The Widow’s Offering

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D  (Text, Image, Perspective)

 The Widow’s Offering

How has God invested in each of us?

 Mark 12:41-44   The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Widow's Mite

The Widow’s Mite (Le denier de la veuve), by James Tissot, 1886-1894

Martin Luther did not preach on this parable but the perspective of Rev. David Lose, past president of the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia offers a contemporary perspective on stewardship and using all of the gifts God gives to each of us.

“Stewardship is not, ultimately, about what we give to the church. Rather, stewardship reflects a conviction that everything we have has been entrusted to us by God. Therefore, stewardship is concerned with helping us use all that we have wisely – that is, as God would have us use it.

Read this way, Jesus words about the widow push us to expect more of ourselves and our congregations and take seriously that everything we have – gifts, abilities, challenges, wealth, assets, time, opportunities – all of this comes from God with an expectation to use it in accord with the ethics and patterns of the “anti-kingdom” Jesus has been proclaiming.”  http://www.davidlose.net/2012/10/mark-12-41-44-2/

Think about what our world would be like if the Words of Jesus and the Bible were never written, lost, destroyed, or never translated into the languages we understand.  The Bible is the source of truth in a time when Truth is challenged and questioned.  The Bible reveals to us God’s love and grace, His promises, and His daily involvement in our lives.

The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German and the printing of the Bible is perhaps the most important event in World History regarding the importance of God’s Words in art, literature, music, and the impact on individual lives.

How can we best prepare to celebrate this historic event in 1522?

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Step Ten – Trusting Jesus!!!

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

TRUSTING – Step 10

Are you a Believer in Jesus Christ, a Student of Jesus Christ, or a Disciple of Jesus Christ?

Why is it important to be a disciple? How does a person become a 21st century disciple?

Matthew 28:19–20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

These two verses are some of the most famous ones in the Bible and are also referred to as The Great Commission. These are the closing words in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus sends his 11 apostles to spread the gospel after He has ascended to heaven. Jesus specifically tells us what he means to become a disciple: baptizing people and teaching them to obey his commands. The first steps are baptizing, teaching, and obedience!

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Martin Luther tells us that disciples must believe with our heart, look with our eyes, and listen with our ears before serving others.

“In holy and divine matters one must first hear rather than see, first believe rather than understand, first be grasped rather than grasp, first be captured rather than capture, first learn rather than teach, first be a disciple rather than a teacher and master of his own. We have an ear so that we may submit to others, and eyes that we may take care of others. Therefore, whoever in the church wants to become an eye and a leader and master of others, let him become an ear and a disciple first.” –Martin Luther, Lectures on the Psalms II, in Luther’s Works, Volume 11, 245-46.

The perspective below includes excerpts from the Rev. Dr. Robert Kolb, a Reformation scholar:

The first element of Luther’s understanding of discipleship focused on how God communicates with us and the trust that defines human life by defining Him as the source of all good and as a refuge in every time of need—the ultimate source of our core sense of identity, security, and meaning. On the basis of this redefinition of what a Christian is—a hearer of God’s Word, one who trusts in Him through Christ, and who lives a life as a joyful child of God in Christ.

The second element of Luther’s understanding of discipleship stems from his placement of repentance—being turned from false gods to Jesus Christ—at the heart of daily Christian living. Luther’s conception of how human life proceeds within God’s greater history of dealing with his people shaped the reformer’s understanding of daily life. Indeed, “the whole life of the Christian is a life of repentance,” of daily dying through the surrender of sinfulness to the buried Christ and the daily resurrection to a new life defined at its core by trust in the one in whose footsteps faith dares to follow.

A third element in Luther’s understanding of faithful hearing and following in Christ’s footsteps emerged from his supplanting of the medieval exaltation of “sacred” activities and the entire religious realm over the “profane,” the everyday. He did not ignore those activities that reflected faith in Jesus, such as prayer and praise, but he emphasized that everything done in faith is God-pleasing (Romans 14:23). Thus, to the instruction he gave in carrying out God’s commands and practicing human virtues, he added the framework of service in the responsibilities, the callings, of everyday living in home, economic activities, and the wider society.

