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Concordia Journal

Concordia Seminary 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, MO 63105

COncordia Journal

Spring 2013 volume 39 | number 2

Spring 2013 volume 39 | number 2

a partnership issue

The Human Face of Justice Called to Milk Cows and Govern Kingdoms HOLLIS and the Holy Spirit Weaving Reflection into Civic Life

COncordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233)



David Adams Charles Arand Andrew Bartelt Executive EDITOR Joel Biermann Jeffrey Kloha Gerhard Bode Dean of Theological Kent Burreson Research and Publication William Carr, Jr. Anthony Cook EDITOR Timothy Dost Travis J. Scholl Managing Editor of Thomas Egger Jeffrey Gibbs Theological Publications Bruce Hartung EDITORial assistant Dale A. Meyer President

Erik Herrmann Jeffrey Kloha R. Reed Lessing David Lewis Richard Marrs David Maxwell Dale Meyer Glenn Nielsen Joel Okamoto Jeffrey Oschwald David Peter Paul Raabe

Victor Raj Paul Robinson Robert Rosin Timothy Saleska Leopoldo Sánchez M. David Schmitt Bruce Schuchard William Schumacher William Utech James Voelz Robert Weise

Melanie Appelbaum assistants

Carol Geisler Theodore Hopkins James Kirschenmann Matthew Staneck Michael Tsichlis

All correspondence should be sent to: CONCORDIA JOURNAL 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, Missouri 63105 314-505-7117 cj

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Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, the Concordia Journal is the successor of Lehre und Wehre (1855-1929), begun by C. F. W. Walther, a founder of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Lehre und Wehre was absorbed by the Concordia Theological Monthly (1930-1974) which was also published by the faculty of Concordia Seminary as the official theological periodical of the Synod. Concordia Journal is abstracted in Internationale Zeitschriftenschau für Bibelwissenschaft unde Grenzgebiete, New Testament Abstracts, Old Testament Abstracts, and Religious and Theological Abstracts. It is indexed in ATLA Religion Database/ ATLAS and Christian Periodicals Index. Article and issue photocopies in 16mm microfilm, 35mm microfilm, and 105mm microfiche are available from National Archive Publishing ( Books submitted for review should be sent to the editor. Manuscripts submitted for publication should conform to a Chicago Manual of Style. Email submission ( as a Word attachment is preferred. Editorial decisions about submissions include peer review. Manuscripts that display Greek or Hebrew text should utilize BibleWorks fonts ( Copyright © 1994-2009 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with permission. The Concordia Journal (ISSN 0145-7233) is published quarterly (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall). The annual subscription rate is $25 (individuals) and $50 (institutions) payable to Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105. New subscriptions and renewals also available at Periodicals postage paid at St. Louis, MO and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Concordia Journal, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105-3199. On the cover: Looking down upon the baptismal font in the LeBien Baptistery from the narthex of the Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana (photo courtesy of Valparaiso University). © Copyright by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri 2013 |


I’m Nate, and this is my part.

Nate will be one of the emcees at the National LCMS Youth Gathering, July 1-5, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.

“You recognize right away that this is a place that takes faith seriously, that faith is an important part of campus life here.”

1.888.GO.VALPO • • Valparaiso, IN 46383

COncordia J ournal CONTENTS


Editor’s Note

102 Five Questions with Two Presidents: On Vocation 106 The Communion of Saints: Four Perspectives on Lay Vocation

ARTICLES 117 The Human Face of Justice: Reclaiming the Neighbor in Law, Vocation, and Justice Talk Leopoldo A. Sánchez M. 133 Called to Milk Cows and Govern Kingdoms: Martin Luther’s Teaching on the Christian’s Vocations Robert Kolb 142 HOLLIS and the Holy Spirit: A Journey Toward the Redemption of the Historian’s Vocation Ronald K. Rittgers 151


175 BOOK REVIEWS Weaving Reflection into Civic Life: Resources for Reflective Reading on Leadership, Service, and Vocation Elizabeth Lynn

Spring 2013

volume 39 | number 2


COncordia Journal

Editor’s Note The image on the cover portrays the LeBien Baptistery in the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, Indiana). Walking its spiral staircase, whether for work, study, or daily prayer, one can nearly hear the lines echo across the rippling water. So use it well! You are made new— In Christ a new creation! As faithful Christians, live and do Within your own vocation, Until that day when you possess His glorious robe of righteousness Bestowed on you forever! (“All Christians Who Have Been Baptized,” LSB 596, v. 6) In the almost three-story space above the font floats a spiraling bronze sculpture, an image of the overflowing blessing of God through water and word. To walk that staircase is to be reminded that our life and our work revolve around and find their center in the daily washing of baptism, of the way the sound of its water calls us to die and to rise into a certain kind of life, lived out in myriad ways because of the myriad gifts God gives through it. The theme of this issue of Concordia Journal is lay vocation, what in Lutheran circles is so well known as “the priesthood of all believers,” or “the ministry of the baptized.” The topic—one of the touchstones of Lutheran theology—is always relevant to the church, since the people of God are always called to all the myriad walks of life that make for healthy community and good society in God’s creation. We share one vocation with many locations—in our work and our living, in our families and in our communities, in our leading and in our serving. Valparaiso University is a logical partner with which to explore these issues from a variety of vocational perspectives. Valparaiso’s Lutheran history (the Lutheran University Association purchased it in 1925) has been centered in a mission of educating people of faith for lives of leadership and service, preparing people for professions of law, nursing, medicine, business, engineering, and other fields with a deep formation in the liberal arts and humanities. The collaboration between people at Concordia Seminary and Valparaiso University found within these pages is evidence of how we can fruitfully reflect on that sense of baptismal calling and how we can live that life together. Because it really is as simple, and as complex, as Martin Luther makes it out to be when, near the end of The Freedom of a Christian, he writes: “a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love.” Travis J. Scholl Concordia Seminary, St. Louis Concordia Journal/Spring 2013

Brian T. Johnson Valparaiso University 101

Five Questions with Two Presidents: On Vocation Editor’s note: As the title makes explicit, we posed five questions to Dale A. Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Mark A. Heckler, President of Valparaiso University, regarding vocation, the ministry of the baptized, and the roles their respective institutions play in such matters. Here are their answers. 1. How do educational institutions like seminaries and universities cultivate a sense of vocation? Dale Meyer: Unlike a university where students prepare for various vocations, our seminary is focused on the calling to be pastors and deaconesses. The calling is rooted in baptism, but how the seminary cultivates that sense of calling is, I think, changing. There was a time when going to seminary largely meant getting Bible knowledge and correct doctrine into your head and developing pastoral skills from classroom and homework assignments. Today learning has to be set in a much larger context, not just on campus but in real life settings. We are very intentional about exposing students to life and ministry situations that are different than those in which they grew up. Immersion trips to urban, ethnic, rural, innovative church plants . . . these experiences change the way students “learn” theology on our old Gothic campus. Hopefully these experiences fuel their passion—their calling—to take the gospel to where people really are. Mark Heckler: As a university that is Lutheran in character and ethos, Valparaiso University responds to a call from God to serve as a witness in the world through the pursuit of truth and from a position that stands under the cross of Christ. Our institutional calling therefore compels us to attend to the intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual dimensions of our students’ lives. We begin to cultivate vocation from the moment we communicate to a prospective student and his or her family, when we talk about the value of the Valpo experience. Here, we tell prospective students, “you will discern your gifts and consider how best to put them to use for the sake of the world.” During our students’ first year, the Valpo CORE course engages them in common readings and discussion on our Lutheran understanding of vocation. This reflection continues throughout their Valpo education: through the academic major, through co-curricular activities, internships, and learning through service. At graduation, we reflect on and celebrate the personal journey each student has taken, and how they have become purpose-driven, thoughtful leaders, conscious of their gifts, and eager to serve both church and society. 2. How have the histories of these two institutions contributed to this cultivation? Meyer: Well, I suspect history would show that it’s always been a struggle for Concordia Seminary. Transplanted from Germany to America, worshipping God 102

in German amid English speakers, then dropping the German language because of the wars, understanding what “unionism” meant in the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first, the decline of mainline denominations, America’s spiritual eclecticism, and on and on. God’s word never changes but the contexts in which we present law and gospel requires different nuances as time passes. That’s a challenge to cultivating a sense of vocation in students. It’s easy to forget that today’s students come from different times than the faculty comes from. We’re challenged to excite them to the same mission that summoned us decades ago. Without losing our heritage, history shows us we have to adapt. Heckler: Valparaiso University was purchased in 1925 by a group of businessmen who were members of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Their work was reinforced by the University Guild, a large group of LCMS women who created a national fundraising network to support the new university. They imagined a university designed to prepare Lutheran young people for vocations in the world— engineering, business, law, and other professions—in contrast to those institutions designed to prepare pastors and church workers. It was an innovative idea, and one that took some time to mature, given the decades of war and economic turmoil that followed the university’s Lutheran founding. At the same time that it built its wide array of liberal arts and professional degree programs, Valparaiso University chose to maintain a large and active theology department to nurture and deepen the institution’s understanding of vocation regardless of academic discipline or profession while attending to the formation of students pursuing church vocations. 3. How do strategic plans and efforts at the institutions understand and shape lay vocation? Meyer: Two things jump into my mind. The first is that we’ve done an inadequate job in the church with the “priesthood of all believers.” People get the idea that they’re doing the “priesthood” if they are on a board at church, read the lessons, or perhaps even help distribute communion. That strikes me as defining the vocation of the laity as some mini-version of the pastor. Pastors are respected for the work they do, but the pastor’s vocation is just one of many that God uses to advance his good purposes in the world. I hope we can teach our students that they are not a special clergy caste, but rather that they are shoulder-to-shoulder with the laity in the work of the church. As one friend put it, “It’s not the Great Ordination but the Great Commission.” Second, the seminary’s new strategic plan is going to be more intentional about offering resources to the laity. We’re already in the business of making our theological resources available to all the baptized, not just to pastors. For example, each year about one million of our offerings on iTunesU are downloaded. Seminary professors are constantly writing and speaking about how to apply God’s word to the issues of the day. We’re going to become more intentional about putting their work

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


into resources that are appealing and helpful to laity living out the “priesthood of all believers.” Heckler: Valpo spends considerable time and intellectual energy in an ongoing conversation about what it means to be called to use one’s God-given gifts in service to the world, and how to foster thoughtful reflection and discernment in our students, who are Lutheran and non-Lutheran, Christian and non-Christian. Our mission is focused on preparing graduates who will “lead and serve in church and society.” And our strategic plan—the result of two years of conversation involving more than a thousand faculty, staff, students, alumni, pastors, and community leaders—aims to deepen and strengthen our Lutheran identity and ethos even as we become a more diverse institution. A key component of the strategic plan is the new Institute for Leadership and Service, located in a new addition to the Chapel of the Resurrection. Here, students will explore their sense of calling while engaging in and reflecting upon their learning through service experiences where they put their talents and their academic knowledge to use throughout the world to improve the lives of people in need. In our strategic plan, we envision the day when every student will have a significant, life-changing experiential learning opportunity grounded in service to humanity. 4. How would you define vocation, particularly as it applies to laypeople, and how have you seen it lived out in your institutional leadership? Meyer: Vocation is calling. “Follow me,” Jesus said, and he doesn’t permit us to negotiate where we go or the conditions of our following. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor 6:20). Laypeople who know they are Christfollowers get into positions and places that no clergy can enter. On the line in the factory, in the board room, at the club . . . Laypeople who are not ashamed of being Christian often have more credibility in “real-world” places than preachers do. In my own stewardship of the president’s office, I’ve come to see that the vision for the church’s progress in the world often comes from lay people. They’re out in the real world, they have the Spirit, and so I take seriously their suggestions about the direction of Concordia Seminary. Heckler: Three components come to mind: grace, gifts, and gratitude. God knows me and sees me, in my sinfulness, in my moments of doubt, in those times when I do not trust him and venture forward on my own. It is amazing that, in spite of our wanton and willful ways, God has been merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. God has made a promise to all of us, that in spite of our sinful ways, he will never leave us nor forsake us. God has bestowed us with unique talents and abilities. And, more than all of this, God has given us the possibility of salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! What a gift!


What can we possibly do in return for such generosity? Perhaps like the shepherd in the Christina Rossetti poem (“In the Bleak Midwinter”), I feel called to “give him my heart.” I feel called to commit my life to serve God through higher education, because God takes mercy on me, because God is generous, because I have been saved through Jesus Christ. To serve as a college president is a great responsibility, but it is an extraordinary blessing. Each day begins with gratitude, seeks redemption, works toward reconciliation, and ends with God’s grace. 5. What texts or experiences have led to your own understanding of vocation and the “ministry of the baptized”? Meyer: Oh my, there are so many. The prophets and the apostles give us page after page of God’s inspiration to seek and to save the lost. One non-biblical passage that has impressed me greatly comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote, “I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world—watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia [repentance]; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian” (from Letters and Papers from Prison, to Eberhard Bethge, July 21, 1944). Heckler: I was raised in the Church of the Brethren during the Vietnam War, so much of my Christian identity remains rooted in issues of peace and social justice, moderation in that which is good and abstinence from that which is harmful. Service was and is at the heart of the Brethren church and some of my earliest memories of idealized role models are associated with young adults who served in Brethren Volunteer Service or were conscientious objectors to military service and, thus, lived out their Christian principles through working in hospitals and other forms of voluntary service. Yet, for me, this link between one’s work in the world and faith in God remained elusive for decades. My wife and I became Lutherans as adults precisely because Lutherans understand this idea of serving God through one’s work, that one can be “called” to many roles in life beyond ministry, and that in living out one’s calling in the world, we glorify God by using our God-given gifts in service for the sake of the world.

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


The Communion of Saints: Four Perspectives on Lay Vocation The editorial team of Concordia Seminary and Valparaiso University formulated the following questions to submit to a “roundtable” of thoughtful leaders from a variety of professional backgrounds. Their perspectives represent a myriad of ways of envisioning how vocation—the priesthood of all believers—is lived out in daily life. The questions: What writers, texts, or experiences have contributed to your understanding of lay vocation? How does your understanding of calling relate to leading and serving in church and society? ✠ My understanding of my vocation—global health nursing—and my avocation— my calling and passion to serve through my expertise in my field—comes from my reading of Robert Greenleaf’s The Servant as Leader (1982) and more importantly my own experiential learning and research through my work with communities. According to Greenleaf, who coined the phrase servant leadership, The servant-leader is servant first . . . It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant— first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, though difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? I am a community-based participatory action researcher. Community-based participatory action research (CPAR) is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. CPAR begins with a research topic of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to improve community health and eliminate health disparities (Community-Based Participatory Research for Health, ed. Minkler and Wallerstein, 2003). In essence, I work with communities rather than for communities. Although the words “with” and “for” may seem like semantics, in servant leadership they are not. In my work in Central America, I am not working on service nor am I working on service learning. I am working to develop servant leaders, but I am not working to develop servant leaders among our students. I am working to develop servant leaders in those with whom I serve. This is facilitated through my listening, empathy, willingness to change, collaboration, consensus building, and commitment to the growth of people (Greenleaf, 1982). Each principle of servant leadership closely aligns with principles of CPAR in an international setting. As a result, my research is inextricably linked to servant leadership. The goal of my research is to develop a sustainable program that will withstand my presence in the community long after my 106

departure. It is important to note that it is not the program that is truly sustainable but the people who become servant leaders themselves who sustain it. My understanding of my vocation, my calling to global health nursing, and my avocation, in service as a servant leader, is supported by the following ideologies: As I serve in Central America, I practice humility and am humbled; all of God’s people have gifts to share; each is recognized for his or her expertise. I urge my students to seek similarities in people and circumstances rather than focusing on differences, for we will find far more similarities among God’s children, especially in the broader global society. Finally, we should trust in the fact that we will learn far more from those we serve than they will ever learn from us. As a result, those with whom we serve will be more likely to become servant leaders themselves. Amy Cory Amy C. Cory is an assistant professor of nursing and directs a service-learning research project in Nicaragua at Valparaiso University. ✠ What follows are some personal “working hypotheses” I’ve formed about discerning one’s calling in life as a Christian layperson: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Solomon was right. Work precedes the fall. It’s easy to get the wrong ideas in Sunday school. I shouldn’t expect too much. We should talk about this more.

