Friday, July 25, 2014

FW: Great Stuff — I wish the liturgy were more accessible. . .

Peters…

 

Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2014 9:42 AM
Author: Norm Fisher
Subject: Great Stuff — I wish the liturgy were more accessible. . .

 

Another great post over on Pastoral Meanderings by Pastor Peters:

 

6936911514_b9a3573c32_z"Wow! That is a lot to take for someone who has had only a passing association with church before!" So said one visitor to a Sunday morning Divine Service at my parish. She did not say it but clearly her comment meant "I wish the liturgy were more accessible" to a stranger to the church like me…

It would not be the first time someone has uttered those sentiments. It IS a great deal to take in for those who have not had much association with the church before. I will not deny it one bit. Neither will I suggest that it is a fruitful pursuit to try and find a way to dumb down the liturgy just in case there may be (and there always are) people who are strangers to the church and to the mass). I am sure it is overwhelming and even shocking. I would be disappointed if it were not — for what would it say of us if the Divine Mystery of Christ (both efficacious Word and Sacrament) were easy enough to get and dismiss out of hand!

I tell such folks not to make a judgment quickly but to return to the liturgy over and over again. Only then, with familiarity, can come the deep appreciation for the mystery and its grace bestowed upon us by Christ through His Word and Spirit. The liturgy is one of those things learned by doing as much as by studying.

If you are an avid reader of this blog, you know that I do not quote Aristotle — not ever — but one of his tidbits of wisdom certainly applies to the Divine Service:

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.

– Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Though some find it offensive that any person off the street, a stranger to God and His worship, cannot enter the church and feel perfectly at home, I find just the opposite offensive. If a stranger to God and His worship feels at home in the liturgy, there must be something wrong with the liturgy. The liturgy or mass is off putting — not because it is designed to offend but because it goes against all that the sinful heart values most — easy, comfortable, feeling oriented, self-centered pleasure. What is most disarming about the liturgy or the Divine Service is that it compels us to shed ourselves and to become focused upon and open to the work of the Lord through His means of grace. Such is the domain of the Spirit and not simply the training of the human heart but, that said, it is discipline whose value is learned by experience.

We tell parents all the time that the repetition of the liturgy is helpful to the child learning by the experience of it who God is, what He has done, and how He communicates to us the fullness of His grace and gifts. Would not the same be also true of adults who come as infants into the presence of God in the holy ground of the liturgy?

Hardly any sport is transparent or obvious upon first view. Watching the game being played is one of the most important ways we learn its rules and an appreciation for the sport. In the hospital we have interns and residents who continue their education by watching and doing — believing that this is the most effective way to train our doctors. Why do some insist that we must make worship cogent for and accessible to the unchurched who know little of God or His ways? Why do some visit once and presume that they have seen and learned enough to make a reasonable judgment against the church?

To the stranger come upon us, I say stay here long enough to get to know the liturgy. Study it and learn the faith from it, to be sure, but resist the great temptation to judge what you see or experience until you learn its words, its rhythm, and its tempo. To the parent worrying about a child growing distracted from or bored with the liturgy, I say hang in there. Children learn by doing and they are absorbing from the liturgy more than is obvious to you. Reinforce what happens in the Divine Service, to be sure, but do not reject what happens as they experience the church's liturgy and song over many years of growing up.


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Friday, July 11, 2014

FW: Diachronic vs. Synchronic Unity and Lectionary

Weedon…

 

Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Friday, July 11, 2014 7:43 AM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (William Weedon)
Subject: Diachronic vs. Synchronic Unity and Lectionary

 

Delivered as a workshop at the Liturgical Institute at Valpo in April of 2014. Again, not a polished paper, but might provide some food for thought.

It was a number of years back, maybe the last time I made it to this august Institute. I had driven up here with Dr. Lee Maxwell, whose writings (by the way) remain quite influential to me on the topic of this particular workshop. But being the dingbat that I am (I prefer to think of myself as the absent minded scholar…), I had made reservations at a hotel, but not bothered to write down or remember the NAME of the hotel. So we stopped at that one right by the University only to discover they weren't expecting us and there was no room in the Inn. So a little befuddled and explaining to Lee that we'd surely find the right place before long I pulled out. and we drove for a bit. It was dusk. Then I noticed the most peculiar thing. "Lee!" said I. "Would you look at that! They have hung those traffic lights backwards. Is that weird or what?" To which Lee very excitedly responded: "They are not hung backwards, you idiot. You've turned the wrong way on a divided highway!" At which point we quickly crossed the median and, well, as there was no cop in sight and we were still living and breathing, all was well. Well, except for Lee swearing never to take another trip with me behind the wheel - a promise he has kept, by the way, for the last decade and more. Why bring up this ancient happening? Well because sometimes, sometimes there are signs, little hints, that things aren't well, and we can either happily move along pretending all is still honkey dorey, or we might want to do some self-analysis and see if at some point we might have had a wrong turning.

So it was, of course, as a result of the Second Vatican Council that our Roman brothers and sisters began a reform of the liturgy. The Mass was put into the Vernacular. Various Eucharistic canons were provided to stand alongside the ancient Roman canon. But most striking, the lectionary was revised. For perhaps a thousand years plus, the system of readings for the Sunday Masses had been relatively fixed (with some regional displacements). The reading from the Old Testament was restored at last, usually keyed to the Gospel reading. And in order to allow each of the portraits of Christ provided by the individual evangelists to shine through, a three year system of readings was employed: A, the year of St. Matthew. B, the year of St. Mark. C, the year of  St. Luke. St. John ruled during Eastertide in all three years and did a bit of fill in during the year of St. Mark, given the brevity of that Gospel. Further, the second reading was now allowed a bit more independence and the ancient practice of lecio continua allowed for huge swaths of the epistles to be heard. One last very noteworthy feature was the use of a longer Psalm selection to replace the typically shorter gradual and verse or tract between the readings.

The thought was to let the Word of God more richly and fully impact and shape the Church's life, and who on earth can be against that? Rather excitedly but without any extended reflection or discussion, jurisdiction after jurisdiction followed Rome's lead in ditching the ancient Western lectionary and adopting the three year. The Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Methodists. Soon, however, the niggling variations invited consideration of revising something that could be shared in common. Hence the Revised Common Lectionary. My own Synod's three year system is clearly largely but not entirely in synch with that.

And yet… Are there any backward traffic lights around? One of the most astonishing to me is that despite the Church reading more Scripture in the assembly than ever before in our Western Churches, basic biblical literacy among our people seems to have plummeted to lows that would have been unthinkable a couple generations back  You mention Abraham and Sarah, or David and Bathsheba? You know the blank stares that these names receive, and even from folks who are not strangers in church! And we won't even ask them about Mephibosheth or Maher-Shallal-hashbaz!

