Monday, December 22, 2014

Reality: From These White Eyes

We use a pepper grinder.  And, yes, our use of a pepper grinder does have to do with something important.  Just go with me.

Awhile back, we had the youth of our church over to our house for cooking and sharing in a meal and Bible study.  One of them asked me for the pepper.  I handed it to her.

About a full minute later she turns to me and says, "Uhh, do you have any black people pepper?  I don't know how to use this white people pepper."  

White people pepper.  I laugh about this every single time I cook with our pepper. 

The truth is I write about pretty much any topic, and I happen to be pretty honest about most things.  But I haven't yet ventured into talking about being the white woman in our black church.  Race topics are scary, because no matter what I say, someone is bound to be offended.  My husband is not only the white pastor of a black church.  He is also the white pastor of a black church in the south.  He is also the white pastor of a black church in the south who happens to be the father of a black/Puerto Rican son.



Race is something we are keenly aware of, and the way I am about to speak about it comes from a woman who is also keenly aware of her own prejudices and the racist comments she, her family, and her church family hear quite often.  

Our church has had mostly white pastors throughout its 115 year history.  Being a family based church, our members are used to having a white pastor.  Us coming here was nothing new to them.  But it is something very foreign to everyone else around the community.  When we are out and about at community events or out at the grocery store, a member will see us and wave.  They turn to their friends and say, "That's my pastor."  Inevitably, the friends look at us, and then look over, around, and through us, asking, "Where?"  When they finally realize we are the people they are looking for, they can never conceal their shock.  "Who?  Them?"

I always want to say, "Yes, this white man over here and his totally hot wife."

You see, in the south, you can drive by most average-sized churches and say, "White church.  Black church.  White church.  Black church."  There are some mega-churches that are more diverse, but the average Christian church in the south is pretty segregated.  My husband is the only pastor in the surrounding area that doesn't match the color of his church.  So, it isn't so surprising that others in the community just can't quite understand how that white man and his hot wife could possibly be at a black church.

There are people who talk about how horrible this is.  How dare we have such segregation in church?  But, you know, we have been here for two-and-a-half years, and I get it.  First, churches usually grow based on family growth and friends and neighbors who attend with members.  Who is their family?  Who are their neighbors?  Who are their friends?  If Sundays are segregated, it is because our lives outside of church are segregated.  For the good and the bad.  People find comfort in others with similar experiences and cultures.  Segregation is not necessarily bad.  But it certainly can be...  

Like the white people who come to our church, love the service, appreciate the Law and Gospel preached from the pulpit, and then tell my husband they just don't think they could handle being the only white people.  And then they don't return.

Yes, that happens.

But, after a few years here, I sort of get that, too.  

It was so intimidating at first.  Have you ever walked into a place where everyone else was one color and you were another?  Most black people have had this experience a million times.  But us white people could literally go our whole life without ever feeling that way.  Not here.  From ordination day through to this morning in the pew, I have found myself as the only or maybe one of two or three white women on any given Sunday or Wednesday or Saturday or any day we spend at church.

I have gotten compliments about my growing booty during pregnancy and my "big legs" (not exactly compliments to a white woman).  I get looks of total bewilderment when the topic of having to wash my hair everyday comes up.  People are totally shocked by the fact that my young kids never go to any family members' houses for a couple weeks at a time.  When I was out and about shortly after giving birth, I created all sorts of chaos (most black babies don't make public appearances for about four weeks).  When they invite us to a party that starts at 1 pm, and we show up at 1 pm, we are the only party happening for another hour or so.  I get called "the first lady of Mt. Calvary" with all sincerity and honor.  Culturally, we are different.  

Some of that is because we are white and some of that is because we are northerners.  Who knows which is in play at any given moment?  But, the fact is, we are different.

Now, notice I didn't say we are better or worse.  That would be racist.  Pointing out the fact that we are indeed different is not racist.  It is fact.  

So, when those white people say they just don't know if they could do it.  Well, it takes some getting used to.  It takes questioning your own untalked about traits that are derived from how you were raised.  It takes a thick skin, no matter the color, to let the compliments of others be actual compliments in your mind.  It takes repeated times of feeling like you are the only one to not even noticing you are the only one anymore.

I have previously said our oldest child is black/Puerto Rican.  For the first few weeks here, he was quite nervous around our black members.  He was not even two yet, and really hadn't been around too many people who were anything but white.  There is one white man in our church, and our son would shy away from every handshake besides his.  It was quite embarrassing.  I thought, "Oh no.  We are raising a black child who is afraid of black people."  

But, you know, just like it took me a few weeks, months, maybe even years, to start forgetting that I was the only white person in the room, he, too, started forgetting his fears.  The black members looked just as common to him as that one white man.  Something that had been foreign to him and his understanding of the world was changing.

And so was mine.

Have you ever noticed how white most Jesus pictures are?  I have.  Have you ever tried to find cheap kids' Biblical coloring books with racially accurate pictures?  I have.  Have you ever tried to find theologically good children's literature with black people in the images?  I have.  Look, I know Jesus and most Biblical figures were not black, but they weren't white either.  This is just something I didn't think about before being here.  This kind of experience changes your thought patterns.  

About half a mile down the road from our church, there is a wall.  It goes the length of an entire street.  It is the wall that divided our city in the heat of the racial segregation years.  The white people lived on one side and the black people lived on the other.  The wall is still there.  It is a constant reminder of things that can sometimes become distant in our minds.  

We live on the black side of the wall.  We aren't the only white people on this side now, but pretty close.  Time doesn't change everything.

Black men from church stand at least 20-30 yards back from the door when I answer.  One man refused to pick something up from the house when he found out I would be the one giving it to him.  "Well, it used to be illegal for a black man to even talk to a white woman.  I just can't do that.  I just can't."  

