Dear friends in Christ,
We continue our survey of Church History from the book of Professor E.A.W. Krauss from our St. Louis seminary of a century ago. This month Professor Krauss continues his discussion on C.F.W. Walther. We come to the late 1830’s when Pastor Martin Stephan, the leader of the group of Lutherans immigrating from Saxony, Germany to Missouri, is suspended from office and expelled from the settlement. He had evidently been leading a life of gross immorality [although the charges had not been proven]. He had also fallen into doctrinal errors. These errors were starting to take root—errors that the Lutheran Church, in particular the followers of Stephan, was the Church without which there was no salvation; that the ministry was a go-between between God and man and entitled to unconditional obedience in all things not in conflict with the Word of God; that questions of doctrine were to be decided by the clergy alone, in whose hands also rested the power of the keys, etc. [source: Concordia Cyclopedia, pg. 483] To preserve their true Lutheran faith and ultimately to pass it down to us, the emigrants had to pass through this soul-trying controversy. But God in His mercy raised up and worked through humble human instruments like C.F.W. Walther.
44.2 [Part 6] Dr. C. Ferd. W. Walther
What happened when Stephan was exposed was absolutely frightening. The greater the adoration was in which Stephan was held—he was, in fact, practically idolized—all the more terrible was the reaction. He had convinced the people to regard him as “bishop” like was done in the Swedish Lutheran Church; it became a regular courtesy at evening parties to kiss his hand; the Declaration of Submission that Stephan demanded of the group in February 1839 was still in effect during the trip from New Orleans to St. Louis on the steam ship “Selma;” he also had assumed almost dictatorial power “in the communal,” that is, in the administration of the cash-box. And now he stood there before the church and world as a godless hypocrite, dishonored and a violator, as a deceiver and squanderer of the goods of others, as a seducer of body and soul, as a pillar of disgrace of Lutheranism—the very Lutheranism the immigrant Saxons, because of their faith, wanted to prepare a place for in America.
It was as if they had been hit upside the head. Everything which before had been firmly established and which had motivated them to emigrate, then became uncertain—except this: God’s Word and the confession of our church. They did not want to retreat from this and so the preachers and congregation clung all the more firmly to it as the only sure anchor that remained to them. “These are the main questions,” Walther wrote at that time to his brother, “which are now among us: Are our congregations Christian Lutheran congregations? Or are they mobs? Sects? Do they have the authority to call and to excommunicate? Are we pastors or not? Are our vocations valid? Do we still belong in Germany? Can our calls here truly be true divine calls since we have forsaken our divine calls in Germany and, in our mistaken consciences, left? Shouldn’t the congregations now depose us because, together with us, they first now understand what great offense we have given? Wouldn’t it be better if the congregations would at least dismiss us for a while and try to preserve themselves merely by the exercise of the spiritual priesthood and then choose either the old or new pastors? It is impossible for me to write you all the various answers that have been given to these questions.” In the confusion of their conscience even the emigration in and of itself was declared to be sin, not just the offences that occurred in connection with the emigration, for example, the severing of family bonds. There was mistrust of all pastors; the validity of their acts of office was doubted. Karl Hase (III, 2, 429) writes: “I got ahold of a sermon of the [elder] Pastor Walther in St. Louis which was published at the end of the 1840 Church Year. It mentions that event as a mutual sin in which the individuals in varying degrees had their share. ‘We had a man among us who had all the marks of the Antichrist and yet was an idol of the congregation. We feared his displeasure and anathema more than God’s wrath. His word was listened to more than God’s Word. How we sold our freedom that Christ dearly purchased and became servants of men! The talk among us was: the Church depends upon a man! And we clergy did not oppose it; instead we consented.’”