We read more and yet we remember and know less. What gives? Maybe that old Latin proverb nailed it after all: Non multa sed multum. Not many, but much. More on that in a few minutes.

Now, the nearly universal triumph of the three-year series in actual use by a billion plus Christians alive right now might have suggested that the older, historic one year series was simply dead and buried, one of those multitudinous footnotes of abandoned practice that litter the ecclesiastic landscape. It had had deficiencies, of course. Luther himself once complained that the epistles seemed to have been selected by a lover of works, and that all the good gospel sections in Paul's writings had been given short shrift. It's been famously noted that in the old series we never ever heard John 3:16, nor the account of the Prodigal Son.

But like Lazarus, not only is the stink of the historic series greatly exaggerated, but the thing pops back to life when no one expected it!

In Rome, Benedict XVI restores the old Tridentine Mass as "an extraordinary rite" (and you can read voices in the Roman Catholic press today that suggest that this extraordinary needs to be the basis for a new ordinary and to go back to the experiments of the 50's in bringing it into English!). This means not only the restoration of the Latin Mass with its ceremonies, but also the restored use of the historic lectionary that was an integral part of that rite!

Among the Anglicans, there is this growing "continuing" movement that is marked by a turn back toward the earlier versions of the Book of Common Prayer with their version of the historic lectionary that tends to be an identical twin to the old Lutheran practice.

Among the Orthodox, we find a Western Rite persisting with a liturgy of St. Gregory following the Tridentine Mass with Orthodox adaptations and using the one year lectionary.

And last, but hopefully not least, among Lutherans, at least in my Synod, I think you can document a small but growing trend as more pastors and parishes adopt and become quite committed to the gentle revision of the older lectionary that appeared in LSB. This was possible because of the decision made by the lectionary committee to set the one year on a completely equal footing with the three year in all the resources of the LSB.

In the front of each of the Lectionary volumes that attend LSB, these words stand in the preface:

The Lectionary Committee of the LCMS Lutheran Hymnal Project began its work by examining past and present lectionaries to determine how and whether to revise the existing lectionaries in Lutheran Worship. Early in the process, the decision was made to recover and retain the "historic" lectionary, as used by Luther and subsequent generations of Lutherans and as included in The Lutheran Hymnal.

Although the Lectionary Committee acknowledged that relatively few LCMS congregations use the one-year lectionary, the committee concluded that such a lectionary should be included in the hymnal to serve both those who still customarily use it and those who may one day find their situation could best be served by the repetition inherent in this lectionary. Among the various reasons for retaining a one-year lectionary in Lutheran Service Book, the Lectionary Committee noted the following:

  • We are an historic Church and acknowledge the value of what has been handed down to us.
  • It is important to recognize the value of repetition. Given the increasing lack of biblical literacy within our society and even within the Church, there may be a need in the future for a one-year lectionary, with its annual repetition of key biblical texts.
  • The one-year lectionary is unique in that there are a number of older resources that support it, including hymnody, sermons by Luther and others, etc.



Revisions to the one-year lectionary have been very minor. The historic Gospels remain intact. Likewise, all the historic Epistles have been included. In a few cases, however, alternate Epistles and Gospels have been provided. Because the historic lectionary did not have assigned Old Testament readings, the committee has taken greater freedom in choosing these texts. As with the three-year lectionary, the committee has attempted to choose Old Testament readings that relate closely to the Holy Gospel by way of typological or prophetic connection. In addition, the committee attempted to provide a balanced selection of the various genres of Old Testament readings (e.g., prophetic writings, historical narrative).

Full propers have been prepared for the one-year lectionary, including a psalm and verse of the day, expanded introits, and minimally revised Collects of the Day for each Sunday and festival. All of these propers are contained in the Lutheran Service Book Altar Book. pp.xiv,xv.


This was prescient. Thus, although Rome and the Western Rite Orthodox simply mandate the use of the old Tridentine lectionary in its Extraordinary Rite; and the continuing Anglicans tend to employ the lectionaries of the earlier Book of Common Prayer; the LSB sought to address gently the criticisms raised against the historic series and thus update it to be a series that has four readings per Sunday: first, psalm, epistle and gospel; that respected the basic structure of the older series by allowing the Gospels to key off and to retain the traditional collects and so forth. No John 3:16? But historically we read John 3:1–15 on Holy Trinity, why not add a couple more verses? No prodigal son? But we read from the first half of Luke 15 each Trinity 5. What if we allowed the option of reading the first three verses and then skipping to the end of the chapter? So it was sort of a best of the old and best of the new approach. But running through it all was the consciousness that repetition, after all, is the mother of learning and that THAT may have been the true key to biblical literacy in the Western Churches in the past!

On the anxiety that might arise about the amount of Scripture read if a one year series is adopted, a thought to consider: in Lutheranism, the Mass lectionary was never intended to bear the burden of being the entirety of a Christian's Biblical reading - and so we have long had daily lectionaries. LSB follows in this tradition, but the resources have gone further than ever: Treasury (or its digital version: the PrayNow App), provide for reading great swaths of Scripture each year. Great resources for "more of the story" but again, built on yearly repetition of key texts (this pattern also is found in Lutheran sources from places like Magdeburg and is distinct from Calvinist or Anglican stress on "getting through" the Bible in the year - In Magdeburg, for instance, you read through certain Apocryphal books, but never read from Deuteronomy at all, the focus being on the narrative sections).

So, with a sturdy implementation of a daily lectionary to fill in the corners, if you will, the Mass lectionary provides a basic scaffolding from which to enfold the rest of the material. Loehe spoke of it like this:

He (the Lutheran preacher) rejoices in the ancient pericopes and would not, even if he could, base his sermon in the Divine Service on free texts or continuous portions of Holy Scripture instead of those pericopes. Preferably he keeps [as his sermon text] for the Divine Service the Gospels, and leaves the Epistles in their place in the order of service, and he will not become weary in preaching on the Gospels. As the people love to hear them, so to him they will become richer and fuller the more he speaks on them. He learns, the more he treats them, the great wisdom of the homilitician to create access through the known to the unknown and to show all the teachings of the church in the familiar texts. The person who switches the texts every year is not fit as a preacher of the people, let alone, one may say, of the church. That which is always different and new, without a connection to the familiar texts, makes it hard for people to understand, but each person easily and gladly accepts new thoughts when they appear as freshly recognized depths of ancient wisdom. —Loehe, Three Books, p. 117.

