Archive for November 2006
Jesus Came to Jacob’s Well
1. Jesus came to Jacob’s well,
resting there for a little spell,
While the disciples went to get some bread.
“I’m thirsty from walking.” to himself he said.
2. The well was deep, no bucket about
for him to draw some water out.
So he quenched another thirst,
right then and there.
He drank living water while steeped in prayer.
3. The hour was noon, the sun was high.
Nobody now would be coming by
to fetch water in the hot sun,
unless, perhaps, to avoid everyone.
4. Because a Samaritan woman appeared in the place
with a hesitant step, and a beautiful face.
She was shocked to see a Jew,
and to be alone with a man, was frightening, too.
5. Turning to run, she heard him say:
“Won’t you give me a drink? It’s hot today.”
“Oh my God, you’re a rabbi and a Jew,
and you want a drink from a Samaritan, a woman, too?”
6. “If you knew who you were talking to –
the gift of God and life anew,
You’d ask him for some living water
to change you into God’s own daughter.”
7. “Where will you get that water from?
I have a bucket, but you have none.
Here take a drink and wake up.
You’re not greater than our Father Jacob.
8. It was Jacob gave us this well first.
His twelve sons and their flocks
knelt down on these rocks,
drank this water, and quenched their thirst.
9. “My daughter, what you need is living water,
the source of life that wells up inside you,
a fountain of joy, whatever betides you,
the water of life forever to guide you.
One drink and you’ll never thirst again.”
10. “Sir, give me that heavenly water.
Let me be God’s own daughter.
If I drink eternal water first
never again will I ever thirst?”
11. “Get your husband and come back.”
“Dear sir, it’s a husband that I lack.”
Jesus listened to her story.
He didn’t judge her. Don’t you worry.
12. “Five husbands have gone through your doors,
and now the one you’re living with, isn’t yours.
But I have come to save the lost.
I have come to pay the cost.
13. So sweet the grace of these suggestions,
she had some more religious questions:
“Is it on this holy mountain that we should God adore,
or is it only in Jerusalem’s temple forevermore?
Now, tell me please, which place do we select
for our worship of God to be correct?”
14. Jesus answered, “The hour is coming,
and it’s here right now,
that the place won’t matter anyhow.
For God is spirit, and for those who are true
and worship in spirit, any place will do.”
15. “I know the Messiah will come.” said she.
“You are speaking to the one.” said he.
The disciples returned in consternation
seeing both of them in conversation.
16. The woman and Jesus had no inkling
about what the disciples now were thinking.
Indeed, Samaritan, woman, five-time divorcée,
Jesus reached out to her that day.
17. And right there, she left her water jar,
sent by the Spirit, called from afar,
She brought her whole village to Jesus.
“Look, look,” she said, “he already sees us!”
18. And living water clear as a bell,
refreshed the people from another well.
And when they heard his beautiful word, they said,
“Woman, we no longer have to take your word for it!
Amen, Jesus, your spirit frees us!”
Peter Krey March 6, 1999
Im Botanischen Garten
heisst es warten
bis küssende Blumen
Die Deutschen waren ungeborgen,
Mit keinen Mauern umgeben
quer durchs Herz
ne Mauer vol Schmerz,
durch die Stadt-Seele gelegen.
sollten die Mädchen nach Hause.
Tötlich getäuscht auf Deutsch.
Vergast haben sie die
an die Wand der Scheune
stellten die Russen
die junge Soldaten,
die eben in ihren Versteck,
Rot spritzendes Geschrei.
Alles blutig. alles vorbei.
vor geschlossene Fenster,
bis küssende Blumen
Great Big Temples
Great big temples all fall down
all fall down
all fall down
Great big temples all fall down
That’s the story.
Jesus picks us right back up
right back up
right back up,
Jesus picks us right back up
Oh, what glory.
In the church we kneel and pray
kneel and pray
kneel and pray
In the church we kneel and pray
Jesus hear us!
Then we love to jump back up
jump back up
jump back up
Then we love to jump back up
(Sing to the tune of “London Bridge is falling down.”)
November 18th 2006
If you know that Jesus loves you clap your hands. XX
If you know that Jesus loves you clap your hands. XX
If you know that Jesus loves you
and is always thinking of you
If you know that Jesus loves you, clap your hands. XX
Stomp your feet.
From the camping song, “If you’re happy and you know it” – 11/18/2006
All praise and thanks to God!
November 19th, 2006
Dear Members and Friends of Old Zion!
It’s that time of year again when we count our blessings and give thanks to God for all the wonderful things, God rains down from heaven for us. First, that God sent his only Son Jesus to die for us to give us life and to change our darkness into light! Let’s give God thanks and praise!
First things first! Then let’s thank God for our lives, our health, the love we can share with others, the good feelings we get in our hearts when we think about how much God loves us, our family and friends God gave us.
We thank God for our church, the children, and all the people we have grown so close to in it. I am your new pastor, Peter Krey, fresh from California and shivering in Philadelphia’s weather, but I am so very thankful for my call to Old Zion, for my daily bread, because Old Zion’s pastorate is the first full time position I have had in a long while. I’m thankful to God that I can preach again, administer the sacraments, teach from the Bible, play my trumpet, compose songs for the children, make visits, and share the love of God, the beautiful Gospel again with everyone.
Imagine to still be able to come to a service all in German! Henry Melchior Muhlenberg would be proud! Imagine coming to hear Jaye sing and John Paul play the organ, the trumpet tones of a pastor that toots his own horn, a place that wants to be inside God’s heart, Jesus, and have our hearts beat in time with the one who loves us so. We give thanks for you and hope you can join us wherever you are under the heaven of God’s grace, giving all your thanks and praise to God!