But the cause of the Lutheran church of America was not lost because of Stephan. Our faithful God again helped it up precisely and above all, by Walther’s service. By diligent study of Holy Scripture and with persistent investigation into Luther’s works, Walther came to clarity over all the questions that at that time had so deeply disturbed him and the greatly tried congregation. He collected into the following eight theses what he recognized from God’s Word. He defended and maintained them in a disputation in Altenburg, Missouri in April 1841 against all opposition, which even came from the congregation itself.
We will look at those eight theses next month.
So far Professor Krauss
NEWS AND UPDATES
OUR BABY BOTTLE DRIVE: Last year we collected $247. Let’s try to top that this year. The Pregnancy Resource Center of the Valleys with an office in Corning will use it in their efforts to save the unborn and help women in crisis pregnancies.
March has five Sundays this year and you know what that means—a FIFTH SUNDAY DINNER. Our Fifth Sunday Dinner will follow service on the 31st. Be sure to sign up and bring your favorite dish to share and enjoy some of the great cooking of your fellow members at Faith.
EASTER is 21 APRIL! ALTAR FLOWERS: Since we have had such a beautiful display of flowers at Easter the past few years, we will again ask you to bring flowers with you to Easter Service to help beautify our sanctuary for our celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. After service, you will bring your flowers home with you to enjoy at home and be reminded of the Easter service.
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE APOCRYPHA FOR THESE WANING DAYS OF LENT’S TIME OF REPENTANCE
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: "Who can prevail against me?"
or, "Who will subdue me for my deeds?"
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: "I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?"
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: "Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive."
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed. [Sirach 5.1-8]
THE THIEF ON THE CROSS—BY GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE: St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Concerning the robbers who were crucified with Him, it is written, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” Before this, both of them were transgressors. But one did not remain this way. The one was a transgressor to the end, stubborn against salvation; though his hands were fastened, he smote with blasphemy by his tongue. When the Jews passing by wagged their heads, mocking the Crucified, and fulfilling what was written, “When they looked on Me, they shook their heads,” he also reviled the Crucified with them. But the other robber rebuked the other one who was reviling. For him this was the end of life and the beginning of restoration; the surrender of his soul was a first share in salvation. And after this robber rebukes the other one, he says, “Lord, remember me; for my account is with You. Do not pay attention to this man, for the eyes of his understanding are blinded; but remember me. I do not say, ‘remember my works,’ because I am afraid of these. Every man has sympathy for his fellow-traveler; I am travelling with You towards death; remember me, Your fellow-wayfarer. I do not say, ‘Remember me now,’ but, ‘when You come into Your kingdom.’”
What power, O robber, led You to the light? Who taught You to worship that despised Man, your companion on the Cross? O Light Eternal, which gives light to them that are in darkness! Therefore he too rightly heard the words, ‘Be of good cheer’; not that your deeds are worthy of good cheer; but that the King is here, dispensing favors. The request was for the future; but the grace was very speedy.
“Verily I say unto you, ‘This day you shall be with Me in Paradise;’ because today you heard My voice, and did not harden your heart. Very speedily I passed sentence upon Adam, very speedily I pardon you. To him it was said, ‘In the day you eat of it, you shall surely die;’ but today you obeyed the faith; today is your salvation. By the Tree Adam fell away; but by the Tree you are being brought into Paradise. Do not fear the serpent; he shall not cast you out; for he is fallen from heaven. And I do not say unto you, ‘This day you shall depart,’ but, ‘This day you shall be with Me.’ Be of good courage: you shall not be cast out. Do not fear the flaming sword; it shrinks from its Lord. O mighty and ineffable grace! … Paul also wondered at this saying, “Where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound.”
They who had borne the heat of the day had not yet entered; and he of the eleventh hour entered. Let no one murmur against the steward of the house, for he says, “Friend, I do you no wrong; is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with My own?”
The robber has a will to do righteousness, but death prevents him. “I do not wait for the work alone, but faith also I accept. I have come who feed My sheep among the lilies, I have come to feed them in the gardens. I have found a sheep that was lost, and I lay it on My shoulders; for he believes, since he himself has said, ‘I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Lord, remember me when You enter into Your kingdom.’”