Finally, think of those resources mentioned in the intro to the Lectionary for LSB:

We have the treasure trove of the old Postilla (the sermon collections)

Postilla of Luther (House and Church - house much better than Church)
Postilla of Gerhard (Repristination Press), Loehe (not in English, sadly),
selections from Postilla of Walther

We have the treasure trove of old Lutheran hymns often written toward these pericopes.

For example, for the Anglicans and the Lutherans, the first Sunday in Advent was always the Entrance into Jerusalem from Matthew's Gospel. Think of the hymns that associate this event, then, with the season of Advent:

LSB 334 - Gerhardt's O Lord, How Shall I Meet You -

Your Zion strews before You green boughs and fairest palms...

LSB 335 - the Danish "O Bride of Christ Rejoice"

A humble beast He rides,
Yet as a King presides,
Though not arrayed in splendor
He makes the grave surrender.
Hosanna, praise, and glory!
Our King we bow before thee!

LSB 343 - Prepare the Royal Highway

God's people see Him coming:
Your own eternal king!
Palm branches strew before Him!
Spread garments! Shout and sing!

LSB 350 Come, Thou Precious Ransom, Come

My hosannas and my palms
Graciously receive, I pray Thee;

How much sense do these make without the traditional Gospel for Advent I keying off Advent??

Without the celebration of Gaudete, what exactly IS the point of that rose (pink) candle in the Advent wreath?


Day by Day (daily devos arranged from Luther's writings by Anglicans shortly after WWII)

God Grant It! (daily devos from Walther that follow the historic one year for weekly themes)

Think of connecting our folks again to the great texts of the Bach Cantatas!

FB groups on the historic lectionary (The One-ders)

So there are numerous pluses and a few cons, but none insurmountable. I'll let Dr. Piepkorn have the final word. When this whole thing was just beginning to loom on the horizon, and not long before his death, he wrote:

"I confess that I share the view of those that feel that world Lutheran ties are more important than American solidarity.  Quite apart from this, however, I have basic misgivings about the use of a three-year cycle of pericopes.  With the irregular attendance of many of our people at divine worship and with the general lack of preparation for the service on the part of many of the worshippers that do come, I feel that a three-year cycle or even a two-year cycle would mean that many of our people would in the end be less acquainted with the Sacred Scriptures than they are now."  – A. C. Piepkorn, The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 13.

Which is to say: he noted the backwards lights and suggested not getting on the highway in that direction.

Comments, questions, insights, or just out and out disagreements?


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FW: One Generation...

Weedon…

 

Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 3:34 PM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (William Weedon)
Subject: One Generation...

 

...I was going to go through and clean up this paper, but I never can find the time. So I'm posting it, blemishes and all. It is what I delivered at the Making the Case Conference in Collinsville last month:

Making the Case for Classical Christian Hymnody

"Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable." Psalm 145:3.  On this I suspect Christians of every stripe could agree. The Lord is great and the Lord is greatly to be praised. But we might see the cleft that has developed in the Church if we venture to the next verses: "One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and sing aloud of your righteousness."

What has happened in some sections of the Church is that THIS generation has told all the other generations to shut up and keep silent. Instead of listening to their proclamation of God's majesty (who He is) and His wondrous works (what He's done) and being inspired by their witness to join in their song with our own, some would silence their song and replace it entirely with the song of the present generation. Instead of the Church's classical way of operating: supplementation, the rich treasury of hymns that goes back so far, growing and being added to by each generation, first listening to and learning to love the old praises of prior Christians as they tell us of God's wondrous works; we have instead supplanting - replacing of this heritage of proclamation in song that reaches century upon century back through the ages with the songs of now.a

And we need to be honest about the nature of the songs of now. A friend of mine sought to use some of the modern sounds in his church one Sunday, but all the classic texts. It was very telling when a woman left that worship service in tears and she told the musicians on the way out: "You've taken away my music." They were befuddled because they'd striven so hard to use the musical idiom that that congregation had come to expect. Why would it be welcomed? She gave them the answer: "It's not what I hear on Christian radio." AH! The commercial interests driving so called Christian radio is to get folks to download and listen over and over again to the current song and then promptly to forget it when they need you to download the newest, latest, greatest hit. Do you see what has happened? The throw away generation, the disposable everything generation, has come to treasure disposable, throw away songs too.

The demand for the music of today exclusively to reign supreme in the Church, whatever else it does, simply cuts off the prior generations in a way that the Church has not known before. We become an orphan Church that way, a church without our spiritual fathers and mothers. Anyone who knows me know that I love reading the Church fathers. Great stuff. And yet THE way that the prior generations have always spoken in the Church to the current generation is not in the dusty study of Patristics but in the living voice of the congregation. We take up THEIR song and it becomes OUR song and so their theology, their witness to Christ, continues to shape and mold us.

But there's more. Dr. John Kleinig helpfully wrote about the theology that runs with the praise music that came originally out of the Pentecostal Church. The idea of this music is move a person. To move them spiritually from entering into the courts of God with loud and joyous songs of thanksgiving, to move them into the more mellow music of the inner courts of the temple with lush and quiet songs of praise, and finally for the congregation to peak, dare I say it, to spiritually orgasm in the singing in the spirit, often done in tongues and musically sustained by held chords and arpeggios and shimmering on the cymbals. Music here at its base is employed to achieve the desired emotional outcome. To bring a person to a feeling of the presence and closeness of God.

This is in huge tension with the sturdy objectivity of the Church's historical musical deposit. For the Church classically simply did not see music as first and foremost a vehicle to move emotions. She knew that it does this. Luther confessed as much in any number of places. And yet that was just an inevitable result of music, but not it's task. It's task was rather to give voice to God's Word. To proclaim to one another the great things that God has done for us in Jesus Christ and to summon one another to taste and see the goodness of the Lord and to proclaim the person blessed who trusts in Him.

We might wonder how this shift toward exclusive use of compositions of the present generation could possibly make its way into a Church like ours which has traditionally been a bulwark of preserving the music of previous generations. The answer, I believe, is that those who studied Church Growth were trained to match in church the music liked and listened to by their community. So that when new folks came in through the narthex doors they immediately would feel at home with the same sounds that filled their lives outside the doors. More than one writer has pointed out the disingenuousness of this approach, for the Church does not invite the old Adam to settle down and feel at home, but to his own execution. Nor, even sociologically, has it proven to be the case that unchurched folks expect the music at church to mirror the music they listen to when washing their cars on Saturday. You can read more about this in Daniel Zager's stupendous monograph "The Gospel Preached Through Music: The Purpose and Practice of Lutheran Church Music" (Good Shepherd Institute 2013).

