Nothing but Forgiveness

Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered toward this goal: we shall daily receive in the Church nothing but forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. So even though we have sins, the grace of the Holy Spirit does not allow them to harm us. For we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but continuous, uninterrupted forgiveness of sin. This is because God forgives us and because we forgive, bear with, and help one another.

–Luther’s Large Catechism, Part II Article III

[amazon-product align=”center” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ tracking_id=”ashessto-20″]0758617208[/amazon-product]

It’s That Time Again

I have made it my practice to read through the Book of Concord in its entirety every other year, during the summer. Two years ago I posted an encouragement for others to read along with me using a schedule that gets us through the whole thing by the end of summer.

Read with Me
Summer Reading Schedule

Today is the first day of this schedule, so if anyone wants to read along again this summer, now’s the time. The first few days are for reading the introductory material, so it’s okay if you’re a little late.

Now is also a good time to pick up a copy of the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. It’s on sale for just $20 at Concordia Publishing House. If you want to follow this schedule, but have to wait for your copy to be shipped, you can read online at

For those who might want to discuss what you’re reading this summer, I’ve created a group over at Facebook. It’s called Lutheran Symbols in Summer. Invite your friends to read along and follow the discussion.

Lutherans Confess from Generation to Generation

Here’s a great video and post from Paul McCain’s Cyberbrethren blog:

Confessing the Faith…Through All Generations – In Honor of Lutheran Schools Week (Featuring Lyle Lovett)

Here is a beautiful YouTube video of the reading of the Nicene Creed which dates back over a 1,000 years in the the Christian church. This recitation was done at Trinity Lutheran Church, Klein, TX during the March 4, 2012 church services by three members of Trinity as part of Lutheran Schools week. These three members, and students (former and present) are: Mr. Erich Klenk, 97 years old, confirmed in 1928, past Chairman of the congregation, charter member of the Men’s Club in 1946,  and Trinity’s oldest member. Lyle Lovett, great grandson of Trinity founding father Adam Klein, confirmed in 1971, singer/songwriter, and winner of four Grammys. Erin Pali, class of 2016 and current 4th grade student of Miss Marilyn Peterson/ Erin’s Dad Brett also had Miss Petersen in 4th grade during his years at Trinity. This video was posted to YouTube by Pat Blake.

Lot long ago I had seen that Lyle Lovett‘s new album included Martin Luther’s hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word.” You can listen to a preview of the song below, or click to order or download the album.

[amazon-mp3 tracking_id=”ashessto-20″]90ddf225-d85a-48c9-b9d3-85de08488382[/amazon-mp3]

Concordia Observation #1: Churches and Schools

The Preface to the Christian Book of Concord records the intent and agreement of those who signed their names to the Formula of Concord and the other confessional documents of the Lutheran Church, which are contained in the Book of Concord. It provides a glimpse into just some of the issues present at the time and the reasons for their confession.

One of the things that jumped out at me during my reading of it was how often the phrase “churches and schools” is used. 18 times in these 9 pages Chemnitz and Andreae use this phrase. Only seldom do they mention their churches apart from their schools.

At first, it made me wonder what kind of schools they were talking about. Could they be referring to schools like the University of Wittenberg, which became a central source of teaching in Lutheranism? It was the teachers in these schools (like Philip Melanchthon, for example, who penned the Augsburg Confession and its Apology) who were among the first to stand up as confessors of the faith.

But after reading it, I am inclined to think that these schools were more than just their institutions of higher learning. These were schools which were attached to their churches. The churches and schools confessed the faith together. They were attacked by false teaching together. Ministers served in both churches and schools.

I still don’t know much about the form of these schools. It’s something I would like to investigate if I had the time. I would be interested to know how these schools relate to the kinds of Lutheran schools we have today.  But what I notice here is simply the fact that the earliest Lutherans identified themselves as “churches and schools.”

The Lutheran Church has a long history of operating schools in connection to their congregations. And when Lutherans came to America, confessional Lutheran synods were also quick to start schools. Lutheran schools, especially at the elementary and middle school level, have been a stronghold in church bodies like the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods. Of course, not every congregation had a school. But the confessors recognized a crucial role for our schools. The schools were a vital part of confessing the true Christian faith. And confessing the faith was the most vital part of their schools.

Today it seems that schools are viewed more as a liability than an asset. Schools cost money. Lots of money. And therefore, they are viewed as an optional luxury for congregations that can afford it. I’m not suggesting that every congregation must or should operate a school. I’m simply observing a different way of viewing our schools.

In addition, I think sometimes there is a thought that because our schools are viewed as an “outreach tool” (not a bad thing, necessarily), the confession in the Lutheran school must be somewhat muted, so as not to turn off non-member parents. Often parents aren’t looking for a specifically Lutheran education. Anything generically Christian will do, or at least a school that teaches “Christian values.” So we won’t make such a big deal about being Lutheran in the school, or at least we ‘ll just save that for the pastor’s catechism class for the older students.

I don’t recognize either of these attitude in our Lutheran confessions. Their schools were a part of their identity, and the confession of Lutheran doctrine was their school’s identity.

We regularly hear news that our schools are not in the best of shape. Schools are closing. Others are shrinking. There are all kinds of reasons for these things, from the economy and the cost of tuition, to the parents’ priorities or the congregation’s level of support. Our congregations don’t have as many children as they used to, in part because parents don’t have as many children as they used to. In short, there are all kinds of things that ail our Lutheran schools.

But I believe the ultimate answer—if we want to keep Lutheran schools—is to keep our schools Lutheran. This means that our teachers ought to be well trained in Christian doctrine, including these Lutheran Confessions.We ask our school teachers to conform all of their teaching according to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. It means that the mission (even vision or objectives) ought to flow from this same confessional standard. It means that our main objectives are those things that allow church and school to confess the faith together. It means that our curriculum is going to have Lutheran catechesis as a central element rather than an awkward appendage.

I think about these things quite frequently, as I have always been (since kindergarten) involved in some sort of Lutheran school, and now also serve as acting principal of our school. And we are currently working through the accreditation process for our school, which has us documenting and articulating the purposes and plans for our school. So when I came across this constant repetition in the Preface to the Book of Concord, these words struck me as a most excellent model for own churches and schools:

We conclude that nothing more agreeable could happen or should be sought more eagerly and prayerfully from almighty God than the following: (a) both our churches and our schools should persevere in the pure doctrine of God’s Word and that longed-for and godly oneness of mind, and (b) as was the case while Luther was still alive, they should be regulated by the divine Word, which was handed down to posterity in a godly and excellent way.

Related post: Our Schools