The summons of death comes to all of us…

Luther´s return from the Wartburg was risky business, but the theological doctor, pastor and professor foresaw worse if he´d remain hidden in exile and not address the serious issues in Wittenberg, but let the riot run loose. In Wittenberg things were getting out of hand. Luther´s colleagues, Karlstadt and Zwilling, who both did not have authorization to preach, had despite this lack of authorization taken over a leading role in the rebellion and were driving radical reform and iconoclasm despite growing protests from various quarters.

Although Martin Luther actually shared many of the theological concerns of these mavericks, he adamantly opposed their forceful uprising. He was painfully aware that timid consciences and hesitant believers could hastily be pressed into dramatic actions which could have unforeseen and even negative consequences and which they would afterwards regret, especially if they were not done out of faithful conviction and just motives. Luther put all emphasis on faith. This he wanted to gain and promote by transparent argumentation and evangelical motivation, but rejected forceful intimidation and populist short-term gains. He saw the decisive tool for reform and church edification in preaching and teaching of Christian freedom, which would take into account the consequences for my neighbor and the fruits for fellow human beings. After all, he was a close follower of the apostle´s teaching as we find spelt out in St. Paul´s letter to the Romans in the 14th chapter in taking cogniscience of the weak in faith.

So, although the elector foresaw lots of trouble and feared that he would not be able to protect the reformer as effectively in Wittenberg as in exile on the Wartburg, Luther came anyway. Luther was convinced, that in the end, he could protect the elector and all politicians better through the gospel work he was doing, than other way round. He also had a strong and definite calling. Not only was he called to serve as Doctor of theology and thus had a responsibility to colleagues and students at the university in Wittenberg, but he also had a definite, public and proper call as preacher and teacher of the city church. The elector kept this letter by the local parish to Luther from publication for political reasons, but Luther knew about it and mentions it in his first sermon on Invocavit. The political considerations were to prevent the emperor any excuse to press for the forceful extradition of the reformer – and Luther cooperated – at least partly. He did not teach at the university until 1524! Luther used the bible translation as an excuse for his “forced sabbatical” at the university, but he saw his main purpose and calling to preach the gospel truth in St. Marys. So, he really did put the gospel on a lampstand – and did the work of a preacher with determination, dedication – and great success. His preaching turned that place around – from hedious and destructive revolt back to constructive reform!

He preached on the prescribed gospel lesson on Sunday mornings and at noon he would do cursory sermons on certain books of the bible – like the letters by St. Peter and also by St. James (!), but also for many years on Genesis. Georg Rörer and Stephan Roth wrote many of those freeliy spoken sermons down, so that we have most of his sermons in written form even today. Although Luther himself wanted people to read the bible more than anything else and he himself feared, that people would misunderstand, misinterpret and misquote him, he reluctantly agreed to have his sermons be duplicated – and they sure did spread like wild fires.

Martin Brecht quotes Albert Burer, who describes Luther´s pleasant persona on the pulpit which he experienced first-hand in student days: “His facial expression was kind, good hearted and cheerful. His voice was sweet und harmonious – and his manner of speaking was impressive and convincing.” (Pg. 64) If You look at the portrait by Lucas Cranach painted in the years 1522-1524 it looks quite in line with that student´s description: What a friendly, kind and handsome young man Luther was!

The Invocavit sermons are a good example of Luther´s profound homiletic mastery. His latter catechism sermons prove that too. They brought about change to Wittenberg, turned the enthusiastic revolution and populist uprising back into patient, enduring and hard-working reform. It was going to be an ongoing struggle – teaching that Christian freedom goes hand-in-hand with responsibility and loving care for one’s neighbor and not just liberty at all costs. Luther did not dodge thorny issues, but addressed them head on as they came up. Masterfully and successfully he guided the congregation and town back from rebellion into ongoing reform – proving himself not only a brilliant theologian, but also a true pastor and bishop of the church.  Thank God for that!

Here now the first sermon – preached by Luther in Wittenberg on Invocavit 1522 – read in German and then in the English translation by John W. Dobberstein:

The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Every one must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. We can shout into another’s ears, but every one must himself be prepared for the time of death, for I will not be with you then, nor you with me. Therefore every one must himself know and be armed with the chief things which concern a Christian. And these are what you, my beloved, have heard from me many days ago.

In the first place, we must know that we are the children of wrath, and all our works, intentions, and thoughts are nothing at all. Here we need a clear, strong text to bear out this point. Such is the saying of St. Paul in Eph. 2 [:3]. Note this well; and though there are many such in the Bible, I do not wish to overwhelm you with many texts. “We are all the children of wrath.” And please do not undertake to say: I have built an altar, given a foundation for masses, etc.

Secondly, that God has sent us his only-begotten Son that we may believe in him and that whoever trusts in him shall be free from sin and a child of God, as John declares in his first chapter, “To all who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” [John 1:12]. Here we should all be well versed in the Bible and ready to confront the devil with many passages. With respect to these two points I do not feel that there has been anything wrong or lacking. They have been rightly preached to you, and I should be sorry if it were otherwise. Indeed, I am well aware and I dare say that you are more learned than I, and that there are not only one, two, three, or four, but perhaps ten or more, who have this knowledge and enlightenment.

Thirdly, we must also have love and through love we must do to one another as God has done to us through faith. For without love faith is nothing, as St. Paul says (1 Cor. 2 [13:1]): If I had the tongues of angels and could speak of the highest things in faith, and have not love, I am nothing. And here, dear friends, have you not grievously failed? I see no signs of love among you, and I observe very well that you have not been grateful to God for his rich gifts and treasures.

Here let us beware lest Wittenberg become Capernaum [cf. Matt. 11:23]. I notice that you have a great deal to say of the doctrine of faith and love which is preached to you, and this is no wonder; an ass can almost intone the lessons, and why should you not be able to repeat the doctrines and formulas? Dear friends, the kingdom of God,—and we are that kingdom—does not consist in talk or words [1 Cor. 4:20], but in activity, in deeds, in works and exercises. God does not want hearers and repeaters of words [Jas. 1:22], but followers and doers, and this occurs in faith through love. For a faith without love is not enough—rather it is not faith at all, but a counterfeit of faith, just as a face seen in a mirror is not a real face, but merely the reflection of a face [1 Cor. 13:12].

Fourthly, we also need patience. For whoever has faith, trusts in God, and shows love to his neighbor, practicing it day by day, must needs suffer persecution. For the devil never sleeps, but constantly gives him plenty of trouble. But patience works and produces hope [Rom. 5:4], which freely yields itself to God and vanishes away in him. Thus faith, by much affliction and persecution, ever increases, and is strengthened day by day. A heart thus blessed with virtues can never rest or restrain itself, but rather pours itself out again for the benefit and service of the brethren, just as God has done to it.

And here, dear friends, one must not insist upon his rights, but must see what may be useful and helpful to his brother, as Paul says, Omnia mihi licent, sed non omnia expediunt, “ ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful” [1 Cor. 6:12]. For we are not all equally strong in faith, some of you have a stronger faith than I. Therefore we must not look upon ourselves, or our strength, or our prestige, but upon our neighbor, for God has said through Moses: I have borne and reared you, as a mother does her child [Deut. 1:31]. What does a mother do to her child? First she gives it milk, then gruel, then eggs and soft food, whereas if she turned about and gave it solid food, the child would never thrive [cf. 1 Cor. 3:2Heb. 5:12–13]. So we should also deal with our brother, have patience with him for a time, have patience with his weakness and help him bear it; we should also give him milk-food, too [1 Pet. 2:2; of. Rom. 14:1–3], as was done with us, until he, too, grows strong, and thus we do not travel heavenward alone, but bring our brethren, who are not now our friends, with us. If all mothers were to abandon their children, where would we have been? Dear brother, if you have suckled long enough, do not at once cut off the breast, but let your brother be suckled as you were suckled. I would not have gone so far as you have done, if I had been here. The cause is good, but there has been too much haste. For there are still brothers and sisters on the other side who belong to us and must still be won.

Let me illustrate. The sun has two properties, light and heat. No king has power enough to bend or guide the light of the sun; it remains fixed in its place. But the heat may be turned and guided, and yet is ever about the sun. Thus faith must always remain pure and immovable in our hearts, never wavering; but love bends and turns so that our neighbor may grasp and follow it. There are some who can run, others must walk, still others can hardly creep [cf. 1 Cor. 8:7–13]. Therefore we must not look upon our own, but upon our brother’s powers, so that he who is weak in faith, and attempts to follow the strong, may not be destroyed of the devil. Therefore, dear brethren, follow me; I have never been a destroyer. And I was also the very first whom God called to this work. I cannot run away, but will remain as long as God allows. I was also the one to whom God first revealed that his Word should be preached to you. I am also sure that you have the pure Word of God.

Let us, therefore, let us act with fear and humility, cast ourselves at one another’s feet, join hands with each other, and help one another. I will do my part, which is no more than my duty, for I love you even as I love my own soul. For here we battle not against pope or bishop, but against the devil [cf. Eph. 6:12], and do you imagine he is asleep? He sleeps not, but sees the true light rising, and to keep it from shining into his eyes he would like to make a flank attack—and he will succeed, if we are not on our guard. I know him well, and I hope, too, that with the help of God, I am his master. But if we yield him but an inch, we must soon look to it how we may be rid of him. Therefore all those have erred who have helped and consented to abolish the mass; not that it was not a good thing, but that it was not done in an orderly way. You say it was right according to the Scriptures. I agree, but what becomes of order? For it was done in wantonness, with no regard for proper order and with offense to your neighbor. If, beforehand, you had called upon God in earnest prayer, and had obtained the aid of the authorities, one could be certain that it had come from God. I, too, would have taken steps toward the same end if it had been a good thing to do; and if the mass were not so evil a thing, I would introduce it again. For I cannot defend your action, as I have just said. To the papists and blockheads I could defend it, for I could say: How do you know whether it was done with good or bad intention, since the work in itself was really a good work? But I would not know what to assert before the devil. For if on their deathbeds the devil reminds those who began this affair of texts like these, “Every plant which my Father has not planted will be rooted up” [Matt. 15:13], or “I have not sent them, yet they ran” [Jer. 23:21],2 how will they be able to withstand? He will cast them into hell. But I shall poke the one spear into his face, so that even the world will become too small for him, for I know that in spite of my reluctance I was called by the council to preach. Therefore I was willing to accept you as you were willing to accept me, and, besides, you could have consulted me about the matter.

