Archive for the tag “Luther”

When God Winked

michelangelo-71282_1280Already in the opening chapter of the Bible, God is dropping hints about a Christmas to come. After he’s fashioned the sun, moon, and stars; after he’s poured out the oceans and rivers; after he’s given flight to the birds, leaves to the trees, and fields to the cattle—after every detail of creation is perfected, he makes his crowning achievement: man and woman.

But he doesn’t make us in the image of the angels, or according to the likeness of cows, cats, or crawfish. The Father says to the Son, and the Son echoes to the Spirit, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” (Gen 1:26f).

And in so doing, God not only reveals that we are like he is; he also is winking that he will become as we are. As Luther writes, “Because [Adam] was created in the image of the invisible God, [we have here a hint] that God was to reveal himself to the world in the man Christ,” (AE 1:87).

On the birthday of Adam and Eve, the angels filled their lungs with the breath they’d exhale centuries later as they sang the Gloria in Excelsis in the fields outside Bethlehem.

In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. And that Word with God became God with us, our Emmanuel. The Creator becomes a creature while yet remaining Creator. “Upon a manger filled with hay, In poverty content he lay. With milk was fed the Lord of all, Who feeds the ravens when they call,” (TLH 104:5).

The Word becomes flesh, our flesh and blood, our bones and sinews, our heart and soul. He becomes like us in all things, except sin, that he might redeem all of who we are.
In his body is life for our bodies.
In his heart is life for our hearts.
In his blood is life for our blood.
The Image maker becomes the image made that he might recreate us in his own image, according to his likeness. The Son of God becomes a son of man to make us all the children of our heavenly Father.

*This reflection is part of a series of mediations on hymns that I presented at the “Day of Singing Boldly” at St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska. It draws from the language of John 1, especially verse 14,”The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

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An Unmighty Fortress Is Our Life

ruins-664869_1920Not a mighty but an unmighty fortress is our life—a ramshackle pile of bricks encircled by a dried-up moat. Left to ourselves, we are like Adam and Eve; we sew together fig leaves of self-righteousness and hunker down behind trees of flimsy excuses to hide in vain from a judgment we deserve. The old evil foe, who now means deadly woe, bids us nail together a raft of driftwood instead of boarding the God-given ark of salvation. As devils all the world fill, all eager to devour us, we beat them to the punch by devouring our lives in pleasures and pursuits of egotism that only fatten us for the slaughter to come. No truer words do we sing than these: “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.”

It is therefore the best of news that for us fights the valiant one, whom God himself elected. He strips us of our fig leaves and decks us out in the regal robes of the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world. He takes us by the hand and ushers us through the spear-hewn door in the side of Christ our ark where we are dry and safe from the rising waters. He spoon-feeds us the manna of his body and holds to our lips a chalice filled with blood that streamed from the rock of his riven side. He paints the doorways and lintels of our body and soul with the crimson colors of the Passover sacrifice. He parts the sea of the font, leads us through dry shod, and brings those waters crashing down on the army of our sins that trail behind. He—our Lamb, our Priest, our Temple, our Son of David—is our Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God. He holds the field forever.

And he holds us. Therefore we will not fear. Though an unmighty fortress be our life, a mighty fortress is our God. Though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride, we will not fear. Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; take they our reputation, dreams, friends, and health; though all these all be gone, our victory has been won; the kingdom our remaineth.

Therefore, be still and know that Christ is God. The God who is love, who loves you from eternity and back. The God dead upon the cross and alive out of the tomb. All for none other than you. The Lord of hosts is with us, the crucified and resurrected Christ is our stronghold.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

The Missing Verse in the Creation Account

Sometimes the Scriptures trip us up. We’re walking along the biblical road, as it were, and our foot catches in a pothole. There’s a gap in the narrative. So we pause, we look, we ponder. We note what’s missing and wonder what it might mean. What the Bible does not say becomes just as fascinating as what it does say.

torahscrollThere’s such a gap in the creation account. Six times we read that “there was evening and there was morning, the _______ day.” The first day, the second day, and so forth. Genesis 1 has a predictable pattern; it’s a smooth road to walk. Until we get to the end. There our foot catches in a pothole. We read that God finished all his work on the seventh day, that he rested on this Sabbath day. But never does it say “there was evening, and there was morning, the seventh day.” It’s like there’s a missing verse in the creation account. Why? It’s as if this day never ended. It’s waiting for something—or someone—to bring it to a close.

