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Sin Boldly… Pray Boldly

“Sin Boldly” is perhaps the most infamous Luther quote with the exception of “Here I Stand”. Yet, it is unfortunately removed from its context and often misunderstood.

On August 1, 1521, Martin Luther wrote to Philip Melanchton, whose contributions to the Protestant Reformation and its Lutheran tradition is undeniable. Melanchton was the ‘soft footed’ reformer who attended conversations with the Catholic Church on behalf of the ex-communicated Martin Luther, who feared execution. Melanchton was well-written, mild mannered, and a systematic theologian who provided the future Lutheran tradition with its own confessional writings.

In this letter, Luther wrote the following to Melanchton, his friend and colleague:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly (or bravely), but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

Martin Luther taught that ‘sin’ is being curved in on the self, which is a condition of our being and not necessarily our poor actions. Therefore, we are always in a state of sin for our focus and intentions are never purely spent on God or Christ reflected in our neighbor, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

Since sin is a constant state of being, the sins of fornication and murder mentioned are not the literally acts of sex outside of marriage and murder alone. The sin of fornication would be the lustful thoughts, glazes, or acts while the sin of murder would be any thought, word, or action that ignores, criticizes, or harms a person in body, mind, or soul. Thus, Luther’s assertion that our shadow side (sinful nature) commits “fornication and murder a thousand times a day” may not be an exaggeration.

Luther understood this shadow side of humanity, which should be acknowledged and not hidden.

The shadow side is always present, yet always forgiven by the pure grace of God.

The truer the shadow side the truer the grace that is needed and appreciated.

Remember, Sin boldly… but pray more boldly – you too are a mighty sinner.

But, may we pray and act more boldly for the sake of our neighbors, the world, and all creation. Amen.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Quote

In the United States of America we associate July with our declaration of independence and the freedom it symbolizes from the British across the pond in 1776. We celebrate each year with family, friends, cook outs, and of course fireworks.

Although Martin Luther was a German monk in 16th century Germany, his teachings and example can guide our faithful freedom and witness in 21st century America.

Martin Luther, rooted in scripture similar to our recent Galatians texts, taught about the freedom of a Christian. Luther argued that we have been released from the chains of sin and the shackles of obligation under the law, in order to boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises.

Luther taught that since we are released from said chains and shackles by God’s pure grace, we are enabled and empowered to respond to said grace by:

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deed,
  • seeking justice,
  • acting with compassion and mercy,
  • loving and serving all people but especially the vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther taught that we have duel citizenship in the Two Kingdoms:
Civil Kingdom and Kingdom of God.

  • We are called to be involved in our civil, social world but not necessarily to conform to it.
  • We are called to be involved in the political process for the sake of the gospel.
  • We are called to hold governments and their leadership accountable.
  • We are called to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, through boldly living into and living out our baptismal promises.
  • We are called to embody the mercy, compassion, grace, and presence of God to all people, but especially the most vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.

Luther, however, did not simply teach and preach these principles.
He embodied these in his life.

Luther served on the town council. He had a reputation of standing firm for the vulnerable.

  • The town council, with the influence of Luther, established the first joint government-church operated community chest to provide resources to the most vulnerable.
  • On another occasion, Luther feared a town council decision did not benefit the most vulnerable. He applied pressure for the council to reconsider and overturn the decision by resigning. Due to Luther’s popularity and influence, the council reversed their decision and Luther resumed his position.

During 1527, the plague swept through Wittenberg and Luther was questioned regarding who had the freedom to flee and who had the responsibility to remain caring for the ill. Luther argued that all Christians should accept the responsibility to care for the ill, but that government leaders, clergy, and those with medical knowledge had an obligation to care for the ill. Thus, Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, remained in Wittenberg providing medical and pastoral care to the ill in their home.

May we, freed from the chains of sin and the shackles of the law, boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises in the Two Kingdoms, for the sake of the gospel. Amen.

Christian Freedom in the Two Kingdoms

 

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The Phoenix: Raise into New Life

Jesus’ resurrection is a single moment in human history, but had and continues to have profound significance that cannot be contained in an annual one day celebration. Thus, Easter is a seven Sunday season, which emphasizes the post-resurrection accounts of Jesus and the emerging Christian community.

