Jesus Stands By Me and Calms the Storm


Today, January 29, 2006, is the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. In the historic Lutheran church year, the Gospel reading for today is from Matthew 8:23-27, Christ stilling the storm. J.S. Bach wrote what perhaps is one of his most operatic cantatas, BWV 81 “Jesus schlaeft, was soll ich hoffen” — “Jesus sleeps, how can I hope?” for this Sunday. It puts the Christian in the boat with Christ, as the storms of life rage. Here then is a meditation on the Gospel reading, inspired by Bach’s Cantata 81.

In this life there are times when all appears lost and no hope seems possible. Death stares us square in the face. We cry out to the Lord, wondering why He seems so far off, so far away. Why does He seem to hide Himself in the midst of our trouble? Why does He sleep when we are threatened so? The storms of life churn around us and crash against us, doubling their rage and anger. Where do we turn when the guilt of our sin fills us with grief, or when loneliness and worry, anguish, fear, frustration, or anger, press down unbearably?

In the midst of life’s storms and tempests, the Christian stands like a boulder, while all around the stormy wind howls and angry waves roar and foam, threatening to weaken our faith. We hear the voice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, “Oh, you of little faith, why are you so fearful?” He speaks to the storms and winds and waves in our lives, “Be still! Be quiet! Return to the boundary set for you, so that my chosen ones will not be lost. Be still! Be quiet!” He speaks His forgiveness, “Be still! Be quiet!” He speaks to your worries, your fears and your anxious thoughts, “Be still! Be quiet! I have overcome all of this, for you. Sin has met its match. Satan is vanquished. Even death can not destroy you. I have come for you. My death, is your life. In my peace, you find your rest. Therefore, be quiet. Be still.”

How blest you are when Christ speaks His word to you. Your helper awakes and with Him all the storms and troubles and angry raging seas of life, all the dark and fearful nights of sorrow and worry and anguish are gone. How? Beneath the shelter of His healing mercy you find your rest and hope and safety in the storms of life. You are freed from all enemies. So, let the Evil Foe rage and storm. Jesus stands with you. Yes, even while thunder and lightening crash and flash all around, Jesus is here with you. Sin and hell do frighten and threaten, but there is One greater than them, Jesus, your priceless treasure. And he says to you, “Peace! Be still!”

How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself

Hmmm… this what “sola Scriptura” [Scripture alone] means? Is this possibly where a lopsided regard for this one “sola,” taken out of context with the rest lead? If it is is in fact possible to truly “interpret the Bible for yourself” do you really need a book to help? Perhaps what I’m concerned about is that with just one word you get to the real problem: How to Interpret the Bible BY Yourself.  How does this book support, or weaken, the teaching of Holy Scripture: “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” [2 Peter 1:20; KJV]

Link: How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself.

Essential spiritual and devotional writings for theologians

Oh, boy….now they’ve gone and really done it! The “Essential Paintings” list was interesting. The “Essential Philosophers” was equally so….but….now they dare venture into the treacherous waters of trying to nail down an essential reading list of spiritual and devotional writings for theologians, the brave souls! What do you think of their list?

Link: Faith and Theology: Essential spiritual and devotional writings for theologians.


Here’s my take on it. I like their goal of linking theology with spirituality. We classical Lutherans would think instantly of the necessary understanding that theology is a “habitus” … an inward inclination of the heart, a “habit” formed in us by the Holy Spirit who instills and preserves true faith. I like this emphasis in their list.

They probably don’t know about Johann Gerhard, but he really must be on their list as the finest example of writers of “Protestant” spirituality from the Lutheran confessional tradition. And since, well, how to say these, we were the first out of the chute when it came to the Reformation, John Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy really needs to be here, along with his Sacred Meditations.

What would you put on their list? Or remove from their list?

Good Summary of Deus Caritas Est

Why should we even bother to pay attention to what the Pope says? I can hear that question being asked by some of my earnest Lutheran friends. Well…let’s see….other than the fact that Pope is the spiritual head and chief teacher of the world’s largest group of people who claim to be Christians, I can’t think of a good reason to pay attention to what he has to say. Here is a good summary of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical.

Link: BREITBART.COM – Pope Warns About Loveless Sex.

Pope Warns About Loveless Sex
Jan 25 10:35 AM US/Eastern
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Associated Press Writer


Pope Benedict XVI warned in his first encyclical Wednesday that sex without unconditional love risked turning men and women into merchandise.

