Given For You

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“… he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'”

— Luke 22:19-20, ESV.

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Maundy Thursday 2016

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God’s presence filled the temple in Jerusalem.  The Lord entered the temple when the

priests brought the ark of the LORD’s covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the most holy place, beneath the wings of the cherubim…  The temple, the LORD’s temple, was filled with a cloud.  And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the LORD filled God’s temple.

— 2 Chronicles 5:13-14, HCSB.

The curtain of the temple separated the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the people.  Only the high priest entered that most holy place, and only on the day of atonement.

But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

— Hebrews 9:7, HCSB.

On Good Friday, God ripped that temple curtain in two.

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary, was split in two from top to bottom…

— Matthew 27:50-51, HCSB.

God removed the barrier.  God removed the barrier of sin between us with blood.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

— Mark 14:22-24, ESV.

Our bodies are the new temple of God.  He gives us his spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  He also gives us his very body and blood.  This is his real presence.  The “body and blood of Christ are truly present and distributed to those who eat the Lord’s Supper.” (AC, article X).  (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is important to recognize the real presence of God.  Those who do not recognize the holy presence suffer judgement.  The “Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”  (Exodus 34:14, ESV).

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

— 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, ESV.

The Lord is merciful.

Kyrie eleison.

Merry Christmas 2014

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Merry Christmas!

On this day, it is my prayer that you were able to not only remember the incarnation of the Lord in word and song, but that you were also able to physically participate in His incarnation by eating His very Body and Blood.  (Luke 22:17-20).

But if you, like me, were not able to receive the Lord bodily, there can still be a real spiritual communion.  God gave Christ to Mary bodily, but to the shepherds by proclamation and sight.  God gives Christ to us in both Word and Sacrament.

Unto us is born a Savior!  He is Christ the Lord!  Merry Christmas to all!

Mild, he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.

— “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” text by Charles Wesley.

Merry Christmas!

Receiving Holy Communion in the WELS

Without warning, St. Peter Congregation terminated my fellowship with the WELS as a persistent errorist.  This means that St. Peter Congregation has marked me as someone all WELS congregations and members should avoid lest my influence corrupt their faith.  (Please see the post entitled “Terminated from WELS Fellowship“).

In my letter appealing this wrongful termination of fellowship, I asked District President Engelbrecht to give me a letter allowing me to commune at other WELS Churches pending my appeal.  (April 30, 2011 appeal letter).  In a letter dated May 6, 2011, District President Engelbrecht responded:

In regards to your question about communion, I am seeking the advice of my brothers on the Conference of Presidents.  My own opinion at this point in time is that since the termination of your membership was because you publicly stated that you are not in doctrinal agreement with your pastors, your congregation, the district, and other leaders in the WELS, another WELS pastor would have difficulty allowing you to partake of Holy Communion … at least not without him consulting with your former pastors to get their blessing.  I know that you said those words were taken out of context, but they were made public and were taken at face value and bear consequences that may not be to your liking.

May 6, 2011 letter
from District President Engelbrecht
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It has now been over a month with no new word.  That May 6th letter was the last communication I received from District President Engelbrecht.

Thus, as part of my submission of written materials for the Appeal Board on May 24, 2011, I asked Pastor Wenzel, the chair of the Appeal Board, if he would be able to provide me with such a letter.  (May 24, 2011 appeal cover letter).  His only response to date has been that the Appeal Board hopes to arrive at a decision regarding my appeal within a few weeks.  So far, I have not been invited to speak with the Appeal Board.

Nonetheless, at the invitations of Pastor Martin and Pastor Suhr, at St. John Lutheran Church (WELS), during the Divine Service I received Holy Communion on May 29, June 5, and June 6, 2011 A.D.  I have also been invited to receive Holy Communion at other WELS churches by other WELS pastors.  These pastors are not intending to despise the fellowship practices of the WELS, rather they are confident that I am in doctrinal fellowship with the WELS notwithstanding the bogus declarations of St. Peter Congregation.

I do not wish to be a catalyst for strife, but duly called and ordained servants of the Lord have offered and are offering me this precious gift, and what the Lord gives, I want to receive.

These pastors are also fully aware of my circumstances, and I am grateful to them beyond measure.  They stand in the place of Christ not only to distribute His gifts, but they also stand in the place of Christ because they are willing to potentially sacrifice a great deal to distribute His gifts.  Unlike some, these servants are not greater than their Master who sacrificed everything (John 15:20), but through grace alone as servants of the Word they share in His glory that is hidden in the cross.  And on the last day, they will also share in His triumph.

May the Lord bless and protect His true servants.

Pictures from the 2011 BJS Conference

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The Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) are a group of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastors and laymen who fight against heresy, including the “Church Growth Movement” and its methodologies, by working to promote the Lutheran Confessions, the historic liturgy, new Lutheran media, and by equipping husbands to be spiritual heads and strong voices “of leadership in their local congregations.”  (BJS website description).

