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 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

Restoring Life to Jairus’ Daughter

Healing the Sick Woman and Restoring Life to Jairus’ Daughter

 Mark 5:21-43   21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him.

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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 The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter by Gabriel Cornelius Ritter von Max (1878)

Miracles presented a problem for artists because of the difficulty in capturing the main point of the event and the atmosphere surrounding the event. In this painting we do not see the desperation of the family and friends whose young daughter has died. Jesus is not the focal point of the painting and is lost in the darkness. Our attention is on the young girl dressed in white but still sleeping and lifeless. Miracles were a problem for people living in the Enlightenment because they denied the natural order of things. Thomas Jefferson edited the Bible and removed the stories of miracles from it. The message of the Bible in the 18th and 19th centuries was on morality rather than faith.

Is it important to see the figure of Christ or the miracle of the young girl coming to life? How would Jesus feel about his place in this painting? As you read the Bible verses and analyze the painting, what is the most important part of the story?

Luther: “These are the words of such a teacher. And He is worthy of being believed by the faithful. He must say: ‘To me, death is not death, but a sleep. In My sight, no one dies; but all are only sleeping.’ We must answer: ‘Amen, my Lord. I believe. Help me believe, my Christ. You do not lie.’ It is Your gift that I do not lie to myself, but believe firmly that I cannot die eternally; the fact that I die means that I shall sleep for a time. Only give me this faith. You are the one who says to these crowds and flute players: ‘Go away,’ so that they will go away and stop troubling and ridiculing this faith of mine. Unless You tell them to go away, I shall be unable to stand against them. Meanwhile, I shall believe that when I die I shall not die, but fall asleep; that when I am dead I am still living, because I live to You, whom I believe. And You are the one who makes alive, You who say concerning me: ‘He is not dead; rather, to me he is living and is sleeping for a time until I awaken him so that he may be alive to himself as well.’”

According to Robert Kolb in Luther and the Stories of God, Christ sees the world differently than we do. David had seen himself as a poor shepherd, and so had the world, but Christ viewed him as a king.  We see ourselves as sinners but Christ sees us as saints. Jesus speaks two words ‘Talitha koum’ and a dead girl gets up! (p. 80)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Healing the Centurion’s Servant

How was it possible for the faith of the centurion to heal his servant? Do you agree or disagree with Martin Luther that alien faith needs to be rejected?

Luke 7:1-10: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

JesusHealingCenturionServant

Healing the Centurion’s Servant by Paolo Veronese (1580)

Paolo Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter from Venice known for his historic and religious paintings. His challenge is to tell the story of the healing of the servant while focusing on the faith of the centurion. Two of the centurion’s helmeted soldiers are with their commander as Jesus compassionately gestures to the kneeling soldier. The large painting is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Luther: Luther preached on the miracles of the healing of the lepers and the centurion’s servant on the Third Sunday after Epiphany in 1529. It is a remarkable message about faith without merit or works. The lepers call upon Jesus for mercy and healing and the faith of the centurion heals his servant. Yet, the gospels are clear that we are called to faith by the Holy Spirit and that the faith of one person does not save someone else. This will raise questions about the faith of infant and young children and prayers of a faithful parent for an unbelieving son or daughter. The question is does the faith of a parent save their child? “Now the question is, what becomes of the young children, seeing that they have not yet reason and are not able to believe for themselves, because it is written in Romans 10:17: “Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Little children neither hear nor understand the Word of God, and therefore they can have no faith of their own.”

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s sermon in January 1529: “Herein is the great faith of this heathen that he knows salvation does not depend upon the bodily presence of Christ, for this does not avail, but upon the Word and faith. But the apostles did not yet know this, neither perhaps did His mother, but they clung to His bodily presence and were not willing to let it go, John 16:6. They did not cling to His Word alone. But this heathen is so fully satisfied with His Word, that he does not even desire His presence nor does he deem himself worthy of it. Moreover, he proves his strong faith by a comparison and says: I am a man and can do what I wish with mine own by a word; should not you be able to do what you wish by a word, because I am sure, and you also prove that health and sickness, death and life are subject to you as my servants are to me? Therefore also his servant was healed in that hour by the power of his faith.

