Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologiert.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

15 July 2014

A Different St Nicholas - and Alexandra. 17 July 2014.

17 July 2014 is the 96th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, with his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who began life as Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, a Lutheran, and their children in 1918 in Yekaterinburg, Russia.  They are now saints of the Russian Orthodox Church.  And there's Lutherans in Russia, then and now.  Here's the story.

The Chilling Legacy of These Murders.

The brutality of these murders would in time to come be visited upon millions of Russians, as the regime which ordered and carried them out blossomed into a world power. While we hear much about the six million victims of one group specifically targeted by Nazi Germany, that was only roughly half of the total number of the victims of Nazi Germany. And if relatively little is said about the other half, even less is said about the total number of Nazi victims, and even less yet about the great number murdered under our ally against Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia under Stalin.

By the most conservative estimates, that number would be 4 million from direct repression and 6 million from the results of enforced economic theory, namely, collectivisation, for a total of 10 million. That is roughly equal to total estimates of Nazi victims, and nearly twice the number of the specifically targeted group. However more recently available material generally indicates a total of around 20 million, nearly twice by our ally of what Nazi Germany managed to attain in toto, and over three times the 6 million of their specifically targeted group.

The Soviet Union itself passed into history on 26 December 1991. On 17 July 1998, the 80th anniversary of their murders, the bodies of Tsar Nicholas and Tsaritsa Alexandra and the three of their children then found were buried with state honours in the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul in St Petersburg. Why there?  The city was founded 27 May 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great and named by him after his patron saint St Peter. It was the capitol of Russia until the Communist revolution, known as Leningrad under the Soviet regime, and its name was restored in 1991. All Russian Emperors since Peter the Great are now buried there.

At the burial, the then-president of post Communist Russia, Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation, attended along with members of the House of Romanov, the Russian royal family. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia had declared them saints and martyrs in 1981, and on 14 August 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church itself declared them saints, of a type called Passion Bearers. These are people who were killed but not specifically for their faith, and who met their deaths with Christian humility and dignity. This is not a judgement on his rule, rather universally regarded as weak and incompetent at best, but rather on the why and the manner of his death. On 16 June 2003 Russian bishops consecrated the "Church on the Blood", built on the site of the house where the royal family was murdered.

The regime which killed them has passed into history, but, there is still a Russian Orthodox Church, there is still a House of Romanov, and there is still a Russia -- The Russian Federation.

About 70% of Russians count themselves Orthodox Christians, though few regularly participate in church. Of Orthodox churches, 95% are Russian Orthodox, the traditional Russian religion overall. There are Lutherans in Russia, in large part due to the open immigration policies of Catherine the Great, the first German Lutheran princess to end up Empress of Russia.

How a German Lutheran Princess Ends Up Empress of Russia.  The Second Time.

Alexandra was born 6 June 1872 in Darmstadt in Das Großherzogtum Hessen und bei Rhein.  Don't freak, I'll translate, it's The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine.  OK but where izzat?  In west central modern Germany, that's where.  Its biggest and probably best known city is Frankfurt, on more correctly Frankfurt am Main (that's pronounced like "mine" in English) which means Frankfurt on the Main.  OK but what is the Main?  It's a river, a major tributary of the Rhine (Rhein).  Darmstadt was the seat of the grand dukes of the Grand Duchy, which is why Alexandra, as the daughter of the then-current ruling one, was born there; the modern capital of the state of Hesse is Wiesbaden.

Anyway, the baby girl was given her mother's name.  So her mom's name was Alix? Well actually it was Alice, as in Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, a daughter of Queen Victoria.  That's right, Queen Victoria was Alix' grandma.  This we'll shortly see influenced both the beginning of her life and the end of it.  Her childhood nickname was Alicky, which would become a favourite term of endearment with her husband Nicholas too.  Alice was a remarkable woman, a huge fan of Florence Nightingale and worked to involve women in health care.  Ironically she died pretty young, at age 35 in 1878 in Darmstadt, of diphtheria which was overtaking the whole ducal house.

Alix died relatively young too, at 46, but her career as a noblewoman was not to be like her mother's.  Alice was much loved in both her native and her married lands -- hell, they lovingly put a Union Jack over her coffin at her funeral in Darmstadt -- but Alix was never accepted as really Russian by nearly everyone from peasants to royalty alike.  The whole Russian thing with this German Lutheran princess, which would alter all subsequent history, started with her attraction to the heir to the Russian throne, Nicholas, and his to her.

So how would they even meet, you know, German, Russian?  You gotta understand that European nobility and royalty are mishpocha (don't freak, that's Yiddish for "extended family").  Nicholas and Alexandra are second cousins, and also third cousins, depending on which ancestral line you go through.  They met in 1884 and it was mutual from the start, and when they met again in 1889 there was no denying it.  Neither family wanted the match.  Grandma (Queen Vic) wanted someone else for Alix, and Nicholas' dad Tsar Alexander III, was dead set against any German or Lutheran marrying into the royal family.  But Alix stood up to Grandma, who actually kind of liked it that she did, and as Alexander's health declined he eventually gave in. 

They got engaged in Germany (Coburg, to be exact) in April 1894 and Alexander died on 1 November 1894.  The Russians first saw their new empress-to-be (he became emperor on his father's death, she would become empress consort on marriage to him) as she came to St Petersburg with the family for the funeral.  "She comes behind a coffin" was heard everywhere.  Things were off to a bad start.  She and Nicholas were married right after, on 26 November 1894.  Alix at first was not too sure about having to become Russian Orthodox, but she eventually became an enthusiastic convert, and got a new name in the process, Alexandra Feodorovna.  Then things went right straight to hell.

During the coronation ceremonies a riot broke out when it seemed there wouldn't be enough of the food provided for the public to go around, and several thousand were killed in the stampede.  The French had a gala ball scheduled in honour of the coronation.  Nicholas and Alexandra were reluctant to attend given what had happened, but they were persuaded by court advisers to go through with it so as not to offend the French.  Which ended up offending their own people, who took it as a sign that their royalty cared nothing about what happened to them.  Then there's the matter of producing an heir.  Alexandra was having daughters, and under court protocol of the time the heir must be male.  Then when she finally had a son, he was born with haemophilia, a deadly disease for which there was no treatment at the time.

And, haemophilia was known to be passed on in, guess what, Grandma's (that's Queen Vic) line, so she was further thought a disaster for having brought the "English disease" as some called it to the Russian line.  Neither all her works of prayer and devotion, nor any available medical treatment, helped, and Alexandra became pretty much a recluse making sure her son had no injury.  In time she turned to this itinerant Russian Orthodox "holy man" and healer, Rasputin, and guess what, her son got better, and Rasputin gained influence at the court.

Rasputin was a supposed mystic, a type of religious lunacy.  Yes, her son got better, but as usual a little science clears up all the "mystical" bullroar.  The doctors attending her son were using a new drug widely thought at the time to be a new wonder drug.  Aspirin.  Yeah, aspirin.  It actually is a pretty good mild analgesic (pain reliever) but it also, and this was not known at the time, is an anti-coagulant.  Now, retarding the coagulation of the blood is exactly what you don't want to do in treating a haemophiliac!  So of course when she turned away from medical treatment and followed Rasputin's advice her son got better -- she quit giving him an anti-coagulant, nothing mystical or spiritual about it.

Rasputin's advice unfortunately began to extend to other matters too, and he supposedly had a revelation that Nicholas should go to the front -- the Great War, the War To End All Wars, which it didn't and is now just the first of "world wars" -- and personally take command of the military.  This left Alexandra to run the internal affairs of state, for which she was completely unsuited by both training and temperament.  So, all sorts of incompetent officials further made a mess of things.  Between the shortages due to the war effort and the Russian Winter everyone was miserable and many thought Alexandra was actually sabotaging things, being German and all.

Riots ensued, and the soldiers who were supposed to put down the rebellion joined it, and the next day, 13 March 1917, they established a provisional government called the Petrograd Soviet.  No, not communists or the Soviet Union.  Petrograd because this happened in St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, and soviet because that's the word for council in Russian.  This is known as the February Revolution.  Huh, you just said it was in March!  Yeah, in our calendar now but in what is now called the Old Style calendar used there and then, it was February.  The Tsar was told he must abdicate, and he did, first being kept with his family in the palace, then, for their safety the provisional government sent them to Siberia.

Things changed.  The provisional government was itself overthrown by the communists called Bolshevik (the word means "majority") under Vladimir Lenin on 7 November 1917 in the October Revolution (same deal about the calendars, it was 26 October in the Old Style calendar).  Their promises of "peace, land and bread" attracted many.  Alexander Kerensky, the major figure in the provisional government, was exiled and ended up living out his life in New York City.  The royal family did not fare so well, and at 0215 on 17 July, Bolsheviks, having disarmed their guard, shot the entire royal family to death, then smashed the rib cages of the tsar and tsarina with bayonets, stripped the bodies, burned the clothes, and threw the bodies in a mine shaft 12 miles away, then the bodies were pulled out, their faces smashed, dismembered, burned with sulphuric acid, and reburied.  There they remained until after the fall of the Soviet Union decades later.

