Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's, like, God, man. (Grek2sday)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 - John 10





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Friday, April 23, 2010

Tooth Decay and Protons

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3 - John 21




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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mock - Mock - ing - ing - bird - bird - yeah - yeah


Tomorrow morning I will be packing and piling up the van, heading off on a three hour drive, drop off Meridith and the girls at her sisters, and make my way via subway into the heart of Manhattan in order to attend the Mockingbird 2010 conference. What is the Mockingbird conference? Mockingbird is an Anglican group who a while back discovered the Lutheran distinction between Law and Gospel, and has made it their mission to pass on this teaching which God has given the Church. From their site: "WHY: Are we called Mockingbird? The name was inspired by the mockingbird’s peculiar gift for mimicking the cries of other birds. In a similar way, we seek to repeat the message we have heard - God’s Word of grace and forgiveness."

Among other presenters at this conference will be the Rev. Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, professor of theology at Concordia University in Irvine, California and an ordained minister in the LC—MS. He has contributed to several books including Christianity for the Tough Minded, The Agony of Deceit, and Christ the Lord. His lecture “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church” was inspirational in the formation of Mockingbird. (This lecture is available for download for a very fair price at New Reformation Press.) Rod has served as a co-host of the seminal White Horse Inn radio program since its inception twenty years ago.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2 - John 20



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Friday, April 09, 2010

On the Goodness of the Law


More Q&A from pastoral life:

Q: You wrote: This is the freedom of a Christian: not to be a slave to the law, kept under it as a guardian, but to be freed to pursue it with a clean conscience in the blood of Christ.

I don't know that I answer it fully, for I do not get into "guardianship" in Paul's writings, or the "clean conscience" of 1 Tim 1 and 1 Pet 3, but it is a vast topic!

A: The Law is "good." It's not just good because it shows us our sin. It does that, and that is God's ultimate use of the in terms of redemption. But the Law is first good because it is good. It is good not to kill people. It is good not to steal. It is good to love. It is good to protect our neighbor's possessions, etc. The proper distinction of Law and Gospel is about many things, but part of it is being able to look at the Law and see how good it is to do - not for salvation, not because I must, but because the result is goodness for someone else. This is Luther's great insight: "God doesn't need your good works. But your neighbor does."

Or think of it this way, the Ten Commandments are promises of what life will be like with Jesus' once we're freed from these body's of death. In paradise, forever, you will have no other gods. You will keep pure worship, always. You will live in perfect harmony under a King. You will never hurt nor harm. You will never lust or envy or lie or despise. This is the law kept. But it will not be to earn rewards or so that we can look at ourselves and say, "Ha, aren't we good." It will be God's gift of peace and bliss and innocence forever - and it will forever be in and from Jesus. The Lamb at the center will be our light.

This view of that is received through faith alone now. Christ is the end of it. He fulfills it, and in him, as Peter says, we do have an example of what humanity not merely was supposed to be, but what we are in Him. Thus, having in him died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?

Well...we have to, but we don't have to like it. That is learning to love the Law. Not because I have to keep it, but because it is the definition of love.

Granted: this makes it sound all nice and easy. It's not. Romans 7. The thing I want to do (the goodness of the law) I do not do, etc. The Law still must and will point us back to our need for Christ. But that's exactly why we must also hear it and be reminded of it, not merely, "You're a sinner," but "Do this. It is good to do this."

This is the properly distinguish Law and Gospel. Don't make the Law into the Gospel, for that will kill souls. But keep preaching the Law as the Law, otherwise you will make the Gospel into the Law in its stead, and that will kill souls, perhaps even more quickly.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lutherans and Idols

This week I was blessed to be asked another theological question via email which I thought I'd share the answer to publicly:

Q Why does Luther separate the 10 Commandments as he does? He seems to leave out "have no idols" and makes the "do not covet your neighbor's stuff" into two commandments.

A Luther doesn't. Luther numbers the commandments the way the the entire Christian tradition numbered them until protestants like John Calvin renumbered them in order to make "not making graven images" the second commandment. This is an important point to grasp: protestantism likes to change things and then act as if it's others who have changed things.

Theologically, Luther and Christian tradition have understood that "not having idols" is the same as "not having other gods." One way or other, you end up with a two commandments that seems repetitive on the surface. The question is whether or not you prefer to change things that make no difference, or let things that make no difference remain the same for the sake of stability. This is the difference between a Lutheran approach to tradition and a protestant one:

a. Lutheran: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
b. Protestant: It might not be broke, but let's fix it anyway.

This is just a trend, or a normal way of approaching things, but it is highlighted by the way we approach the commandments.

The real trick with the commandments is an exegetical one. The text of Scripture does not number them, nor does it actually call them commandments. In the Hebrew, it simply says that the Lord spoke 10 words and then it has a paragraph/list of text, including other portions such as "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, etc." Along with the traditional and protestant ways of numbering, the Jew's have a third way which leaves "I am the LORD your God" as the first "word." (I'm partial to that personally as an exegetical interpretation.)

But, when it comes to the catechism, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Lutheran catechism covers the gambit, as well as avoids the legalistic pitfall of "iconoclasm" or the teaching that having images is breaking the "2nd commandment." The iconoclastic controversies date as far back as the early church, are blamed for the split between east and west (statues vs. flat icons), and now leave protestant churches bare of statuary and fine artwork while our homes are flushed with pictures (not to mention tv images.)

The Lutheran understanding is that God is not against images (hence, carvings on his temple, on the ark of the covenant, etc.) but against having other gods. That's what we teach our children to beware of.

Hope that answers it. We can talk about it more Friday. Just remember the general rule: if something is different, it wasn't (unless its having the Bible in the native tongue) it probably wasn't the Lutherans who changed it. More than likely it is the protestant tradition that has inserted the novelty. One might even say that is it inserting novelties which is the protestant tradition.

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Rev. Jonathan Fisk

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Springfield, PA
http://www.stjohnspringfield.blogspot.com

"Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit." Clement, Bishop of Rome. c. 110 AD

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Day of Resurrection - Luke 24










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Friday, April 02, 2010

Maundy Thursday - Luke 22









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