Wednesday, June 26, 2013
October 31 is celebrated as Reformation Day, the day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, an action considered to be one of the sparks of the Reformation. June 25, however, is in many ways just as important. On this date in 1530, Chancellor Christian Beyer, a member of the court of Duke John, Elector of Saxony, read before the Holy Roman Emperor and a gathering of princes in the city of Augsburg, Germany, a confession of faith signed by seven princes and two city councils in whose lands the teachings of Luther and the reformers had taken root. Luther’s colleague, Philip Melanchthon, is the principal author, though he primarily used Luther's theology in writing it.
As he was still under the imperial ban, Luther himself was unable to attend the meeting in Augsburg. When Melanchthon and other Lutheran theologians and princes arrived at Augsburg, they found that they were being accused of just about every heresy known to man. So they decided to make a united Lutheran defense of their teaching, both confessing the Gospel teaching of the reformation, and also showing that it was nothing new. Not only is Lutheran teaching based solely on Scripture, it is essentially the doctrine of the church universal from the beginning. The purpose of the confession was also to explain why and how the churches of the Lutheran reformation had corrected certain abuses that had sprung up in the church.
The genius of the resulting Augsburg Confession is that, in clear and unambiguous terms, it shows how the Gospel, the good news of justification by grace through faith in Christ, is the heart of every major teaching of the church. Drawn from Scripture, Lutheran theology seeks to bring the greatest comfort to hurting and broken people, to penitent sinners.
As Lutherans, we subscribe to other confessional statements in the Book of Concord, but none are more important than the Augsburg Confession. Here we insist that “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us.
This teaching is not only meant to comfort, but it begs to be confessed and proclaimed in the world. It is the beating heart of the Gospel and Christ’s mission through His church. Christian Beyer, it is said, proclaimed the text of this confession in a loud voice for all to hear. We must do so as well today. We cannot keep it to ourselves, but must bring it to many more that they too might hear and believe. So may we on this day, June 25, 2013, faithfully confess this Christ-centered Bible teaching to the world.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Why do we use the historic liturgy?
1. It shows our historic roots. Some parts of the liturgy go all the way back to the apostolic period. Let's face it - we’re not the first Christians to walk the face of the planet, nor will we be the last. The race of faith is a relay race, one generation handing on the faith to the next.
2. It serves as a distinguishing mark. The liturgy distinguishes us from those who do not believe, teach, and confess the same as we do. What we believe determines how we worship, and how we worship confesses what we believe.
3. It is Christ-centered. From the triune invocation to the three-fold benediction at the end, the liturgy is focused on the activity of the three in one God centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Worship is not primarily about “me” but about God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
4. It teaches. The liturgy teaches the whole counsel of God – creation, redemption, sanctification, the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and the new life of faith. Every liturgical year cycles through these themes so that the hearer receives the whole counsel of God on a regular basis.
5. It is transcultural. When traveling around the world, even though one may not know the language, one can still recognize the liturgy and be able to participate across language and cultural barriers.
6. It is repetitive in a good way. Repetition is, after all, the mother of all learning. Fixed texts and annual cycles of readings lend to deeper learning. Obviously, mindless repetition does not accomplish anything - nor does endless variety.
7. It is corporate. Worship is a communal activity. The liturgy draws us out of ourselves into Christ by faith and the neighbor by love. We are in this together.
8. It rescues us from the tyranny of the immediate. When the Roman world was going to hell in a hand basket, the church was busy debating the two natures of Christ. In the liturgy, the Word sets the agenda - it defines our needs and shapes our prayers.
9. It is external and objective. The liturgical goal is not that everyone feel a certain way or have an identical “spiritual” experience. Feelings vary even as they come and go. The liturgy supplies a concrete, external, objective anchor in the death and resurrection of Jesus through Word, bread, and wine. Faith comes by hearing the objective, external Word of Christ.
10. It is the Word of God. This is often overlooked by the critics. Most of the sentences and songs of the liturgy are direct quotations or allusions from Scripture or summaries, such as the Creed. In other words, the liturgy is itself the Word of God.