I was not so far away that you could not reach me with a letter, whereas not the slightest communication was sent to me. If you were going to begin something and make me responsible for it, that would have been too hard. I will not do it [i.e., assume the responsibility]. Here one can see that you do not have the Spirit, even though you do have a deep knowledge of the Scriptures. Take note of these two things, “must” and “free.” The “must” is that which necessity requires, and which must ever be unyielding; as, for instance, the faith, which I shall never permit any one to take away from me, but must always keep in my heart and freely confess before every one. But “free” is that in which I have choice, and may use or not, yet in such a way that it profit my brother and not me. Now do not make a “must” out of what is “free,” as you have done, so that you may not be called to account for those who were led astray by your loveless exercise of liberty. For if you entice any one to eat meat on Friday, and he is troubled about it on his deathbed, and thinks, Woe is me, for I have eaten meat and I am lost! God will call you to account for that soul. I, too, would like to begin many things, in which but few would follow me, but what is the use? For I know that, when it comes to the showdown, those who have begun this thing cannot maintain themselves, and will be the first to retreat. How would it be, if I brought the people to the point of attack, and though I had been the first to exhort others, I would then flee, and not face death with courage? How the poor people would be deceived!

Let us, therefore, feed others also with the milk which we received, until they, too, become strong in faith. For there are many who are otherwise in accord with us and who would also gladly accept this thing, but they do not yet fully understand it—these we drive away. Therefore, let us show love to our neighbors; if we do not do this, our work will not endure. We must have patience with them for a time, and not cast out him who is weak in faith; and do and omit to do many other things, so long as love requires it and it does no harm to our faith. If we do not earnestly pray to God and act rightly in this matter, it looks to me as if all the misery which we have begun to heap upon the papists will fall upon us. Therefore I could no longer remain away, but was compelled to come and say these things to you.

This is enough about the mass; tomorrow we shall speak about images.

The First Sermon, March 9, 1522, Invocavit Sunday1

Lord of our life, and God of our salvation,
Star of our night, and hope of ev’ry nation,
Hear and receive thy church’s supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

See round thine ark the hungry billows curling,
See how thy foes their banners are unfurling;
Lord, while their darts envenomed they are hurling,
Thou canst preserve us.

Lord, thou canst help when earthly armor faileth;
Lord, thou canst save when sin itself assaileth;
Christ, o’er thy Rock nor death nor hell prevaileth:
Grant us thy peace, Lord:

Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging,
Peace in thy church, where brothers are engaging,
Peace, when the world its busy war is waging:
Calm thy foes’ raging.

Grant us thy help till backward they are driven;
Grant them thy truth, that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth, or, after we have striven,
Peace in thy heaven.

Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstern (1594-1648)
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Church of God, elect and glorious…

Well, two tramps dropped in this morning. Funny guys. Friendly too. The one was dressed up in clerical vestments. I presume, Karlstadt looked something like that. Not shaved, green stole even in this festive Eastertide and without collar, but blue shirt sticking out brazenly though his impressive grey mane probably covered a whole multitude of sins (cf. 1. Pt.4,8) still. That was the German bloke. The other – shortish, bad teeth, but wide grin, good hiking shoes – spoke English (or was it Irish?). Both looking for a baker or coffee shop. They had made their way from the station, but as it was just after 6h00, they had not struck it lucky yet. It´s no longer freezing, but at 3° it´s prudent to find a warm place to thaw out the night´s frost. So, they walked into the wide-open doors of our bookshop. There was nobody at the desk. I was busy in the chapel.

Well, it was a lively meeting once we did meet. They obviously had a whole repertoire of scenes to play out – pastoral, political, cultural and plain witty too. They were both so quick to respond, quick to test, quick to laugh, quick to pick up any cue on offer being as sober as the early hour would suggest (cf. Acts 2). So, we had our fun warm-up sparring together. I made no sales. They didn´t book a room either, but I´m sure, they will return in good time even if only to try more quirks and inklings in their impressive range. Well, on these cold days of the Ice Saints (11-15th May) it´s good to find a place like the Old Latin School, that´s open for all and everyone even early in the chilly morning.  You can look forward to warmer days as the local farmer´s wisdom assures, that frost is unlikely after the holiday of Servatius:

“Servaz muss vorüber sein, willst vor Nachtfrost sicher sein.”


Today is the holiday of St. Servatius of Tongeren – a special saint from Armenia – working in Germany during the 4th century. That´s why the legend, that he baptized Attila the Hun in the 5th century is probably just a fable just like his illustrious family tree linking him to John the Baptist and thus even to our good Lord and Saviour. However, he was firmly on the side of St. Athanasius during that bishop´s exile in Trier. Like him and other faithful Trinitarian theologians, St. Servatius fought actively against the heretic Arians. That sure is a reason to recap this history today and hope to travel to Maastricht to see the legacy of this Saint one of these days for myself, once travel restrictions are lifted.

Until then we will wait patiently, count our many blessings and continue to rejoice in our good Lord, who calls people like Servatius to make them pillars of faith for generations to come. We sing and praise Him for His Holy Church – elect and glorious – from all nations and throughout the ages:

1 Church of God, elect and glorious,
holy nation, chosen race;
called as God’s own special people,
royal priests and heirs of grace:
know the purpose of your calling,
show to all his mighty deeds;
tell of love which knows no limits,
grace which meets all human needs.

2 God has called you out of darkness
into his most marvellous light;
brought his truth to life within you,
turned your blindness into sight.
Let your light so shine around you
that God’s name is glorified;
and all find fresh hope and purpose
in Christ Jesus crucified.

3 Once you were an alien people,
strangers to God’s heart of love;
but he brought you home in mercy,
citizens of heaven above.
Let his love flow out to others,
let them feel a Father’s care;
that they too may know his welcome
and his countless blessings share.

4 Church of God, elect and holy,
be the people he intends;
strong in faith and swift to answer
each command your master sends:
royal priests, fulfil your calling
through your sacrifice and prayer;
give your lives in joyful service
sing his praise, his love declare.

James E Seddon (1915 – 1983)
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What to look for in the gospels…

After his grandstand at the diet in Worms before emperor Charles V the banned and kidnapped Luther was banished on the Wartburg (1521). Not one to let an opportunity to spread the gospel go by, he got cracking and down to serious work – the most memorable and impressive was his translation of the Greek New Testament in just 11 weeks.

Although there were 14 German translations of the NT by 1520 – time was ripe for another one. The new movement was kickstarted by Luther´s new insights into the Bible and especially the theology of St. Paul, the Psalms and prophets of old. He used the Greek edition published by Erasmus of Rotterdam, knew the Vulgate by heart, and carried a Hebrew version of the Psalms with him, when he secretly ventured back into Wittenberg under cover – during the riots led on by the enthusiasts Karlstadt and Zwilling. However, ML wanted everyone to read the bible itself – not just have the masses follow some lead of loose cannons and theological renegades and wise cracks. He valued God´s Word much too highly for such misuse. “Die Anfechtung lehrt auf´s Wort achten!” Temptation, persecution and opposition led him back into the Word for truth, guidance and divine support as his later description of theology based on David´s Psalm 119 would summarize: “Oratio meditatio tentatio faciunt theologum” – and this also made him praise the devil and his many enemies as excellent tutors, because they led him back into the Holy Scriptures.

Melanchthon and Spalatin supported him in various ways during the translation. Sadly, the latter couldn´t come up with a map of Palastine as planned. So in the end Melchior Lotter jr published this bestseller for the editors Cranach and Düring – and the finished book was ready before the 21st of September 1522. Luther didn´t make any money with this, but the publishers nursed an ever-growing purse. ML not even got sufficient free copies to distribute. That was somewhat unfair and even got ML upset – according to his biographer Brecht.

Luther´s translation was topnotch. Not only was it intelligible, it was a literary highlight and most suitable for loud reading. He had an ear for the language and was able to touch people’s hearts and minds too.  He gave a number of notations along with the text – much like the Lutheran Study Bible (CPH) does today. Every book was introduced most helpfully by Luther – and this cast a very special light on the text. It was to promote IX – as savior of the world and redeemer of sinners – that was his overall criteria and benchmark. His introduction to the St.Paul´s letter to the Romans is still a classic reflection of the Christian doctrine of Justification of sinners by grace through faith alone. A number of woodcuts illustrate passages – many of them the visions in the Revelation of St. John. The book was a clear winner – and although more than 3000 were printed in September and next edition was required in December already. This enabled corrections, alterations and improvements too – and made ML a best-seller for ages to come.

The Old Testament translation was an even bigger task and far greater challenge. For economic reasons (i.e. to make it cheaper and affordable) ML wanted to divide this into three parts. In the end it became four. The Pentateuch was ready by mid-December 1522. The 2nd part (Joshua – Esther) was ready a year later and then the work on the 3rd part started. This was hard going. Especially Job challenged the Reformer. He comments: “Job would be just as unhappy with me than with his old friends, but he should at least appreciate that now his writings were comprehensible.” (cf. Brecht II, Pg.62). In Autumn 1523 the poetic books were published. The final version with the prophets was only done by the end of 1532. That´s after nearly a decade. As in the NT – ML´s introductions to the various parts and books of the bible are remarkable studies in theology and worth special and lasting attention.  