There are members of our church who have grandparents who were slaves.  Their grandparents were slaves.  Just let that soak in for a minute.  We aren't talking about generations ago.  We are talking about grandparents.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well, because I know not everyone will be blessed to have this kind of experience.

One of our young adult members recently told us that she told her co-worker she was Lutheran.  They said, "Lutheran?  What?  Why are you Lutheran?"  She said, "I have always been Lutheran.  I was born this way."  The person said, "I've never met a black Lutheran before."  Our member responded with, "Well, every Lutheran I know is black...besides my pastor."

It is all about perspective, folks.

In the end, all the differences really don't matter.  We baptize our babies and sing, "See this wonder in the making..." together.  We receive the body and blood of Christ and sing, "I know it was the blood for me..." together.  We confess our sins and say, "We confess we are by nature sinful and unclean..." together. We wait for our Lord to return and sing, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" together.

We are together.
One faith.  One Lord.  One Baptism.

No matter what kind of pepper we use...





Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reality: Beautiful Chaos

I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day.  As we were speaking, she was working on the house for our arrival in late January.  I laughed and said, "When we have guests over, we can't get ready until about an hour beforehand.  You are preparing for us in like 6 weeks!  Six weeks in the life of a mom with three-under-five is like 10 years!"

We both laughed.  She said, "Well, I don't have little hands tearing apart what I put up.  No one here to mess up what I clean up!"

And it really made me think.

The chaos.  The mess.  The "zoo-like" noises my mother always remarks about while talking on the phone.  The little people.

I don't want to downgrade how hard this time in my life is, but I also want to remember that one day I will be preparing for my children to arrive for six weeks.  Someday my house will be quiet and clean.  Someday I will be wishing for the sounds of little feet.  I will be sadly remembering all the food that used to be dropped under their seats as I clean the table of two plates.

And that is why I don't want to wish away the chaos, the mess, the zoo-like noises, and the little people.  I want to embrace it and gather it all into the recesses of my mind.  I want to have easy access to those memories.

Easier said than done, of course.
When life and chaos and noise gets me down.
When I am on my hands and knees cleaning up dropped food.
When they push every button I have and every button their siblings have.

So, here is to the reality.  Soak it up, Kelly.  Embrace it.  Someday you will clean your house and it will stay clean...and you will probably shed a tear because of it.

Enjoy the memories of a home dirty with love and chaos...beautiful, zoo-like chaos -


The leftovers from what was supposed to be a "clean" attempt at a toddler activity.  And yes, every home we have had in the last three years has had carpeted dining rooms.  Nice.



The pile outside our daughter's room.  Every night after she goes to bed, I clean up the house and don't dare open her door to put away stuff, so the pile grows...until the morning, when inevitably, I forget to put it away, and it gets thrown all over the house again to be cleaned up the next night.  Every.Single.Time.





The rug that drives me bonkers, because every.single.time I put it down flat, one of the boys plays "caterpillar in chrysalis" and rolls up inside it to turn into a butterfly.  Yes, they really do that.  Every.Single.Time. 




The never-ending piles of laundry.  Most are folded, and just not put away.  Here, you see clothes folded into a kids toy box, because every other clothes basket in the house is full of clean folded clothes... 





The kitchen taken over by drying cloth diapers and random toys the kids drag in - including pot lids that they turn upside down and make into carousels.  Every.Single.Time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Large Catechism: Daily Reading Guide

Have you finished reading the Large Catechism with me?  Great.
Now, do it again!
Or pass it along to a friend.

Did you get completely behind and lose all focus?  Great.
Catch up!
Or pass it along to do with a friend.

The point is, just read the Large Catechism, and encourage others to join you!
I promise it will be well worth your time.

Here are the links to the entire series:

Invitation
Introduction, Part 1
Introduction, Part 2
Introduction, Part 3
Short Preface, Part 1
Short Preface, Part 2
Short Preface, Part 3
The First Commandment, Part 1
The First Commandment, Part 2
The First Commandment, Part 3
The First Commandment, Part 4
The First Commandment, Part 5
The Second Commandment, Part 1
The Second Commandment, Part 2
The Second Commandment, Part 3
The Third Commandment, Part 1
The Third Commandment, Part 2
The Third Commandment, Part 3
The Fourth Commandment, Part 1
The Fourth Commandment, Part 2
The Fourth Commandment, Part 3
The Fourth Commandment, Part 4
The Fourth Commandment, Part 5
The Fourth Commandment, Part 6
The Fourth Commandment, Part 7
The Fifth Commandment, Part 1
The Fifth Commandment, Part 2
The Sixth Commandment, Part 1
The Sixth Commandment, Part 2
The Seventh Commandment, Part 1
The Seventh Commandment, Part 2
The Seventh Commandment, Part 3
The Eighth Commandment, Part 1
The Eighth Commandment, Part 2
The Eighth Commandment, Part 3
The Eighth Commandment, Part 4
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments, Part 1
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments, Part 2
Conclusion of the Ten Commandments. Part 1
Conclusion of the Ten Commandments. Part 2
Conclusion of the Ten Commandments. Part 3
The Apostles' Creed Introduction
The Apostles' Creed Article 1
The Apostles' Creed Article 2
The Apostles' Creed Article 3, Part 1
The Apostles' Creed Article 3, Part 2
The Apostles' Creed Article 3, Part 3
The Apostles' Creed Article 3, Part 4
The Lord's Prayer Introduction, Part 1
The Lord's Prayer Introduction, Part 2
The Lord's Prayer Introduction, Part 3
The Lord's Prayer, First Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Second Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Third Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Fourth Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Fifth Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Sixth Petition
The Lord's Prayer, Seventh Petition
Holy Baptism, Part 1
Holy Baptism, Part 2
Holy Baptism, Part 3
Holy Baptism, Part 4
Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism, Part 1
Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism, Part 2
Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism, Part 3
The Sacrament of the Altar, Introduction
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 1
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 2
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 3
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 4
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 5
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 6
The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 7



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 7

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 7: Click here and read 75-87.