The Brothers of John the Steadfast held their third annual international conference on Friday and Saturday, February 11 & 12, 2011 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinios.  The featured speaker at Friday’s banquet was the newly elected President of the LCMS, Pastor Mathew Harrison.

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The theme of the conference was the current threefold emphasis of the LCMS: “Witness, Mercy, and Life Together.”

Pastor Harrison is well liked, and received a standing ovation before he even spoke.

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Mr. Fisher, Pastor Jonathan Fisk, and Pastor Charles Henrickson wait in line before the banquet.

The banquet was catered, and for dessert we were served flaming cherries jubilee.

During the banquet, I sat next to an LCMS pastor.  When he learned that I was WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), he told me he recently communed at a WELS congregation, but that most WELS pastors will not commune you if you are not in fellowship with the WELS.  (I assumed he communed under a misunderstanding).  The WELS practices closed communion.  He, being an LCMS pastor on the other hand, practiced open communion because the Lord’s Supper is forgiveness, and he does not withhold the Lord’s Supper/forgiveness from anyone.  On Judgment Day, he did not want to have to inform Jesus that he withheld the Lord’s Supper from anyone for not being a Missouri Synod member, because Jesus would ask him, “What is the Missouri Synod?”

I said this was my third BJS conference, and I have never communed at a conference.  I asked somewhat rhetorically, “Isn’t closed communion also the rule in the LCMS?”  He said, “I don’t know.  Well, it’s probably the rule here” (at Bethany Lutheran in Naperville).

This amicable conversation was interesting to me because if the WELS does not start enforcing the practical aspects of our doctrine, then it will not be long before we also have malpracticing pastors who openly flout our doctrine, and then claim ignorance while they put eternal souls in danger.  (1 Corinthians 11:29).  Unfortunately for the WELS, that day may have already arrived.

It is good to remember that Jesus did not say, “Trust the WELS” or “Trust the LCMS” or “Trust whatever pastor you just happen to have,” but rather he said, “Watch and pray.”  (Matthew 26:41).

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On Saturday morning, Cantor Phillip Magness spoke about Christian witness.

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Later, Timothy Hetzner, the President of Lutheran Church Charities, spoke about Christian mercy.  According to Mr. Hetzner, at the time of Christ, the common cup was associated only with marriage.  The only time the Jews drank from the common cup was for marriage.  The symbolism is that the Church is the Bride of Christ.

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Pastor Jonathan Fisk delivered the sermon at the Divine Service on Saturday, February 12, 2011 A.D.  In the pictures above and below, Pastor Fisk is on the left.  Pastor Fisk is best known for hosting the video blog Worldview Everlasting.

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Pastor Fisk and company stand under the cross of Christ.

The third emphasis of the conference was “Life Together.”  Christian life together involves communion.  Unfortunately, within Confessional Lutheranism there are divisions, and not all self-identified “Confessional Lutherans” can commune together.

However, in the January 2011 edition of Forward in Christ, Paul T. Prange hinted that in the near future there may be free conferences between certain members of the WELS and the LCMS.  (“One in faith?”  Page 32).  A free conference is a place to discuss doctrine “outside the framework of fellowship” for the purpose of determining whether there is fellowship: in other words, whether there is complete agreement about everything Christ commanded us.  (Matthew 28:20).

In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus prayed that all believers would be brought to perfect unity.  (John 17:21).  Just as Jesus prayed to His Father: “Thy will be done,” so also we must pray: Lord Jesus, may Thy will be done.

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Click here for additional pictures from the 2011 conference.

The “Catalog of Testimonies” and Advent

The “Catalog of Testimonies” was appended to the Book of Concord to show that the Lutheran doctrine was not invented in the 1500s.

A person will easily recognize that when these doctrines are taught in the Book of Concord nothing new has been introduced, either in the doctrinal issues themselves, or in phrases and ways of speaking.  We have spoken and taught about these mysteries, first of all, just as Holy Scripture does, and also as the ancient, pure Church did.  [Catalog of Testimonies: To the Christian Reader].

Because these testimonies of “the ancient, pure Church” relate primarily to the natures of Christ they make excellent Advent meditations.  They also help to explain why Christians view the Lord’s Supper as an integral part of the Christmas celebration:

Christ always received worship and adoration from the angels, for He always was God.  Now they are adoring Him also as man.  [Theodoret, 632].

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In regard to the flesh the Father has commanded, “Let all God’s angels worship Him.”  [Chrysostom, 631].

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The Word did not become flesh in order to add to divinity.  In order that flesh might rise up, He came forth from Mary, not that the Word might become better.  There was a great addition to the human body from communion and union with the Word.  [Athanasius, 628].

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The Word that became man did not confer a partial grace on the received [human] nature; rather, it pleased God that the whole fullness of Deity dwelt in it.  [Theodoret, 639].

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… the divinity which is not seen is worshiped through the nature which is seen—this surpasses every miracle.  [Theodoret, 629].