So it was with the best of motivations that our churches began to dump the deposit of the church's treasury of hymnody. But it wasn't wise. And it hasn't worked if the purpose was simply to bring in the folks from outside in droves. We're a smaller Synod today than we were prior to the time when classic church music reigned.

But I must issue this caveat. Dr. Nagel was always fond of asking what's the opposite of an error? Not the truth! Just the opposite error. So the error of thinking that the Church's hymnody is fixed. You have the old songs and you should be content to sing them. Period. Full stop. Nonsense. With the Spirit extolling our Lord Jesus through the Word, the new song springs up in the Church continually. Not everything written in a generation will be found worthy of adding to the deposit, but the current generation tends not to be in the best position to evaluate the final worthiness of its own contributions. The generation to come will weigh and decide in which of our new songs they hear the words and promises of God most clearly issued for their consolation and upbuilding in the faith. But that the deposit grows with each generation is simply a given. The Church's song is richer now by far than it was at the time of the early church or even the Reformation. It keeps being enriched and for that all glory to God!

So when we speak of making the case for classical Christian hymnody we mean defending the proposition that previous generations ought be given an ongoing voice in the church's praise, and this praise consists of meditating upon God's glorious majesty (that is, proclaiming WHO He is, and above all who He has revealed Himself to be in the Crucified and Risen One), and in meditating on His great works. We do both of these by proclaiming them together to each other in song in the presence of God.

How far back does the treasury reach? Well, certainly biblical scholars will tell you that it reaches right into the pages of the New Testament. Philippians 2; Colossians 1; numerous portions of Revelation; 1 Timothy 3. You can find tantalizing bits of the song that the Christians sang to each other there. Maybe it was something like Philippians 2 that St. Paul and St. Silas sang together at midnight in the jail of Philippi.

Outside of the New Testament, though, we have these ancient hymns that have come down to us and even made it into the liturgy. In the Divine Service, we sing the Gloria in Excelsis or Agnus Dei or Sanctus. In the Daily Prayer Services, we sing Te Deum Laudamus and Phos Hilaron. That last is particularly of interest to those who study the history of the hymns. You see, in literature, I think the first mention of Phos Hilaron (our "Joyous Light of Glory" from Evening Prayer, but also in the hymnal O Light Whose Splendor Thrills and Gladdens or O Gladsome Light of Grace), the first mention is in a little book by St. Basil the Great (and he died in 379). He writes: I will now adduce another piece of evidence which might perhaps seem insignificant, but because of its antiquity must in nowise be omitted by a defendant who is indicted on a charge of innovation. It seemed fitting to our fathers not to receive the gift of the light at eventide in silence, but, on its appearing, immediately to give thanks. Who was the author of these words of thanksgiving at the lighting of the lamps, we are not able to say. The people, however, utter the ancient form, and no one has ever reckoned guilty of impiety those who say "We praise Father, Son, and God's Holy Spirit." (Par. 73 On the Holy Spirit)

Just like we have no idea who wrote the Gloria in Excelsis or the Te Deum (medieval legend notwithstanding), so with Phos Hilaron. It simply was a song Christians sang and have continued to sing throughout generations. Is it not amazing that we here in America today continue in our Evening Prayer to offer praises in a hymn that St. Basil the Great thought was positively antique back in the 370's?

So the deposit goes very far back, especially if we think of those ancient hymns of the church that were not rimed or set in stanzas. But the riming and setting in stanzas goes back a long, long way also. The man traditionally regarded as the father of western Christian hymnody is St. Ambrose of Milan. Our LSB features three hymns attributed to this great father of the Church. We even get to know a little bit about how this form of hymnody took root and spread. Listen to St. Augustine in his Confessions, paragraph:

Not long had the Church of Milan begun to employ this kind of consolation and exhortation, the brethren singing together with great earnestness of voice and heart. For it was about a year, or not much more, since Justina, the mother of the boy-Emperor Valentinian, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose in the interest of her heresy, to which she had been seduced by the Arians. The pious people kept guard in the church, prepared to die with their bishop, Thy servant. There my mother, Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of those cares and watchings, lived in prayer. We, still unmelted by the heat of Thy Spirit, were yet moved by the astonished and disturbed city. At this time it was instituted that, after the manner of the Eastern Church, hymns and psalms should be sung, lest the people should pine away in the tediousness of sorrow; which custom, retained from then till now, is imitated by many, yea, by almost all of Thy congregations throughout the rest of the world. [Confessions IX:7:15]

So Ambrose is popularly considered the father of hymnody as we've come to expect it: a poem consisting generally of  number of consistent stanzas that rime and often concluding with the doxology: an ascription of praise to the Blessed Trinity.

If we listen to THAT generation proclaim to us the great deeds of God and call us to meditate with them on who He is and what He has done, we get something like this:

Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin's Son, make here Your home!
Marvel now, O heav'n and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood,
By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh—
Woman's offspring, pure and fresh.

Here a maid was found with child,
Yet remained a virgin mild.
In her womb this truth was shown:
God was there upon His throne.

Then stepped forth the Lord of all
From His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man,
His heroic course began.

God the Father was His source,
Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down,
Back then to His throne and crown.

For You are the Father's Son
Who in flesh the vict'ry won.
By Your mighty pow'r make whole
All our ills of flesh and soul.

From the manger newborn light
Shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides;
In this light faith now abides.

Glory to the Father sing,
Glory to the Son, our king,
Glory to the Spirit be
Now and through eternity.

Let's note a number of things about this. It clearly proclaims Christ. Proclaims Him as the Virgin's Son, God of God, yet full man, whose source was God the Father. It proclaims His deeds: His conception by the Spirit, his birth of the Virgin, His coming from God and returning to God even His descent into hell. It proclaims what He has won: the victory and in our flesh to make whole all our ills of flesh and soul. And it summons us one and all to join in praising the Trinity in and through Him.

And consider that these words by Ambrose or from someone around that time, have continued to proclaim Christ in each generation. Year after year, when Advent arrives, this hymn is found on the lips of Christians to bring comfort to each other and to join their voices with that of all the previous generations, extolling the Lord's incarnation for us. So much did Luther value this Latin hymn that it was the first he rendered into German. When we sing this hymn each Advent truly "one generation commends your works to another and shall declare your mighty deeds!"

Ambrose's hymns primarily are set to sanctify time and to celebrate the events commemorated in the Church's year: the great story of the life of Christ. They had their home first and foremost in the Daily Office, Matins and Vespers etc. But you couldn't really keep the hymns away from the Lord's Supper. They migrated. And did so even before the Reformation. Remember that "O Lord, We Praise Thee" was a folk hymn long before Luther took it hand. Or remember the hymn of Huss for the distribution.