(A personal aside -- my French teacher as a kid in the 1950s was an old Russian woman who was a young woman in a family at court through all of this.  They were among the exiles, and French being the language of the court, she earned a living as a translator in embassies and ended up in an apartment in her daughter's home.  French lessons came with tea and all the decorum of her youth.)

How a German Lutheran Princess Ends Up Empress of Russia. The First Time.

Now there's a story too. Tsarina Alexandra wasn't the first German Lutheran noblewoman to end up Tsarina. Catherine the Great was originally the noble-born raised-Lutheran Sophie Friederike Auguste, nicknamed Figchen, or Little Frederica. Her father was the devout Lutheran Prince Christian August of Anhalt-Zerbst, who as a Prussian general was governor of Stettin, Pomerania, then part of Prussia, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, but her birth city (Stettin) is in a part of Pomerania that in now part of Poland (and called Szczecin).

Huh? How does Figchen end up Empress of Russia? Because her mother, Johanna, loved court intrigue and wanted it for her daughter, but she really ticked off Tsarina Elisabeth who threw her out of the country for spying for Prussia. The Big E liked Figchen though, and apparently liked the family, hell, she was going to marry Johanna's brother Karl but he died from smallpox before it could happen. Figchen ended up married to E's nephew and heir, Peter III, who was also Figchen's second cousin. But first she learned Russian, and on 28 June 1744 she converted to the Russian Orthodox Church -- against her father's orders, who went ballistic over it -- and was given the name Catherine. Then she marries Peter on 21 August 1745, and after Elisabeth died on 5 January 1762, Peter takes the throne.

He didn't last long. He pulled Russia out of the Seven Years War -- remember that, left Mother England in huge debt, to pay for which they taxed the hell out of the American colonies who ended up revolting and becoming the United States -- got friendly with Prussia, admired the Western Europeans, tried to make the Russian Orthodox Church more Lutheran, and had a mistress for whom Catherine was afraid he would divorce her. So he pissed off everybody, and when he went to his paternal ancestral Schleswig-Holstein (the area from which my ancestors the Angles left for Mother England, but hey), Catherine with her lover (fair is fair I guess) staged a military coup and Peter was arrested 14 July 1762. He wasn't too upset really, he just asked for an estate and his mistress, also named Elisabeth.

But three days later he was killed by one of the conspirators while in custody, though Figchen/Catherine does not seem to have been behind that part of things. So after Peter being Tsar for six months, his wife succeeds him. Some say she should have been Regent until her son, Paul, was old enough to become Tsar, but what the hell, the first Tsarina Catherine (Catherine the Great is technically Catherine II) succeeded her husband Peter I (aka the Great) in 1725, and anyway Catherine no longer Figchen ruled until she died, which was 17 November 1796, at which time George Washington was in his second term as President of the United States. Got all that? No wonder George didn't want anything resembling royalty here.

Why Eating Runzas Is a Spiritual and World-Historical Experience.

And a damn good eating experience too.

In 1762, the year she came to power, Catherine issued a manifesto inviting non-Jewish Europeans to settle in Russia and farm using more modern European methods. It got few results, French and English preferred to emigrate to America, and another manifesto with more benefits was issued in 1763, attracting Germans since they were allowed to maintain their language, religions and culture, and were exempt from military service. This last was particularly attractive to Mennonites, but many German Lutherans, Catholics and Reformed also came, settling along the Volga River, hence the name Volga Germans, or Wolgadeutsche.

However these benefits, particularly the exemption from military service, were eroded and many Wolgadeutsche, especially the pacifist Mennonites, left for the midwestern United States, Canada, and South American places of German emigration. The midwestern US immigrants have given us people as different as US Senator Tom Daschle and and big-band leader Lawrence Welk. But most importantly, it has given us the Runza, a magnificent pocket sandwich of beef, onion and cabbage -- thank you Catherine!!

In 1949 Alex Brening and his sister Sally Everett opened a drive-in in Lincoln NE offering food of Wolgadeutsche derivation, which has since expanded to a regional chain, including one close to Concordia-Seward (NE) as every grad of there knows.  Besides the fantastic runza (get the cheese runza, Combo #1) they have the best burgers, fries and OR in the whole "fast food" industry. Hell yes. You can have a great meal, be a part of history back to Catherine the Great, proclaim your solidarity with ethnic self-determination and praise God for religious freedom as a Lutheran (or anything else) all at the same time! Makes me wanna go to the one a few blocks from me right now!

Lutherans In Russia Now.

Anyway, in this heavily Russian Orthodox land with notable German-born raised-Lutheran Tsarinas, there are Lutherans. Not a lot, but even so, not all in the same group (just like here). There is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia, which is a member of the International Lutheran Council (founded 1993), as are we ("we" being LCMS).  There's the Evangelical Lutheran Church - "Concord", a member of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (founded 1996), whose American members are WELS and ELS.  And there's the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States, a member of the thoroughly heterodox Lutheran-in-name-only Lutheran World Federation (founded 1947),whose American member is the similarly characterised ELCA, and to which the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia also belongs.

Also there's the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It began with a Siberian named Vsevolod Lytkin, who converted from Soviet era atheism to Lutheranism in Estonia, then part of the Soviet Union, at age 20 in 1987.  In 1991 as the Soviet Union was passing into history Estonia became independent and Lytkin began missionary work back in Siberian, with support from our beloved synod (that's LCMS).  In 2003 the result of his efforts, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, became independent of the more liberal WLF-affiliated Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Pastor Lytkin now serves as the bishop of the SELC.  While it is not affiliated with larger Lutheran bodies, in 2010 full recognition and fellowship was established between the SELC and LCMS.

I am pleased to say that the pastor of St Gertrude's Lutheran Parish in Yekaterinburg -- the city in which the Tsar and family were murdered in the Ipatiev House, on whose site the "Church on the Blood", whose full name is Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land, now stands as mentioned above -- is a "friend" of Past Elder on Facebook. Seeing another "Catherine" in the city's name? It's there, named at its founding 18 November 1723 after St Catherine, name saint of Catherine I (Yekaterina), Tsarina and wife of then ruling Tsar Peter I the Great, who died 8 February 1725, after which she became ruler like the next Peter and Catherine duo (III and II/the Great). St Gertrude's has been there since Day One too. Check out their site here and please consider giving them a hand in their wonderful work.

Kind of all comes full circle, huh? That's what's cool about history.  It makes the circle clearer, sometimes even gives one a clue there is a circle, an interrelation, at all, amid all this stuff of life that otherwise seems like so much dust from the past.  And it makes where we are now clearer, which is why I get into all this stuff.

2014 is the 100th year since the start of the world war whose aftermath saw the end of the Russian Empire and rise of the Soviet Union (not to mention the end of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire).  It is also the year in which the Crimea, which Catherine the Great had won back from the Ottoman Empire in 1783, was restored to Russia itself 60 years after the Soviet Union under Khrushchev made it part of the Ukraine in 1954.

You wonder what a different world would be now had Alicky listened to Grandma or Nicholas listened to dad.  Or, if Alicky had decided confessing Lutheran faith was more important than literally anything else.

Nicholas' and Alexandra's feast day, following the church's longstanding custom, is 17 July.

02 July 2014

The Fourth Of July. 2014.

We did not actually declare independence from Mother England on the Fourth of July. What happened was, on the Fourth of July the Second Continental Congress approved a formal declaration explaining the Lee Resolution adopted on the Second of July which actually declared the independence. Here's the story.

I. Hostilities Break Out.

When the Revolutionary War began in April 1775 in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, independence was a minority opinion, and not the goal of the fighting. Most here hoped to remain under the English Crown,  The objection. rather, was to the acts of Parliament re the colonies, who were not represented in Parliament, especially those exacting taxes.  OK, so why did Parliament want taxes from the colonies?  The biggest reason was to pay the huge war debt from The Seven Years War.  That had concluded twelve years earlier in Europe, with England and Prussia and other German states (there was no Germany in the modern sense) against France, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Saxony and later Spain.

Our French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754, was actually a part of the Seven Years War, though the Seven Years War is dated from its European outbreak in 1756. It lasted another seven years until 1763, hence the name.  Winston Churchill called it really the first world war, because hostilities happened not just in Europe or over just seven years, but in North America, India and West Africa in the combatants' colonies as well.. England won, more or less; things didn't change much in Europe per se, but England emerged the world's dominant colonial power.

But it left Mother England in huge debt. To pay for the war debt, all kinds of taxes were enacted by Parliament, particularly to bring in revenue from the colonies. England saw it as the colonies' fair share of being fought for; but the colonies thought that since they were not represented in Parliament that body had no right to tax them. England was stingy with currency in the colonies anyway, and many took to using the Spanish currency the dolar from La Florida, now a state but then a Spanish colony South of us, which is why we have "dollars" to this day.

The beef was with Parliament, not the Crown. Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and others, proposed something like what is now the British Commonwealth, preserving unity with the English Crown but leaving Parliament the legislative body for England only, elsewhere being under legislative bodies where they were represented. It was even hoped that the Crown would intervene with Parliament for the colonies.