Here is Martin Luther´s brief instruction on what to look for and expect in the Gospels. First as a reading in German – but also in the English translation by E. Theodore Bachmann. It is ML´s introduction his “Wartburg Postille”: Model sermons on the epistles and gospels of the church year. The venerable Dr. Martin Luther writes:

It is a common practice to number the gospels and to name them by books and say that there are four gospels. From this practice stems the fact that no one knows what St. Paul and St. Peter are saying in their epistles, and their teaching is regarded as an addition to the teaching of the gospels, in a vein similar to that of Jerome’s introduction. There is, besides, the still worse practice of regarding the gospels and epistles as law books in which is supposed to be taught what we are to do and in which the works of Christ are pictured to us as nothing but examples. Now where these two erroneous notions remain in the heart, there neither the gospels nor the epistles may be read in a profitable or Christian manner, and [people] remain as pagan as ever.
One should thus realize that there is only one gospel, but that it is described by many apostles. Every single epistle of Paul and of Peter, as well as the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, is a gospel, even though they do not record all the works and words of Christ, but one is shorter and includes less than another. There is not one of the four major gospels anyway that includes all the words and works of Christ; nor is this necessary. Gospel is and should be nothing else than a discourse or story about Christ, just as happens among men when one writes a book about a king or a prince, telling what he did, said, and suffered in his day. Such a story can be told in various ways; one spins it out, and the other is brief. Thus the gospel is and should be nothing else than a chronicle, a story, a narrative about Christ, telling who he is, what he did, said, and suffered—a subject which one describes briefly, another more fully, one this way, another that way.
For at its briefest, the gospel is a discourse about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as a Lord over all things. This much St. Paul takes in hand and spins out in his epistles. He bypasses all the miracles and incidents [in Christ’s ministry] which are set forth in the four gospels, yet he includes the whole gospel adequately and abundantly. This may be seen clearly and well in his greeting to the Romans [1:1–4], where he says what the gospel is, and declares, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” etc.
There you have it. The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell. Just as there is no more than one Christ, so there is and may be no more than one gospel. Since Paul and Peter too teach nothing but Christ, in the way we have just described, so their epistles can be nothing but the gospel.
Yes even the teaching of the prophets, in those places where they speak of Christ, is nothing but the true, pure, and proper gospel—just as if Luke or Matthew had described it. For the prophets have proclaimed the gospel and spoken of Christ, as St. Paul here [Rom. 1:2] reports and as everyone indeed knows. Thus when Isaiah in chapter fifty-three says how Christ should die for us and bear our sins, he has written the pure gospel. And I assure you, if a person fails to grasp this understanding of the gospel, he will never be able to be illuminated in the Scripture nor will he receive the right foundation.
Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into a Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws. Therefore you should grasp Christ, his words, works, and sufferings, in a twofold manner. First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 4, “Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.” Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows them love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel, on the basis of which it cannot yet even be called gospel. For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint. His life remains his own and does not as yet contribute anything to you. In short this mode [of understanding Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites. You must grasp Christ at a much higher level. Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare. The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that is your own. This means that when you see or hear of Christ doing or suffering something, you do not doubt that Christ himself, with his deeds and suffering, belongs to you. On this you may depend as surely as if you had done it yourself; indeed as if you were Christ himself. See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express, and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at. This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content. This is what preaching the Christian faith means. This is why such preaching is called gospel, which in German means a joyful, good, and comforting “message”; and this is why the apostles are called the “twelve messengers.”
Concerning this Isaiah 9[:6] says, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given.” If he is given to us, then he must be ours; and so we must also receive him as belonging to us. And Romans 8[:32], “How should [God] not give us all things with his Son?” See, when you lay hold of Christ as a gift which is given you for your very own and have no doubt about it, you are a Christian. Faith redeems you from sin, death, and hell and enables you to overcome all things. O no one can speak enough about this. It is a pity that this kind of preaching has been silenced in the world, and yet boast is made daily of the gospel.
Now when you have Christ as the foundation and chief blessing of your salvation, then the other part follows: that you take him as your example, giving yourself in service to your neighbor just as you see that Christ has given himself for you. See, there faith and love move forward, God’s commandment is fulfilled, and a person is happy and fearless to do and to suffer all things. Therefore make note of this, that Christ as a gift nourishes your faith and makes you a Christian. But Christ as an example exercises your works. These do not make you a Christian. Actually they come forth from you because you have already been made a Christian. As widely as a gift differs from an example, so widely does faith differ from works, for faith possesses nothing of its own, only the deeds and life of Christ. Works have something of your own in them, yet they should not belong to you but to your neighbor.
So you see that the gospel is really not a book of laws and commandments which requires deeds of us, but a book of divine promises in which God promises, offers, and gives us all his possessions and benefits in Christ. The fact that Christ and the apostles provide much good teaching and explain the law is to be counted a benefit just like any other work of Christ. For to teach aright is not the least sort of benefit. We see too that unlike Moses in his book, and contrary to the nature of a commandment, Christ does not horribly force and drive us. Rather he teaches us in a loving and friendly way. He simply tells us what we are to do and what to avoid, what will happen to those who do evil and to those who do well. Christ drives and compels no one. Indeed he teaches so gently that he entices rather than commands. He begins by saying, “Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek,” and so on [Matt. 5:3, 5]. And the apostles commonly use the expression, “I admonish, I request, I beseech,” and so on. But Moses says, “I command, I forbid,” threatening and frightening everyone with horrible punishments and penalties. With this sort of instruction you can now read and hear the gospels profitably.
When you open the book containing the gospels and read or hear how Christ comes here or there, or how someone is brought to him, you should therein perceive the sermon or the gospel through which he is coming to you, or you are being brought to him. For the preaching of the gospel is nothing else than Christ coming to us, or we being brought to him. When you see how he works, however, and how he helps everyone to whom he comes or who is brought to him, then rest assured that faith is accomplishing this in you and that he is offering your soul exactly the same sort of help and favor through the gospel. If you pause here and let him do you good, that is, if you believe that he benefits and helps you, then you really have it. Then Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift.
After that it is necessary that you turn this into an example and deal with your neighbor in the very same way, be given also to him as a gift and an example. Isaiah 40[:1, 2] speaks of that, “Be comforted, be comforted my dear people, says your Lord God. Say to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her sin is forgiven, that her iniquity is ended, that she has received from the hand of God a double kindness for all her sin,” and so forth. This double kindness is the twofold aspect of Christ: gift and example. These two are also signified by the double portion of the inheritance which the law of Moses [Deut. 21:17] assigns to the eldest son and by many other figures.
What a sin and shame it is that we Christians have come to be so neglectful of the gospel that we not only fail to understand it, but even have to be shown by other books and commentaries what to look for and what to expect in it. Now the gospels and epistles of the apostles were written for this very purpose. They want themselves to be our guides, to direct us to the writings of the prophets and of Moses in the Old Testament so that we might there read and see for ourselves how Christ is wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in the manger [Luke 2:7], that is, how he is comprehended [Vorfassett] in the writings of the prophets. It is there that people like us should read and study, drill ourselves, and see what Christ is, for what purpose he has been given, how he was promised, and how all Scripture tends toward him. For he himself says in John 5[:46], “If you believed Moses, you would also believe me, for he wrote of me.” Again [John 5:39], “Search and look up the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me.”
This is what St. Paul means in Romans 1[:1, 2], where in the beginning he says in his greeting, “The gospel was promised by God through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” This is why the evangelists and apostles always direct us to the Scriptures and say, “Thus it is written,” and again, “This has taken place in order that the writing of the prophets might be fulfilled,” and so forth. In Acts 17[:11], when the Thessalonians heard the gospel with all eagerness, Luke says that they studied and examined the Scriptures day and night in order to see if these things were so. Thus when St. Peter wrote his epistle, right at the beginning [1 Pet. 1:10–12] he says, “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them; and he bore witness through them to the sufferings that were to come upon Christ and the ensuing glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but us, in the things which have now been preached among you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things which also the angels long to behold.” What else does St. Peter here desire than to lead us into the Scriptures? It is as if he should be saying, “We preach and open the Scriptures to you through the Holy Spirit, so that you yourselves may read and see what is in them and know of the time about which the prophets were writing.” For he says as much in Acts 4[3:24], “All the prophets who ever prophesied, from Samuel on, have spoken concerning these days.”
Therefore also Luke, in his last chapter [24:45], says that Christ opened the minds of the apostles to understand the Scriptures. And Christ, in John 10[:9, 3], declares that he is the door by which one must enter, and whoever enters by him, to him the gatekeeper (the Holy Spirit) opens in order that he might find pasture and blessedness. Thus it is ultimately true that the gospel itself is our guide and instructor in the Scriptures, just as with this foreword I would gladly give instruction and point you to the gospel.
But what a fine lot of tender and pious children we are! In order that we might not have to study in the Scriptures and learn Christ there, we simply regard the entire Old Testament as of no account, as done for and no longer valid. Yet it alone bears the name of Holy Scripture. And the gospel should really not be something written, but a spoken word which brought forth the Scriptures, as Christ and the apostles have done. This is why Christ himself did not write anything but only spoke. He called his teaching not Scripture but gospel, meaning good news or a proclamation that is spread not by pen but by word of mouth. So we go on and make the gospel into a law book, a teaching of commandments, changing Christ into a Moses, the One who would help us into simply an instructor.
What punishment ought God to inflict upon such stupid and perverse people! Since we abandoned his Scriptures, it is not surprising that he has abandoned us to the teaching of the pope and to the lies of men. Instead of Holy Scripture we have had to learn the Decretales of a deceitful fool and an evil rogue. O would to God that among Christians the pure gospel were known and that most speedily there would be neither use nor need for this work of mine. Then there would surely be hope that the Holy Scriptures too would come forth again in their worthiness. Let this suffice as a very brief foreword and instruction. In the exposition we will say more about this matter. Amen.

Luther Works Volume 35, Pg.117-129

And we sing with Martin Franzmann: Thy strong Word did cleave the darkness…

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O splendor of God´s glory bright…

Good morning on this frosty holiday of St. Pancras – the 2nd of the Ice Saints. It was just below zero and that perfectly normal for the season and goes with these icy fellows. German folk lore (Bauernregeln) teaches their significance for farming and gardening:


Wenn’s an Pankratius gefriert, so wird im Garten viel ruiniert (If on Pancras it froze, gardens will drop fruit in droves)

or even harsher

Pankraz und Servaz sind zwei böse Brüder, was der Frühling gebracht, zerstören sie wieder. (Pancras and Servatius are bad brothers: Whatever spring brought, this couple smothers).

Reminds me a lot of winters down south: Frost in the morning, but the rising sun is quick to dispel the chill and brings the most delightful days of blue skies and balmy afternoons. I sure do hope, that the farmers didn´t lose too much of those blooming fruit trees – cherries, apples, apricots and pears. They´re all in full bloom right now – and those would be most susceptible to the dangers of these rough comrades. And then I´ve not even touched on the many flowers in the gardens and fields.

But, even as we know full well, that we and the trees, orchards and fields do need good old cold – and thanks to Robert Frost for keeping that clear. In that sense: Happy freezing this icy holiday. The summer is surely coming!

This saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And the cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call
I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

Robert Frost: “Good-by and Keep Cold”

So we rejoice in our good Lord, who has ordained all things well – frost, cold and rain – all in good season – and continue to sing His praises:

1 O Splendor of God’s glory bright,
from light eternal bringing light,
O Light of light, light’s living Spring,
true Day, all days illumining:

2 Come, very Sun of heaven’s love,
in lasting radiance from above,
and pour the Holy Spirit’s ray
on all we think or do today.

