Herrenhuter readings for Wednesday, the 14th January 2015

saint paul preaching

Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. (1Sa 3:9 KJV)

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (Act 16:14 KJV)

Without God speaking, we would hear nothing – or at least not the crucial bit. We’d be having ideas, dreams and schemes popping up here and there, but nothing relevant to God and his workings. Without God shedding light on heavenly matters and godly things, we’d be left stranded out in the dark. The divine truth and trinitarian story is inaccessible to us without the lamb of God – Jesus Christ – opening up the book with 7 seals and letting us hear, see and taste, what it’s about and what he has done for us and our salvation.

Obviously there are many things which we human beings are free to figure out. St. Augustine lists up the regular issues, which were quoted in the Augsburg Confession and which we consider common place even today:

“We confess that there is a free will in all human beings. For all have a natural, innate mind and reason—not that they can act in matters pertaining to God, such as loving or fearing God with their whole heart—but they do have the freedom to choose good or evil only in the external works of this life. By ‘good’ I mean what can be done by nature: whether to work in the field or not, whether to eat and drink, whether to visit a friend or not, to dress or undress, to build a home, to marry, to engage in a trade, and to do whatever may be useful and good. To be sure, all of this neither exists nor endures without God, but everything is from him and through him. On the other hand, a human being can by personal choice do evil, such as to kneel before an idol, commit murder, and the like.” (Kolb & Wengert Pg. 52).

We could add all the engineering and accounting business, even fine arts and technology. Yet to know God’s heart and how he’s inclined towards us, remains obscure and hidden from us unless he himself reveals that to us. We can’t really figure out, where we are coming from and where we are going really. Our origin and destination remains just as hidden. That’s what Luther elaborates on in his Disputatio de homine: 

  • 4. And it is certainly true that reason is the most important and the highest in rank among all things and, in comparison with other things of this life, the best and something divine…

  • 10. In spite of the fact that it is of such majesty, it does not know itself a priori, but only a posteriori.

  • 11. Therefore, if philosophy or reason itself is compared with theology, it will appear that we know almost nothing about man,

  • 12. Inasmuch as we seem scarcely to perceive his material cause sufficiently.

  • 13. For philosophy does not know the efficient cause for certain, nor likewise the final cause,

  • 14. Because it posits no other final cause than the peace of this life, and does not know that the efficient cause is God the creator.

  • 15. Indeed, concerning the formal cause which they call soul, there is not and never will be agreement among the philosophers.

Theology though tells us that it is only by grace through faith that man is saved as is written: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Rom 3:28 KJV). The need for justification is not taught by philosophy, but rather by theology – just as the beginning and end of our existence. That’s metaphysical as Aristotle would define it – after the physical things perceivable and measurable by the staticians of our world. Not that they are not there, but rather, that we can’t grasp, hold and control them. These things and truths are beyond our human capacity and categories of time and space. They belong to God’s very own – and he reveals them through his divine service of his holy word and precious sacraments – where and when it pleases him.

Through these means of grace he creates and brings about faith in the gospel as is held, taught and confessed in the first and main article of the Christian faith:

Furthermore, it is taught that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3[:21–26] and 4[:5]. (ebd 38)

Everyone, who believes this is living proof that God does speak, call and bring us to living faith in Jesus Christ. This conversion from darkness to light,  from idolatry to theology, from being lost to being saved – coming to true faith is God’s gift and doing. He is the one, who brought the wise men from the East to Bethlehem, showing them the way by that shining star, but confirming and clarifying it finally through the promises of old, the prophecies of the Old Testament. He called the shepherds through his messengers, the angels and carriers of good tiding. He himself called Matthew, Peter and James, John and Andrew – and finally also Saul and converted him into St. Paul. He spoke through this very apostle and missionary so that Lydia was baptized and brought to the saving faith in the triune God. It is he, who lit up the light of the gospel for Martin Luther and got the reformation of the Christian Church going and back to the truth, so that the gospel was preached from many pulpits, practiced at the altars of countless parishes and taught in schools and confirmation classes. It is he who still today calls, gathers and keeps people gathered around the holy Word of God in both the Old and New Testaments, hearing his divine law and godly promises spelt out. Ane we continue to pray: Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. (1Sa 3:9 KJV) Amen.

Thy strong word  did cleave the darkness; at thy speaking it was done; for created light we thank thee, while thine ordered seasons run: Alleluia, alleluia!  Praise to thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia!  Alleluia without end!

Lo, on those who dwelt  in darkness, dark as night and deep as death, broke the light of thy salvation, breathed thine own
live-giving breath: Alleluia, alleluia!  Praise to thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia!  Alleluia without end!

Thy strong word  bespeaks us righteous; bright with thine own holiness, glorious now,  we press toward glory, and our lives our hopes confess: Alleluia, alleluia!  Praise to thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia!  Alleluia without end!

God the Father, Light-Creator, to thee laud and honor be; to thee, Light of Light begotten, praise be sung eternally; Holy Spirit, Light-Revealer,  glory, glory be to thee; mortals, angels, now and ever  praise the Holy Trinity.

From the cross Thy wisdom shining Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might; From the cross forever beameth All Thy bright redeeming light. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send! Alleluia, alleluia!  Alleluia without end!

Give us lips to sing thy glory, Tongues thy mercy to proclaim, Throats to shout the hope that fills us, Mouths to speak thy holy name. Alleluia! Alleluia! May the light which thou dost send, Fill our songs with alleluias, Alleluias without end!

God the Father, light-creator, To Thee laud and honor be. To Thee, Light from Light begotten, Praise be sung eternally. Holy Spirit, light-revealer, Glory, glory be to Thee. Mortals, angels, now and ever Praise the Holy Trinity!

Martin H. Franzmann, 1907-1976.

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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