Love joy and peace, From Pastor Krey and Old Zion
Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity – Nov. 19, 2006
Daniel 12:1-3 Psalm 16 Hebrews 10: 11-25 Mark 13: 1-8
The Third Temple: the Temple of Heaven
Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple in the Gospel lesson. It was the second temple, a wonder of the ancient world. Herod refurbished it from 37 B.C. to 4 A.D, right around the time of Jesus’ birth and then it was destroyed by the Roman legions in 70 A.D., when the Jews rebelled against Rome. That is just a little history.
One starts to marvel at Jesus when we hear about his prophesies, just like Andrew, Peter, James, and John, sitting quietly beside him on the Mount of Olives and gazing at this massive structure of the temple, the religious and political center of Judaism at the time.
The disciples question Jesus. They had heard right. Jesus reaffirmed that not one stone would be left resting on the other; everyone would be thrown down! The disciples probably shuddered and in history we discover that the Roman general Titus tried to save the temple in the siege of Jerusalem, but his troops set it afire. Then the gold melted and ran between the stones. When the soldiers and others quarried the gold from between the stones, they did not leave one stone on top of the other. They would hold a torch under the keystone of the arch and it would explode and then they would take all the stones apart for the gold.
We found out about that from our visit to the so-called “Holy Land” with church groups. Another thing you discover there is that the Moslems built their Al-Aqsa Mosque and their golden Dome of the Rock right on top of where the temple stood, the Temple Mount, so that to rebuild the temple would mean to destroy the silver and golden mosques of Islam, which is of course unthinkable to Moslems. This is an age-old custom really. Old churches were built on pagan temples and Christmas was set on the pagan Saturnalia to stop people from celebrating pagan holy days and making Christ central to worship.
Stop and think. If Solomon’s Temple was the first and the second temple was destroyed after Jesus’ lifetime, what is the third temple? The answer is in our Hebrews text, which explains why we do not have to fight and start wars anymore when our holiest of holies are tread under foot by Grobians, as we say in German, or Philistines, as we sometimes say in English.
Jesus said, if you tear down this temple, I will rebuild it in three days. He was referring to his own body and that after his crucifixion he would rise up from the dead in three days. Thus I believe that Christ and his body is the third temple. To the Samaritan woman at the well, who asks him about the real temple in which to worship, he answers: it will neither be in Bethel as you Samaritans argue nor in Jerusalem as the Jews argue, but “the hour is coming and is now here, where true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Yes, God is spirit and those who worship him must do so in spirit and truth” (John 4: 23-24 ).
And Hebrews takes it a step further: Christ is now our high priest, seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, washing us in the pure waters of baptism, putting the law of love into our hearts, and writing the words of scripture in our minds, and then forgiving us all our sins. So we enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us the curtain, the curtain that was torn when he died, and the curtain that separated the holy of holies from the place worshipers were allowed to be. Only the high priest and only once a year could enter the Holy of Holies.
And Hebrews says, Jesus opened that curtain and that curtain was his flesh. What does his “flesh” mean here?
Luther was such a great teacher of the church because he was one of the few who also knew Hebrew. “Flesh” in Hebrew means a human being. “All flesh is grass” means “all human beings are like grass, who die and wither away.” But not the Word of God (Isaiah). So the curtain and we ourselves are the flesh of Christ, we are the people who belong to Christ. When Christ lives in our hearts, our own bodies, too, become God’s holy temple and because the curtain has been opened for us, we are all now a royal priesthood, a priesthood of all believers, called to declare the praises of Christ, who called us out of the darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
We are all the body of Christ and Christ is the third temple and wherever two or three gather together in his name, he is in the midst of us, really present in Word and Sacrament.
Now in the old days, in the time of Christ, the priests ruled and the Roman governors humbled them by taking away their right to high justice, relegating capital crimes solely to their judgments. So they took the real power into their own hands. In earlier times, when Samuel ruled for instance, Kings were an affront to God, who ruled directly through the high priest and the priesthood of the temple. Now in modern times we have specialized farther and farther so we have some who work in civil government, some who are our religious leaders, some are lawyers, and others are medical doctors and psychiatrists. At one time the priest was all these things. A shepherd also stood for a king and a priest.
Thus Jesus is in heaven sitting at the right hand of God and is waiting until his enemies are made the footstool for his feet. Because he ascended up to be in heaven, to be the Son of Man, Son of David, with the government upon his shoulders for the Reign of God forever and ever.
Do you know the German song?
1. Jesus Christus herrscht als König.
Alles ist ihm untertänig.
Alles legt ihm Gott zu Fuss (repeat).
2. Alle Zungen soll’n bekennen,
Jesus sei der Herr zu nennen,
Dem man Ehre geben muss (repeat).
1. The Lord Christ Jesus rules from heaven,
To him all power and glory is given.
His dominion he shall rule (repeat).
2. Let all tongues on earth confess him.
He comes to us with crowns of blessing.
The whole world is his footstool (repeat).
So you and I have to proclaim and spread the Reign of God to which we belong. This beautiful sanctuary that the dear Christians built in this place finished in 1891, as wonderful as it is, is only a museum, if we do not proclaim that the House of the Lord is the Reign of God through our right-hand-man, Jesus Christ our Lord.
And it is quaint to say the Kingdom of God! We live in a democratic republic and we are accustomed to presidents, governors, mayors, chancellors, senators, and congressional representatives, but no longer kings and kingdoms. So we have to proclaim that the Beloved Community is near at hand. A state is at hand under the guidance and direction of heaven. Last time Bob Ross made me aware that Pennsylvania is not a state, but a commonwealth like Massachusetts. So we have to shout that the commonwealth of Christ is near at hand; it’s right around the corner, if we get down on our knees and pray to our Father in spirit and in truth.
Let me use Luther that faithful servant of Christ once more. We need to preach the Word of God. What is that Word? It is the Good News of Jesus Christ preached in such a way that you hear your God speaking to you! We ourselves confess our sins. Jesus forgives us and we are promoted to be the suffering servants of God, as much as the world sees it as a demotion. Let’s make a commotion, because this commonwealth is one enthroned on grace, coming into being through faith, and ruled from the temple in heaven, where our great high priest, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and moves through this land.