[St. Cyril of Jerusalem, The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Kindle Locations 3883-3912). Kindle Edition.]
EASTER DEVOTION FROM LUTHER
Note well that Paul refrains from calling those “dead” who will rise after Christ. No, he says that Christ is “the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And yet he says that Christ arose, not from sleep but “from the dead.” For what was a true and eternal death prior to this and without Christ is now, since Christ has passed from death to life and has arisen, no longer death; now it has become merely a sleep. And so the Christians who lie in the ground are no longer called dead, but sleepers, people who will surely also arise again. For when we say that people are asleep, we refer to those who are lying down but will wake up and rise again, not those who are lying down bereft of all hope of rising again. Of the latter we do not say that they are sleeping but that they are inanimate corpses. Therefore by that very word “asleep” Scripture indicates the future resurrection.
And what is more than that, by calling Christ “the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” Paul wishes to signify that the resurrection is to be viewed and understood as having already begun in Christ, indeed, as being more than half finished, and that this remnant of death is to be regarded as no more than a deep sleep, and that the future resurrection of our body will not differ from suddenly awaking from such a sleep. For the main and best part of this has already come to pass, namely, that Christ, our Head, has arisen. But now that the Head is seated on high and lives, there is no longer any reason for concern. We who cling to Him must also follow after Him as His body and His members. For where the head goes and abides, there the body with all the members must necessarily follow and abide. . . . Now since Christ has passed over and reigns above in heaven over sin, death, devil, and everything, and since He did this for our sake to draw us after Him, we need no longer worry about our resurrection and life, though we depart and rot in the ground. For now this is no more than a sleep. And for Christ it is but a night before He rouses us from the sleep.
Devotional reading is from Luther’s Works, Volume 28 (Selected Pauline Epistles), pages 109–10 © 1973 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
WHY THE RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH? –from the Church Father Tertullian
…so it is true that the flesh is the pivot on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, called to the service of God, it is the flesh that actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed in order that the soul may be cleansed. The flesh is anointed in order that the soul may be consecrated. The flesh is signed with the cross in order that the soul may be fortified. The flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands in order that the soul may also be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ in order that the soul may be enriched by God. They cannot be separated in their recompense, when they are united in their service….
[Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 8, quoted in A Year with the Church Fathers, CPH, 2011 pg. 56]
WHAT OUR SAILORS AND MARINES IN THE PACIFIC WERE READING AT EASTER 1954
HE IS RISEN
The world today is full of prophets of doom. They preach fear and despair. They will tell you that the world is hopeless. I too, would agree with them if I did not believe absolutely, in God and in all that He has revealed to His creatures. The answer to pessimism, defeat and despair is the finality of Easter and its deathless message: “Fear not. I have overcome the world,”
EASTER is a day of victory and triumph, of promise and hope. EASTER SUNDAY morning of this memorable year 1954 finds hundreds of millions of Christians all over the world commemorating once again the supreme miracle of all time, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is of course a very obvious application of the doctrine of the Resurrection to out contemporary world scene? Millions of men and women during the tragic days of war have returned to the dust from which they have come. Thousands more are dying or threatened with death. The world has come to another Good Friday. But hold! There is hope. There will be a resurrection. There will come peace and joy. So it has always been in the past and so it will be again wherever there be faith and hope.
But now…faith and hope…in WHAT? In democracy? In humanity? In the United Nations? In the H bomb? There you have the danger and the incompleteness of the commonplace application of the doctrine and the fact of Easter to our world problems. With the best intentions in the world Christians and non-Christians alike will be exhorting the world to faith and “spiritual poise.” We have heard it before in public addresses, in press editorials, in the pulpits and on radio and TV. And we shall hear it again.