II. Tom Paine and Common Sense.

But unfolding events did not go that way, and brought more and more over to the cause of independence even if remaining under the Crown would have been their preference. A major boost came on 10 January 1776, when Thomas Paine published a 48 page pamphlet called Common Sense. It was published anonymously, for obvious reasons, and royalties went to support General Washington's Continental Army. It was signed, By An Englishman, which he was, from Thetford, Norfolk. He emigrated on the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, and arrived in Philadelphia on 30 November 1774, too sick from the typhoid fever that plagued the ship to get off the boat without the assistance of Franklin's physician.

In making the case for independence, Paine intentionally avoided the Enlightenment style, which used much philosophy from ancient Greece and Rome, and wrote more like a sermon, using Biblical references to make his case, so as to be understood by everyone, not just the educated. Now don't go thinking he was some sort of Christian founding father. Paine had no use for Christianity, be it Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, or for any other religion either. In later works he specifically rejected claims about Jesus as Son of God and Saviour as fabulous, literally, fables, nothing more than reworked sun worship, and advocated Deism, "by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues".

"Then" and "now" refer to the first and second of the three separately written parts of his The Age of Reason; the quotation is from the second part. Paine and Common Sense though were not much on the minds of the Continental Congress, which was more concerned about how a declaration of independence would affect the war for it.  For that matter John Adams thought Common Sense "a crapulous mass", which we might express as a piece of, well you get the idea. Paine spent much time abroad, back in England, and eventually in France where he became part of the French Revolution too, but ran afoul of Robespierre, and was imprisoned 28 December 1793. He was scheduled to be guillotined, but the door to his cell was open to let a breeze in, and when his cell mates closed it the marking on the door faced inside. After the fall of Robespierre, 27 July 1794, he was released in November. He later became friendly with Napoleon, advising him on how to conquer England, but noting Napoleon's increasing dictatorship, although Napoleon though a gold statue of Paine should be in every city everywhere, Paine called Napoleon "the completest charlatan that ever existed".

He did not return to the US until 1802, at the invitation of President Jefferson. His support of the French Revolution then Napoleon, his disdain for religion of any kind, his antagonism to George Washington, and his distinctly un-Federalist views made him deeply unpopular. When he died, 8 June 1809 at 72 in Greenwich Village New York, his obituary, originally in The New York Citizen and reprinted throughout the country, said he "lived long, did some good and much harm" and only six people came to his funeral.

III. Independence.

It went a little differently for our revolution. The Virginia Convention on 15 May 1776 instructed the Virginia delegates to the Continental Congress to propose to that body a declaration of independence. Richard Henry Lee, General Lee's great uncle, so proposed on 7 June 1776, hence the name Lee Resolution. It was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts. Here is the text:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Not all of the colonial conventions had so instructed their delegates to vote for independence, so support was rallied and debate put off. Meanwhile, a Committee of Five was formed to draft a formal declaration. The five were, John Adams (Massachusetts), Roger Sherman (Connecticut), Robert Livingston (New York), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Thomas Jefferson (Virginia). Jefferson was given the job of writing the draft by the other four, who reviewed it. The declaration was proposed to the Congress 28 June 1776.

Congress approved the Lee Resolution on 2 July 1776. It was not unanimous. New York abstained from the vote, as their colonial convention had given them no instructions, which assent came on 9 July. Then on 4 July the Declaration of Lee's Resolution was approved, adding Lee's Resolution at the end. However, the delegates did not all sign it right then, most of them signing 2 August 1776! But the image of everybody signing endured and even the elderly Jefferson and Adams remembered it so, though it wasn't. Although John Adams thought 2 July would be Independence Day, from the outset 4 July has been celebrated as Independence Day.

IV. The Declaration of Independence.

In my humble opinion, The Declaration of Independence, explaining passage of the Lee Resolution, is one of the towering accomplishments of the mind of Man. Consider its famous words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

We now sometimes cynically say how could it be that someone who could write words like "all men are created equal" could also own slaves. We have it backwards. When the concept of democracy arose, in ancient Greece, there was nothing about all men are created equal to it. Democracy was a function of the free class, those with the leisure to devote to becoming informed enough to participate in democracy; those who work do not have this leisure and cannot participate. Even by that great ancestor of our Constitution, the Magna Carta, in 1215, the first time ever that subjects forced concessions from a ruler and placed subject and ruler alike under law rather than the ruler's divine right to rule, there was nothing about all men are created equal to it. The subjects were themselves rulers, lower ranking nobility.

The wonder is not then that someone who wrote "all men are created equal" could also own slaves; the wonder is that someone who owned slaves as part of the warp and woof of his time and economy could also envision "all men are created equal". And no-one was more aware of the untenable tension between the two, and the untenable nature of slavery, than the man who wrote those words. It is no discredit to him that it would fall to later leaders to work out the implications he knew full well; it is to his credit that these words were even there for later leaders to work out.

And while we're noting things, we may also note that equality of all men is not stated as just the way it is, or the way Man is. It says all men are created equal, which means there is a Creator, and that all men have rights not because that's just the way it is, but because all men have been endowed with certain rights by their Creator.  It is because those rights are the endowment of their Creator that therefore they may not be taken away, which is also why the function of government to secure, not grant, these rights. The Creator is essential to this, and is the source of this, and that role is not diminished by our freedom to understand the Creator as we, not a government, or a government's state church, will. No Creator, no equality.

V. The Celebration of Independence.

The next year, 4 July 1777 -- the war was still on, btw, that didn't end until 1783 -- Bristol, Rhode Island, which had refused to supply the English army and got bombarded for it, fired off 13 cannon, one for each colony, at dawn and sunset to commemorate the first anniversary of the Declaration. The next year the British had taken Bristol, but in 1785, independence secured, Bristol established the Bristol Fourth of July Parade, the longest running Independence Day commemoration in the US.

The country's largest Independence Day thing is Macy's Fireworks Spectacular, which began with the bicentennial year 1976. And cities throughout the country do much the same on a smaller scale, not to mention in streets and backyards all over.

Maybe old John Adams wasn't so far off. The Fourth of July is indeed itself Independence Day, and has survived the lunacy of Day and Day (Observed) of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968, changing four Federal holidays from what they are to Mondays to create a three day week-end, a spirit which has infected the church calendar in modern revisions too. But I guess a Fourth of July and a Fourth of July (Observed) is too absurd for even the modern mind.

But it is not at all uncommon in those years when the Fourth falls on a work-week day as we now know it, which was along time coming in 1776, for fireworks etc to be done on the nearest week-end.

And get this though -- on the third Fourth of July ever, in 1779, the Fourth fell on a Sunday, for which reason it was celebrated the next day, Monday. How about that -- the original Monday week-end was because of the Lord's Day, Sunday! Guess old Paine wasn't the main force here. At least then.

Judas H Priest, now if the Fourth falls on a Sunday we want Monday off, not because Sunday is a Lord's Day, a little Easter each week, but because we didn't get a three day week-end! Not to mention our churches making Saturday Sunday now too, so we can get church "out of the way", er, increase participation, as if most people don't get it out of the way by just not going, either day!

Sunday is still Sunday, and the Fourth of July is still the Fourth of July. After independence was declared on 2 July, the next day John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail the following, though he thought it would be for the Second of July, the day independence was actually declared, but regardless, it stands as an enduring statement of what our commemoration of independence is all about, and that ain't three-day week-ends:

"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

Roger that. Happy Fourth Of July!

27 June 2014

28 June 2014. Franz Ferdinand und Sophie.

 
"Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! 
28 June 1914, about 1045.
Within minutes of this picture, both would be dead, assassinated.  To be sure, the events of 100 years ago this day did not just up and start World War One all by themselves.  The major causes had been building for 100 years before that.  As war broke out in 1914 what were called the Central Powers (Mittelmaechte, middle powers, between France and Russia) were entities that didn't even exist in 1814:  the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, both of which were founded out of the rise and fall of Napoleon's French Empire (1803-1815) and considerable social upheaval associated with that.

And by war's end, they would all be gone, after a "war to end all wars", as it was called at the time.  It didn't.  The aftermath of what was to be The War To End All Wars 1) set the stage for another even worse world war involving new and worse powers, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and 2) in the disposition by the victors of the Ottoman Empire -- ironically for most of its history a threat to Europe but which had joined the Central Powers on 2 August 1914, having been founded 27 July 1299, defeated the surviving Eastern Roman Empire in 1453 and replaced it as the dominant power between the West and the East -- set the stage for the conflicts we read about daily now, 100 years on, 3) transformed the United States from an alternative to and respite from Europe's and the world's conflicts into a major player in them.  In reality, the war to end all wars is not a relic of history; it continues to this day.

The German Empire was founded in 1871, eventually emerging from Napoleon's satellite confederation of German speaking lands after his dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire was founded in 1867, although Franz II, the last Holy Roman Emperor,on 11 August 1804, shortly before the demise of the HRE, sensing what was to come, became also the first Emperor of Austria, thus continuing an unofficial Hapsburg monarchy.

Napoleon had attempted to model his French Empire after the Roman Empire.  The French Empire in turn had dissolved and displaced a general order that had existed in one form or another for 1000 years, the so-called Holy Roman Empire.  And that in turn saw itself as the re-institution, in 800, of the Roman Empire, which had collapsed in the West in 476.

The Ottoman Empire resulted in modern Turkey, and its lands in southeastern Europe and the Middle East were partitioned into countries intentionally drawn without respect to cultural, religious and natural boundaries, resulting in conflicts to this day in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

The events of 28 June 1914 were the match struck, which kindled a series of declarations of war, based on alliances, that would entirely remove a world order that had existed for millennia, and whose replacement has been the subject of even worse wars and social upheaval since and has yet to emerge if it ever does, even as new entities -- the European Union, the Russian Federation, the Commonwealth of Nations, etc -- emerge.  

We are still in this period 100 years on --  everything controversial in world affairs now has its roots in the aftermath of World War One.  We seem to want to congratulate ourselves on having moved on, from a past most of which ought never have happened that we ought never repeat and can now largely ignore, to a future that will of course be better.  The same illusion they had right after the war that began 100 years ago; the same illusion they had each time the human social order changes.

They?  No, the "they" is us, humanity.  Man's consistent record has been ever more spectacular accomplishments AND ever more spectacular failures.  And always thinking his latest spectacular accomplishments mean no more spectacular failures.  We say lex semper accusat (the law always accuses), but you know what, historia semper accusat (history always accuses) too.  That's why we like to ignore it.  Unless we learn from either the Law or history that Man cannot save himself, individually or collectively, we will have no ears for the Gospel.

RIP Franz Ferdinand und Sophie. 

25 June 2014

The Augsburg Confession, 484 Years On, 25 June 2014.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

So we say every Sunday. Well, a lot of us Lutherans mean to say that, but we say "Christian" instead of "catholic", though the word in the original, and we're supposed to be so big on what's in the original, is katholike, which means whole, complete, entire, universal. So does the cognate word in English, catholic. But, there's this very large and well-known church that uses the word in its name, and we wouldn't want to seem to be saying we believe in IT, now would we? And too, some of us say it on Saturday late afternoon as if we did mean IT, since we follow their new custom since Vatican II of Saturday Sunday services, so hey.

Our essay is in nine short sections, detailing the drift of the post from a few days ago, "When In Rome ... ", on the challenges and dangers of presenting the faith of the Augsburg Confession in our time:

I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars"
II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform"
III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?
IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform
V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent
VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II
VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform
VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!
IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy

I. The Lutheran "Worship Wars".

Much is said these days about Lutheran church bodies abandoning classic Lutheran doctrine, and also doctrine in motion, otherwise known as liturgy, for things that supposedly will bring greater attendance and to which we can add Lutheran content. Why one would seek to infuse a form that evolved as it did to omit the content one seeks to put back in, or think that any numbers gained thereby represent a gain for the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered?  It cannot be explained by anything but giving up mission for marketing.

But even where the adoption and adaptation of American "evangelical" worship, which we might call Willow Creek For Lutherans, is opposed, little if anything is said about how we have let in the back door what we try to keep out the front, in the adoption and adaptation of Roman Vatican II worship, which we might call Vatican II For Lutherans. And the unintended influence of the latter on the former, one way of dropping our worship for a Lutheranised other way opening the door to dropping our worship for yet other Lutheranised ways, goes largely unrecognised. And the damage continues from Vatican II For Lutherans and Willow Creek For Lutherans alike.

On the face of it, one might indeed wonder whether there is not much a Lutheran can appreciate about the changes in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II. For example, using an Old Testament passage along with the Epistle and Gospel, praying the Canon out loud so the Verba are heard by the congregation, using the local language rather than Latin, for restoring intercessions and petitionary prayer of the people, and not in a fixed form but one that can be adapted to what is going on. Are those things so bad? Do they not return to an older and better tradition than what was set in the Tridentine Rite? While there is much that may be questionable about Vatican II liturgical reform, must we then ignore it altogether or not find in it good things we can use too? Let's look and see.

II. The Nature of Roman Catholic "liturgical reform".

It may, at first, seem so from a Lutheran standpoint. I don't, now, have any problem with the "blessings" mentioned. But a Catholic, which I once was, ought to have tons of pixels of reasons why those "blessings" are a few of the things that are neither necessary nor even desirable, and obscure other things that are necessary. But Catholics don't anymore. For example, the "silent canon". Used to be a good thing, as The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass reflected the life of Christ, wherein he taught first, then acted for our salvation. Therefore the first part of the mass is Scripture and preaching, verbal, but in the second the focus is the action, not the words, which are silent, let alone congregational "memorial acclamations", as in the novus ordo, which destroy the whole idea. They taught something, then started teaching something else, but said nothing really changed; I still believed what they taught me before, so I left thinking the whole thing must be screwed up both before and after.

That was then. It isn't now. When I first read the BOC along with Adult Information Class, I would see in my mind the implementation of what is said there in contrast to the implementation that I actually did see before me during and after Vatican II. WOW. Throw in Babylonian Captivity, and I'm on board!

III. So Why Did We Reform the Liturgy First, Not Them?

So here's the deal -- WE didn't get those blessings just listed from Vatican II, THEY did! So what to us then is their catching up? With the exception of the OT reading, which kind of jacks with Jerome's model of Torah/Haftorah from the synagogue lectionary to Gospel/Epistle, but adds on without destroying it, WE ALREADY HAD THEM, four hundred and some years before they started playing catch-up! And they sure as hell didn't produce the ESV.

Our problem is when we DON'T use our version of the pre-V2, and for that matter pre-Trent, historic liturgy, and instead start to worship after their new ones. It's when we DON'T add an OT reading to the historic lectionary going back to Jerome, but instead use their new one which was a conscious intended break with that tradition and the preaching associated with it. It's when we rehash their stuff, or worse rehash our stuff in the manner that they rehash their stuff, either way no different than others of us rehash American "evangelicalism" and Willow Creek or stuff like that.

So let 'em play catch-up. For THEM, not us. We don't need to start playing catch-up to their catch-up!

In short, the things from Vatican II which we cheer, WE ALREADY HAVE and a Catholic should deplore, and if they are now cheering them and doing them, something changed, and it wasn't us.

OK, well then that's a good thing, right? Well, again, from our point of view, yes. So, with all this good stuff happening, maybe we can even look at getting back to-gether, going "home to Rome", huh?

Just a second though. Something doesn't quite add up. If Rome has this divinely instituted guarantee in the bishops in succession from the Apostles in communion with the successor to St Peter, the Pope, where the church will always conserve the true faith of Christ, and we don't, we deny it and live outside it, and we therefore aren't even church in the strict sense of the word, then how is it that we do all this stuff 400 some years before without this guarantee, and how is it if it's such a good idea that is was held up with the guys with the guarantee for 400 some years?

Seems like it oughta be the other way around; it's the guys without the guarantee and all who oughta be catching up, so if there were changes here lately with them, they must have been a different sort of change than the sort of change we did centuries ago.

IV. The Nature of Lutheran Liturgical Reform.

And indeed it was. Which is our whole point here.

What was our intent? Whether we achieved it or not is another matter; what was our intent? Our Book of Concord makes it clear again and again our intent was not to come up with anything new, but quite the opposite, to preserve what was already there.

This is meant across the board; here, since the matters mentioned above are liturgical, let's look at how this works out liturgically. Just as we aim to teach no new doctrine, but the constant doctrine of the church pruned of later accretions, so also we seek no new order of worship, but the same order, corrected of abuses.

From the Augsburg Confession:
1) in the Mass, nearly all the usual ceremonies are preserved, the only thing new being throwing in some German hymns among the sung Latin (ACXXIV)
2)and we stick to the example of the church, taken from Scripture and the Fathers, which is especially clear in that we retain the public ceremonies for the most part similar to those previously in use, only differing in the number of masses (ACXXIV),
3) and even though the observance of holy days, fasting days and the like has been the basis of outrageous distortions of forgiveness of sins by Christ's merit, nonetheless the value of good order in the church, when accompanied by proper teaching, leads us to retain the traditional order of readings in the church and the major holy days (ACXXVI).

What is the intent here, what sort of change and by what means is confessed here? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it closer to that of the early church? Is it to make our worship more authentic by remodelling it taking into account other rites of earlier origin? Is it to make our worship more authentic by coming up with a new set of readings to offer more Scripture especially more moral teaching and less miracle stories? Is it to make our worship more authentic by offering options throughout the same rite, to make our worship more authentic by regarding abuses and distortions along the way as invalidating the way itself and the rite developed along the way? Is it to then, part stepping back in history, part stepping across in other rites, and part creating new things altogether, to step forward with a new order of mass, new lectionary, new calendar, to show we have gone beyond the abuses and distortions of the past and are now ready to address the future?

Nothing of the sort! In fact, the opposite of the sort! It was to accept and preserve the constant liturgy of the church, right along with the faith it expresses, pruned of excesses and accretions. It was not to do something new, or something new made by jumping back centuries to earlier, presumably purer, times.

V. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Trent.

We ought remember too, that when the Augsburg Confession was presented in 1530, the Tridentine Rite, as it is called now, was 40 years in the future, and when the Book of Concord was complete in 1580, it was only 10 years old. The "Tridentine Rite" was precisely Rome's effort to both address the legitimate concerns of the Reformation and at the same time guard against its doctrinal errors from Rome's point of view, establishing one norm to effect both aims for the Western Church as a whole, allowing other rites to be observed locally or by religious orders only if they were no less than two hundred years old, which is to say, before 1370, the Tridentine Rite being promulgated in 1570, and therefore untainted by the Reformation.