3 And now to you our pray’rs ascend,
O Father, glorious without end;
we plead with Sov’reign Grace for pow’r 
to conquer in temptation’s hour.

4 Confirm our will to do the right,
and keep our hearts from envy’s blight;
let faith her eager fires renew,
and hate the false, and love the true.

5 O joyful be the passing day
with thoughts as pure as morning’s ray,
with faith like noontide shining bright,
our souls unshadowed by the night.

6 Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies,
let him, our perfect Morn, arise,
the Word in God the Father one,
the Father imaged in the Son.

Ambrose of Milan (340-397) translated by Robert S. Bridges (1844-1930)
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Sing the new song, whatever You do…

Lovely morning in Wittenberg. The clouds are heavy. Rains might be coming. That would be a perfect start to this working week after the wonderful beginnings in church yesterday. I know, why I became a pastor. The delightful treasures of our Lord are just too much to fit into one short hour and a bit on a Sunday morning. You really do need more time to get an idea of His overwhelming goodness and mercy, which is new every morning… As pastor, you get the chance to prepare the frameworks of those services and like a good manager to choose some of those riches, which are to feed the people this day… Readings, words, concepts, stories, parables, prayers, hymns, psalms, pictures, images and signs. There is just so much to choose from. Thank God for every new day, when we anew can see, taste, smell, feel and hear how friendly our good Lord and Savior is +

The rose outside on the pavement is just in the ground and already it blooms as if it´s going out of fashion. Two days ago, I could only see one bud, now it’s full of them. Reminds me a lot of that little nightingale, which is but a small, insignificant and dull colored bird – living out in the sticks, lonely and out of the way. Still, it sings it´s heart out: “was Neues hat sie nie gelernt, singt alte, liebe Lieder...“ I just love it. And the rose likewise. It´s but a small bush planted amongst the rocks, stones and pebbles – the mighty winds of Wittenberg pummel it day in, day out – and still, and still! – it blooms and does what it’s there for – bearing flowers, one, two, three … and one falls off, three take its place. 

It´s a bit like Georg Merz´s passage on “God´s accompanying Mercy” in the anthology for Mondays. He writes:

„Always there is one firm consolation – to know the source of our office and ministry. We have it in an order instituted by God.  This order stems out of mercy. Because we have received mercy and because this happened and continues to happen, we can serve. This mercy stands not only at the beginning of our ministry, it accompanies us constantly, even in time of doubt. Only one who makes mercy in this sense the foundation of his ministry can go on working. On the gravestone of Bodelschwingh are inscribed these words of 2. Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, having this Ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” And so, he instructed the young men who were to serve even where no human justification of their work might encourage them. They were made to understand that misery exists that it may bring forth the praise of God’s mercy, so that, as Paul says, the bright light which God is shone in the heart may shine in the world (v.6).”

Dobberstein 232

So, we´re happy to go about our business of showing mercy in this week too even as the nightingale sings and the rose blooms. Didn´t we hear it yesterday in the Epistle lesson?

„Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one bodyto this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:15-17

And then we sang the hymn of the week (“Graduallied”) for the 4th Sunday after Easter: “Cantate”

1 Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God has done,
How His right arm the vict’ry won,
What price our ransom cost Him!

2 Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay;
Death brooded darkly o’er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
But daily deeper still I fell;
My life became a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.

3 My own good works all came to naught,
No grace or merit gaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.

4 But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great,
He planned for my salvation.
He turned to me a father’s heart;
He did not choose the easy part
But gave His dearest treasure.

5 God said to His beloved Son:
“It’s time to have compassion.
Then go, bright jewel of My crown,
And bring to all salvation.
From sin and sorrow set them free;
Slay bitter death for them that they
May live with You forever.”

6 The Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother;
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my brother.
His royal pow’r disguised He bore;
A servant’s form, like mine, He wore
To lead the devil captive.

7 To me He said: “Stay close to Me,
I am your rock and castle.
Your ransom I Myself will be;
For you I strive and wrestle.
For I am yours, and you are Mine,
And where I am you may remain;
The foe shall not divide us.

8 “Though he will shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the vict’ry win;
My innocence shall bear your sin,
And you are blest forever.

9 “Now to My Father I depart,
From earth to heav’n ascending,
And, heav’nly wisdom to impart,
The Holy Spirit sending;
In trouble He will comfort you
And teach you always to be true
And into truth shall guide you.

10 “What I on earth have done and taught
Guide all your life and teaching;
So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought
And honored in your preaching.
But watch lest foes with base alloy
The heav’nly treasure should destroy;
This final word I leave you.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

The peace of our Lord + be with You + if it rains or not.

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Ready for church and to sing the praises of our God +

Ready for church + this 4th Sunday after Easter: “Cantate”. The table is set. The candles burning and BR Klassik is playing Hector Berlioz: “Messe solennelle” (Donna Brown, Sopran; Jean-Luc Viala, Tenor; Gilles Cachemaille, Bassbariton; Monteverdi Choir; Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique: John Eliot Gardiner) – and I thought that was just of the kittens in “Aristocats“. Sorry 😉 Well, there will be some Bach for us – snobs & buffoons alike – later!

It´s the most beautiful day. And we´ve got great expectations for the Divine Service. The Lord himself is hosting us with His gracious gifts and He´s got bags full of those up his sleeve.  Just take those hymns and psalms, those lessons, promises and stories, the heavenly food – and then He lets us bathe, recover and come to rest in His loving presence. Oh, He´s not called “Immanuel” (God with us!) for nothing. He wants to dwell right here with us – since the beginning. All His doing is aimed at that – casting out the demons, evil spirits, curses, sin, death and devil – cleaning out His temple and dwelling place – and entering in with His favorable Spirit and bounteous gifts of life, blessing, healing and grace. Having us rejoice, praise and thank Him for His merciful goodness and loving care, which is like that of both dearest mothers and fathers.  

The sermon takes up this theme of “Immanuel” – and takes it through the various stages suggested by today´s lessons. The first step will be the recap of the old king´s stories – Saul, David and Solomon – and how God takes up this royal institution of his people, which was initially quite contrary to His divine intentions and ways, and forms it into something, that serves His people best – in the building of the temple (Solomon), in the psalms of the Shepherd king (David) and even in curing the suffering despot again and again in his depression, in dark times and keeping him from executing murderous plans.  Not just by music, but also by company of the “good shepherd” – perhaps a forerunner of what we would call “mutuum colloquium fratrum” – and the office of the keys & confession/absolution.

Secondly, we look at our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to live in His own – and take up His rightful place and sovereign reign in the holy temple – as a baby, as a 12 year old and then as grown-up man – until He pulls down the curtain in the temple – opening up the Holy of Holies for all –  granting free access to our heavenly Father in heaven: He with us and we with Him. One big happy family!

Lastly, Colossians 3 will help us to come to bringing it closer to home. We´ll be encouraged to live together as God´s people – siblings all, willing to bear each other’s wrongdoings and shortcomings, just like our good Father and His Son – our brother – do too.  Willing to forgive. Loving, being thankful, reprimanding kindly and admonishing those, who need it too. Having God´s Word dwelling with us richly and wisely – with Psalms, praises and spiritual songs. Loving God and our neighbor – doing what comes before us – all in IX our Lord and God.

He himself gives the cue for the ending in today´s gospel reading – reprimanding those, who don´t want to receive Him as their Lord and King, when He enters triumphantly into Zion and God´s own special city – Jerusalem – here on earth: ““I tell you, if theykeep silent, the very stoneswill cry out!” (Lk.19,40). We don´t want to fall into the trap of rejecting our Lord and Savior – the triune God – glory be to Him always + Rather, we call on our God “Ein reines Herz, Herr, schaff in mir… Dir öffn ich, Jesus, meine Tür, ach komm und wohne Du bei mir; treib all Unreinigkeit hinaus aus deinem Tempel und Wohnhaus.” (Heinrich Georg Neuß, 1703) as we join the singing praises of those holy crowds:

When to our world the Saviour came
the sick and helpless heard his Name,
and in their weakness longed to see
the healing Christ of Galilee.

That good physician!  Night and day
the people thronged about his way;
and wonder ran from soul to soul,
`The touch of Christ has made us whole!'

His praises then were heard and sung
by opened ears and loosened tongue,
while lightened eyes could see and know
the healing Christ of long ago.

Of long ago: yet living still,
who died for us on Calvary's hill;
who triumphed over cross and grave,
his healing hands stretched forth to save.

His sovereign purpose still remains
who rose in power, and lives and reigns;
till every tongue confess his praise,
the healing Christ of all our days.

(Words © 1984 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188)

Here´s an outline of my German sermon 2. Chr.5,2-5.12-14:

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, denn er tut Wunder. (Psalm 98)

  1. Gott ziehet ein mit Jauchzen, seine Herrlichkeit/Gnade/Frieden erfüllt das Haus.  
    • Will unter uns wohnen – Stiftshütte (Zelt), Tempel – Immanuel
    • Einmütig singen die Leviten – wie mit einer Stimme – unisono
    • „Er ist gütig, und seine Barmherzigkeit währt ewig“ – Gott loben das ist unser Amt!
    • Singet dem Herrn, den er tut Wunder!
  2. Böser Geist ängstete Saul: „Haunted house“ – Besessen!
    • Nahm David die Harfe. So wurde es Saul leichter und es ward besser mit ihm, und der böse Geist wich von ihm. (Musik)
    • Brüderliches Gespräch (muttuum colloquium fratrum): Gespräch unter Männern!
    • Beichte: Sündenbekenntnis und Sündenvergebung!
  3. Das große Wunder ist IX, der Mensch wurde – unter uns wohnte – und unser Bruder wurde – Er hat uns gerettet, erlöst & selig gemacht!
    • Seine Geschichte mit dem Tempel
      • Zur Beschneidung
      • Als 12 jähriger
      • Als Mann: Austreibung
      • “Reißt diesen Tempel nieder und in 3 Tagen will ich ihn wieder aufbauen…”
      • Kirche als Leib IX. Er das Haupt wir seine Glieder… Kol.3 lesen.
    • In der Nacht da er verraten ward,
      • hat er für die Seinen gebetet, dass keiner verloren ginge…
    • Am Kreuz
      • hat er für uns Sünde, Tod und Teufel – alle bösen Geister & Mächte – für uns besiegt (Da zerriß der Vorhang im Tempel – und wir/alle haben Zugang zum Allerheiligsten)
    • Nach seiner siegreichen Auferstehung
      • hat er die Seinen gesammelt und ihnen Glauben, Friede und Hoffnung in seiner Schöpfung, Erlösung und Heiligung geschenkt.
    • Dieser Gott ist nun unter uns mit seiner Gnade und Herrlichkeit. Denn bei seiner Himmelfahrt hat er verheißen: Siehe ich bin bei Euch alle Tage.
      • Wo er einkehrt, da kehrt der Heiland ins Haus – mit seinem Geist und Gaben (Zachäus)
      • Im Geist & Wahrheit lässt er sich finden: Nachtmahl, Tauf und Wort
      • Taufe: Exorzismus & gleichzeitig Geistbegabung: Nimm hin das Zeichen des hl. Kreuzes und nimm hin den Hl. Geist
      • Konfirmation: Geist Zuspruch! (Agende)
      • So hat das neue Leben mit Christus für uns angefangen und seinen Lauf genommen: Kolosser 3.
      • Abendmahl: Tischgemeinschaft mit Gott und allen Heiligen…
  4. Das ist des dreieinigen Gottes Tun von Anfang an:
    • Schaffen, retten, erlösen, heilen & selig machen.
      • Darum sollen wir ihm singen und seinen Namen preisen:
        • Schöpfer, Retter, Erlöser, Heiliger, Seligmacher…
    • Sonst werden die Steine schreien (Architektur/Baukunst – Kriegsende/Kirchen)
    • Kolosser 3,12-17 Vorlesen.


