The music of the Church is not performance music but music in service to the Word, as Luther oft described it, the handmaiden of the Word. It has not agenda of its own but only serves the Word -- both to communicate this Word to the hearer and to allow the hearers to speak with one voice in confession of this Word before the Lord (and the world). It is not a competition of styles that we face but the confusion about music's very purpose and how music is to be used. Again, from The Spirit of the Liturgy:In liturgical music, based as it is on biblical faith, there is, therefore, a clear dominance of the Word; this music is a higher form of proclamation. Ultimately, it rises up out of the love that responds to God's love made flesh in Christ, the love that for us went unto death.
That is why singing in the liturgy has priority over instrumental music, though it does not in any way exclude it. It goes without saying that the biblical and liturgical texts are the normative words from which liturgical music has to take its bearings.The music Christians inherited was Psalm singing. Early on Christological hymns were added -- some of which became the ordinary of the mass (Gloria in Excelsis). Some are even alluded to in St. Paul (Philippians: At the name of Jesus. . . ). Gregorian Chant was the first fully developed form exclusively born from and designed for worship. Polyphonic music added to this and introduced instruments into more prominence but as support for both text and melody and not in competition for the stage or the mind of the hearer. Attempt was made to distinguish liturgical music, the music of worship, from religious music which is neither directed to the mass nor designed for it. It would be good for us to retain that careful distinction. Another quote from The Spirit of the Liturgy:
Not every kind of music can have a place in Christian worship. It has its standards, and that standard is the Logos. If we want to know whom we are dealing with, the Holy Spirit or the unholy spirit, we have to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who moves us to say, "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor 12:3). The Holy Spirit leads us to the Logos, and he leads us to a music that serves the Logos as a sign of the sursum corda , the lifting up of the human heart. Does it integrate man by drawing him to what is above, or does it cause his disintegration into formless intoxication or mere sensuality? That is the criterion for a music in harmony with logos , a form of that logiké latreia (reason-able, logos -worthy worship) of which we spoke in the first part of this book." (p 151)Finally, silence is itself a part of the mass and daily office. Living in a world in which music and sound dominates our lives, the music of the liturgy exists within silence that is not in opposition to the music but, like the appropriate music, a constitutive part of that Divine Service. It is almost impossible to escape the sound of something -- from TV to radio to iPod to traffic -- we are immersed in sound. Perhaps we do this because we think it important to make our presence known and felt. We dominate by shattering the stillness with organized or impromptu noise. Silence is not merely a pause between musical selections, silence is its own positive force allowing us to consider the reflect upon the Word that has touched our ears and hearts in speech and song and, by the power of the Spirit, is even now accomplishing the Lord's bidding. And that is an appropriate place to end -- for it is the Lord's bidding that is at the heart and center of the music of the Church. It is not program or tool for its own glory or for the goals and outcomes of the one making this music but always the domain of the Lord both in focus and in outcome.
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The post Grappling: Luther, Life and Anger (The Ten Commandments) appeared first on World Wide Wolfmueller .
“The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” (Luke 18:9-17)
“The one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Now I don’t know if our Lord was talking about my Chicago Cubs there or not, but finally my humble Cubbies have been exalted. Well, actually, I do know: Jesus was not talking about the Cubs, because he said, “the one who humbles himself.” And it wasn’t that the Cubs were humbling themselves all those years, it was all the other teams humbling them. So maybe the Cubs being exalted now is just a matter of them having a whole bunch of good players. So no spiritual lesson to be learned there.
But there is a spiritual lesson to be learned in the words of Jesus today. It has to do with how we position ourselves before God. Listen again to Jesus’ words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” You see, now doesn’t that sound upside-down? But it’s true. And we see this principle at work in the story that Jesus tells, the parable of “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector.”
Jesus turns things upside-down from what people would expect in this parable. The Pharisee and the tax collector: The one you would expect to be praised is instead portrayed as haughty and headed for a fall. The one you would expect to be condemned is instead the one who goes home justified and will be exalted. Just upside-down from what you would expect.
The reason Jesus tells this parable is because his hearers needed to hear it. They are described as those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” It’s this self-righteousness and the looking down on others that Jesus will rebuke.
So Jesus begins this story. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” Now right off the bat you would expect the Pharisee to be the good guy and the tax collector to be the bad guy. The Pharisees were widely regarded as the most moral, the most righteous, the most religious people in the community. In contrast, the tax collectors were looked down upon as generally being corrupt, crooked, and disloyal to the nation. Not much admirable about them. But there would be admirable things to say about the Pharisees.