The 1570 typical edition would have five revisions: 1604 by Pope Clement VIII, who had also revised Jerome's Vulgate (Latin) Bible and the two needed harmonising; 1634 by Pope Urban VIII; 1884 by Pope Leo XIII; 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, mostly making official the work of the late Pius X; 1962 by Pope John XXIII, mostly making official the work of the late Pius XII.

Revised typical editions don't just happen out of the blue. They codify and formalise specific papally mandated changes made in the years before. For example, when I was an altar boy, the 1920 typical edition was in force, but Pius XII had made extensive revisions to the Holy Week liturgy binding in 1955, which were controversial then. I remember older people grousing about this new stuff that changed what Holy Week was even like. They remain controversial now, in the larger context that some advocates of the Tridentine Rite do not accept the 1962 edition which incorporated them, and/or John XXIII's later revisions to the edition, but none advocate the original 1570 edition as some sort of purity. Rome insists upon the 1962 edition where the Tridentine Rite is allowed.

The point is, when we speak of how we've "always worshipped", nobody, absolutely nobody, takes that to mean that nothing ever changed, any where, any time, and never will -- it has, it does, and it will, change not being the question, but rather what kind of change and change into what.

VI. The Nature of Catholic Liturgical Reform - Vatican II.

The Tridentine Rite was replaced entirely by the novus ordo missae, the New Order of Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and coming out in 1970. It too did not just happen, bam, but was a codification, a finalising and formalising, of things introduced prior to it, this time during and after the Second Vatican Council. The new rite was a NEW rite, with a new calendar, a new series of readings over three years replacing the one that stood and grew for about 1500 years, and unlike anything before it in the same rite, different options for doing one thing such as confession and absolution, not to mention four different eucharistic prayers for the heart of the mass itself.

The old rite was not declared invalid, but replaced, with certain exceptions granted for its use. The motu proprio of 2007, Summorum pontificum, did not change that at all, but rather made simpler the conditions for exceptions. And then went one better -- while the novus ordo remains the lex orandi, the rule of prayer, for the church, now, in addition to the new multiform lex orandi, the 1962 edition of the Tridentine Rite will be considered an other-than-ordinary (the word extraordinary meant literally) expression of that same lex orandi! All the same thing, of course -- implying too, one must recognise the novus ordo as the normal use of the Roman Rite to use the Tridentine Rite as its extraordinary use, which does not in the least address the entire reason why some Catholics from the get-go continued with the Tridentine Rite, namely, that the new order was false to prior orders.

Thus, if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was a great step forward, and continued steps forward consist in being faithful to the new mass rather than endless departures from it in its supposed "spirit", then this is at best an unneeded step and at worst a step backward from that reform, and if it is true that for Catholics the new mass was the step backward, indeed a step away, from the true mass, then this requires an acceptance of the invalid new rite as valid.

So, change everywhere. Indeed. But again, change is not the issue. The issue is, what kind of change and change into what.

The fact is, the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, no less than those of Trent, proceed from a basis completely different than, and completely foreign to, the liturgical reforms of the Lutheran Reformation. Yes, there are points of similarity in the results, certainly. There are large areas of similarity across the board. But the totality, and the underlying agenda, are an entirely different effort than ours, and in fact utterly hostile to the very thing our reform set out to reform and pass on.

VII. The Difference Between Catholic and Catholic Liturgical Reform.

The late Neuhaus, in his writings about his conversion to the post-conciliar RCC, expresses better than anything I have read in some time the utter disgust and rejection of the traditional Catholic Church by the Catholic Church put in its place at Vatican II. All very politely expressed, so Neuhaus doesn't even recognise it in himself as he expresses it! An entirely new church, containing nothing of anything before it, which it clearly despises. The violent caricature -- borrowing from Maritain, yet another who constructed, like Newman, his partly Protestant partly pagan "Catholic Church" to address his own needs -- that mindset offers of anything before Vatican II is as much the actual church before the Vatican II as the "spirit" of Vatican II is Vatican II, and is utterly obscene in its gross falseness (again, unintended and unrecognised) and in its disconnect from the Catholic Church (and again, unintended and unrecognised) that is more radical than anything in the entire range of the "Reformation".

Just as there is a "spirit" of Vatican II and Vatican II itself, there was a "spirit" of Trent and Trent itself too. Then, as now, this confusion of the two is seen in primarily two places, one being popular piety, where things are done thinking they are based in the real thing whereas they are based in the grossest of misunderstood caricatures of it, the other being the actions of priests and bishops who do essentially the same thing but with far greater implications due to their position.

How utterly ironic that, as the post-conciliar RCC attempts to address the confusion of Vatican II with the "spirit" thereof by some sort of "reform of the reform", the real Vatican II itself is based on a confusion of Trent with the "spirit" thereof.

The things which, as a Lutheran now thank God, I am happy to see seem to indicate the RCC is in the early stages of catching up with where the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church has been for some centuries now, and are largely the same things which, as a Catholic, indicate the RCC is in the final stages of becoming a Protestant church but with the pope at the top, as my dad, a 1941 RCC convert, used to put it.

Newman, Bouyer, Maritain, on and on, Protestants all, constructed a "Catholic Church" intellectually that allowed them to remain essentially Protestant but with the external validity supplied by the institutional RCC church, which at Vatican II was crystallised and codified and made official by the institutional RCC church itself. These theologians were collectively called the Nouvelle Theologie, the New Theology, and in the decades leading up to Vatican II were repeatedly warned against by popes up to and including the last pre-conciliar pope, Pius XII.

de Lubac in 1946 was forbidden to publish by the Catholic Church; de Lubac was a peritus (theological expert and adviser) at the Council and was made a cardinal by JPII.
Chenu's book Le Saulchoir was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pius XII; Chenu was a peritus at the Council.
Urs von Balthasar in 1950 was banned from teaching by the Catholic Church; JPII named him a cardinal.
Congar was banned from teaching or publishing by the Catholic Church; after the Council, JPII, greatly influenced by him, made him a cardinal.

Chenu and Congar, along with Rahner, Schillebeeckx and Kueng, were part of the founding of the journal Concilium, begun in 1965 during the Council as a scholarly journal of the thought behind the reform. Urs von Balthasar and de Lubac, along with Bouyer, Walter Kasper and Joseph Ratzinger, were part of the founding of the journal Communio, founded after the Council in 1972 thinking Concilium though on the right direction had gone too far.

The direction was not the issue; it is the same for both, the question being only how far it goes. The more conservative answer is Vatican II Catholicism as officially taught by the hierarchy collectively and the post-conciliar popes, the more liberal answer being the "spirit" of Vatican II, the "excesses" etc. from which the conservatives think a "reform of the reform" will deliver that church.

VIII. What's the Point of All This Catholic Stuff? We're Lutherans!

All of them, along with Rahner, Kueng, Schillebeeckx, Bouyer, Gilson, and Danielou, were the Nouvelle Theologie, warned against not by name but by description by Pius XII in Humani generis (1950). And three years earlier, in Mediator Dei, Pius XII specifically rejected a liturgical archaeology, as he called it, as a model for liturgical change, as if there were no organic development of liturgy by the Holy Spirit, and as if validity were to come from scholars uncovering earlier therefore purer or better sources which become current models.

All of that is dissent, and was recognised as such by the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. That has one kind of consequences within the Roman Catholic Church, which amount to this: what is now normative Catholicism was prior to Vatican II dissent from Catholicism. A more conservative version of that dissent won, and now maintains supremacy over the more liberal version of the same dissent. The direction of Mediator Dei and Humani generis was left in the dust.

As Lutherans we may note indeed that liturgical reform at Trent specifically sought to remove any taint of the Reformation. But we must also -- and this is the point of going through all this "Catholic stuff" -- note that the liturgical reform at Vatican II absolutely did not accept Lutheran ideas expressed in our Confessions, but rather proceeded on a basis of "liturgical archaeology" that is foreign to both our Confessions and the Roman Catholic Church, a basis which rejects the common element of organic growth accepting and treasuring its results.

Sasse wrote in We Confess the Sacraments (Concordia 1985, the particular passage quoted on Pastor McCain's excellent blog Cyberbrethren for 18 June 2010) that if the right relationship of liturgy and dogma can be known in Rome, as seen in Mediator Dei, then how much moreso among us who also make the right understanding of the Gospel a criteria of liturgy.

IOW, what was lacking in Mediator Dei and in the liturgical reforms of Trent is the same thing that was lacking that led to the Lutheran Reformation, namely, a right understanding of the Gospel. At Trent, steps were taken to ensure that no taint of what were, in their minds, our incorrect and novel understanding of the Gospel would influence the liturgy, but the organic growth process itself rather than liturgical archaeology was not in dispute, just Rome's stranglehold on the process as well as on the catholic church itself.