So we have to proclaim the Word of God: “For the word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world” (from Luther’s Bondage of the Will). Thus we are changed into suffering servants and that really lifts us up, and those in high offices in the eyes of the world, find that they have to take a humble secondary place in the eyes of God.
The wonderful life of worship opened up by Jesus is a heaven full of grace, is a world of love and sharing that introduces an economy of abundance, because the Table of the Lord is the economy of the House of the Lord, because we cannot confuse a temple made of stone with the living temple, Christ Jesus, nor this beautiful stained-glass, wood-carved architectural testament here on the corner of North Broad and Mt. Vernon, with the House of God. We the people are the House of God.
Let me just say a word about the first lesson in German, because Michael is the Archangel who is the patron and guardian of Germany. He is also the patron angel of the Jews as well, but I will explain in German that that is no conflict. Christ can belong to you and me and we could wish that more people would own him. Then I will say that Michael is really the messenger, the angel sent by Christ and there is a note of the resurrection in this passage and the chance to become teachers of righteousness again as bright as the morning sky and as bright as the stars at night, when we become the people of God, the true church of God.
So viele Deutsche Kirchen waren nach dem Erzengel Michael genannt, auch unsere Michaelis und Zions Kirche damals. Das ist weil dieser Fürst unter den Engeln die Aufgabe hatte die Deutschen zu schützen und bewahren. Er ist von Christus gesandt ihr Hüter und Hort zu sein. Die Juden und Israel hatten auch den Erzengel Michaelis als ihren besonderen Boten von Gott. Das bringt aber keinen Konflikt, denn, wie gesagt, Christus kann mir und dir gehören, und wir können ihn ruhig teilen und hoffen dass auch andere Christus haben wollen.
Luther meinte das Michael eigentlich Christus war. Vielleicht können wir sagen das er seinen Auftrag bekam in Christus Namen, dass er als ein Bote von Thron des Christus ausging, um dem Menschensohn und sein Reich zu dienen. Wie Christus von Gottes Rechten zu uns hinabschaut, so schaut er auch aus der Ewigkeit, wo die Zukunft schon gewesen ist, auf uns zurück. Wenn wir durch die Trübsal, hier vorausgesagt gehen, werden wir geschützt werden, und das Volk Gottes wird gerettet werden, all die die ihren Namen im Buch des Lebens geschrieben stehen haben. Dann werden alle von unter der Erde aufgeweckt werden, einige zum ewigen Leben und andere zur Schmach und Schande, sagt der alttestamentliche Prophet Daniel.
Die Deutschen sind wie Lehrer gewesen und durch Gottes Gnade können wieder Lehrer der Völker werden, wenn wir bei Gottes Wort und Luthers Lehr bestehen. Dadurch können wir alle Menschen und moderne Völker vom Himmelreich des Gottes Sohnes und seiner fröhlichen Wirtschaft etwas bei bringen und durch Gottes Gnade die Welt etwas weiter bringen. Wie dann bei Luther, werden wir wieder wie der Himmelsglanz leuchten und durch unsere Glaubens Rechtfertigung wie die Sterne am Himmelszelt glänzen immer und ewiglich. Das heisst aber glauben, beten, studieren, und Wege finden unsere Nächsten, unsere Mitmenschen, zu lieben und helfen. Luther hat uns den Weg gezeigt weil er ein treuer Diener Jesus Christus war.
22nd Sunday after Trinity – November 12th 2006
1 Kings 17:8-16 Psalm 146 Hebrews 9: 24-28 Mark 12:38-44
Stewardship: Believing that God Provides
When Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 – February 18, 1546) looked at the indulgences that the church sold in order to have a source of revenue, he called a foul, and you and I know that that started the Reformation. The church made you do penance for your sins and these certificates were somewhat like tickets for parking violations, except that you purchased them and could do so for a future one. When you purchased indulgences the money that you paid killed two birds with one stone. You paid money to the church as a punishment and the church had a wonderful source of income. The more people sinned them more penance they paid, the more revenue for the church. It was a racket!
I often compare the indulgence system with the parking ticket system, (with the differences noted above). When the city of Philadelphia gives you a ticket for parking on a Sunday night even until midnight, where most cities do not even charge on Sundays, let alone after 6:00pm, then the city is using so-called parking violations as a source of revenue from the unsuspecting. Cities can get away with that sort of a racket, but the church cannot.
Luther said that “The true treasure of the Church is the most holy Gospel of God’s grace and glory” (Thesis 62 of the Ninety-Five Theses). That means, not its bank account and any of its other possessions. Some churches own buildings in the center of some cities, which makes them very rich. Some churches and synagogues have Bingo, where the poor are further oppressed, because they often use money from their livelihood when they become addicted to the chance of winning $1,000. Some know how to play with ten cards at a time. In some cases, other churches charge for the pews the members sit in, which makes it like a theater or concert. Those up front pay more than those in back seats. These seats can become very expensive.
Referring to the Reformation, some Catholics will criticize Protestants saying, “You just wanted a cheap church. What do you think pleases God more, your cheap one or an expensive one?”
The problem with that criticism is that it misplaces the emphasis on what we do rather than what God is doing for us. It points to what we are willing to pay for, and buy, or what we earn. The Gospel, however, is about the gifts of grace that we receive; that God gives us everything free of charge in an economy of abundance, so that around the Table of the Lord everyone’s cup runs over: we all share and give cheerfully of ourselves, because we are so thankful for all God’s provisions provided for us, if you excuse the redundancy in that statement.
Thus Luther continues in the 66th of the Ninety-five Theses, “The Gospel is not the net with which to fish for peoples’ money” the way indulgences do, “The Gospel is the net to fish for people” (65). Thus the Gospel should fish for people themselves in order to bring them into the reign of God, the Kingdom of God.