When we do hear it, let us reflect that our faith and our hope is above all else in the Risen Saviour Jesus Christ. With absolute certitude we know that HE LIVED AND DIED AND BY HIS OWN POWER ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD. By his Resurrection on the first Easter morning He proved beyond all question that He was what He claimed to be, the Son of God Himself. There is the full doctrine of the Resurrection. There is the truth…naked, unashamed, unequivocal.
As Christians we know that in the Risen Christ, we have the ultimate answer to every human problem, whether temporal or eternal, personal or global…provided only there be faith in Him, the Son of the Living God. With Him we know that hope for permanent world peace is not in vain. Without Him there is no hope.
RESURREXIT SICUT DIXIT
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN WORSHIP AND THE LORD’S SUPPER?
In the Divine Service, the Word of God sounds forth from beginning to end, setting before the sinner both God’s word of condemnation and His word of release and pardon…In its fullest form, it prepares a rich table from which God’s people feast. This is the Sacrament of the Altar where the body and blood of the incarnate Son of God are given for our eating and drinking. Just as our Lord has promised not to leave us destitute but comes in the sacred meal to share Himself with us, so does the Divine Service care for us by elaborately preparing the table at which we feast. Whether it is the song of the angels in which the whole company of heaven joins for the prayer for mercy that we address to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who is now present under the bread and wine—throughout, our gaze is directed to Jesus who graciously condescends to give Himself to us through an act as common as eating and drinking. In the Divine Service, God drags us to the heights of heaven and lowers Himself to the depths of our world to unite us to Himself. The Divine Service shows great concern for the individual believer, pointing us again and again to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Are you aware that in the course of a single service, we sing of Jesus taking away ‘the sins of the world’ five times—twice in the Gloria and three times in the Agnus Dei? In the creeds we recount the miracle of our Lord’s Incarnation, His suffering, death, burial, Resurrection and Ascension—all that He accomplished for us. The song of the angels that rejoice in Jesus’ birth is sung not just at Christmas, but all year long, reminding us of the significance of His coming—that He brings peace on earth and reveals God’s good will and favor toward us. And using the words of Simeon, who held the infant Jesus in his arms, we too rejoice that our eyes have seen the salvation that God has prepared for all people. In fact, we have more than seen him—we have tasted the goodness of the Lord. All this the Divine Service gives to us.
--From The Theology and Structure of the Divine Service, Rev. Paul Grime
From our Missouri Synod--Stewardship Newsletter Article
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deut 28:3-6).
This is God’s promise to the Israelites as they stood beyond the Jordan outside of the Promised Land. He promises blessing to His people. He will make them prosper, whether they are in the city or the field. He will make their fruit of their work to prosper, whether from the ground or their wombs, their flocks or their herds. He will make them to prosper in all things, whether upon their coming in or their going out.
But there’s a catch. He would do this for Israel only “if you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut 28:2b). If they did that, He would cause that “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:2a).
If they didn’t obey the voice of the Lord, if they didn’t keep the commandments of the Lord and walk in His ways (Deut 28:9), they would be met with curse and woe. The blessings would be replaced with curses. Everything that the Lord promised to prosper and bless would be cursed and fail.
Thanks be to God that our Lord Jesus Christ has come into our flesh, fulfilled the law for us – in in our place and for our benefit; died for us – in our place and for our benefit; and is risen from the dead for us – in our place and for our benefit.
By this we have justification before God. We are forgiven, clean, holy, and righteous. The blessing of God is promised to us in Christ Jesus. It depends upon His work and not ours.
All this is ours in Holy Baptism. For in Holy Baptism, God claims us as His own, makes us His children, His heirs, His holy people. And so it is that the work of our hands and its fruit is holy because we are holy in Christ. It is pressed into His service, and thereby it becomes a blessing to us and to our neighbor.
For this great gift, our reception of the blessings of God because of Christ Jesus our Lord, it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is not in order to receive blessings but because in Christ we already have.
It is with this in mind that we sit down on the first day of the week and set aside as He has prospered us to give to His church for His work of blessing in our midst (1 Cor. 16:2).
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