A fourth observation is the development of the relationship of love and trust in God, as He has revealed Himself as Jesus Christ, through daily repentance and the cultivation of new obedience through the motivation of the gospel through the use of God’s Word.

For Christ died and rose to give life and deliverance also from all that others do to us to make us victims of their sins. In a world in which speech is recognized as performative, the additional insight of how God’s speech re-creates and renews is one of our easier tasks. Luther’s affirmation of the God-pleasing goodness of life in this world, in all its realms and situations, is also tailor-made for adaptation to twenty-first century hearers. Like Luther, we follow in Christ’s footsteps, pushed along by the Holy Spirit, into the world that belongs to our Father, and we are moving to reclaim it and its inhabitants for the family.”

https://concordiatheology.org/2012/03/discipleship-in-the-lutheran-tradition/
http://www.lutheranquarterly.com/uploads/7/4/0/1/7401289/26-2-mattes.pdf
Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step Eight – Teaching the Truth

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

TEACHING – Step 8

 Which is more important: Instructing or Teaching?

 Teaching by Example

Titus 2:3 “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

Making disciples involves more than a 10-step program in a blog post. In this verse Paul is telling Titus to teach the older women in the church because their example will be observed by others. Children learn by observing the behavior of siblings and parents. This is why examples and modeling are important.

Teaching God's Word

There is a difference between giving instructions and teaching. You do not need a degree in education to give instructions, make presentations or give directions. Teaching involves motivating, asking essential questions, nurturing passion for a subject, helping students to understand abstract concepts, providing applications, developing skills, creating decision-making activities, evaluating information, analyzing perspectives, discerning what is learned.

Teaching discipleship requires enthusiasm, personal experiences, and expressions of love. We teach discipleship by greeting others, inviting, praying, sharing personal stories, helping, serving, and in countless other ways. After all, God’s Word is designed for ALL creatures – and is not limited by culture, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, educational level, or anything else!

Martin Luther preached the following on Christmas Eve in 1522: “The first consideration in this lesson is, Paul teaches what should be the one theme of Titus and of every other preacher, namely, Christ. The people are to be taught who Christ is, why He came and what blessings His coming brought us. “The grace of God hath appeared,” the apostle says, meaning God’s grace is clearly manifest. How was it manifested? By the preaching of the apostles it was proclaimed worldwide. Previous to Christ’s resurrection, the grace of God was unrevealed. Christ dwelt only among the Jews and was not yet glorified. But after His ascension He gave to men the Holy Spirit. Concerning the Spirit, He testified (John 16:14) that the Spirit of truth, whom He should send, would glorify Him.

After His ascension He caused them to be proclaimed in public preaching throughout the world–to all men. Nor did He permit the revelation to be made as a mere proclamation of a fact, as a rumor or a report; it was appointed to bring forth fruit in us. It is a revelation and proclamation that teaches us to deny–to reject–ungodly things, all earthly lusts, all worldly desires, and thenceforward lead a sober, righteous and godly life….According to the text, this grace has appeared, is proclaimed, to all men. Christ commanded in Mark 16:15 that the Gospel be preached to all creatures throughout the whole world.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Seven – Engaging Others

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

ENGAGING – Step 7

 How do you define or describe an active disciple?

 How many people follow your news feed? 

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

 When Philip encountered Jesus and discovered who He was, he immediately wanted to share it with his friend, Nathanael. Our desire to make disciples should stem from obedience, but also love for others—if we believe Jesus is who He says He is, we cannot be complacent.

Jesus-Andrew-Philip-jesus

According to a survey by The Institute for American Church Growth, family and friends are the main link for bringing others to faith in Christ with about 60% of those asked, “What person was it that led you to come to faith in Christ?”, reporting that it was a family member or friend.