  • Eingang                     129 “Tut mir auf die schöne Pforte...”   
  • Lesungen                    039 (Ps.98) 1. Sam.16,14-23; Kol.3,12-17 ; Lk.19,37-40
  • Vor der Predigt         205 “Lob Gott getrost mit Singen …
  • Predigt 2.Chr.5,2-5.12-14
  • Nach der Predigt       239 “Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein…
  • Gebet                         453 Litanei vom hl. Altarsakrament
  • Lied zur Bereitung:   476 “Weit offen steht des Himmels Perlentor…”
  • Ausgang                    499 “Ewig steht fest der Kirche Haus...”      
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Sing to the Lord a new song…

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he performs amazing deeds.
His right hand and his mighty arm accomplish deliverance.
The Lord demonstrates his power to deliver; in the sight of the nations he reveals his justice.
He remains loyal and faithful to the family of Israel. All the ends of the earth see our God deliver us.

Shout out praises to the Lord, all the earth.
Break out in a joyful shout and sing!
Sing to the Lord accompanied by a harp,
accompanied by a harp and the sound of music.

With trumpets and the blaring of the ram’s horn,
shout out praises before the king, the Lord.
Let the sea and everything in it shout,
along with the world and those who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands!
Let the mountains sing in unison before the Lord.

For he comes to judge the earth.
He judges the world fairly,
and the nations in a just manner.

Psalm 98 (NET)

That´s tomorrow´s Introit – fitting for the 4th Sunday after Easter: “Cantate!” Sing, shout, break out with trumpets and horns, clap Your hands and sing in unison before the Lord – for He does marvellous things. For He delivers us from all evil. He judges in favor of His people and family – that´s fair and just – because He rules and reigns forever.

We´ve got a plate full of the most wonderful histories, accomplishments and promises from our good God´s side – from the profound biographies of King Saul with all his duplicity due to the dark struggles between good and evil Spirits coming from on high intertwined with that of his successor David – the handsome harpist from the sheepfold in the Old Testament lesson 1.Samuel 16:14-23. That´s the background and context of my sermon based on 2. Chronicles 5:2-5.12-14. We hear of the wonderful consecration of the temple in King Solomon´s time – the mind boggling sacrifices (“all the blood of beasts can´t save us!”), but also the harmonious choir of Levites singing and praising in blessed unison – just like the Psalm above demands.

The 3rd chapter of the epistle to the Colossions contains the epistle lesson prescribed for this Sunday. I think, reading the introductory verses will be helpful to get the picture of the Christian congregation and church being rescued and delivered from the old life, the old man and all his evil practices – and put into the new life and creation and body through our creator God and true, holy and only saviour – living by forgiveness, love, peace and thankfulness – in His kingdom, where His holy will is done and His holy name hallowed:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. And to all these virtues add love, which is the perfect bond. Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

The Gospel lesson taken from the 19th chapter of the holy Evangelist St. Luke adds our Lord´s strong words of fulfilment and more promises to this entire picture. Yes, he adds strict words of admonition and reprimand to the theologians and pious guardians and watchdogs of his day:

As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!”

Gospel of St. Luke chapter 19 verses 37-40

We´ve got a whole stack of lovely psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to sing tomorrow. So far, this is the list from our German hymnal:

  1. Eingang                     129 Tut mir auf die schöne Pforte…   
  2. Lessons                     039 (Ps.98) 1. Sam.16,14-23; Kol.3,12-17 ; Lk.19,37-40
  3. Vor der Predigt         205 Lob Gott getrost mit Singen ...
  4. Nach der Predigt       239 Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein…
  5. Gebet                         453 Litanei vom hl. Altarsakrament
  6. Lied zur Bereitung:  476 Weit offen steht des Himmels Perlentor
  7. Ausgang                    499 Ewig steht fest der Kirche Haus…      

For now we will intone the delightful church hymn

1 No temple now, no gift of price,
No priestly round of sacrifice,
Retain their ancient pow’rs.
As shadows fade before the sun
The day of sacrifice is done,
The day of grace is ours.

2 The dying Lord our ransom paid,
One final full self-off’ring made,
Complete in ev’ry part.
His finished sacrifice for sins
The covenant of grace begins,
The law within the heart.

3 In faith and confidence draw near,
Within the holiest appear,
With all who praise and pray;
Who share one family, one feast,
One great imperishable Priest,
One new and living way.

4 For Christ is ours! With purpose true
The pilgrim path of faith pursue,
The road that Jesus trod;
Until by His prevailing grace
We stand at last before His face,
Our Saviour and our God.

Timothy Dudley-Smith (1926)

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Luther´s business on the Wartburg – contra Latomus – 1521

Once Luther was hijacked to be put into quarantine on the Wartburg, he did not fall into despair, but into a working frenzy. Astounding, what he produced and that despite heavy attacks by his relentless foes and his urge to fight back. He thought, that this retaliation was basically a waste of time, because his enemies were careless, not really up to the challenge and far too easy prey. That´s why later, he was so thankful for Erasmus of Rotterdam to put the real and sticky issues on the table with the matter of so-called “free-will”. But that was later.

Wartburg in Thuringia

For now, Luther tackled the many arising issues, partly out of Christian responsibility to correct failing, incompetent and erring brothers, but mainly to help a rather disoriented public to find a faithful way in the stormy seas – navigating between the Scylla of legalistic self-righteousness and the Charybdis of libertine desperation.

One of the guys he tackled during his stay on the Wartburg was the Belgian professor at Louvain (Universität Löwen) – Jacobus Masson (1475-1544) – called Latomus. Luther´s response is remarkable for its clarity, precision and eloquence – despite serious limitations not having a meaningful library. Still, he hit the mark, and this became one of his standard papers on Justification etc. No small wonder, that Professor Dr. Gottfried Hoffmann used it as a standard research project for students in the preparatory courses on Lutheran Dogmatics (Proseminar).

Let´s hear from Luther himself – first in a German reading based on the German translation by Rudolf Mau – and then looking at the English translation prepared by Dr. George Lindbeck of Yale Divinity School and to be found in Luther Works Volume 32 – starting on Page 137…

We start with Luther´s introduction and dedication to his colleague Justus Jonas – Propst des Wittenberger Kirchenkollegiums…


Luther’s Refutation of Latomus’ Argument on Behalf of the Incendiary Sophists of the University of Louvain (1521)