In the 71-page document “God is Love,” Benedict explored the relationship between the erotic love between man and woman, referred to by the term “eros,” and the Greek word for the unconditional, self- giving love, “agape” (pronounced AH-gah-pay).

He said the two concepts are most unified in marriage between man and woman, in which a covetous love grows into the self-giving love of the other, as well as God’s unconditional love for mankind.

He acknowledged that Christianity in the past has been criticized “as having been opposed to the body,” _ the erotic form of love _ “and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed.”

But he says the current way of exalting bodily love is deceptive.

“Eros, reduced to pure ’sex’ has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself has become a commodity.”

“Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere,” he said.

Benedict explored the two aspects of love to then explain how the Roman Catholic Church’s charitable activities are based on love and are a fundamental part of its mission. He said the church had no desire to govern states, but at the same time couldn’t remain silent in political life because its charity is needed to ease suffering.

The encyclical, eagerly watched for clues about Benedict’s major concerns, characterizes his early pontificate as one in which he seeks to return to the basics of Christianity with a relatively uncontroversial meditation on love and the need for greater works of charity in an unjust world.

Even Vatican officials have expressed surprise at the topic, considering Benedict was the church’s chief doctrinal watchdog and could easily have delved into a more problematic issue such as bioethics in his first authoritative text.

In the encyclical, Benedict said the church’s work caring for widows, the sick and orphans was as much a part of its mission as celebrating the sacraments and spreading the Gospels. However, he stressed that the church’s charity workers must never use their work to proselytize or push a particular political ideology.

“Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends,” he wrote.

“Those who practice charity in the church’s name will never seek to impose the church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love.”

He rejected the criticism of charity found in Marxist thought, which holds that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place when the wealthy should be working for a more just society.

While the Marxist model, in which the state tries to provide for every social need, responded to the plight of the poor faster than even the church did during the Industrial Revolution, it was a failed experiment because it couldn’t meet every human need, he wrote.

Even in the most just societies, charity will always be necessary, he said.

“There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable,” he said.

Benedict stressed that the state alone is responsible for creating that just society, not the church. “As a political task, this cannot be the church’s immediate responsibility,” he said.

However, he said the church wants to help “form consciences in political life and stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest.”

He said the church was “duty-bound” to offer such a contribution, and that the lay faithful, who as citizens of the state, are duty-bound to carry it out through works of charity.

“We do not need a state which regulates and controls everything, but a state which … generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need,” he wrote.

Listening to a Homily [Sermon]

Father Philip offers interesting advice on how to say focused while listening to a homily, or as we call them, sermons. One thing I sadly noted, and have continued to note, is that in many cases preaching in the Roman Catholic Church is … how to say this politely… ah…. lacking? Less than good? Not exactly consistently good? Well, they know it too. The Dominicans here in the USA continue to work hard to improve RC preaching. Fr. Philip is a young Dominican priest and theologian and I thought his comments on how to listen to a homily were interesting. How do you listen to a sermon? Link: Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!: Put down the missalette! Hearing a Homily.

The Defining Test: The Vatican and Homosexuality

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I’ve now found several excellent Roman Catholic blog sites. No, they are not “excellent” to the extent they represent false teachings of the Roman church [necessary disclaimer for the knee-jerk types reading this blog site], but excellent to the extent that they offer helpful news and information and insight. My blog roll is, thankfully, growing daily as I enjoy the wide world of Christian blogdom. So far I have a collection of Baptist, Calvinist, Roman Catholic and Lutheran Blogs. If somebody wants to point me to a good Eastern Orthodox blog site, I would like to subscribe to several of those as well. The more the merrier.

Here is an interesting piece, referencing an article in one of my favorite journals, First Things, in which the recent Vatican ruling on homosexuality is discussed as a defining test.

Link: Catholic World News (CWN).

A Diet of Worms


New weight-loss program? Another weird Guinness Book of World Records attempt? Nope. Today is the day that Emperor Charles V opened a meeting of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1521, some time later a certain monk showed up and was told to recant his writings, or else! Some of our Wisconsin Synod fellow Lutheran blogging pastors, have a nice blog site with good information on Luther’s appearance before the Diet of Worms.

So, while Luther may have, in effect, told them to go eat worms, to my knowledge there was no intentional worm eating taking place there. Truth be told, Worms, pronounced in German as “Woorms” is actually a city, and the word “Diet” means “A formal general assembly of the princes or estates of the Holy Roman Empire.”

Link: Preach. Teach. Confess.: On this date in history.