Archive for the ‘Right Worship’ Category

Are the Confessions Prescriptive or Descriptive? – Pr. Larry Beane – Gottesdienst – UPDATED

May 16, 2016 Leave a comment

“We should be bowing and scraping in the liturgy. Our King is here! If an unbeliever comes into your church, … without speaking a word, it should be apparent what you as an individual, what your pastor, what your congregation confesses about the Real Presence.”

UPDATE: Session 3: Pr. Larry Beane, “Doctrine And/Or Practice?”, at the Brothers of John the Steadfast Conference in Naperville, February 20-21, 2015.

“Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves”

The following audio is Pr. Larry Beane’s discussion of the article with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc.:

The article is from Dec 30, 2008, on the Gottesdienst web site:

In the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, we live in a liturgical climate of “anything goes.” One can indeed find traditional liturgy in our churches, but one can also find innovations that can hardly seem in any way congruent with our confessional writings, innovations such as: entertainment-based rock music, skits, comedy routines, free-form worship, odd movements and speaking in gibberish, lay “consecration” and “preaching,” infrequent and/or open communion, the setting aside of vestments, the use of props and gimmicks for preaching, polka services, dancing girls, and even services led by clowns in face make-up.

When the confessions are taken seriously, one is hard-pressed to find that any of these innovations are in any way compatible with Lutheranism. Indeed, it deems that by their very definition, such willful expressions of worship effectively remove these churches and pastors from our very fellowship.

In fact, in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, pastors (and lay members of the synod, such as school teachers and other lay offices created to assist the Office of the Holy Ministry) subscribe to the Lutheran confessions (i.e. the Book of Concord) in a “quia” manner, which is to say, in their entirety “because” they are in accordance with Holy Scripture. This is in opposition to the less stringent “quatenus” manner of subscription, which is to say that each statement in the confessions is accepted or rejected individually “insofar” as each is in accordance with Scripture, thus allowing for individual interpretation based on one’s opinion as to whether or not parts of the confessions pass Scriptural muster. Practically speaking, the latter is a clever way of not subscribing to the Book of Concord at all, as C.F.W. Walther pointed out, a Christian could even subscribe to the Koran in a “quatenus” manner.

Here are a few quotations from the Lutheran confessions concerning liturgical practice in “our churches” (that is to say, Lutheran churches, or churches “of the Augsburg Confession”):

“Our churches teach that those rites should be observed which can be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order in the church.”  (AC XV)

“In our churches, Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.”(Ap XXIV:1)

“Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence. Almost all the customary ceremonies are also retained, except that German hymns are interspersed here and there among the parts sung in Latin…. The people are accustomed to receive the sacrament together… this likewise increases reverence and devotion of public worship, for none are admitted unless they are first heard and examined…. Such worship pleases God, and such use of the sacrament nourishes devotion to God. Accordingly, it does not appear that the Mass is observed with more devotion among our adversaries than among us.” (AC XXIV:1-9)

“After all, the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.” (AC XXIV:3)

“The holy Fathers… instituted traditions for the sake of good order and tranquility in the church.” (Ap XV:13)

“No one will create disorder by unnecessary innovation.” (LC I:85)

“It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.” (AC XIV:1)

“Those ancient customs should be kept which can be kept without sin or without great disadvantage. This is what we teach.” (Ap XV:52)

“We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquility, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify…. We can truthfully claim that in our churches, the public liturgy is more decent than in theirs, and if you look at it correctly we are more faithful to the canons than our opponents are. In our circles…the children chant the Psalms in order to learn.” (Ap XV:38-40)

“Nothing has been received among us, in doctrine or in ceremonies, that is contrary to Scripture or to the church catholic.” (AC Conclusion 5)

“Many traditions are kept among us (such as the order of lessons in the Mass, holy days, etc.) which are profitable for maintaining good order in the church.” (AC XXVI:40)

“Of the same sort is the observance of Sunday, Easter, Pentecost, and similar festivals and rites.” (AC XXVIII:57)

“In our churches, on the other hand, all sermons deal with topics like these: penitence, the fear of God, faith in Christ, the righteousness of faith, comfort for the conscience through faith, the exercise of faith, prayer and our assurance that it is efficacious and is heard, the cross, respect for rulers and for all civil ordinances, the distinction between the kingdom of Christ (or the spiritual kingdom) and political affairs, marriage, the education and instruction of children, chastity, and all the works of love. From this description of the state of our churches it is evident that we diligently maintain church discipline, pious ceremonies, and the good customs of the church.” (Ap XV:43-44)