First, a caveat: It’s obviously impossible to know whether my reflections below represent what others think. I speak as a “layperson” but cannot speak for all laypeople. I do know that I have genuinely thought all these thoughts. I’m sure the theologicallytrained eye can catch some “rookie” mistakes here. Nevertheless, I ask that you read with charity, and I welcome anyone to set me straight on the details. Second, some context. I was born in the rural Midwest where both of my parents were parochial schoolteachers. I began my career in the nonprofit world, later picked up “an MBA from a good school,” and spent the better part of two decades in corporate America, much of it in the New York City marketing and advertising world. Since last summer, I’ve worked for Concordia Seminary. Throughout, I’ve been active in congregations as a Bible study leader and some elected roles. I’ve been married for 20 years and have two daughters. For me, the word “vocation” conjures up the entirety of career, family, and “what I spend my life doing.” To be frank, though, I quickly zero in on the career piece. I’ve had several jobs, and I’ve been blessed to be truly energized by each one. I think that’s very rare. I have a fantastic marriage, and that’s also rare. But even so, the concept of “finding my calling” has been very unclear. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


So, here are my “working hypotheses” on vocation. 1. Solomon was right. “Vanity, vanity!” At some level, it’s all meaningless… …but that also means that many vocational options are morally equal before God. I see a freeing sense of possibility in Solomon’s leveling all human pursuits under the sun to the same status: across a wide range of human endeavor, no type of work enjoys higher moral status before God than another. Corollary: One of God’s greatest gifts is a job you like. “There is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, for this is his lot.” In my college years, those words struck me as a mid-life rant of despair. Now I’m middleaged myself, and I notice that “nothing better” also suggests that it is the very best that God may have in store for you—that beyond which nothing is better— “to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God” (Eccl 2:24). 2. Work precedes the fall. Whatever part of work now reflects a fallen creation—the thorns and the drudgery, perhaps—the charge to “subdue” and “rule” (Gn 1:28) is part of God’s perfect plan. God’s first command was to get busy. Work is good. Corollary #1: Ambition to achieve falls within God’s perfect design for us. Forming this thought has involved one of my life’s biggest struggles. I grew up thinking the church equated ambition with greed or pride. Probably I just wasn’t catching the nuances, but I thought that success in business was primarily valuable in God’s sight only to the extent that it led to something else such as time or resources to dedicate to family or to holy activities. But if work really existed in Eden, it may be okay to have career ambition. Already in Genesis 1, God sets ambitious goals for humankind and challenges them to care for the world. Pursuing career success can be, by itself, part of being the person God made me to be. Corollary #2: Some jobs that seem to reflect God’s will the most may actually have not been part of his original plan for creation. Consider these two jobs: police battling crime, and social workers rescuing abused children. The value of these jobs is enormous, but their value derives from the broken, fallen state of things. If we believe that Christ’s death and resurrection ultimately sets aright what was broken by the fall, then many socalled less important jobs suddenly take on new light. 3. It’s easy to get the wrong idea from Sunday school about “your calling in life” (…although I want to humbly acknowledge that what-they-wereteaching and what-I-heard may be two different things!). Consider the following:


The Bible is full of dramatic stories of God calling people to do stuff. God wanted these people to know his specific will for them. Some of the people in these stories quickly figured out what God wanted them to do, and some of them didn’t. Life usually went well for those who figured out what God wanted them to do and did it. So far so good. The above summary fits a wide range of Sunday school figures: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Saul, David, Samson, Balaam, Jonah, the disciples, and Paul. The wrong idea works like this: we leap from the presence of so many great stories in Scripture to the conclusion that God routinely allows people— his people, anyway—to have full confidence that they know the exact plans he has for them. This leap is illogical and simply not consistent with the biblical record. But I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking it was true, and beating myself up inside wondering why my sense of God’s call was less than exact. As I see it, these conclusions are truer to Scripture: Clearly perceiving a divine calling in one’s life is the exception, not the rule. For most, the “clear sense of calling” is an episode in a life, not the pattern of the whole life. Those holy “heroes of faith” who clearly found their calling were generally not looking for it, so much so that many disbelieved it at first. All this leads to my fourth working hypothesis: 4. I shouldn’t expect too much. Or better, I shouldn’t expect what God does not promise in his word. The idea that “God has a plan for your life” may not be taught in your church, but we’ve all heard it. It is widely accepted, and it is very attractive, especially when we laypeople show up in church hoping for answers and meaning. Properly understood, God surely has a plan for my life, but I’ve found that as vocational guidance this concept has slippery slopes that can lead to guilt and despair. Overthinking vocation may actually keep me from discovering it. Finally, here’s a parting request from my side of the lectern to those of you whose vocation involves helping people like me grow in God’s grace: 5. We—clergy and laypeople—should talk about this more . . . even if you don’t think you have a fully formed theology of vocation. The world today is radically different from the one in which most of us attended Sunday school and even more radically different from the time when our core doctrinal positions were worked out. It’s just possible that the church has some catching up to do on describing what God’s calling looks and feels like today. This may be true for church workers as much as for lay people.

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


In my case, I’ve spent vastly more Sunday mornings hoping to have the sense of God’s calling that I imagined my pastor must have, than even being curious about the way the guy at the other end of the pew may have been sorting out his faith. Fortunately, I finally went over to meet that guy—several of them in fact. Four men in a small Lutheran church met every Saturday for donuts and a chapter of the Bible, to kick around how their lives were going, and to pray for each other. They welcomed me in when we relocated for my job. None had been raised Lutheran, but each had felt his life was transformed when he came to understand God’s grace through the Lutheran lens. I knew vastly more Scripture than anyone else, but I quickly saw that I lacked the charity and wisdom that they possessed. Over time and in no spectacular way, they showed me much about the difference God’s grace can make in everyday affairs, what kinds of inner transformation one can experience from knowing Jesus, and how to find and express God’s calling in my life in my various roles at work, home, and the community. I have many unanswered questions about vocation, but I’m confident of this: as God puts us together in congregations, we can do more to help one other sort through big and small vocational questions, through life priorities and practical decisions. If you’re a church professional, I’d challenge you to take the lead to talk about how you’ve experienced God’s calling, and to ask us to tell you what’s similar and what’s different for us. Encourage us to read books on the topic, even if they were published outside our own denomination. And don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers. We probably can learn a lot from each other. Phil Ebeling Philip Ebeling is the executive director of communications at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. ✠ Because life rushes by us as “anarchic” and “anonymous” experiences, says G. K. Chesterton, “we throw” at these experiences names like love, death, suffering, vanity and happiness. Yet, we know that these experiences are “infinitely vaster and more varied than the name.” Therefore, we sub-create a “make-believe” world—making stories to characterize what we believe about the labels we affix to experience. A make-believe story defines a label like “courage” by giving it duration as it develops in the story’s characters and plot. A story defines courage in a way that connects head and heart in showing how our beliefs become embodied in how we behave. Simply put, stories say what labels leave out. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythology, known most famously in the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, has for some time now helped me understand what I mean when I claim to have a vocation, characterizing vocation in the character of Frodo Baggins in the following ways:


1. A vocation is a response to an authoritative summons. Frodo is not heroic. He is an undersized Hobbit, who, on the face of things, is ill-suited for the role of ring-bearer. Frodo’s vocation is not an expression of his individualism nor is it a work which fulfills a deep desire. Frodo becomes the ringbearer because he accepts Gandalf’s authorized summons. 2. My vocation is not a personal possession. The my of “my vocation”, warns C. S. Lewis, must not be confused with the my of “my shoes” or “my toys.” A vocation is not a thing which I can do with as I please. Frodo is free to decline, but not to define his call. It is “his call” only insofar as he receives the role as a gift. Having accepted his role, Frodo says to Gandalf, “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I,” responds Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 3. Frodo’s vocation is the highest expression of his freedom. This freedom is not how we think of freedom today. Frodo’s freedom means being free from the encumbering enchantment of possessiveness that brought previous ring-bearers to grief. It is to be free for the fulfillment of his vocation, which means he must become morally capable of destroying the ring. 4. Frodo begins in dependence to become independent. Independence depends on Frodo being in fellowship with the support of others which prepares him to endure the deprivation of all but Sam’s community. And, in the end, Frodo fails when he claims his independence from his vocation, saying, “I do not choose now to do what I came to do . . . The Ring is mine!” 5. Frodo must accept his suffering without resentment. This demands that he live by “the philosophy of story.” Chesterton noted that we demand an excitement in our stories that we keep distant from our lives. Frodo’s vocation proved the diremption of his domestic bliss. When tempted to despair, Sam encourages him with the philosophy of story, saying, “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? . . . But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something . . . That there’s some good in the world . . . and it’s worth fighting for.” 6. Vocation’s beauty is in the eye of the beneficiary. Being faithful to a vocation requires that we see its beauty. Though Frodo experiences the cost of his vocation as futility for much of the book, it makes sense at the end when he looks back on his sacrifice, and says to Sam, “It must often be so . . . when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


7. A vocation is a license to fail, not a certificate of expertise. Discussing Frodo’s failure to destroy the ring, Tolkien explained that this ending characterized the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” We pray this petition because it is possible to be personally overwhelmed by evil even while the story moves toward a happy ending. This happy ending happened only because Gollum, whose life was several times spared by mercy, steals back the ring from Frodo, then falls to his—and the ring’s—destruction. This is the gist of the gospel story centered in the forgiveness that weaves our personal and profound failures into a happily-ever-after ending. The label vocation needs such storied characterization because, as C. S. Lewis notes, “To follow the vocation does not mean happiness, but once it has been heard, there is no happiness for those who do not follow.” David Weber David K. Weber is a lecturer in theology and program director of the Church Vocations Symposium at Valparaiso University. ✠ So that’s what the “communion of saints” means! It dawned on me gradually as the rhythm, language, colors, symbols, music, and choreography of the liturgy knit me into that communion. As a transplant into Lutheranism from a low-church Presbyterian community, my twelve-year-old self first sensed something of the generations and cultures bound to each other in Christ. While rooted in God’s naming me his child in baptism, I look back and understand that all my callings came through the voices of that communion: past and present brothers and sisters in Christ. My mind fills with faces in a personalized All Saints icon: my parents and grandparents, my pastors, a college friend, a nun, my husband and children—the people through whom God has made, and is still, making me. For the key task before each of us is not what career, marriage, and so on we may choose. Instead our focus must be on who we are and who we shall become. That takes prayer and community. I used to think that the disciples were callow when they asked Jesus how to pray. Did their parents not teach them table graces and bedtime prayers? Enter the right pastor at the right moment during my graduate studies: prayer, he noted, is how God changes us. Alerted to that reality, I noticed that the “new” brothers and sisters whom I was meeting in early Christian writings thought that way too. So when I met Evagrius of Pontus, I more easily heard his observation that a theo-logos is simply one who prays. Furthermore Evagrius insisted on the gifted nature of prayer: “If you want to pray, you have need of God ‘who bestows prayer on the one who prays’ (1 Kgs 2:9 Septuagint).”1 Not until I was teaching part-time at a Jesuit college did I experience more fully what I had read so much about. The college offered “The Spiritual Exercises,” a seven-


month journey of prayer rooted in scripture and conversations with God. Meeting weekly with the retreat director, sharing the discipline with my husband, and conversing periodically with our pastor, anchored my listening to God within a communion of saints that helped me test and understand what I experienced in prayer. For instance, I heard an unexpected harmony between the voices of Martin Luther and Ignatius of Loyola. Luther had provided me with the refrain that underlies my chief identity, “I am baptized.” Ignatius broadened my understanding of how to assess my life in accord with this baptismal calling. Human beings, created and recreated in Christ, are to “praise, reverence and serve God our Lord.”2 Christ daily issues this calling to us through our inner man from where he seeks to win over ever more of our selves until the resurrection when we will be “wholly inner and perfectly spiritual.”3 All around me are Christian college students preoccupied with wringing something more specific out of God. “What is my calling?” they ask, meaning “what is the right major that will lead to the right job that is God’s will for me?” They fear that if they do not get this one thing right, they will have missed their life’s purpose. In response, I have directed a mentoring program and lead retreats which aim to engage students in the pillars of discernment—prayer and community. The Mentoring Program, within the Valparaiso University Center for Church Vocations, matches students with Christians in the community for the purpose of exploring calling. The regular meetings open space for students to reflect on how they might fulfill their Christian calling generally and within the profession they are considering. What does a Christian social worker, or hospital administrator, or (fill in the blank) look like? How does baptismal calling intersect with and shape one’s other callings? Mentoring takes seriously Luther’s own approach to vocations in the world over the course of a year while the retreat does this intensively over a weekend. “What are you seeking?” asks Jesus (Jn 1:38). We pursue this question throughout the Life Tree Contemplative Retreat as individuals and with the community of fellow retreatants. Equipped with the Ignatian examen, retreatants ponder where they have sought God, or not. Done daily, this prayer encourages awareness of when we include or exclude God from our lives. We celebrate the former with thankfulness, but we ask for God’s help in the latter. Prepared by the examen and a night and morning of silence, retreatants return to speech with “O Lord, open my lips” in Matins. After hearing Psalm 139 in two prior services, retreatants practice lectio divina where they prayerfully listen to that same psalm which challenges and comforts us that God knows us and our paths. The Life Tree exercise which follows offers a means to think about what has led us to our current place. Retreatants draw a tree whose fruit is the significant moments and people of their lives and then listen to the interpretation offered by their small groups. What friends, mentors, and pastors see of our lives can indicate not only where we have been but offer ideas about where we might go. Moreover we need the perspective of others who see things in our lives that we might not notice. God has told us that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gn 2:18) and that certainly is true in our seeking, listening, and doing God’s calling in our lives. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


Praise be to God for the communion of saints who help each other notice the many ways we may “praise, reverence and serve” him. Lisa Driver Lisa D. Maugans Driver is an associate professor of theology and program director in the Center for Church Vocations at Valparaiso University. Endnotes

1 Robert E. Sinkewicz, “Chapters on Prayer” 61 and 59 in Evagrius of Pontus: Greek Ascetical Corpus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 199. 2 George E. Ganss, trans., The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius: A Translation and Commentary (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1992), 32. 3 Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty, trans. W. A. Lambert, ed. Harold J. Grimm (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 33.



COncordia Journal

The Human Face of Justice

Reclaiming the Neighbor in Law, Vocation, and Justice Talk

Leopoldo A. Sánchez M.

Any attempt towards a theology and practice of justice (iustitia) must begin and end with some neighbor in mind. Let us define “justice” theologically as that “righteousness of the law” (iustitia legis), which God prescribes in the Decalogue so that honorable works are taught and carried out in society.1 Accordingly, doing justice amounts to doing what is just or righteous before men (coram hominibus) in accordance with God’s law. While the Lutheran confessors warn that the righteousness of the law (or “righteousness of reason”) can never replace the “righteousness of faith” (iustitia fidei), which alone declares and makes us righteous before God (coram deo) through faith in Christ, they still praise such righteousness of the law because God demands it, uses it to restrain the flesh in civil society, and honors it with temporal rewards.2 While calls for justice may implicitly assume a neighbor, such appeals do not always or necessarily argue explicitly for the neighbor in his or her own right as the point of departure and arrival for defining what justice looks like. Without a neighbor-oriented approach to justice, we risk designing or maintaining social programs or projects that remain immune to adaptation as the needs of the neighbor change over time. We may say that, by giving a human face to justice, the neighbor serves as a critical point of departure for holding accountable individual Christians, congregations acting as corporate citizens in their communities, and Christian social agencies in their theoretical and practical approaches to justice. The neighbor serves as the critical lens for a constructive approach to service that takes into account and is flexible to changing needs while remaining sensitive to how an assessment of needs often implies a certain conception of the neighbor’s identity. In this essay, I argue that, from a practical point of view, there is no access to obedience to the law, faithful vocation, active righteousness, or whatever else justice before our fellow human beings might be called or entail (e.g., charity, mercy, political involvement, social justice, orthopraxis), apart from some concrete neighbor.3 It follows that there is no sound theology or practice of justice apart from some biblically and pastorally sound view or conceptualization of neighbors. We will explore our thesis by showing how the centrality of the neighbor shapes a sound Lutheran approach to law, vocation, and justice.4 We will then show how various models of justice imply or Leopoldo A. Sánchez M. teaches systematic theology in the Werner R. H. Krause Chair for Hispanic Ministries and is director of the Center for Hispanic Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. An earlier version of this essay was presented at the Fall 2012 Theological Symposium at Concordia Seminary.