Now since the occasion is offered and this Gospel requires it, we must say a little about alien faith and its power for many are interested in this subject, especially on account of the little children, who are baptized and are saved not by their own, but by the faith of others; just as this servant was healed not by his own faith, but by the faith of his master. We have never yet treated of this matter; therefore we must treat of it now in order to anticipate, as much as in us lies future danger and error.

First we must let the foundation stand firm and sure, that nobody will be saved by the faith or righteousness of another, but only by his own; and on the other hand nobody will be condemned for the unbelief or sins of another, but for his own unbelief; as the Gospel says clearly and distinctly in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” “The righteous shall live by faith.” And John 3:16-18: “Whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already.” These are clear, public words, that everyone must believe for himself, and nobody can help himself by the faith of others., without his own faith. From these passages we dare not depart and we must not deny them, let them strike where they may, and we ought rather let the world perish than change this divine truth. And if any plausible argument is made against it, that you are not able to refute, you must confess that you do not understand the matter and commit it to God, rather than admit anything contrary to these clear statements. Whatever may become of the heathen, Jews, Turks, little children and everything that exists, these words must be right and true.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Ascension of Jesus Christ to Heaven!

Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven

 How do you understand the perspective of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven?

 Acts 1: 6-11     So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

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The Ascension by Dosso Dossi, 1520

The Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven is documented as 40 days after His resurrection on Easter. It is one of the most important dates in the Church and it is a statement of faith in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. It is accepted by Roman Catholics, the Eastern and Russian Orthodox Churches, and Protestants.

He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

It is through faith that we understand heaven as the community of all believers or what has been called the invisible church. There are many things we cannot see or understand in this life and perhaps an analogy is that microscopes help us to see molecules, telescopes the depth of space, and magnetic reasoning images the secrets of our body, we are able to see heaven through faith and the reading of God’s Words.

The people of this world will challenge our faith and instincts which is why our understanding, explanation, and actions are powerful illustrations of God’s kingdom and heaven.

Saint Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is greater than all understanding and reason. The Scriptures document the truth – authentic news and not fake news.

 In 1534 Martin Luther preached on Ascension Day. Luther speaks about the history and the fruit of the ascension. This history states what happened, how Christ was taken up and hidden by a cloud. If this is preached only as history, Luther says, it does not benefit us. Yet it is preached for our sake!

As he preaches the fruit and use of the ascension for us, Luther proclaims that Christ has made captive all those things that held us captive. Sin, death, devil, etc. no longer hold us captive. Christ has bound them in captivity on high. Since Christ has captured our captors, we are now free from the things that would hold us captive before God: sin, death, hell, and the devil. Luther is drawing here on Ephesians 4:8.

A key fruit of this for us is that we are free from sin. Luther says that we can now taunt sin. If sin threatens to terrify us, we can say to sin: “You are my servant, I am your lord. This is one component of being free from sin, the freedom from fear before God. Another component is the freedom to turn away from sin. Luther preaches both components:

“If you believe in Christ, then the text says that you believe that He sits above, and that He has taken captive my captivity, that is, my sin. In what way? It should not terrify me before God…. I believe in Him who is above, who has captured sin.

Free in Christ, we can stand against temptations because Christ has led sin into captivity by His ascension.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Hymn Parade – I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

Hymn Parade – I Know that My Redeemer Lives by Samuel Medley (1865)

How does Jesus Christ change the way we understand life and people?

Job 19:25    I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgY-da_w36Y

1 I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my everliving Head.

2 He lives triumphant from the grave, He lives eternally to save, He lives all-glorious in the sky, He lives exalted there on high.

3 He lives to bless me with His love, He lives to plead for me above, He lives my hungry soul to feed, He lives to help in time of need.

4 He lives to grant me rich supply, He lives to guide me with His eye, He lives to comfort me when faint, He live to hear my soul’s complaint.

5 He lives to silence all my fears, He lives to wipe away my tears, He lives to calm my troubled heart, He lives all blessings to impart.

6 He lives, my kind, wise, heav’nly friend, He lives and loves me to the end; He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing; He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

7 He lives and grants me daily breath; He lives and I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there.

8 He lives, all glory to His name! He lives, my Jesus, still the same. Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Women-at-Tomb

Samuel Medley was introduced to the stories of the Bible by his grandfather but gave them little attention. It was during the Seven Years War (1756-1763, also called the French and Indian War in the Americas) when he was injured in a naval battle that he feared for his life. He prayed without stopping throughout the night that his leg would not need to be amputated and his life spared from death by infection. In the morning, his wound showed a miraculous sign of healing. He was retired from the military and attended a worship service at the Baptist Church on Eagle street and following a sermon he wrote the words to I Know that My Redeemer Lives! He opened a school and began a ministry to seamen.