And this Pharisee did not need much prodding to say those admirable things about himself. Even to God. The Pharisee is standing by himself there at the temple, and he prays like this: “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.” So this Pharisee is someone his culture would look at and they would praise him. They would look up to him. He was not a blatant, obvious sinner that everybody could identify and look down upon. He was not, for example, an extortioner or an adulterer.
Nor was this Pharisee a blatant, obvious sinner like the tax collector would be. The tax collectors as a group were looked down upon, because they had the reputation for being corrupt and crooked, known for lining their own pockets. These Jewish tax collectors were hated also because they were collecting taxes for the pagan Roman Empire; so they were seen as disloyal. The tax collectors made a convenient group for the Pharisees to compare themselves to and thus feel superior to.
So the Pharisee in the story was clearly not an outwardly manifest sinner. You would think he was a pretty pious fellow. And the Pharisee would have you know that he was. “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Well, that’s pretty impressive. To fast, not just once or twice a year, but to fast twice a week–wow, what religious self-discipline! To give a tithe, to give ten percent of everything you have as an offering to God–such sacrificial giving! Why, this Pharisee would be at the top of the list of pious people to be praised and emulated.
But Jesus turns all that upside down. Because this Pharisee was trusting in these works of his to make himself righteous before God. He didn’t think of himself as a sinner. He thought he was superior to all those sinners who were not as good and righteous as he was. But in Jesus’ estimation, that is not praiseworthy. No, indeed, it is deadly. The Pharisee’s pride is what stands out in the way Jesus describes him. And it sets him in contrast to the next guy Jesus tells us about, namely, the tax collector.
The Pharisee stood by himself at the temple, because he was so outstanding and superior to everyone else. The tax collector, by way of contrast, stood afar off, because he sensed his unworthiness to come before God. Out of shame, he would not even lift up his eyes to heaven. Rather than patting himself on the back, this man was beating his breast in contrition. Rather than listing a litany of why God should be pleased with him, the tax collector simply says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
The tax collector recognizes his guilt before God. He confesses it. He knows he is a sinner. He’s not delighting in his sins; instead, he is sorrowing over them. And the only thing he can think of to say is not to make any excuses, but simply to turn to God and seek his mercy. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
This is the prayer that Jesus praises. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This is to let God be your righteousness. It is to recognize that you have no righteousness of your own to wave before God’s face. You are relying on what only God can provide: a righteousness outside yourself that you have no right to, but you know God is merciful and he offers to give it freely.
“Be merciful to me.” But why should God be merciful to you? On what basis? If you are a sinner, and if God is a just judge, then must God not punish you for your sins, lest he be found to be slacking in his justice? Yes. So how in the world can God be merciful to you?
“Be merciful to me,” the tax collector prays. The Greek word that’s used here is from the same root that’s used in Romans 3, where it says what God has done in order to be merciful to you. It says there that God put forward Christ Jesus as a “propitiation” by his blood. A propitiation? What’s that? And what does that have to do with God being merciful to sinners?
A propitiation is an atoning sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that makes atonement for sins, covers them, so that they are not counted against you. And that happened at the temple on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the blood of the prescribed sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant. He sprinkled it on the lid, the cover, which was called the mercy seat. And that sacrifice, Romans 3 says, was pointing ahead to the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice, Christ would make by shedding his blood on the cross.
So there’s the connection. When the tax collector prays that God would be merciful to him, the basis for that mercy is that Christ would “mercy-seat” him by making the atoning sacrifice for his sins. And your sins also, dear Christian! You can pray to God to be merciful to you, because Jesus “mercy-seated” you by his blood on the cross. Your sins are atoned for, fully forgiven, because of what Jesus did for you. He is your righteousness. Plead that before God and not your own goodness. Don’t be afraid to be a sinner. Don’t excuse your sins; confess them. Recognize yourself as a sinner in need of God’s mercy. And by his mercy you too will go to your house justified. To be justified is to be declared righteous by God, not guilty before him, because your punishment has already been served by Christ and his righteousness is credited to your account.