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


derive from some definition of the neighbor’s identity, highlighting the benefits and limits of such models and offering further strategies to avoid misconstruing the neighbor. We will conclude with some reflections on the implications of our thesis and some constructive proposals for nurturing a spirituality of justice. I. The Who of Justice?: Reclaiming a Neighbor-Oriented Approach to Law and Vocation Any Christian attempt to define what justice is must be grounded in the law of God—particularly, in the second table of the law, which teaches us what the will of God is for us as we relate to others. Luther’s criticism of self-designed or special works of holiness conceived apart from God’s commandments guards against approaches to justice that are not grounded in God’s word.5 And yet, arguing for what is just and right in terms of the law of God can become rather abstract. Certainly, the law of God, as we know it from the Decalogue, points us to the that of justice—that is to say, its content, what you must do or not do as God demands. But the law of God does not point us to the how of justice—that is to say, to its lived forms or expressions, which indeed are manifold and depend on our particular contexts of service where actual neighbors are cared for. The law says that we must love our neighbor. But what exactly does love look like? How exactly do we practice it? Christians with the same commitment to the law of God will have different takes on what makes for just or righteous practice on behalf of some neighbor. A diversity of approaches to the practice of justice should not surprise us. There is a measure of freedom and even debate among Lutherans concerning how they should go about fulfilling the law of love. In paradoxical terms, we may say that the law of God actually allows us the freedom to be just. Such freedom is bound to the word in its content and bound to the neighbor in its form. How then do we account theologically for such freedom and diversity of form in the practice of the law in the world? At this point, the Lutheran teaching on vocation directs us to the God-established contexts in creation where love is exercised and the law of God is fulfilled. Vocation, that office or station from where you serve some neighbor, makes the law concrete and effective.6 Through the exercise of vocations, humans become “masks of God” through which the Creator provides for the needs of many neighbors.7 What the fulfillment of the law actually looks like in this or that situation can only be arrived at or contextualized meaningfully by considering the vocation(s) through which God has called us to love some neighbor or sets of neighbors. Apart from some vocation, it is hard—indeed, impossible—to know and grasp what “love your neighbor as yourself” actually means. Since the neighbor is “a moving reality,” the command to love “is not a matter of a law from which we could reduce in advance what is right” but takes shape on the basis of “each man’s living neighbor and his varying needs.”8 Lutheran theology allows us to make the move from the law in the abstract to the law as it is carried out specifically through vocation. In the civil realm, for instance, vocation shapes how one thinks about what is just, right, fair, and reasonable in this or that civil law for some neighbor one has been called to serve. In appeals for a just society, the use of reason among Christians with the same commitment to


God’s law will often yield different forms of righteousness. Some neighbor is, or at least should be, in mind in such debates. Lutheran theology helps us realize that any debate on how the law of love should be carried out stems from our vocational location, which directs us to those neighbors we have been called to serve. One could say that the law of God, in terms of its content, stands above this or that particular vocation or station in life. Otherwise stated, although love is fulfilled as one does his vocation, love may also compel us to act outside of our vocations.9 It is true that, given the opportunity and the means, the Christian will serve any neighbor who needs his love. God’s love must be extended even to one’s enemies, for that matter (Mt 5:43–48). Luther draws a helpful distinction between the Christian who acts “on behalf of others,” and is therefore responsible for neighbors served through his vocation, and the Christian who acts as an individual or “for his own sake” (i.e., outside of a particular vocation) in his relationship to others.10 We operate both as “a Christian” (or “Christ-person”) and as a “secular person” (or “world-person”).11 As a Christian individual, love is above vocation, and I may suffer all things even for those who seek to harm me. And yet, if everyone is my neighbor in general or too broadly speaking, no one can be “my” neighbor in particular. Love then becomes too universal, too diluted, and too idealistic. As a Christian acting in the world, under my vocation(s), I am bound to specific neighbors who I am called to defend and even fight for. Whether we speak of the Christian as “Christ-person” or “secular-person,” the neighbor in either case configures vocation and thus our Christian identity before the world (coram mundo). While the law of God may be seen as fixed, and therefore “represents unchanging imitation,” vocation is flexible and sensitive to changing situations in the practice of God’s command of love because it addresses the neighbor’s need at any point in time in the here and now.12 Seen from a neighbor-oriented angle, vocation paradoxically makes the command of love real or incarnate by narrowing its sphere of influence to concrete neighbors, yet at the same time is wide open to being dynamically adaptable and challenged to enlarge or modify its sphere of influence as the needs of old neighbors change and new neighbors are encountered in life. Vocation itself, like law, can easily become a static—indeed, lifeless—concept unless it is subordinated to some living neighbor God has given us to serve. In practical terms, vocation is the calling through which the law is carried out for the sake of neighbors. The neighbor alone gives a human face to law, vocation, and thus justice. We may not always know what justice (or for that matter, injustice) is, but we often know what it looks like. Through the neighbor, God teaches us something about justice and the shape it takes in a given situation, how justice must be carried out for and with him or her. And so, in an approach from the bottom up, from below, we begin with the who of justice, with “my” or “our” neighbor in order to get a sense for the how of justice, the means to best serve our neighbor. God has given us vocations and neighbors. While there is nothing wrong with fitting neighbors and their needs into already established God-given vocations, our thesis also suggests that there is a reciprocal need to shape and assess critically our vocations as old and new God-given neighbors challenge us over time with different opportunities for service. It is the neighbor who shapes what we will do in and through our Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


vocations and callings. Such a neighbor-oriented approach to law, vocation, and justice will inevitably lead to a certain degree of tension even among Christians. We should not be surprised, for instance, that the weight Christians give to various factors in the current debate on immigration law depends on what neighbors they are advocating for.13 Those who argue for more worker visas for immigrants to fulfill labor demands may have in mind the needs of the farmers who have to make a living and feed us all. Those who argue for more border control may be thinking about protecting state residents from drug cartels and that small minority of people who enter the U.S. illegally for malevolent reasons. Those who argue for a path to legalization of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. through no fault of their own before the age of sixteen—also known as the “dreamers”—have in mind neighbors who can no longer be seen as foreigners because they have now each become de facto one of “us,” perhaps our child’s best friend, a member of our community. What responsibilities do we have to all these sets of neighbors? The complexity of the debate on immigration law is illustrative of the reality that, at a fundamental level, those representing various sides of the debate are advocating for some neighbor from some vocational position. Such varied forms of advocacy, especially concerning ethical issues where no clear and irrefutable command of God is available, correspond to various opinions on what is fair, just, and reasonable in current immigration law. The neighbor shapes how we act in our vocations for the sake of justice. One does not only look to one’s vocation to decide how to help the neighbor, although that is not excluded. One also looks at the neighbor to figure out what one should do through his vocation. This is an unstated assumption that can get lost in our arguments for justice, namely, that some neighbor has shaped our views of justice and the practices that follow from them. The manner in which one pictures the neighbor influences the manner in which one applies justice. To pick on a classic example, if the neighbor is not reduced essentially to a soul in a body, but is seen as both soul and body in one person created by God, then, he or she will most likely be approached not only as one who needs salvation for the “soul,” but also as a beneficiary and doer of justice in what concerns the needs of the “body.” A holistic biblical approach to the neighbor will focus both on his spiritual and bodily needs, highlighting the need for justification before God (coram deo) through the preaching of the gospel and justice before men (coram hominibus) through good works without confusing the goals of the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of the law.14 Our example is simply illustrative of our main point, namely, that the way one defines or views the neighbor significantly shapes one’s practice of justice. In short, if the neighbor is the beginning and the end of all our justice talk, then, the who of justice shapes the how of justice. Because certain neighbors are closest to us, they are the ones who receive the priority of our love. We serve some first, then others, as we are able. In either case, neighbors shape our vocational priorities and commitments, as well as exceptions made outside of such priorities. Therefore, specific neighbors dictate or guide the forms of our advocacy, fundraising efforts, and good works for the sake of justice—whether they come from individual Christians, churches


acting as corporate citizens in the neighborhood, or Christian social agencies. We see then that the teaching on vocation, inextricably tied to some neighbor or sets of neighbors, gives us a helpful theological lens to interpret the nature and aims of justice. All who call for justice appeal to the law of love, and then typically move to discuss how such love should be practiced. They do not do so in some unbiased way, but from some vocational stance, according to the calling God has given them at this or that time in their lives. In so doing, they have been advocating for some neighbor. Consequently, the models of justice that we propose address, or should address, the needs of specific neighbors and reflect on the best means to help them. Lutheran theology calls us to keep the neighbor at the center of our law, vocation, and justice talk. We realize that various models of justice attempt to define the who and the how of justice by speaking from a particular place where one learns to love that neighbor whose life one is fighting for. II. Who Is My Neighbor?: Benefits and Limits of Defining the Neighbor in Models of Justice A neighbor-shaped view of law and vocation makes us aware that every model of justice constructs the neighbor in a certain way. Everyone who calls for justice does not only have a neighbor, but a neighbor in mind. We think of, define, or conceptualize our neighbor in a particular way. Each one constructs a picture of his or her neighbors. Ideally, a reason for doing so may be to get a consistent and broad grasp on the needs of neighbors in order to serve them better. When we become aware of this often implicit dynamic at work in appeals to and proposals for justice, we also realize no picture of the neighbor is wholly complete and thus no model of justice is meant to encompass every expression of what living rightly or justly in the world entails. Models of justice as aid or relief, sustainable development through partnerships, restoration and/or rehabilitation, and preparation for the gospel, assume various definitions of the neighbor. We can learn something from each of these heuristic models, understanding also that their concerns at times intersect in real-life approaches to the justice. Such models have their benefits and limits. If we conceive of the neighbor theologically as one who receives the aid of a loving God, that picture of the neighbor will lead to a model of justice as aid or relief.15 Such model in turn may yield a picture of the church in which Christians become instruments of God’s compassion to help neighbors meet their immediate and long-term needs. In this approach to justice, the neighbor appears primarily as the passive yet joyful receiver of God’s gifts and blessings through his people. While the passivity of humanity tends to highlight well the gratuity of God, it also tends to encourage an understanding of mercy as a one-way street from the giver who serves as the mask on earth of a merciful God to the poor receiver in need of God’s provisions. Moreover, while such a view of justice takes as its starting point the generosity of God’s people, empowered by the gospel and poured out to many through their vocations, it does not yet necessarily move beyond generosity towards a more active engagement with the poor in the community that can also address some of the deeper structural causes of injustice affecting him or her.16 It is evident that a passive-receptive model of the neighbor will have its benefits and limits in articulating and implementing a theology and practice of justice. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


What if we see our neighbor not only as someone in need of our aid, but also as one who is capable of contributing in some sense to his own wellbeing and the health of his community? Now, the neighbor becomes someone who is held accountable for how he lives his life and uses any resources given to him. The neighbor is portrayed in a more active capacity, as one having moral agency, and thus as a potential contributor in the work of addressing community needs, one who takes ownership in the process of justice.17 We move from generosity for the needy to collaboration with a stakeholder, from relief to partnership. Along these lines, John Nunes, president of Lutheran World Relief (LWF), has spoken of “contributive justice,” which assumes we cannot see justice merely as a one-way street where one gives and another receives, but as a partnership where the richer and the poorer share with one another what God has given both of them in this life.18 While relief efforts are a blessing in times of dire need and emergencies, building relationships and collaborating with the needy over time yields partnerships that could last a lifetime and thus encourage the church’s ongoing solidarity with, commitment to, and collaborative work with needy neighbors.19 In a model of justice conceived as sustainable development through partnerships, we move from seeing the poor as objects of our generosity to seeing them as our friends, and thus open ourselves to mutually enriching relationships and works. What if the neighbor is also seen as a human being who, though a sinner, is worth both aiding and restoring to a fuller life not on the basis of what she does or leaves undone, but rather because she is God’s creature? We then add an argument for justice based on moral agency and responsibility, which acknowledges to some extent human capacity for acting justly in matters from below, as well as acknowledging sin and thus bad choices or decision-making. At the same time, we also have a broader appeal to justice on the basis of the worth and dignity of created life and God’s desire to restore such life through Christ. How else do individual Christians, churches acting as corporate citizens, or Christian social agencies, for example, justify programs for neighbors suffering from drug and alcohol addictions, unmarried single mothers without means to support their babies, or legal assistance for undocumented immigrants who have broken the law to join their families in the U.S.? In such expressions of justice for vulnerable neighbors we discern a balance of judgment and rehabilitation, recognition of our fallen condition and our need for a new beginning. When justice is seen in terms of restoration and/or rehabilitation, we acknowledge the paradoxical nature of humans who are both God’s good creatures and yet fully corrupted. Luther’s description or construction of the Christian as simul iustus et peccator is skeptical of human capacity for good works—the ability to always “get it right,” or build one’s own “paradise” or “great life” on earth—but also committed to the dignity of all human life and the hope for its restoration and flourishing through the gospel in what concerns righteousness before God (coram deo) through faith in Christ and through all manner of works of love in what concerns justice before men (coram hominibus).20 Luther’s paradox helps us to think of the neighbor not only as the object of retributive (punishing, curbing, and/or accusing) justice, but also as one who is in need or restorative or rehabilitative justice.21 One may say that a model of justice as restoration and/


or rehabilitation is shaped by a view of neighbors as “the sinful siblings of Cain,” who like Adam’s child, are both judged by God for their sins and marked and protected by God as his creation.22 In their vocations, humans serve their neighbors as masks of God in his wrath as well as his love.23 Such a view of human nature acknowledges the need for an approach to justice that includes deterrence, judgment, forgiveness, and finally correction, given the reality of our sin as well as the eschatological hope for the restoration of God’s creation to the fullness of life in the life of the world to come. Guided by the Spirit and empowered by the gospel, the church’s work of justice in the world, either corporately or as individuals, becomes a sort of sign already now of the fullness of life in the kingdom of God that is yet to come.24 If one sees the neighbor as belonging to the world God so loved, someone for whom Christ died, this too shapes a certain view of justice. Justice at the level of individual care and of dealing with structural causes of injustice becomes a means to get a hearing for the proclamation of the gospel. Justice becomes a form, and perhaps even the preeminent form, of praeparatio evangelica or a bridge to the proclamation of the gospel. In this way of approaching justice, the assumption is that, if justice is done rightly, neighbors in need will then recognize that God’s love is for everyone, including them. Such a model, which sees justice in evangelistic terms, has a neighbor in mind who will only hear the gospel if the church lives the gospel out in the world. Witness through deeds of love opens the door for witness as proclamation of the gospel. In a model of justice as preparation for the gospel, the neighbor says, “If I can trust you with the little temporal things, then, I can trust you with the big spiritual ones.” Otherwise stated, if I can trust you with matters of justice (iustitia legis), then I can also trust your message of justification by faith (iustitia fidei). A strength of the model is its ability to see the work of justice not only as empowered by the gospel, but also as sensitive to the distinctive gospel-rooted character and orientation of the church’s work in the world. A potential danger lies in fostering the view that the justification for helping neighbors is their conversion, which may lead to a lack of appreciation for God’s command of love and our everyday vocations while also seeing love to the neighbor only as a means to the end of conversion.25 Either the work of gospel proclamation is turned into a condition for fulfilling the law of love, which God commands in any case even apart from evangelism efforts, or our gospel-empowered works are seen as a cause of others’ conversions and thus turned into replacements for the actual work of the Spirit through the gospel. How one imagines or constructs the neighbor will impact significantly one’s theology and practice of justice. Is the neighbor one who receives the gifts of mercy God showers through his people? Yes, and yet the neighbor is more than one who receives. Is he a moral agent, who in spite of his sins still has intrinsic worth in God’s eyes as his good creation, and thus can be seen as a co-contributor, partner, and friend in the work of justice (even if such justice is directed primarily towards him)? Yes, and yet the neighbor may not always be at a place in his life, especially when tragedies hit hard, where he is able or ready to contribute. Suddenly, the receptive model has an important place. Is the neighbor one who needs to be held accountable for his sins, but also Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


rehabilitated and restored to life? Yes, and yet rehabilitation and restoration may take different forms. Theologically speaking, one will have to think of how the law and the gospel fit into such an approach to justice. What the law can accomplish as a curbing force or deterrent does bring about a measure of discipline in the life of many neighbors. But there is also the law that accuses of sin so that the gospel may do its work of restoration—a work that assumes the empowerment of the gospel to help neighbors fight against the flesh and the devil every day. There are temporal and spiritual forms of rehabilitation, as it were. Finally, is the neighbor the one for whom Christ died and thus approached as a field one works in, nurtures, and in so doing prepares for the planting the seed of the gospel as God gives us that opportunity? Yes, and yet the neighbor is served in other ways too. The models of justice presented above focus on particular definitions and needs of neighbors, and characterize to some degree how Lutherans (and even Christians), either implicitly or explicitly, tend to approach justice issues. We have, or should have, a neighbor in mind. So how does one avoid the danger of misconstruing the neighbor? We offer only some brief reflections on obstacles to and strategies for “getting the neighbor right,” as it were. In doing so, we understand this task is a work in progress we undertake with a measure of humility and yet boldly because God has called us to serve our neighbors. A potential danger in a neighbor-oriented theology of justice is to turn the neighbor into a mere idea, to objectivize the neighbor, in such a way that one no longer takes into account his changing needs and thus the forms of justice that best serves him at a particular time and place. The neighbor then can also become a static or abstract category, not “my” or “our” actual neighbors. Changing needs will require different models of justice over time. Policies and budgets will have to be revised to adjust to new realities. We have to let the neighbor permeate our thinking and actions, helping us move from the who to the how of justice. If one does not take the time to know one’s neighbor, and thus makes her after one’s own image, one runs into what is called well-meaning but misguided help. The proverbial image of the rusting tractor once sent to a poor people in the third world, who had no means of maintaining it after receiving it, may serve as an image of justice poorly conceived—a consequence of not getting the neighbor right, of not moving beyond generosity towards local partnership and ownership. Lack of familiarity with some neighbors reduces the chances of understanding their situation and doing something about it. Someone has to visit the neighbor to get at who the neighbor really is, and what his needs really are. Through visitation, we care for the neighbor even as we listen to and learn from the neighbor. You eat, talk, and dance with them. You live with them, share with them, learn from them, and are enriched by these reciprocal relationships. In the typical case scenario of TV shows, when the undercover boss actually visits his workers in the field, he realizes how little he really knows about the struggles and aspirations of those under his supervision and care. We are reminded that the neighbor is a person, not an idea, and so the neighbor will have to continually critique and fine-tune our models of justice, policy, budget, and actions.26 A model of justice that moves from seeing the needy as recipients of mercy to friends who works with us in addressing injustices at a grassroots level is more likely


to allow for a deeper understanding of the neighbor’s needs over longer periods of time. Nothing can take the place of visiting the neighbor and sharing with him or her face to face. This approach is, in some way, the beginning of justice, the work of preparation for the work of justice. An inevitable reality of a neighbor-oriented approach to justice relates, quite simply, to the reality that there are way too many needy neighbors to serve. When one looks at so many needy and suffering neighbors, one knows one cannot possibly serve them all and so one has to prioritize from a vocational standpoint. Vocation allows us to focus, and in that sense it is a blessing. One needs to be biased, as it were. In advocating for one neighbor, one inevitably leaves another behind. A decision to support one neighbor is in a sense a decision not to support another one. This is in some ways inevitable. It is also a sobering thought. We are given many neighbors to think about, but we cannot serve them all. Having said that, a vocational focus can become a danger if, when given the opportunity to be challenged by a new neighbor and his need, we put vocation above love, or use vocation conveniently to exclude important neighbors who do not fit neatly into our vocations.27 This could lead us to miss opportunities for service, for addressing an important neighbor God may be placing before our very eyes. We should, therefore, have an openness to learn about neighbors who have needs even if they do not always neatly fit into our vocations. When we do so, we let other neighbors help us over time to reassess their place in our lives vis-à-vis our present vocations. We must also remember that we do not always see clearly only from our vocation. Social location shapes how we think of and act—or don’t act—toward neighbors. Many Lutherans in the U.S. arguably may not see the need for justice because of their middle-class background. Living in a culture of abundance gets in the way of seeing the need of some neighbors, who are perhaps needier than those we serve in our current vocations. Such an argument is not meant to belittle our vocations, wherever God has placed us to serve. Still we recognize that vocational location, which includes social location, is limiting to some extent, in that it can make us significantly unaware of the most vulnerable neighbors among us—including Christians in other parts of the world, who have significant needs and challenges. This neglect of more vulnerable neighbors is a danger that bishops in Latin America highlighted through the use of “preferential option for the poor” language.28 In a context where social and political institutions of the temporal or left-hand kingdom no longer addressed vast problems of injustice and poverty among some of the most vulnerable neighbors in society, bishops felt the need to teach that a certain priority of love should be reserved for the neediest neighbors in our midst. This basic principle of Christian love is applied de facto at home, church, work, and in our communities without neglecting other neighbors, who may not be as vulnerable but we have still been called to serve, or without making our work of justice on behalf of the poor a condition for or synonymous with justification before God.29 In keeping with God’s concern in Scripture for the care of poor, widowed, orphaned, and alien neighbors (cf. Dt 10:18– 19, 24:17–22, Ps 146:6–9, Jer 7:6, Zec 7:10, Mal 3:5), there must be some place in any theology of vocation for the practice of justice among the most needy in our midst. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