Now when people are caught in the fishing nets of the Gospel, then you are a fish that belongs to God. Whether you are a big or a little fish, an old or a young one, does not matter, you no longer belong to yourself, now you belong to God. You are now a possession of the Holy Spirit and possessed by and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, you will experience the “freedom of the Christian Person”.
Luther did not speak about penance and payments that you had to make for punishment; but repentance, just like Jesus did when he began his ministry saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.” Luther’s first Thesis of his famous ninety-five sounded like this: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent!’ he means that the whole live of the faithful should become one of repentance.”
You can’t put your little finger in the baptismal font and say you are baptized. Your whole self goes into the water, drowns that old sinful, “self-fish” person that you were, and you are raised back up out of the water a Christ, ready to give not only all of your possessions for the Kingdom of God, but even your own body, even giving your own very life away for the Kingdom of suffering love.
Now you can see how the waters of baptism cover you and you can’t breathe down there. But the Holy Spirit becomes your air and you take a breath of the life of God and then you breathe out the love of God. You inhale the pure oxygen of life that you receive from God and you exhale love that brings about the abundant life for everyone blessed to be related to you, to be your neighbor.
Then you will experience what Elijah’s poor widow experienced. She had tapped into the inexhaustible resources of God’s provisions. “The jar of meal never emptied and the jug of oil never failed,” because she provided for the prophet first, from the little that she had to keep herself and her son alive. I think I would have balked about giving my son’s provisions away, too (and I have to look into that), but she didn’t. To the holy prophet the widow gave away what would have kept her and her son alive, and behold, she did not die, but lived and found that God was providing for her and her son in a marvelous way.
Again, Jesus preached, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.” And later he said: Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33), which implies, that if you seek your own interests first, without considering justice, and then you seek the reign of God afterward, then all these things will be subtracted from you.
Now it is tempting to speak of tithing and require it as a rule for all members as many churches do. The tithe was instituted at the time of Abraham and required giving ten percent of all your income to the House of God. In the Old Testament, the tithe is required as an offering. It is written in the prophet Malachi, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouses so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing” (3:10).
Now the Gospel does not up the anti, so to speak. It does not say that we now have to give 20%, 30%, or even more. Jesus is not a lawgiver like Moses. We live in the freedom of the Gospel. It invites us, however, to give 100%. But don’t you see? That is because you trust God to provide for you far more abundantly than you can even imagine and conceive yourself. That is why you can be a cheerful giver and you cannot out-give God. The more you give, the more God gives you. As St. Luke says, “Give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap – for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (6:38). What a wonderful embellishment to the simple “my cup runneth over” of the 23rd Psalm.
Haven’t you experienced that many times? Shakespeare wrote a whole play about it called Measure for Measure. He had his eyes fixed on the law, but we are speaking about measuring the Gospel, to which there is no measure. What God gives us is simply overwhelming. It is like they used to say about ministers: the pay is not too good, but the retirement plan is out of this world!
Perhaps you have to start with the law and say, “I’ll give 10%.” The law is supposed to drive us to the Gospel. In an important sense, learning is of course one thing and life is another. Do not forget the heaven of giving and sharing of the Gospel that the law is supposed to teach you and bring you to. When we were children, whenever we received money, my father would have a little, metal church that was a piggybank, and would say, “What do you do first?” I remember that it was white and had a green roof and like this church it had lost its steeple. (The steeple of our little church-bank had remained in Frankfurt an der Oder with many of our family belongings when we were fleeing the Russians.) And then while my father was holding it, you had to drop a dime or 10% in coins through the slot in the roof. You had to stuff dollar bills into the front. For us children that was fun.
Now you see to speak about a cheap church or an expensive one is not to the point. Christ paid for us not with money or silver and gold, but with his own precious blood and now we are the purchase of God and we belong completely to God and are God’s children, because of the cross of Christ, and we get our provisions around the table of the Lord, and believe you, me, the economy of our country, of our family, and sometimes, I think, even of the stock market, depends upon the economy provided by God.
Now the economy of abundance, although it relies upon our faith in God instead of believing in Mammon, the almighty dollar; also stands to reason as opposed to the economy of scarcity, which relies on self interest and selfishness. When we provide for ourselves we never have enough. Imagine how much money we spend on ourselves? And when we get money, we never get enough. Even a million dollars won’t buy everything I want. And if I make a million, then I say, but I want to be a billionaire like Bill Gates. After spending a hundred dollars in a restaurant, I come out and give a beggar a quarter. I say to myself, have I given him too much? And what do you suppose he is going to do with my money? When we give and share we hit our limits very quickly, but when we spend for ourselves, our resources disappear into a sinkhole of selfishness. If we give and share with others as we would spend for ourselves and give to ourselves as we would usually give to others, then the common wealth would result in an economy of abundance. One cannot make a law or a system out of this joyful economy. It can only come about through faith.
Now importantly, do not identify a particular church with the kingdom of God or your pastor with God. I am made out of flesh and blood and this church too, has a long way to go. I pray to God that I might grow in grace and become more mature and self-giving. Our church also needs to grow in order to proclaim and live out the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in this place. Thank God that we live out forgiveness, that we are Kyrie-Christians, living out of the mercy of God.
Thus when you are giving to the needy and poor, you are also making your offering. When you share your gifts and talents, that is also part of the 100%. One woman from a former church never could put money into the offering plate, because she was hooked on Bingo and the Catholic church down the street got it, but she brought twelve children to Sunday School. What an offering!
But stop and consider. Here in Old Zion you can hear the Gospel, the word of life. And stop and consider what your giving says about the measure of your faith. Could you not increase your giving somewhat to your own dear church? Challenge yourself, go through the growing pains, and increase your faith. Remember your church in your will. Increase your giving. You’ll be glad you did. Amen.
 October 31st 1517, on the Eve of All Saints Day.
 In the House of the Lord or the Reign of God, the Table of the Lord is its joyful economy, its economy of abundance.