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Because the Savior’s flesh was joined to the Word of God, who is by nature Life, it was made life-giving.  [Cyril, 640].

The Word became one of us, and said, “This is my body given for you,” and thereby he puts his word, his body, his blood: his very life into us.  (John 1:14, Luke 22:19).

May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas.

Notes:  All page citations and translations are from Concordia, the Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.

Maundy Thursday

When people are about to die, they often gather their closest family and friends, and give them what is most important as a last will and testament.  On the night Jesus was delivered to his enemies, he gave his Church everything he had.  He would have given her the shirt off his back, but his enemies would take even that from him.  (John 19:23-24).  Instead of the shirt off his back, he gave his very back: his very body and blood.

He gave his Church his body, his blood, his life.  He gave her everything.  Some would say that he really had nothing to give, but the life he gave is eternal.  (Hebrews 7:16).  He gave us his own eternal life.  And each succeeding generation bequeaths our Lord’s gift onto the next.  Paul wrote:

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:

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“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”  (1 Corinthians 11:23-30).

He may not have had a shirt to give, but he did have an eternal life to give; and he gave it for you and me.  Believe his words, “This is my body … for you,” and approach his table in fear and trembling, for there we receive his greatest gifts: his forgiveness, his peace with God, his eternal life.

Chrysostom on the Nature of Christ

Let us learn to know to which nature the Father said, “Share My seat.”  It is the same nature to which had been said, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”

—John Chrysostom in Epistle 65 to Leo …

It is great and wonderful and awe-inspiring that our flesh is seated above and worshiped by angels and archangels, by seraphim and cherubim.  When I reflect on this, I am entranced and seem to be outside myself.

—John Chrysostom, on Hebrews 2.

Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  Concordia Publishing House; St. Louis, 2006, page 636.

These quotes along with many others were included in the Catalog of Testimonies (an appendix to the Book of Concord) to show that the Church’s universal orthodox belief has been that Jesus’ physical body has divine properties and can be physically consumed in the Lord’s Supper.

History, the Cup, and Hygiene

img_1973-stj-inri-cup When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he used one cup: “after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it…'”  (1 Corinthians 11:25).  The Scriptures never refer to the Lord’s Cup in the plural.  (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11).  The common cup was the universal practice of the Church for almost twenty centuries; but in the 19th century pasteurization was invented.

In 1869, Thomas Welch successfully applied a new process called pasteurization to Concord grape juice to produce the first so-called “unfermented wine” for use in holy communion.  He did this because he was a member of the Temperance Movement and was opposed to the use of alcohol in the Lord’s Supper.  “His achievement” marked “the beginning of the processed fruit juice industry.”  (Welch’s History).

Welch and the Temperance Movement were very successful in converting Protestant churches to use his new grape juice invention.

Such a transition from wine to grape juice was especially prominent during Prohibition because it was difficult for Protestants to justify using a banned substance for a religious act that [merely] symbolized Jesus’ blood.  But without the alcoholic content of the wine, there was concern about the spread of infection with the common cup. [The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, 252-253].

Because American Protestants no longer used alcohol in their communion services; for hygenic reasons, they began to pour their grape juice into individual glasses.  Lutherans continued using wine, but many followed the example of their fellow Americans by pouring the wine into individual containers.

Thus it was not a scriptural or confessional reason that caused this change in practice; rather, it was an action that imitated the example of American Protestantism and also proceeded from heightened but errant concerns for hygiene…

Regarding the concern for hygiene, a helpful article in Lee Maxwell’s Altar Guild Manual states:

“The use of the chalice (or ‘common cup’) used to be universal in Lutheranism but in the last century its use has become infrequent.  One of the reasons for replacing it with ‘individual glasses’ was hygiene.  People believe (mistakenly) that germs are easily transmitted by using the chalice.  However, the combination of the noble metal of the chalice (such as gold or silver) and the alcohol content of the wine makes the possibility for germs to be transmitted almost nonexistent.”  (102).

[The Blessings of Weekly Communion by Kenneth Wieting, 252-253].

Wine is the natural result of the fermentation process, and can be consumed many years after being bottled.  There are no hygenic reasons to reject the chalice.  In fact, our Lord used a common Cup, and we can trust that his blood is clean.  We are the ones who are dirty.

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

Merry Christmas!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  [John 1:1, 14].

Every year, these words amaze.  Hold up your hand, and look at it.  Now you see something that you and Almighty God have in common: human flesh.  You see the same human flesh that angels now worship.  (Although his hands have unique scars, scars that our hands could not bear).

During the festival twelve days of Christmas, we celebrate many physical things: gifts, food, family.  But the most important physical presence is Christ.  Long ago, the Word was physically present in the manger.  Today, he is physically present for us in Holy Communion.  That is why many Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper during this feast and why the festival is called “Christmas.”  Christ is physically with us and in us.  His physical presence is the best present.

Merry Christmas!