And they crucified him…
– Mark 15.23a (ESV)
Almighty and everlasting God, You willed that Your Son should bear for us the pains of the cross, that You might remove from us the power of the adversary: Help us to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may obtain remission of sin and redemption from everlasting death; through the sames, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer for Good Friday by Veit Dietrich (friend of Martin Luther), Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary
When you wish to go to the Lord’s Supper listen to the words spoken, and be assured that they contain the whole treasure on which you are to stand and rely, for they are really spoken to you. My body is given, my blood is shed, Christ declares. Why? Just for you to eat and drink? No; but for the remission of sins. This is what strikes you; and everything else that is done and said has no other purpose than that your sins may be forgiven. But if it is to serve for the forgiveness of sins, it must be able also to overcome death. For where sin is gone, there death is gone, and hell besides; where these are gone, all sorrow is gone and all blessedness has come.
– Martin Luther
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Ps 131, ESV)
The most remarkable thing about the Pope is that what he is doing should not be remarkable. He is simply doing what Popes and Christians should do – care for the poor, critique inequity, interrupt injustice, surprise the world with grace, include the excluded and challenge the entitled.
– Shane Claiborne
Shane Claiborne strikes at the root of much of the clamor about Pope Francis (read the rest of his post here). Regardless of whether you agree with all of his theological positions (as a Lutheran, I honestly don’t), there is no looking past the fact that this Pope is almost daily engaging in exactly the sort of things Christ called us, as his followers, to engage in. It is a sad reflection on the state of Christianity that his actions are perceived as radical, remarkable, or anything other than ordinary. Woe to those of us on the right (vs left) side of the theological spectrum who spill much ink about all the things wrong with Pope Francis. We would do well, in Christian humility, to emulate the many things he is doing absolutely right.
It is plain that if Christ were powerless, He could not be expelling demons and despoiling idols, for the spirits would not have obeyed a powerless man. But if they are manifestly expelled by the naming of His name, it must be evident that He is not powerless. This especially true because spirits, seeing even what is unseen by men, could tell if Christ were powerless and refuse to obey Him at all. Now what unbelievers do not believe, the spirits see: namely, that He is God. Therefore, they fly and fall at His feet, saying just what they uttered when He was in body: ‘I know who You are—the Holy One of God’ (Luke 4:34), and, ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me’ (Mark 5:7)
St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 32.4-5
Living solely by faith is a difficult way of life.
– Martin Luther
The Baptist had preached repentance, but it didn’t help. The Church has done the same for two thousand years, and it still doesn’t appear to have helped. It looks like other means are necessary to get people to listen. Shouldn’t we show others that we can do something really impressive? That’s a temptation that has pursued the Church throughout its history. Many times it’s been tempting for the Church to get politically involved or intervene in society in an effort to make an impression, create good will, gain sympathy, and win support.
–Bo Giertz, To Live With Christ
The Church is always tempted by the world to fall into the trap of relevance, felt needs, or some other buzzword to boost attendance and reach out to those around us. Much ink has been spilled and many dollars have changed hands in the name of church growth as pastors and congregations have chased after the next big thing to bring people in the door. Gun-infatuated Evangelicals in the Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention are even raffling off rifles as “a surefire way to get new people through church doors.” I wonder if the sermon title that evening was something to the tune of “Win a ‘piece’ from the Prince of Peace”?
Did we ever stop to think that being an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5.20) doesn’t necessitate that we behave like a perpetually-awkward teenage boy who hangs out with the older guys who tolerate him just as long as he’ll do their bidding?
If it isn’t efforts to boost numbers, Evangelicals also play the whore to the American political Right. We sell ourselves out, cheaply, in the name of conservative values, traditional family values, America’s God-fearing past, or some other righteous-sounding slogan to gain political clout and power in corrupt, worldly system. So much for rendering Caesar’s junk to Caesar.
Did it ever occur to us that being all things to all people (1 Cor 9.22) doesn’t require us to act like a desperate, ignored teenage girl who craves the affection of the jocks on the football team and thinks nothing is too slutty to gain their attention?
All these stunts are a sham, a gimmick, and a joke. They are the antithesis of everything the Church should be about. Seriously.
What did Christ give his Church to attract sinners? Word and Sacrament. Our real need is for forgiveness, so he gave us absolution in response to our confession. To satisfy the hunger of our souls, he gave us his body and blood as nourishment. It may appear that other means and methods are necessary to bring people to Christ, but this is a lie. We are the Bride of Christ. We ought to be seeking him instead of the approval of the world, because honestly, the latter only lasts as long as the girl is willing to put out or the boy is willing to do others’ dirty work.
Lord, have mercy.
God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure. For say not, ‘I have committed fornication and adultery: I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often: will He forgive? Will He grant pardon?’
Hear what the Psalmist says: ‘How great is the multitude of Your goodness, O Lord!’
Your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill. Only give yourself up in faith: tell the Physician your ailment: say also, like David, ‘I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord,’ and the same shall be done in your case, which he says immediately, ‘And you forgave the wickedness of my heart.’
– St Cyril of Jerusalem, Second Catechetical Lecture
When I feel anxious about sin and hell, I remind myself that when I have Christ, I have all that is necessary. Neither death, sin, nor the devil can hurt me. If I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the law; it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell; it cannot hold me. Everything the Christ has is mine. Though him, we obtain all his possessions and eternal life. Even if I am weak in faith, I still have the same treasure and the same Christ that others have. There’s no difference: we are all made perfect through faith in him, not by what we do.
– Martin Luther
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61.1-3, 10-11, HCSB)
What is this good news to the poor and brokenhearted; to the captives and imprisoned? Quit simply this: that God in Christ Jesus has clothed us ‘with the garments of salvation’ and a ‘robe of righteousness.’
This is not our doing, for we continually fall short. This is not our work, for our deeds are routinely sinful. No, instead ‘the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up’ where before our lives and works were barren and self-centered. This is God’s work of grace, freely given us on behalf and as a result of the Beloved.
In Christ our unrighteousness and sin is covered by his righteous perfection. Those sins and scars, no less real, are no more revealed and no more remembered. We are spotless, without blemish–beloved of God our Father.
How can we grasp so great a gift? Solely by faith.
But these truths are intangible and hidden, whereas the effects of my sin are tangible and ever before me! Take comfort. In the sacrament of the altar, God has–again in his mercy–given us something tangible upon which our weak faith can cling.
Hear the words of absolution.
See, touch, smell, and taste the bread and the wine.
Let all of your senses experience the promise of forgiveness in the body and blood of Christ.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.