III. Working and Praying for the Neighbor: Towards a Spirituality of Justice While God provides for many neighbors through the stations or offices occupied by both Christians and non-Christians, a spirituality of justice openly acknowledges the work of the Spirit of Christ through God’s people in their various God-given vocations. By giving us neighbors to serve, the Holy Spirit shapes the church through the gospel after the likeness of Jesus Christ in at least two ways.30 First, the Spirit with whom Jesus is anointed to be the suffering servant in his life and mission shapes Christians to make room in their lives to serve others (cf. Mk 10:35–45, Phil 2:1–11, 2 Cor 8:1–15). Second, the Spirit with whom Jesus is anointed to be the faithful Son who puts his life and mission in the Father’s hands shapes Christians to cry out to the Father (Abba) in prayer for the sake of others, trusting in his mercy and deliverance (cf. Mk 14:32–38, Rom 8:9–17).31 It is through our daily interactions with neighbors that, practically speaking, the Holy Spirit shapes Christ in our lives so that we become his caring hands to others as we serve them and pray to the Father for them. A spirituality of justice nurtures these dimensions of life in the Spirit of Christ. As we alluded to earlier, a spirituality of justice acknowledges the limits of our work on behalf of many suffering neighbors. Because vocation does not allow us to serve every neighbor, it helps us to focus our strength and wisdom on behalf of some specific ones. This is liberating because we no longer have the crushing weight of the entire suffering world upon our shoulders. In Christ alone, God redeems the suffering world. The burden thus is made lighter for us, and in this we experience vocation as a divine gift. We serve the neighbors we have been called to serve first. When the opportunity arises and the means are available, we also gladly serve as many neighbors as possible for the sake of love with the strength God provides for the task. But vocation gives us a focus that allows us to give specific neighbors the attention, assistance, companionship, or partnership they need. This makes love, not an ideal, but the real thing—an incarnational love. Such a limit or boundary imposed on our creaturely capacity for work on behalf of suffering neighbors reminds us that we are not Christ (or “saviors” of the world) but his servants, and that the fruits of our labor are not ultimately ours but God’s. Vocation reminds us that in a world full of suffering, we can only address justice from a particular, realistic place. We will simply not get to some suffering neighbors. We are reminded, therefore, that it is ultimately God who preserves the whole world— at times, even in spite of us and our injustices—and works to preserve the lives of many neighbors even when we are quiet and apathetic, or just asleep.32 This means that, when we do the work of justice, we must also make time for rest and prayer. When we rest in God, both literally and in prayer, we acknowledge that God is at work even when we are not. This insight prevents us from idolizing our works of justice. In the process, we acknowledge how we have failed in our works, and thus we make space in our busy lives to confess our injustices before God towards suffering neighbors, seeking his forgiveness and strength to be led anew in the ways of justice. We begin to see that, in this life where Christians still struggle against the flesh, our good works of justice are not without sin. But our life as God’s saints is also not without forgiveness, and


our vocation “remains pure and holy because it is established through God’s Word.”33 As stated before, a neighbor-oriented approach to justice is liberating because it allows us to advocate for some neighbor. Vocation allows us to stand up for some neighbor and not apologize for defending and looking after him or her. It allows us to fight for someone, to promote his or her wellbeing, and even to persuade others to join us in supporting our work among them. Vocation does not have to be seen in individualistic terms, as it is often portrayed, because our vocations can also compel us to get together with people who share the same or similar values and priorities, and to persuade others to join our common cause for the sake of some neighbors. The multidimensional nature of vocation, where many neighbors and their advocates intersect, allows us to appreciate others’ vocations too, and the ways all Christians pour out their lives as a living sacrifice for various neighbors who need people to work for and with them in alleviating suffering. We are thus encouraged to pray for neighbors who do not fit into our vocations as well as for those brothers and sisters who serve them more directly. We marvel at God’s superabundant love, poured out through so many servants, and thank them for their sacrifices on behalf of neighbors we may never get to meet. There is a collective orientation to vocation one can encourage or nurture among church members, who as good Americans tend to be individualistic. A spirituality of justice is not to be thought exclusively as an individual enterprise, but as a communal responsibility and privilege. The church does not necessarily have to make an official corporate pronouncement on a social issue for vocation to take on a collective trajectory or movement.34 Christians are free to join others who advocate for similar neighbors and work towards opening the eyes of many to their needs.35 Larger problems require larger groups of people to solve them. There are times when, in the absence of a functioning system of justice in certain communities, the church may have to step in not only in terms of individual members but also corporately to serve neighbors who have been neglected or served poorly by left-hand temporal institutions.36 When that is the case, we move from individual to collective vocation, and begin to ask questions not only about personal responsibilities and commitments but also about deeper structural causes of injustice and constructive structural solutions to alleviating suffering for larger groups of neighbors. In the rush to go to work for the neighbor, a spirituality of justice cannot forget the need for prayer. It is challenging to see how Jesus works for many suffering people, but at times leaves the needy crowds so as not to give up his time with the Father in prayer.37 As the Spirit shapes us into the likeness of Jesus, we learn to work for the needy even as we pray to God for the needy. How often do we pray for the poor in church? How often do we serve the needy in our church or neighborhood? When we do so, we are the masks of Christ, if we may say so, in a suffering world. The Spirit configures the life patterns of the church after her own Lord’s sacrificial love for others and prayer on their behalf. In a spirituality of justice, we do not pray without working, but we also do not work without praying. As the monks used to say, ora et labora, prayer and work go together. In prayer, we seek guidance from the Father to do the work of justice among his creatures, to work our hardest and to use our brightest to care for suffering neighbors in our midst, including those that might not always get our attention. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


A spirituality of justice will allow for self-reflection, as we look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s law. When compared to the rest of the world, living in a society of abundance should raise some questions. Am I a good steward of the abundance God has showered upon me? Should I care for more neighbors in my family, neighborhood, or somewhere further out there in the world? If with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, then, perhaps our circle of neighbors has to expand somehow. If so, then, should those in positions of power and privilege begin to see themselves as servants of the powerless, as those in solidarity with them? Those in positions of power or influence can act as advocates too. Like Jesus, the servant who did not come to serve but to be served, Christians in high positions and with greater capacity to help display their power in the world through service and sacrifice. A spirituality of justice will encourage an approach to working for and with the poor neighbor that is neither romantic nor utilitarian. It is well-know that Luther denounced those who, inspired in the idealization of the monastic vow of poverty and the practice of almsgiving, justified the condition of poverty as a holy state before God and the work of charity as a means for the giver to earn forgiveness of sins.38 Similar attitudes are seen today when “Christians may praise or look up to the poor for their lack of attachment to material things and presumably wish they could be like them”—a move that does not take seriously “the harsh reality of poverty and the church’s need for an ongoing commitment to help them actually improve their situation.”39 Utilitarian attitudes towards the poor are evident when Christians approach the needy neighbor “as a means to their own spiritual growth or the potential growth of church membership and, therefore, do not make the poor themselves the primary object of their works of mercy.”40 A spirituality of justice will be grounded in the centrality of justification by grace alone, which draws attention away from the sanctity of the receiver or provider of mercy, allowing us to focus totally on the needs of the neighbor without either making his poor condition seem palatable or seeking anything in return (from either God or the neighbor) for our labors. Might there be a model or picture of the Christian life that describes and promotes a neighbor-oriented approach to justice? It would have to be a model rooted in the Holy Spirit’s configuration of the church after Christ’s own life of service and prayer, and grounded in the centrality of justification as the liberating power of the gospel to fulfill the law and all manner of good works through vocations. In the Lutheran tradition, a eucharistic model of the Christian life of sanctification seems suitable for promoting the neighbor-oriented approach to justice we have been delineating.41 The eucharistic model paints the Christian life as an act of thanksgiving (eucharistia) to God for his gifts. Its predominant biblical image is that of the Christian as a living sacrifice acceptable to God (Rom 12), spreading the pleasant aroma of Christ in a world full of sin and suffering. Vocation, gifts of the Spirit, intercession for the saints and the poor, the proclamation of the gospel, works of mercy, as well as the stewardship of one’s possessions, time, and energies in all these areas are fundamentally seen as acts of worship grounded in faith. What the Lutheran sources highlight in the eucharistic model is the central place of the Lord’s body and blood as the means through which the Spirit empowers Christians to live out their faith through acts of service. We move from the benefit of


the sacrament that is received at the altar to the daily use of the sacrament as we go out into the world to serve our neighbors. The confessors see the Christian life as a “eucharistic sacrifice” carried out by those who have been justified by faith “to give thanks or express gratitude for having received forgiveness of sins and other benefits.”42 Luther also speaks of a twofold use of the Lord’s Supper, teaching what may be called two happy exchanges. Through his body and blood, Christ gives us the benefits of his sacrifice, so that our Lord takes our sins and gives us his righteousness. Because of their spiritual communion with Christ in his body and blood, the saints now bear and share each other’s joys and burdens. As Luther puts it, Christ in his saints “comes to you with all their virtues, sufferings, and mercies, to live, work, suffer, and die with you… having all things in common with you.”43 Moreover, Luther can also speak of Christ coming to us in or through his suffering saints, so that when we serve the saints we serve Christ himself. A neighbor-oriented approach to justice will recognize Christ’s identification with the suffering neighbor, seeing Christ in the suffering neighbor.44 The neighbor is relentless. Without the neighbor, law, vocation, and justice remain abstract and static realities. The neighbor is relentless because he is our burden and cross, in a good sense. Vocation becomes the God-established cross that by leading us to serve our neighbors prevents us from designing our own crosses as a means to become holy and seek God’s favor.45 The neighbor teaches us what it means to act as a Christian, as one formed by the Spirit of Christ to live under the cross through the daily sacrifices and prayers made for others. As Luther puts it, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”46 Christ has set us free so that we may be subject to our neighbors. Such is the cruciform life the Spirit configures in Christ’s saints. Finally, a spirituality of justice teaches us that the neighbor is God’s precious gift to us. The Spirit leads the Christian to see his neighbor through the eyes of faith and not of the flesh, so that we do not merely feel compelled to serve and pray for him according to the weight of the law, but gladly and freely attend to his needs by the power and joy of the gospel.47 We begin to see the neighbor ultimately as a gift to be treasured, a gift from a gracious God. Indeed, our prayers and labors become acts of thanksgiving to God for his benefits in Christ, but also for the neighbors he has given us. When we work and pray for justice on behalf of neighbors, we are caring for these precious gifts. It is only by seeing the neighbor as the human face of justice that we can fully grasp and appreciate law and vocation, namely, what it means respectively to love God’s own creation and serve as God’s own mask to care for it. Endnotes

1 Apology of the Ausgburg Confession IV, 21, in Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 124 (hereafter cited as BC). It is interesting to note that in Spanish, there is no translation for “righteousness.” The Latin iustitia (“justicia” in Spanish), therefore, is the most suitable or understandable term to have a conversation about justice in society in Latin American and U.S. Hispanic/Latino contexts. 2 Apology IV, 22–26, in BC, 124; Lutheran theologians have, in the past few years, given some impetus to the study and implications of the distinction between the two kinds of righteousness. For some examples, see Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), esp. 21–128; Charles P. Arand and Joel Biermann, “Why the

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Two Kinds of Righteousness?” Concordia Journal 33/2 (2007): 116–135; Robert Kolb, “Luther on the Two Kinds of Righteousness: Reflections on His Two-Dimensional Definition of Humanity at the Heart of His Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 13/4 (1999): 449–466. 3 For a compilation of essays on charity by Lutheran theologians, see Robert Rosin and Charles P. Arand, eds. A Cup of Cold Water: A Look at Biblical Charity (St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Publications, 1996). In its introductory and concluding essays, the book wrestles with four models of biblical charity (i.e., charitable commerce, broad spectrum, vocational, and eschatological), and ultimately settles for an inclusive approach that highlights the vocational and eschatological perspectives (see pp. 11–28, 273–279). Our approach to justice most closely resembles the vocational model, but imbues such perspective with a neighbor-oriented critical component that helps us to assess periodically the rationale and goals for our practice of vocation. Otherwise stated, the neighbor provides us with a critical lens to assess vocational priorities, limits, and opportunities. 4 In articles and commentary pieces, I have given some attention to how various constructions of our neighbors (in particular, U.S. Hispanic/Latino neighbors) have implications for approaches to missions, issues of vocation and civil law, ecclesiology, and the intersection of theology and culture. For articles, see Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “Theology In Context: Music as a Test Case,” Concordia Journal 38/3 (2012): 205–224; “The Global South Meets North America: Confessional Lutheran Identity In Light of Changing Christian Demographics,” Concordia Journal 37/1 (2011): 39–56; and “Toward an Ecclesiology of Catholic Unity and Mission in the Borderlands: Reflections from a Lutheran Latino Theologian,” Concordia Journal 35/1 (2009): 17–34; for commentary pieces, see my “Arizona Neighbor On My Mind” (, and “Galilean Neighbor On My Mind” ( 5 “Apart from these Ten Commandments no action or life can be good or pleasing to God, no matter how great or precious it may be in the eyes of the world . . . It seems to me that we shall have our hands full to keep these commandments, practicing gentleness, patience, love toward enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and all that in involved in doing so . . . Just concentrate upon them and test yourself thoroughly, do your very best, and you will surely find so much to do that you will neither seek nor pay attention to any other works or other kind of holiness.” Large Catechism, Ten Commandments, 311, 313, 318, in BC, 428–429. 6 “The Decalogue and the commandment of love do not give very definite or detailed instructions about what we as individuals ought to do here and now in living together with one another. This commandment of love, valid everywhere and for all people, becomes specific for us as individuals in the context of the station in life in which God has placed us.” Paul Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 36. 7 “Instead of coming in uncovered majesty when he gives a gift to man, God places a mask before his face. He clothes himself in the form of an ordinary man who performs his work on earth. Human beings are to work, ‘everyone according to his vocation and office,’ through this they serve as masks of God, behind which he can conceal himself when he would scatter his gifts.” Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation, (Philadephia: Muhlenberg, 1958), 138. 8 Ibid., 203. 9 “The ‘common order of Christian love’ stands above the stations. At the same time, only those who are called to a particular vocation are responsible for the special works of that vocation . . . Luther’s ethics is an ethics of station and vocation, but not in an exclusive sense.” Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther, 40–41. 10 Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:96, 101. 11 See Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther, 69; and Bernard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999), 321. 12 “The law does not consider changing situations, but the command is addressed to the present need. In a way, the law represents unchanging imitation, without regard for ‘the time,’ but the command calls man to his vocation, which is guided by the need of ‘the time.’” Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 233. 13 For an application of a neighbor-oriented approach to vocation in response to a contemporary issue of law and justice in civil society, see the section entitled “Who Is My Neighbor?: The Place of the Christian’s Vocation in the Immigration Debate,” in CTCR, Immigrants Among Us: A Lutheran Framework for Addressing Immigration Issues (St. Louis: LCMS, 2012), 37–44. 14 A Lutheran approach to mercy or charity is especially conscious of the danger of confusing the gospel with works of justice, but also acknowledges the need to address the needs of the whole person. There is also a concern for showing the gospel as the motivating power for Christian mercy in distinction from other secular forms of aid. For examples, see Matthew C. Harrison, Theology of Mercy, and The Church’s Roles of Mercy in the Community (St. Louis: LCMS World Relief & Human Care, 2004); see also A Cup of Cold Water, 276–278. 15 For example, LCMS World Relief & Human Care tends to follow a model of justice as aid, especially in promoting activities such as disaster relief and mercy medical teams (cf. n. 17 below).