In many ways, the story of Christ is mysteriously hidden in the opening chapters of the Bible. He is the word by whom the heavens and earth were made; the light of the world; the true image of the invisible God; and so forth. He is also the one who finally can say, “there was evening, and there was morning, the seventh day.” Jesus brings this first Sabbath to a close when he rests within the tomb on the Sabbath day. He has done the work of recreation, the work of saving us. Having worked himself to death, he rests from his labors on the Sabbath. When Jesus rises again, that old seventh day is over. Indeed, the old creation has come to an end. When the Creator emerges from the tomb after his Sabbath rest, he ushers in the eighth day. It is the first day of the new creation in Christ. And it is a day with no evening, for this day shall never end. The sun never sets on the new creation in Christ, for there is no darkness, only light in the Lord. In his Genesis Lectures, Luther remarks on this,

“In an allegorical sense the eighth day signifies the future life; for Christ rested in the sepulcher on the Sabbath, that is, during the entire seventh day, but rose again on the day which follows the Sabbath, which is the eighth day and the beginning of a new week, and after it no other day is counted. For through His death Christ brought to a close the weeks of time and on the eighth day entered into a different kind of life, in which days are no longer counted but there is one eternal day without the alternations of night. (AE 3:141)

The Old Testament had already foreshadowed this eighth day salvation we have in Christ. On the ark, there were only eight people. After the flood, these eight disembark into a kind of new creation. God had rewound the world, as it were, to Genesis 1 again, where waters covered the surface of the earth. When the earth is dry again, Noah and seven others step into this purged creation as the human nucleus of a new world. St. Peter tells us that the flood was an image of baptism (1 Peter 3:20), whereby we are saved. In baptism we enter the ark of Christ’s body through the door in his side, hollowed out by a Roman spear. In Christ, we become part of the group of eight on the ark. The eight does not increase to nine or ten but swells to contain us all. God recreates us in this saving flood of baptism. We enter the new creation in Christ.

Similarly, in the Old Testament, infant boys were circumcised on the eighth day of the lives. This was a preview of the true and full circumcision that was to come in Christ. In Jesus, all of us are “circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead,” (Col 2:11-12). We were circumcised with Christ in baptism. Not just a tiny bit of flesh—the foreskin—was cut away, but the entire person has been circumcised away by those cutting waters. In baptism we are buried and resurrected with Christ. We rest with him on the seventh day. And we rise with him on the eighth day as new creatures who enter an eternal day. Yes, we await the resurrection of our bodies, but by baptismal participation in the resurrected body of Jesus, we already have the down payment of our own resurrection. And, as Luther says, on the day our bodies are raised, we shall be “perfectly circumcised, in order that we may be free of every sin of the world,” (AE 3:141).

On Easter, Jesus finally finished writing Genesis 1-2. He stepped out of the tomb, took pen in hand, and wrote on the Torah scroll, “And there was evening, and there was morning, the seventh day.” He began the eighth day, after which there is no other. It is the everlasting day of an everlasting kingdom which we enter on the ark of baptism, circumcised into Jesus, made new and whole in him who accomplished a re-genesis of the world for us.

Follow me on Twitter @birdchadlouis
Check out my podcast: 40 Minutes in the OT
You may also “like” my Facebook writings page

christ alone cover

What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who InfantPriestfrontcoverwelcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!

“One Little Word Can Fell Him”

amightyfortress‎”One little word can fell him.” What’s that word?

Today, as many Lutheran congregations celebrated the Reformation, they sang Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which famously declares that “one little word” can bring down the devil. What is that word? In at least one of his writings, Martin Luther refers to his own hymn and reveals that the word he had in mind was “liar.”

Speaking of one of the books his opponent had written against him, Luther says, “For all such books, even if there were as many as thousands of them written every day and every hour…, are very easily refuted with the single word, ‘Devil, you lie,’ just as that haughty beggar Dr. Luther sings so proudly and boldly in those words of his hymn, ‘One little word shall fell him.'”
Against Hanswurst (AE 41:185-186).

For Jesus, the Truth, the Word made Flesh, is always victorious over the spirit who is the Lie.

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