Friday, December 28, 2007

Martin Luther's Christmas Book

Several weeks ago I checked out this title from our church library and forgot about it. Because of its seasonal topic I was only supposed to keep it one week! Now I'm reading it, and think it is so wonderful, I want to buy a copy. Luther's writing is timeless, and he wrote on every imaginable topic.

If I'm reading the publication data on the verso correctly, the editor, Roland H. Bainton, put it together with selected woodcuts from German artists of the era in 1948. This paperback is by Augsburg Fortress, 1997. Unfortunately, Bainton is a bit vague on where to find the originals, citing "the index to the sermon on the Gospels in the Weimar edition of Luther's works, vol. XXII," and suggests the stories are more beautiful in the original German. The back cover tells us that this little devotional contains 30 excerpts from Luther's Christmas sermons and that Bainton, a renowned Reformation scholar, translated and arranged them into eight topics. A reviewer at says that this represents 1/20th of what Luther preached and wrote about Christmas.

This is from the first chapter, "Annunciation."
    "Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom the Evangelist Matthew arranges with artistry into three groups of fourteen patriarchs, fouteen kings, and fourteen princes. Among the latter were a number of disreputable characters, as we learn from the book of Kings, and there were no savory women. God holds before us this mirror of sinners that we may know that he is sent to sinners, and from sinners is willing to be born."
So much of today's emphasis in evangelical churches is on Jesus as a friend and buddy, a close relationship, personal self-worth and happy, clappy, feel-good worship services, and service to God in order to feel good. Many of the songs are "I, me, my, mine" or "we, we, we." Luther never loses the awe and majesty of God come in the flesh, but also he doesn't let us forget why we need a savior. And as with all presentations of the Gospel, if you don't start with sin, you have no climax or ending either.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A note from Charlie

A friend sent the following e-mail. It's probably going around, but looks like a nice idea.
    It's that time of year again. Let's all extend the spirit of Christmas to our good friends at the ACLU by sending them Christmas card. I know it will be an emotional experience for them.

      125 Broad Street
      18th Floor
      New York, NY 10004


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How do you plan to get to heaven?

I don't know how you're doing, but I'm not good enough to go to heaven. Someone else is getting me in for free. Jesus. Jeff Marian, one of our pastors at UALC, noted in the church newsletter,
    A recent study asked church-goers: Can a good person earn his or her way to heaven?
    52% of Presbyterians,
    54% of Lutherans,
    58% of Episcopalians,
    and 82% of Roman Catholics said YES! Are you among them?

    The truth is that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, not by any good deeds that we do. The Bible tells us that salvation is not a program, but a relationship with Jesus! People still need to hear that very basic message of our faith. Are you willing to be a messenger of God’s free gift?
The people in the pew need to hear this every Sunday from the pastors too, because they can be lulled into a works mentality--particularly in our American culture where "bootstrapping" is considered a virtue. They can get so busy and so proud of their accomplishments (or so discouraged by their lack of them) that they forget what the good news is all about. I don't mean the entire message of the sermon has to be on the cross and resurrection followed up with an altar call, but it needs to be the foundation of the sermon. Peter and Paul always laid the ground work when writing to the young Christians in the first century of the church. Then they moved on to the "to do list" of faith.

Accompanying that sermon, it also helps to have a well written liturgy that expresses "and for HIS sake forgives you all your sins," a fabulous, spirit-led choir and director , and some solid hymns that reinforce the good news. That will send us out eager and ready to be a messenger.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Source for church history

I noticed a link to Sketches of Church History, from AD33 to the Reformation over at The Hall of Church History.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A disciplined thought life

A constant struggle, isn't it--and she addresses the problem well, after the deep disappointment in a spiritual leader:
    This came at the heels of my own realization that my thought life was out of order with regards to someone, and frankly I needed to repent. Daydreaming about someone else other than your mate is a sin, just as surely as literally going out on them is and it violates at a lot of levels. Most importantly, by indulging this I fail to do the most important thing I can do which is to focus on the here and now, and live in the moment... Moment by moment taking things as they come. I realized that my harmless little daydream had become a sort of fluffy blanket to wrap myself in against the emotional cold of my marriage, but because it isn't real, it only leads to frustration and discontent, and anger, and like the alcoholic, you think the one drink is only warming you and lightening your heart, but really its leading you into a darkness because that one glass in your hand becomes two..."What will it hurt?" and then its the bottle and it consumes you...
There's more