To the Honorable Justus Jonas, (Dean of the Clergy) of Wittenberg, my superior in the Lord, I, Martin Luther, send greetings in the Lord.
I also, my good Jonas, would like to congratulate you on the office you have recently assumed. Unable to be present in person, I have decided to send you this “Latomus” of mine. He is no longer a detractor of linguistic competence. You need not fear him, for that Ishbibenob has been vanquished by the strength of our Abishai [2 Sam. 21:16–17]. Neither is he the tardy advocate justifying the crime of the Louvainian arsonists with a malicious pretense of modesty and an unfortunate verbal subtlety. Nor is he the one whom you have seen glorying in the lord pope and his bull. But, I send you a “Latomus” who—purified by Luther’s holy water—seems to be freed from the ghosts and hobgoblins with which until now he has been disturbed, and with which he was wont to trouble devout hearts.
If the Louvainians had published their opinion at the proper time and, as is proper for learned men, had consulted together before acting, they would neither have condemned nor destroyed my writings, nor would they like fools seek to justify themselves only after the deed. This much I hope to show. Latomus’ book certainly shows me how easy it is to sit in one’s corner and babble against an absent Luther: “This is heretical, this is erroneous.” But in public they would not have had confidence in their strength and daring to deal with the matter. This persuades me that if the bull had not inflated Latomus’ confidence he would never have published his illustrious “Argument.” Therefore he boasts as of a deed well done and, dreaming of the bull’s antique and antiquated terrors, believes that his booklet will alarm the world. For this reason he now fearlessly dares to play against Luther with God’s mighty Scriptures. I’d just as soon have such an act approved by such a bull. I would not want it otherwise than to be condemned by such a bull. The bull, indictment, judge, and advocate all agree beautifully. May the Lord Jesus protect me and all devout souls from their contagion and their company! Amen.
Truly it won’t be easy for you to believe how unwillingly I have torn myself away from the peace-giving words of Christ, with which I have been occupied on this my Patmos, in order to waste my time reading the nonsense of this prickly and thorny sophist. Indeed, the man is sophistic from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Swollen with the flatulent bull, he writes with such confidence that he considers both industry and discernment unnecessary. He is content to babble whatever he has read or swallowed. It is a great bother to reply to him, for in doing so you can neither exercise skill nor increase your learning, and yet you are forced to waste precious hours. I suspect the man of believing that Luther has been spirited away or has been condemned to eternal silence so that they may once again freely dominate the public with sophistic tyranny. They consider me not a little guilty for its decline and fall. O that its downfall were complete; I would gladly be guilty, even unto death, of this seven times unforgivable sin (if we are to believe the most holy priests of the bull).
However, I am concerned that while we bravely battle over grace and good works, we do not in the meantime deprive ourselves of grace or of works. When I consider these fearful times of wrath, I ask only that my eyes become fountains of tears so that I may bewail this latest desolation of souls [Jer. 9:1] which this reign of sin and of perdition is producing. Seated in Rome in the midst of the church [2 Thess. 2:4], this monster vaunts itself as God, is flattered by the bishops, compliantly aided by the sophists, and there is nothing that the hypocrites are not willing to do for it. “Therefore hell has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth without any bounds” [Isa. 5:14], and Satan plays at the damnation of souls. There is no one among us who, seriously and with tears, stands in this day of fury and builds up a wall for the house of Israel [cf. Jer. 9:1; 15:20]. So, full of anger against blasphemers like Latomus, who deal sophistically with serious matters and compel us to interrupt better tasks in order to concern ourselves with their senseless insanities, I invoke these words against their flinty foreheads: “All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled; they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment” [Ps. 6:10].
In order not to detain you with too long a letter, I shall answer the main points of Latomus’ preface in a separate introduction. Meanwhile accept this testimony of my esteem for you and ask the Lord for me that I may be delivered (for so I now dare to pray with the Apostle) from the evil and unbelieving men [2 Thess. 3:2; cf. Rom. 15:31] who inhabit this Babylon, and that a door be opened to me [Col. 4:3] for the praise of the glorious grace of the gospel of His Son [Eph. 1:6]. I, for my part, pray the Lord to give you His Spirit so that you may lecture on those most pestilent decrees of the Antichrist, which you are commissioned to teach, with the purpose of which I have told you; may you be an Aaron clothed in holy garments—that is, armed with the sacred Scriptures—so that, grasping the censer of prayer [Rev. 8:3] you may go forth to encounter this devastator in the midst of the Romish fire which now consumes the world. It is soon to be extinguished by another fire coming from heaven at the advent of our Savior, for whom we wait. See to it, my brother, that you teach so that what you are teaching must be forgotten, and that [your students] know that they must flee as something deadly whatever the pope and papists hold and assert. Since we do not have the power to abolish this public and world-wide evil, and are compelled to administer the sacrilegious provinces of Babylon, it remains for us so to administer them as to recognize that they are completely different from Jerusalem our home, and that they are its adversaries, ravagers, and enemies of insatiable cruelty. Thus we shall not smile and caress our bondage as do those who perish, in whom the gospel of the glory of God is hidden [2 Cor. 4:3]. Do not lightly regard your ministry for, alongside the poisonous refuse and insane foolishness of the pope, you present the saving and life-giving gospel of Christ. Thus young men may have an antidote against this venom—the mere smell of which kills a man—until such time as they learn to reject evil and choose the good for themselves. This Immanuel is commended to you [cf. Isa. 7:14]. Therefore be hardy and strong. Do not fear this Baal-peor [Num. 25:3] for if we only believe, it is scarcely a Baal-zebub [2 Kings 1:2]—that is, a man of flies. For we believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord, blessed in eternity—Amen!—who will perfect and confirm you and his little church which is with you. Be strong in Him.
In the place of my exile, June 8, 1521.

LW 32: 137-140

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In short: Apart from me, You can do nothing +

I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.

John 15:5a

Here Christ repeats His foregoing words almost verbatim. He wants to be sure to impress on His disciples that they must look to Him alone and adhere firmly to Him. “For I,” He says, “am the Vine, as you know, and you are My branches.” As though He were saying: “No one will ever alter this relationship. No, God has, as you heard, ordained that I, and no other, am to be the Vine. You dare not investigate and search further for any other vine or suppose that you or others might be true branches in God’s sight if you are not grafted in Me, the only Vine there is.” For Christ foresaw very well, as I have said earlier, what would happen in Christendom, how both raging tyrants and false teachers would oppose this doctrine and many would falsely call themselves the vine and the branches. In fact, this is what most of us have done up to this time. Thus the rabble of barefoot friars have publicly and impudently set up their Francis with his rule as the vine. They have elevated him and his works to the level of Christ in every respect. They have taught: Whoever would be a true branch and bear perfect fruit must follow in the footsteps of Francis and observe his rules.
There always have been, and always will be, innumerable people of this stripe who assume that name and appearance. Christ Himself said that they would “lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). For they gleam and glitter far more beautifully than Christ with His true branches. “In comparison,” Christ would say, “I appear, not as a vine but as the stalk of a wild thornbush, and you as a thorn hedge. But do not take offense at this or be misled by attractive outward appearances and fine words. For I, and I alone, must be the One planted and placed by God Himself as the Vine; and you, if you hold to Me and remain in Me, shall be the only true branches, even if the devil and all the world say otherwise.” It is necessary to repeat this reminder, since no one understands or believes this unless time and adversity demonstrate how many people and how many different kinds of people band together against this Vine and how few there are who endure and remain in Him. This is the first point.
In the second place, Christ speaks the words “He who abides in Me, and I in him” (John 15:5) against the false Christians, to inform us that a person is not a true branch in Christ by his natural strength and works. For the branch is not manufactured; it grows and it must be of the nature or species of Christ the Vine. The vine and the branches are not assembled or grafted, as is done with a little twig or shoot on a dry stem; but the branches must be of the proper type—they must grow from Christ. For the mere name does not make you a Christian, nor does the fact that you live among Christians, as the apostle Judas and others did. People may dwell among Christians, pray, fast, partake of the Sacrament, and conduct themselves outwardly as Christians, so that they cannot be excommunicated; but in spite of all this they are not true branches. They are strange and withered twigs of thorns among the grapes, although they excel the others in appearance. But it will always be true that he who is a Christian must have emerged and grown naturally from Christ the Vine.
Here it is not possible to make or carve. The mock bishops who consecrate Easter cakes, the monks, and nuns imagine that they make people holy with their tomfoolery, when they smear on their chrism, trim their tonsures, and don their cowls. But this is not making and carving; it is fraud and hocus-pocus pure and simple. A Christian and a true saint must be a divine work and creation, the creature of a Master who with a single word can make everything out of nothing, and make it complete and perfect. No human effort, rule, or order can do this. For even if an abbot teaches and trains a monk for a long time, the final product will, after all, be no more than a human being as he has been created—a human being endowed with a free will and reason, and made up of flesh and blood. To be sure, he is clothed and adorned in a different way with works; but in spite of this his nature remains unchanged. He is still a knave, and his nature and his thoughts are no different from what they were before. For he still drags the old Adam around with him; but he has pulled a mask over the old Adam and has feigned a different way of living, and different works. These are all human works, just as a school-teacher trains and schools a child with works but cannot make another creature or form. This only the Creator can do with His own hand and power, and without human aid.
And it is done in this manner: When I am baptized or converted by the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is present. He takes me as clay and makes of me a new creature, which is endowed with a different mind, heart, and thoughts, that is, with a true knowledge of God and a sincere trust in His grace. To summarize, the very essence of my heart is renewed and changed. This makes me a new plant, one that is grafted on Christ the Vine and grows from Him. My holiness, righteousness, and purity do not stem from me, nor do they depend on me. They come solely from Christ and are based only in Him, in whom I am rooted by faith, just as the sap flows from the stalk into the branches. Now I am like Him and of His kind. Both He and I are of one nature and essence, and I bear fruit in Him and through Him. This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s.
Thus Christ and the Christians become one loaf and one body, so that the Christian can bear good fruit—not Adam’s or his own, but Christ’s. For when a Christian baptizes, preaches, consoles, exhorts, works, and suffers, he does not do this as a man descended from Adam; it is Christ who does this in him. The lips and tongue with which he proclaims and confesses God’s Word are not his; they are Christ’s lips and tongue. The hands with which he toils and serves his neighbor are the hands and members of Christ, who, as He says here, is in him; and he is in Christ.
Behold, with the words “He who abides in Me, and I in him” (John 15:5) Christ wants to indicate that Christianity is not brought in from without; it is not put on like a garment, nor does it consist in the adoption of a new manner of living, which, like monasticism and self-chosen sanctity, is concerned with works. It is a new birth brought about by God’s Word and Spirit; there must be an entirely new man from the bottom of his heart. Then, however, when the heart is born anew in Christ, fruits will follow naturally, such as the confession of the Gospel, works of love, obedience, patience, chastity, etc.
Here Christ wants to exhort His disciples to be sure to remain in His Word, which makes true and regenerate Christians—Christians who bear much fruit from the Vine and are on their guard against every other kind of doctrine, which perverts the Word and presumes to make the tree from the fruit, or grapes from thistles and thorns, which, of course, is impossible, since like begets like. Even if a person teaches this for a long time, slaves over it, and exhausts himself with works, human nature is not changed. You must have the true nature and type to begin with; you will not accomplish anything by slaving and by wearing yourself out. For the two things are and always remain widely separated: the one is called human fabrication; the other, natural growth. It always happens that what we ourselves fashion requires greater and harder effort; yet it does not prosper as well as that which has grown naturally. For this moves, stands, lives, and acts of itself as it should. “Thus,” Christ says, “all other doctrines must concern themselves with fabricating something out of works. Yet they can never carry it out. But if you remain in Me as natural branches on the Vine, you will surely bear good fruits, and many of them.”

For apart from Me you can do nothing.

