM