Derek Johnson Muses

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Considerations while Receiving Communion

Remember This at All?

Remember This at All?

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

“Dear Savior, we come to your table at your gracious invitation to eat and drink your holy body and blood. Let us find favor in your eyes to receive this holy sacrament in faith for the salvation of our souls and to the glory of your holy name.” (Lutheran Worship, Prayer before Reception of Holy Communion.)

I think about this scripture and pray this prayer when I go take communion often. I’m not sure why (a version of the prayer is in the front of LSB), except that I might have something to with the fact that I’m always rushed because I have to go back up to the choir loft and tape another hymn, or I’m the last usher in line and have to tell pastor who to go give to communion in the pew to. Point is, I go to communion with a busy mind and a guilty heart sometimes. I still get Christ’s body and blood, which is fear-inducing.

It’s probably a good thing that communion is for sinners.

Thanks, Dr. Walther

I had a joyous experience Tuesday night. I had the privilege of attending the coordinating council at St. John as the rep from the worship committee. Finally, I was hanging out with the cool people and have made a small step toward becoming one of the elders.

Not only that, but I was also privileged to read the group’s devotion and choose a daily devotion from God Grant It by C.F.W. Walther. The devotion covered John 3:14-15, and was on new birth. Even though I read it at home before the meeting, hearing myself read to the group was a bit surprising. Dr. Walther had a way of piling up words against each other that we don’t hear in today’s diction.

“our bodily birth gives us a bodily life and natural movements, desires, wills, understanding, and powers…” (p. 472, God Grant It, Concordia Publishing House. Translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer. 2006)

“a born-again person…thinks, judges, speaks, and lives according to the Word.” (p. 473, God Grant It.)

For a young man who was eager to be in a place of church leadership, I’m glad to remember how little I really know. Today, we read news stories and blog posts that say, “Bill got up. He ate breakfast and went to work. His boss supported him.” Walther hammers on points, making them over and over again, one sentence after the other. In our modern twitterverse, you will rarely hear one person expound the same principal in such a way, for fear of loosing audience. Which you will if you are too repetitive.

A hundred and fifty years ago, when sermons would last an hour and political debates three. Now, pastors I know tell me that they have, at most, fifteen minutes of people’s attention until their eyes start glazing over. Our technology in America today is amazing, great, and a blessing from God, but we should never think that we are so much smarter today than we were fifty years or a hundred years ago, even if we have a greater libraries of information. What we do with information and using it well is what counts for something.

So thank you, Dr. Walther for knocking me off of my pedestal. 


John 17:20-26: One Because of Christ’s Glory

John 17 is a prayer, the sacerdotal prayer, that Jesus prays in the midst of the disciples, somewhat as a sermon. What is prayer? Jesus knew what was going to happen and what the Father was going to do, even after he ascended. But he prayed for His own strength, and that His disciples would be strengthened. In the prayer that Our Lord gave us, we ask for him to do things He has already done (“hallowed be Your name”), but we ask them because we are weak.

Throughout this prayer, Jesus connects himself to His Father, and then Himself to His disciples, and finally, His disciples to His church. It is through this line we receive the Gospel.

Jesus has spent the last couple of hours giving His final teaching to his disciples, and with this prayer, He first looks at himself. He needs His father’s help as much as His disciples. Then he turns His attention to His disciples, those He has trained and prays for their strength.

v. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,”

Note how Jesus connects the church to the Apostles. Jesus has first testified to the father, and now the disciples will testify to what they have seen and believed about Jesus. (16:30, and post-resurrection). Throughout this prayer, Jesus has connected his work (His “glory”) to His union with God, and the work that God sent him to do.

Grammatical point: the word of the disciples comes before in me. Faith always come through hearing the message, God’s word to us. (Mary conceived through her ears.)

v. 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

We have access to the Father via the Son. Through the Son’s work, we can stand forgiven before the Father.

Where are we one with Christ? In His supper. This is an uncomfortable topic. In the age of ecumenism and our ELCA cousins badgering us, we de-emphasize how we are united to our fellow believers at the Lord’s table. It is an easy trap to fall into-we only talk about the forgiveness we receive at the table, and then, we feel awkward when we tell our neighbors they can’t go to the supper, and they take it personally. We need to take seriously how the Supper judges us.

Through Christ word’s here, we can be assured that no matter what disagreements we may have, we will always be one in Him, because of how He is one with God.

v. 22 “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” God’s glory is through suffering. Glory doesn’t just mean shiny stuff. Glory is the work of Jesus, that He would set His majesty and titles aside, all so that we should be forgiven.

What I Wish I Had Known 10 Years Ago in College

I planned for a year and a half that I would go to Concordia University-St. Paul after I graduated high school. I came into that freshmen year very gun-ho, going to learn and get stuff done, a typical attitude for a homeschooled person. Three years and one transfer later, I graduated college feeling burnt out and bottoming into several years of not doing a lot with my life beyond moping. So every now and then, I wonder, what I have learned in the last ten years that would have helped me back then

Change is going to be harder when you get older-After a year at CSP, I transferred to Concordia-Wisconsin, which, while not the worst decision I ever made, did take some uprooting. When I graduated college, I went home and thought I’d do exactly what I wanted to do. Instead, I spent way too many days and nights play video games and thinking of what I would do. Since graduating, I have thought many times about moving, but the thought of how hard it usually gets in the way now.

Do something every day and stick with it-This factor is complicated for me because, I was studying to become a pastor and bailed out on that at last minute; if I had a better inventory of my skill set at the time, I would have taken more English course with writing emphasis, along with a core of theology, history, and languages, and pursued a career in writing.

Instead, I was on track to go to seminary, but pulled out at the last minute. The thing I regret most about that wasn’t quitting (although I don’t think that was where God wanted me at the time), but that I had no plan when I left college. I wish I had stuck with the plan I was on, and figure out how to adapt my gifts later. I ended up spending nearly three years waiting around until I started working for my dad.

Sometimes, what you do doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are sold out to what you do. When you are in college, you have a lot of resources around you-professors, counselors (free, even), different people, plus various recruiters are coming to seek you out. Those winnow pretty quickly when you move on with your life.

Don’t let little things bother you, and you’ll run into difficult people in work and life-I left after two semesters, after putting myself in courses that were too advanced and ignoring the people I disagreed with theologically. The first job I had out of college, I quit quickly when I didn’t get a management position at the end of training. You don’t really appreciate work until you have too many long days to yourself.

You’re going to have bad bosses and have to deal with people who treat you poorly in life. Don’t take personally when someone else blows up at you, or things don’t go your way all of the time. (Great bosses are mean at times because it’s what makes them great.) Not that you won’t walk into bad situations where you do need to leave, but there are many times where you would be better off sticking out and gaining some resilience than just bailing. The greatest sense of achievement you’ll get in life is when you stick with something for several years, and it works out.

People are limited and aren’t going to automatically to fulfill your every need-When I first arrived on the scene at CUW, I thought everyone I met would end up being my best friend. I ended up in some very one-sided friendships and didn’t do as well socially as I hoped. (If any of my former classmates are reading this and have active grievances, I’m sorry.)

The vast majority of us have limits, and we don’t find each other that interesting. Listen to other people talk about what they love about themselves and what interests them, and if repertoire doesn’t develop between the two of you, it’s okay. There are a lot of people out there to find. If you value what interests them, that’s the most you can do.

And sometimes, you have to recognize what a person can give you. If they can help you get through a rough patch great, but if you can tell early in a relationship that you’re not going to get what you need, it’s better to just move on.

Don’t buy into the cultural narcissism around you– Not that you are scum, but you are not as shiny as advertisers and recruiters tell you you are. Advertisers and TV executives are out there trying to get your money and attention, but they won’t offer you as much in return. The world, your peers, and maybe even your parents are showering you with massive amounts of attention without criticism. And by the way, it won’t make you happy in the long run.

You can do everything that makes you happy, buy everything you want, travel, but what really brings lasting enjoyment is sacrifice, commitment, and doing a couple things as well as you can. Don’t worry about having it all if you aren’t able to have it all. Have what your abilities will allow and be grateful.

Learn how to manage your time-This was one of the bad things that happens in prolonged unemployment, is that one turns things like cooking, laundry, and even watching TV into your job. Looking back on it, I wish I would have one of those college semesters where I took on way too many things and had to start using a day planner.

Figure out your limits and abilities-I still struggle with this one mightily. Part of this is knowing when to go to talk to someone about something that bothers me, part of it is knowing when I need either encouragement or tough love. There have been times in talking to others when I have expressed a situation I’m in, and I had no idea what kind of advice I needed or wanted.

Coming out of a wasteland of time, I still haven’t quite figured out what my plan for the next year is going to be, but I know that it had better be set by the time I start traveling this summer.

For those of you in college who are reading this, I hope you’ve read something that serves you on your journey through life. Don’t get down on yourself; life is what it is. Just control how you respond to it.

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

The dorm I lived four semesters in at CUW

Productive Lutheran Worship Discussion?

After reading Pastor Todd Wilken’s Worship Wars article in the Fall Issues Etc. Journal, I would like to examine  the choices that lead a congregation to worship the way it does. While I agree that doctrine is inevitably at the center of worship controversy, looking across our synod and making a sweeping judgment that a return to doctrine is going to automatically going to cure worship-related-anxieties is not the only answer that everyone will accept. It starts with doctrine, but it doesn’t just end there.

As I’ve traveled around our Synod, I’ve been many different congregations, some who use the liturgy in its fullness, and some that use some or all contemporary. One thing I’ve found that’s a bit surprising is that the churches who use the liturgy (and keep closed communion) are more friendly and outgoing than the churches who use contemporary worship. I suspect this in large part because the liturgical churches know that they are asking more of people, and they are okay with that. Some people may find their worship dense and confusing, but the liturgical church uses this as an opportunity to present the gospel. Meanwhile, the non-liturgical churches often have greeters with authenticity and zeal of a car salesman.

As I’ve heard the stories of the advocates of alternative worship, they all follow the same narrative. Dying church, no young people are coming, older adults panic, so contemporary worship gets instituted. Visitors come in and don’t understand the liturgy. Instead of explaining it, the pastor says “Lord have mercy on me” and runs for his guitar. Notice how all these methods are reactionary, presumptuous, and don’t even involve discussion with the people they are trying to reach.

So, in some sense, the difference in our synod between those who use the liturgy and those who use the praise band can come down to “Inner Scoreboard”, as Warren Buffett would say. If your congregation is a middling 150 people, how do you feel about it? Are you okay with consistent attendance by a select few who give and who do a lot of the work, or do you want more? To put it within the context of Wilken’s post, are you okay with worshiping in the way that best reflects the doctrine you believe, or do you have to go chasing people? I will say this: while it’s admirable to try to reach more people, if a congregation holds steadfast to its doctrinally principals, even the most worldly people will admire that.

But of course, none of this deals with the primal issue in our synod, namely we are divided on the nature of what worship should be, going down multiple generations, and don’t have a platform to discuss these issues. In my CUW class, there was a per-seminary student whose father was the pastor of a LCMS parish who embraced contemporary worship and church growth practices. His senior seminar tried to justify contemporary worship’s place in our synod, but it lacked any opening for anyone from the opposing side to come in and engage him on the topic. Even the moderate students didn’t respect it.

So how do we create a platform to have meaningful conversations about worship in our synod? Doctrine is a huge part of the worship wars and at the center, but to find a real solution to the worship wars, we have to talk about practice within the context of doctrine. First, we talk about what we believe and why we are part of this synod (given how we are slaves to tradition at times, such self-examination). Then, let’s move beyond that and talk about what’s essential to teach our churches through worship and preaching. Then, move on to circumstance. If people are leaving our church, what’s the solution? Is changing the worship style the real solution? What about the churches that are taking in more people with alternate worship? Do we want to do everything that they do and believe what they want to believe?

So, there are two parts to this discussion, first doctrine (in the pastor’s study and in the sanctuary) and then practice. The way to have a productive discussion about worship is starting with doctrine, working through this issues, clear through to practice. But it’s important that as we move the discussion from doctrine to practice, we don’t suddenly stop talking about doctrine and jump to practice, because these things are inevitably connected. And even if they aren’t we should weigh them to be sure.

The LCMS is divided on this issue, and working through it is probably going to take another generation. Be honest about what you’re doing and consistent in doing it. Don’t sit on the differences you have with your brother; instead, bring them to the front, and share them openly. Even if we don’t come to a consensus, maybe we can at least move forward.

Church Work: Taping for Shut-ins

A while back, I saw a blurb in the St. John bulletin asking for someone to help with the tape ministry at St. John, which made audio tapes for the older adults at St. John. I called about, and it turned out that our family friends Gene and Marian Faszholz were in charge of the production. So I began helping them make tapes for the shut-in members of the congregation.

I know what you are thinking: can’t we just digitally record the service? Yes, the service is recorded digitally and with full video. There is a ministry that distributes DVD’s but so far, we haven’t worked out a way to easily distribute a distribute an audio recording or CD’s, so we’re stuck with tapes until these machines break. The machines have already been paid for, so anything else we get out of them is gravy.

On the Sundays I tape, I arrive around 8:10 to set up the taping equipment. It’s stored in the work area behind the fellowship area by the pastor’s offices. I take the three bulky tape copiers out of the cupboard, plug them in, and stock them with tapes. I take a clean tape that’s never been used before and write the date on it, and head upstairs.

The taping equipment is up in the corner of the balcony at church. During the school year, I usually have to climb past choirs (bells or voice, and sometimes both), to get to the tape deck and where I insert the tape. I have a little over forty minutes of record time, so I have to cut certain things out, like the pre-service announcements, or a couple of the hymn verses. Time has never been a problem, and once the service is done I head back down to the tape room.

Tape Deck

Once I’m there, I plug the tape into the first machine, careful to get the right side up (otherwise, I will have to stay late and record the eleven o’clock service). It usually takes me half an hour to get all of the tapes I need, during which time I sort the bulletins to send with the tapes, or just read the news bulletin. I need thirty tapes for all of the routes and another seven or eight for the church office, in case someone wants to pick them up during the week. I’m lucky-when Gene started working with the tape ministry ten years ago, he had to make twice as many tapes.

Yes, Tapes.

When I started, there were three delivery routes, so I always had to take a route to either Heartland or around town. But since there have been a few death, and we only do two routes now. While I enjoy not having to deliver and going to Bible study instead, I do miss seeing the people at Heartland. It’s great to be a presence in their lives.

(Worship Committee)

Church Work: What I Do For Worship Committe

Where I watch the sermon from when I’m on Worship Committee Duty

A two years ago, I was asked to be a part of the worship committee at St. John Evangelical Lutheran. As I wasn’t doing a lot at the time, I said sure, and since have been privileged to serve my Christian community in such a capacity.

Worship committee members are part of the ushering team at St. John and do a lot of the coordinating of the various participants in the service (acolytes, lay readers, etc.). One WC member is on duty at each service (two for 8:30 communion services), along with the usher teams, and mostly just handout programs at the beginning, help with offering, and direct people up to communion. They are also have the responsibility of finding a communion assistant if one doesn’t show up, or lighting the candles if one of the kids doesn’t show up (done both). Post-service, they collect bulletins and go up the aisles to collect attendance registers and take them to the office, and change the hymn boards. I’ve even had the privilege of setting up for baptism.

