Posts filed under ‘Lent’

The Grace of the Covenant

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III

Lent 3B (texts from Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

United and St John Lutheran Churches

11 March 2012

 

Sermon Audio

'The Ten Commandments' St Paul, Loganton

For all of us who think that religion is just a list of do’s and don’ts,

(and mostly don’ts)

for all of us who think that Christianity is a moral code,

for all of us who think that church is a place where children learn right from wrong,

we must read the Ten Commandments again.

We must read them as part of the story of a God

who acts on behalf of his people to rescue them from their oppressors;

a God who passionately wants to restore the relationship

between himself and his people,

a God who came down into human history to be among his people,

to be one of his people.

Firstly, God identifies himself to the people of Israel this way.

“I am the LORD your God.”

He does not say, “I will be the Lord your God

if you obey these rules I am giving you,

he says, I am the LORD your God.

Before Israel even existed, God called Abraham,

and that before Abraham even knew who God was.

I am the LORD your God.

I am the LORD your God.

This God is not an enemy, but a friend.

This is a God who rescued them, who delivered them,

who saved them from a king armed with chariots and horsemen,

who made a way where there was no way

to safety, to victory, to freedom.

I am the LORD your God.

You shall have no other gods before me.

We can read this as a rule,

Or as grace.

And I would like to suggest that when we read the Ten Commandments,

we might do just as well to read them not as laws,

as we just did a few minutes ago,

but as grace.

It is grace to have no other gods but the God who rescues Israel.

It was grace for the Israelites not to have the gods of Canaan

who demanded child sacrifice.

It is grace to have a jealous God,

who cares about us,

who jealously guards our relationship not to stifle us,

but to free us,

who hates it when we run off with other gods,

the gods of success and pride and prosperity and self-fulfillment

who do not give us liberty but slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

To be free of the gods which people have set up for themselves

for millennia –

what grace!

What a gracious God who guards his name

so that it may be named at all times in prayer, praise and thanksgiving?

What a gracious God who bids us trust

that there will be time for all our work,

that we are not made for work

but that there is always time to live in the freedom

that is found in relationship with him?

What a gracious God who bids us keep the boundaries between us

whole and inviolate,

that we may not claim for ourselves the honor due our parents,

that we may not claim for ourselves power over life that belongs to him,

that we may not claim for ourselves bodies that belong to others,

that we may not claim for ourselves another’s property or good name,

that we may desire nothing but the freedom and peace of the other?

So that none of us may set ourselves up as gods over another,

But all might live in community with God and each other.

What a gracious God who gives a law

which would keep us free –

from the ravage of rivalry with himself and with each other?

It is not his doing that we see his law as stifling,

as keeping us from what we desire,

whether independence or vengeance or our heart’s desire

or what is rightfully ours or to be lifted up above another.

It is not his doing that we perceived his grace as tyranny,

That Israel was all too willing to turn to other gods,

some of whom demanded the sacrifice of their children,

and that we do too.

It is always the weakest who suffer the consequences of idolatry –

the children whose lives or childhoods are sacrificed

for an adult’s desire for fame or pleasure or independence

or for the exercise of their bitterness,

young people who die for no reason in school or on the streets

or on the battlefields:

the women and men who have no assets but their bodies,

the elderly who are denied the honor due their age,

the poor who are denied a Lord’s day

so that the rich may get what they want whenever they want it,

the relationships that are broken because we can’t keep our mouths shut.

The Lord is not angry because a line has been stepped over.

The Lord’s anger comes when the innocent suffer

because his life of grace has been rejected.

But in his righteous anger God would cleanse.

In our class on Mark we’ve been learning

that Jesus’ first public act during Holy Week

was the so-called ‘cleansing of the Temple.’

In the Gospel of John it is Jesus’ first public act period.

Jesus comes to his Father’s house,

and finds it a place where the life of grace has been rejected.

And he acts to restore the true worship of God.

He acts as a sign of his great action on the cross,

when his body will become the true temple,

the body that we are made part of by baptism,

each individual self a dwelling place for God’s Spirit,

and when we come together, we become a people

among whom God’s Son dwells in Word and Sacrament.

In his righteous anger God would cleanse.

And so may God cleanse us in this holy season.

May God cleanse his church,

As Jesus cleansed the temple.

May God cleanse us as individuals and communities of faith

and take from us all that would reject his gracious offer of life with him.