Emma Smith composed the melody in 1835 and titled it “Duke Street,” which was his address in London.

Martin Luther, wrote: Aber ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt, und als der letzte wird er über dem Staub sich erheben. Und ist meine Haut noch so zerschlagen und mein Fleisch dahingeschwunden, so werde ich doch Gott sehen.

 Ich selbst werde ihn sehen, meine Augen werden ihn schauen und kein Fremder. Danach sehnt sich mein Herz in meiner Brust.

Translation: But I know that my Redeemer lives, and as the last He will rise above the dust. And if my skin is still so broken and my flesh is gone, then I will see God.

I’ll see Him myself, my eyes will look at him and not a stranger. After that, my heart is yearning in my chest.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Hymn Parade – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Hymn Parade: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

 To what extent is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the single most important event in world history?

Galatians 6:14     May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQlJm-5_Ll4

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748) wrote hymns that reflected the theme of the sermon and in a poetic style that was ideal for congregational singing. Before Isaac Watts, hymns often supplemented the Psalms or based on the strict interpretation of Scripture. Isaac Watts is credited with writing 750 hymns! The hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is inspired by the most important event in human and personal history!

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Christ on the Cross was painted in 1627 by Peter Paul Rubens

In this painting, Jesus Christ is shown crucified on a cross with three women beneath him weeping with sympathy. Jesus is based in the center of the painting to clearly state the importance of His sacrifice and that the subject of this painting is religious. The use of darker colors makes the sacrifice of Jesus to appear as sympathetic and personal for the viewer. Imagine the impact of the perspective of this painting around the same time as the Pilgrims and Puritans were coming to Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colony.

Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “God forbid,” says the Apostle, “that I should glory in anything as dangerous as the false apostles glory in because what they glory in is a poison that destroys many souls, and I wish it were buried in hell. Let them glory in the flesh if they wish and let them perish in their glory. As for me I glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He expresses the same sentiment in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where he (Paul) says: “We glory in tribulations”; and in the twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: “Most gladly, therefore, will l rather glory in my infirmities.” According to these expressions the glory of a Christian consists in tribulations, reproaches, and infirmities.

But the Cross of Christ is not to be understood here as the two pieces of wood to which He was nailed, because it is all the afflictions of the believers whose sufferings are Christ’s sufferings. Elsewhere Paul writes: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

It is good for us to know this lest we sink into despair when our opponents persecute us. Let us bear the cross for Christ’s sake. It will ease our sufferings and make them light as Christ says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. “The world is crucified unto me,” means that I condemn the world. “I am crucified unto the world,” means that the world in turn condemns me. I detest the doctrine, the self-righteousness, and the works of the world. The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic. Thus the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.

In this verse Paul expresses his hatred of the world. The hatred was mutual. As Paul, so we are to despise the world and the devil. With Christ on our side we can defy him and say: “Satan, the more you hurt me, the more I oppose you.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

The Creation of the World

The Creation of the World

How did God create our world: life, planet, universe, and beyond?

Genesis 2: 4-8: This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

Genesis 2:19-25:  19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Isaiah 40:25,26: 25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Creation-Michelangelo

The Creation by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

God is depicted as an elderly, yet muscular, man with grey hair and a long beard. This is dramatically different from previous images of God wearing royal garments. Instead of showing God as an all-powerful ruler, Michelangelo shows God in a light tunic in a personal and intimate person.

Adam is depicted as a lounging figure who rather lackadaisically responds to God’s imminent touch.  This touch will not only give life to Adam, but will give life to all mankind.  It is, therefore, the birth of the human race.

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The Creation of Eve by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel

In the panel on the Creation of Eve, God is actively interacting with Eve and depicted as a man of wisdom while Adam continues in a deep sleep and unaware of the miracle taking place or the temptation to sin (a death sentence) that he will experience.  God’s wisdom includes the birth of His Son through another miracle in Mary – a Son who will give us the miracle of grace and the promise of salvation.