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” You know, not everybody is ready to pray that prayer. Not everyone is willing to admit that they are a sinner. For example, there is a false teacher out there by the name of Joyce Meyer. Maybe you’ve heard of her. Did you know Joyce Meyer used to be a member of an LCMS church in St. Louis? But she no longer likes what our church teaches. You see, Joyce doesn’t think she’s that much of a sinner. She has said of her time in the Missouri Synod: “All I was ever taught to say was ‘I, a poor, miserable sinner.’ I am not poor, I am not miserable and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell.” Well, no, sorry, Joyce, you are the one spouting a lie. If you cannot confess that you are a poor miserable sinner, then you are deceiving yourself–and deceiving others. For the Bible says, in 1 John 1, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The truth is not in you, Joyce Meyer.
But there is a truth we can rely on, and it is this: “If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Why? Because the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin. God has “mercy-seated” us in Christ.
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” That was the tax collector’s prayer. And it is my prayer and your prayer too. And because God has been merciful to you, by sending Christ to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins, this is how you will go down to your house today justified, declared righteous, not with a righteousness of your own, but with the perfect righteousness of Christ. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The post “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” (Sermon on Luke 18:9-17, by Pr. Charles Henrickson) appeared first on Steadfast Lutherans .
1 The Presidential Candidates on Partial Birth Abortion
2 Dr. Anthony Esolen on the Term “Transgender Woman”
3 Dr. Thomas Korcok, Are Educational Theories Neutral?
4 Pr. Will Weedon, The Church’s Sacred Space v. the World’s Safe Space
Here is another guest article on the proposed revisions to the Catechism:
The 1912 and 1943 Small Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House called the fifth chief part “The Office of the Keys, Confession.” In 1991, the explanation of the Small Catechism simply called the Fifth Chief part “Confession” while placing “The Office of the Keys” after the explanation of “Confession” and also after “A Short Form of Confession”. The return of “The Office of the Keys” to before “Confession” was a good correction because it more clearly ties the use of the keys to the establishment of the Office of the Holy Ministry.
To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. 
While critical scholars may doubt that Luther wrote and/or intended a section in the Small Catechism to address “The Office of the Keys,” it is impossible to read Lutheran writings on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper without seeing this “office” as constitutive of the proclamation of the Gospel itself.
The Church is the congregation of saints (Psalm 149:1) in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. 
Since the “giving of the gospel and the sacraments” takes place through the word rightly preached and the sacraments correctly administered, Luther correctly understood The Office of the Keys and Confession between Baptism (gift of faith) and the Lord’s Supper (strengthening of faith). 
Structure: Placement of The Office of the Keys in Catechism
As part of the holy sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the Office of the Keys is given and functions to exercise the confessing of sins for the sake of receiving absolution. Baptism relates to Confession and Absolution in that the whole purpose of Confession is to again and again receive the strengthening of faith by the assurance that the sinner is forgiven on account of Christ’s vicarious satisfaction. In Confession and Absolution after Baptism, the sinner hears hear again and again, “be of good cheer, you are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.” Thus, Confession and Absolution is a return to the font.
Luther, taking a cue from the Lord Jesus and St. Paul, taught that the Office of the Keys is part of examination and preparation for the Sacrament of the Altar. This is best accomplished within the context of private confession to a pastor  who is authorized to exercise the binding and loosing key within the Office on behalf of the congregation.
It is also helpful to have the section on Church Discipline within the Office of the Keys since it is the Church’s public exercising of the loosing and binding key.
“Our people teach as follows. According to the gospel the power of the keys or of the bishops is a power and command of God to preach the gospel, to forgive and retain sin, and to administer and distribute sacraments.” 
Nothing new here. The usual two Bible passages are given having to do with the use of the keys (Matt. 18:18) and then the establishment of the Office (John 20:22-23). Also included is Matthew 16:19.
Psalm 32:5 is a welcome new Bible passage in this section that the 1991 explanation does not use. It harkens back to the opening versicles of the Common Service (LSB, p. 184, Setting III) where the pastor and congregation speak responsively: “I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sins.” Showing how the Divine Service liturgy connects to the Office of the Keys is a very good teaching point.
Comments on the Questions
The Questions under The Office of the Keys and Confession have been totally reordered and generally speaking fit better within each heading.
300-302 These questions concerning the establishment of the Office of the Keys are more clear and complete. The answers now include repentance as the basis for which way the key will turn. The answer for Q. 302 has been completely reworked to clearly confess that “outside of the Christian Church, where there is no Gospel, there is also no forgiveness of sins.” A great quotation from the Large Catechism concerning the goal of the Christian Church supports this answer. I hope they don’t change it, but I would not be surprised to see it’s exclusivity softened.
