Offensive Preaching

There is a real and strong offense inherent in God’s Law and Gospel, rightly divided. Those who find their god in their own bellies don’t care about it, but many others, who pay attention to spiritual matters, find the preaching of Law and Gospel to be offensive. This includes many “in Israel,” that is, church members.

Therein is the reason why there is such division in outward Christianity. If we insist on recovering, preserving and teaching the pure Gospel of Christ, we will risk further outward fracturing of Christianity. There will always be some — even many who find it offensive. In that sense, the Reformation has indeed had a part in the divisions that are so apparent. Is Christian unity so precious that we should seek to buy it with our certainty of salvation? I hope not.

A new “gospel” message has been arising in many churches, in which the only “false” teaching is one that discriminates between righteousness and sin, between saved and unsaved. Some churches have found that this message sits well with a great many people, especially if it’s seasoned with a generalized nod toward the Golden Rule. “God will save everyone who tries their best.” And the ranks of those churches swell to bursting. No offense there.

On the other hand, there are also divisions in outward Christianity that have no bearing upon our certainty of salvation, nor any relation to the teaching of God’s Word. Those sad divisions can be healed in only one way: by recovering, preserving, and teaching the pure Gospel of Christ. In other words, through Reformation.

This, from Luther in 1531:

For many years, it was common experience at many gatherings that preaching was done to please everyone and cause offense to nobody. But the fact is, if you remove the offense and the obstacle, then Christ is lost. For right from the beginning when this man came into the world to show himself, there was opposition and taking of offense. Yes, say the pope, the bishops, the wise, and the mighty of this world, we will not tolerate this. Very well, are you angry? Then suppress it. Christ came to the Jews. He did not ask them beforehand whether or not he should come. This started such a stir in their land that they could not suppress it. Now he has come to us through his gospel, without our knowledge or will, and has also started a great uproar. Are you angered? Then oppose it. Are you wise? Then speak your mind. There are many who want to resolve the matter by human wisdom, but that remains to be seen. If they’re going to resolve this, bring an end to division and offense, achieve tranquility and unity, as they suppose, then I will scratch this text. Christ himself says in Matthew 10:34, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Therefore, it will likely be and remain, as Simeon states, “This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.” On the other hand, many will rise because of him and be saved. Those who try to resolve this matter through human wisdom will accomplish nothing; rather, they will fall, never to rise, and be smashed because of it. For they try to make Christ different from what God ordered and ordained.

— Luther’s House Postil vol. 1, first sermon for “First Sunday after Christmas”

Sacerdotalism and the Keys

In an article printed in the latest Lutheran Synod Quarterly, one of the ELS Doctrine Committee members provides a perspective on sacerdotalism. Classically defined, sacerdotalism occurs when we teach that an individual cannot freely and directly approach God (as in prayer), but requires the intervention of a third party — a priest of some kind. It also occurs when we teach that God’s spiritual gifts must always be received through an intermediary — again, through some kind of priest.

Thus defined, sacerdotalism contradicts scripture’s teaching that every Christian is a priest in his own right (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture teaches that every Christian has full access to God in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and may receive His spiritual gifts through Word and Sacrament with no intercessor but Christ himself.

There is, however, a useful distinction that the author may have overlooked.

Continue reading “Sacerdotalism and the Keys”

Daily Devotions for Busy People

(Updated 3 Feb 2009)

In The Lutheran Hymnal and in the Book of Family Prayer there is a schedule of Bible texts that may be used for devotions through the Church Year. From what I can see, its chief advantage is variety. Its disadvantage is convenience. I find it much more convenient to keep a bookmark in the Bible that sits on our living room shelf. Then I can grab that Bible (or the second edition of Concordia that sits nearby) for something to read during breakfast.

In the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary there is a list of the monthly psalter, which takes the reader through the entire book of Psalms once a month, with readings in the morning and evening. For a few years I had my computer sending out those readings via email. That worked well enough. Someone suggested that I make it available as an RSS feed instead. I never really had the right combination of opportunity, means, and motive, until today.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been producing a bulletin insert for my churches here containing some ideas and helps for use in personal devotion. Included are the readings from both the schedule I mentioned above and from the monthly psalter. That’s also where I list prayer requests, Sunday school lesson themes, and progressive excerpts from the Small and Large Catechisms. It’s a useful little insert, especially for those who can keep one handy through the week. I could do that, but today I realized I can do something else, too.

In the last year or two, I’ve been using an RSS feed aggregator to keep up with a few blogs and news sources. Right now, I’m very satisfied with one called Akregator, which is part of the KDE desktop environment. For those who don’t know what an RSS feed or an aggregator is, here’s a brief (3-paragraph) explanation:

Many web sites have pages or other information that gets updated from time to time. If you want to stay abreast of the information with your web browser, then you’ll have to fire up your browser and tell it to show you that page every time you remember to check for changes. Sometimes, there will be no changes at all, so you will have wasted some time in checking. Sometimes you won’t even remember to check for a while. That inconvenience and wasted time is solved by RSS feeds and aggregators.

An RSS feed can be provided by the web site you want to keep tabs on. It’s a link that shows a machine-readable list of recent changes. Each item in the list of changes can contain a link to the changed information, a comment or description, a bit of audio or video media (then we call it a podcast), and any number of other useful tidbits.

An aggregator (or feed reader) is an inobtrusive program that you keep running on your computer, which periodically checks all the RSS feeds you may be interested in for new information. When it finds something new, it lets you know. The aggregator also provides a way for you to subscribe to new feeds, manage your feeds, and even view the items they contain. Google and other web portals have built-in aggregators, but I prefer one that I can use without a web browser.

So today I decided it’s high time to provide this devotional information in an RSS Feed. Anyone can use it. Each item you fetch from the feed contains a brief description and a link to the devotion text for that time of that day. At 12 PM Pacific, the feed switches from morning devotions to evening devotions. (If you’re in another time zone, there’s not much I can do about it. I don’t think I have access to your tz information when you fetch the feed.) Generally, there are two items in the feed: the devotion text and the psalter reading. Since there are no devotion texts for Sunday, the feed is set to provide Sunday texts from the historic lectionary.

If you already use an aggregator, or if your brower has one built-in, then all you need is the link. You can use either of these:



You may have better success using this Feedburner link. It also works with a plain old webbrowser:


If your web browser doesn’t know what to do with those, and you don’t have an aggregator, then I suggest that you try out some free ones. You’ll find links from Wikipedia, among other places.