With the Reformation, the ancient heritage was conserved, even in many cases in Latin, but much was also put into the vernacular and of course it was added to. New hymns couldn't but continue to be birthed by the joy of the Gospel's clarity that took hold agin in those days. Luther's first great hymn was Nun Freut Euch. Listen: "Dear Christian, one and all rejoice, with exultation springing, and with united heart and voice and holy rapture singing: proclaim the wonders God has done, what His right hand the victory won; what price our ransom cost Him!" There's the theology of praise right in a single hymn stanza. Luther never ceased to marvel at music: "After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely by proclaiming [God's Word] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words." (AE 53:323) Or as Luther said in the preface to the Bapst hymnal: "For God has cheered our hearts and minds through his dear Son, whom he gave for us to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. He who believes this earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others also may come and hear it." (AE 53:333).

So with the Reformation comes this explosion of new music, filled with the joy of the Gospel, and aimed at the consolation of those terrified in conscience or broken in heart. All designed to lift you up through preaching the promises of God into your heart via putting them onto your lips.

Of the many great hymns that arose in that time, who deserve particular mention. They were by Philip Nicolai, Pastor in Unna, Westphalia. He saw his congregation decimated by plague. Between July of 1597 and January of 1598, Pr. Nicolai buried no less than 1,400 of his parishionersР300 in the month of July alone. He could have fled the plague, but he didn't. He stayed put. He preached. He celebrated the Sacrament. He prayed. He buried, and he prayed some more. And he did one more thing. He wrote a book. A book he called The Mirror of Joy. It was all about the joy that filled his heart as he thought of the heaven his Savior had won for all upon His cross and to which He would one day bring His people as they share His risen life in the New Heavens and the New Earth. In the words of Luther, he "gladly and willingly sing and speak about it." At the tail end of his little book, he put three poems he wrote, two of which he also set to music. One is called: Wie sch̦n leuchtet der Morgenstern (O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright) and the other: Wachet Auf, Ruft uns die Stimme. Wake, Awake! For Night is flying.

In the face of unspeakable tragedy, to families where mothers had lost their sons, daughters their fathers, sisters their brothers, brothers their sisters, husbands their wives - with no family left untouched by the horror of death- faithful Pastor Nicolai sang the hope of heaven into his people as they waited for the day of the Savior's return and learned to sing in hope along with him even with tears in their eyes. No wonder these two pieces became known as the Queen and the King of the Chorales. They are triumphant in the cross. Just listen in to sections from either hymn:

Almighty Father, in Your Son
You loved me when not yet begun
Was this old earth's foundation!
Your Son has ransomed us in love
To live in Him here and above.
This is Your great salvation.
Alleluia! Christ the living
To us giving Life forever,
Keeps us Yours and fails us never.

O let the harps break forth in sound!
Our joy be all with music crowned,
Our voices, gladly blending!
For Christ goes with us all the way—
Today, tomorrow, every day,
His love is never ending!
Sing out! Ring out!
Jubilation, exultation!
Tell the story!
Great is He, the King of glory!

Or this:

Now let all the heaven's adore Thee;
Let saints and angels sing before Thee
With harp and cymbal's clearest tone.
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where dwelling with the choir immortal,
We gather round Thy radiant throne.
No eye has seen the light,
No ear has heard the might
Of Thy glory.
Therefore will we eternally,
sing hymns of praise and joy to thee.

I don't know about you, but I think it's nigh unto a high treason when a Lutheran (well, when any Christian) is deprived of the comfort and power of such great hymns! And they abound. Those are just two. Note that they sing of Christ. They fling the comfort of Christ against the darkness. They hold tight to the joy of what shall be when Christ renews all things. They proclaim: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, and they add the promise: "for you!"

You might notice if you've been around our Church for any length of time, that SOME of our hymns are really, really long. Take Luther's delightful Christmas hymn: "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come." It's got an eminently singable melody, but it goes on for 15 stanzas. Yikes! What gives with that?

That's a hint that the singing of hymns in the Lutheran Church, it's use of the classical Christian hymnody, from the start employed "wechselsingen" as Dr. Walther termed it: "back and forth singing" would be a good translation. So take "From Heaven Above…" and you might have the choir sing all together stanza one, then just the women of the choir on stanza two, then the men, stanza three, then all the choir on stanza four, maybe just four voices, one on each part for stanza five, then the whole congregation on stanzas six, seven and eight. Children's voices along on stanza 9. Women on 10. Men on 11. All on 12 and 13. Choir on 14 and then all on 15. What does this back and forth singing do? It enables us to preach to each other in the song. We literally sing the comfort the Gospel into each other's ears, hearing it and then in our turn sounding it forth.

By the way, this way of singing is also key to getting the best way to sing, say, "Isaiah, Mighty Seer." Picture it like this:

Choir 1: Isaiah, mighty seer in days of old,
Choir 2: The Lord of all in spirit did behold,
etc.
with the whole congregation joining in on: Holy is God the Lord of Sabaoth!

Luther's Gloria hymn works the same way. This back and forth is the royal priesthood at its work: proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. It is the fulfillment of the Apostles' exhortation: Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in PSALMS, and HYMNS, and SPIRITUAL SONGS, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

And the centuries roll on and the witness keeps ringing out. The nineteenth century was a time of rich meditation on the Church herself. Everyone was thinking about it and singing about it. So we have "For All the Saints" and "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones" and so many others. The focus wasn't on Church for her own sake, but look at who the Spirit has called us to be in Christ! And through them all ring comfort: "And when the fight is fierce the battle long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

In the 20th and 21st century a new flowering of hymnody took place and to the old songs were added numerous new proclamations of Christ. We don't have time to even begin to delve into the richness, but we must note the hymns of Stephen Starke ("We praise You and acknowledge You, O God, to be the Lord, the Father everlasting by all the earth adored…" - great paraphrase of the Te Deum and set to the Jupiter tune, proclaiming who the true King of the universe is!); Martin Franzmann (O thou who when we loved thee not, didst love and save us all; thou great good shepherd of mankind, O hear us when we call! Send us thy Spirit! Teach us truth! Thou Son, O set us free, from fanciest wisdom, self-sought ways to make us one in thee. Then shall our song united rise to Thine eternal throne where with the Father evermore and Spirit thou art one); Vajda (How could I not have known Isaiah would be there, his prophesies fulfilled, with pounding heart I stare: A child, a king, the prince of peace for me, a child, a king the prince of peace for me); so very, very many others.