“In the morning, when you rise, make the sign of the cross” (SC VIII:1) and “In the evening, when you retire, make the sign of the cross.” (SC VIII:4)

“Thus has originated and continued among us the custom of saying grace and returning thanks at meals and saying other prayers for both morning and evening. From the same source came the custom of children who cross themselves when they see or hear something monstrous or fearful.” (LC I:73-74)

Regarding the change of ceremonies, “all frivolity and offenses are to be avoided.” (FC Ep X:5)

“We should not consider as matters of indifference … useless and foolish spectacles which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church.” (FC SD X:5-7)

“This is about the sum of our teaching. As can be seen, there is nothing here that departs from the Scriptures or the catholic church or the Church of Rome, in so far as the ancient church is known to us from its writers…. It can readily be judged that nothing contributes so much to the maintenance of dignity in public worship and the cultivation of reverence and devotion among the people as the proper observance of ceremonies in the churches.” (AC XXI Epilogue: 1-6)

It can be seen from these quotations that Lutheran worship services and piety are traditional by definition. Deviations from traditional, liturgical worship and ceremony are deviations from the Lutheran confessions themselves.

Those who wish to deviate from traditionalism must either: 1) Renounce their “quia” subscriptions (often by an appeal to “show me where that is in the Bible”), 2) Claim the confessions are no longer relevant, usually by way of a form of “gospel reductionism” and the emergency situation that people are dying without Jesus, 3) Argue that Christian liberty exempts them from such passages (usually by playing Formula of Concord X over and against these other passages instead of harmonizing it with them), or 4) Put forth the proposition that the Lutheran confessions are “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive.”

The latter approach implies that “prescriptive” confessions would be binding, whereas “descriptive” confessions are not binding, but are rather only a historic snapshot of what the church looked like in a specific time or place, but here and now, we are free to accept or reject parts of the Book of Concord we don’t find relevant today. Of course, if that is the case, one’s ordination vows are even weaker than a “quatenus” subscription.

So, are the confessions descriptive or prescriptive? I agree those who argue that they are descriptive, not prescriptive.

For these are confessions, statements of belief. And belief, that is, faith, cannot be prescribed. Prescription is a matter of coercion, it is of the realm of the law instead of the gospel. One can no more “prescribe” belief in the Lutheran confessions than one can “prescribe” belief in the Apostles’ Creed or the Koran. Rather, either one believes them or not. We Lutherans have no punitive legal recourse, no court of coercion. We simply draw a line around what “we believe, teach, and confess” with the understanding that this describes what “we” uphold and practice. People who disagree are simply not part of the “we.”

Christians can (and do) worship God apart from traditional liturgy. They just aren’t “Augsburg Confession” Christians, which is to say, they aren’t Lutherans. We Lutherans—especially in Lutheran communions which pledge a “quia” subscription—yield to the veracity of the Lutheran confessions as expositions of Holy Scripture. When we say: “In our churches…” or “We believe, teach, and confess…”, we are saying that these are true statements. In short, we are saying these Lutheran confessions are “descriptive.” They “describe” what you will see “in our churches,” both in beliefs confessed and ceremonies and rites practiced.

Unfortunately, among the “contemporary worship” set who have scandalously laid aside ceremonies which taught the people about Christ and established evangelical decorum; among the pastors who have traded in their traditional vestments for trendy golf shirts; in those congregations that make use of skits, clowns, dancing girls, and other undignified and frivolous gimmicks which make a mockery of the above-cited passages; as well as in those congregations in which the Mass is willfully not celebrated every Sunday, these statements are not descriptive at all.

If our “descriptive” confessions do not “describe” what our churches believe, teach, confess—and indeed practice in ceremonies—then it is time for those congregations and pastors to reconsider their commitments to these confessions. The fact that we have evangelical liberty and the fact that our Book of Concord is descriptive and not prescriptive should not be interpreted as license to overlook it, or even regarding some matters, adopt an opposite confession, at least not while maintaining a subscription to these symbolical and confessional writings. With descriptive confessions, there can be no separation of style and substance. Either “what you see is what you get”, or the Book of Concord is a lie.