By and far the biggest responsibility of the worship committee is responding to a medical emergency if one arises during the service. This happened once when I was serving (thankfully others were there to help as well), a second time when I wasn’t to someone who was sitting directly behind me. There’s an automatic defibrillator that all of us are trained to use, and Clark urges all of the members to take CPR courses annually.

One of my friends told me when I first started that I had the perfect demeanor to be an usher. I suppose she’s right, although I hadn’t put a lot of thought into it. Sure, it’s a couple of meetings over the course of a year and staying late after service, but with everything God has done for me, it is the least that I can do to serve His people.

For 8:30 service, I arrive at 7:45. I collate programs and news bulletins for most of that time, greet people as they come in. I love it when we have an usher group of teenagers during lent because it usually means I can sit back and let them do all the work, and it’s great to have them involved. I always end up pacing a lot during the sermon, because I worry about having to help someone who might have a medical emergency. Surprisingly, Pastor Ratcliffe doesn’t find this distracting.

Issues Etc. Vidcasts: Liturgy and American Revivalism

Driving across Wisconsin and Iowa, while exhausting and tiring, was a great time to get caught up on some Issues, Etc. podcasts that had been piling up. Issues, Etc. works great on the road espescially when you have series, which thanks to Pastor Will Weedon, I did.

I’d referenced this before, but I wanted to mention again how great Dr. Larry Rast’s podcast on American Revivalism is. It goes a long way to showing how dangerous emotion-driven Christianity and the idea of “new measures” are. Dr. Rast, I hope you write a book on this.

Acts 2 has to be the most-abused chapter in all of Scripture. The feminists use it to justify woman pastors, the non-dems use it to justify throwing out the liturgy, and the real extremists use it to justify universal redemption.

Appealing Flaws

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23 (ESV)
John Grisham’s novel The Appeal, while a work of liberal propaganda, raises many issues conservatives must confront. Grisham, a self-described moderate baptists who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election, draws his lines clearly, using a tort case against a big company: on the one side, there are the big corporations who use “Christian values” to mask their agenda of advantages for the rich. Then there’s the real church, the one that’s concerned with helping the poor above all else. Just judges, in Grisham’s mind, will always take the side of helping the poor. While I do think that helping the poor needs to be an important part of the judicial system, Grisham draws too many generalities when it comes to religion and excludes the obvious connection between the liberal philosophy he’s advocating and abortion.

Grisham’s perspective, however flawed, does provide insight as to how the Democrats have won the upper hand in the current political arena: cast them as rich, out-of-touch bureaucrats who use empty values to mask greed. Jack Donaghy has done as much to ruin Republicans’ image as George W. Bush did. Growing up, I always thought of Republicans as a party primarily defined by religious, traditional values, but political parties are much more complex. In light of the financial crisis where big corporations share much of the blame, it does give me second thought about the party I belong to. Truth be told, I get my political news from SNL most of the time. Being a true Lutheran, I’m politically apathetic.

Politics aside, there is a bigger problem in this regard, and Grisham takes advantage of American’s (and even Christian’) lack of religious knowledge). There’s more to churches than just large, suburban, and callous, and urban and outreach oriented . Grisham writes little about specific beliefs in The Appeal, andI wonder if he would be surprised to find out that churches who preach social activism over Christ forty years ago are now dying off in America.

As Lutheran, I understand this personally. My own church body, the LCMS, while trying to resolve its issues, has congregational practice that can vary quite a bit from congregation to congregation, and with that, teaching also can very. Not to get into that debate, but churches just can’ be judged actions only. Their teachings (and specifics) should be debated too.