16 Rosenhauer argues that a characteristic of effective parish efforts at alleviating poverty lies in their ability to move from outreach to the poor to working “with” the poor, an approach to justice where “respect for those who are poor can mean providing opportunities for low-income people to be leaders in efforts to address the needs in their communities.” Joan Rosenhauer, “Sharing the Light of Christ: How Responding to Poverty Can Enrich Parish Life,” New Theology Review 15/2 (May 2002): 19. 17 Through Lutheran Housing Support (LHS), LCMS World Relief & Human Care follows a model of justice as sustainable development, engaging churches as corporate citizens to make a difference in their communities—particularly, in economically depressed neighborhoods. Its mission reads: “LCMS National Housing Support Corporation, functioning under the registered trademark of Lutheran Housing Support, is dedicated to providing support that promotes improvement of economic conditions, housing and other services to revitalize and prevent deteriorated communities.” 18 The notion of “contributive justice” is congruent with LWR’s overall approach to justice as “sustainable development.” Such a model corresponds to the organization’s values, which include gratitude to God “for the gift of one another,” recognition that “all people are made in the image of God,” the desire “to walk and work with partners” and “support, encourage, and learn together within long-term relationships of trust and reciprocity,” and the need to be a responsible steward given “an imbalance and abuse of resources globally” site/c.dmJXKiOYJgI6G/b.7521953/k.8022/Mission_Vision_amp_Values.htm. 19 Regarding “twinning relationships” between middle-income parishes and low-income parishes and/or communities, Rosenhauer notes that “while financial resources may flow primarily from the middle-income parish, at best these relationships include a wide range of exchanges and joint projects that recognize and respect the contributions of both groups. These activities include choir exchanges, joint liturgies, shared adult education programs, joint service or advocacy projects, coordinated youth ministry programs . . . “Sharing the Light of Christ,” 20. 20 A Lutheran approach to justice will distinguish between the two kinds of righteousness, and therefore between our eschatological hope before God (coram deo) through faith in Christ (“hopeful trust”) and our eschatological hope before humans (coram hominibus) through acts of Christian love (“hopeful love”). For a use of the distinction in addressing liberation concerns for justice, see Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “The Struggle to Express Our Hope,” LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology 19/1 (Epiphany 2010): 25–31. 21 “First, Luther’s doctrine of simul iustus et peccator, that humans are at once saints and sinners, renders mamy Protestants instinctively skeptical about too optimistic a view, and too easy a conflation of human dignity and human sanctity. Such views…give too little credibility to the inherent human need for discipline and order, accountability and judgment. They give too little credence to the civil, theological, and pedagogical uses of the law, to the perpetual demand to balance deterrence, retribution, and reformation in discharging authority with the home, church, state, and other associations.” John Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (England: Cambridge, 2002), 299. 22 “We are also the sinful siblings of Cain, who bear the mark of God, with its ominous assurance both that we shall be called into divine judgment for what we have done, and that there is forgiveness even for the gravest of sins we have committed.” Ibid., 300. 23 Wingren argues that “man may present himself as both demanding and giving in relation to others. At one time he may be a mask for God’s goodness, at another for his severity . . . Living in vocation . . . includes both gentleness and severity . . . Both the love of God and the wrath of God step forth in visible form on earth in the fact that the exercise of vocation comprises this ambivalence.” Luther on Vocation, 232. 24 For an eschatological model of justice that focuses on the practice of charity primarily among Christians as a sign in the present of the coming kingdom/reign/rule of God, see James W. Voelz, “Biblical Charity: What Does It Entail and How Does It Relate to the Gospel—A New Testament Perspective,” in A Cup of Cold Water, 65–92. 25 Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “Pedagogy for Working Among the Poor: Something to Talk about before Going on Your Next Short-Term Mission Trip,” Missio Apostolica 16/1 (May 2008): 81–84. 26 Arguing before a group of parishioners that “a parish budget is a theological statement” by suggesting that “at least ten percent of a parish’s budget should be directed to the poor,” Father McBriar recounts an encounter with a parishioner, who reacted to his provocative recommendation: “One parishioner intervened and said, ‘Problems aren’t solved by throwing money at them.’ ‘True enough,’ I said, ‘but tell me how your family spends its money and I will tell you what you consider important. It is the same with a parish.’” David J. McBriar, OFM, “Parish Ministry to the Poor,” New Theology Review 15/2 (May 2002): 27. 27 The current debate on immigration law among Christians is a salient example of the tension between vocational focus on some neighbors and vocational openness to other neighbors—including the needs of both citizen and immigrant neighbors. See my piece “Arizona Neighbor On My Mind” (see n. 4 above), and the development of the argument laid there in the section on vocation of the CTCR’s document Immigrants Among Us (see n. 13 above).

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28 It should be noted that this term did not originally come from academic theologians, but from the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM) meeting in Medellín, Colombia (1968), where pastors addressed the need for the Catholic Church to advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable members of society (including Christians) in a Latin American context of rampant political and economic oppression where human rights were being violated. 29 “It is in the context of our vocations . . . that we are likely to find our neediest neighbors. The ‘preferential option for the poor’ language encourages us to think also of the neediest people who do not always seem to fit within one of our vocations. Finally, the practice of active righteousness is realistic in that it avoids utopian dreams and the illusion of perfect sanctification or inevitable progress . . . Such ‘ethical progress’ . . . does not establish human identity coram deo.” Sánchez, “The Struggle to Express Our Hope,” 31. 30 I have described the church’s participation today in dimensions of Christ’s servanthood and sonship, respectively through her life of service and prayer. See Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “Individualism, Indulgence, and the Mind of Christ: Making Room for the Neighbor and the Father,” in Robert Kolb, ed., The American Mind Meets the Mind of Christ (St. Louis: Concordia Seminary Press, 2010), 54–66. 31 On Jesus’s prayer life as a dimension of his sonship and the church’s participation by grace in such life, see Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “Praying to God the Father in the Spirit: Reclaiming the Church’s Participation in the Son’s Prayer Life,” Concordia Journal 32/3 (2006): 274–295. 32 “We can worship God by resting; indeed, in resting we can worship him better than in any other way because it is when we really relax our body and soul that we cast our care on God. We thus honor God as the one whose blessing rests upon and surrounds all our work, and who keeps on working for us even when we rest and sleep.” Althaus, The Ethics of Martin Luther, 104. 33 Ibid., 41. 34 The LCMS report on immigration serves as an example of an approach to complex societal and political issues that “lets individual Christians make their own conscientious decisions, with some guidance from the church as Synod, concerning what is just and reasonable when there is no clear consensus among all Christians on the moral failure of certain aspects of immigration law.” CTCR, Immigrants among Us, 35. 35 As an example, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), an inter-Lutheran organization, encourages collective vocation by bringing Lutherans committed to helping immigrant neighbors together to learn about and support advocacy efforts towards comprehensive immigration reform. Another example of a collective exercise of vocation is the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), which works with partners to eradicate malaria through education, treatment, and prevention activities. At a local level, a congregation’s involvement in neighborhood revitalization projects also brings many stakeholders together to exercise vocation for a larger number of neighbors. 36 Charles P. Arand, “Considering Biblical Charity within a Creedal Framework,” in A Cup of Cold Water, 194–195. 37 Sánchez, “Individualism, Indulgence, and the Mind of Christ,” in The American Mind Meets the Mind of Christ, 62–63. 38 See Carter Lindberg, Beyond Charity: Reformation Initiatives for the Poor (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 22–33; and Robert Rosin, “Bringing Forth Fruit: Luther on Social Welfare,” in A Cup of Cold Water, 117–164. 39 See Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., “‘The Poor You Will Always Have With You’: A Biblical View of People in Need,” 11, in Kent Burreson, ed., A People Called to Love: Christian Charity in North American Society. (September 2012). 40 Ibid. The whole series A People Called to Love, with articles and interviews by various members of the department of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, is highly recommended to the reader. 41 For a fuller development of the eucharistic model of sanctification, see the fifth chapter of Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., Teología de la santificación. La espiritualidad del cristiano (St. Louis: Editorial Concordia, forthcoming). 42 Apology XXIV, 19, in BC, 261. 43 The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods (1519), LW 35:61. 44 A classic statement of Christ’s self-identification with the poor neighbor can be found in one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, where he calls Christians to repentance for turning the Christ child away when they ignore their neighbor’s plight. Luther writes, “It is altogether false to think that you have done much for Christ, if you do nothing for those needy ones. Had you been at Bethlehem you would have paid as little attention to Christ as they did…you beat the air and do not recognize the Lord in your neighbor, you do not do as he has done to you.” J.N. Lenker, ed. The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, trans. J. N. Lenker et al., vol. 1.1 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 155. 45 Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 53–54. 46 The Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:344. 47 Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 46–47.


Called to Milk Cows and Govern Kingdoms

Martin Luther’s Teaching on the Christian’s Vocations

Robert Kolb

The thoroughly Trinitarian nature of Martin Luther’s theology reveals itself at many points in his teaching and preaching. With his colleagues he viewed biblical teaching in its entirety as a body (corpus doctrinae1), and the members of that body, the individual doctrines of creation, sin, law, the person of Christ, redemption, and all the rest, were for him woven together in God’s revelation of himself and his will for his human creatures. His concept of the Christian’s callings in everyday life—in home, occupation, society, and congregation— exhibits this characteristic of his teaching. The callings of the believer arise out of the structure which God built into the essence of humanity in creation. God enacts his providential care for his creation and his presence in it through his human agents living out their callings. Christ’s redemptive work and the Holy Spirit’s creation of trust in God move believers to seek to do the will of God. The Holy Spirit uses that trust to bring believers to live sanctified lives within the structure of their callings according to God’s commands. Luther’s concept of the God-ordained structure for the exercise of our humanity arose within the anthropology which he developed in the midst of his “evangelical maturation,” around 1518/1519. By 1531, he could label his view of what it means to be human, his distinction of two kinds of human righteousness, as “our theology.”2 This anthropological formulation played a key role in his hermeneutic. He distinguished what he later called “passive” righteousness, which God bestows in establishing the identity of human creatures as his own children—the “righteousness from outside the self” (iustitia aliena)—from what he called “active” righteousness, which God ordains that his human creatures practice in their own performance of his commands—the “righteousness which belongs to the one who is acting” (iustitia propria).3 Luther further described human life with his distinction of two realms4 or two dimensions of human living, the vertical relationship with God, and the horizontal relationship with all of God’s creatures, above all, other human beings. Luther’s analysis of the form or structure of God’s design for daily living arose out of medieval social theory. All Western European societies in the Middle Ages presumed a division of labor among the church (ecclesia), which consisted of priests, monks, and nuns; the leadership of society (politia); and the household, in which famRobert Kolb is mission professor emeritus of systematic theology and former director of the Institute for Mission Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. His most recent book, of many, is Teaching God’s Children His Teaching (Concordia Seminary Press, 2012).

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ily and economic life took place (oeconomia). The great mass of the population fell into this third category. These “estates”—the usual translation of the German Stand and the Latin status—embraced all people in their individual metaphorical locales in which life unfolds each day. This social theory also posited that in each of these situations or walks of life (as we might better translate the term) individuals have “offices”—Amt in German, officium in Latin—that define the roles and the functions which are imposed upon each person in their respective Stände or walks of life. A better translation for Amt might be, if you will pardon the misspelling, “response-ability,” for these “offices” give human beings the ability and obligation to respond to the needs of others for the smooth functioning of the community and its individual members. The German Amt means both the formal societal position one holds and the functions which that position entails. The Creator employs the people functioning in these positions to provide for the human tapestry which he weaves together from the situations and responseabilities that constitute human life, individually and collectively. Luther assumed this theory of social structure and adapted it to his insights into the nature of God’s dealing with the world. This adaptation involved, first, his overturning the spiritualizing worldview of medieval Christianity, which preserved elements of pre-Christian pagan thinking in distinguishing and even separating the “sacred” from the “profane.” “Sacred” activities, largely ritualistic in nature (whether in formal liturgies or in the practice of routines in daily life), were presumed to insure the proper running of the world and one’s own life; they were regarded as more God-pleasing and “holy” than “profane” activities, the common, ordinary, “regular” tasks of the every day, oriented toward earthly life. Citing Romans 14:23, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin,” Luther contended that human performance of any activity, including “sacred” rituals, did not determine the core identity of the human being. Instead, God’s bestowal of passive righteousness, which comes through the Holy Spirit’s pronouncement of forgiveness and the resulting faith in Christ, determines the core identity of those whom the Spirit turns to Jesus through the re-creative word of life and salvation on the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection. Faith in false gods bestows a false identity upon those who hold such a faith. All activities performed by the faithful people of God as a result of their trust in him are equally holy, and equally without influence in determining that his people are his people. Luther’s discarding of the traditional distinction of the sacred and profane rested on three observations. First, the sacred activities of the medieval church were often (though, not always) human teachings, taught as if they were divine commands (Mt 15:9). Second, these activities often distracted and diverted people from carrying out their God-given response-abilities in their families, occupations, societies, and congregations. Third, they also were performed within the medieval system not to honor God but to insure the salvation of the person performing them. On all three counts Luther found the medieval view of reality false and inimical to a biblical understanding of God’s way of accomplishing his will in society. Medieval European Christianity had defined what it means to be a faithful Christian largely in terms of human performance of sacred ritual and obedience to the sacred persons of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. When the Christian faith swept over much


of Western Europe, both Mediterranean and realms north of the Alps, the church had insufficient personnel to catechize effectively. Therefore, elements of the previous pagan religions mixed with the message of Scripture to form the structure and ways of exercising the new Christian faith in vital ways.5 Luther and his colleagues in Wittenberg redefined Christianity as a religion based not on a human approach to God through ritual but on God’s approach through his word to sinners in revolt against him. Luther viewed God as a God of conversation and community; when he speaks his promise of life and salvation through Christ, the Holy Spirit engenders faith in those who are his chosen children. With lives formed by and filled with trust in God, his children respond, in the conversation of prayer and praise that continues as he answers in his word as it comes through Scripture into Christians’ speaking and preaching and absolving, into the sacraments, and into other written or electronic media. Conversation creates community, not only with the heavenly Father but also with the siblings whom he has brought together in his family, the body of Christ. In congregations and in larger communities within society these siblings live together with each other and with other human creatures outside the faith. The medieval church had used the biblical term “calling”—vocatio in Latin, Beruf in German—in several ways, but medieval theology added a special definition: God called certain persons into the sacred service rendered by priests, monks, and nuns. They were the “called” of the medieval church; these sacred responsibilities were defined as “vocations” or “callings.” Luther had tried to use the vocation of monk and priest as a more direct—even if steeper—path to God, and he had found that the path led only back to his own performance of the monastic way of life. It assumed the burden of being the object of his saving faith, which brought in fact only the stench of damnation to this super-conscientious monastic brother. In finding the gospel in Christ, especially through lecturing on Psalms and Romans, Luther was impelled to abandon the theory that sacred or religious activities were more godly and God-pleasing than other activities. He repudiated this theory, on which monasticism, pilgrimages, veneration of the saints, and their relics, as well as many other pious practices were based, replacing it with a biblical view, which recognized God as the Lord of all creation and every part of the human life he fashioned as a place of service to him. God, Luther believed, exercises his providential care through human agents performing his will in all the situations or walks of life which the Creator had fashioned for the smooth running of daily life.6 Luther transformed the use of the word “calling” or “vocation” by assigning it to all Christians.7 Believers recognize that God has placed them in the structures of human life created by God and has called them to the tasks of caring for other creatures, human and otherwise, as agents of God’s providential presence and care. Luther called people in the exercise of their response-abilities “masks of God,” through whom God, for example, milks cows so that his human creatures may be nourished.8 He made this concept of the callings of believers a basic element in his Small Catechism, his instructional program for beginning Christians. This handbook for Christian living sets forth five (six) chief parts of biblical teaching in order to lay the foundation for two concluding sections, the first modeling family or individual devotions (“How the Head of the Household is to Teach the Members of the Household Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