Yet, Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation upon which the church universal and our Christian claims are built. Thus, our Sunday worship is always a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, even during the season of Lent.

Furthermore, Jesus’ resurrection invites and calls us daily, as individuals and the church universal, to die to self and be resurrected into a future that is brighter than we can imagine.

Resurrection is not possible without death. It is the tale of the Phoenix. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

Holistic Stewardship

The word ‘stewardship’ has inherited the baggage of ‘financial campaign’ and has become a dreaded and dirty word amongst communities of faith.

Stewardship seems to invoke the image of church leadership shaking its members for additional funds until they are financial exhausted. This image is disconcerting for those in the pews, church leadership, and the pastor alike.

But, ‘stewardship’ is broader. It encompasses the whole of our lives.

  •  Stewardship is the task of managing and caring for ‘something’.
  •  Stewards are people tasked to manage and care for ‘something’, including:
    finances and property, but also supplies, order at social events, and people themselves.

We, as Christians, are taught that God created all matter and appointed humankind as its stewards. But, what does this mean?

We are called to manage our finances, time, and talents well while striving towards God’s Will by

  • proclaiming Christ in word and deeds;
  • seeking justice;
  • acting with compassion and mercy; and
  • loving and serving all people.

Stewards of Financial Means
Our household and congregational budgets are to be well managed reflecting that baptismal calling.

Scripture and tradition teaches the offering of a tithe (or 1/10th) of all material possessions to be given for the glory of God and to the service of God, which provided for the Levities (priests), the Temple, and God’s mission to care for the poor, the orphan, and the widow.

Stewards of Time, Energy, and Talents
Similar to our finances, we must budget our time, energy, and talents to reflect that baptismal calling.

We cannot permit ourselves to either be self-indulgent hoarding our time, energy, and talents for selfish purposes or becoming emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually exhausted.

Stewards of Humanity
The management of our finances, time, energy, and talents are for the stewardship and care of humanity ensuring that none are in any need (including clothes, food, and shelter) and are able to thrive. It includes family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, and strangers near and far.

Stewards of Creation
The management of our finances, time, energy, and talents are also for the stewardship and care of creation as our home. We should tend to, protect, and clean it in order that it may thrive.

Conclusion
I invite you to ponder this holistic stewardship of your finances, time, energy, and talents for the sake of humankind and the creation as a spiritual practice to embrace moving forward.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Valentine, Patrick, & the Saints

Often Protestants are misinformed about the Saints existing in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox traditions alone. The Anglican and Lutheran traditions embrace the Saints too.

But, Lutherans embrace the Saints differently…

Martin Luther redefined a ‘saint’ as a forgiven sinner, but continued to recognize that canonized Saints are examples of Christian witness who should be venerated (respected, not worshipped).

Martin Luther taught that the Saints, however, do not possess an abundance of merit and cannot intercede on our behalf. Therefore, Lutherans do not pray to the Saints.

I have been honored and humbled in the presence of relics, including the tomb of St. Patrick. I have not visited seeking ‘merit’ but rather to be connected to the person, their story, and their Christian witness despite the confines of time and space, such as a family photo album or scrapbook might. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Newsletter Articles

 

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Doubt: Necessary for a Dynamic Faith

 

The celebration of Easter in the Church is 50 days beginning with the Resurrection and concluding with the Holy Spirit poured out onto the people at Pentecost. This Easter season recounts the post-Resurrection accounts of Jesus the Christ, our Risen Lord.

 

The morning of the Resurrection emphasizes Mary Magdalene and additional women arriving at the tomb of Jesus the Christ to anoint his body per custom. These women were expecting to encounter his corpus, but instead are greeted by the Risen Lord. He commissions them to bear witness to and share the good news of his resurrection with the others, including the inner-most circle of the eleven disciples.

 

These other disciples, except Thomas, are fearfully hidden in a dark room behind locked doors. These other disciples did not believe these witnesses of the Risen Lord until Christ appeared within their dark room. These disciples share their experience with Thomas, who similarly does not believe them.

 

We always wrestle with doubt and its relationship to faith the first Sunday after the Resurrection through the narrative of “doubting” Thomas. But, who is this “doubting” Thomas? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2017 in Newsletter Articles

 

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