Being Lutheran — Nothing to Be Ashamed Of!

St. John’s Riverside Lutheran Church
5686 Highway 32 South
Gillett, Wisconsin

June 1 – 4, 2009

Four Evenings to Renew and Deepen Our Faith and Understanding

June 1
Treasures in the Attic
Our Faith Is Not Clutter
June 2
God’s Pottery Wheel
The Shape of Worship; Worship that Shapes
June 3
Everyday Life
Where Faith Bears Fruit
June 4
Sharing the Gospel
Being Honorable Beggars

7:00 p.m. — 8:30 p.m.

Everyone is encouraged to attend all four evenings. Each evening will be valuable on its own. If you can’t join us on a certain evening, come on an evening or evenings that work out for you.Each evening will include the participation of a presenter and a pastor who will lead opening and closing worship and provide opportunities for conversation and advice.

Schedule for Each Evening
7:00    Responsive Prayer and Hymn
7:10    Presentation
7:55    Questions and Discussion
8:15    Compline Service

On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, we will meet in our fellowship space in the basement. Tuesday evening, we will meet in the sanctuary.
A handout will be distributed each evening so that what is learned can be reviewed and shared with others.
Chaplain: Pastor Shane Cota
Presenter: Michael Zamzow Continue reading


April 20th — Johannes Bugenhagen


A Short Synopsis of Bugenhagen’s Life

On April 20, 1558 Johannes Bugenhagen was born to eternal life. His earthly life began on June 24, 1485 in the Hanseatic city of Wollin in Pomerania. Bugenhagen’s father was a member of the town council and made sure that Johannes was given an especially good education. In 1502 he began his studies at the university in Greifswald where he came in contact with the growing Humanist movement, but did not pursue theological studies. In 1504 Bugenhagen was called to serve as a teacher and rector of the municipal Latin school in Treptow on the Rega. In the following year he was called serve simultaneously as lector (lecturer) for the canons of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Belbuk outside of the city. The abbot not only headed the abbey, but was the patron of the congregation and the school in Treptow. He was to give the canons an introductory course in Holy Scripture with an emphasis on Paul’s Pastoral Epistles and the Psalms. His reputation as a scholar grew and spread. In 1509 Bugenhagen was ordained a priest and began preaching (it is worth noting that his sermons in Wittenberg sometimes lasted three hours).

In 1517 Bugenhagen traveled throughout Pomerania gathering documents in order to write the first history of the Duchy of Pomerania. This enterprise was commissioned by Duke Bogislav X. Bugenhagen was thus connected with the past and then the future of his Pomeranian homeland.
Continue reading

The Meaning of Words, a Man’s Word, the Word of God — Part III

After a prolonged hiatus, the discussion of words and God’s Word continues. Apologies are due for the long delay in this discussion.
By its very length and place within a blog, this discussion cannot be exhaustive. To gain a more extensive understanding of Holy Writ as the Word of God, I suggest one dig out Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana. Paperback editions of accessible translations are available. I also highly recommend Kenneth Hagen’s Luther’s approach to scripture as seen in his “commentaries” on Galatians, 1519-1538, published by Mohr Siebeck, 1993. A preview of this gem can be accessed at Google Books. Sacra Scriptura by Hermann Sasse (edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf, published by “Lutherische Blätter” in Hermannsburg) is also a joy to digest. What follows is not a scholarly exposition, but an encouragement to reflect and discuss a crucial issue in the life of the Church today (as it has always been).

Whether Holy Writ is the Word of God should not be up for grabs among those called to be servants of the Word. Unfortunately, subtle forms of gnosticism and rationalism nibble away at the authority of Holy Writ. Authority is moved from Holy Scripture to a principle which is crafted to make the reader or expositor the arbiter of to what degree Holy Scripture is true, is God’s Word, is authoritative. Often familiar Scriptural insights are transformed into means of undermining the authority of the written Word. When the witness of Holy Writ to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word of God is gnosticized, what is left of it resembles more the Bible of Marcion or the tattered remains of the Bible after Thomas Jefferson got done with it. The tautological trap of this approach is not always evident to the unwary. If, for example, the Holy Trinity is deemed a construct of the Church rather than as a faithful expression of the witness of Holy Writ, all Trinitarian references and allusions are excised or dismissed as later additions. This approach to Scripture has been mainstreamed since Adolf von Harnack (who, incidentally, was a fan of Marcion). Consequently, we no longer listen to Scripture, but to the “experts” who provide the key to understanding Scripture. Expert opinions are eerily analogous to the passwords given the initiated in the gnostic mythological systems. The special knowledge of the experts allows them to change, reject, ignore, warp, or deny the witness of Holy Writ. The new gnostics are very slippery. If they do not take the plunge into open apostacy with Spong and Crossan, they are likely to protest that they are faithful to the biblical witness and even claim that they are more biblical or literal than the orthodox Lutherans who call the apostatic (not apostolic!) revisions into question. In the end, it comes down (as it often does) to prepositions. It is a question of where the servant of the Word stands. Apo, hyper, or hypo the Word of God. Continue reading