John 15:5b

This is a brief conclusion and a clear explanation. “Apart from Me,” says Christ, “that is, if you do not remain in Me and become regenerated Christians through Me, you will do nothing, try as you will.” But how can Christ make such an exaggerated statement? How can He be so offensive? could it be possible that all the pious and excellent people there were at that time among the Jews, and all there may still be among the Christians, accomplished nothing? Could all their efforts have been in vain? Is it not true that they performed, and still perform, many more works, and greater ones, than the poor, wretched, little flock, which can boast of nothing but of this Christ? Oh, these are offensive and blasphemous words to the ears of the great saints—the holy Jews, the Pharisees, and others, such as St. Paul in his fine and irreproachable righteousness according to the Law, the spiritual and devout hermits of our time, the Carthusians and other monks, and I myself at one time! They strive with great earnestness for piety; they want to go to heaven. Or look at the heathen. See how well they have governed lands and people, established law and order, maintained peace and discipline, fostered knowledge of many kinds. As a result, the whole world praises and admires their wisdom. Furthermore, we read that some heretics lived a much stricter life and performed greater works than the true Christians. I am thinking of the Cathari and the Encratites. The forty-day fast was also introduced by heretics, and it is said of the Turks that many among them lead a very ascetic life and perform wonderfully great works: fasting, giving alms, etc. And now all factions cry out against us and our doctrine for not devoting ourselves to this as they do. They say that we do not have the Spirit, because we do not live as they do. How, then, can Christ say here: “Apart from Me you can do nothing”?
As said before, the answer to this question is: Here Christ is not speaking of physical or worldly life and conduct, as the scoffers misinterpret Him; He is speaking of the fruits of the Gospel. For when He created the world, He commanded and empowered man to rule physically over beasts, birds, and fish, to maintain home life, to rear children, to cultivate the fields, to rule over lands and people, etc. It was not necessary for Christ to give instruction about this, for it was implanted in nature and written in their hearts. Furthermore, all books, with the exception of Holy Writ, are derived from that source and spring. Therefore Christ’s words and doctrine must not be interpreted as though He had wanted to teach and ordain anything in addition to this or to institute anything better. Christ is speaking exclusively of His spiritual kingdom and government, in which God Himself dwells, reigns, and works through His Word and Spirit toward a spiritual, eternal life. For this is God’s own realm: to baptize, to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacrament, to console and strengthen timid and grieving consciences, to terrify and punish the wicked with excommunication, to perform works of love and mercy, and to endure the cross. All this is done because thereby we please God, are His children, are redeemed from sin and death, and have eternal life. The secular realm can do nothing at all to achieve this end, for it all must end with this life.
“In this kingdom,” Christ says, “you are nothing and can do nothing unless you are and remain in Me.” Yes, all that the world undertakes, contemplates, and is able to do counts for nothing before God; as, for instance, the zeal, the spirituality, and the self-chosen worship of all the Jews, Turks, and the pope’s saints. Nor can any schismatic spirit who has fallen away from Christ ever teach or do anything that is right; he only leads both himself and others farther away from Christ. Take, for example, the Anabaptists of today with their fanaticism. They only baptize people out of church and contend against the Spirit, as is finally seen by their fruit. Nor can all monks and monastic orders who teach and practice their work-righteousness ever come to Christ or bring a person to true knowledge. They cannot counsel and console a conscience, deliver from the smallest sin, or bear any Christian fruit. Consequently, whatever they do is lost, even though the works are numerous, important, and arduous. The more they torment and torture themselves, the less they accomplish. I can testify to this on the basis of my own experience. For more than twenty years I was a pious monk, read Mass daily, and so weakened myself with fasting and praying that I would not have been long for this life had I continued. Yet all this taken together cannot help me in even one little crisis to be able to say before God: “All this I have done; now please consider it, and be gracious to me.” What else did I achieve with this than to plague myself uselessly, impair my health, and waste my time? Now I must hear Christ pass this judgment on it: “You did this without Me; therefore it is nothing and has no room in My kingdom. It can avail neither you nor others for eternal life.” Yes, I myself must now stamp and condemn it as sin committed in idolatry and unbelief. I must be terrified when I think of it. Still everyone clung to this and regarded it as the way to salvation. For such a purpose all the world, eager to purchase such holiness and merit, is ready to give and donate. And this holiness was shamelessly offered for sale—signed, sealed, and delivered.
Thus a fearful judgment is decreed here against all life and activity—no matter how great, glorious, and beautiful—if it has no connection with Christ. Then it can do nothing and be nothing. It is great and highly esteemed before the world, for it is regarded as excellent and precious work. But here in the kingdom of Christ and before God it is truly nothing, because it has not grown out of Him and does not remain in Him. For it is not His Word, Baptism, and Sacrament; it is our own fabrication, which we have chosen and exacted apart from the Word. Therefore it cannot bear fruit or pass muster before God; it must be exterminated like a rotten and withered tree without sap and strength. As Christ says later (v. 6), it must be cast into the fire. Therefore let others carve and make whatever they can without Him, until they have fashioned a new birth out of their works and a tree from the fruit. What they will do, please God, is to verify this verse, and it will all amount to a big zero.
But who believes that this verse could be so comprehensive and damn so many people? Or that the world is so full of false Christians and saints? But this proclamation is addressed to us, lest we run and toil in vain, as St. Paul admonishes in 1 Cor. 9:26. We must see to it that we are always found in Christ, that is, that we hold to His Word and let nothing tear us away from it. Then the true and enduring fruit will surely follow. It is a mighty comfort and bulwark for a person to know that his life and works are not in vain but are pleasing to God and are called true fruit, and for him to be able to say with all his heart: “I was baptized in the name of Christ. I did not invent this Baptism or institute it through my monastic order or rule, nor did it come into being by human choice. No, Christ my Lord Himself is the author; this I know for certain. In the second place, I know and profess before all the world that by the grace of God I believe in that Man, and I am resolved to remain with Him and to surrender life, limb, and everything rather than deny Him. In this faith I stand and live. Then I go forth, eat and drink, sleep and wake, rule, serve, labor, act, and suffer all in the faith in which I am baptized; and I know that this is good fruit and is pleasing to God.”
The life of such a person and whatever he does, whether great or small and no matter what it is called, is nothing but fruit and cannot be without fruit; for in Christ he has been born into a new existence, in order that he may constantly be full of good fruit. Everything such a person does becomes easy for him, not troublesome or vexatious. Nothing is too arduous for him or too difficult to suffer and bear. By way of contrast, the others, who do not have faith and who presume to make good fruit themselves, never have such comfort, even though they torture themselves intensely and perform many important works and more than others perform. They do everything with a heavy heart. Consequently, they can never be happy or have the assurance that what they do is pleasing to God. Thus everything they do is wasted and lost. Therefore it is true that whatever is done without and apart from Christ amounts to nothing and is altogether corrupt, useless, and worthless. On the other hand, everything that counts is done in Christ and is altogether rich, perfect, and precious fruit.
But the world with its pseudo saints and its sects cannot understand this. They say: “What kind of Christian can such a person be? All he can do is to eat and drink, work in the home, tend the children, guide the plow, etc. That much I can do just as well and better!” Ah, one must make a distinction between what a Christian does and what the heathen also do, and not be so quick to designate everything as fruits of the Christian life! Judged by such common task as those performed by father and mother, child, servant, husband or wife, the heathen would fare better than we. Therefore we must have something different and out of the ordinary—something beyond what the common man does, as, for instance, entering a cloister, lying on the ground, wearing a hair shirt, or praying day and night without ceasing. Such work they call a holy life and Christian fruit. And they are quick to deduce from this that rearing children, doing domestic work, etc., is not a holy life. For they look solely at the outward appearance of the works and are unable to judge by the source of these work and their origin in the Vine. And who does not know that monasticism with its work appears greater when it is appraised by its outward shape and form, and not by the nature of its origin?
But now Christ says that only those works are good fruit that are done by people who are and remain in Him. And all their life and everything they do is called good fruit, even if it were something more menial than when a farm hand loads and hauls manure. This is incomprehensible to those people; they consider such work—as they see them before their eyes—ordinary pagan task. Among Christians, however, there arises a very great difference between what they do and what a heathen or someone else—apart from Christ—does, even if the work is completely identical. For the work of the heathen do not spring and grow from Christ the Vine. Therefore they cannot please God or be called Christian fruit. But since the work of Christians proceed from faith in Christ, they are all true and useful fruit. The Christian is just like the lamb, of which it is said that everything about it is good and useful, not only the flesh, the hide, and the bones but also the urine and the droppings.
It is true that a Christian is not as impressive with his works and fruit as a schismatic spirit or an eccentric, for he does not choose any particularly striking works but confines himself to the ordinary tasks that come up in everyday life. The trouble is that the world is unable to see that these are works performed by a new person in Christ. Therefore one and the same work becomes different even in one and the same person, depending on whether it is performed before or after he has come to faith in Christ. Previously he was a thistle and a thorn; for he was not a part of the Vine and for this reason was unable to bear fruit, and all the works he performed were lost and condemned. But now that he is a Christian, the same work is a fine and precious grape—not because it was done in this or that manner, but because it issues from the good Vine, which is Christ.
Therefore the point is to judge the work by the motive behind it, not by the kind of work it is. What is done—whether great or small, much or little—is not important; all depends on the source and fountain from which the works flow. Here Christians live and are active in a manner that is different and apart from the life and activity of all other people on earth. For here comes Christ and draws the dividing line. To him who occupies himself with self-designed works He says: “Your deeds are nothing; they are futile.” “Well,” you say, “have I not read Mass daily for so many years? Have I not abstained so long from eating meat? Have I not mortified my body? This ascetic life has been extremely hard for me. Is it possible that so many great and arduous works should be nothing?” “To be sure,” says Christ, “these can be called great and arduous tasks; but I declare that they are absolutely nothing, for they all have been done without Me.”
On the other hand, there may be some poor maiden, such as the Virgin Mary, who never performed any work that stood out above the works performed by others. With regard to her, Christ pronounces the judgment: “Lo, this maiden has not performed any of your great and arduous works; yet her life abounds in good works, for hers are works that are done in Me. For this reason I prize them as precious gems and will praise and reward them before God and all the angels. But your works shall be fit for nothing else than to be cast into the fire like thorns and thistles, for they are not done in Me.” And it will not help you to cry out that you are treated unjustly, or to make excuses and pretend ignorance; for He will say: “Why did you ignore My words, which foretold this and also warned you to be on your guard against all activity that excludes Me? Why did you not draw the clear and cogent conclusion that no one can do anything without Me?” Therefore one must learn not to look at works as a cow looks at a door; one must learn from what kind of heart and person they proceed. If the person is in Christ, then the work, be it as big or as little as it will, is a good fruit; for whatever remains in Him must bear much fruit, and all such works are precious grapes, even though sin creeps in now and then and there are false steps. For this is the manure with which he can fertilize his field, so that even his shortcomings must redound to his good and not to his hurt.
On the other hand, in the case of the other saints—monks, Turks, and heathen—not only the public sins are condemned; but even their best works, because of which they think they merit heaven, are rejected and, together with them, are sentenced to be burned. And this judgment against them is fair and just. For what devil induces us who are called Christians and are baptized to renounce Baptism and Christ and to seek for ourselves works of our own apart from Christ? Those who do this do not want to live, work, and act like other, ordinary Christians; they want to attract open-mouthed admiration on the part of the public with their special, novel, and self-chosen deeds. The schismatic spirits say: “We see no special work or fruit of the Spirit in those who know nothing to teach but Christ. One must really put forth strenuous effort by looking morose, wearing gray garments, owning no property, or, like the monks, by fasting, mortifying the flesh, and not eating and drinking as others do.” Such a life is outwardly very impressive, and the rabble, is quick to say: “What are our clergy and their followers in comparison? These are saintly, Christian people who forsake all, wear gray garments, etc.” In this way they let themselves be duped and turned away from Christ. And it serves them right. Do you not hear Christ declare here that you are not to look at and judge by such external appearances of works but by the stem and the root from which they grow? Therefore you should first inquire: “Why do you look so morose? Why do you wear gray clothing? Why do you set yourself apart from others?” They reply: “Well, one must really do one’s utmost and withdraw from the world if one wants to be saved.” There you see the donkey with its long ears! You abominable hypocrite and seducer, how will you bear fruit apart from and without the Vine? A morose mien will never take you to heaven. You must be in the Vine first. He must be the source of growth. Hence such works of yours are lost; they are null and void, because they are apart from and without Christ. Yes, on top of this, they are against Christ.