In Jesus’ cross, may we find all that we need,

so that we may hear God’s Word to us,

as he spoke to others so long ago:

I am the the LORD your God,

who in Jesus Christ set you free from sin, death, and evil

to live in the freedom and peace of the Holy Spirit.

You shall have no other gods before me.

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March 12, 2012 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Living Under the Cross

I remember reading an article once
about the large megachurches that were going up like shopping malls
around large cities in the 1980s and 1990s.
They had everything –
thousands of individual padded seats,
wide enough to fit even the Goliaths among God’s children,
coffee bars and food courts,
stages and screens and sound systems
which would be the envy of theatres anywhere.
Everything but the cross and the altar in central place.

In at least one rising megachurch,
it was asked where the cross was.
‘When people come here,
we don’t want them to feel like they’re in church,’
the answer came.
‘The cross is a depressing symbol.
We want people to feel good when they come here.’

It would be unfair to judge that person.
We all want to feel good.
It would also be unfair to judge all megachurches by that answer.
But it’s no wonder that some of those churches,
carefully packaged to the taste of the American consumer,
have a shelf-life like any other consumer product.
It may or may not interest you to know
that Salona and St Paul Lutheran Churches
will probably outlast the great and mighty Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California.
Ownership of the building has passed to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange,
and in three years it will become the cathedral of the Diocese.

Well now.
I suppose that’s enough superiority for one day.
Lutherans of course, are proud (but not too proud!)
We historically have known that the point of church and life
was not to make you ‘feel good.’
Now some of us have interpreted that to mean that the point was to make us feel bad.
That’s not quite what Jesus meant.
Not at all.
Jesus’ cross, and the cross he enjoins upon all his followers,
is not simply a punishment laid upon us,
as if being told all our lives that Jesus took away the sin of the world
we were then told that we had to bear our punishment with a pious look.

The one who wants communion with God,
to live in covenant with God,
upon that one a cross will be laid
by a world still in thrall to the satanic promises
of a quick way, an easy way, one’s own way.

Last week, we heard that after his baptism
Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
In Mark, we are not told of the content of the Satanic temptation
until this point.
A life keeping covenant with God
will incur the wrath of the world.
Jesus has already accepted that,
but now he must show his disciples.

It is now that Peter has answered the question, “Who do you say that I am,”
with “You are the Messiah,”
that Jesus can tell his disciples the second part of the mystery;
that the life of the Messiah is suffering, death, and resurrection.
Real suffering, real death, real resurrection.
Peter can’t bear to hear it.
Neither can we.
We try and keep suffering and death as far away as possible.
Isn’t that obvious?

But in Christ,
God entered into our suffering and our death.
In Christ, God himself took our suffering and death
and made it his own,
so that we could have what is God’s own –
the life together of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In Christ,
God kept covenant with us and with all humanity.
And he did so by walking the way to the cross,
by making his entire life a sharing in the suffering of humanity,
and in that suffering uncovering the joy of being in communion with God.

He calls us to take up our cross and follow him.
What can this mean?
It means that as Christ lived for his Father,
so we live for Christ.
And living for Christ means not living for ourselves anymore.
You are making a sacrifice,
however small,
to be here this day.

You could be doing something else with your time.
Something for you.
Wal-Mart is open.
Your bed, made or unmade, is at home.
The money that you give you could use for yourself.
But you are here, giving glory to God
and hearing his Word.
The cross is usually not splinters of wood,
a heavy beam across your back,
it is being where God calls you to be when he calls you to be there.
And sometimes we’d prefer to carry a beam
than to be where God calls us to be when he calls us to be there.
We have our ears full of the siren song of the world,
with its promises and possibilities and soothing sounds
saying “you can have your best life now”
and cannot hear the still small voice of God
calling us into community with him and with others.

The cross is often not splinters of wood,
a heavy beam across your back;
it is your nearest neighbor
whom you are called to carry;
that neighbor’s sins and sorrows,
that neighbor’s faults and foibles,
that neighbor’s life and death,
in all that person’s givenness.
And that is precisely what a megachurch is designed to avoid.
In a megachurch, you pays your money and you takes your choice,
and you need not encounter anyone whilst you are there.
Least of all God.