If the Book of Concord has ceased being an accurate description of doctrine and practice in a given congregation, either the pastor of that congregation should preach and teach in order to bring the congregation back into communion with those confessions, or pastor and parish should both openly renounce the Lutheran confessions and leave our fellowship. Integrity demands it. It is openly hypocritical to stand before the holy altar and pledge fealty to confessions that one feels he is free to ignore.

Categories: Right Worship

Sermon Preparation — Dr Carl Fickenscher *UPDATED*

February 15, 2015 Leave a comment

If your preacher isn’t following these steps in sermon prep, you are being short-changed.

Dr. Carl Fickenscher, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, explains sermon prep to those preparing to preach. (These are 11 parts of a larger homiletics series.)

Sermon Preparation – Introduction:

Video – Pt 13 (30:22, 132 MB)  Transcript – Pt 13

Sermon Preparation – System of Exegesis:

Video – Pt 14 (19:12, 84 MB)  Transcript – Pt 14

Sermon Preparation – Biblical Context of a Passage:

Video – Pt 15 (08:39, 37.5 MB)  Transcript – Pt 15

Sermon Preparation – Isogogical Importance:

Video – Pt 16 (03:25, 14.5 MB)  Transcript – Pt 16

Sermon Preparation – Sources of Isogogical Information:

Video – Pt 17 (06:05, 26.1 MB)  Transcript – Pt 17

Sermon Preparation – Breaking Down the Text’s Verses:

Video – Pt 18 (04:56, 21 MB)  Transcript – Pt 18

Sermon Preparation – Approaching the Language of the Text:

Video – Pt 19 (10:12, 44.4 MB)  Transcript – Pt 19

Sermon Preparation – Exegesis with Little or No Greek:

Video – Pt 20 (11:53, 51.7 MB)  Transcript – Pt 20

Sermon Preparation – The Writings of Others:

Video – Pt 21 (15:29, 67.7 MB)  Transcript – Pt 21

Sermon Preparation – Six Steps of Preparation:

Video – Pt 22 (12:15, 53.3 MB)  Transcript – Pt 22

Sermon Preparation – Time Frame of the Six Steps:

Video – Pt 23 (04:16, 18.2 MB)  Transcript – Pt 23

Categories: Right Worship, Sermons

Not my preference. . . nor yours. . . – Pr Larry Peters – Pastoral Meanderings

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Pastor Larry Peters discusses the following article with Pastor Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. (mp3, 27:33, 11.2 MB, 2014-Sep-09)

Not my preference. . . nor yours. . .

Pastor Larry Peters


What counts is whether or not what we do on Sunday morning looks, acts, and sounds like what we believe, confess, and teach in our Book of Concord. I challenge anyone who thinks we are “high” to read the Book of Concord and then tell me where we exceed the liturgical shape of this confession. … Just read the Confessions and tell me where our practice deviates from the expected, anticipated, and assumed normative liturgical and devotional life of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.


It is so often assumed that how the liturgy is conducted is an expression of a pastor’s personal style and preference that it has become accepted truth, namely, that style and substance are not only distinct but different and seemingly unrelated. Such is the fallacy of the modern era that has heaped upon us much in the way of terrible liturgical experimentation and the adoption of texts, rites, and ceremonies alien to our confession.

In a conversation recently I was asked about a comment made that our congregation has a rather “pompous” or elaborate ritual and form. It must be true, I was told, because this person had been to a variety of other Lutheran congregations in which the liturgy was “simpler” or “plainer.” In other words, we are the odd duck and a more basic form and ceremony is the norm for Lutheranism. Well, that depends. It may be true that we have a more elaborate form and practice of the Divine Service than some Lutherans but the real question here is not what is normal in practice as measured by statistics but what is normal in practice as defined by our Confessions.

Lutherans are not Amish catholics. We are not plain people on Sunday morning. Just the opposite. The Lutheran Confessions were written from the perspective of a rich and elaborate ceremonial, musical, and liturgical shape of the Divine Service. The foolish and quite juvenile debate over where this perspective prescribes what must be done or describes what was done has often overshadowed the reality of what Lutherans looked like on Sunday morning for the first few centuries after the Reformation. The same idea could be used of all the doctrines contained in the Book of Concord — these do not prescribe what must be believed by those who would call themselves Lutheran but merely described what the Lutherans then believed, taught, and practiced.