One last point I think needs to be made in favor of classical Christian hymnody. It has, somehow, survived the fragmentation of the Church. So a hymn written for a Roman Catholic eucharistic conference in 1976 ends up being sung in Lutheran parishes around the world: "You satisfy the hungry heart." Or an EWTN broadcast of the Roman Mass for Ash Wednesday, opens with the solemn singing of Luther's "From Depths of Woe." The Baptists might have owned "Just as I am" at the start, but it is sung universally by Christians. This united song of the Church gives me great hope. And it witnesses a very Lutheran thing: if it sings truth, we say, it is ours! We joyfully can take it to heart and praise God with it. So our hymnal is not merely limited to the stream of music that flowed directly from the medieval church to the Churches of the Augsburg Confession. Rather, when Geneva sang truth, we sang it with them. When Rome sang truth, we sang it with them. Did you know that Beautiful Savior was originally composed to be a song of Eucharistic devotion? Tis true! And yet its words are simple truth and so we take them gladly on our lips.

Psalm 145 goes on to say: "All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power to make known to the children of men your mighty deeds and the glorious splendor of your kingdom… The Lord is faithful in all his works and kind in all his deeds." One generation declares His great works to another in the classic hymnody of the Christian Church. And our calling in this generation is to hear their song, to sing it with them in joy, and then to add to it as best we may in our own day and age.

When Isaiah pictured the Church, he described her in chapter 35 in these words: "And the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing, everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." The Church is one long procession of the people of Zion headed home, and the song we sing here at the tail end of the procession at the moment is one we learned from those who went before. Let us treasure the gift bequeathed to us and learn to love it and to pass on such a tremendous heritage to our children and children's children until the glorious appearing of Lord Jesus when we join the saints and angels in the song of the Lamb!

Questions?

 


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

FW: An Interview with Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, Editor of Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces

Mayes on Gerhard…

 

Feed: Concordia Academic
Posted on: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 12:00 AM
Author: DawnW
Subject: An Interview with Rev. Dr. Benjamin Mayes, Editor of Johann Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces

 

LogocommonplacesAs Concordia Publishing House prepares to release the eighth volume in Johann Gerhard's magisterial Theological Commonplaces, the following interview with the series editor, the Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes, introduces Gerhard and his writing, and reflects on the place of this material in the 17th century and for pastors and scholars of the 21st century.

Who was Johann Gerhard and why is his work important?

Johann Gerhard was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who lived about 100 years after Martin Luther. He was born in 1582, just two years after the last Lutheran confession, the Formula of Concord, had been published. In 1606, the year before Captain John Smith established Jamestown, Virginia, Gerhard received his first call—a call to be a pastor and superintendent of 26 parishes, and a lecturer at a high school. He was only 23 years old. Before he was 30, he had become a doctor of theology and had published several books. In his mid-30s he was called to be a professor of theology at the German city of Jena, and there he spent the next 21 years, until his death.

Gerhard's writings built up the church and Christian believers and also defended the same against attacks. His works that built up the church include his Sacred Meditations, Meditations on Divine Mercy, School of Piety, his Aphorisms, his Bible commentaries, his many sermons, and, most crucial, his work on the first great Lutheran study Bible, the Weimar Bible of 1640. His works that defended the church against attacks include the Theological Commonplaces and the book called The Catholic Confession.

What are the "theological commonplaces"? Why did Gerhard write this series?

The Theological Commonplaces (Latin: Loci Theologici) are a multivolume work of theology that draws from Holy Scripture, presents the teachings of the early church fathers, and defends the truth against its opponents. It is Gerhard's most famous work. It began as disputations (debates) that Gerhard held with the pastors in his district as an exercise in studying theology and defending the church's faith. From there Gerhard put into writing all of his notes and preparations, so that the Commonplaces would be a treasure trove of divine learning for pastors and other Christians to learn and defend God's holy revelation in Christ Jesus.

As you work with this material translated from Latin, what have you found to be most challenging? What has surprised you most in the volumes so far?

A number of things surprised me. Gerhard uses a lot of words that are not found in the standard Latin dictionaries. (This is because modern Latin-English dictionaries are geared for use in reading the classics; but the Latin language had grown and developed a bit by Gerhard's time, over one and a half millenia later.) Also he quotes from Augustine and other early church fathers more than from Luther. He knew and quoted from medieval church law and ancient Roman imperial law. He knew philosophy and made use of it in order to clarify his arguments and criticize his opponents' arguments. His arguments are thoroughly biblical, and he is very clear on this, even though he knows and makes use of so many other testimonies to the truth. Finally, he often ends his chapters or commonplaces with a consideration of the "practical use" of each doctrine. This shows that theology was not an ivory-tower exercise for Gerhard. Each point of theology was derived from Holy Scripture and was meant for application to God's people as teaching, consolation, admonition, or warning.

This project is truly a team effort. Describe the roles of the people involved.

Dr. Richard Dinda, a professor at Concordia University Texas in Austin, originally translated the 19th-century edition (edited by Edward Preuss) into English, but this translation lay dormant for several years. Then in the 2000s, the Rev. Paul McCain and the senior leadership and board for Concordia Publishing House resolved to bring forth Dr. Dinda's translation in print. Since nearly the beginning I have been the general editor, tasked with checking the translation and adding clarifying footnotes, tracking down the plethora of works that Gerhard cites, and providing a suitable introduction. Dawn Mirly Weinstock has been the production editor from the beginning, putting together the parts of these large volumes like the pieces of a puzzle. Recently, the Rev. Joshua Hayes and the Rev. Heath Curtis have joined the team as assistant editors. Numerous others have contributed to make this series the acme of Lutheran theology in the English language.

What benefits will a parish pastor derive from interacting with Gerhard's Theologocial Commonplaces?

Gerhard's Commonplaces are more thorough than any work of classical Lutheran theology that we have in English. For example, Pieper devotes a little more than one page to God's immutabity, and Gerhard devotes about four times as much space to the same topic. Pieper is three volumes; Gerhard will be seventeen volumes.

Gerhard's Commonplaces are educational. By reading him, one can learn an enormous amount about God's Word, church history, philosophy, and clear thinking.

Gerhard's Commonplaces give us a window into how the Formula of Concord was understood in the generation after it was written.

Many of Gerhard's opponents had incorrect views that are popular today. For example, in Commonplace II, On the Nature of God, Gerhard is constantly arguing with Conrad Vortius, a late 16th- / early 17th-century Reformed theologian who was condemned at the Synod of Dort (1618–19). Vorstius denied God's eternity, using the very same arguments as Nicholas Wolterstorff currently uses. Instead of being eternal, God, for Vorstius and Wolterstorff, is a temporal, everlasting being, bound by time just as we are. Nowadays, open theism and the theologies of Karl Barth and Wolfhart Pannenberg have found open ears among many. Gerhard's Commonplaces can help pastors and theologians today connect to the entire Christian tradition, which from the early church through the Middle Ages and the Reformation affirmed such things as God's impassibility, eternity, immutability, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Gerhard can help us to break free from modern theology.