to say Morning and Evening Blessings”)9 and the second charting biblical directions on how believers carry out vocations received from God in home and occupation, in society and congregation.10 This “household chart” (Haustafel) is not so much about “duties,” if “duties” are thought of as obligations inherent in the order of things apart from reference to God. Instead, it sketches images of the callings which the Christian receives from God, as Luther drew instructions from Scripture for various “situations” of daily life, the believer’s personal commissions or callings that God bestows. Luther took terms limited previously to monasticism, “orders” and “walks of life,” and redefined them to describe how God had shaped every aspect of human life. According to Luther, each person has response-abilities in each situation, and every Christian is called by God to these response-abilities in all three walks of life defined by medieval social theory. In late-medieval German society this message empowered rising artisan and merchant families to recognize their own worth as reborn children of God through his grace and as his loving and serving children in their daily activities, as the Holy Spirit empowered them to live according to their Creator’s commands and callings. Luther actually already recognized in his “Table of Christian Callings” that, even in his late-medieval society, in which households often performed economic functions as familial units, the situation of the household (oeconomia) contained two distinct areas of response-ability, familial and economic. Therefore, he spoke of the callings of “husbands,” “wives,” “parents,” and “children,” and those of “male and female servants, day laborers, workers, etc.” and of “masters and mistresses,” two distinct groups, familial and economic, within the typical sixteenth-century household. In the Small Catechism’s instruction on confession and absolution, Luther’s approach to teaching Christian living intertwined God’s callings with his commands, interconnecting vocation with the virtues that flow from God’s commands. There the reformer wrote, “Here reflect on your walk of life (Stand)”—the callings provide the structure for daily living —“in light of the Ten Commandments”—the commands describe virtuous behavior. New obedience takes place within the calling—“whether you are father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant”—and according to the commands (expressed negatively in the confession of sins)—“whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, [ill-tempered, unruly, quarrelsome], whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, wasted, or injured anything.”11 In university lectures and parish preaching Luther enlisted biblical figures as models for Christian living and talked about their harkening to God’s commands within the structures of their callings.12 Luther imagined that Abraham could teach his students something about this subject and had the patriarch explain to the students how their trust in God’s love shaped their life in the world. He imagined Abraham saying that because God is “gracious, ready to forgive, and kind, I go out and turn my face from God to human beings, that is, I tend to my calling. If I am a king, I govern the state. If I am the head of a household, I direct the domestics; if I am a schoolmaster, I teach pupils, mold their habits and views toward godliness . . . In all of our works we serve God, who wanted us to do such things and, so to speak, placed us in our walks of life here.”13 Jacob’s household served as a model of Christian love exercised


through the common, ordinaries of callings in daily life. Exercising his calling as son, Judah showed love and concern for his father in Genesis 43:1–5, as Luther looked back over the ages to read his mind.14 The professor did not shy away from speculation in constructing such exemplars of the exercise of callings, imagining that following the deaths of all four of Jacob’s wives and “Jacob been deprived of the son he loved most,” his daughters-in-law and his daughter Dinah “took the place of the mother of the household . . . These women were without doubt very upright matrons who administered Jacob’s household diligently and faithfully, and it prospered under their care. They were not indolent and lazy, for managing livestock demands thoroughness and care.” Luther reveled in the ordinariness of God’s providential ways: why does the Holy Spirit mention “such trifling, childish, servile, feminine, worldly and fleshly things about these most holy men . . .?” “Why did he not write about things more serious and sublime? Why does he make so much out of the sweat of their working with the squalid matters of the household?” Because, Luther observed, “God hides his saints under such masks and matters of the flesh so that they may seem more wretched than everything else.” For the people who trust in God live out their callings in the midst of the troubles and afflictions of the world he created which has now fallen from its created goodness. That is where the promises and commands of God are active and deliver his presence.15 Family callings did not always run so smoothly, however, and Luther offered encouragement to spouses who experienced frustrations and tensions akin to those that plagued Abraham and Sarah. “Inconveniences, vexations, and various crosses are encountered in marriage. What does it matter? Is it not better that I please God in this manner that God hears me when I call upon him, that he delivers me in misfortunes, and that he benefits me in various ways through my life’s companion, the upright wife whom I have joined to myself?” In a sinful world callings are a remedy for much, but precisely in suffering believers experience how the God who solved the chief problem by going to the cross contends with the burdens of daily life and blesses in spite of them by joining his human creatures together in exercising their mutual response-abilities.16 Some biblical figures provided models for living out economic callings,17 as did some for political or social responsibilities. Never shy about advising princes and town councils regarding their calling to exercise justice and fairness in ordering society, the Wittenberg reformer offered them guidelines for their calling in the politia. Among his favorite models was King David. David is a classic example of how saints fall into sin and are recalled to trust in God by the Holy Spirit.18 But in the decade following the death of Frederick the Wise, David became the personification of the ideal ruler for Luther. He integrated the story of David in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings with psalm texts, particularly Psalms 82 and 101, and found in him a paradigm of virtuous practice of vocation: “Dear David was so highly gifted. Such a precious, special hero is not only innocent of all deception and taking of life that took place in his kingdom. Indeed, he also actually opposed such liars and murderers, did not want to tolerate them, and acted against them so that they had to yield.”19 Psalm 101 placed the king squarely in the earthly realm; in its callings believers such as David practice the commands of the Lord: “We hear in this psalm of many fine, princely virtues that David practiced. In Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


this psalm he does not treat how to serve God, as in the first commandment, but how people should behave properly toward their neighbors. For just as the spiritual realm or responsibility shows how people should act properly in relationship to God, so the earthly realm shows how people live in relationship to each other and how they do it in such a way that body, possessions, wife, child, home, land, and material goods remain in peace and security and how they can fare well on this earth.”20 Luther believed that the calling of believers in the church involved more than the respect and support which he described in his 1540 revision of the Small Catechism. He believed that the “power” which made the church lies in God’s word (Rom 1:16) rather than in the office of the pastor, who certainly has a special role or responseability by virtue of that office in the public use of the word and its power. Therefore, Luther viewed the calling that believers receive with their baptism as embracing the sharing of God’s word with others. In 1522, while preaching on 1 Peter 2:9, he explained that the “royal priesthood” amounts simply to being Christian. On that basis he urged the people of Wittenberg to exercise this priesthood by proclaiming God’s wonderful deeds that brought them out of darkness into the light and delivered them from all evils. “Thus, you should also teach other people how they, too, come into such light. For you must bend every effort to realize what God has done for you. Then let it be your chief work to proclaim this publicly and to call everyone into the light into which you have been called.”21 The sermon chosen for his “Church Postil” for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity proclaimed, all who are Christians and have been baptized have this power [to forgive one another’s sins]. For with this they praise Christ, and the word is put into their mouth, so that they may and are able to say, if they wish, and as often as it is necessary: “Look! God offers you his grace, forgives you all your sins. Be comforted; your sins are forgiven. Only believe, and you will surely have forgiveness.” This word of consolation shall not cease among Christians until the last day: “Your sins are forgiven, be of good cheer.” Such language a Christian always uses and openly declares the forgiveness of sins. For this reason and in this manner a Christian has power to forgive sins.22 This position did not disappear from his expectations for the exercise of the calling of all Christians as he grew older. In 1537 he told the Wittenberg congregation on the basis of Matthew 18:15–20 that they were on daily call as children of God who spoke in his behalf: Here Jesus is saying that he does not only want [the condemnation of sin and proclamation of the forgiveness of sins] to take place in the church, but he also gives this right and freedom where two or three are gathered together, so that among them the comfort and the forgiveness of sins may be proclaimed and pronounced. He pours out [his forgiveness] even more richly and places the forgiveness of sins for them in every corner, so that they not only find the forgiveness of sins in the congregation but also at home in their houses, in the fields and gardens, wherever one of them comes to another in search


of comfort and deliverance. It shall be at my disposal when I am troubled and sorry, in tribulation and vulnerable, when I need something, at whatever hour and time it may be. There is not always a sermon being given publicly in the church, so when my brother or neighbor comes to me, I am to lay my troubles before my neighbor and ask for comfort . . . Again I should comfort others, and say, “dear friend, dear brother, why don’t you lay aside your burdens. It is certainly not God’s will that you experience this suffering. God had his Son die for you so that you do not sorrow but rejoice.”23 Christ’s faithful people live from the power of his word of forgiveness and life, and Luther believed that all the baptized are called not only to worship with fellow believers but also to converse with them about that word and console them with it. The reformer’s teaching on the calling of Christians became anchored in the Lutheran confessions of the faith that were gathered into the Book of Concord.24 Throughout the intervening centuries Lutheran theologians and their counterparts in the Calvinist tradition used the concept of the three walks of life in society, and particularly in the Calvinist tradition the concept of the Christian’s calling played a significant role.25 In Lutheran orthodoxy however, the dogmatic organization of public teaching left no room for a synthetic treatment of “calling” in the ethics even though the callings of family and government often had their own loci in dogmatic works. The revival of interest in this category so vital to Luther’s own thinking stems in large part from the works of the German Karl Eger26 and Swedish theologian Einar Billing.27 Both published studies in 1900. Billing’s view appeared in summarized form in English translation in the 1940s, preparing the way for the impact of the rejoinder to parts of Billing’s interpretation of Luther by another Swedish thinker, Gustaf Wingren.28 The translation of Wingren’s Luther on Vocation has shaped a great deal of English-language Lutheran thinking as well as those beyond Lutheran churches in the more than half century since its appearance.29 Luther’s teaching on the Christian’s calling within the structures of God’s design for society is sometimes regarded as out of date because current social theory does not operate with the medieval conception of a society with three estates. However, in every culture, despite vastly different institutional arrangements of the “places” in which human beings conduct their lives, home and family life, economic activity, political and social organization, and religious communities structure the lives of people. Whether they conceive of their responsibilities as burdensome duties, down payment on future help from those whom they help today, the tasks necessary to preserve societies, or response-abilities exercised in answer to their Creator’s call, all societies define roles and the functions of those occupying these situations or walks of life. Luther’s teaching on the Christian’s calling can be adapted to and applied in every human society. Luther’s teaching on vocation is valuable today as an aid for concrete ethical instruction, in North American and Western European cultures an ever more pressing task, which is imposed by the decline and disintegration of moral expectations and of the Creator-driven “Judeo-Christian” narrative that has guided those cultures for centuries. It is important to reflect the biblical truth that God’s commands are not arbitrary dicta,

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the whims of a whimsical demiurge, but rather the plan designed by the Creator who determined the reality of human life as he shaped his creatures. His commands operate with a structure designed to weave together the good life, with mutual help for one another, in a society in which no one is left alone or left behind. God’s continuing “creation” as he provides and cares for his world takes place in significant ways through the human masks or agents he has called to their places in society. Beyond concrete direction for the Christian’s conduct, Luther’s concept of the believer’s calling provides a framework for wider-ranging reflection on virtuous living and the satisfaction and fulfillment virtuous living brings when one lives on the basis of the Creator’s gift of new life through his re-creative word spoken from cross and open tomb. Evangelistically, this framework for human behavior can appeal to those with a utilitarian view of life and who are on the prowl for “what really works”—although we must also refashion the larger conception of reality of most contemporary western utilitarians. Recognizing that God’s call gives us a “place”—several places in fact—in a world with no firm place to plant our vision of ourselves, aids those who feel adrift in a mobile society. For those who wrestle with tarnished images of their own worth and dignity in the world, a sense of calling provides secondary strengthening for the new identity that God gives when he brings us to faith in Christ. There is no greater worth and dignity than that accorded those whom God has chosen as his own and brought to new birth through Christ’s blood and his reclamation of life through the resurrection, but a secondary level of worth and dignity arises out of service according to God’s plan, at the behest of this calling Creator, as the Holy Spirit bestows the ability to respond to others’ needs and live with them in the conversations and communities for which God made us in the first place. Bringing salt and light to God’s creation (Mt 5:13) involves the life-restoring presence of Christ speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit through his word in answer to his call to be the children of God. Bringing salt and light to God’s creation also involves embodying God’s providential care and concern for his creatures through the exercise of his commands and callings, his virtues and vocations. For evangelistic and ecumenical witness in the twenty-first century, Luther’s understanding of the Christian’s callings is a significant element which speaks directly to this world in which the church continues to carry on its mission. Endnotes

1 Irene Dingel, “Melanchthon and the Establishment of Confessional Norms,” in Irene Dingel, Robert Kolb, Nicole Kuropka, and Timothy J. Wengert, Philip Melanchthon. Theologian in Classroom, Confession, and Controversy (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), 161–179. 2 D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–1993 [henceforth WA]), 40,1:45,24–27, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis/Philadelphia: Concordia/Fortress, 1958–1986 [henceforth LW]), 26:7. See Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology. A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 21–128. 3 Luther’s initial treatise on this topic described “three kinds of righteousness,” including what he later labeled “civic righteousness” as well as “alien and “proper” righteousness, WA 2: 43–47; probably because he lived in a society in which nearly all were baptized and could be expected to perform the active righteousness which passive righteousness produces, he refined his ideas in 1519 in the treatise On Two Kinds of Righteousness, WA 2:145–152, LW 31:293–306. 4 Not to be confused with his two “kingdoms,” God’s and Satan’s, which are at war in both “realms,” or dimensions of human life. 5 Scott Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard. The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 1–35.


6 See particularly Luther’s criticism of monasticism, based in part on his understanding of the calling of all Christians to serve God in active righteousness, in his Judicium de votis monasticis, WA 8:573–669, LW 44:251–400; cf. Robert Kolb, “Die Zweidimensionalität des Mensch-Seins. Die zweierlei Gerechtigkeit in Luthers De votis monasticis Judicium,” in Luther und Das monastische Erbe, Christoph Bultmann, Volker Leppin, Andreas Lindner, (eds.) (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2007), 207–220. 7 Timothy J. Wengert, “‘Per mutuum colloquium et consolationem fratrum’: Monastische Züge in Luthers ökumenischer Theologie,” in Luther und Das monastische Erbe, 253–258 (243–268). 8 WA 44:6, 23–25, LW 6:10. On the concept of “masks of God,” see Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1957), esp. 137–143. 9 Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992 [henceforth BSLK]), 521–522, The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000 [hereforth BC]), 363–364. 10 The “Questions on Communion” from Andreas Osiander or the circle around him entered editions of the Small Catechism after Luther’s death. The “Baptismal Book” and the “Marriage Book” were kept distinct from the Catechism itself even if they were published with it. They were not intended for instruction of and memorization by the young. 11 BC 360. 12 See Robert L. Rosin, Reformers, the Preacher, and Skepticism. Luther, Brenz, Melanchthon and Ecclesiastes (Mainz: Zabern, 1997), esp. 124–147, on Luther’s use of his concept of vocation in his criticism of Erasmus’s Diatribe and its implications for life in the horizontal realm of life in his Ecclesiastes lectures of 1526; and Robert Kolb, Luther and the Stories of God, Biblical Narratives as a Foundation for Christian Living (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 141–168, for Luther’s use of the concept of vocation in framing his treatment of the life of new obedience. 13 WA 42:632, 1–7; LW 3:117. 14 WA 44:529, 35–530, 2; LW 7:311. 15 WA 44:529, 20–530, 6; LW 7:510–511. 16 WA 43:140, 16–20, 140, 28–141, 3; LW 4:6–7. 17 E.g., Abraham’s faithful servant Eliezar, WA 43:338, 27–340,10, LW 4:283–285; WA 43:342, 4–8; LW 4:288. 18 See Robert Kolb, “David: King, Prophet, Repentant Sinner. Martin Luther’s Image of the Son of Jesse,” Perichoresis 8 (2010): 203–232. 19 WA 51:234, 12–16, 235, 10–16; LW 13:188–189. Luther’s comment on Psalm 101 is found in WA 51:200–264; LW 13:146–224; on Psalm 82 in WA 31, 1:200–264; LW 13:42–72. 20 WA 51:241, 31–42; LW 13:197. 21 “Sermons on 1 Peter,” 1522; LW 30:64–65; WA 12:318, 26–319, 6. 22 “Luther’s Church Postil, Sermon on Matthew 9:1–8,” 1526, Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicholas Lenker 5 (1905; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 209; WA 10, 1:412–414. 23 “Sermons on Matthew 18–24,” 1537–1540, WA 47:297, 36–298, 14, preached in autumn 1537. 24 Robert Kolb, “God Calling, ‘Take Care of My People’: Luther’s Concept of Vocation in the Augsburg Confession and Its Apology,” Concordia Journal 8 (1982): 4–11. 25 Though perhaps not the role assigned this concept by the sociologist Max Weber in his The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London: Routledge, 2001, German original 1904/1905). On the ways in which the concept of the “two kingdoms” played a more prominent role in the Reformed tradition, particularly in John Calvin’s own thought, see David van Drunen, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010). 26 Die Anschauungen Luthers vom Beruf. Ein Beitrag zur Ethik Luthers (Giessen: Ricker, 1900). 27 Billing’s Our Calling (Rock Island: Augustana Book Concern, 1947; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964) provides a summary of the ideas he first advanced in Luthers Lära om staten: dess Samband med hans reformatoriska grundtankar och med tidigare kyrkliga (Uppsala: Almzvist and Wiksell, 1900). 28 See note 8 above. Wingren wrote this study as a doctoral dissertation in 1942, published it in Swedish in 1952. Apart from the critique of Kenneth Hagen, “A Critique of Wingren on Luther on Vocation,” Lutheran Quarterly 16 (2002): 249–273, Wingren’s presentation of the topic has gone largely unchallenged. For an extensive bibliographical analysis of modern scholarship on Luther’s ethics in general, including his understanding of the Christian’s calling, see Andreas Stegmann, “Die Geschichte der Erforschung von Martin Luthers Ethik,” Lutherjahrbuch 79 (2012): 211–303, and idem, “Bibliographie zur Ethik Martin Luthers,” Lutherjahrbuch 79 (2012): 305–342. 29 A notable example is the work of Robert Benne, on the popular level in Ordinary Saints, an Introduction to the Christian Life (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2001); on the scholarly level, e.g., in The Paradoxical Vision: A Public theology for the Twenty-first Century (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995).