What was lacking in Vatican II and its novus ordo is the common element not in dispute between us and Rome, the participation in that organic process, accepting what has been handed on to us rather than recreating it based on liturgical archaeology of a Romantic ideal of a lost pure Apostolic or Patristic age. In so doing, as the banned theologians of one decade became the conciliar theological experts (periti) and Cardinals of the next, Rome in no way came closer to us with a right understanding of the Gospel as a criteria of liturgy, but in fact turned its back on the right relationship of dogma however understood and liturgy that was not in dispute at the Lutheran Reformation.

Yet we (we being LCMS, not only just Lutherans in general) follow right after them, "them" being now not just Rome but the other liturgical church bodies, such as the Anglican Communion, the ECUSA and ELCA here, and the EKD in the "old country", all of them predictably doctrinally heterodox too, in either or both of adopting and adapting Rome's novus ordo liturgy, including its lectionary and calendar, and applying the principles of liturgical archaeology to our own liturgical past.

And place the results on an equal basis with the historic liturgy, then wonder why others wonder why yet other things, or no liturgy at all, cannot also be placed on that equal footing!

IX. Conclusion. Why Catholic Liturgical Reform Has No Place In Lutheran Liturgy.

What is important for us Lutherans about that is this: both Trent and Vatican II resulted in new Roman missals, but neither effort sought what our reforms seek and therefore neither are the models to which we turn and neither produce a lex orandi consistent with our lex credendi. In the novus ordo, while on the surface it may seem to move closer to our reforms, we see an order of service that resulted from entirely different ideas and objectives than our reforms, ideas and objectives which in fact are contradictory to ours and reject their entire basis. Ours seek to retain the usual ceremonies except where contraindicated by the Gospel, theirs seek to replace the usual ceremonies with new ones based on the concepts of Nouvelle Theologie.

The fruit of their effort has nothing to contribute to ours, and, in seeking to "Lutheranise" this manner of worship we are no less attempting to make Lutheran a kind of worship based on a kind of belief that is not ours, attempting to make a lex orandi from something based on a lex credendi that is not ours, than those who go to Willow Creek et al seek to "Lutheranise" a content and a lex orandi also derived from a belief and a lex credendi that is not ours.

If the latter has become popular and in many eyes not only permissible but desirable, why should that surprise us when we have done the same thing in the former, since either way the result is "contemporary worship" rather than the conservation of the ongoing liturgy of the church?

Concilium, Communio, Nowayio!

Textual Note: This is a revision of my post "On being catholic, on being Catholic" from 18 March 2009. Understanding the nature of "catholic" as distinct from "Catholic" seems more urgent than ever on this anniversary of the presentation of our most fundamental confession.

23 June 2014

The Nativity of St John the Baptist. 24 June 2014.

This feast, which passes largely unnoticed now, is one of the oldest in the Christian church year. The Council of Agde, held 10 September 506 and presided over by Bishop St Caesarius of Arles, places it among the major feasts of the church, and it had, just like the Nativity of Jesus, three distinct liturgies -- a vigil, a dawn and a day one.

This isn't just a regional or even Western thing; in the Eastern Church, where he is more commonly known as St John the Forerunner (maybe that would be good for those thinking his customary Western name makes it seem like he was a Baptist in the denominational sense), his birth is also celebrated on 24 June, and has a vigil and an afterfeast the day after.

So why 24 June? Well, the details come only from St Luke, who says that when Gabriel announced to Mary she would bear the Messiah if she agreed, that her cousin Elisabeth was already six months pregnant. But hey, if Jesus' birthday is celebrated 25 December, shouldn't it be 25 June?

In our calendar yes, but they didn't have our calendar. In the Roman Imperial calendar, days of one month were counted backwards from the first, called the kalends, from which our word calendar comes btw, of the next month. Christmas is eight days before the kalends of January, so St John's birthday was put eight days before the kalends of July, but, due to our present Germanic way of counting days now, that makes it fall on 24 June.

No-body, btw, supposes these are the actual birthdays of either Jesus or John, but only that it puts them correctly relative to each other.

Either way, it puts the Nativity of St John around the time of the Summer Solstice, and some suppose the feast is just a Christian cultural appropriation from pagan culture of the solstice in the process of evangelisation. Not likely, since the feast is centuries old and the Julian calendar that was in use in mediaeval Europe until 1582 puts the solstice a little earlier, in mid-June.

Nonetheless the coincidence with the approximate time of the solstice is fortunate: though they had no idea it was because of the tilt of the Earth's axis toward or away from the Sun, they could see that daylight hours in a day increased and decreased through the year. The Summer Solstice is the so-called longest day of the year;  while all days have 24 hours it has the most sunlight hours, and sunlight hours begin to decrease until the Winter Solstice or so-called shortest day of the year with the fewest sunlight hours.

So, right after the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, sunlight hours begin to decrease, even as John said of Jesus "He must increase and I must decrease" (John 3:30).

In between the two solstices are the two equinoxes, with about equal daylight and dark hours, and these four formed the Quarter Days, the four days marking the turn of the seasons. In the olden times in Mother England, the Quarter Days were when rents were due, worker contracts were made, and magistrates had to complete tours of even the most outlying areas of their jurisdictions to assure that none went unduly long without a hearing and resolution. Justice delayed is justice denied, as we say.

This last was one of the provisions the barons got from King John in the Magna Carta in 1215. The Magna Carta, meaning Great Charter in English, was the first time that subjects -- though these subjects were themselves local ruling land owners, barons, the original "free men" (in German, Freiherren) -- got from a king certain rights and limitations of royal power as a matter of law.

This set in motion a development of rule of law rather than a king or ruler's will, one of whose descendants is the Constitution of the United States.  2015 will be the 800 year anniversary of the Magna Carta.  Maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that the rule of law doesn't always take so well, or take naturally, in places.  Have they been working this out for 800 years?

The latest "Robin Hood" movie takes its context in the beginning of this development. The Magna Carta version of 1297, which includes amendments, is still part of English law.

The Quarter Days are:

25 March. Called Lady Day, also known as the Feast of the Annunciation, and until 1752, New Years Day. In Mother England 6 April is still tax day, which you may hear echoed in our 15 April. Hold on, wasn't that 25 March? Calendar change, remember -- 25 March in the old Julian calendar became 6 April in the now current Gregorian one.

24 June. The Nativity of St John the Baptist, also known as Midsummer Day, with reference to the Summer Solstice.

29 September. Michaelmas, the mass on the Feast of St Michael the Archangel, for which this blog (as with all the Quarter Days, actually) posts.

25 December. Christmas, the mass on the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus.

Saints are usually commemorated in the church calendar on the day of their death, that being the day of their birth into eternity, but Jesus, his mother Mary, and St John the Forerunner are the only three whose births into this life are also commemorated.

So lots to celebrate -- John, and even more importantly his whole significance, Jesus whose forerunner he was, the development of our present form of governance, Summer and all the daylight and warmth! And a really cool movie to see!

And may you have pleasant, uh, Midsummer Night's dreams too!

10 June 2014

When In Rome ... 2014.

do as the Romans do. Yeah, yeah, a common phrase, whyrya posting about that?

Here's why.  Three reasons.  First -- guess what? This often heard and used phrase actually first came from a resolution to a controversy over proper observances in the Christian church. Yeah, really, it comes from the "worship wars" but hardly anyone even knows that.  Second, it's only half of what was originally said, and once known, the other half puts a whole different meaning to both the first half and to the whole.  Third, the whole matter leads nicely into the upcoming post on the commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession later this month, giving important lessons on confessing that confession now.

About "Saint" Ambrose, the Guy Who Said It.

Here's the deal. The guy who first said it was "Saint" Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Ambrose lived from about 337 AD or a little later until 4 April 397. He was born in Augusta Treverorum, Praefectura Praetorio Galliarum. What in the hell is that, and where? These days it's called Trier, in Germany.

But in those days a prefecture (praefectura) was one of four large administrative areas set up in the Roman Empire on the death of Constantine the Great on 22 May in 337, the same year Ambrose was likely born. So a prefecture is the highest unit under the Empire itself, and it is governed by a prefect (praefectus). Galliarum means "of the Gauls", and the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul included basically what is now England, France, the western part of Germany, Spain, and Mauritania in Africa. What's this Praetorio thing? A Praetorian Prefect (Praefectus praetorio) was originally the commander of the Praetorian Guard, an elite military special forces unit that guarded the Emperor, but Constantine disbanded the Guard, and the adjective "praetorian" was applied to the four prefects who as it were guarded the four prefectures of the Empire for the Emperor.

OK, takes care of Praefectura Praetorio Galliarum, it's the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul. And Ambrose's father was the Praetorian Prefect of the Praetorian Prefecture of Gaul. One of the four top officers of the Empire. A major player. Which is also why Ambrose was born in Trier -- that was the capital of the prefecture, and also by that time an Imperial residence in the West and a functional capital of the Western Roman Empire rather than Rome itself.

I gotta digress here a minute. I've been to a hell of a lot of places, but Trier is absolutely the most captivating, enchanting and wonderful place of them all, and maybe one day again I will have dinner outside the Porta Nigra, the "Black Gate", the only surviving of the four gates the Romans built to guard each side of the city, against most likely some of my ancestors before we moved to England. I have never felt like I felt in Trier anywhere else, and that was forty five years ago.

The Governor Of The Imperial Diocese of Milan Becomes Its "Bishop".

