Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

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Unworthy Servant Tho I Be

Maybe its all the nice compliments from Ruth … maybe I’m just feeling poetic lately … maybe I’m just waiting for someone to cry out “Don’t give up your day job!”  In any case, here is another hymn I have put to pen for this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading.

Text by Ken Maher

Luke 17:1-10

Tune: #609 (LSB) “Jesus Sinners Doth Receive” [78 78 77]

1. Temptations unto sin must come,

but woe to me for I have caused them.

Careless round the little ones,

my freedoms I do take for granted.

So I cry out unto Thee,

unworthy servant tho I be!

2. My life is an example poor,

so oft it’s lived without due rev’rence.

Little study of Your Word,

even less for Church attendance.

Sacraments, no thought from me,

unworthy servant that I be.

3. Sin all around, so plain to see,

e’en in the lives of those I care for.

Yet no rebuke will come from me,

fearing they might close that door.

Oh does respect mean more to me,

than if their souls God should receive?

4. And when from sin someone repents,

asking me for my forgiveness,

Are the words grudgingly spent,

or given out as if I care less?

Hold back this same, O not from me,

unworthy servant tho I be!

5. By myself I cannot stand,

before your mighty throne in heaven.

I give you naught but empty hand,

pleading but what You have given:

Your own dear Son upon that Tree,

Body broke, Blood shed for me.

6. Worthy servant, faithful fruit,

perfect life, became an offence.

Willingly bore my rebuke,

and now grants me full forgiveness.

Each and every time I need,

His wounded hands my case will plead.

7. Hear now, Lord, my fervent prayer,

given in the name of Jesus,

As I face this world of cares,

side by side with Him who frees us,

Increase my faith, help me to see,

a Worthy Servant I will be!

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The Feast Prepared

Text by Ken Maher

Luke 16:19-31

To Tune of #622 (LSB) “Lord Jesus Christ You Have Prepared” [87 87 887]

1. Hear how there was a wealthy man

not so unlike you or me,

He all for his own pleasure lived.

To satisfy all his needs,

The finest wines the richest fare,

were laid upon his table there,

nothing to good for him you see.

2. Down at his gates there sat a man,

cast out upon the cold street.

A beggar poor, his festered arms,

weak by his side, in so much need.

A man used up, a man cast out,

a man whose life went round about

seeking the scraps not fit to eat.

3. Lazarus, left this veil of tears,

lifted up on the angels’ wings.

Comforted, in the end you see,

his life was a glad offering.

Not so for the rich man to be,

for when he died and was buried,

all he would find was suffering.

4. In seeking to be rich like him,

we set ourselves a table.

The cost for dining there we’ll find,

a payment we’re unable.

God’s gifts of wealth are not for us,

to be used so, in selfish trust,

pleasure’s a passing fable.

5. If in yourself you should now see,

this selfishness convicted.

Do not so fear your future friend,

heav’n is ne-er restricted.

We’re all like beggars at the gate,

we’ve no right to demand a plate,

but at His table we’re seated.

6 Gladly let us hear Moses’ word,

and that of all the prophets.

The Father sent His Son so dear,

to come and bear our crosses.

Though He was rich He became poor,

suff’ring all that we had in store.

The cup of wrath He quaffed.

7. All this was done for humankind,

a dinner invitation,

to fill our souls with Word so dear,

to wash in His salvation,

to feast upon His Holy Sup,

eating the bread, drinking the cup,

our true Lord’s habitation.

8. May blessed table now prepared,

serve as our inspiration,

That we may seek to spend with care,

and selfless ministrations.

Our neighbour’s wants are now our own,

We have been blessed with heavn’ly home,

live it with true elation!

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Why Personal Opinion is Never Good for Christ’s Church

I`m going to be honest here, and tell you of the one thing that frustrates me more than anything else in the ministry … When dear saints of the Lord look their pastor in the eye and say “Well, that`s just your opinion (or interpretation, or way of doing things).”  Instantly in my mind I hear myself grumbling, No it isn’t … but then you REALLY don`t want to hear that!  Hearing those words rankle me to the core for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they are so often said simply as a means to end conversation when one side doesn’t like where things are going. It`s almost as bad as being told by someone that I will just have to agree to disagree with them. (Why should I agree to that?)

But the real reason I find the whole idea so distasteful, is precisely the reason why anyone making such a claim in the church should find it equally appalling.  There is no room for personal opinion in the preaching and teaching of Christ`s Church.  I shouldn’t do it.  My congregants shouldn’t put up with it. I made a vow in my ordination that when it came to preaching and teaching I would put personal opinion behind me.  I vowed that my opinions would now be those of the Lutheran Confessions, and the Scriptures they come from.  I do my very best to remove my own opinion from my reading of the Holy Scriptures, allowing the Scriptures and the Confessions to guide my opinion of the Word of God.  Who am I that I should have an opinion about the very Words of God?  I will stand by God’s opinion on such things!

When we allow personal opinion (or interpretations, or ways of doing things) to remain uncontested in Christ’s Church then we allow someone or something to stand alongside our Saviour in the hearts and minds of His people.  When we allow personal opinion (or interpretations, or ways of doing things) to remain uncontested in Christ’s Church then we open the door to ever revolving controversies that have ready been settled and pave the way for everlasting discord.