We are pompous or showy or elaborate because we do what? Chant? Bow? Wear Eucharistic vestments? Have a weekly Eucharist? Use the Chalice? Have liturgical art? Have a rich musical and choral tradition? Talk about private confession? The list could go on. My point is this. When the Lutheran documents that became our Concordia or Confessions were written, they did not in any way, shape, or form imagine that the liturgy would not be sung by both pastor and people, that the Sacrament of the Altar would not be celebrated at least on Sundays, that the pastors would be vested, that the ritual of the mass kept, that good and faithful music would serve the cause of the Word, and that the people assembled would gone to confession before communing… That these are not now “normal” in the sense of universally practiced was not only not envisioned within our Confessions but marks a significant departure from the orthopraxis that is and always accompanies orthodoxy. Theology is not theoretical. Doctrine is not theoretical. Theology must sing (said Martin Franzmann) and doctrine is lived out from the altar, font, and pulpit.

This is not about high or low culture. This is not about pastoral preference or the people’s preference. This is not about style divorced from substance. The practice of this parish is not elaborate at all. We use incense only rarely. We do not enforce rubrics like liturgical gestapo. We do not make people genuflect or cross themselves. We do not sing in Latin. We do not repristinate a moment in time from some golden age of liturgical life. Maybe it should be MORE elaborate. The point is that what we do is not at all on the high side of what Luther did or Bach knew. In the end, if we are out of step with the Great Reformer himself and if we are on the fringe of the greatest Lutheran musical genius, who is the odd duck? I would say it would be those who attempt to be moderately liturgical while at the same time trying to be moderately evangelical and Protestant.

My liturgical preference counts as little as the liturgical preferences of those in the pew. What counts is whether or not what we do on Sunday morning looks, acts, and sounds like what we believe, confess, and teach in our Book of Concord. I challenge anyone who thinks we are “high” to read the Book of Concord and then tell me where we exceed the liturgical shape of this confession. In fact, I would say that we are normal — the normal that counts in terms of faithfulness to our Confessions. Any other normal (statistical, for example) does not matter in a church body which claims it is all about theology and doxology.

Now some of you are probably thinking, “My God, that guy is arrogant.” You may be correct. I am a sinner and humility is not something I have in abundance. But perceptions are not the issue here. What we believe, confess, and teach — these are the issues. So, condemn me as arrogant, a cultural snob, “high” as a kite, or a liturgical showman…whatever. Just read the Confessions and tell me where our practice deviates from the expected, anticipated, and assumed normative liturgical and devotional life of the Church of the Augsburg Confession.

– See more at:

Categories: Right Worship

If Not Now, When? (2 Part Video)

August 28, 2014 Leave a comment


Part 1:

Part 2:

In the Name – Dr Scott Murray – Memorial Moments

July 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Psalm 8

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (ESV)

In the Name

Friday of Pentecost 5

18 July 2014

Some years ago, a missionary working in villages of Africa where Islam was making some incursions happened upon a community of people who were anxious to hear his proclamation of Christ. He preached and taught the people for some time. Since they received his preaching with joy, he suggested that they should be baptized into the triune name. Upon his mention of baptism, their joyous reception of his preaching came to a screeching halt. He asked them why they were reluctant to receive baptism into the Christ he had taught them. They patiently explained to him that they would have none of this baptism business until he fully explained what they were being baptized into. They told him that Muslim missionaries had been among them some years before and that they too offered a ritual washing to initiate them into Islam, to which they assented. But after being washed, only then did the Muslim missionaries reveal the full meaning of the religion into which they had been initiated. No, these people took baptism seriously and they understood that being baptized set them into the full religious universe of that into which they were baptized. They weren’t going to be tricked by a religious “bait and switch” again. Of course, the Christian missionary rejoiced to hear this and catechized these people into the full faith of our confession. The people were duly baptized into the triune name after being instructed and confessing the faith that they had been taught.

Baptism as a rite of religious cleansing is not new with Christianity. We know that the Jewish monastic community called Essenes performed multiple ritual cleansings, perhaps daily bathing as a sign of cleansing from sin. Jewish missionaries used a baptism to initiate whole families into the Jewish community when Gentiles were converted. This we call “Jewish proselyte baptism.” This baptism was the background of the command of Jesus to His disciples to “go and baptize” (Mt 28:19). Heretical Christian communities retained baptism, although they mean something quite different from the church when they name God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even those religious communities that have specifically and intentionally rejected the holy Trinity still often “baptize” in some three-fold formula: “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, etc.;” including even some Unitarians.