The basics:
- If we do not feel hunger or thirst for the Sacrament, we need to remember that we are made of flesh.  St. Paul tells us in Galations 5 that the fruit of the flesh are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like.  Run to the Sacrament because of your flesh!
- If you are unable to feel your own sinful flesh, at least believe the Scriptures; they will not lie to you, and they know your flesh better than you yourself.
- The less you feel your sins and infirmities, the more reason you have to go to the Sacrament to seek help and a remedy.
- If you are in the world, there will be sins and misery.  Others will do things to give you cause for sin.
- The devil leads the heart astray from the Word of God, and blinds it, that we cannot feel our distress or come to Christ.
- If after seeing the impact of your flesh, the world, and the devil, you still do not hunger and thirst for the Sacrament, ask others to pray that the stone be removed from your heart.  And come to the Sacrament more eagerly, as to fight off the flesh, the world, and the devil which are deceiving you.
- This exhortation of the faith is for the old and grown and the young, who ought to be brought up in the Christian doctrine and understanding.  They need to practice this from their youth and accustom themselves to them.
- It is the father of the family's duty, by the command of God, to teach these things to his children.

My thoughts today:

That's all he wrote, my friends.
Ha!
Along with about 6 million other things - all about as awesome as the next.

Don't let this be the last Luther you read.  Don't let this be the last foundational Lutheran document you read.  Like I said when we started this journey 15 weeks ago, there is just so much really bad theology out there for you to read.  You must fill yourself with good stuff.

It will make you change the way you respond to daily struggles.
It will make you capable of fighting off incorrect doctrine.
It will force you to see yourself as a poor, miserable sinner, in need of real forgiveness.
It will pour the Gospel out on you in ways you have never experienced.

The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, has given us the good stuff.
Soak it up, friends.

I'm out.





Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 6

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 6: Click here and read 64-74.

The basics:
- The promise attached to the Sacrament: "This is My body, given for you.  This is My blood, shed for you, for the remission of sins."
- In this Sacrament He offers to us the entire treasure which He has brought for us from heaven.
- Luther compares this promise to what our Lord says in Matthew 11:28 - Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
- We must never flee from the Sacrament, but view it as a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy giving salvation and comfort, which will cure us and give us life in soul and body.
- Those who despise it and live in and unchristian manner receive it to their hurt and damnation, just as a sick person who eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the doctor.
- In the Sacrament we receive from the lips of Christ forgiveness of sin, which brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter, and power against death and the devil and all misfortune.
- Christ Himself says: They that be whole, need not a physician, but they that be sick.  Those who are weary and heavy-laden with their sins, with the fear of death, and temptations of the flesh and of the devil are those who need the great Physician and His body and blood.
- If we would wait until we are rid of our burdens to receive Communion, that we might come pure and holy, we must forever stay away.  If we are pure and holy in ourselves, then we have no need of Christ.

My thoughts today:

"If, therefore, you are heavy-laden and feel your weakness, then go joyfully to this Sacrament and obtain refreshment, consolation, and strength."

"For where the soul has recovered, the body also is relieved."

"If you are pure and godly, you have no need of Me, and I, in turn, none of thee."

Pretty good stuff right there, folks.

This Sacrament is for us, friends...
The weary.
The unworthy.
The sinners.
The weak.
The heavy-laden.
The dying.

May we always know where refreshment, consolation, strength. forgiveness, life, and salvation are given.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 5

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 5: Click here and read 55-63.

The basics:
- Luther uses this section to answer this question: How can I come to the Sacrament if I do not feel prepared?
- Luther describes his own struggle with attempting to be so holy that he was thrown down to despair feeling unworthy for the Sacrament.
- The more you feel your unworthiness for the Sacrament and use it as an excuse to stay away from it, the more you will continue to feel unworthy.
- By contrast, if you regard how good and pure you are, you do not need the forgiveness of sins offered in the Sacrament.  Therefore, you must not approach.
- Those who do not desire forgiveness and do not wish to be godly should be told to stay away from the Sacrament.  They are not prepared to receive forgiveness of sins.
- Those who desire to be godly, even though they are full of sin, must not stay away.  They are prepared to receive the forgiveness of sins.
- The Sacrament does not depend on our worthiness.  We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, nor do we go to confession because we are pure and without sin.  We are poor miserable sinners, and just because we are unworthy, we do these things.
- We are to say, "I, indeed, would like to be worthy; but I come, not upon any worthiness, but upon Thy Word, because Thou hast commanded it, as one who would gladly be Thy disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness."
- We look more upon ourselves than upon the Word and lips of Christ.  It is our nature to act that we can stand and rest firmly on ourselves.

My thoughts today:

May we all be thankful the Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness.  Phew.  We would be in a sorry state of despair if such was the case.

Sometimes it is best to just let the words of the Large Catechism sink in a little more.  So, here are the words I want us to really consider today -

"...he ought not stay away from the Sacrament, lest he may deprive himself of life."

"...it is the highest art to know that our Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness.  For we are not baptized because we are worthy and holy, nor do we go to confession because we are pure and without sin, but the contrary, because we are poor miserable men, and just because we are unworthy."

"I, indeed, would like to be worthy; but I come, not upon any worthiness, but upon Thy Word, because Thou has commanded it, as one who would gladly be Thy disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness."

"...we always have this obstacle and hindrance to encounter, that we look more upon ourselves than upon the Word and lips of Christ.  For nature desires so to act that it can stand and rest firmly on itself..."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 4

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 4: Click here and read 43-54.