Gerhard does a thorough job with his polemics. Although it may be unpopular these days, polemics are still important. They help us to go beyond saying, "This is what we believe," to saying "and this is why." Gerhard especially argues against Socinians (anti-Trinitarians, who were commonly called "Photinians"), Roman Catholics, and the Reformed.

Yet Gerhard was not overly polemical. He loved the truth and was willing to attack errorists, but he did so with moderation. He always endeavors to represent his adversaries truthfully. This makes his writings all the more accessible to us today.

Gerhard gives thorough consideration to issues dealing with pastoral practice and ethics. Marriage is the largest volume in the series. (It deals also with celibacy, polygamy, forbidden grades of relationship, etc.) Many scholars have noted that Gerhard's Commonplaces are not only intellectual, but they are also pastoral and devotional.

Describe the value of the publication of this series for the scholar.

Gerhard is the third most important classical Lutheran theologian, after Luther and Chemnitz. He quickly became a standard for all later Lutheran doctrine. Everyone quoted him and interacted with his writings, until people stopped reading Latin.

The Commonplaces are filled to the brim with quotations from the church fathers, many of whom have never been translated. One can read large quotations from Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria, for example, and also quotations from figures known to, but not commonly read by, American Lutherans, such as Alcuin, Bernard of Clairvaux, Savonarola, and Jean Gerson.

Gerhard lived in an era that is basically unknown to us. We know a lot about the time from the Reformation to the Formula of Concord, and then from C. F. W. Walther to the present, but not about the time in between—a span of 250 years. (The United States is younger than that.) It is as if someone buried a treasure and left us a treasure map. We have known about Gerhard for a long time—that is the treasure map. But only now are we beginning to dig up the treasures themselves.

The forthcoming volume addresses sin and free choice. In addition to his constant dialogue with Robert Bellarmine, what other groups or theologians does Gerhard address?

531195Gerhard rejects Matthias Flacius's views on original sin; Flacius claimed that the substance of fallen man is itself original sin. Rejecting this view was important, since God remains the creator of mankind, and yet God is in no way the author of sin. This latter point is emphasized against the Reformed, some of whose writers made God responsible for Adam's fall. Nevertheless, Bellarmine and his Tridentine Roman Catholic colleagues remain the main opponent, as they minimized the gravity of original sin, claimed that evil desires are not sinful, and maximized the abilities of human free choice without the aid of God's grace. Gerhard, on the other hand, emphasizes the seriousness of human sin and the utter necessity of God's grace for salvation. In this way, He gives all glory to God and seeks salvation where God has put it, in the saving work of Christ, applied to us by the Holy Spirit.


 

To order On Sin and Free Choice, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit www.cph.org.

Click here to subscribe to Johann Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces series.

At CPH since 2006, Benjamin Mayes is the managing editor for Luther's Works: American Edition, the general editor for Johann Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces, and he oversees other book projects.


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Monday, June 16, 2014

FW: The Christian's Time

Weedon/Loehe…

 

Feed: Weedon's Blog
Posted on: Sunday, June 15, 2014 5:41 PM
Author: noreply@blogger.com (William Weedon)
Subject: The Christian's Time

 

A Christian lives his days with Christ and in comtemplation of Him.

 

His Days pass in remembering the sufferings of Jesus. When the clock strikes eleven, he knows that the bells are ringing in the noon hour of his Redeemer, when thick darkness overshadowed Him. In the afternoon at three o'clock, he breathes a greateful prayer of joy, for the Lord has finished. Every stroke of the clock calls upon him to consider what Christ did and suffered in that hour.

 

His Weeks are pictures of Christ's life. Sunday, at each return, is the brother of the Easter Day, the most joyful day of the week. It is preceded by days of repentance and suffering. Wednesday already brings the memory of the unholy bargaining of Judas with the high priests and murderers of Christ. Thursday divides his mind between the struggle in Gethsemane and the blessed institution of the Lord's Supper. Every Friday is a weekly "Good Friday." Every Saturday is a sabbath of the rest of Christ in the grave.

 

As in the week, so also the Year: it recalls the life, suffering and death of Christ, an ever new experience of what the Gospels narrate; itself a very Gospel of Christ our Lord.

 

--from Wilhelm Loehe's Seed Grains of Faith. p. 142, 143.


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

FW: Questions and Answers with Dr. A. Andrew Das

Das…

 

Feed: Concordia Academic
Posted on: Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:01 AM
Author: Laura Lane
Subject: Questions and Answers with Dr. A. Andrew Das

 

156062

Dr. A. Andrew Das took some time to reflect on his Galatians commentary. Read on to learn what led him to this writing, what he thinks about modern Pauline scholarship, and how he hopes his commentary will be influential.

How did you become interested in studying Galatians?

In 1992 J. Louis Martyn taught a seminar on Galatians at Yale while he was in the process of preparing his Anchor Bible commentary. This was my first taste of a Pauline epistle at the graduate level, and the course introduced me to a entirely new way of understanding Second Temple Judaism as well as to what is called "the new perspective on Paul and the Law" (it's not that new anymore).

The "new perspective" movement does not prioritize the Reformation's emphasis on sin and grace and abandons anything remotely "Lutheran" in the reading of Paul. The first-century apostle is absorbed, instead, with rejecting the view that the gentiles need to become Jewish in order to enjoy membership in the people of God.

After a Lutheran seminary, this was an entirely new way to read Paul's letters, and I returned to these discussions in my doctoral work. I also went back to the description of the Judaism of Paul's day as a religion based on God's gracious election of a people and mercy toward sinners. I developed what I have labeled a "newer perspective on Paul and the Law" (I guess it's not "newer" anymore). My 2001 Paul, the Law, and the Covenant lays out my approach to reading Paul. The Galatians commentary, then, is a chance to return to the biblical book that got me started in my professional work.

What unique contribution does your commentary make?

The Galatians commentary differs from some of the other commentaries in the series. Since Pauline scholarship has been largely neglected in conservative Lutheran circles, and since Galatians is not an excessively long biblical book, I have tried to be fairly thorough in my review of the professional literature. So you will find in the footnotes of the commentary reference not only to all the other commentaries on Galatians but also to a range of journal articles, ancient sources, and other professional materials.

My hope is that this commentary will get the conservative Lutheran audience up to speed on what is going on in modern Pauline scholarship.

