Tuesday, February 1, 2011

All about the Blood

Today, in my morning devotions I tripped across a couple of great things that I thought I should share. Enjoy!
But if you say: What, then, shall I do if I cannot feel such distress or experience hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? Answer: For those who are so minded that they do not realize their condition I know no better counsel than that they put their hand into their bosom to ascertain whether they also have flesh and blood. And if you find that to be the case, then go, for your good, to St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, and hear what sort of a fruit your flesh is: Now the works of the flesh (he says [Gal. 5:19ff ]) are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like.

76] Therefore, if you cannot feel it, at least believe the Scriptures; they will not lie to you, and they know your flesh better than you yourself. Yea, St. Paul further concludes in Rom. 7:18: I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. If St. Paul may speak thus of his flesh, we do not propose to be better nor more holy. 77] But that we do not feel it is so much the worse; for it is a sign that there is a leprous flesh which feels nothing, and yet [the leprosy] rages and keeps spreading. 78] Yet, as we have said, if you are quite dead to all sensibility, still believe the Scriptures, which pronounce sentence upon you. And, in short, the less you feel your sins and infirmities, the more reason have you to go to the Sacrament to seek help and a remedy.

79] In the second place, look about you and see whether you are also in the world, or if you do not know it, ask your neighbors about it. If you are in the world, do not think that there will be lack of sins and misery. For only begin to act as though you would be godly and adhere to the Gospel, and see whether no one will become your enemy, and, moreover, do you harm, wrong, and violence, and likewise give you cause for sin and vice. If you have not experienced it, then let the Scriptures tell you, which everywhere give this praise and testimony to the world.

80] Besides this, you will also have the devil about you, whom you will not entirely tread under foot, because our Lord Christ Himself could not entirely avoid him. Now, what is the devil? 81] Nothing else than what the Scriptures call him, a liar and murderer. A liar, to lead the heart astray from the Word of God, and to blind it, that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. A murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour. 82] If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible. But there is no reason why we walk so securely and heedlessly, except that we neither think nor believe that we are in the flesh, and in this wicked world or in the kingdom of the devil.

83] Therefore, try this and practise it well, and do but examine yourself, or look about you a little, and only keep to the Scriptures. If even then you still feel nothing, you have so much the more misery to lament both to God and to your brother. Then take advice and have others pray for you, and do not desist until the stone be removed from your heart. 84] Then, indeed, the distress will not fail to become manifest, and you will find that you have sunk twice as deep as any other poor sinner, and are much more in need of the Sacrament against the misery which unfortunately you do not see, so that, with the grace of God, you may feel it more and become the more hungry for the Sacrament, especially since the devil plies his force against you, and lies in wait for you without ceasing to seize and destroy you, soul and body, so that you are not safe from him one hour. How soon can he have brought you suddenly into misery and distress when you least expect it!

85] Let this, then, be said for exhortation, not only for those of us who are old and grown, but also for the young people, who ought to be brought up in the Christian doctrine and understanding. For thereby the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer might be the more easily inculcated to our youth, so that they would receive them with pleasure and earnestness, and thus would practise them from their youth and accustom themselves to them. 86] For the old are now well-nigh done for, so that these and other things cannot be attained, unless we train the people who are to come after us and succeed us in our office and work, in order that they also may bring up their children successfully, that the Word of God and the Christian Church may be preserved. 87] Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the injunction and command of God, to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know. For since they are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us; for they must all indeed help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.

You need this! It is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin.

-Luther's Large Catechism, Section V: "The Sacrament of the Altar"

Let us then return from the Table like lions breathing fire, having become terrible to the devil; thinking on our Head [Christ] and on the love that He has shown for us... Our Lord says: "I feed you with My own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born, and holding forth good hopes for your future... I have willed to become your Brother. For your sake, I shared in flesh and blood, and, in turn, I give you the flesh and the blood by which I became your kinsman." This blood causes the image of our King to be fresh within us. It produces beauty unspeakable and prevents the nobleness of our souls from wasting away... It nourishes our souls and works in them a might power. This blood, if rightly taken, drives away devils, and keeps them far from us, while it calls the angels and the Lord of angels to us. For wherever they see the Lord's blood, devils flee and angels run together. This blood poured forth and washed all the world clean. St. Paul uttered many wise saying concerning it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This blood cleansed the secret place and the Holy of Holies. And if the type off this blood had such great power in the temple of the Hebrews, and in the midst of Egypt, when smeared on the doorposts, much more the reality! The type sanctified the golden altar. Without it [the blood of the sacrifices], the high priest dared not enter into the secret place. It even consecrated priests. It cleansed sins [in the Old Testament]. But if the blood [of the sacrifices] was but a type and had such power, if death so shuddered at the shadow, tell me how would it not have dreaded the very reality? The blood [of Christ] is the salvation of our souls. By it the soul is washed, it beautiful, and is inflamed! This blood causes our understanding to be more bright than fire and our soul more beaming than gold. This blood was poured forth and opened heaven.

-- John Chrysostom

Painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger

It's all about the blood here, folks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I've been thinking for a LONG time that I really ought to resume posting on this blog, retooling it as a blog for sharing with my friends, family, and supporters those things which I am learning in my seminary education, and hopefully transmitting some of the solid education I am receiving here at Concordia Seminary as I'm being formed for deaconess service in the LCMS. I am going to try to post once again on a regular basis, hopefully weekly.

This morning, the appointed reading from the Book of Concord was the seventh petition of the Lord's Prayer in the Large Catechism, particularly paragraphs 121-124:
It is therefore a pernicious delusion when people pray in such a way that they dare not wholeheartedly add "Yes" and conclude with certainty that God hears their prayer. Instead, they remain in doubt, saying, "Why should I be so bold as to boast that God hears my prayer? I am only a poor sinner," etc. That means that they are looking not at God's promise but at their own works and worthiness, and thereby they despise God and accuse him of lying. Therefore they receive nothing, as St. James [1:6-7] says, "But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter... must not expect to receive anything from the Lord." Look! God has attached much importance to our being certain so that we do not pray in vain or despise our prayers in any way.
Martin Luther LOVES to remind us to pray with certainty, giving our resounding "Amen" to the end of our prayers, knowing that as God's dear children, we can ask our dear Father for whatever we need. And He will hear us, NOT because of who we are-- for we are sinners, it is true-- but because He has promised He will hear us for Christ's sake!

This is something that I think about frequently: If I KNOW that God delights to hear my prayers, why on earth do I not pray with more fervor and more boldly, making outlandish requests of my Father who loves me? What's the worst that can happen if I do? He'll say "no." But that answer doesn't change the fact that I am His baptized and beloved child, so why hesitate?

That connects beautifully to the other Luther reading I had this morning, from one of his baptismal sermons, in LW 51:320-321:
Here [in baptism], says St. Paul, is the Word of the living God which says, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; in other words, here not a man, but God himself is baptizing. For when it is done in his name it is done indeed by the holy Trinity,
because of His word by which He
commands us to baptize in this way, that is, to immerse in water and to speak these words.
Beautiful! I am baptized! Praise the Lord!