Unfortunately, old line Protestant churches in America are increasingly not only adopting baptismal formulas only heretics could endorse, but worse yet are teaching a doctrine of God that simply contradicts God’s self-revelation in Christ. It is quite jarring to hear a so-called Lutheran address prayer to “our mother,” and know full well that this prayer is not addressed to the mother of God, Mary, but to the deity who seems to be having “gender issues.” Does the baptismal formula then become “in the name of the father/mother, son/daughter, and spirit, and um, what have you”? Could we start calling God “LeBron”? Oh, wait, some people already are! If names don’t matter, then what’s the difference? We are so desperate to affirm every mania that we forget about God’s self-revelation in His eternal Son, Christ our Lord.

What would a trinitarian baptism mean in a church where the holy Trinity is not taught according to the divine self-revelation, but is rejected outright? If God could be addressed as “our mother,” as validly as our Father what does it mean if there is a baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” within such a context? Is that baptism valid? Do the words Father and Son morph into something else when used this way? God has graciously made Himself known by offering into our hands His name. In our wickedness and unbelief we have begun to call Him names that He has not given to us. God has graciously set His name into our hands in the rite of baptism. In the giving of His name He gives Himself and all His blessings. What right do we have to change it? If we do, will we lose Him and His blessings?

Athanasius of Alexandria

“If the consecration of baptism is given to us into the name of the Father and the Son, and the Arians do not confess a true Father, because they deny what is from Him and like His essence, and deny also the true Son, and name another of their own framing as created out of nothing like any other creature, is not the rite administered by them altogether empty and unprofitable, making a show, and in reality being no help towards religion? For the Arians do not baptize into Father and Son, but into Creator and creature, and into Maker and work. And as a creature is other than the Son, so the baptism, which is supposed to be given by them, is other than the truth, though they pretend to name the name of the Father and the Son, because of the words of Scripture. For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the name also has the right faith. On this account therefore our Savior also did not simply command to baptize, but says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the name of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit’ (Mt 28:19-20); that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of baptism.

“There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith (2Ti 4:3; Tit 1:9), and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is polluted by irreligion rather than redeemed. So Gentiles also, though the name of God is on their lips, incur the charge of atheism, because they know not the real and true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Athanasius of Alexandria, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 2.42-43

The Glory of His Name – Dr Scott Murray – Memorial Moments

July 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Psalm 20

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions! Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call. (ESV)

The Glory of His Name

Monday of Pentecost 5

14 July 2014

We miss the lively sense of the power in the name of God, who is Christ our Lord. In Scripture, sometimes the term “the name of God” refers to the divine speech on the lips of the prophets and apostles, such as in 1 Timothy 6:1, in which Paul requires us to honor authorities “so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.” Yet, even here there is more than a hint that the name of God is none other than God Himself. To attack God’s teaching is to attack God. This is why the second commandment forbids us to misuse the name of the Lord our God. To misuse the name of God is to abuse God Himself because He is His name. The worst misuse of the divine name is when it is used to cover false teaching with the pious sounding, “God has said…”

The divine name par excellence is none other than the second person of the holy Trinity. Christ is the divine name that does the work of God in the world. The Psalmist says, “We trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7). To trust in the name is to trust in Christ Himself. The Psalmist also says, “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Ps 69:30). First, to praise the name, if it is not God, would be blasphemy. Second, the parallel of the Hebrew poetry makes Him equivalent to His name. The apostles baptized in the name (Acts 19:5), cast out demons in the name (Acts 16:18), preached in the name (Acts 9:28), suffered in the name (Act 5:41), called the Gentiles into the kingdom of God in the name (Acts 15:17), and were willing to be put to death for the name (Acts 21:13). Of this name the apostle Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This name does what Christ Himself does, because He is His name.

This name is the eternal Word of the Father, who spoke light out of darkness (Gn 1:3). This is the same name who for a season bore all human woe by being born of the Virgin. He condescended to our desperate need. He had no need of our human nature, but He assumed it for our good. He does not arrive at His divinity by some labor or work, but is the living name of God who was humbled at His incarnation by taking the form of a servant. Because He is God of God, He could not be exalted any higher than to be God, so He chose to be humbled for us men and our salvation. Here is the true word of the Name in the world. He needs not to make a name for himself like our faux celebrities and too-clever politicians. He has the name that is above every name. No other could be named like it. He hides the glory of His name, so that the glory of His name might become ours through faith in Him.