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HOLLIS and the Holy Spirit A Journey Toward the Redemption of the Historian’s Vocation

Ronald K. Rittgers

­ During the first year of my doctoral program at Harvard University I took a seminar with the Pulitzer Prize winning American historian Bernard Bailyn. The topic of the seminar was colonial history, but we spent the first several weeks reading a broad range of historians whose work was not immediately related to the American past. Before we delved into our various research projects Bailyn first wanted us to think about the discipline of history as such, and therefore he felt free to assign books that showcased one methodology or another, regardless of geographical or chronological focus. I especially recall our discussion of one book: Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II.1 Braudel was a representative of the post-World War II French Annales School, which encouraged historians to study the totality of human experience in the past rather than focus on politics or diplomacy alone, as was true of much historiography at the time. Annalists borrowed deeply and gratefully from the social sciences, especially anthropology, to assist them in their effort to arrive at a complete history of human experience. They examined cultural, economic, social, political, intellectual, religious, psychological, demographic, technological, geographic, and environmental factors that have shaped human life, and they studied these factors over long periods of time so that they could detect both subtle and dramatic changes. Braudel’s book remains one of the most famous and influential examples of Annalist scholarship; it is a remarkable piece. After we had discussed the work, noting its astounding erudition and seemingly exhaustive analysis of all possible factors that might influence the human condition, Bailyn asked, “Well, what’s left for the historian to consider?” He thought Braudel had pursued every angle of examination open to historical enquiry—there was nothing else to take into account as one sought to understand and interpret human motivation and behavior in the past. I hesitated to disagree, for Bailyn was (and is) a brilliant historian and I was but a neophyte. But something seemed to be missing from Braudel’s analysis, namely, any sense of the transcendent or the divine and its potential influence on human existence. He had not acknowledged the spiritual dimension of human existence and the possibility that there might be aspects of human motivation and behavior Ronald K. Rittgers taught for several years at Yale University and since 2006 has held the Erich Markel Chair in German Reformation Studies at Valparaiso University, where he is also professor of history and theology. His most recent book is The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany (Oxford University Press, 2012). 142

that cannot be explained solely in terms of readily observable this-worldly phenomena, both in the past and the present. Whether or not such transcendent causes were open to historical enquiry, ignoring their existence and potential influence on human beings seemed problematic to me. I mustered up the courage to voice my concern and remember being met with an unenthusiastic, “Oh, I suppose there is that,” and “that” clearly had no place in serious historical scholarship. In this way I was introduced to the axiom that governs the professional historian’s view of history: it is a closed system that is to be understood solely in terms of mundane, empirically verifiable, causal factors. What was I to make of this as a Christian? While I was not (and am not) ordained, this tenet still sat awkwardly with my lay theological sensibilities. How was I to regard it in light of the traditional Christian claim that God is sovereign over history and also present within history, supremely in Jesus Christ, seeking to reconcile the world—especially human beings—to himself (2 Cor 5:19)? On the Christian view of things, history is, in a sense, holy ground; how could I treat it as purely secular? How could I take up the vocation of historian if it meant rejecting or bracketing a Christian view of human existence and reality? I was in a real crisis. To this point, I had viewed the historian’s craft as a theologically neutral one that was but one of many crafts that helped to maintain and enrich human society. To put it in Lutheran terms, I thought that the vocation of historian could be compared to the vocations of farmer, butcher, baker, or teacher, each of which was simply a means of serving the neighbor for the good of the temporal order. Just as there was no such thing as a Christian baker, in the sense that the baking process itself was somehow different for Christians and non-Christians, so I thought there was no such thing as a Christian historian. Every human society—Christian or otherwise—has had keepers and shapers of collective memory, for this function is essential for the identity of individuals and communities. Thus, I thought that the office of historian was simply one of the necessary and generic offices required in all human communities, regardless of their religious convictions. Bailyn’s seminar caused me to examine this assumption more closely; I finally concluded that it was terribly naïve. I should make it clear that my difficulties with Braudel (and Bailyn) did not stem from a desire for the historian to play the role of divinely-inspired author of sacred writ. That is, I was not expecting Braudel to discern the movement of God in the past and thus contribute to the story of Heilsgeschichte (salvation history). I understood that there was a very important qualitative difference between the sacred historians of Scripture and the ordinary interpreters of the mundane past: the former were God’s chosen agents of divine self-revelation, the latter were (and are) not. A “high” view of Scripture seemed to demand this position. I already sensed that the narrative of Scripture had to furnish the fundamental meaning that human beings need and crave; merely human accounts of the past could not and dared not seek to bear this responConcordia Journal/Spring 2013


sibility and burden. However, it did not seem to follow from belief in this qualitative difference that the historian, especially the Christian historian, should be expected to ignore completely the reality of God in the studying and writing of history, which is what both Braudel and Bailyn appeared to require. Bailyn made no concessions regarding the existence of a spiritual realm and the possibility that it might influence human existence. I cannot remember how I came across the books that would prove to be so pivotal in the resolution of my vocational crisis. It must have been HOLLIS (Harvard’s online library catalogue) that led me to them, or perhaps the Holy Spirit working through HOLLIS I soon had in my hands a volume edited by C. T. MacIntire entitled God, History, and Historians: An Anthology of Modern Christian Views of History.2 It included wonderfully illuminating essays by Christopher Dawson, Kenneth Scott Latourette, Reinhold Niebuhr, Arnold Toynbee, Herbert Butterfield, C. S. Lewis, E. Harris Harbison, and Arthur S. Link, among others. Here I encountered scholars (not all of them historians) who had reflected deeply on the implications of Christian faith for the historian’s craft. What is more, a number of them were recognized by non-Christian scholars as excellent historians: Latourette, who taught at Yale Divinity School, once served as the president of the American Historical Association, while Butterfield, who taught at Cambridge University and Princeton University for a time, was a highly regarded historian of science and a noted critic of the so-called Whiggish (i.e., teleological) interpretation of history in the modern period. These historians had found a way of being faithful Christians and highly competent historians, even though they took issue with defining aspects of the modern historian’s craft. Their work was not limited to church history, nor were their institutions all church-related; some had taught at premier research universities. With the encouragement of the leader of the local InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship chapter, I invited a number of Christian doctoral students in history to join me in what became Harvard’s (very unofficial) “Christianity and History Discussion Group.” We read MacIntire’s volume along with works by historians Mark Noll,3 George Marsden,4 and David Bebbington,5 among many others.6 There is not space here to discuss all that I learned from my colleagues and our readings. Suffice it say that this informal gathering became one of the most significant intellectual experiences of my time at Harvard, for it helped me to reconceive the historian’s craft in Christian terms so that I could take it up in good conscience. In other words, this group helped me to arrive at a Christian understanding of the historian’s vocation; it helped me to redeem this vocation, or at least to begin to do so. The result was not a return to the unreflective providentialism of previous generations in which historians presumed to have a God’s-eye view of the past; rather, it was a striking forth to join an exciting community of modern historians who had adopted a certain posture toward the past that can be best described as creaturely. This position viewed history as God’s domain in which he seeks and saves the lost; it also saw historians along with the rest of human beings as finite and fallen creatures who continue to bear traces of the imago dei and who were made for communion with God.


As I have continued to refine my thinking about this creaturely posture over the years, it has come to include a number of important features. First, it entails the rejection of the atheistic assumptions of the modern historian’s guild, for they deny the existence—or at least the relevance—of the Creator along with the existence (or relevance) of the spiritual dimension of human existence.7 It also entails a certain openness to divine (and diabolical) activity in the past, an openness that refuses to restrict causal forces to this-worldly phenomena. But this posture also believes that the historian can have no certain knowledge of other-worldly causal factors without direct divine revelation, and this revelation is extremely rare: God remains largely hidden in mundane history but by faith is believed to be sovereign over and present within it. This posture allows the historian to have hunches about God’s role in past events and also encourages the historian to give due weight to spiritual motivation in assessing human behavior, as well as warns the historian to be extremely cautious about making such claims— fundamentally, this posture entails humility. It also fully embraces the necessity of deep study of the past on its own terms and in its own languages; it implies no epistemological privilege for the Christian that obviates the need for countless hours of study and hard work. Finally, this posture urges the historian to believe that he can have some reliable knowledge of the past but only as in a mirror dimly (1 Cor 13:12). 8 What does all of this mean for my own work as a historian? In terms of my scholarship, I have endeavored to practice the openness to the transcendent that I think is essential to a Christian understanding of the historian’s vocation; I acknowledge there may well have been spiritual forces at work in the past that are beyond my reach as a historian—I do not try to provide a total explanation of anything. Here is how I have tried to manifest this openness in my recent book on pastoral efforts to console sick and suffering Christians in late medieval and early modern Germany. The quotation comes from the concluding lines of the book. There is a final question that has also occupied me as I have worked on this project, one that historians are not supposed to ask, but one I have been unable to escape: did God console? Christian consolers hoped and believed that their writings would serve as conduits of divine solace. Did this happen? Could it have happened? Might the living God have deigned to work through the consolatory efforts of clerical and lay ministers to communicate real divine solace to the sick and suffering in the later Middle Ages and early modern period, even as Christians engaged in unprecedented debates and battles about how best to define an authentically Christian doctrine of suffering? Might God have used such timebound, culturally-conditioned, and even flawed means to convey grace, hope, and peace? Unlike earlier generations of providentialist historians, I do not believe that I can detect the actual movements of the Spirit in individual human hearts in the past, but neither do I believe that I must deny such movements simply because they are not open to modern historical scrutiny. If one believes that there is a God who is both interested

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in and capable of visiting suffering human beings with heavenly solace, this greatly influences the way one interprets human efforts at consolation in the past. One is less likely to interpret these efforts in an exclusively materialistic fashion. I have sought to remain open to the possibility that my sources did act as conduits of divine solace, even as I have endeavored to observe the boundaries and borders that separate me from such divine activity in the past, as well as from the human beings whom I have been privileged to study in this project.9 I seek to exhibit this same openness throughout the book.10 I also make clear in the introduction that I view the sources for my study not simply as historical artifacts but also as potential resources for Christian ministry and living today. I think there are lessons—both positive and negative—to be drawn from my research that have relevance for the modern church. I hint at one of these lessons throughout the book and finally make it explicit in the conclusion: the western church has ignored the biblical tradition of lament as an appropriate response to suffering, and Christian pastoral care—even Christianity itself—has been much the poorer for it. I seek to produce works that I hope will be of use to both the church and the academy: I always have two audiences in mind in nearly everything I write. This task is made somewhat easier by the fact that I am a scholar of the Reformation, a topic that has a recognized relevance for many in the church. What about teaching? One very direct connection between my own process of vocational crisis resolution and my work as a teacher is that I place the books that have meant so much for my development as a historian in the hands of my students. I have taught a course at Valpo entitled “Faith and History” that examines these books in depth. The course invites students to view the historian’s craft as a Christian vocation and then seeks to draw out the possible implications of this perspective for how one understands and practices this craft.11 I also offer a general overview of the history of historiography that consciously seeks to challenge purely secular approaches to the study of the past and purely secularist accounts of how the historian’s craft has evolved over the centuries. These Whiggish accounts typically remove God from the story after the seventeenth century and present the modern secular approach to history as the inevitable and proper end of the discipline’s long evolution. While the course acknowledges and embraces the important correctives that the Enlightenment made to traditional providentialist historiography, it also seeks to expose the various biases— especially, the antisupernaturalism—of these correctives. In other words, I try to teach my students to reflect theologically on the modern historian’s craft. I consider these efforts in the classroom to be part of my larger calling as a teacher to serve and love my students. At its root, I see teaching as an expression of neighbor-love. This is the ethic that informs my relationship with my students; it is also the ethic that I encourage my students to practice with one another and with the authors of the written works that we read together in class. In my teaching I strive to encourage love for the other, and love for truth, for both are essential to an authentically Christian understanding of the historian’s vocation, at least in my opinion. 146

In many ways, Bailyn’s question about Braudel was a perfectly appropriate one, as was his unenthusiastic response to my upstart query. There are good reasons—even good theological reasons—for guarding against the “enchantment” of the historian’s vocation that occurred in the past and that still takes place in the present (especially in sermons!). The historian’s purview is largely limited to “life under the sun” and the historian’s role is an important but rather humble one: to provide some modest sense of penultimate meaning for mundane human existence through the construction of fallible and necessarily incomplete narratives. History should never aspire to be the queen of the sciences, for its subject matter is life in this world, this “vale of tears.” Still, this vale belongs to God, who loves it beyond all measure and who has taken on its very flesh and tears in order to redeem it. Taking this God and this love seriously should make a difference in how one understands both history and the historian’s craft. Perhaps this is finally what I found (and find) so lacking in the modern historian’s guild and the work of luminaries such as Braudel and Bailyn, even as I am astonished by their vast learning and intellectual giftedness. I felt the need to redeem the model of the historian’s vocation that they presented to me, and I am deeply grateful for the Christian scholars and historians (past and present) whose works and wise counsel have enabled me to make a beginning in doing so, both for myself and my students. Endnotes

1 Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen a l’époque de Philippe II (Paris, Colin, 1949); The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, vol. 1. trans. Sian Reynolds (New York: Harper & Row, 1972; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995). 2 C. T. MacIntire, ed., God, History, and Historians: An Anthology of Modern Christian Views of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977). 3 See note 8 below. 4 Among the many helpful works by George Marsden on the intersection of Christian faith and the historian’s craft are the following: “Christian Advocacy and the Rules of the Academic Game,” in Bruce Kuklick and D. G. Hart, eds., Religious Advocacy and American History (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 3–27; and “What Difference Might Christian Perspectives Make?” in Ronald A. Wells, ed., History and the Christian Historian (Grand Rapids.: Eerdmans, 1998), 11–22. 5 David Bebbington, Patterns in History: A Christian Perspective on Historical Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990). 6 We also read articles by important Lutheran historians, including Lewis Spitz’s “History: Sacred and Secular,” Church History 47 (1978): 5–22. Later I encountered helpful works by Martin Marty and Mark Schwehn. See Marty, “The Difference in Being a Christian and the Difference it Makes—for History,” in C. T. MacIntire and Ronald A. Wells, eds., History and Historical Understanding (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 41–54; and Schwehn, “Faith Seeking Historical Understanding,” Fides et Historia 37:2 (2005): 11–21. 7 For a sharp criticism of the materialistic assumptions of the modern historian’s guild, see Brad Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), especially 8–15. See also idem, “The Other Confessional History: On Secular Bias in the Study of Religion,” History and Theory 45: 4 (December 2006): 132–149, and “No Room for God? History, Science, Metaphysics, and the Study of Religion,” History and Theory 47:4 (December 2008): 495–519. 8 I am an advocate of what the American historian Mark Noll has dubbed “chastened realism,” an epistemology that is based on a consideration of older scientific (i.e., realist) and newer postmodern (i.e., nominalist) approaches to historical knowledge in light of the Christian doctrines of creation, fall, and incarnation. See Mark Noll’s four-part series on the “History Wars” in Books and Culture: A Christian Review, 5:3 (May/June 1999), 5:4 (July/August 1999), 5:5 (September/October 1999), and 5:6 (November/December 1999). Noll discusses chastened realism in 5:6. See also two book chapters by Noll: “Traditional Christianity and the Possibility of Historical Knowledge,” in Kucklick and Hart, Religious Advocacy and American History, 28–53; “The Potential of Missiology for

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the Crises of History,” in Ronald A. Wells, ed., History and the Christian Historian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 106–123. For Noll’s most recent attempt to relate Christian faith to the historian’s craft, see his “Christology: A Key to Understanding History,” Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), chap. 5. 9 Ronald K. Rittgers, The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 262–263. 10 I have written about such openness in other Christian historians. See Ronald K. Rittgers, “‘He flew’: A Concluding Reflection on the Place of the Supernatural and Eternity in the Scholarship of Carlos Eire,” in Emily Michelson, Scott Taylor, and Mary Noll Venables, eds., A Linking of Heaven and Earth: Studies in Religious and Cultural History in Honor of Carlos M.N. Eire (London: Ashgate, 2012), 205–216. 11 There is a recent and valuable volume that takes up this very question. See John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller, eds., Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010.) The volume seeks to offer alternatives to the earlier work of historians such as Mark Noll and, especially, George Marsden.