303-306 These questions are nearly identical to the 1991 explanation. One omission is question 276 from the current edition: “What is the necessary result of repentance?” Answer: “Then good works, which are the fruits of repentance, are bound to follow” (Augsburg Confession XII 6). This is a welcome difference because of the structural change. It is undeniable that good works are bound to follow repentance. However, such a discussion probably best fits under the fourth part of Baptism.
307-309 “What is excommunication?” is the foundation for the successive questions. Lacking is a clear statement that the Church speaks on behalf of Christ when she excommunicates. The answer to question 308 could be improved. Excommunication does not only serve the purpose of showing the impenitent the seriousness of his sin. (Tangent…why the “his or her?” It’s sloppy writing. Just say “his” and get over political correctness.) Excommunication also serves as a warning to others (see 1 Timothy 5:20 and 1 Corinthians 5:6) and it purifies the Church (see Deuteronomy 13:5; 17:12). The primary purpose of excommunication is to win the brother, but it does serve in other ways.
310 Though it may be redundant, restating John 20:22-23 would bring unmistakable clarity.
311 This is excellent. It takes head on some of the problems that have plagued Missouri since the 1989 Wichita Convention.
312 Again, this is well done.
313 The answer could be made stronger with the following: “Congregations are to call men who have been prepared and examined by the Church and thus deemed spiritually qualified in life and doctrine to serve as pastors.” Question 278 in the 1991 edition says nothing about doctrine. It rightly emphasizes the life of the man but does not speak about his teaching. Yet Paul in Titus 1:9 makes clear that the ability to preach and teach sound doctrine is a necessity for the Office. False teaching is the enemy of the Gospel. False teaching defames God’s name. The man in the Office must have sound doctrine to combat false teaching and to instruct in the truth.
314 Take a look back at the first word to the answers given in 311-312. “No.” Yet for some unbeknownst reason the answer to this question does not give the same reply. Why change the format? I fear the change is because we don’t want to sound too harsh. I appreciate bringing up the ordering of life in God’s creation, for it grounds the basis for men serving in the Office of the Holy Ministry in Genesis 1-2. Women can’t be pastors because they are not the divinely instituted heads of their households. But this talk of men and women being “redeemed and gifted for service in Christ’s Church” does not answer the question. What does “service in Christ’s Church” mean? It leaves too many doors open for women to serve in ways the Lord has not given to them. A better answer would be, “No. God’s Word prohibits women from serving in the pastoral office.” Let God’s Word speak and don’t worry about seeking to justify it.
Though there are weaknesses, this is a good section. In an age where church discipline is unthinkable to some, it’s good to be reminded of what the Lord has to say. The Office of the Keys works to bind and to loose. If Christians are unwilling to use the binding key, the loosing key will be lost. The Gospel is for sinners. The Gospel is not for those who do no wrong. The comfort of the loosing key is precisely why the Lord established the Office of the Holy Ministry. His appointed men are “absolution men.” They are placed into the Lord’s Office to bind when necessary but always for the goal of loosing by pronouncing Christ’s very words: “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Rev. James J. Stefanic
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
 Kolb/Wengert, Book of Concord, Augsburg Confession , (Fortress Press, 2000) Art. V., par. 1-3, p. 40.
 Ibid., Art. VII., par. 1, p. 43.
 This connection of “The Office of the Keys, Confession” to Baptism (Smalcald Articles (S.A.) Article V) and The Sacrament of the Altar (S.A. Article VI) is evident in another of Luther’s writings contained in the Book of Concord called the Smalcald Articles. Here, Luther places the Article of the Office of the Keys after these two sacraments and before Confession and Absolution and Excommunication.
 See the Apology of the Augsburg Confession , Article XXIV, par. 1.
 Kolb/Wengert, Book of Concord, Augsburg Confession , (Fortress Press, 2000) Art. XXVIII, ln. 5-6, p. 92.
The post Proposed Catechism Explanation Revision — The Office of the Keys appeared first on Steadfast Lutherans .
Why does God treat us this way? Why does He wait and wait? Why does He seem so distant?