 This is the title of Luther’s best selling pamphlet. It came out in 38 editions in his life-time and was his Magna Charta in view of what he considered the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. (See Peter Krey, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron, Ph.D. dissertation, Graduate Theological Union, UMI Proquest, 2001).
 Perhaps we often remain selfish because it is rather difficult to drawn a fish.
Grounding Missiology in Lutheran Confessions
Delivered at the Wartburg Lutheran Seminary
In Dubuque, Iowa on March 8th 2005
By Dr. Peter D. S. Krey
In his magisterial study of missiology called Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in the Theology of Mission, David Bosch writes, “it could be argued that the Protestant Reformation was a case of the (overdue?) inculturation of the [Christian] faith among Germanic and related peoples” (Bosch)(p.453). Along this line of thinking, I would like to contextualize the movement that shaped our Lutheran Confessions, then present several holistic conceptions of mission and finally ground them in the most relevant places in the Small and Large Catechisms, and the Augsburg Confession.
Part I: Was the Reformation a missionary movement?
About himself Luther said, “The doctors try to make me into a fixed star while I am [really] a [wandering] planet.”
Luther like a planet had quite a force-field of attraction, especially because Christ was the fixed star within him and Christ crucified will draw all of humanity to himself (John 12:32). Gravity falling through the curvature of space toward a heavenly body represents an apt metaphor for one force of mission. When Luther started at Wittenberg, he wrote to a friend that he would willingly change his study of philosophy for theology, “that theology which searches out the meat of the nut, and the kernel in the grain and the marrow of the bones” (Smith)(p. 22). With a centripetal force, by God’s grace, Luther gets into the heart of the gospel and gets the gospel into our inner-most self, even when we read him today. It’s the motion of the incarnation.
Look at the way Luther attracted students to Wittenberg! Frederick the Wise had just founded Wittenberg University in 1502 to compete with Duke George’s University of Leipzig. Wittenberg soon overtook Leipzig and by 1535 had twice as many students (1,674 versus 859 in a five year period) (Oberman). In a lecture, given back in 1989 called, “Luther the Missionary?” Eugene Bunkowske counted 16,000 students that attended Wittenberg from 1520-1560. Five thousand of these students came from countries surrounding Germany (Bunkowske).
Checking Bunkowske’s figures with Heiko Oberman’s studies, 16,000 and 5,000 students may be rather high. But for Luther’s tenure at Wittenberg (ca. 1510-1543) about nine or ten thousand registered students would be a good estimate (Oberman). In his breakthrough year of 1520 Luther had 500 students in his classes, while Melanchthon had even more (Heininen). Thus a great many students from Germany and the surrounding countries certainly converged on Wittenberg and into the lecture halls of these popular professors.
Bunkowske simply calls Luther a missionary without critically defining what constitutes missionary activity. He continues that Luther has the experience of justification by faith, he learns the Christian basics himself, explains the Ten Commandments again and again, and develops the Small and Large Catechisms, all in easy to understand German. Like a missionary he was a Bible translator. You probably know how he translated Erasmus’ Greek New Testament into German at the Wartburg (in Dubuque, Iowa). (By the way, and now I’m not joking, Luther was incredibly prolific in his Wartburg hide-a-way, something this seminary and we all can aspire to.)
Bible translations are what missionaries do to bring the Gospel to another people. In Luther’s case he was addressing the laity, who complained again and again in pamphlets that I studied, that the spiritual estate did not even consider them to be Christian. Jean Delumeau in Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire, argues that the religion of the laity was an “external life-structure” rather than “an inward, living faith” (Delumeau) (p. 225-227). Luther playing his lute and writing hymns addressed the people in a way that included them. From their Babylonian captivity, the Gospel invited them out into the “Freedom of the Christian Person,” as Luther best selling pamphlet of 1520 was entitled (Krey)(p. 41).
I believe that a great number of these Wittenberg students became pastors. (Most of the bishops and leaders of the Scandinavian countries all had studied at Wittenberg) (Heininen). Others students, I’m sure, clung to Luther’s teaching that they were the priesthood all believers. The so-called “spiritual estate” could no longer block the full inclusion of the laity, who now received communion in both kinds, the bread and the cup. The new Christian estate, the priesthood of all believes, in a centrifugal force, now spread the Gospel from Wittenberg (“Wittenberg” literally means the “White Mountain.”) to England, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands, etc.
Let me narrow down my focus on England for just a moment. Robert Barnes, who studied at Wittenberg and stayed at the Black Cloister with Luther was martyred by Henry VIII (Lindberg) (p. 313,315). Barnes had helped William Tyndale with his translation of the Bible into English. Tyndale also studied at Wittenberg and consulted with Luther before he started his translation (Bunkowske). In 1536 Henry VIII tried to kidnap him and when Tyndale was betrayed, had him burnt at the stake in Antwerp. Miles Coverdale, who also studied at Wittenberg, continued Tyndale’s work. Earlier in 1523 John van den Esschen and Henry Vos had been burnt at the stake in Brussels under the auspices of scholastics at Louvain for spreading the Gospel in the Netherlands (Brecht)(p.102). Luther distraught that he could not be a martyr wrote them a beautiful hymn celebrating their martyrdom (Bornkamm and Ebeling)(p.259).
But Luther himself had to give an account of his own faith before the Emperor Charles V and the Pope’s legate Aleander and when he made his confession he reentered his quarters flinging his fist into the air as a knight who just had been victorious. And we know how he was kidnapped for safe-keeping and taken to the Wartburg and how he had to disguise himself as a knight, Junker George. Luther did not receive the grace to become a martyr like John van den Esschen and Henry Vos, William Tyndale, Robert Barnes, Thomas Cranmer, and the many others. But he became a confessor under the Imperial ban, free to be killed by anyone, an outlaw of the Empire, and excommunicated by the church, remaining under these condemnations all his life.