In community, Jesus dealt with all his disciples;
the headstrong ones like Peter and James and John,
the misunderstanding ones like Philip and Thomas,
the betraying ones like Judas.
He bore them and forgave them, daily.
We are called to live in community with each other
and with others,
bearing with who they are, forgiving them daily,
as we have been forgiven.
Forgiveness is a much-abused and much-misunderstood term,
but we have often not even tried the life of forgiveness
because we understand that it will involve giving up our natural rights –
to anger, to a life free from anxiety,
to our best life that we determine for ourselves.

By ourselves, we cannot lose our attachments to the world
and we cannot forgive others.
If we have failed to do so,
if with our first steps under the cross, we have fallen,
we join the great company of disciples, Peter first among them,
who have done so.
That is why Jesus’ command, ‘Follow me,’
is so important.
We are called to bear Jesus’ cross in community with him.
With our eyes on him and not on ourselves,
we see him with us,
we lay our burdens on him
who carries every burden,
not so that we can avoid discipleship,
but so that we can know that we are never disciples alone.
We cannot keep covenant with God
without believing that in Jesus Christ God kept covenant with us,
and that the suffering, death, and resurrection
we share with him
is worth more than all the world’s golden store.

March 4, 2012 at 8:09 am Leave a comment

‘Living in the Covenant’ – audio

Here is the audio for yesterday’s sermon, ‘Living in the Covenant.’  Please excuse my atrocious French pronunciation.

February 27, 2012 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Living in the Covenant – Sermon 1 Lent 2012

‘Living in the Covenant’

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS

United and Salona Lutheran Churches

Sunday in 1 Lent

February 26, 2012

 

Yesterday, for his thirteenth birthday,

I took my son Michael up to Syracuse

to see the twenty-fifth anniversary production of the musical Les Miserables.

We tend to pass on our interests and our passions to our children.

Some children learn to go fishing and hunting

because their dad has taught them how.

Some enjoy certain foods or movies because they are family traditions.

My wife and I have music and literature to pass on to our children;

and I pass on my love for sports,

which I’m proud to say that Michael does not only like to watch sports,

but is more physically fit than I ever was.

So we made the trek to northcentral New York

to see the musical based upon a book written by the French author Victor Hugo in the early 1860s.

Les Miserables was translated very quickly into English,

and around the time of the battle of Gettysburg,

many officers and men of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia

were carrying it around in their knapsacks.

Some sarcastically referred to themselves as ‘Lee’s Miserables.’

 

The main character of Les Miserables is a man named Jean Valjean,

who spent nineteen years on the chain gang:

His family desperate with hunger,

He broke into a bakery and stole a loaf of bread.

For that crime he served five years.

Fourteen years were added to that sentence for his attempts to escape.

Released at last, he finds nowhere to turn but to a kindly bishop,

who takes him in and feeds him for a night.

The embittered Valjean repays the bishop’s generosity by stealing some silver.

When he is caught, the bishop maintains Valjean’s innocence,

and says that he has forgotten the silver candlesticks the bishop has also given him.

Humbled by the bishop’s mercy,

and terrified by his own sin,

Valjean turns from his old life

and takes up a new name.

Within eight years he has become a factory owner

and the mayor of a small town in France.

 

But he finds that his identity cannot escape him.

He discovers that a man has been caught and identified

as the parole-breaker Jean Valjean,

and that this innocent man will receive a sentence

for the crime that he has committed.

The real Jean Valjean is confronted with a desperate choice.

He has responsibilities,

He has people dependent on him,

He has hidden himself so well that he would never be suspected.

He has done so well – living as an upright citizen and helping those in need.

And yet, he has made covenant with God to live for God.

Who is he? Can he escape from who he had been –

Or is he always the convict who must live as a convict,

bearing his shame and his name to save another?

 

The idea of covenant runs through the entire Bible.

Two parties who make a covenant agree to be faithful to that covenant,

to abide by the covenant,

no matter what may come.

This Lent, we will hear read several Old Testament covenants

that God made with his people,

including the covenant of the Ten Commandments:

God promises to be our God,

and we promise to be his people.

 

Today we heard of the covenant that God made with Noah and his descendants,

that never again would the inhabited earth be destroyed by the waters of a flood.

The sign of the covenant was the rainbow.

Nowadays the rainbow is supposed to symbolize diversity of people,

but that is not the biblical image.

Instead, it is God hanging up his bow,

renouncing this weapon –

never to be used again.

Perhaps that understanding has faded over the years,

but it can easily be recalled:

The rainbow is a sign of peace – peace between God and humanity.

 

The remarkable thing about this covenant is that it is unconditional.