The Meaning of Words, a Man’s Word, the Word of God — Part II

One of the things which saddens me most about the present state of the Lutheran Church is the basic lack of integrity among those called to proclaim and teach God’s Word and rightly administer the sacraments. By this I do not mean the human weakness and sinfulness in which we all find ourselves. We all are tempted. Only Christ was and is without sin. My concern is more focused and is basic to the health of the Church and the proclamation of the Word. Rather than beat around the bush, I’ll get to the point. If a pastor is going to be a faithful servant of the Word, he has to be a man of his word. Pastor’s make solemn vows when they are ordained. Those vows are not coerced, but freely spoken. They are not based on some fine print which the pastor has overlooked, but on years of hopefully careful study and acquaintance with the teachings of the Church, especially Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Studying the ancient languages, learning to listen to God’s Word through careful and faithful exegesis, being immersed in the witness of the consensus of the church catholic in general, and the Lutheran Church specifically — these are not mere hurdles to be jumped, but preparation for ministry and a part of the informed consent involved in the ordination vows and subscription to the Confessions. The Church, including the average person sitting in the pews, should be able to trust that the pastor before them did not cross his fingers when saying his vows. The hearers of the Word should be able to trust that the man in the pulpit did not engage in some Lutheran form of the Jesuits’ reservatio mentis when he promised fidelity to God’s Word as witnessed in the Lutheran Confessions. Continue reading

The Meaning of Words, a Man’s Word, the Word of God–Part I

We live in a paradox in the world of blogs. On the one hand, the importance and power of words underlies the whole blogging enterprise. On the other hand, post-modern thought tends to downplay the meaning of words per se and centers meaning in the hearer. The former is the underlying assumption of this post. The latter is a malignancy which threatens not just language, but faith, trust, integrity, and any sense of Truth. As Lutherans, we are very aware of the centrality of God’s Word not only in theology, but in the very existence of the Church and the genesis of faith. As Christians, especially as theologians, we have a decided interest in words and meanings. We also trust that no matter how much men may try to empty words of their meaning, no matter how worthless a man’s word may be, VDMA.
From my perspective, the whole post-modern enterprise is a matter of deception. It is a matter of deconstruction and reconstruction. What this entails in regard to words is to render words meaningless or to at least raise doubts as to the meaning of words. Continue reading

The Church Needs A Constant Reformation

One of our brethren has shared these reflections on the relationship of the LCMS and ELCA. It is thoughtful and timely.

The Church Needs A Constant Reformation

Each year at the end of October we celebrate Reformation Sunday. This year it will take place on October 28, just three days before the actual anniversary of that great event. On October 31st, 1517, the eve of All Saints’ Day, Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenburg Germany. These were 95 points that he found wrong with the church of his day. By posting these 95 Theses it was Luther’s intent to debate these statements and to show where the church had erred. Luther never intended to break from the Roman Church – he simply wanted them to correct the false teachings that were not in accordance with the Bible.
Refusing to consider Luther’s claims the church excommunicated him and referred to him as a heretic. All of this is brought out very clearly in the movie called “Luther.” I suggest if you haven’t watched this movie that you either purchase it or rent it from the library and that you view it for yourself. It presents the struggles that Luther endured as he tried to bring the truth of the Gospel back to light. I especially like the part where he is asked to recant (to take back) his teachings. In that scene Luther makes his famous statement. “Unless convinced by Scripture or plain reason, – for I believe neither the Pope nor the councils alone, since it is certain they have often erred and contradicted one another, – I am overcome by the Scriptures quoted and my conscience is bound to the Word of God, I cannot and will not revoke anything, for it is unsafe and dishonest to act against conscience.” Continue reading

Need Lutheran Spirituality? Try Paul Gerhardt

Father Theophilus shares this paper with us. Please take the time to read the whole paper. This is another resource for reflecting on pastoral care we might want to take up.


Paul Gerhardt as a Teacher of Lutheran Spirituality

Symposium for Paul Gerhardt: Hymnwriter, Theologian, Church Father
Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, Saint Catharines
May 7-9, 2007

1. Singing with Devotion

In 1664 Paul Gerhardt wrote a short poem as a foreword to a book of poems by his fellow poet and close friend Joachim Pauli. It goes like this:
In the circle of the living
Each man works at his own craft,
Which, he knows, is duly fruitful;
Yet the one that gains most praise
Brings high honour to his God
With the songs that praise his name.

In his circle every singer
Who has made a skilful song
As a present to his Maker
Will receive his due reward;
But the best is he who sings
With devotion in his song.

In this charming little poem of two verses Gerhardt claims that all those craftsmen who work diligently at their craft, no matter what it may be, reap the fruit of their work if they stick at it. They all get their due recognition. But those poets who honour God by singing his praises receive the highest praise of all. Then Gerhardt goes one step further than that. While God is pleased with all those religious poets who sing his praises with well-crafted songs as an offering to him their Creator, he is most pleased with those who sing them with devotion.

In this Gerhardt tells us something about his own work as a song maker and singer. Singing with devotion is the hallmark of the songs that he composed, the reason why they still sing for us today and touch us so deeply. As a devotional hymn writer he is one of the outstanding teachers of Lutheran spirituality. His songs help us in our practice of evangelical spirituality. Yet that is not a word that Gerhardt and his contemporaries ever used. The term that they used was piety (Latin: pietas), godliness (German: Gottseligkeit). Continue reading