Please note, I am not saying that I am right and you (dear reader) are wrong.  I am often wrong myself … but only when I lower my guard and let my own personal opinions, interpretations, and ways of doing things creep in where only the beliefs, teachings, and confessions of the Holy Christian Church should be.  Pastors shouldn’t do it, and lay people shouldn’t condone it!

Consider these illuminating words from CFW Walther:

The purpose for which the Church demands a subscription to its Symbols is twofold:

a) that the Church may convince itself that its teachers really possess the orthodox understanding of Scripture and the same pure, unadulterated faith as the Church;

b) that the Church may bind them with a solemn promise to teach this faith pure and unadulterated or renounce the office of teaching instead of disturbing the Church with their false teaching.

This twofold purpose is completely nullified if the servants of the Church are permitted to accept the Symbols of the Church on a conditional basis. For when the Church is satisfied with a conditional subscription, it openly admits to its teachers that its Symbols may contain doctrines that are contrary to Scripture. By making such an admission, the Church loses all means of convincing itself what the teacher believes when he subscribes conditionally, and releases him from the obligation of teaching the Word of God pure and unadulterated according to its Symbols, which are the norm for teaching in the Church.

Furthermore, when congregations demand that those who want to teach subscribe to their Symbols, they are looking for a guarantee that no teacher with an erring conscience nor an outspoken errorist will come in and teach them all sorts of errors. However, if congregations demand only a conditional subscription to their Symbols, they weaken that guarantee, give the false teacher a weapon against themselves, and rob themselves of the right of deposing a teacher who teaches contrary to their Symbols.

Finally, the purpose of binding the teachers of the Church to its public Confessions is to remove the long controversies that have been thoroughly discussed and settled, at least in the orthodox Church. A mere conditional subscription, however, opens the door for a renewal of controversies that have ready been settled and paves the way for everlasting discord.

Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers, and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church?, Essay delivered at the Western District Convention in 1858. by C.F.W Walther, Translated by A.W.C. Guebert and Matthew Harrison, published in “At Home in the House of My Fathers”, by Matt Harrison. Lutheran Legacy, 2009.


Belittling Luther?

luther 2

Martin Luther statues have Wittenberg in a stir 500 years on

About 800 colourful statues of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther are popping up in the eastern German town of Wittenberg, where Luther first railed against some practices of the Roman Catholic Church almost 500 years ago.  The one-metre high plastic figures in red, green, blue and black are the creation of the artist Ottmar Hörl and are intended to replace a statue of Martin Luther on the town square while it is being renovated.  “My Luther looks just like the original, except for the feet,” Hörl told German press agency ddp.  The art installation has stirred the ire of some Protestant theologians who say the statues, copies of which Hörl is selling on his website for 250 euros each, make a mockery of Luther’s achievements.

You can find the opening remarks of the art installation here

To be honest, I’ve sat staring at this news item (and associated pictures) for a couple of weeks now, wondering what to do with it all.  Sometimes I want to throw it out and pretend like I never saw it.  Other times I’m ready to get out my credit card and order me up one of those little guys.  In all the back and forth, however, I don’t think I’ve ever come to the point where my ire was stirred because of some perceived mockery of Luther and his achievements.  Nor, was I willing to applaud the artist for the vision of his work. (It may be cute and/or eye catching but I don’t think anyone would describe it as deep or thought provoking.)

Granted, being a Canadian Lutheran Dr. Marin doesn’t have the same cultural symbolism for me as he does for many in Germany.  But really … is this something to get so worked up about.  Even if he does come in a range of colours it’s not like the statues are naked.  Luther is not picking his nose or “flippin’ the bird” (as some gnomes by the same artist have done in the past).  He isn’t depicted with little horns or seven heads.

He’s holding the Bible.  He’s pointing to God’s Word!

Indeed, along with the display in the Wittenburg square a local church is doing daily readings from Luther’s Translation of the Bible (if I made sense of my translation software).  Think of the impact as someone reads from the Bible and you are surrounded by 800 little Luthers all pointing to the book.  All 80o Luthers looking at you as if to say – “Hey You!  Yes You!  THIS … This is important!  You should be reading this!”

To be honest, I find it all rather amusing.  The world could use another 800 Luthers running around pointing people to the Word of God, calling people to repentance and faith in Christ.  But since that isn’t likely to happen any time soon, maybe this is the next best thing.  If they won’t listen to you and me because they’ve gotten so used to dismissing us out of hand (and as a pastor you know I feel this way from time to time – even if it isn’t always true), maybe they would stop and listen to 800 short plastic Luthers.  Stranger things have been known to happen.

I think Luther would have a laugh at it too.  Far from feeling belittled, if anything, I think he would insist that he be made smaller and the Bible be larger (maybe with a different section of Scripture to be read on each one!)  As Luther himself once said: “Whatever I am personally does not matter.” and “My only glory is the fact that I have taught God’s Word purely and have not adulterated it because of any desire for glory or riches.”