Well back to the story. Ambrose's father was a Roman bigwig and Ambrose was sent to Rome for his education. He rose through the governmental and political ranks to become what we would call Governor, but they called vicarius, vicar, meaning representative.  He represented the Praetorian Prefect who in turn represented the Emperor to the diocese of Milan. Hey, aren't diocese run by bishops? No they're not originally and the church had nothing to do with it. A diocese is an administrative unit of the Roman Empire set up by Diocletian and which he named diocese after himself. And Milan was also by then the official capital of the Empire.

The same Diocletian, ruling from Milan, in July 285 had split the unwieldy Empire in two, to try to hold it-together, and set up a system where each half would have its "Augustus" and its "Caesar", a system called the Tetrarchy. Diocletian was the last Emperor of an undivided Roman Empire. Nicomedia, in modern Turkey, he designated the Eastern capitol in 286, and Milan, then called Mediolanum, a functional capital as was Trier, the official Western capital in 293.

Diocletian became the Augustus in the East with his fellow general officer Maximian as the Augustus in the West. The Romans themselves weren't real happy with the Empire no longer seated at Rome btw. And also btw, I've been to Milan and Rome too and beautiful as they are, give me Trier any day. Hell yes. Diocletian then became the only Roman Emperor ever to retire from office, on 1 May 305. Whereupon the Tetrarchy fell apart amid the schemes of Maximian's kid Maxentius and a guy named Constantine, and Diocletian, racked with despair at this and illness, died on 3 December 311, possibly by suicide.

Ambrose was the Governor of the diocese of Milan for a couple years when in 374 the "bishop", Auxentius, head religious figure of the diocese and an Arian Christian, died and a great uproar ensued over whether the next "bishop" would be an Arian or a Trinitarian Christian. When Governor Ambrose intervened to calm things down, everybody said Hey, YOU be the bishop. He fled but the guy hiding him got a letter from the Emperor (Gratian) saying is was OK for Ambrose to be "bishop" so he was turned in.

Little problem here though. Ambrose was not only not clergy, not trained in the faith, he wasn't even baptised. Not a problem when the Empire says OK. Within a week he was baptised, ordained, and made bishop. I'm not making this up! And we bitch about SMP being a fast track! Think that's wild, hell, six years later when the "Catholic Church" was defined by the co-Emperors (Gratian again, Valentinian II and Theodosius), and became the state religion for the whole Roman Empire on 27 February 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica, you got a state church so entrenched that it's still around over 1500 years after the Roman empire collapsed in the West (476) and over 500 years after it collapsed in the East (1453).

Yup, the RC and the EO. Who still maintain the name for their administrative units that they had when their "bishops" were the chief religious figures of the Imperial units the diocese.

So here's Ambrose, from an imperial residence and functional Roman capital in Trier, "bishop" in Milan, the official Western capital of the Roman Empire since Emperor Diocletian made it so in 293, and guess what, he gets the holder of the most prestigious professorship in the world of its time, guy named Augustine from Carthage who got the gig in Milan, as a convert and baptises him seven years on into the "Catholic Church" in 387!

I ain't getting into Augustine's career here, that's in another post in the Past Elder Blogoral Calendar, but he ends up in this new state religion basically morphing the neoPlatonism dominant in philosophy at the time into Christianity, then goes back to North Africa and ends up as, you guessed it, "bishop" in Roman Imperial diocese of Hippo Regius (now Annaba, Algeria).

How the Phrase Came About.

So here it is. Amid all the turmoil of the age -- which again, I ain't getting into here, it's in that same post, "Eastern Church/Empire, Western Church Empire", revised and posted each year on 16 January, founding day of the Roman Empire -- there's a controversy about what are the correct days on which to fast. None, if you ask me. Anyway, fasting was done on different days in different places, so Augustine asks Ambrose for his advice on settling the matter.

Well, Ambrose was known to be, as we put it in SEPs for call candidates now, flexible in his worship preferences. So he writes to Augustine: "When I'm in Rome I fast on Saturdays (the local Roman custom) and when I'm in Milan I don't. Follow the custom where you are."

Anyway his advice eventually crystallised as a proverb in mediaeval Latin as si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. OK OK, I'll translate -- if you are in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there. Which has come into English, though only the first half of it, as "When in Rome, do as the Romans do".

So there, now you can impress the hell out of people at your next cocktail party, fund raiser, reception, winkel, or whatever the case may be. But that was not my point in going through all this stuff. The reason I bother with, and bother you with, this kind of stuff at all, this stuff now and in all of the stuff I write on the blog, is what does it show us about things now.

Guess What? We Ain't In Rome!

So what does the advice of Ambrose to Augustine about the correct days to fast show us about things now?

As we saw, our modern English descendant of that advice leaves out half of it. It's not just when in Rome do as the Romans do, but also, when someplace else do as they do there. Which means, the Roman way does not have to be imposed on anywhere else and how they do it in other places is just as fine too.

What does this mean? Or for our non-Lutheran readers, what does that mean?

What are the right days to fast is not a question on the same level as what is the right way to celebrate the Divine Service. IOW, "Christian Freedom" does not mean "Do What You Want" and "adiaphora" is not Greek for "whatever".

Note this: Ambrose is not telling Augustine to chose what seems right to him, but to choose between existing customs. Nor is he telling him hey, why not put a synthesis to-gether from both customs thus presenting the wider rich heritage to everyone. IOW, he is not telling him to act as our "liturgical movement" scholars, or is it liturgical movement "scholars", do.

And this: there's the part we leave out in English but Ambrose did not leave out -- when you are someplace else, do as they do there, not as they do in Rome. Didn't I just say that? No. A couple three paragraphs above, I said the Roman way does not have to be imposed anywhere else, which was a reference to the validity of Lutheran liturgical reform, that Rome does not have to authorise and control liturgy and impose its way throughout the church.

Which was a major issue in the Reformation. Yet now, having established that, and, having later come to the US to escape a government imposed synthesis of Lutheran worship with other worship, what do we do?  We turn around and impose Roman and other worship on ourselves, that's what. We escape the Prussian Union of Lutheran and other German Protestant worship then here seek to combine Lutheran and other American Protestant worship. And when we are not doing that, we seek to combine Lutheran worship with Rome's latest, the novus ordo of Vatican II.

Si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi.

Do as the Romans do when in Rome. We are not in Rome any more than we are in Willow Creek. Walther knew this, and in his day founded LCMS with like minded pastors to counter the efforts to recast Lutheran worship with what were called "new measures" drawn from churches with big attendance, supposedly taking forms that address people now better, and endowing them with Lutheran content -- hey, just what they do now  -- never mind that those forms are as they are precisely so as to not have the beliefs we have about worship.

Yet over a century later so many of us fall for the same siren call of the new measures of our day, trying to adopt them but with a Lutheran content. And so many others try to counter it with a tradition that is no tradition at all but simply taking another non-Lutheran new measure, the novus ordo of Vatican II, and make it our own, joining the bandwagon of liturgical heterodox churches whose common property such adaptations have become.

And in neither case remaining true to what our Confessions say -- "nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved", "we keep many traditions that are leading to good order (1Cor. 14:40) in the Church, such as the order of Scripture lessons in the Mass and the chief holy days." Not revised, not adapted, not recast as soon as Rome makes a move, not to locate ourselves within developments in the wider Christian community, but to PRESERVE, to KEEP, except only that which, not is not found in the Gospel, but contradicts the Gospel.

In these two equal but opposite departures from the basis of our liturgical reform we find the greatest challenge, which is not external but internal, to the presentation of the faith of the Augsburg Confession now.

This is a prolegomenon, an introduction, and after the post for the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, we shall take this up in more detail in the post for the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession.

Si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. We are not in Rome, we are elsewhere, let us live like where we are.

06 June 2014

Pentecost / Shavuot / Pfingstfest, 8 June 2014.

So why does the "birthday of the church" have the Greek prefix for fifty in it?

Because Pentecost wasn't originally the "birthday of the church", but something else, that's why, which is also why the account of Pentecost speaks of it as something already there.  Just as Passover was transformed into the Eucharist, Pentecost was about to be transformed too.  Here's the deal. 

What was already there is an observance commanded by God in the Law of Moses which is to be held fifty days after the second day of Passover, with each day formally counted.  The name for this feast in the Bible is Shavout, which means "weeks" in Hebrew, so it is called the Festival of Weeks in English, but when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek since that's what most Jews spoke at the time (that's the Septuagint, the version of the OT the NT quotes), it was called Pentecost, meaning fifty days, the length of the count from Passover.

The Original Pentecost In The Law Of Moses.

The counting is called the Counting of the Omer. What's an omer? Omer are the sheaves of a harvested crop. During the days of the physical Temple, the priests would offer newly harvested barley on the second day of Passover, which represents the start of the seven week harvest season. Which is why Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks. In the Law, Shavuot is called Hag ha-Katzir, the Holiday of Harvest's End.

Ah, so we have a harvest festival, taking its place among the various harvest festivals in world culture and religion. Well, yes and no. Yes, it's another harvest festival, another instance of a human cause for celebrating a human milestone, the end of the harvest, particularly in a pre-industrial society. But there's something a little different about this one.