For all the tender depictions of Jesus—welcoming a child, or gently cuddling a lamb—the picture we get from the Gospels is a Jesus who is aloof, austere, uncaring, unfeeling. He tells people off and turns over tables. Today’s gospel (John 4:46-54) takes place in Cana. The last time He was there, His own mother came to Him with a problem, and Jesus replies, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” A woman with a sick daughter begs Jesus to help, and first he doesn’t answer her, then He calls her a dog. When He hears that Lazarus is sick, Jesus is in no hurry at all.
So today. A nobleman comes to Jesus. His little boy has a fever, and it isn’t breaking. He’s going to die. His father has traveled about eighteen miles over rough terrain; it would take more than a day to make this trip. All the while you know he’s sad, anxious, angry, worried. He’s desperate.
I think you know how this father feels. If not this particular situation before, you’ve been desperate. Perhaps today you are desperate about something. Some part of life has overwhelmed you: you are lonely; caring for your children is simply too much to manage; lust fills you, you act on it, followed by disgust and self-loathing; your back or your knees give off a searing pain that makes you just want to quit.
And perhaps, when things get really bad, you finally start to pray. And you can pray and pray for weeks and months and years with no answer. Total silence from a God who seems to mock you, taunt you, maybe hate you.
So does Jesus appear to this anxious, desperate father. But in the nobleman’s trouble, then the rebuke, and then the long uncertain journey home, we find out there is a purpose to the Lord’s austerity. Jesus is not holding out on giving the nobleman what he asks for—He intends to give him something far greater.
The nobleman has come because he wanted his little boy saved. He has a certain amount of faith – at least a hope that Jesus can save his child from death. Although he begs Jesus to come to his home, Jesus refuses. Why? By sending the man home with only a word, a word of promise, the man comes to see and receive something far greater than his child’s life.
The nobleman left Cana with just the word, “Your son lives.” What exactly does that mean? Jesus does not say to him, “Your son will live,” or “Your son will not die.” Just, “Your son lives.” That’s all he has to go on. He believes it, but there is clearly something imperfect about the belief. But when the nobleman meets his servants on the way back, they tell him that the fire, the fever has left his little boy; he lives! Learning the fever broke at the same time that Jesus had given him the Word, now we find a reiteration and intensification of belief. “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” This goes beyond just belief that the boy would be healed. The man and his whole family become disciples of Jesus.
You see, Jesus never wanted just the healing of the boy. He wanted the healing of the family. The purpose and mission of Jesus is to do something more than give some improvement in people’s health or happiness for a time. He has come to overturn the entire order of the world.
What do we see among the world’s rulers? Lies and deception, greed and corruption, sexual depravity, endless war. Jesus called that nobleman, probably a member of King Herod’s court, to a very different kind of life. A life that would turn away from the decadence of Herod to discipleship following Christ.
What needs to change in your life? What decadence and decay needs to be overturned? We can learn much from the nobleman. His new discipleship he immediately passed on to his family. Yesterday Eric and Julie Hutchins’s son Ryan was baptized into Christ, and today we saw Stephen and Sajini Gundry’s daughter Samantha joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s the most important responsibility parents have: to bring their children to Jesus, and train them up in His Word.
And that training involves hardship, for all disciples must undergo discipline. We are disciplined by the Lord, we are chastised and taught patience and not given what we want when we want it because the Lord has something far greater for us than immediate gratification.
The answer to your prayers – a healing, a spouse, a job, a child – is not the ultimate thing, and may be the opposite of what you need. The healed person still dies. What Jesus gives is not a respite from death but its ultimate overturning. He promises not a few more years but resurrection.
The healing that you most need is the healing of your soul from its anger, lust, dissatisfaction, selfishness, and pride. Today’s epistle reminds us that we are in a war, not with the other political party, or with Syria, Iran, or Russia: we are in a war with the devil and our own corrupt flesh.
Today you leave here with the same thing the nobleman got: a Word from Jesus. I have nothing else to offer you. I cannot promise you things will get better. But you have something far better than anything money or power can obtain. The Word Jesus send you home with, the Word Jesus sends you down the uncertain road with contains a better certainty: “In baptism you are joined to My death, and also My resurrection. My body is yours in this Eucharist, and My blood is your life. All other food you consume, but this food consumes you, your soul into righteousness, your body into immortality. Leave with Me your desperation, your anxiety, your uncertainty, and go home with this Word in your pocket: Fear not; I have redeemed you.” +INJ+