The painting is in the center of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is interesting to see how God is larger than the painting as His head does not appear to fit within the frame. For Michelangelo, there is no doubt that God created the earth and the universe.

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http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2014/12/creationism_poll_how_many_americans_believe_the_bible_is_literal_inerrant.html

Luther: In Luther’s lectures on the biblical creation account in Genesis 1:1- 2:4, it was not so much the concept of “creation out of nothing,” but the idea of ultimate creation, preservation, and governance by God’s spoken word that formed the main emphasis. Luther gives us his picture of God’s personal nature and caring character in his lectures.

Luther came to understand a personal God through the spoken word of God in the words, “God said.” This is why Luther understood the spoken Word of God to us in the Bible and through sermons and songs shows the creative activity of how God’s Word works in our lives. hat the various creation acts are preceded by the phrase “God said” was a circumstance that Luther regarded as a reference to the creative activity of the Word.

According to Luther, the action verbs—said, made, and saw—were intentionally chosen to assist the reader in understanding more clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. Luther distinguished between an unspoken and a spoken word in God. The unspoken Word was one with God and the spoken Word created all things. God created all things through the uncreated Word by speaking.

Luther sensed that the statement “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:27) was intended to explain the divine mystery that “from eternity there is one God and that there are three separate Persons in one Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”9   In this perspective, Luther viewed everything in the account as a revelation of God’s love and grace. The creation of the heavenly bodies, the physical conditions of the Earth, and the plant life reveal God’s character as He prepared “a home and an inn” for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and furnished it with every joyful thing for them to enjoy.

In this way God had already taken care of human needs even before He created humans, suggesting that divine providence is far greater than our “anxiety.” The heavenly bodies—Sun, Moon, and stars—were intended for the counting of time in days, months, seasons, and years. Luther emphasized that God repeatedly expressed His satisfaction and delight with the results of His creation. It was perfect!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – Away in a Manger

Hymn Parade – Away in a Manger (1882)

How do you see the face of Jesus – as a baby, man, friend, Savior?

 Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head; the stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes; I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

 Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray; bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.”

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVSoAM7YrxE

Although many have credited Martin Luther with “Away in a Manager” as his “Cradle Song” it is unlikely that he actually wrote this song since there is no known copy written in German. However, the carol came to America through Lutheran immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. It was first published in March 1882 in The Christian Cynosure under the heading of “Luther’s Cradle Song” and identified as the song Martin Luther sang to his children. The musical setting is also debated between the most common one composed by William J. Kirkpatrick in 1895 and the one by James Ramsey Murray in 1887.

Christmas became America’s third national holiday (after Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day) in 1870. After the Civil War, Americans looked for a holiday that would unite everyone and the symbols of decorated Christmas trees, wrapped gifts, Santa Claus, cards, carols, nativity pageants, and the theme of the gift of salvation emerged in American culture. There was a strong religious expression in this holiday which united the people in America’s growing cities and rural communities. Away in a Manger is considered to be an American song! The song became very popular in Sunday School and public school programs for Christmas.

Adoration of the Shepheds-1622The Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

The following excerpt is from Martin Luther’s Christmas Day sermon in 1522.

“But the birth itself is still more pitiful. There was no one to take pity on this young wife who was for the first time to give birth to a child; no one to take to heart her condition that she, a stranger, did not have the least thing a mother needs in a birth-night. There she is without any preparation, without either light or fire, alone in the darkness, without any one offering her service as is customary for women to do at such times. Everything is in commotion in the inn, there is a swarming of guests from all parts of the country, no one thinks of this poor woman. It is also possible that she did not expect the event so soon, else she would probably have remained at Nazareth.

Just imagine what kind of swaddling clothes they were in which she wrapped the child. Possibly her veil or some article of her clothing she could spare. But that she should have wrapped him in Joseph’s trousers, which are exhibited at Aix-la-Chapelle, appears entirely too false and frivolous. It is a fable, the like of which there are more in the world. Is it not strange that the birth of Christ occurs in cold winter, in a strange land, and in such a poor and despicable manner?

Some argue as to how this birth took place, as if Jesus was born while Mary was praying and rejoicing, without any pain, and before she was conscious of it. While I do not altogether discard that pious supposition, it was evidently invented for the sake of simple minded people. But we must abide by the Gospel, that he was born of the virgin Mary. There is no deception here, for the Word clearly states that it was an actual birth.”