Truly he carried in his body the death of Jesus, always being given up to death for Jesus sake
(II Corinthians 4:10ff).
Church history reports that confessors were no end of trouble for bishops and Luther was no exception.
Thus a passage of scripture is also fulfilled in Luther,
You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations … but do not worry about what you will say at that time, it will be given to you, for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit through you (Mark 13: 11).
Martyrium and confession for Luther was evidence that the Gospel, the Word of God, had come again.
If I might return to England again, to consider the force of the Gospel and its inculturation there: many of the martyrs of the Christian renewal were bishops contrary to Germany where only one almost came over into the Reformation. The fire was lit under the martyrs, Ridley and Latimer, who were both bishops. Latimer encouraged his companion,
Be of good cheer, Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out (Lindberg) (p. 329).
Archbishop Cranmer also finally had to go to the stake after having to watch Bishops Ridley and Latimer die. Anglican bishops not only accepted the Gospel, but became martyrs and confessors in a very great contrast with German Bishops.
The centripetal force of the Reformation, therefore, transcended Germany and its centrifugal force very much resembled a missionary movement. In the same vain we could speak of sending Bugenhagen to Denmark and his consolidation of church orders. We could speak of Agricola and Finland, or Palladius and Denmark, the Petris in Sweden (Bunkowske). The Gospel was certainly spreading as a movement into many countries. Wittenberg University was much like a mission post sending new believers into many countries, much like Wilhelm Loehe sent missionaries into the German diaspora in North America and even to the Indians in a failed mission (Schober)(p. 92-93). What seems to undermine Luther’s Reformation being considered as a missionary movement? Is it the geographical myth that Keith Bridston wrote about? (Bridston).
Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Reformation represents a confessing movement, a renewal within the church, protesting conditions of the Catholic church of that day. It did not plant new churches among those who were un-baptized and who never heard the Gospel. (Except that the laity that did not speak Latin also had not heard it until Luther brought the Gospel to light.) Still Luther never considered sending pastors to the new world, but then, Germany really had no access to the new world. Luther renewed the old church and even the Catholic Church then embarked on a reformation, partly in reaction to Luther. But Catholicism remained a bulwark against Lutheranism, much the way Islam blocked the universality of the Catholic Church from the south (Pirenne).
After what we can call Luther’s inculturation of Latin Christianity for Northern European cultures, the Gospel seemed to become ensnared in the German culture, especially in the clutches of the state. I do not think it amiss, however, to bring up that Germany was sorely punished for the Reformation. It became devastated by the Thirty Years War, which lasted from 1618 to 1648. To outflank the Catholic bulwark to the south, the center of the Western World had to shift from the Italian city states in the Mediterranean to a new center of power in the North Atlantic associated with the Protestant countries Holland and England. The very adverse mission statements of Lutherans … have to be understood from the cultural, national, and governmental captivity of the Gospel.
But Luther was not guilty of this captivity. Exercising his Christian freedom, he handed many a decision over to Fredrick the Wise, his protector; gave Henry VIII a piece of his mind, called Duke George a hot water bubble, and held services to pray against the powerful Arch-bishop Albrecht of Mainz! Luther’s impact could not be contained in Germany. His consciousness of the church and its parameters transcended German culture. Other countries certainly took note of him. Just look at his pamphlet, the “Freedom of the Christian Person”. Of the 38 editions published in his lifetime, 21 were in German certainly, but 10 were in Latin addressed to Pope Leo X, reaching the wider context of the Catholic Church, and then it was translated into English, Dutch, Spanish, Czech, French and Italian (Krey) (p.41-42). Luther was a best selling author, whose writings spelled an encounter, and people and countries either accepted or rejected him. I submit a centrifugal force spun out of his powerful centripetal one.
Part II: David Bosch writes that the title of his book, Transforming Mission, can be understood in two ways: mission as an enterprise that transforms reality and secondly, transforming mission can be understood as mission itself being transformed (Bosch),(p. xv). If mission itself changes then mission can transpire in different ways. An active model of missions can exist whereby missionaries are sent out to plant churches among the un-baptized where the Gospel has never been proclaimed. This is the centrifugal model or sometimes called the horizontal model of missions. The passive model, the centripetal or vertical model, is the one Luther championed, but it also spiraled out in a centrifugal way, as we heard. So I believe that these models belong together and complement each other in a holistic model of mission. Perhaps this explains why Bosch has a two-fold definition: “mission is the transformation of reality in which mission itself also becomes transformed” (Bosch),(p. xv).
Wilhelm Loehe’s model is holistic. In his Three Books about the Church he wrote, “Mission is nothing else than the one church of God in its movement” (Loehes Werke, Vol. 5.1:96), (Ganzert). Loehe, however, says very explicitly in the same place that the church does not only belong to one country, but it is the church which gathers its people out of all countries to become the one flock of the one shepherd brought together from many a stall. This is the genuine Catholic Church for which the martyrs died and which all the saints loved. It is the work of God in the last hour of the world. Loehe continues: The thought of this church needs to saturate mission through and through or it will not know what it is about (Ibid.), (my shortened translation).
Luther is not quite so explicit as Loehe, but as holistic.
He said “For the word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world” (Bondage of the Will), (Watson) (LW 33:51). David Bosch boils his definition down somewhat further: mission is the dimension of faith that refuses to accept reality as it is and aims at changing it” (p. xv). So mission is this two-fold movement of the church.
I agree with James Scherer that Luther had not only a more fundamental sense of mission, but a more radical one, and not just because his Pauline theology would naturally have a missionary structure (Scherer),(p. 54-55). Luther is very profound, operating “out of the depths.” (My brother, Philip and I are coming out with a book, Luther’s Spirituality and I retranslated Luther’s song: “Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord God, O hear my calling…” The living word of God, the Lord Christ, can change realities. If we try to change them we only make things worse. Listen to Luther:
Who would believe me until they have had the experience for themselves? Change and improvements are two different things: the one stands in human hands and God’s ordaining, the other in God’s hands and majesty (Borchert)(p. 428).