In other covenants, there are stipulations when the covenant is broken

by one party or the other.

Not in this covenant.

God makes an everlasting covenant,

that the earth shall never be destroyed again by a flood.

God binds himself by his Word.

He declares his unbreakable intention toward humanity;

to preserve life, to continue life, to maintain life.

 

One wonders whether or not God ever had second thoughts.

Having witnessed the barbarism of humanity over the years,

how we haven’t changed since the time of Noah:

our cruelty to each other,

our ignorance of his commands,

our despoliation of his creation,

our pride and our despair and our indifference,

one would think that God would have ample reason to abrogate the covenant.

And yet, God remains faithful,

because he does not break his promises.

 

When Jesus is baptized, anointed with the Spirit,

And the Father declares, ‘You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased,’

The Spirit immediately drives him in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The Gospel of Mark does not relate the content of the temptation.

But a more relevant question for us is ‘why?’

Why does temptation follow so quickly upon baptism?

Why, after the baptismal covenant is made,

is it immediately tested?

 

It is tested because only there can faithfulness be discerned.

The devil tests the Son’s faith in the covenant declaration about him.

Does God really have the ability to deliver on his covenant?

Jesus himself knows that God has hung his bow in the clouds –

That he will refuse to intervene even if Jesus suffers the death of the cross;

That God has chosen another way – the way of love –

To conquer human rebellion.

Satan asks – can you really trust God?

Wouldn’t it be safer – wouldn’t it be smarter – wouldn’t it be easier –

to rely on yourself rather than upon your Father?

 

We will hear more on this in the Gospel lesson next week.

But let us return to the fictional Jean Valjean.

He has a choice before him –

To give in to the temptation to hide behind the lie he has created –

A lie for a good purpose – but still a lie –

And to let an innocent man take his place;

Or to emerge into the full truth,

Living in the covenant that God made with Jean Valjean

And not with any other man:

‘I will be your Father, and you my adopted son.’

Does he trust that God will provide for him

even if he emerges into the light?

Or does he trust in himself,

in his own cunning, to steal another man’s meaningless life

for the sake of the good life he has created?

Wouldn’t it be safer? Wouldn’t it be smarter? Wouldn’t it be easier?

If the meeting with the bishop in the beginning of the story

was Valjean’s baptism,

then the scene where he appears before the court

and rips open his shirt to show the convict’s tattoo upon his chest

is his victory over temptation.

Valjean believes that God will keep covenant with him,

And so Valjean is empowered to keep covenant with God, no matter the cost.

And he does so throughout all the rest of the story.

'Who am I? I'm Jean Valjean!'

In doing so, Valjean follows in the steps of his master, Jesus.

For Jesus, alone among all of us,

Remained in the covenant which God made with him,

Trusting in the promises that God made,

No matter how distant or full of trouble they seemed.

And in Lent, we are invited,

Gathering around Word and Sacrament,

in fasting and prayer and works of love,

to live ever more deeply in the covenant God made with us

through Holy Baptism,

answering Valjean’s question, ‘Who am I?’

with the answer, ‘I am my sinful self,

but I am also the Father’s adopted child,

forgiven and claimed by his faithful Son,

and I will live each day in this trust and in this promise,

keeping covenant with the one who will always keep covenant with me.’


February 26, 2012 at 9:19 am 1 comment

To Seek the Truth: Ash Wednesday 2012

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS

United and St Paul Lutheran Churches

Ash Wednesday (texts from Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

February 22, 2012

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

For many years I have heard this familiar refrain

from well-meaning ministers and Christian people:

‘This year I’m not ‘giving up’ something for Lent,

I’m ‘taking on’ something for Lent.”

I must confess that I find it rather cheeky

that suddenly in these enlightened times

our generation has suddenly found the secret

to improving the ancient Christian practice of Lent.

Granted, during Lent we always are called upon to refocus our priorities,

to give money to the poor we might not think to do at other times,

to give extra attention to the Word,

to devote more time to prayer.

All of these are well and good.

There is always a sense in which we are doing something more.

So why am I uneasy?

Maybe there’s a good reason well-meaning people

suggest taking something on for Lent rather than giving something up.

Maybe it’s that the practice we all grew up with,

giving up a favorite comfort food or a leisure activity,

is quite frankly so little of a sacrifice for many people

that it hardly qualifies as a sign of repentance.

You give up chocolate? Dunkin’s got lots of stuff without chocolate.