It is well known what is meant by giving birth. Mary’s experience was not different from that of other women, so that the birth of Christ was a real natural birth, Mary being his natural mother and he being her natural son. Therefore her body performed its functions of giving birth, which naturally belonged to it, except that she brought forth without sin, without shame, without pain and without injury, just as she had conceived without sin. The curse of Eve did not come on her, where God said: “In pain thou shalt bring forth children,” Genesis 3:16; otherwise it was with her in every particular as with every woman who gives birth to a child.

Grace does not interfere with nature and her work, but rather improves and promotes it. Likewise Mary, without doubt, also nourished the child with milk from her breast and not with strange milk, or in a manner different from that which nature provided, as we sing: ubere de coelopleno, from her breast being filled by heaven, without injury or impurity. I mention this that we may be grounded in the faith and know that Jesus was a natural man in every respect Just as we, the only difference being in His relation to sin and grace, He being without a sinful nature. In him and in His mother nature was pure in all the members and in all the operations of those members. No body or member of woman ever performed its natural function without sin, except that of this virgin; here for once God bestowed special honor upon nature and its operations. It is a great comfort to us that Jesus took upon Himself our nature and flesh. Therefore we are not to take away from Him or His mother any thing that is not in conflict with grace, for the text clearly says that she brought him forth, and the angels said, unto you he is born.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – Silent Night – 199th anniversary in 2017

Hymn Parade – Silent Night by Rev. Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (1818)

How does this song inspire your faith in the real news that Jesus Christ lived with us here on earth?

Video: https://vimeo.com/151626980

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbm8IQ_G_-c (Guitar version from St. Nicholas’ Church in Obendorf)

Silent night! holy night! All is calm, all is bright, ‘Round yon virgin mother and Child! Holy Infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace. 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht! Alles schläft, einsam wacht nur das traute hochheilige Paar, Holder Knabe mit lockigem Haar, schlaf im himmlischer Ruh. 

This is the 199th anniversary year of the hymn Silent Night, which UNESCO declared as a global cultural icon in 2011. It is the world’s most popular Christmas song and proclaims the historic birth of Jesus Christ. The hymn was first sung in St. Nicholas’ Roman Catholic Church in Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg, Austria in 1818. A group of actors presented a play about the Christmas story in a small home because the organ in the church was not functional.

Silent night, holy night! All are asleep; alone awake only the faithful and most holy pair, Gentle boy with curly hair, sleep in heavenly peace.  (The original poem)

The young priest, Josef Mohr asked Franz Gruber, the organist at St. Nicholas to write a melody and to include the song as part of the Christmas Eve worship. Since the church organ was broken, the song was sung with a guitar. Austria and Europe were rebuilding three years after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.

It was sometime in January when the organ was repaired by Karl Mauracher that Franz Gruber played the simple melody to test the repairs on the organ. Karl Mauracher took a copy of the music with him and shared it with another family singing group, the Strasser sisters. The hymn did not go viral until 1840 when it was performed for King William IV of Prussia in Berlin. In 1839, the hymn was sung (in German) outside Trinity Church in New York City at the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton. In 1863, the same year that President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday following the battle of Gettysburg, Silent Night was translated to English. Today it has been translated into over 300 languages!

rainer     Silent Night at the gravesite of Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church, NYC

From the Introduction in the sermon Martin Luther preached on the afternoon of December 25, 1530:

“You have heard today the story from the Gospel of St. Luke of how it came to pass that our Lord Christ was born and then also the message of the angel, who announced who the boy was who was born. Now we shall go on and take up the message of the angel. So for today you have heard only that the child was born that he is the Lord and Savior. Thus we spoke of the story, how it unfolded, and who the persons in it were. This article is so high that even today it is believed by only a few. Nevertheless, God has preserved it even through those who have not believed it. For at all times in the monasteries and lectures which dealt with the fact that Christ the Lord, born of Mary, is true man and God. But it went no further than saying and hearing it. But this belief is held by the devil too and Turks and all the godless among the Christians, and is the kind of belief which everybody believes that it is true but would not die for it, as Eck and many others show today. If they had as much from Christ and the teaching of the gospel as from the devil, they would also think as much of Christ. The Turk too admits that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, that Mary was an immaculate virgin, and that Christ was more than a man; but the Word of God, as it is given in the gospel, he denies, and yet I fear that the Turk believes more of this article than does the pope. Therefore it is a high article to believe that this infant, born of Mary, is true God; for nobody’s reason can ever accept the fact that he who created heaven and earth and is adored by the angels was born of a virgin. That is the article. Nobody believes it except he who also knows this faith, namely, that this child is the Lord and Savior.