So Luther claims that realities changed by God’s hands and by God’s majesty bring about change for the better, while other changes by human effort, will transpire by God’s ordaining, but will only make matters worse.
What good is it if missionaries span the globe, if they themselves are oblivious to the gospel? Scherer claims that Luther is the father of evangelical missions, because he so powerfully, brought the Gospel back to light (Scherer), (p. 55). What good is it if missionaries spread “churchianity”? Luther connects mission with the Kingdom of God and missionaries can proclaim the kingdom, but they cannot inaugurate it, to use David Bosch’s apt phrase (Bosch), (p.145). An enlightened policy of the Catholic Propaganda Fide in 1659, asked, “What could be more absurd than to carry France, Spain, or Italy, or any part of Europe into China?” (Bosch),(p. 449).
The law and Gospel distinction would help to discern the culture and faith distinction. The law is not the way of salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord is the way of salvation. St. Paul even annulled the command of God to circumcise all believers, saying it was a law valid for the Jews but not for Gentile Christians. The Gospel, the promises of God, are what is essential for salvation, and if even the law, has to bow to Christ, then how much more freedom does the Holy Spirit provide for cultural differences? I’m getting ahead of myself, because that belongs in the second part of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession. (You are getting the CA, the Confessio Augustana from the CA, California.)
The mission of God is what Luther understood. Mission is the action of God. It rides on prayer and uses us; we do not do it. James Scherer explains that for Luther, mission is always preeminently the work of the Triune God – missio Dei – and its goal and outcome are the coming of the Kingdom of God (Scherer),(p. 55).
The three creeds begin our confessions because mission is in God’s hands and majesty (Tappert),(p. 18-21). It is God’s own mission, which always dominates Luther’s thought, according to Scherer (p.55). I like to think about Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity (Lasareff)(p.25), where the three persons sit in communion and the Father full of compassion is sending the Son to save the world, and the Son knowing all too well what it will cost, in loving obedience becomes a human being, dying on the cross for us, and being raised back up, to sit at the right hand of God. Both then send the Holy Spirit to continue the mission of God. Mission is therefore not only a movement of incarnation, or in missionary terms, inculturation, but also a procession, where the heavens around the whole planet earth become filled with grace, the new heavens for a new earth in a world-wide, fellowship, friendship, communion guided by the gentle and tender reign of the lamb of God.
Thus mission begins by the sending in the Trinity
God spoke to the beloved Son
It’s time to have compassion
Then go, bright jewel of my crown
And bring about human salvation.
Go, forth, my Son, the Father said
And free people from the fear of death.
Yes, Father, yes, most willingly,
I’ll bear whatever you command for me
(Vicedom). (using the words of a hymn).
Thus mission proceeds by the grace that invites us into the same communion enjoyed by the persons of the Trinity, so that God is not outside of us, but it is within their fellowship that we live, move and have our sending, to change St. Paul’s Greek philosophical citation just a little (Acts 17:28). By changing this word from “being” to “sending” I am thinking about the word of the risen Christ, “As the father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). When I sat in Helmut Gollwitzer lectures in Berlin, Germany, he noted that an encounter with the resurrected Christ always entailed a sending. And that is the context of this verse as well. Thus disciples became apostles, meaning “those, who are sent.” And thus the foundation is laid for the missional apostolic imperative, to use the title of Carl Braaten’s important book on missions (Braaten).
Carl Braaten depicts what makes Lutheran missions distinctive very well, the sola’s: faith, grace, Christ, scripture, word and sacraments, theology of the cross, and just the cross, as Luther says: “For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the Blessed Holy Cross will not be far away (Large Catechism), (Tappert),(p. 429). Braaten continues with – law and gospel, priesthood of all believers, faith active in love, two kingdoms, and the confessional principle (p. 71).
Let me use Carl Braaten’s indication to move directly to our confessions. I realize that I have left unresolved the paradox that we do nothing and are not capable of doing anything for mission, because it is God’s action, and yet we are sent to do mission. I hope to explain why by means of justification by grace in the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession.
Part III: First the Large Catechism: the Christian prays: “Your kingdom come” not because human faith and prayer make the kingdom come – for God’s kingdom comes even without our prayer – but that it may be realized in us, and that God’s name may be praised through the word and our holy lives (Scherer),(p. 56). We pray that the Gospel might advance with power through the whole world (Ibid.). We pray that, led by the Holy Spirit, many may come into the kingdom of grace and become partakers of salvation, so that we all may remain together eternally in this kingdom which has now made its appearance among us (Ibid.). Thus we pray that it might come to us, that we receive it. For Luther it remains in God’s hands, as God’s action, through God’s majesty.
We know that later Lutheran Orthodoxy rejected mission, partly because of a misunderstanding of justification by faith. I believe the real problem, however, lay with the necessary compromise of 1555, cuius regio, eius religio. Whoever was the ruler of a territory determined the religion of the people. That arrangement was necessary to prevent the different confessions from harming each other, but it brought secular captivity of the Gospel. First the princes were emergency bishops, then, Lutheran faith became contained by country, state, and nationality, which dominated Christianity. One’s faith was not at all as important as the nationality of the believer. French Christians killed German Christians and their faith did not matter, only their nationalism did. The ecumenical movement and international structures of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation in the 20th century were then formed as response to this offense against the Christian faith.
It is sincerely to be hoped that we Christians have learned that there is a big difference between being a German or American Christian and being Confessing Christians, who happen to be German, American, or what have you.
Rereading the Small Catechism you will discover that the great missionary commission from the end of the Gospel of Matthew is Luther’s first article requiring baptism.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Tappert),(p. 348).