Jesus says to each one of us. “Come!” This is how we are called to faith. We share the happiest events in our lives – births, graduations, promotions, awards, weddings, vacations with family and friends – and faith in Jesus Christ should be the most important celebration in our life because it changes everything!

The essential answer to all our questions about life is in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When we share this answer with others we are proclaiming, witnessing, and demonstrating engagement as an active disciple. We are modeling Philip by sharing the joy and excitement that comes with the peace and understanding about the perspective of life that is known through the gift of faith in Jesus. When we know who Jesus is and why He came into our civilization, the way we talk and live is changed.

witnessBeing an active disciple is sharing our lives with a friend and ice cream and coffee

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step Six – Sharing Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

SHARING – Step 6 

Why is it necessary for someone to “hear” God’s Word? 

Technology supports disciples!

Romans 10:14–15. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Paul highlights the importance of making disciples by pointing out that we believe in Jesus because someone shared the gospel with us. Making disciples stems from our own faith—which we have because someone shared the gospel with us.

Hearing God's Word

However, in keeping with his reading of Paul, Luther and other first-generation reformers wondered how anyone can hear the gospel without someone to proclaim it (Romans 10:14). Paul’s answer is that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

Luther highlights the significance of the preacher’s responsibility and asserts that the priesthood of all believers enables every Christian to proclaim God’s Word and the promise of salvation. The priesthood of all believers means that all Christians have access to Scripture and to God through Jesus Christ. It does not mean that just anyone should assume the preaching office. The preacher should be someone who has both natural abilities and a divine calling.

For Luther, there is a joining of Word and sacrament along with the benefits of Christ through the Spirit. Christ, through the Spirit, enters one’s heart through a voice and each person who hears the sermon and accepts it takes the whole Christ into his or her heart.

This presence of God through preaching is “as great a miracle as here in the sacrament.” Therefore, the Word preached is sacramental in nature, and serves as the basis for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What the Holy Spirit achieves through the preaching of the Word is nothing less than the work of salvation. Our salvation begins not with any work of our own but by hearing the Word of life.

The 21st century offers a variety of technologies for hearing the Word of God through media, podcasts, email, blogs, newsletters, and publications. The importance of preaching and speaking God’s Word to family, friends, colleagues, students, strangers is also shared through greeting cards, prayer partners, art and music. Active disciples are enabled by the Holy Spirit to nurture what is heard and experienced into a faith that guarantees salvation.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Some of the perspective of this post are taken from an article by Keith Stanglin, published by Pepperdine Digital Commons, 2004. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1397&context=leaven

Step Five – Witnessing for Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 WITNESSING – Step 5

 Why do we need witnesses?

 Disciples provide us with information that is real truth!

Acts 1:8 “‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”

witness

A disciple is a witness who shares what he or she has learned and experienced about Jesus. A witness helps to determine the truth about an event. Disciples are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that God’s Word as written in the Holy Bible is the truth. This fundamental fact defies reason which is why humans cannot understand or accept the resurrection, even with historical documentation. In fact, the people in Paul’s congregation in Corinth denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It can only be understood and accepted through faith. This is why Luther wrote

“But here you notice how Paul adduces Scripture as his strongest proof, for there is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally by him or others; for here we find it stated clearly; “Scripture! Scripture!”‘

The Lutheran Reformation is all about, the truth of God’s Word. Peter confessed his faith when Jesus asked him what he believed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Paul wrote, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Four – Following Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

FOLLOWING – Step 4

 Why did these fishermen respond to Jesus immediately and without hesitation?

 Are you Walking, Jogging, or Running?

Matthew 4:19-20  “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

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The church is people and God uses their gifts to accomplish things in our world, help others in challenging times, and share love in unexpected ways. This is why it is important for everyone who is a disciple and follower of Jesus to connect with people by speaking God’s Words of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. We speak, we model, we listen, and we share. When the Spirit brings one to faith, the response is similar to what happened in the Bible verse above – people change what they are doing without hesitation!