The Talmud (what's a Talmud? -- ancient rabbinical writings; for more, look it up, Wikipedia is linked to the right of the page) says it was on the 6th of Sivan (a month in the Jewish lunar calendar), which is the first night of Shavuot, that God gave the Ten Words, better known among Gentiles as the Ten Commandments. Consequently, a popular observance has been an all night Bible study at home or in the synagogue, breaking for morning service, called shakharit, the ancestor of our, well, morning service. This all nighter is called tikkun.

Traditionally only dairy foods are eaten on Shavuot, and while no-one knows why for sure, the thinking is that on the first Shavuot they had slaughtered all these animals for food but after the Law was given it turned out they were not kosher so they only ate dairy foods.

In the liturgy of the synagogue, the readings for the service for the first day of Shavuot are: Torah portion Exodus 19:1 - 20:23 and Numbers 28:26-31; haftorah Ezechiel 1:1-28 and 3:12. In case you're a little rusty, this is the Exodus account (actually the first of two Exodus accounts, the other being Chapter 34, and there's another in Deuteronomy) of the giving of the Law, specifically the Ten Words, and Ezechiel's account of the chariot of fire -- you know, the flying saucer.

This is the feast that Acts 2:1 (in the Epistle for Pentecost, which even the Vatican II three year lectionary couldn't overturn) refers to when it speaks of Pentecost arriving, and why there were men from all over everywhere in Jerusalem for it. It's to celebrate the giving of the Law, the reception of which is the whole reason why there was a Passover and a deliverance, the most important event in Judaism. And like Passover just had been, it was about to be transformed!

The Original Pentecost Transformed!

For God himself had become Man in Jesus Christ, suffered the condemnation for our sins in his death, and then rose again. Now, if this were all to the story, why didn't he just stick around, proof positive that he had risen? If the whole point were "All you need is Jesus", "I am saved because Jesus died for my sins and rose again", "Jesus first, as long as you believe that the rest isn't that important", then what would make that point better, what would make that point more irrefutable, than if he had stayed right here, so you could see him, talk to him face to face, hear him teach, and say to those who don't believe "Look, there he is right there, doing pretty well at age roughly 2000, go ask him yourself".

But it didn't happen that way, because that is not the whole point and not all to the story. Just as the Passover and exodus from bondage in Egypt had been not for its own sake but in order to gather with God so he could give his people his Law, so the Passover of the full paschal lamb Jesus had been not for its own sake but in order to gather with God so he could give his people his Spirit! Just as God had commanded the counting of the Omer, the fifty days connecting Pesach, aka Pascha, and Shavuoth, Pentecost, so now God himself counts the Omer from the Pascha of the Lamb he provided, his Son, to the Shavouth or Pentecost so that on the very day where his people once celebrated only the giving of the Law, they still celebrate that and added to it is the giving of the Spirit!

And what happened as a result of that? The Apostles were men who knew all you need is Jesus, men who knew for a physical fact that Jesus had died and risen again, men who knew Jesus is first.  They had all that, but on that basis alone were scared and afraid and huddled around each other in the comfort of others who had all that, tending to their prayers and the internal matters of their little band.  "All that" is not all, and not sufficient, neither for the Apostles nor for us.  The rest came on this day of celebrating the giving of the Law -- they gave the Law, and then the Gospel, no longer scared and afraid. Not only that, each one there heard it in his own language, addressed directly to him!

And what did the people do after this amazing event? Everybody just up and believed?  No.  They did the same as the Apostles had done when the women told them the tomb was empty and he had risen. They didn't believe them. Some thought this is just a foolish wishful story, others sought to figure out what this means, others thought they're just crazy, probably drunk, out of their minds. That's what happened first. Pretty much what still happens when people hear the mighty works of God told to them -- when WE hear the mighty works of God told to US. Some form of the same three reactions:  1) it's a really nice story stemming from our deepest wishes; 2) let's talk about this and dialogue as to what it all means; 3) those guys are crazy.

That's what happened first. The amazing event wasn't the amazing event.  It wasn't and isn't about the languages.  After the languages was nothing but unbelief.  The rest didn't happen until something else happened, and that's the amazing event and the big deal about Pentecost.

The Biggest Sign and Wonder Of Pentecost.

Peter then stood with his brothers in the Office of Holy Ministry and laid it right out for them, clean and clear. This is what Joel and David had spoken about, Jesus delivered by the plan of God to us whom we in our sinfulness abandoned the Law and in turn delivered him to the power and law of the world to be killed, Jesus delivered by the power of God from the power of death and our sinfulness which inflicted that on him, Jesus risen again and now placed on the throne of David at the right hand of God, Jesus having been given the promise of the Spirit so that now you see and hear this: Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

That's the Law. And when they heard the Law, given now for the first time in its fulfillment on this day of celebrating the giving of the Law long ago, they were cut to the heart. People by nature want a religion of works, stuff they can do to make it all right, stuff they can do to feel OK with God, with each other, and within themselves. And the world offers all sorts of versions of that. Some of them go by the name Christianity. And the feelings and purpose they impart are utterly false.

God himself has shown us in the Law exactly the stuff he wants us to do, and we showed ourselves absolutely incapable of it by our own reason and strength, even in a scenario where there are but two people and one commandment, even when a people is called and set apart to do the full Mosaic Law and be an example to the nations, to the extent that we handed his prophets and finally the One he sent over to the power of our own ideas and law to be killed, and still reject their message to this day.

So much for a religion of works. We can't do it even when God himself shows us exactly how, no matter how hard we try in purpose driven living or to attain our best life now. What's worse, just like those on this Pentecost, and just like those delivered from Egypt in the first one, we don't get it even when the mighty works of God are directly addressed to us even with wondrous signs, preferring instead to think it over or think they're just nuts!

Pentecost came to-gether not in the signs and wonders, which can still leave us in unbelief, but when Peter and his brothers in the Office of Holy Ministry laid it out clean and clear. It still does. It was then, when Peter had given the Law in its horrible consequences, that they, we, thought not about what it all means, not let's think this over, not maybe there's some good ideas here, not maybe these guys are nuts, but instead were cut to the heart by the fruitlessness of their, our, own reason and strength, and asked Peter and his brothers, Men and brethren, what shall we do? It was then and only then that they could tell them the Good News, the Gospel.

Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

What happened then? Same thing that happens now. They that gladly received his word were baptised, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

The Holy Ghost Church.

Guess what! There's an emerging church all right. Not just lately, not out of some marketing scheme supposedly crafted to the taste of the times, but ever since the outpouring of the Spirit on that Pentecost whose historical happening we celebrate every feast of Pentecost.

We may not be in Jerusalem, the Temple is not physically there to go to in one accord, and Peter and the other Apostles are not personally our preachers. And it makes not the slightest difference. The taste of our or any time has no taste for the Gospel and it is worthless to pander to it thinking that will produce a taste for the Gospel. That will produce only what it always produces -- a religion of works, stuff to do to catch the God buzz in a quest after one's own feeling better, on the surface all about Jesus or God but really all about me, or, a lot of discussion about what it all means, or, a rejection of it as wishful thinking at best and lunacy at worst.

What produces a taste for the Gospel is the Law. That's why the Spirit was given to proclaim the Gospel on the feast celebrating the giving of the Law! And we have the reality of Pentecost before us no less than they. Huh?  The Temple is in ruins and Peter and the Apostles are gone. So how's that, how is Pentecost not just another thing you read in a book that supposedly comes from God, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't.

Because the true Temple Jesus has been raised again on the third day, and has taken his place with the Father, and has sent his Spirit as he promised. And that Spirit speaks the same message to us as it did that day in unbroken continuity and succession, not that Peter and the Apostles are still physically here, not that other men are still here in a succession of corporate hierarchy, not in those who produce signs and wonders or miracles of church growth and attendance in his name, but that the clean and clear laying out of Law and Gospel as was heard that Pentecost continues to be heard in the faithful preaching of those in the Office of Holy Ministry unto the ends of the earth despite sin, the world and the gates of hell itself.

And when this happens, the same thing follows as did then. Those who receive this proclamation of Law and Gospel are baptised, they continue steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching handed on in the church, especially in those books upon which the church has said you can absolutely rely as the inspired word of God without error, the Bible, and in preaching by those called to do so of that Word, they continue steadfastly in fellowship and community and gathering with each other, they continue steadfastly in the breaking of the bread, the mass, the church's liturgy, wherein Jesus was only fully discerned for who and what he is even when he was bodily here for forty days after he rose, and they continue steadfastly in prayer.

Conclusion.

That is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and every bit of it is as available here and now as it was on that day we read about in Acts, in the Epistle or Christian haftorah for Pentecost, every bit of what was pointed to in Ezechiel's chariot of fire we read about in the original Pentecost haftorah. Pentecost comes to-gether, despite all our vain and sinful efforts to make it happen in some other way more to our liking, the same now as then as ever. Accept no substitute! There is no substitute, even if it claims his name or produces signs and wonders and warm feelings in his name, as true and false teachers and even Satan himself alike can do!

Pentecost is about the one thing they cannot produce and only the true Spirit of God can. As the Little Catechism explains:

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian church; the communion of Saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.

Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the Last Day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life.

This is most certainly true.