The basics:
- Luther uses this section to describe why Christians should desire to receive Holy Communion regularly.
- We know that the devil despises this and all Christian exercises so much that he will work hard to stop people from rightly receiving it.
- The words clearly state, "Do this in remembrance of Me."  Therefore, it is the command of Christ to partake in this Sacrament, not from compulsion [being forced by men], but in obedience to Christ and to please Him.
- The words, "As oft as ye do it," are added as a way to have the Sacrament be free, not limited to special times, like the Passover had been for the Jews, which only happened once a year, but often.
- If a Christian can go on for a long time without Holy Communion and feel no need for it, then they might as well fail to pray and believe, as well, because the command is just the same for all of them.
- Luther describes what it was like for him to receive Communion under the Papacy - going out of compulsion and fear of human commands, without inclination, love, or considering the command of Christ.
- Christ invites and commands this Sacrament; if you despise it, you must answer for it yourself.
- If a person withdraws from this Sacrament, he will become more and more callous and cold, and will eventually disregard it altogether.

My thoughts today:

My husband's churches both have weekly Communion now.  I'm not going to lie, he pretty much did a happy dance in his mind [and in our living room] when this happened.  The guy wants people to receive the gifts of Christ.  Who could fault him for that?  Well, actually, a lot of people - inside and outside the church.

There is a great little blog post about this here:
"it won't be special" and other arguments against the Lord's Supper nobody else is buying by Adriance Heins


And because our churches both have weekly Communion, I generally receive Communion two times each Sunday.  I can assure you it never gets less special.  I feel pretty wrong when I go to church and DON'T get it.

And that, friends, is the way it ought to feel.




My husband did his vicarage [the third year of seminary, studying under a pastor] with Pastor Kenneth Wieting.  He is pretty awesome.

That dude wrote the book on weekly Communion.
No, like, literally, he wrote a book about it -

The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting

Or if you are looking for a little easier read [more for beginners, but a good read for anyone], he wrote another one.  Yes, he wrote two books about how awesome Communion is, and both of them happen to be awesome.

Lutheranism 101: The Lord's Supper by Kenneth Wieting

This last one was written the year my husband was doing his vicarage with Pastor Wieting.  The book and Pastor Wieting in general, had a profound impact on my husband's learning.

I recommend these books for anyone wanting to know more about the Lord's Supper.  Plus, they make great stocking stuffers for your Lutheran family and friends (or even better yet, your NON-Lutheran family and friends)!  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 3

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 3: Click here and read 33-42.

The basics:
- In this section Luther describes the person who receives the benefits of this Sacrament.  "Whoever believes it has what the words declare and bring."
- Whoever does not believe the words has nothing, as he allows it to be offered to him in vain, and refuses to enjoy such a saving good.
- Fasting and prayer before receiving this Sacrament are a good preparation and discipline, that the body may keep and bear itself modestly and reverently towards the body and blood of Christ; but what is given in and with it the body cannot take for itself, but this is done by the faith of the heart.
- Luther addresses those who believe they do not need to take this Sacrament due to the freedom from the laws of the Pope, their own strength as Christians with no need of it, and their belief that it is a matter of liberty and not necessary.
- While it is true that no one should be coerced or compelled to partake, but it must be known that people who deprive themselves of it and withdraw from it are not to be considered Christians.  Christ did not institute it to be treated as a show, but commanded His Christians to eat and drink it, and thereby remember Him.

My thoughts today:

In the introduction to the section about the Sacrament of the Altar, Luther said, "For it is not our intention to admit to it and to administer it to those who know not what they seek, or why they come."

This quote has been running through my mind the past few days.  In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod we practice closed Communion [only those instructed and confessing in the faith of our church are given the Sacrament].  This isn't very popular, and it certainly is a cause of great dismay for many pastors.  And not because they disagree with it, but because it is so terribly hard to describe in a one-minute-before-church-conversation with people they have never met.  It can seem mean and inhospitable or very high-churchy and smug to those who have taken Communion in their own denomination their whole life.


"Why would you not invite me?"

And believe me, I get it.  I was catechized in college and attended LCMS churches and Bible studies for a year and a half without taking Communion.  I am kind of slow sometimes and it took me a lot of studying to finally admit that maybe "is" does mean "is."

Someone should have made me read the Large Catechism...   HA!

Anyway, I have no doubt that I was a Christian before becoming Lutheran - I believed Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and I regularly attended church to hear His Word preached.  However, a large number of Christians have been instructed in churches which do not teach "is" means "is."  I was one of those Christians.

I have no doubt I would have gone to heaven, so it isn't a "you aren't going to heaven" kind of statement from the pastor.

It is a, "For it is not our intention to admit to it and to administer it to those who know not what they seek, or why they come" thing.

It is a, "Whoever believes it has what the words declare and bring" thing.

I was not a Christian who knew what I went to the altar seeking in Holy Communion.  I had no reason to believe it was the true body and blood of Christ, because I had never been instructed that way.  I didn't know what the words declare and bring.

So, if it isn't a matter of whether or not you will be in heaven, then why can't you just take Communion with us?  Well, because divisions in the church matter.  Words matter. Language matters.  God's Word and the clear proclamation of all of His commands matter.

It is part of my husband's (and all pastors') responsibility to ensure that those whom he welcomes to the Table of the Lord know what they come seeking - chiefly the true body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  For it is not my husband's table, but the Table of the Lord.  It is not my husband's invitation, but the command of our Lord - This is My body.  This is My blood.  Do this in remembrance of Me.


And that, folks, is a huge responsibility - one that pastors do not take lightly, and let us all thank God that He has given us men who bear this load for us.





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 2

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
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Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 2: Click here and read 20-32.

