Stories in Sermons

If the preacher tries to spend too much time on [secular stories], he will cause his hearers to hear the Word of the living God with sleepy, lazy ears until some silly story allures their ears and entertains their mind.

–Johann Gerhard, Method of Theological Study (p. 202)

Augustine on the Ministry

Unless the Lord helps us carry our burdens, we shall sink beneath them, and unless he carries us, we shall fall to our death. My position at your head frightens me, but the condition I share with you consoles me. I am a bishop set over you, but a Christian in company with you. The first is the name of the office I have undertaken, the second of grace; the first of danger, the second of salvation. So it is as if we are tossed about by a storm in the raging sea of that office, but as we remember who has redeemed us by his blood, it is as if we enter the safety of a harbor in the stillness of that thought. Though this office is hard work for us personally, the common benefit provides us with rest.

So if the fact that I have been redeemed with you delights me more than the fact that I have been set over you, then, as our Lord commands, I shall be more tirelessly your servant, for fear of being ungrateful for the redemption which made me worthy to be your fellow-servant.

–Ed. John E. Rotelle, “We Are Your Servants” Augustine’s Homilies on Ministry, (Villanova: Augustine Press, 1986), 155 pp. (HT: Harold Senkbeil, Doxology)

Das neue Regiment

In 1708, bwv71deckblattdruckJohann Sebastian Bach performed a
cantata at the annual inauguration of the new town council in Mühlhausen. It was entitled “Gott ist mein König” (God is my King).

It quotes a number of verses from Psalm 74, such as vs. 12: “Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

And vs 16: “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth.”

It closes with this prayer:

Das neue Regiment
Auf jeglichen Wegen
Bekröne mit Segen!
Friede, Ruh und Wohlergehen,
Müsse stets zur Seite stehen
Dem neuen Regiment.

Glück, Heil und großer Sieg
Muss täglich von neuen
Dich, Joseph, erfreuen,
Dass an allen Ort und Landen
Ganz beständig sei vorhanden
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg!

The new government
in every way
crown with blessing !
May peace, rest and prosperity
always stand by the side
of the new government.

Good fortune, salvation and great victory
must daily anew
delight you, Joseph,
so that in all lands and places
there may be continually by you
good fortune, salvation and great victory!

The Third Commandment


I just found this piece of paper in an old German book I have on my shelf. It appears to be some Catechism copywork by my grandfather. The Third Commandment is copied two more times on the back side of the sheet. I might have thought that this was during his Confirmation instruction days, except that I’m pretty sure he was confirmed in German. I wonder when he might have written this?

How to Understand Scripture: Learn the Trivium

220px-matthias_flacius“Yet we dare not in this regard follow the fanatics, as if the human sciences were utterly useless or even detrimental to the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and heavenly teaching. It is certainly necessary to study languages and well-informed grammars. Dialectic, rhetoric, and familiarity with the rest of philosophy is beneficial as well, and even quite necessary” (100).

“It will also be very beneficial to apply to an obscure place or to an entire writing the Lydian stone of the rules of logic, whether grammar, rhetoric, or finally, dialectic. Since these arts are indeed made known to use through the the beneficence of God and lit from the natural light that is all the time over us, and since they conform with the nature of things and the order that God has assigned to them, and finally, since they accommodate themselves to the human ability for comprehension (as the Sacred Scriptures), they will necessarily be of great benefit to us in the illumination of the Sacred Scriptures, if we apply them piously and cautiously” (111).

From How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures from Clavis Scripturae Sacrae by Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520-1575). Translated by Wade R. Johnston. 2001.

2016 Reading

I’ve just updated my reading list for 2016. The list isn’t quite as long as in some recent years, but there is some pretty heavy reading in the list.

If I had to pick a few favorites, I would say that the most interesting and useful books were Chemnitz’ Church Order and Loehe’s The Pastor. I had been waiting to get my hands on that work of Chemnitz for years, and while reading the Loehe book, I found myself repeatedly wishing I had access to it ten years ago (especially his advice for pastors just starting out in the ministry). Both of these translations were just published this year.

I re-read Bo Giertz’ The Hammer of God again this year. That’s always a favorite. What strikes me is that it seems like it reads faster and faster every time I read it. I’ve probably ready it six times or more now. See this post on re-reading books.

As far as pure enjoyment, I would have to say that Katie Schuermann’s two books were the most delightful. Every Lutheran should read these, if only to get you warmed up for reading The Hammer of God. Schuermann has said that Giertz’ writing is an inspiration and influence on her own writing. I think it shows.

Here is the complete list:

  1. Grace Abounds: The Splendor of Christian Doctrine (Daniel Deutschlander)
  2. House of Living Stones (Katie Schuermann)
  3. Gathered Guests:A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church (Timothy Maschke)
  4. Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (John Kleinig) *
  5. The Hammer of God (Bo Giertz) *
  6. The Pastor (Wilhelm Loehe)
  7. The Choir Immortal (Katie Schuermann)
  8. Theological Commonplaces: On the Law (Johann Gerhard)
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (Guenther Stiller)
  10. Praying Luther’s Small Catechism (John Pless)
  11. The Perfect Game (Terrence Moore)
  12. Chemnitz’ Works: Church Order (Martin Chemnitz)
  13. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  14. Letters to an American Lady (C.S. Lewis)
  15. The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition (E. Christian Kopff)
  16. The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization: How to Taste and See the Abundance of Life (Mitchel Kalpakigan)

My book reading stack isn’t as big right now as it has been in previous years, but I’m looking forward to some good reading in A.D. 2017. I’ve already started a re-read of The Brothers Karamazov, and I’m looking forward to finally getting to read de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. I also have another volume of Gerhard’s Loci coming up.

What was the best book you read in 2016 and what’s on your list for the new year? Leave me a comment.

Elementary Latin


I was asked to write an article on teaching Latin in our synod’s elementary schools, which has been posted on the MLC Issues in Lutheran Education blog.

A Case for Classical Latin in Elementary Schools

Below are links to some of the resources mentioned in the blog post, and a few others.

And a few of my own posts on Latin and Education:

A Few Favorites


Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)