You give up a game on the computer? There’s something else to distract you.

Maybe I have not understood for many years

that the impulse behind a taking on of an extra something

is motivated by the unspoken sense that for many of us,

our Lenten discipline is not really such.

Certainly it is not the response to the urgent calls of Amos for public repentance,

to the fervent pleas of St Paul to be reconciled to God.

But I still am concerned,

because Lent is not to be about what we can accomplish for God’s sake,

but about humbling ourselves before God.

The essence of Lent is not throwing ourselves into a frantic race

to live the faith we should live every day.

The essence of Lent is to seek the truth, for the first time or the hundredth;

and that means emptying our lives

of all that is superficial and needless

so that we might devote ourselves to seeking that truth.

The essence of Lent is to seek the truth.

The truth about God, and the truth about ourselves.

The truth is we were made for relationship with God,

but we want to control that relationship.

The truth is that we want God, but we want him on our terms,

living mostly for ourselves and squeezing God in when it is convenient,

filling our lives with things we can see and touch and taste and manipulate,

and daring to praise ourselves and to seek praise from others

for our piety, for our little faith, for our religious behavior.

The truth is we are created,

dependent upon God for everything.

God gave us our parents, who fed and sheltered us,

God gave us our community, who nurtured and educated us,

God gave us the Church, to tell us that we were sinners

but that God himself had found us in Jesus Christ.

Having learned from the Word,

we humble ourselves in the silence of our hearts,

emptying ourselves of the pretension

that we might be able to accomplish something for God,

something that would make God and others sit up and take notice.

We do not seek the praise of others

nor even for God to praise us,

but only for the grace to live in God’s presence.

It is then that God gives us himself,

so that he might accomplish what he desires through us,

no matter how great or little it might seem to us.

The ashes on our forehead today

can remind us of at least three truths.

When we are lifted high, puffed up and proud,

they are there to knock us down,

challenging us to remember that our lives are not our own,

that we are not made of eternal stuff,

and that the one who made us from the dust of the earth

will return us to the dust.

But they are also a reminder that it is from the earth

that God causes fruit to spring forth.

To be a creation of God

is to be imbued with God’s potential,

for he may implant in the ground seeds that can bear fruit for his glory.

We need do nothing but be empty, waiting for God to accomplish his will in us.

And finally, the ashes in the shape of a cross are testament

that in Jesus Christ, God himself came down to the dust,

Jesus shared in our guilt and bore its consequences,

Jesus was the fertile soil from which the Church sprung forth.

And Jesus is the one who makes both dust and cross

not merely symbols of death

but promises of the new life

which is given to us to seek truth:

the truth about us, that we are sinners always in need of grace;

the truth about God, that he is grace who comes for sinners,

and makes us sons and daughters.

February 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday: The Church Confesses… (Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Guilt, Justification, and Renewal)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s radical message reaches to our own day.

From his unfinished magnum opus, Ethics, we are given an essay on ‘Guilt, Justification, and Renewal’[1]. In this astonishing document, Bonhoeffer dares to confess in the name of the Church the Church’s failure to keep God’s commands in his own time. Then he recognizes the objections some will raise and answers them.[2]

This Lent, may the Church not only remind individual members of their sins, but understand and confess its corporate guilt in refusing to be Christ for the world, so that in the confession of the Church, ‘humanity may be judged by Christ and therefore exist before him,’ and ‘convicted in their guilt, (be) justified by the one who takes on and forgives all human guilt, namely, Jesus Christ.’ [3]

The church confesses that it has not professed openly and clearly enough its message of the one God, revealed for all times in Jesus Christ and tolerating no other gods besides. The church confesses its timidity, its deviations, its dangerous concessions. It has often disavowed its duties as sentinel and comforter. Through this it has often withheld the compassion that it owes the despised and rejected. The church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven. The church did not find the right word in the right way at the right time. It did not resist to the death the falling away from faith and is guilty of the godlessness of the masses.

The church confesses that it has misused the name of Christ by being ashamed of it before the world and by not resisting strongly enough the misuse of that name for evil ends. The church has looked on while injustice and violence have been done, under the cover of the name of Christ. It has even allowed the most holy name to be openly derided without contradiction and has thus encouraged that derision. The church recognizes that God will not leave unpunished those who so misuse God’s name as it does.