Martin Luther considered ordinary people with faith to be the priesthood of believers. This was a bold and provocative concept to teach because ordained priests required years of training. Martin Luther understood the meaning of disciples as ordinary people who are reading God’s Word, praying to God, and living their lives in obedience to Jesus Christ.

This is why disciples start by walking and talking, increase their pace by jogging and sharing, and running and winning the race for life for Jesus. Life is a marathon for love!

Comment: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Two – Loving Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 LOVING – Step 2

 How is LOVE the mission statement of every Christian?

 What is your role in making a difference in the life of another person?

Ephesians 4:16   From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

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When you become a follower of Jesus, you become part of Christ’s body. The body of Christ depends on each member doing the work. We were each made for a particular purpose and as disciples we all play a role in connecting people with Jesus Christ.

We change the way people think and behave through love. Disciples change the way people think and behave by loving as Christ loved – sacrificing His life for us. Because we believe, are baptized, and have received God’s gift of grace in our life, we understand our family history as the brother or sister of Jesus Christ.

When we are part of the body of Christ, joined together by every ligament, blood vessel, and bone, we are able to walk in love. Our thinking is no longer limited to political correctness, accumulating consumer treasures, or understanding success by our title, educational level, or assets. Instead, we understand that all blessings come from God through Jesus Christ and that we are managers of the generous blessings given to us.

Martin Luther explains to us that every believer has a calling and vocation and is to live ‘in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called’. In Luther’s view the believer is a priest to the body – the church. This is a powerful explanation and statement about how a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ thinks and engages with others. We respond with passion and enthusiasm, commitment and trust. We walk in love when our vision is perfect!

Like faith, love is a gift given to us from God.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step One – Believing in Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 BELIEVING – Step 1

 How does a 21st century disciple look?

 Getting ready for an extreme makeover!

Mark 16:15 “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”

making-disciples-making-a-difference-logo2

The following perspective is from a sermon Martin Luther preached on Ascension Day in 1523:

“Moreover, the sign of baptism is given us also to show that God Himself will help us, and that we should be certain of His grace, and that everyone be able to say: Hereunto did God give me a sign, that I should be assured of my salvation, which He has promised me in the Gospel. For He has given us the Word, that is, the written document; and beside the Word, baptism, that is the seal. So faith, which apprehends the Word, may be strengthened by the sign and seal.

But you see no work of man in this transaction; for baptism is not my work but God’s. He that baptized me stands in God’s stead and does not the work of a man, but rather it is God’s hand and work. God is the real worker. Therefore, I may and should say: God, my Lord, baptized me Himself, by the hand of a man.

Through faith I obtain so much that nothing is impossible to me. If it were necessary and conducive to the spreading of the Gospel, we could do easily the signs; but since it is not necessary, we do not do them. For Christ does not teach that Christians practice the spectacular, but He says they have the power and can do these things. And we have many such promises throughout the Scriptures; for example, in James 14:12, where Christ says: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”

What does it mean, then, to believe the resurrection of Christ, this thing which is so important, and concerning which the disciples were called unbelieving and faithless, and without which nothing else that they believed would help them?

To believe the resurrection of Christ, is nothing else than to believe that we have a Mediator before God. Who is Christ, who makes us holy and acceptable to God the Father. For man’s possessions, by birth and nature, are but sin and corruption, by which He brings down upon Himself the wrath of God. There is always enmity between God and the natural man and they cannot be friends and in harmony with one another.

For this cause, Christ became man and took upon Himself our sins and also the wrath of the Father, and drowned them both in Himself, thus reconciling us to God the Father. Without this faith, we are children of wrath, able to do no good work that is pleasing to God, nor can our prayers be acceptable before Him.”

This is how we should see the face of a disciple: A disciple is baptized, forgiven, loving, capable of doing good, faithful and obedient to God’s Word, holy, and feeling helpless and in need of God’s help. A disciple is loving, nurturing, studying, listening, praying, and sharing words of hope. Discipleship evolves from a proximity of presence within relationships. We have faith – it is God’s gift to us and impossible to understand because of the limits of human reasoning and cognitive learning.

 

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org