The basics:
- In this section we learn what we should seek and obtain in the Lord's Supper - chiefly what the Lord says This is My body and blood, given and shed for you, for the remission of sins.
- This sacrament is a food of souls, which nourishes and strengthens the new man.  In Baptism we are first born anew and in the Lord's Supper we are fed.
- This is given so that faith may refresh and strengthen itself so it does not fall back into battle, but become ever stronger.  The new life must be so regulated that it continually progresses, but it must suffer much opposition.
- The devil is relentless in his attacks on our new man.  In the Sacrament of the Altar we are given new power and refreshment when our heart feels this burden becoming too heavy.
- We all find ourselves crying, "How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?"  Even though we know that we do not say this of the bread and wine, but because this bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ, and has the words of Christ attached to it.
- The body of Christ can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, that effects or profits nothing.  Yet, even though the treasure is great in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and administered to us.  If it is not comprehended or administered, we should never be able to know or seek it.
- If the bread and wine in the Sacrament were not the body and blood of Christ, we would not be able to receive the forgiveness of sins through it.
- We cannot allow Christ's true body and blood to be torn from the Sacrament when we know that these are the very words which we hear everywhere in the Gospel.  We cannot say that these particular words in the Sacrament are of no use, because it would be like daring to say that the entire Gospel or Word of God is of no use.

My thoughts today:
Go ahead and read that last bullet point in the basics section again.  Really, it is right up there...

This simple paraphrase/quote could really help us out in every discussion of heresies in the church.  My husband has started doing weekly blogs over at Rightly Divided: Daily Bible Meditation [go ahead and check it out...all the pastors write really great daily meditations].

In a total teaser for this coming Friday's post, he was talking to me about 1 Corinthians 5, especially, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"

I couldn't help but see a great connection when I read this section.  The context being that Paul was referring to even a small sin or heresy filling the entire person or church with sin and heresy.

Mostly because there are no small sins or heresy.
There are just sins and heresy.

When we rip the body and blood of Christ away from the Lord's Supper, we choose to take God's Word and make it mean something else.  We can't figure out how bread and wine can be body and blood, and so we just say "is" isn't "is."  And we all do this.  Luther himself stated, "But here our wise spirits contort themselves with their great art and wisdom, crying out and bawling: How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?"

We have been doing it since the devil first spoke to Eve in the garden.
"Did God really say?"

Well, actually He really DID say, "This is My body and blood, given and shed for you, for the remission of sins."

And if we allow ourselves to just go along with the little leaven that says "is" isn't "is," then what else can we question with the devil's, "Did God really say?"

A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

SO.....

"Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

1 Corinthians 5:7-8







Monday, November 24, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 1

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Part 1: Click here and read 8-19.

The basics:
- What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine which we Christians are commanded by the Word of Christ to eat and drink.
- The Sacrament is bread and wine, but not mere bread and wine, such as are ordinarily served at the table, but bread and wine comprehended in, and connected with, the Word of God.
- Because this not the word or ordinance of a mere man, but of the sublime Majesty, all of creation must affirm it is as He says, and accept it with all reverence, fear, and humility.
- Luther tells us that even if a hundred thousand devils and any false teachers rush forward crying, "How can bread and wine be the boy and blood of Christ?" that we are to know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is God in His little finger.
- Because we know Christ can never lie or deceive, we must believe the words from His lips as He used them, so it is His body and His blood.
- Luther answers the question of whether or not it is the true Sacrament even if it is distributed by a wicked priest.  He describes why it is still the Lord's body and blood, because it is not founded upon the holiness or men, but upon the Word of God.
- No matter whether we or our pastors are worthy or unworthy, we have His body and blood by virtue of the Word which is added to the bread and wine.

My thoughts today:
I wish I would have read this about two weeks into learning about Lutheranism.  Communion was seriously the biggest stumbling block for me.  I just couldn't fathom believing it was the true body and blood of Christ.

This passage from Luther just blows me away.

Seriously - make every non-true presence Christian you know and love read this and discuss it with them.  Seriously.  It is like four paragraphs.  Everybody has time to share four paragraphs with somebody.

Use these quotes for great conversation starters -

Quote - "Now, it is not the word or ordinance of a prince or emperor, but of the sublime Majesty, at whose feet all creatures should fall, and affirm it is as He says, and accept it with all reverence, fear, and humility." Paragraph 11.

Discussion - God created the heavens and the earth because He SAID it into existence.  All creation listens to His Word.  How can you believe that and not believe He could also do as He says in the Sacrament?  How can you believe in the creation and not believe in the creative word of God?  "This is My body."  Well, then so it is.

Quote - "With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? etc., I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger.  Now here stands the Word of Christ: Take, eat; this is My body; Drink ye all of it; this is the new testament in My blood, etc." Paragraph 12.

Discussion - Sometimes the fear of sounding ridiculous keeps us from standing firm in the faith.  When discussing the true body and blood of Christ in Communion, we need not explain away our faith.  We are on the obvious, literal stance of the Bible side.  It should be up to the person who does not believe to explain why.  We have the words of Christ to stand on.  We need no other or firmer foundation.

Quote - "For it is not founded upon the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God.  And as no saint upon earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can make bread and wine to be the body and blood of Christ, so also can no one change or alter it, even though it be misused."

Discussion - For many Christians, the idea that a man could stand up there and change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ is ridiculous.  And, we can rightly agree that no man, indeed, can do this.  The pastor is not the creative voice of God, but he does speak the creative words that Christ spoke and speaks through him.  Our belief of the true body and blood of Christ being present in, with, and under the bread and wine is not based on the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God.

There you have it - a few points to get you started with those hard conversations.  And I know I said I wish I would have read this two weeks into learning about Lutheranism, but the truth is, I might not have been ready to comprehend it then.  So, if your conversation falls flat or you don't convert every person you know to Lutheranism, do not lose hope.  God's Word still does what God's Word says it does - it creates faith.






Friday, November 21, 2014

Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar, Introduction

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

The Sacrament of the Altar, Introduction: Click here and read 1-7.