At the same time, this Galatians commentary is the very first that is written from the standpoint of my "newer perspective" on Paul and the Law. I have argued at length why one can accept an understanding of Judaism as a religion largely of grace rather than of "works righteousness," the old caricature, and yet Paul understood that grace in terms of Christ and not the Mosaic Law. To take the path of Moses' Law is simply a dead-end with respect to salvation. For that matter, the Law of Moses itself points the way forward to what God would be doing in Christ.

How do you hope your commentary on Galatians will influence the ministry, preaching, and teaching of pastors?

I was frustrated as a teenager and college student by preaching and teaching that did not advance my understanding of the Scriptures beyond what I had gleaned already before my teenage years. I went to seminary and graduate school in the hope of finding a way to offer something back to that bored teenager from years before.

Pastors and teachers in the church need to remain active and genuinely curious about the ancient biblical text. That curiosity, combined with good study patterns in the parish and a good set of tools, would, I am convinced, make a difference for many potentially disengaging parishioners. I am hoping that this Galatians commentary would provide pastors and teachers with a useful resource for personal study in Scripture as well as for preparing interesting, meaty Bible classes and engaging sermons.

Another problem in our circles is what I call a sort of "Gnostic" preaching and teaching of the biblical text. Conservative Lutheran pastors jump too quickly to the analogy of faith or to other biblical books when preaching a biblical text. There is a place for that, but later on in the interpretive process. Lou Martyn was right to stress to his students and colleagues that we have to imagine ourselves in the first-century congregations addressed by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians. That original setting is the rightful context in which we must interpret these words.

Unfortunately, unless we have personal connections with the Doctor and his TARDIS (a fairly sophisticated time machine), we are not able to go back in time to sit in one of those Galatians congregations when the letter was first being read and studied. That means that we need to reconstruct, as best as we can, what that original context must have been like. We need to study the first-century culture. We mine Paul's letter for clues about the situation he was addressing. We test hypotheses about the original audience and situation. Then we go back and read the letter in view of that reconstruction.

This is the task not just of the scholar but also of the pastor, and especially of the congregation itself. Every pastor's job is to transport the congregation back in time to those original audiences. We have to appreciate Galatians on its own terms before we then branch out and understand Galatians in view of the larger Pauline corpus. Then we branch out and interpret Galatians in view of the rest of the New Testament and the rest of the Scriptural witness. Finally, we are able to look at how Galatians was received through the centuries and understood within the framework of Lutheranism.

The problem is that too often interpreters ignore the crucial starting point with the original audience, and, when that happens, it becomes very easy to get these words on the page to mean something that reflects more our own modern discourse. We read our own conclusions into an ancient text. If this commentary gets the point across about the need for good interpretive work, then that will be one measure of its success.

What was the best part about writing your commentary?

Of course, the best part about writing the commentary is to see the labors finally completed and in print. Hopefully others will find it useful and of value, and to the Lord be the glory!


About the Author
A. Andrew Das is the Donald W. and Betty J. Buik Chair at Elmhurst College. Dr. Das authored Solving the Romans Debate (Fortress, 2007); Paul and the Jews (Hendrickson, 2003); Paul, the Law, and the Covenant (Hendrickson, 2001); and Baptized into God's Family (Northwestern, 1991; 2d ed., 2008). He coedited The Forgotten God (Westminster John Knox, 2002).

His articles have appeared in Journal of Biblical LiteratureJournal for the Study of the New Testament,New Testament StudiesCatholic Biblical QuarterlyConcordia JournalConcordia Theological Quarterly, and Logia, as well as in Paul Unbound (Hendrickson, 2010), The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (Abingdon, 2009), Reading Paul's Letter to the Romans (Society of Biblical Literature, 2012), Unity and Diversity in the Gospels and Paul (Society of Biblical Literature, 2012), The Law in Holy Scripture (Concordia, 2004), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Ethics (forthcoming), and The Oxford Handbook of Pauline Studies (forthcoming).

He was an invited member of the Society of Biblical Literature's Paul and Scripture Seminar and has presented at the Society of Biblical Literature; the African Society of Biblical Scholars; the Chicago Society of Biblical Research; the international Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, of which he is an elected member; and the Evangelical Theological Society. He is also a member of the Catholic Biblical Association of America and serves on the Holman Christian Standard Bible revision committee.

He received his M.Div. from Concordia Theological Seminary and did his graduate work at Yale University, Duke University, and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. He served as a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Lombard, Ill., from 2000–2002 and assisted as a pastor at St. John's Lutheran in Lombard from 2002–2004.


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Sunday, June 1, 2014

FW: Martin Luther on Music

Phillips…

 

Feed: Historia et Memoria
Posted on: Sunday, June 1, 2014 8:39 PM
Author: Matthew Phillips
Subject: Martin Luther on Music

 

"I would certainly like to praise music with all my heart as the excellent gift of God which it is and to commend to everyone.  But I am so overwhelmed by the diversity and magnitude of its virtue and benefits that I can find neither beginning nor end or method for my discourse.  As much as I want to commend it, my praise is bound to be wanting and inadequate.  For who can comprehend it all?  And even if you wanted to encompass all of it, you would appear to have grasped nothing at all." Martin Luther, "Preface to Georg Rhau's Symphoniae iucundae," in Luther's Works, vol. 53, pp. 321-322.

Martin Luther demonstrated his love of music, especially in Christian worship, throughout his adult life.  Luther studied music as one of the liberal arts.  In this famous preface, written in 1538, Luther described music as a divine gift that appears throughout nature but reaches its perfection in human beings.

"First then, looking at music itself, you will find that from the beginning of the world it has been instilled and implanted in all creatures, individually and collectively.  For nothing is without sound or harmony.  Even the air, which of itself is invisible and imperceptible to all our senses, and which, since it lacks both voice and speech, is the least musical of all things, becomes sonorous, audible, and comprehensible when it is set in motion….Music is still more wonderful in living things, especially birds….And yet, compared to the human voice, all this hardly deserves the name of music, so abundant and incomprehensible is here the munificence and wisdom of our most gracious Creator." Ibid., 322.

After Luther marveled at the human voice as an instrument that confounds philosophers, he praised the benefit of the divine gift of music.  He understood its power over the human mind and soul to be next to Holy Scripture.

"We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.  She is mistress and governess of those human emotions….which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them….For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate….what more effective means than music could you find?" Ibid., 323. [Emphasis added]

For this reason, Luther explained that the ancient prophets and fathers combined music and God's Word.  Thus humans combine the gifts of language and song to praise God.

"But when [musical] learning is added to all this and artistic music which corrects, develops, and refines the natural music, then at last it is possible to taste with wonder (yet not to comprehend) God's absolute and perfect wisdom in his wondrous work of music." Ibid., 324.

 


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