Athanasius of Alexandria

“It will be well to cite the divine oracles that the unalterableness of the Son and His unchangeable nature, which is the Father’s, may be still more fully proved. The Apostle then, writing to the Philippians, says, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil 2:5-11). Can anything be plainer and clearer than this? He was not from a lower state promoted. Rather, existing as God, He took the form of a servant, and in taking it, was not promoted but humbled Himself. Where then is there here any reward of virtue, or what advancement and promotion in humiliation? For if, being God, He became man, and descending from on high He is still said to be exalted, where is He exalted, being God? For it is plain that, since God is highest of all, His Word must necessarily be highest also. Where then could He be exalted higher, who is in the Father and like the Father in all things? Therefore He is beyond the need of any addition. For though the Word has descended in order to be exalted, and so it is written, yet what need was there that He should humble Himself, as if to seek that which He had already? And what grace did He receive who is the Giver of grace? Or how did He receive that Name for worship, who is always worshipped by His Name? Certainly, before He became man, the sacred writers invoke Him, ‘O God, save me, by your name’ (Ps 54:1); and again, ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God’ (Ps 20:7). And while He was worshiped by the patriarchs, concerning the angels it is written, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ (Heb 1:6).”

Athanasius of Alexandria, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 1.40

Categories: Right Worship, Sermons

Kyrie, Eleison! – Dr Scott Murray

April 30, 2014 Leave a comment


Our enemy will never give up. If old-fashioned subversion to perversion will not suffice, our enemy will attempt to convert the church and these days he appears to be succeeding. The church is being sucked into the culture’s ever deepening depravity and into the swirling decline of the West. Our enemy is piping us into the open sewer of self-centeredness, so that I think I am free to do whatever is right in my own eyes (Deut 12:8). Now, however, the church is offering to cover up this deterioration by calling such wickedness good. In the ultimate Nietzschian transvaluation of values, the church has called, in a monstrous perversion of language, “loving” and “monogamous” what God has forbidden and called “shameless acts” (Rm 1:24-27). But there is no possibility of a love that runs counter to the love that God has established in the faithful and holy unity of husband and wife in marriage, the Bible’s monogamy. Our enemy has gotten us to commit suicide, as Malcolm Muggeridge warned the people of the West in the previous century. Simply stated, we are calling evil good and good evil.

The so-called church is turning the theology of the cross on its head. The church should be calling evil evil, so that God Himself can turn evil on its head in Christ, who takes evil into Himself and dies for it. But there can be no forgiveness through the blood of the crucified unless there are still sinful acts. Why should we seek forgiveness when we can theorize away our sin? Every human heart has the tendency to define down deviancy. Our wickedness would prefer to be called good, rather than precipitate that dreaded repentance. However, what good is the power to forgive, power given to the church, if the church’s children see no need for it? What if the earthly good and our knowledge of it become our own knowledge God; our entire knowledge of God? What if our own interpretation of the natural revelation begins to trump the divine self-revelation in Scripture? The very warning sounded by Karl Barth against Nazi-dominated Germany in the 1930s ought to be sounded again over against the imposition of the politically correct sexual lunacy in the first decade of the 21st century. The transcendent must not be reduced to immanence. The creation is not god. A decisive “no” to human self-indulgence is worth expressing in every generation. We must be wrong, so that God might be our only righteousness. Lord, do not treat us as our sins deserve, but according to Your mercy.

Martin Luther said that the theologian of the cross only sees God’s back, that is, the incarnation of God in Christ born of Mary. When we see by our own power, no matter how reasonable things seem, we are in jeopardy of not seeing. When we are telling God, rather than letting him tell us what His creation means, and us in it, then we are telling the potter how to shape the clay (Is 29:11-19). The worst possible transvaluation of values results; God becomes us and we become God. Woe unto us, for we are a poor, even perverse god. The report of the death of church bodies, upon which the tower of homosexuality fell, should lead us to deep repentance, for we are not better. Without repentance, we too will all perish. God takes the hole that that grief-filled repentance creates in our hearts and stakes the life of Christ the crucified within it. Only in that suffering of true repentance will the theology of the cross become real. There can be no accommodation of sin, only repentance. Kyrie, Eleison!

Isaiah 29:11-19

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.(ESV)

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Categories: Catechesis, Right Worship