The basics:
- Luther will address this Sacrament in the same way he addressed Baptism: What is it?  What are its benefits?, and Who is to receive it?
- The words of Christ instituted this Sacrament: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me.  After the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."
- It should not be the intention of our pastors to admit and administer this Sacrament to those who do not know what they seek, or why they come.
- Luther uses this introduction to state that he will not be dealing with the controversies surrounding this Sacrament, because he will just stick to the basics.  The chief point is the Word and ordinance of God, because it was not invented or introduced by any man, but instituted by Christ Himself.
- We must stand guard against those who teach the Sacraments as something that we do instead of what God says they are and what He does.

My thoughts today:
Luther, how can you seriously have two paragraphs of an introduction that squash so many heresies with such ease?  You are awesome.  Yeah, yeah, I know...not you, but God working through you.  I am still learning from you how to speak about vocation.

The truth is Luther is awesome because he just plainly takes the words of the Bible and then does something crazy - HE BELIEVES THEM!  I know, a totally radical thought.
You mean I don't have to try to explain it?
You mean I can just say "is means is" and "baptize means baptize?"
You mean I don't have to be a biblical scholar to understand the basics of the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion?

Yep.  I am pretty sure that is exactly what Luther means.  And that, folks, is why he is awesome.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reality: If only we would have waited...

About seven months after my husband and I brought our oldest son home from the hospital (through adoption), we announced we were expecting a baby.  Shock and wonder and excitement blossomed from all around us.  Most people reacted the way you hope and dream they would.  Some did not.  One particular comment still sticks with me these four years later -

"If only you would have waited on God just a few more months!  Now you are pregnant!"

..................................................................

I am just going to give you a few more moments to digest those words.  Although, no matter how much time I give you, I am quite certain you will not be able to come to terms with them.  It's been almost four years for me, and I am still chewing on them.

And I guess I am still not sure how I should have responded.

Mostly because there are a lot of assumptions in this person's statement:
- Pregnancy is inherently better than adoption.
- My husband and I went around God's plan to get our son on our own.
- Our life would be better without having adopted our son.

All of these assumptions I find to be completely false.

I am going to choose to believe a different assumption.  The one where this person let words slip out of the mouth that should have been stopped.  The one where this person gravely regrets the words that came pouring out unchecked.  The one where I do my very best to put the very best construction on someone else's thoughts.

Adoption is all about educating people.  If I would answer this comment with what I would really want to say, I wouldn't be educating anyone.  I would be embarrassing someone, closing doors to discussion, and basically breaking a lot of commandments because my heart and words would be full of anger.

Instead I choose to answer it with a picture of our life.  The one where our son has the joy of siblings.  The one where we have the joy of giving ourselves fully to another growing person.  The one where we sit around the table and hear our son say he is brown and we are orange.  The one where we weep over parenting - parenting biologically and through adoption.  The one where we rejoice in a woman who chooses parents for her child.  The one where we watch Christ baptize our children and then teach them what it all means.  The one where we see God's plan unfolding with however many children He blesses us with in whatever ways He chooses to do it.  The one where our life is immeasurably better because we didn't wait those few more months.

When we marched in our first March for Life almost two years ago, my husband pushed our two toddler sons in a double stroller while I carried our unborn daughter in the womb.  We carried a sign which said, "You do have a CHOICE.  CHOOSE to parent or CHOOSE the parents."  You see, in that way, I am very pro-choice.  These are choices that allow people to live in families.  These are choices that allow people like my son to be born.

And I can tell you from firsthand experience that the world is better because of these choices.

Not a single day goes by that I wish we would have 'waited longer for God to act' in some way that we thought was better.

First, because adoption love and biological love makes no difference to parents.  [Read more about that here.]  Our son's biological mother loves him as much as we do, and we love him as much as she does.  Her choice to choose us was the single greatest act of love he will ever be a part of (second only to Christ's death on the cross for his sins).  [Read more about what I think about birthmothers here.] Pregnancy is not inherently better than adoption.  They are two cords which God has used to knit countless families together, an earthly example of His adoption of us through His Son.

Second, because I know He created our son and had it all planned out for us long before.  All of our children were meant to be in our family.  God doesn't let us get around Him that easily.  We didn't somehow beat God to the punch by adopting a child before having them biologically.  He gave us our  first child who died, then He gave us our son through adoption, then He gave us our second son biologically, then He gave us our fourth child, a girl biologically.  [Read more about our pregnancy and adoption journey here.]

Third, because there is no stinkin' way our life would be better if we had waited.  A life without our son?  I don't dare even think of such a thing.  A life without his laugh.  A life without his totally extroverted personality in our totally introverted family.  A life without his hardships making us better parents and better people.  A life without knowing the love of a woman who sacrificed her body and her emotions so he could live in a family.  A life without him and what he has given us?  No.  Not even.  [Read more about why children are awesome here.]

If only we would have waited?  No.  Not even.





Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, On Infant Baptism Part 3

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
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Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, On Infant Baptism Part 3: Click here and read 74-86.

The basics:
- Repentance is really nothing more than living in your Baptism, because is it a killing of the old man and living in the new man.
- Baptism abides forever, even though someone should fall from it and sin.  We do not need to be sprinkled with water again, but only to live in repentance (a return to our Baptism).
- Our Baptism is not something of the past which we can no longer use after we have fallen again into sin.  Baptism never breaks, because it is the ordinance of God, and not a work of ours.  We slip and fall into sin and must cling back to our Baptism.
- Baptism is a great and excellent thing which delivers us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God's own, takes away sin, and then daily strengthens our new man.
- Our Baptism is a daily dress in which we are to walk constantly.  If we fall away from it, let us again come into it.  Just as Christ does not recede from us or forbid us to come to Him again, even though we sin, so all His treasure and gifts also remain.
- If we have once obtained forgiveness of sin in Baptism, it will remain every day.