The church confesses it is guilty of the loss of holidays, for the barrenness of its public worship, of the contempt for Sunday rest. It has made itself guilty for the restlessness and discontent of working people, as well as for their exploitation above and beyond the workweek, because its preaching of Jesus Christ has been so weak and its public worship so limp.

The church confesses that it is guilty of the breakdown of parental authority. The church has not opposed contempt for age and the divinization of youth because it feared losing the youth and therefore the future, as if the future depended on the young! It has not dared to proclaim the God-given dignity of parents against revolutionary youth and has made a very worldly-minded attempt ‘to go along with youth.’ Thus it is guilty of destroying countless families, for children’s betraying their parents, of the self-divinizing of youth, and therefore of abandoning them to fall away from Christ.

The church confesses that it has witnessed the arbitrary use of brutal force, the suffering of body and soul of countless innocent people, that it has witnessed oppression, hatred, and murder without raising its voice for the victims and without finding ways of rushing to help them. It has become guilty of the lives of the weakest and most defenseless brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

The church confesses that it has not found any guiding and helpful word to say in the midst of the dissolution of all order in the relationship of the sexes to each other. It has found no strong or authentic message to set against the disdain for chastity and the proclamation of sexual licentiousness. Beyond the occasional expression of moral indignation it has had nothing to say. The church has become guilty, therefore, of the loss of purity and wholesomeness among youth. It has not known how to proclaim strongly that our bodies are members of Christ.

The church confesses that it has looked on silently as the poor were exploited and robbed, while the strong were enriched and corrupted.

The church confesses its guilt toward the countless people whose lives have been destroyed by slander, denunciation, and defamation. It has not condemned the slanderers for their wrongs and has thereby left the slandered to their fate.

The church confesses that it has coveted security, tranquility, peace, property, and honor to which it had no claim, and therefore has not bridled human covetousness, but promoted it.

The church confesses itself guilty of violating all of the Ten Commandments. It confesses thereby its apostasy from Christ. It has not so borne witness to the truth of God in a way that leads all inquiry and science to recognize its origin in this truth. It has not been able to make the loving care of God so credible that all human economic activity would be guided by it in its task. By falling silent the church became guilty for the loss of responsible action in society, courageous intervention, and the readiness to suffer for what is acknowledged as right. It is guilty of the government’s falling away from Christ.

Is this going too far? Should a few super-righteous people rise at this point and try to prove that not the church but all the others are guilty? Would a few churchmen like to dismiss this as a rude insult and, presuming to be called judges of the world, proceed to weigh the mass of guilt here and there and distribute it accordingly? Was not the church hindered and bound on all sides? Was not all worldly power arrayed against it? Should the church have endangered its ultimate purpose, its public worship and its congregational life, by taking up the struggle against anti-Christian powers? So speaks unbelief, which perceives confession of guilt not as regaining the form of Jesus Christ who bore the sins of the world, but only as a dangerous moral degradation. Free confession of guilt is not something that one can take or leave; it is the form of Jesus Christ breaking through in the church. The church can let this happen to itself, or it will cease to be the church of Christ. Whoever spoils the church’s confession of guilt is hopelessly guilty before Christ.

In confessing its guilt the church does not release people from their personal confession of guilt, but calls everyone into a community of confession. Only as judged by Christ can humanity that has fallen away exist before Christ. The church calls all whom it reaches to come under this judgment.

The church and the individual, convicted in their guilt, are justified by the one who takes on and forgives all human guilt, namely, Jesus Christ. This justification of the church and the individual consists in their becoming participants in the form of Christ. It is the form of the human being judged by God, delivered over to the death of the sinner, and awakened by God to new life. It is the form of the human being as it is truly before God. Only as drawn into the shame of the cross, the public death of the sinner, is the church – and the individual in it – received into the community of glory of the one who was awakened to new righteousness and new life.


[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol.6). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004, 134-145. (Quoted text from pages 138-42.)

[2] The critical apparatus in the DBW edition from which this excerpt is taken has several very helpful explanations of the specific problems in German society Bonhoeffer may have been addressing. Nevertheless, multiple interpretations and implications may be taken for our own day, which will no doubt vary depending upon the perspective of the reader.

[3] Ibid., 142.

February 22, 2012 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Lent: A Time for Fasting

From a Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod pastor’s blog. Five years old, but still very relevant. The Bible is two thousand years old, and it’s still relevant.

Enjoy your fastnachts/Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday!

 

February 21, 2012 at 10:14 am Leave a comment


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