Yes, many Christians have abandoned missions in the cities for houses in the suburbs. Repentance is needed, but we cannot go into these neighborhoods with just food and money. If we don’t preach Christ to these people, than they are worse off than before. This is something that cuts at me personally, because my own church body, while doing notable acts for the poor, does have a track record of pushing doctrine, sometimes too hard.

As far as cases like the one Grisham describes, sadly there are instances where families who suffer injuries aren’t compensated fairly by the courts system. But the judicial liberalism that Grisham advocates for victims is the same logic that legalized abortion, which in many ways slaps the poor in the face by telling them, “The world doesn’t have room for your unexpected babies.” Grisham subtly ignores this fact and does his readers a great disservice by doing so.

But conservatives should read and deal with the issues raised inTthe Appeal, because these are the tactics that lifestyle left are using in their arguments against them. The winning side of a political debate isn’t the one that’s right, merely the one who frames its argument the best.

Jesus and His Brothers

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:31-35 ESV)

This was the text for the Sunday morning Bible study I attend, and its one that cuts to me personally because of what it says about the family. In conservative, religious-based political circles, there is a lot of talk about fighting for the family, family first, etc. Given the track record of the lifestyle left, I’m actually surprised that they haven’t used this passage to say, “See, Jesus didn’t confine himself to the traditional definition of family.”

Jesus’ family must have been an interesting dynamic. Jesus is the talent sibling who goes out into the world to pursue his teaching and ministry, which leads to “Jesus mania”, aka Bieber fever without social media. Jesus is out teaching the people. Back home, Jesus’ brothers and sister are running the carpentry business, taking care of Mom, and feeling that Jesus is ignoring them.

Yes, Jesus does still care for His family. From the cross, he told John to look after his mother (John 19:26-27). But his vocation was/is God’s Son, Savior of the World. In short,  head of God’s family. What God gave, first to Adam and Eve (the first family), he fulfills in Christ, who unites us to him.



Lent Wraps Up. Now…

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and I am now thinking back to the post that I wrote back on Ash Wednesday about repentance, and my experience going into Lent. Now that Lent is over, I find myself wondering if I should ask me myself if I learned anything.

I suppose there is some legitimacy to my musings; if I were a student, I suppose I would have to write notes on the subject of what repentance means. But isn’t more than that? Don’t I have to record some moment of personal growth? Not necessarily, but here’s what I heard at church and what I took from it.

Our sermon series at church was messages preached from the perspective of many of those involved directly in Holy Week: Judas, Pontius Pilate, Peter, Barrabbas. Hearing from each of these people lead me to think through the cycle of sin and repentance. There are many days when that gets tiring, especially when I struggle with the same sins day after day. Once again, temptation lies open in front of me; you’ve heard this message, and it’s boring you now, it’s not new. Why do you need it? Being the type who loves to write, the temptation is especially powerful as I’m always seeking out new perspective (and being at the end of a creative “season” if you will, I feel that temptation strongly now).

And then there’s the opposite temptation: stay in church but stymie your ears. Hey, you’ve heard it, and you know it. You don’t need constant fellowship. There are so many sermons on the internet, you can just go to church at home, with a virtual presence. And after all you’ve been through and how people in the church hurt you…

I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s a story I’m not quite ready to tell, only to see there were people who gave me (albeit indirectly) every reason to walk away from this church. But I have chosen otherwise.

So what exactly did I learn this Lent? That I’m not perfect. More precisely, though, I think I’d better get used to the fact that certain cycles never end. Praise the Lord that forgiveness is one of them.

A note on these videos from Pastor Harrison: we are indeed blessed to have such a powerful spokesperson for our church body, and one thing we should take from these videos is that it does a lot of good when we pray and write notes of support to our pastors and those above us (including Facebook comments). For those of my fellow young adults out there, consider his comments in the video above about young people loosing interest in religion, and know that you have the responsibility to encourage your leaders and share the message with those in your circle of influence. Let us continue to do so joyfully.