My thoughts today:

I wrote this a few years ago, but decided an updated version of it would be beneficial to our Baptism discussion...

Almost nine years ago, I was baptized into Christ.  I did this because my boyfriend at the time (some Lutheran guy I ended up marrying) convinced me this was important.

Just like an infant at the font, I didn't really understand on that day what Baptism meant.

Just like an infant at the font, I was brought there by someone who loved me.

And just like an infant at the font, I was supported by one who would spend his life teaching me about what that day meant.

I have spent the last nine years and I will spend the rest of my days on earth trying to understand this profound mystery...just like I pray every infant does.

Why do I believe in infant Baptism?
Because I was all but an infant at the tender age of 22.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism Part 2

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism Part 2: Click here and read 58-73.

The basics:
- It is an incorrect conclusion to assume that whenever any one does not do what he ought, then the thing in itself shall be of no value.  Therefore, even when one does not believe, the Baptism is not any less.
- Baptism should remain true no matter what.  For God's ordinance and Word cannot be made variable or be altered by men.
- We must be watchful and well armed, and not allow ourselves to be turned away from the Word, in order that we may not regard Baptism as a mere empty sign, like so many do.
- Luther describes what Baptism signifies in this section, and why God ordained an external sign for this Sacrament by which we are first received into the Christian Church.
- We are sunk in and then drawn out of the water - signifying the putting to death of the old Adam and the resurrection of the new man.
- The old Adam must die and the new man be resurrected in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued.  This must be practiced without ceasing, that we keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and the new man come forth.
- The longer the Christian lives, the more we are to become gentle, patient, meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, hatred, envy, and haughtiness.

My thoughts today:

My favorite Bible passage has always been Ephesians 4:20-24 -
"But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

I used to use this as a pep-talk to my sinful self:
"Kelly, get with the program, girl.  Put off your old self.  Put on your new self."

Due to many strange circumstances, I was not actually baptized until I was in college even though I had been a Christian my whole life.  I didn't understand the importance of baptism, because a vast majority of American Christianity teaches that baptism is an outward expression of an inward confession (meaning something we do to show our lives are changed for Christ).

When I gave myself that little pep-talk, I was working to put on my righteousness and holiness, but after the waters covered me, it was Christ burying my old self and putting His own righteousness and holiness on me.  We are dreadfully bad at killing our own sin; which is why Jesus had to come and make atonement for us in the first place.  And it is in His death and by His Word that we are drowned and brought up from the waters.  Baptism does something!  It is not something we do.  It is something God does for us.

So that the longer I live, the more gentle, patient, and meek I become; and the longer I live, the more and more I withdraw from unbelief, hatred, envy, and haughtiness.  But certainly not on my account, but because of Christ and His daily baptism of my sinful flesh.

In the words of Luther, "A truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism Part 1

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Of Infant Baptism Part 1: Click here and read 47-57.

The basics:
- Luther addresses the question of whether children can believe and thus receive a just baptism.
- If God did not accept the baptism of infants, He would not give the Holy Ghost nor any of His gifts to any of them who are baptized as infants.  It is plain to see this is not the case, and many who are baptized as infants are sanctified, and you are able to see God's gifts in their doctrine and life.
- God can never be opposed to Himself, or support falsehood and wickedness, or for its promotion impart His grace and Spirit.  Therefore, the simplest answer to this question is that He cannot be against infant baptism, or no one would receive His gifts through it.
- Baptism is nothing else than water and the Word of God in and with each other.  When the Word is added to the water, Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting.  Our faith does not make Baptism, but receives it.
- Even if infants did not believe [which is not the case], their Baptism is still valid, and no one should rebaptize them.  How dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid?
- Luther gives us the words to say in regards to our Baptism if we did not believe it was valid - "The baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright. I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command."
- We bring infants in the hope that they believe, and we pray God may grant them faith; but we do not baptize them upon that, but solely upon the command of God.

My thoughts today:

I know people who question the validity of their own infant Baptisms due to their poor, sinful, non-church affiliated lives they led between their Baptism and their new return to the church.

Luther says, "We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God.  Why so?  Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err."

And should the child fall away quickly or fall away as an adult, how dare we think that God's Word and ordinance should be wrong and invalid?

No!  "The Baptism indeed was right, but I, alas! did not receive it aright.  I come hither in my faith and in that of others, yet I cannot rest in this, that I believe, and that many people pray for me; but in this I rest, that it is Thy Word and command."

In other words,

God, I believe You did what You said You did at that font, even though I fell away.  You do not lie.  I, though, I err and deceive.  And even though I believe, I don't rest in my own beliefs.  I rest in Your Word and command.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Part 4

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
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Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Part 4: Click here and read 32-46.

The basics:
- Luther uses this section to describe the person who receives what Baptism gives and profits.
- Faith alone make the person worthy to receive the saving, divine water.  Since these blessings are promised in the words in and with the water, they cannot be received in any other way than by believing them with the heart.  Without faith it profits nothing.
- Our works avail nothing for salvation, but Baptism is not our work but God's.  God's works are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith.
- In Baptism, you are to be thinking that this is according to God's command and ordinance.
- There is no work done by us in Baptism, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as Jesus upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith.
- The most important point is that God commands Baptism, so even if we only had these words - Go ye and baptize... - it would be necessary for us to accept and do it as the ordinance of God.  It is not only a command, however, but also a promise.
- We all have more than enough to learn and practice about Baptism - for we always have enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts.
- If there were somewhere a physician who could save men from dying, or even though they died, of restoring them to eternal life, the world would pour in money like snow and rain.  But here in Baptism there is brought free to everyone's door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men.
- When our sins and conscience oppress us, we take comfort and say, "Nevertheless I am baptized, and it is promised that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body."