But for whom was he born and whose Lord and Savior is he? The angels declare that he was born Lord and Savior. The Turks, the pope, and the scholars say the same thing, but only to the extent that it brings in money and honor. But that anyone could say “to you is born,” as the angel says, this is the faith which we must preach about. But we cannot preach about it as we would like to do.

Indeed, who could ever grasp (the full meaning of) these words of the evangelist: “a Savior, who is the Lord,” and, “to you”! I know well enough how to talk about it and what to believe about it, just as others do. So there are many who have this belief and do not doubt this first belief that Christ is the Lord, the Savior, and the virgin’s Son. This I too have never doubted. But if these words are planted no higher than in my thoughts, then they have no firm roots. We are certain that this was proclaimed by the angel, but the firm faith does not follow. For the reason does not understand both sides of this faith, first that Christ is a man, but also the Savior and Lord or King. This needs to be revealed from heaven. One who really has the first faith also has the other.

Who, then, are those to whom this joyful news is to be proclaimed? Those who are faint-hearted and feel the burden of their sins, like the shepherds, to whom the angels proclaim the message, letting the great lords in Jerusalem, who do not accept it go on sleeping. Beyond the first faith there must be the second faith, that Christ is not only the virgin’s Son, but also the Lord of angels and the Savior of men. The words anyone can understand, anti-sacramentarians, fanatics, sectarians, and Turks; but they do not proceed from the heart, they come only from hearing and go no farther than hearing. This is not faith, however, but only a memory of what has been heard, that one knows that he has heard it. Nobody ventures it, so as to stake goods, life, and honor upon it. And yet we must preach it for the sake of those who are in the multitude to whom the angel preached.

This is our theology, which we preach in order that we may understand what the angel wants. Mary bore the child, took it to her breast and nursed it, and the Father in heaven has his Son, lying in the manger and the mother’s lap. Why did God do all this? Why does Mary guard the child as a mother should? And reason answers: in order that we may make an idol of her, that honor may be paid to the mother. Mary becomes all this without her knowledge and consent, and all the songs and glory and honor are addressed to the mother. And yet the text does not sound forth the honor of the mother, for the angel says, “I bring to you good news of great joy; for to you is born this day the Savior” (Luke 2:10,11). I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother. Nevertheless, we dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born. And the angel desired that we should see nothing but the child which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, which is born, just as the angels themselves, as though they were blind, saw nothing but the child born of the virgin, and desired that all created things should be as nothing compared with this child, that we should see nothing, be it harps, gold, goods, honor, power, and the like, which we would prefer before their message.

For if I receive even the costliest and best in the world, it still does not have the name of Savior. And if the Turk were ten times stronger than he is, he could not for one moment save me from my infirmity, to say nothing of the peril of death, and even less from the smallest sin or from death itself. In my sin, my death, I must take leave of all created things. No, sun, moon, stars, all creatures, physicians, emperors, kings, wise men and potentates cannot help me. When I die I shall see nothing but black darkness, and yet that light, “To you is born this day the Savior” (Luke 2:11), remains in my eyes and fills all heaven and earth. The Savior will help me when all have forsaken me. And when the heavens and the stars and all creatures stare at me with horrible mien, I see nothing in heaven and earth but this child. So great should that light which declares that He is my Savior become in my eyes….”

(From the Conclusion) “What we have said, then, has been about that second faith, which is not only to believe in Mary’s Son, but rather that he who lies in the virgin’s lap is our Savior, that you accept this and give thanks to God, who so loved you that he gave you a Savior who is yours. And for a sign he sent the angel from heaven to proclaim him, in order that nothing else should be preached except that this child is the Savior and far better than heaven and earth. Him, therefore, we should acknowledge and accept confess him as our Savior in every need, call upon him, and never doubt that he will save us from all misfortune. Amen.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org