Quoted from Luther Works Volume 24 – and here is a reading of Eduard Ellwein´s selection of Luther´s commentary to this verse in German.

In this confidence and faith we sing, praise and confess another hymn of the church:

1 The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation
by water and the Word:
from heav’n he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

2 Elect from ev’ry nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation
one Lord, one faith, one birth;
one holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with ev’ry grace endued.

3 Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

4 The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
to guide, sustain, and cherish,
is with her to the end;
though there be those that hate her,
and false sons in her pale,
against both foe and traitor
she ever shall prevail.

5 ‘Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore;
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

6 Yet she on earth hath union
with the God the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
on high may dwell with thee.

Samuel J. Stone (1839-1900)
Posted in Eastertide, Lectionary etc, Martin Luther and the Reformation, psalms and spiritual songs, Sights and pictures, You comfort me + | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schöner Morgen heute Abend…

Ein schöner Morgen heute Abend – hier im Osten wie im Westen, hier im Norden wie dort im Süden. So ähnlich hat das Papa Scharlach ja gerne gesagt. Der Mond ging knapp nach 5Uhr früh unter. Heute Abend ist dann voraussichtlich Vollmond. Da ich früh raus wollte, hatte ich meinen zeitig Wecker gestellt. Das war ein Rat meines alten Professors (O.Hartmut) Günter.  Er meinte, sonst würde man unruhig schlafen und die ganze Nacht gespannt hoffen, dass man das zeitige Aufstehen nicht verschliefe. Ich habe trotz Wecker unruhig geschlafen. Vier Minuten vor der Zeit konnte ich ihn endlich abstellen ohne dass ich jemand anders geweckt hätte. Bis dahin habe ich einen alten Traum aus lang verflossenen Tagen in stündlichen Etappen mit vier Intervallen – Mitternacht, 1Uhr, 3Uhr und endlich 4Uhr – erlebt und noch auf dem Hochsitz bewegte mich das.

Es ist schon merkwürdig wie man so vieles vergisst, aber manche Geschichten, Personen und Begebenheiten bleiben einfach hängen. Das ist ja gar nicht so als ob das weltbewegende Dinge wären. Ganz und gar nicht. Manchmal ist es völlig belanglos, was einem da in den Sinn kommt. Oft hat man es bei Sonnenaufgang schon wieder vergessen. Manchmal bleibt dieses oder jenes einem aber noch nachhängen: Ein Kartenspiel lange, lange her auf einem gemütlichen Familiensitz. Ein knöcheriger, aber reichlich tragender Avocadobaum unter dessen Schatten ich auf einer Konzertreise Ruhe, Abgeschiedenheit und Alleinsein zum Nachsinnen suchte und ebenfalls nicht fand, weil der alte Schafhirte mich fand und meinte, ich sei ein „rondloper“ (Vagabund bzw nach Koos du Plessis: “Swerwer“) und mich deswegen bei seinem Bass, dem Farmer verpetzte. Eine lustige Party mit „sokkie-sokkie“ und saurer Bowle, tolles Tennisspielen, Schwimmen im Dam und dann Sonnenbrand und mehr unbeschwerter jugendlicher Zeitvertreib.

Da ist es wie ein alter Film, der sich parallel zum jetzigen Leben abspielt. Eine Traumwelt von anderswo. Phantastisch. Nichts mehr als das, aber doch nimmt es mich die ganze Nacht und noch länger auf die Reise. Die unendliche Geschichte? Ist schon merkwürdig. Irreal, weit weg und doch zum Greifen nahe. Es ist als wären die Jahre an den Betroffenen spurlos vorübergezogen. Dabei ist inzwischen so viel passiert. Manche sind schon nicht mal mehr mit uns. Und wir sind so weite Wege in ganz andere Richtungen gegangen. Komisch? Merkwürdig? Belanglos? Einfälle bloß. Nebelschwanden, die sich im Sonnenlicht verdünnisiern: “Ons is maar kinders van die wind“. Vielleicht war die Decke zu warm, der Mond zu voll oder der Wecker zu nah, doch plötzlich ist man mit „Alice in Wunderland“ in den sprichwörtlichen „Hasenbau“ eingetaucht nach woanders und spielt da Unerhörtes, als Vergangenheit Abgehaktes haut- und zeitnah nach und mit.

Ek ken ‘n ou, ou liedjie
Van lewenswel en wee
Van lank-vergane skepe in
Die kelders van die see

Die woorde is vergete
En tog, die deuntjie draal
Soos vaag-bekende grepies in
‘n Baie ou verhaal

Van swerwers sonder rigting
Van soekers wat nooit vind
En eindelik was almal maar
Net kinders van die wind

Gesigte, drome, name
Is deur die wind verwaai
En waarheen daardie woorde is
Sou net ‘n kind kon raai

Swerwers sonder rigting
Soekers wat nooit vind
En eindelik was almal maar
Net kinders van die wind

Koos Du Plessis

Der Traum lädt ungefragt, ungewollt und völlig unerwartet ein zum Eintauchen, Mitmachen, Dabeisein und Weiterträumen als wäre man nicht schon längst auf einem ganz anderen Planeten, in einer anderen Welt und Zeit. Das ist kein Wunschprogram, sondern eher ein Lottospiel. Der Kreis dreht sich, aber wo die Kugel landet ist völlig ungewiss. Ich weiß nicht mal, ob sie landet oder einfach nur weiter rollt, und rollt: „Ich wäre ja so gern noch geblieben, aber der Wagen, der rollt!“  Tagsüber ist das anders. Da geht man mit Sorgfalt den Gedanken nach, stöbert, wühlt und kratzt gar in der Geschichte rum, sucht nach längst verlorenem und freut sich, wenn dieser Name oder das Gesicht wieder in der Erinnerung auftaucht und man diese oder jene Geschichte wieder zusammengesetzt bekommt. Das ist dann etwas strukturierter und viel klarer und hellsichter als die Bilder im Traum. Die Uhr erinnert pünktlich ans stündliche Aufstehen und Durchatmen ohne, dass auch nur eine Stunde verschlafen oder vergessen würde – und ehe man sichs versieht ist auch dieser Morgen soweit fortgeschritten, dass der Postbote kommt und das Mittagsgebet eingeläutet wird.

Das Rapsfeld liegt immer noch gelb ausgestreckt soweit das Auge geht. Nur am Feldrand haben die Tiere noch Kräuter und Gräser zu knabbern, Vögel noch Sämereien zu erwarten und unsere Augen was zum Ausruhen von der knalligen Farbenpracht. Die Nachtigall lässt sich nicht beeindrucken und sing fröhlich weiter ihr altes Lied – “alte, liebe Lieder” – gerade so wie beim vorigen Besuch. Heute bemerkte ich noch eine Goldammer, einen Goldfasan, ein Zug Enten und vier Kraniche. Ein Reh graste hinten am Waldrand, wo die ersten Sonnenstrahlen kurz vor 6Uhr einfielen. Sonst war es ganz ruhig im Revier. Nur das ständige Rauschen der Autos im Hintergrund von der Bundesstraße im Osten, obwohl der Wind aus Westen kam. Der Verkehr ist fast wieder normal – auch ohne Touristentrubel. Die kommen ja sowieso meist mit dem Bus oder mit der Bahn, wenn sie nicht mit dem Dampfer am Elbe Pier im kl.Stadthafen anlegen. Aber die Einheimischen fahren, radeln und kutschieren zur Arbeit als könnten sie allein schon mit ihrem Verkehrseinsatz das heruntergefahrene und arg strapazierte Geschäft aufpäppeln, das verlorengegangenen wieder wettmachen. Es herrscht geschäftige Betriebsamkeit wie bei einem munteren Bienenschwarm im milden Frühling. Dabei herrschen bei uns noch fast winterliche Temperaturen. Zu früh zum Erholen. Noch ist die Zeit nicht Reif für Entwarnung und grünes Licht. Die bisherigen Einschnitte waren zu tief, zu plötzlich, zu automatisch. Das wird dauern bis das wieder wird und bis man das verarbeitet und durchdacht hat. Da hilft kein noch so viel Fahren, emsiges Winken und fleißiges Strampeln. Doch die eifrige Arbeitslust ist ansteckend – fast so wie das Virus – doch weit weniger schädlich – hoffentlich!

Darum wollen wir fröhlich wieder anpacke, die Türen aufsperren und das Geschäft möglichst offen und einladend machen – vielleicht kommen ja wirklich ein paar Gäste und Fremdlinge. Sie sind herzlich willkommen. Bis dahin singe ich halt fröhlich und getrost das schöne Lied vom Sonntag Jubilate – und freue mich über meinen Herrn und Heiland, der vom Tode auferstanden ist, der für uns alle lebt und uns allen zugut regiert zum Heil und lauter Segen. Das ist kein Traum, sondern Wirklichkeit:

1) Die ganze Welt, Herr Jesu Christ,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
in deiner Urständ fröhlich ist.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

2) Das himmlisch Heer im Himmel singt,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
die Christenheit auf Erden klingt.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

3) Jetzt grünet, was nur grünen kann,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
die Bäum zu blühen fangen an.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

4) Es singen jetzt die Vögel all,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
jetzt singt und klingt die Nachtigall.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

5) Der Sonnenschein jetzt kommt herein,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
und gibt der Welt ein’ neuen Schein.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

6) Die ganze Welt, Herr Jesu Christ,
Halleluja, Halleluja,
in deiner Urständ fröhlich ist.
Halleluja, Halleluja.

Friedrich von Spee 1623

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