New Book from NPH

Thanks to Pastor Jeremiah Gumm for tipping me off to the fact that Professor Daniel Deutschlander's book on the Theology of the Cross is now available from Northwestern Publishing House. I knew that the book was scheduled to be released in January, but I didn't expect to see it before January.

I asked Prof. Deutschlander last June if this book would be geared more for pastors or for laypeople, and he said that it was somewhere in between. I guess that is why they put it into the Impact Series. I would say for sure that (at least) this is a must-read for all Lutheran pastors. In fact, there is a special section in the book that specifically addresses the crosses that pastors address at different stages of their ministries. There is also a section that deals with crosses that Christians bear at various stages of life. So the book is not just for pastors. In fact, there's a great section in the book that will be very helpful, I believe, to parents or teachers of teenagers. 

I've read several books on the Theology of the Cross. Just in the last few weeks, I re-read The Spirituality of the Cross, which is an excellent overview of the Lutheran faith, including the theology of the cross. Every Lutheran should read this book. Right now I am reading Gerhard Forde's book "On Being a Theologian of the Cross" about Luther's Heidelberg Disputation. 

But I think that Deutschlander does something different than these excellent works. It's really a book of Christian doctrine that sees the cross at the center of it all. You'll have to read it for yourself. I have been fortunate enough to have a glimpse of some of the book, but I'll be sure to give you a fuller review when I have a copy in hand and I can give the whole thing a good read-through.

A book on Christian doctrine that reminds readers that all biblical doctrine relates to Scripture's central teaching that God sent his Son to save lost sinners. The Old and New Testaments make it clear that our salvation is found in the cross of Christ. However, there is a seeming paradox between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory. Sinful people tend to overlook the cross and its demands and, instead, focus on the glory that they think they should now enjoy because they call themselves Christians. This is a matter of urgent concern. Deutschlander helps us to see Christ's cross as our cross. He reminds us that our good works have no value for our salvation. Yet good works are valuable as fruits of faith done out of gratitude to God for his gift of salvation. It deepens our understanding and appreciation for God's gift of life in Christ. It warns us of Satan's efforts to turn us from Christ to ourselves. It comforts us with the assurance that the cross of Christ leads to heavenly glory. Softcover, Size is 5 3/8" x 8.5" inches, 292 Pages. Published 2008.
Catalog Item Number: OL-150746
Price: $17.99

Singing the Gospel

I came across this very interesting post on the value of singing hymns.   

"If I Were the Devil" by Klemet Preus

I thought the post itself was interesting, but I was particularly interested in his quotes by Christopher Boyd Brown. He made a presentation at Worship Conference this summer, which I attended and found very interesting. I was glad to see that the findings of his study are available in a bookBROSIN

Basically, Professor Brown studied the place of hymns in the lives of early Lutherans, and the impact that those hymns had on their lives when the Counter-Reformation took their pastors away. He found that the hymns that they learned helped them to hold on to their faith—even though they didn't have pastors to teach the faith. Or in other words, it was the hymnody of the early Lutherans that allowed the teaching of the Reformation to take root in the hearts of the people and continue despite persecution. 

I'm looking forward to picking up this book and reading about these things in more detail. It'll have to go to the end of the queue, though, because I have a stack of books that I've been intending to read. I'll let you know what I think when I finally get to it, but if you can't wait, maybe you'd like to read it for yourself

Bruce Nehring Consort

Last Friday night Sara and I went to a Christmas concert here in El Paso called the "Navidad de Las Luminarias." It's an annual event put on by the Bruce Nehring Consort, "El Paso's Professional Singers and Chamber Players." It's a sacred music concert and is held at the chapel at Loretto Academy. It was really quite good, and I appreciated the selection of music. Here are my favorites:

I think this was the first time I've been to a sacred concert that was not a part of our church or schools. Like I said, I really enjoyed it and appreciated it. But I did notice that the pieces that were the most edifying, the deepest (and I think, the most beautiful) were the ones written by Lutherans. Lutheran pastors like Cyriakus Scheegaß (1546–1597) and Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608). Lutheran cantors like Johann Kuhnau and J.S. Bach. So much of this kind of music was created for the church by her servants, and while it's fun to listen to it today by "professional singers and chamber players," it makes me a little disappointed that many—including Lutherans—are completely unaware of the musical heritage of the Lutheran church. IIt would be a shame if we relegated this rich heritage to museums and community groups dedicated to furthering "the arts." Shouldn't such music be most and best used in places where it was originally conceived—where the music's original purpose of teaching and comforting the saints could continue even today? 

That's not to say Lutherans no longer write and perform good, spiritually edifying music. There are many good things happening all over the place—though it's harder to find in outlying areas (like West Texas). There have also been a few wonderful efforts recently to encourage this very thing. One is the Singing the Faith DVD, which helps to teach people about this heritage and why it's important. The other, more recent project, is the DVD Children Making Music, which encourages us to pass our heritage on to the next generation. Ultimately, encouraging young musicians is the best way to make use of and carry on the rich music of the past and to encourage the development of similar music for our day—music written to carry the proclamation of the gospel, to sing the faith into the hearts of God's people.

A Tale of Two Books © 1956 CPH

I just finished a book called Spiritual Power for Your congregation: A guide to lay activity in the church. It was published in 1956. I have had it on my shelf since 1999, but had never read it so I thought I should. It wasn't sure what to expect, but it was actually quite good. It is certainly dated, so some of the book's advice is no longer as useful as it might have been in the 50's.

But here's the really interesting thing. Reading through this book made me think of another book on my shelf that I didn't think would be that good. It is a book on preaching called "Preaching with Power." But again, I found that it was actually a very good book. In fact, I've read it a couple times now. So I checked the date on the preaching book and noticed that it was also published in 1956 by Concordia Publishing House.

Both of these books are out of print. If you go to the link for the first one, you can actually find some used copies, but the preaching book is gone. 

A couple things impressed me about these books. First, it's always interesting to see how little things change over time. Over the course of 50 years many things change, but more often the church is really struggling with the same things as ever. In both of these books the authors described current attitudes in our churches, our families, and our societies. They described our culture and society, and the affect that they have on our work as Christian congregations and preachers. And I thought to myself more than once, "He could be writing this today."

The other thing that impressed me is that both authors relied heavily on the power of the gospel to be the power in preaching and in a congregation. Preaching with power is preaching that is the Word of God. The preacher doesn't need to add something to make his preaching more powerful. Preaching with power is proclaiming the power of God through the Word of God, no more, no less. Lay activity in the church makes a congregation powerful when members are hearing the Word of God in their homes, when they are studying it with others in Bible Class/Sunday School, and especially when they are gathering around Word and Sacrament in the Divine Service.