My thoughts today:

My husband has the hands that performed Christ's Baptism yet again yesterday,  Did I cry?  Yes.  A tiny, precious, baby girl named Ayanna died and rose with Christ in the waters of Baptism.



Some people question infant Baptism, and we shall talk more about that soon when Luther addresses it.  But for now, I just want to talk about little Ayanna and what she teaches me about Baptism.

Luther tells us the most important thing to know about Baptism is it is commanded, and if we only had those words about it from God, that would be enough.  God said to do it.  We do it.  So, as Ayanna's mother holds her tender child and stands at the font, she can be sure and certain that she is doing so by the ordinance of God Himself.  She has brought her daughter to the life-saving waters because God commands her, in her role as mother, to raise her child in the fear of the Lord.



A baby like Ayanna is the perfect example of how great a work Baptism is - not on the Baptized person's part, but on God's part.  A baby does nothing to get herself to the font.  She is carried by her mother, surrounded by her family, and poured on by her pastor.  But look what she gains because of the gifts God has given her in mother, family, and pastor?  Eternal life, salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.  He gives her faith, He brings her to the water, He surrounds her with her brothers and sisters in Christ, and He pours the life-saving water on her.

Thanks be to God for His good and perfect works.






Friday, November 14, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Part 3

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
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Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Part 3: Click here and read 23-31.

The basics:
- Luther uses this section to help us learn why and for what purpose Baptism is instituted - what it profits, gives, and works.
- The power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this - to save.  To be saved is to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever.
- The fact that Baptism saves shows us again that it cannot be just water, but water with the Word and name of God.  Where the name of God is, there must be life and salvation.
- Faith is what saves us.  Faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests.  Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life.
- Whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us and binds us to Baptism.

My thoughts today:
We live in a world searching for proof of everything.  We want the answers.  We want to see for ourselves.  We cling to the scientific findings of the newest doctors and researchers.  We take hold of their knowledge and cling to it.  We doubt everything.  We are all doubting Thomases.

That is why these words from Luther are so awesome -

"...faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests.  Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water, but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it...but where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation."

We need not search for something to take hold of and to stand firm in, because God gave us Baptism.  It is something tangible in which my proof-seeking flesh can turn.



I sinned...
But I am Baptized.

I doubt God's promises...
But I am Baptized.

The answer to all my fears -
"But I am Baptized."

I live in that Baptism each day.  I cling to it and God holds my grip firm.  In my Baptism I have been and continue to be saved from my sin, death, and the devil.

This does not mean a person's Baptism saves them without faith.  Faith is what clings to the Baptism.  For "whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism."



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Part 2

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Part 2: Click here and read 14-22.

The basics:
- The water of Baptism is not ordinary water, but water with God's Word and command, and sanctified by it, so that it is divine water.
- It is wrong to omit from it God's Word and institution, so that we see the water as randomly taken from the well.  For then we say, "How is a handful of water to help the soul?"
- God's Word, command, and name are in the water, which is a treasure greater and nobler than heaven and earth.
- The water of Baptism is a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water on account of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, for it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do.
- The Sacraments and all external things which God ordains and institutes should not be regarded according to the way we see them from the outside, but as the Word of God is included.
- When we look at members of the government, we may see on the outside heathens.  Why should we esteem them more than others?  Because the fourth commandment says honor they father and thy mother, and therefore, we behold a new and different man, adorned and clothed with the majesty and glory of God.  This is how we should regard Baptism.
- God also confirmed Baptism through miracles from heaven - When Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost descended visibly.
- The water and the Word of Baptism should never be separated from one another.  For if they are separated, the water is the same as any other water.  But when it is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament, and is called Christ-baptism.

My thoughts today:
I don't know how any Christian could read the Large Catechism section on Baptism and not believe that Baptism is more than an outward sign of your own belief.

It amazes me that there were people in Luther's time already thinking Baptism was just an outward sign.  I have always just assumed that was a newer American protestant thing.  It seems like time and again Luther is writing about problems in the church that are still problems in the church.  I don't know why I am surprised by this, though, since you know, we still have the same problems as Adam and Eve.  But anyway...

I was recently reading a short story of Martin Luther's life to our boys.  There was a line in the book that has really stuck out to me.  It said that Luther had a friend who told him, "You have opened the floodgates and the rush cannot be stopped," in reference to many who were using Luther's words to go too far into new heresies that he never intended.  People who had problems with the church all along, used his wave of the reformation to change other things, too.  Where he just wanted to reform the heresies of his beloved church, they wanted to move away from everything they had been taught by it.

And so, with the floodgates of rushing water, out went the saving waters of Baptism.  That, when attached to God's Word and promise and command, is a saving, life-giving water, then became some work we could do to show others that we were Christian.  A sad transition and a great loss for the church.

When we change what God says He does for us into something we do for ourselves, we always lose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Large Catechism: Holy Baptism, Part 1

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Holy Baptism, Part 1: Click here and read 1-13.

The basics:
- The words upon which Baptism is founded are Christ's words in Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:16.
- Since these are the words of God Himself, we need not doubt that Baptism is divine, commanded and instituted by God.
- It is of greatest importance that we esteem Baptism as excellent, glorious, and exalted, because the world is full of sects preaching that Baptism is an external thing.
- What God commands and institutes cannot be in vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it seems of little value.
- To be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself.  Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work.
- The devil is busy trying to deceive us with false appearances and lead us away from the work of God and toward our own works.
- We must not estimate the person according to the works, but the works according to the person, from whom they must derive their nobility.  Therefore, our works are nothing, and God's works are holy and noble.

My thoughts today:
I cry every single time I witness my husband baptizing someone.



"For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself.  Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work."

Good stuff.
Enough said.