David Bosch discovers that the great commission is not only tagged on at the end of Matthew as an after-thought, but it encapsulates the whole point of the Gospel in a nutshell (Bosch),(p. 66). In much the same way, it is God’s Word, Jesus Christ, who comes to us in Baptism, giving us the gracious gift of divine communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as with all the members of the body of Christ, all of us sinners and saints, becoming disciples and learning to believe God’s promises for our lives.
Just to take another obvious place in the Small Catechism, there is the explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. In the same way, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it united with Jesus Christ in the one true faith (Tappert),
It is not by my own understanding or effort. I cannot come to Jesus Christ my Lord. It is all the doing of the Holy Spirit. Luther says the whole Christian Church on Earth, not some provincial, territorial, nationalist, or cultural expression, imprisoning it. The whole Christian Church on earth really requires a global consciousness in tension with our local experience (Ratke).
The grandeur of this basis for mission from the Small Catechism rivals that of Wilhelm Loehe’s famous word which I quoted earlier: “Mission is nothing else than the one Church of God in movement.” I wonder how in the Biedemeier Period of German History, when Germans were so provincial, Wilhelm Loehe realized that the church did not stop at the borders of Germany but spread to Shaginaw, Michigan, to concern for the Indians, and after his death, while the Franco-Prussian War was raging, the missionary minded apostolate at Neuendettelsau, sent missionaries to Papua New Guinea, in a fervor based on the Lutheran Confessions.
By right, we probably should have dealt with justification by faith first. In Article IV of the Augsburg Confession it states that we become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith (Tappert),(p. 30). Here we have the sola’s of Lutheran mission, faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone. First let’s take grace: it is God’s power and strength on our behalf; what God does for us, even though we are sinful and unworthy. Secondly, Christ alone is the one sent by the Father with the mission to save us, who, being at the right hand of God, will come to us out of the Divine majesty, if we receive him. And it is faith alone that receives a joyful exchange or reversal of divine gifts for human inadequacies through the favor of God.
Justification is an experience in which we become nothing so that God who creates out nothing, works through us and sends Christ into our hearts. While we do nothing, Christ does everything through us, including things that are humanly impossible to do. “Indeed, when I look back,” says the Psalmist, “all my works were thy doing, Oh Lord.”
In all probability, the oracle of Habakkuk (2:4), “the righteous shall live by faith,” started a renewal in the prophet’s time, then sent St. Paul on his missionary journeys. Loehe knew why it was so important to be confessional. And let’s face it, Luther is over-rated. Christ was in Luther, of all people, and set this centripetal and centrifugal world-changing movement afoot. Once again with a new wine that burst the old wineskins, so that the Gospel could be preached by the church, instead of its preoccupation with civil government, legislation, and the struggle for benefices of the so-called spiritual estate.
In the reversal of faith and grace, Luther couldn’t help sending out all those missionaries, if we would name them rightly. And Wittenberg University could not help being a powerful mission base. When the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ began to be preached, “the Holy Spirit called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified the whole Christian Church on earth.” In the reversal of faith and grace, Luther couldn’t help doing mission, because Christ was in him.
A rational reduction of justification by faith will not do. The righteous live their faith. By grace it becomes incarnate. There is nothing we need to do. Christ brings about the marvelous exchange: our sinful works are exchanged for the good works of Christ, our sinful, provincial, and closed minds are exchanged for the mind of Christ, our apathy and ignorance are exchanged for concern and compassion and sensitivity for our neighbors who are in need near and far.
In exchange for our faith we are given grace, making our faith a busy and restless thing, with divine understanding and effort, initiative, discipline, and a new movement once again empowered by heaven.
The reversal of justification transforms felt-burdens into joyfully received gifts. From a human point of view, a child can feel like a life-long burden, requiring untold human effort. But a child is an infinitely wonderful gift from the vantage point of grace. Just like faculty of the Wartburg here, wrote in the Difficult but Indispensable Church: “it is Christ who brings us together as a gift” (Everist), (p. XIX). This transformation is replete with meaning for mission: by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, the mission which seems like such a burden becomes a joy the church and its members cannot help doing. Imbued by God’s grace we get into the zone, so to speak, where gracious relationships with marvelous gifts build the church and the church overflows into mission and mission overflows into new churches.
All of this should fill us with gratitude, or Luther would say, we are made of stone: gratitude, because our salvation does not depend upon what we have done, but what Christ has already done for us. So we are now free to respond with all the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts.
Christ exchanges our terrible debt to sin into a marvelous debt of gratitude by the blood of Christ on the cross. It is this reversal that David Bosch finds to have been St. Paul’s basic motivation for mission (Bosch),(p. 138). He owed Christ a debt of gratitude for his being forgiven for the terrible debt of his sin. This gratitude sent him on his long missionary journeys, because he wanted to share this forgiveness and the joy of the Gospel with all the Gentiles.
And let me conclude with Article VII, because the mission of God lets the church open up virtually anywhere on face of the earth where, the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are administered in accordance with divine Word (Tappert),(p. 32).
Hopefully I have succeeded in grounding missiology in our Lutheran Confessions and I pray that we might receive the kingdom and express our gratitude by sharing it with the whole wide world. Amen.
 WA Tr5 no. 5378.
 In Heiko Oberman’s The Masters of the Reformation, (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 296-297. These figures are for five year periods, 1535 through 1540.
 A lecture given by Dr. Eugene Bunkowske in 1989 called, “Luther the Missionary?” It can be found in the Internet in Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library under Missiology.
 Ibid. Oberman counts 7,272 students between the years 1511 and 1540. Luther died in 1546.
 Simo Heininen, Die finnischen Studenten in Wittenberg, 1531-1552, Schriften der Luther-Agricola Gesellschaft A 19, (Helsinki, 1980), p. 13.
 The Wartburg Seminary is built to resemble the Wartburg Castle where Luther was hidden away and protected by Fredrick the Wise.
 I took some liberty to modernize these words from a hymnal cited by Georg Vicedom, The Mission of God, (St Louis: Concordia, 1965), p. 7.
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