In closing, here’s Pastor Harrison’s Holy Week video from last year:

Reopening Walther’s Law and Gospel: Being Mastered by the Scriptures

I first read C.F.W. Walther’s Law and Gospel the summer between junior and senior of college. The book was compilation of evening lectures that Walther gave to seminary student about good preaching: setting for the Law, God’s judgment on sin, and the Gospel, God’s grace for the repentant sinner. I was stuck by Walther’s precision as he went though his points and carefully set forth the truth of the gospel. It was a great time in my life to have such a reading, as I going to chapel every day, which allowed my to apply Walther’s guidelines to the sermon of the day. Not that I was trying to be negative; preaching should be scrutinized closely. Since then, Walther’s lectures always hang out in the back of my mind, and as I now have been preparing a Bible study on Isaiah, I decided to reopen the book.

Thumbing through it, the first thing that I noticed is that Walther devoted the most time to (six lectures) was the problem of repentant sinners being directed to their own piety for their salvation. It is no wonder that Walther would be so fixated on the issues of piety. While Islam and Deism presented not-so-subtle conflicts with Christianity, the Pietists sought to turn people to their own thoughts, prayers, and works. Granted, we may have a high points in our faith, but those high points should not define us. Christ crucified for sinners should defined us.

Walther’s first example in how to switch cleanly between Law and Gospel uses Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. When Peter drives his hearers to sorrow over their sins and “they were cut to the heart” (v. 37 ESV), he doesn’t give them anything to do. Peter tells them “Repent (to Walther, this means to have faith) and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (v. 38). Peter commends these sinners to Christ’s work on their behalf.

The part of Law and Gospel preaching I struggle with as I read this is the sudden change in voice in the text, or in a sermon. It’s like a movie with a huge twist ten minutes before the end: I’m being told that I’m terrible, and I can feel that guilt and conviction. But then all of sudden, God swoops in and says, “You’re forgiven.” This also happens when I’m reading the Bible, as I am doing right now for my Isaiah study. The prophet will shift gears so quickly-going from seven women claiming one man as their husband, then shifting to the grandeur of the coming kingdom of the Lord. (Is. 4:1-2). I find this confounding, and sometimes, I feel like I’m getting a mixed message.

But who am I to question how my Lord should come to me? He comes to us in the middle of a world that I broken and hurting and proclaims radical grace. The devil tempts us to sin and tells us, revel in the evil like the world does. It’s easy, all you have to do is feel sorry for yourself. But that is what makes the Gospel a stumbling block: it goes against what our nature wants. And what makes the Gospel so amazing is that it can surprise after we have found ourselves trapping in our sin and even mourning it, and from there, it lifts us up.

The main point about Law and Gospel that stuck with me was that God is always dealing with us, whether that is through correction or through encouragement. The key to understanding that, as Walther says in his first thesis, is experience, and that God works through every experience we have. That is the greatest comfort of this understanding of scripture.


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"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

Just a Guy

with an Appetite

Sun-Ton Farms

Dairy Farming through the eyes of a former "city" girl. I am blessed to be able to work along side my husband of over 20 years and help care for our cows, calves, and beautiful farm.


Dragon Slaying: from the Lutheran Perspective

Final Mystery

"The final mystery is oneself" - Oscar Wilde

Biking with Coleman

Traversing North America by Bicycle

Christian in America

The blog of Matthew Tuininga

Cassie Moore

Adventures in the Mundane

An Illustrated Parsonage Life

A new pastor's wife writes about church, home, children, and life's general absurdities and mishaps.

Musings of a Circuit Riding Parson

Just another small town, small town, small town preacher

Oratio + Meditatio + Tentatio

A theologian's pressure cooker.

Brent Kuhlman's Blog

A great site

Peruse and Muse

One Author in Search of an Audience

St. Matthew Lutheran Church

Bonne Terre, Missouri

Tips On Travelling

Learn how to travel Further. Longer. Cheaper.

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