When I broke things off with Facebook a few weeks ago, it was necessary. Our lives had just become too intertwined. Since then, I have spent more time reading and studying and my mind hasn’t been nearly as distracted as it was before. Now that we have had some time apart, I’ve decided that we can at least be friends. Being friends with Facebook has its benefits, I have to admit. But it is not good to spend too much time together. There’s just too much drama! Relationships shouldn’t have to be that hard anyway, right? So, I’m no longer going to pretend that I don’t know Facebook. But there is no way I am getting sucked back into a relationship again!
I found this quote by Augustine (De consecratione, dist. 2, ch. Utrum) as I was reading the Examination by Martin Chemnitz today (vol. 2, p. 82). It is both convicting and comforting at the same time.
“Nothing more is effected by a good priest, nothing less by a bad one, because it is effected not through the merit of the one who consecrates, but through the word of its Creator and by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I realize that Augustine is speaking about the validity or efficacy of the Eucharistic consecration, but I think that his words apply to all aspects of the Ministry of the Word. His words convict me for all the times that I believed that my skill, personality, or winsomeness added anything to the Ministry of the Word. But they also comfort me for they remind me that the efficacy of the Word is not diminished by my shortcomings (unless, of course, I was proclaiming and teaching falsely–then the efficacy of the Word would be diminished because it was not being truthfully proclaimed).
I came across this gem today in my reading of St. Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care (ACC Series):
If, then, the fear of punishment goes on restraining a man from evil-doing, surely, no liberty of spirit pervades the soul so dominated by fear. For if it did not fear the punishment, it would doubtless do evil. The mind, therefore, that is under the slavery of fear, does not know the grace of liberty. Good should be loved for its own sake, not pursued under the compulsion of established penalties. The man who acts well from fear of the evil of torments, wishes that what he fears did not exist, so that he might boldly commit sin. Wherefore, it is clearer than daylight that innocence is thus lost before God, for in His eyes sin of desire is present.
This is a really fancy way of saying that outward obedience is not enough. Obedience to the Law out of compulsion or fear of punishment is not the same as “serving in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). Covetous desire (concupiscence) is as sinful as the outward act, which is the point of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. That is why no one can hope to be justified by merely observing the letter of the Law. For one may, by sheer force of will, avoid outward crimes and sins, and yet become guilty by the fact that he desires the evil.
“Good should be loved for its own sake,” not simply because of earthly reward or punishment. Try instilling this into your children! (Or yourself!) This statement alone was all I needed to cry out to the Lord in repentance. “Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Martin Chemnitz masterfully answers the question that so many have regarding the relationship of justifying faith and the means of grace, i.e. the Word and the Sacraments. First, he explains that faith lays hold of Christ’s merit, the grace of God, and the efficacy of the Spirit in the Word and the Sacraments. Christ and His merit is the object of faith, but faith apprehends Him in those divinely instituted means, so that one can rightly say that faith in the sacraments justifies.
He also speaks of the circumcision of Abraham and the baptism of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2) and addresses the role of the sacraments in those who already have justifying faith. Many use these examples to say that the sacraments are superfluous to faith, that they are useless. But Chemnitz begs to differ:
For God does not confer and convey grace in this life just once, so that it is at once complete and perfect, so that as long as we are in this life God would will to convey and confer nothing more, and that a person would need to receive nothing more from God; but God is always giving and man is always receiving, in order that we may be joined more and more fully and perfectly to Christ, and may hold the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation more firmly, so that the benefits of redemption which have been begun in us may be preserved and strengthened and may grow and increase. (Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 2, p. 76-77).
This was published in our local newspaper, the Times Citizen, Wednesday, February 26.
You know, life used to be really simple. There were boys and there were girls. Boys and girls had crushes on each other, dated each other, and got married. If you were having a boy you painted the room blue. If you were having a girl you painted the room pink. No confusion. No gender identity issues. This was normal, natural, and good.
Here is a meditation I wrote for Wittenberg Academy today based on the words of St. John 9:1-23.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born with down’s syndrome? Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he has led a life of suffering and failure? Who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was killed in that terrible car accident?
Just like the Jews in the days of Jesus, we have a tendency to connect tragedy, illness, and suffering with a particular sin or vice. It was natural for the Jews to assume that the man born blind had sinned or his parents had done something to merit such suffering. It is natural for us to look at someone’s tragic life and to conclude that they must have done something really sinful or bad for that to happen.
I’m reading a book currently called “Confirmation in the Lutheran Church” by Arthur C. Repp. It shows that development of Confirmation practices in the Lutheran Church from the time of the Reformation onward. So far, it has been very eye-opening. One thing I did not know was the influence that Martin Bucer had on the Lutheran practice of Confirmation, which is a little bit troubling since Bucer seemed to be somewhat influenced by the Anabaptists.
One thing that Repp observed in a majority of the Church Orders that he examined was that the pastor was primarily responsible for reviewing and questioning the children before confirmation. The instruction itself largely took place in the home, or in the school if there was one. One wonders if taking catechesis out of the home and placing it primarily on the shoulders of the pastor and the schools hasn’t done more harm than good. I wonder what would happen if, instead of teaching the children, we taught the parents and they in turn would instruct their children in the basic teachings of the Catechism. Then, when the parents thought the child was sufficiently catechized, they could bring the child to the pastor, have him or her questioned, and if the pastor was satisfied with their knowledge, invite the child to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
I also find it interesting that, at least in the context of the Reformation and Post-Reformation era, Lutherans were wary of ceremonies such as the laying on of hands for confirmands because it was a “Romanizing practice.” So often today the things that Lutherans think are “Romanizing” practices are in truth Lutheran, and the things that people think are so Lutheran are in fact Catholic. I am looking forward to reading more of this book.