Homiletical Helps

COncordia Journal

Homiletical Helps on LSB Series C—Epistles Easter 7 • Revelation 22:1–6 (7–11) 12–20 • May 12, 2013

Introduction In 1563, Lutheran theologian David Chytraeus (1530–1600) wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation in which he calculated the date of Christ’s second coming. Such theorizing by one of Luther’s own students may surprise us, yet Chytraeus’s prediction tells us something about how he understood the book of Revelation and its meaning for the church of his day. Chytraeus knew well that God alone has determined the date of the Last Judgment; it is not given us to speculate about such things. But that didn’t stop Chytraeus from indulging in a series of mathematical computations. He believed that the antichrist had been revealed, beginning in the year 1520 (when Pope Leo X issued the bull excommunicating Luther). Factoring in the various ages in world history with the number of Jubilee years after Christ’s resurrection, Chytraeus calculated that the world would end in the year 1695. Chytraeus was right about one thing: the book of Revelation was a book written for his own time.1 In the same way, the book of Revelation is written for our time. God’s speaking to his people is true; the signs of what must take place are evident and the time is urgent. We, too, live in expectation of Christ’s glorious return, we eagerly pray for the fulfillment of all God’s promises. The Restoration of Life with God In the final chapter of Revelation John sees God’s paradise—the garden of Eden—restored. God’s people will live with him in the new heaven and new earth sustained by “the river of the water of life” (22:1). Once barred (Gn 3:22), access to the tree of life now has been restored. Death is no longer the future of human beings, but rather eternal life with God. In this paradise the curse of sin is no more (22:3); God’s gracious blessing, won by Christ’s work of redemption, has replaced it. God’s righteous “slaves,” gathered before the throne of the Lamb, will see his face and worship him forever, indeed, they will reign forever (22:3–5). “I Am Coming Quickly” In the epilogue, Jesus himself enters the conversation between John and the angel. Repeatedly he testifies that the prophecy of the book of Revelation is true, and that he is coming quickly. Jesus bears witness to the truth of this message, even as God himself is its author; God is faithful and will fulfill his promises (22:6–7, 12, 16, 18). Key to this fulfillment is Christ’s own promise, his final words in the Bible: “Yes, I am coming quickly,” to which the church responds: “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (22:20). The Church’s Prayer in This Time “Come, Lord Jesus!” is a bold thing for God’s people to pray, especially since it means also the coming of his judgment. But it is because we are redeemed sinners that, Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


in faith, we can pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We pray because he took our sin upon himself, and gave his resurrection life in exchange for our shameful death. We pray because he has promised to come quickly. What a bold thing faith does when it prays, “Come, Lord Jesus! God, please reign among us! Pour out your Spirit upon us that we may believe! Send your Spirit to others that they may believe and have their names written in the Lamb’s Book. God, preserve us in your word! Put your name on us and wash away our sins! Feed us with Christ’s body and blood. Give us forgiveness, new life, and salvation. Call and make holy your church on earth and keep it with Jesus Christ in the true faith. Come, Lord Jesus, and judge us! Come, Lord Jesus, and lead us into your holy city, show us the tree of life, growing beside the river of life. There let us live with you and reign with all the saints forever and ever.” We pray because Christ reigns even now over his church, and yet he is coming again to fulfill what he has promised. Conclusion The book of Revelation is a book for our own time—a book for all time. Christians live in the days after Christ’s death, after his resurrection, and after his ascension. We live in the days before Christ’s glorious return, days filled with expectation and hope. With his own living voice, our Lord has promised that he will come again. Will he not come quickly? Gerhard Bode Endnote 1

Cf. Irena Backus, Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva, Zurich, and Wittenberg. Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2000, 113ff.

Pentecost • Acts 2:1–21 • May 19, 2013

What in the world is going on? English versions seem so pedestrian, e.g., “When the day of Pentecost arrived” (ESV) or, simply, “came” (NIV and others). Though the verb συμπληροω occurs only three times (Lk 8:23; 9:51; and here), there is more to the arrival of Pentecost than flipping the calendar to a new page. Pentecost is more than a day; the day ushers in an era or an age. (Notice the variant in “D,” which makes this passage echo Luke 2.) We cannot fully absorb or explain the phenomena; the descriptions of wind and fire are couched in similes (ὡσπερ, ὠσει). What happens in the house is only a prelude to what happens in the public square. Ἰουδαιοι (2:5, 11 and 14) has religious signification: “devout men” (ESV) are not simply “Judeans” (see 2:9–11; compare Ἰουδαια vs. Ἰουδαιος). Peter may ramp things up when he uses the phrase “Israelitish men” in 2:22, but “Jews” here signifies believers, and “dwellers in Jerusalem” signifies everybody else. The arc from Parthia through Mesopotamia is the “Old (Testament) World;”


the rest of the list (through verse 10) describes the “Mediterranean basin,” the “New (Testament) World” with Rome as its outermost part. “Jews and proselytes,” i.e., lifelong believers and converts, are religious not ethnic or national categories. Are “Cretans and Arabians” simply place/people names, or might they constitute a merism of seafarers and nomads? In any event, the “whole world” has converged in Jerusalem, and is hearing “the mighty works of God” (2:11, ESV). What are these “mighty works”? It would be easy to say, “They were telling people about Jesus.” They might well have been doing that, but Luke doesn’t say so. In fact, Peter’s audience won’t hear the Jesus story until (according to the lectionary) next Sunday! Peter goes along with the gibe of drunkenness, but quickly corrects the misunderstanding. He quotes Joel (2:28–32 in English; 3:1–5 in MT and LXX), though not verbatim. Some differences seem minor: He adds λεγει ὁ θεος; this clarifies that God was the speaker in the original passage. It may be rhetorically important that Peter says “God” (θεος) and not “Lord” (κυριος), because the latter, the LXX rendering of ‫( יהוה‬reading adonai), might be too particular; what Peter has to say comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, but is for all to hear. He also adds the word “signs” (σημεια) (cf. Jl 2:30). And his inclusion of the adverbs “above” and “beneath” reflect the wording in, e.g., Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 4:39; Joshua 2:11; and 1 Kings 8:23. In short, Peter does more than “recite a memory verse.” Of more significance, however, is that the apostle eschatologizes the prophetic utterance. God announces, in Joel, that he will pour out his Spirit “after this” (cf. MT, LXX), i.e., after he restores the “grain and wine and oil” (Jl 2:19) that locust and drought had destroyed; there is no explicit eschatological value. Now, however, under the influence of the poured-out Spirit, Peter perceives the promise in salvation-historical perspective. “The kingdom of God,” “the day of the LORD,” “the last days,” are now but also, still, not yet. While Peter has added to the utterance of Joel, he has taken nothing away. The Spirit is being poured out “on all flesh,” and, at present, the apostle says more than he realizes—he will not grasp the referent of “all flesh” until later (Acts 10). But one particularity, with its “scandal,” is being erased. In the Old Testament, the Spirit of the LORD is mentioned rather infrequently (mostly in the Former Prophets); Yahweh speaks of “my Spirit” slightly more often in the writing prophets, especially Isaiah and Ezekiel. This suggests that the Spirit’s “operation” is more particular than universal. Now, Peter declares, all that has changed. The Spirit’s work can no longer be seen as restricted—as if it ever, actually, could have been. This text may be awkward for Lutheran preachers. There is no “law,” in our usual manner of speaking. Neither is there “gospel,” if we insist on the particular language of the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and the atoning sacrifice and active obedience of Christ. But it is gospel that God pours out, has poured out, his Spirit on all flesh, because this too signifies that God has come to his people—the people he made for himself in creation. We who believe in Jesus—the Spirit has called and gathered, is enlightening and sanctifying, and will keep. There are others, however, Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


whom he is calling and desires to gather. No one is out of range of the Spirit’s work; he targets every human heart. We may encounter “closed doors,” our testimony may be rejected, but the Spirit of the LORD, the Holy Spirit, keeps going about his work and will continue to do so, unceasingly, until the very last day. There is nothing in the texts we are expressly to do. There are mission implications and applications, but Peter gives us no “instructions.” To be sure, that doesn’t mean we are to do nothing. But we are reminded that the “mighty works” are God’s, not ours. Count on the poured-out Spirit. What he gives you to say, say. That’s always been the main work of a prophet. And Moses’s wish will come true: “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Nm 11:29, ESV). William Carr

Holy Trinity • Acts 2:14a; 22–36 • May 26, 2013

Acts chapter two presents us with the contrast between our own self-righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. It shows clearly our need to repent and the Savior who still lives as King to forgive the wrong we have done to him and the sin we have laid upon him at the cross. Jesus would have us in his kingdom, and through his love invites even rebellious and wicked servants to repent and follow him. Furthermore, it shows that ordinary people like Peter, can through the power of that forgiveness, become bold to witness to the death and resurrection of their Lord and Savior. Therefore, we too are emboldened by that witness and the Holy Spirit and one baptism we still share with them. As an aside, it is a good text to show how important the Old Testament was to early Christians and how it should be important to us as well. Preceding context: One should consider the change in attitude of the Apostles when preaching this text. They have gone from hiding out, to preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. Pentecost has clearly had an effect on them. Old Testament references: Prominent Old Testament references are an important feature both of the text and the section left out. Here we find a famous passage from Joel 2, as well as two Psalms—16 and 110. The Joel passage is essential to understanding the first portion of the periscope as presented, and so this reader does not understand its obviously intentional omission. Flow of thought: Leaving in the omitted portions, this text makes more sense. First, it is essential for the structure of the latter material that Peter is preaching to the residents of Jerusalem. Given this fact, the text breaks down into three sections: First, the signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus, as well as the darkness surrounding his death, are fulfilled through the life, work and death of Jesus. Second, the resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises to David’s throne, for a king that will reign forever. Jesus is stronger than death, therefore the kingship of Jesus is stronger than the kingship of David, who is dead and whose grave was apparent. Third, the people have


killed, but God has raised from the dead their King and Messiah. Peter breaks up his sermon with two uses of “fellow Israelites,” indicating both the Jews of Jerusalem and the Gentiles who lived there, and apparently his words had an effect, for the people were cut to the heart and responded, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Clearly there is a division into sections here and the structure of what was said highlights the Messiah yet reigns and rules following his glorious resurrection from the dead. Preaching the law from this text: We must understand that living post-Pentecost and having grown up as Christians, we often behave as though we would not have acted in the same manner as these people did regarding the Messiah. Many in the crowd Peter was preaching to were not present for, nor directly responsible for the death of Christ, and yet their response, in many cases, is one of faith. They knew that their sins were responsible for the death of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and we need to know that we too are responsible, both due to our actions and our attitudes. Our sin is one of unbelief, not believing that we have sinned against the Messiah by our wicked actions and nature. Furthermore we often do not believe that he has forgiven us these sins and we do not live to spread the wonder of this forgiveness to others. Preaching the gospel from this text: The good news here is that the kingdom is restored because the King himself is risen. Therefore, all who have faith in Jesus, do not need to fear his reign, but can rejoice in the victory over sin, death, and the grave. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). When we have faith in Christ, we can stand with Peter as “fellow Israelites.” Here reference should be made to the teaching of Paul about who the true Israel is (see Romans chapters 9–11), namely all who have the faith of Abraham in the Messiah. Peter was bold because he really did believe in the resurrection. He knew that although he had betrayed Jesus, his sins were forgiven and his standing before God restored. Peter invites all the betrayers of Jesus to repent, be forgiven, and live in the hope of eternal life with him. Peter does not leave the crowd in its guilt and sin, but provides them the same means of escape Christ has provided for him. Two kinds of righteousness: God’s righteous forgiveness is found here in the work of Pentecost as well as in the great power of the resurrection of the dead. Because Jesus is risen, Peter knows Christ’s forgiveness and is emboldened to do the good work of preaching the judgment and mercy of God to the crowd. Because he has received and known the righteousness of Christ, he relieves those who repent and believe in the crowd by offering them forgiveness and a new start in baptism and the Holy Spirit. These words in Acts 2 show both the power of the preaching of Peter on sin and the gracious Lord of the kingdom, and also the response of the crowd to this gospel of the merciful King, who because he is risen from the dead, can forgive the sins of those who have previously killed him. Death has no power over him, for he is risen and reigns with the Father, and has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and lead us into all truth. Timothy Dost

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Proper 4 • Galatians 1:1–12 • June 2, 2013

“Other gospels? Come again?” The gospel, the “good news” is a familiar theme for Lutherans. We hear it, and we hear it again; the news, Jesus died for our sins and rose again—for his sake, sins forgiven, peace with God, eternal life. Yet, is this all there is? Do other religions, spiritualities, beliefs, pieties, churches, sects offer more, add something? Should the gospel be “updated,” made more palatable to a wider range of people, a bit more cosmopolitan, inclusive? A quest so modern, but ancient too. Certain teachers, trouble makers, showed up in the churches of Galatia founded by St. Paul. They pressed to accommodate within the gospel of Jesus and his righteousness, a few strains of man’s good works; particularly, circumcision in order to be saved (Gal 5:2; cf. Acts 15:1). They said this would please certain Jews in the congregations. The apostle was unpleasantly surprised. He was livid! So soon they forsook his painstaking teaching (Gal 1:6a)—the gospel altered, tweaked, and changed. Could such a gospel any longer be the gospel of Christ? Like inclusivism saturating current culture, false teachers had gotten to the Galatians with an accommodational gospel (Gal 1:7b; cf. 5:7–8, 10). Shall we have the gospel as it is, or a revised gospel to please many? Other Gospels Should not the gospel be more relational? Some say, our religion is sensible only with other religions (unitive pluralism). “All revelation has its origin, or at least part of its origin, in the individual and collective consciousness” (Jung). It’s about the experience of God speaking within—essentially the same within for all human beings. A shared belief among psychologists and psychiatrists—all the world religions are offspring of a common parent: the human psyche (Nitter). Have we grown comfortable with other gospels? If other “gospels” are about us, what we do counts. Surely God is pleased. Really? Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach, does a TV ad, calling backsliding Roman Catholics to church again. Appeal? A mixed gospel—the Virgin Mother, Jesus, Eucharist are there, but more, a bit of prayer, some good works added move you to heaven. And, another gospel, the notion that purity of life and rectitude of conduct is necessary to gain admission to the Celestial Lodge above. Symbol? The Lambskin reminds that purity of life and conduct gain approval of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and one enters heaven (freemasonry). The Gospel Not man’s gospel, but the gospel of Jesus is for us, a proposition that Paul would defend to the death—and he, an apostle not from man nor through man (Gal 1:1–2). This gospel—exclusively of Jesus who gave himself for the sake of our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God our Father (Gal 156

1:4)—came not by man, or teaching of man, but revealed by Jesus Christ (Gal 1:12). A gospel of righteousness, not in us or by us, but in Jesus Christ, is ours by faith (Gal 3:11–12, 22; Rom 3:21–22). The true gospel—no human input, no supplements, no alteration. Without modification or accommodation, this gospel and the apostle who brought it are through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead (Gal 1:1; cf. 11). Who dares to pose another gospel, an altered gospel? What are we doing? Pleasing God or man? (cf. Gal 1:10a). Surely, man! Then we are no longer servants of Christ (Gal 1:10). Listen! The gospel of salvation by grace alone through Jesus Christ, if changed, is a perverted false gospel. Espouse an altered accommodating gospel, and you are severed from Christ altogether! (Gal 5:4). Either the law and righteousness by works of the law abide, and Christ perishes; or Christ and his righteousness must abide, and the law perishes (Luther). Away with unitive pluralism, inclusivism, and moralism! Affirm anew the one and only gospel—liberation by Jesus from the curse of the law (Gal 3:10–13; 4:5), forgiveness of sins by Jesus (1 Pt 2:24), justification by grace alone, i.e., as promise received, and believed by faith in Jesus apart from works of the law (Gal 3:11). Conclusion Before the interlopers troubled the Galatians, they would rather suffer mutilation—have their eyes plucked out—than yearn for other gospels (Gal 4:15). Let it be so with us. If hearing the gospel again and then again is a Lutheran thing, it is good to be a Lutheran Christian. All glory to God! (Gal 1:5). Richard H. Warneck

Proper 5 • Galatians 1:11–24 • June 9, 2013

Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes clear that his authority came from Christ, that the gospel was for Jew and Gentile, and that believers are set free for living by the Spirit. Today’s reading emphasizes that Paul’s readers could trust his message because he received it from Jesus. The other readings, Elijah’s raising of a widow’s son and Jesus’s raising of a widow’s son, attest to God’s mercy and power and how it brings a thankful response. Today there are many sources for information and it is easy to distort what is reported. People can comment and say how something looks to them; no expertise is required. Facts can be selected, tweaked and twisted. What source do we trust when it comes to knowing the ways of God? Paul makes a case that he had the trustworthy source. He contrasts the gospel that he preached (v. 11) with “the traditions of my fathers” (v. 14). He had a divine source, Jesus Christ—God in fleshly form; the Jewish traditions came from man— human species, flesh and blood. One message says that by the grace of God there is salvation for all in Christ; the other message says that the Old Testament law, plus

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some human requirements, must be kept in order to be acceptable to God. Which is God’s will? Do you trust a human version of the truth about God when you could have a divine source? Paul’s own life illustrates the difference. Paul had been zealous for what was handed down from his fathers. He was a well-trained Pharisee who believed, for example, that ritual washings according to the tradition of men were essential to righteous living under God’s rules. Jesus, however, said that this was “a way of rejecting the commandment of God” (Mk 7:9). Devoted to such traditions, Paul had actively worked under the chief priests to oppose the followers of Jesus until the day he was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:9ff). Jesus himself chose Saul, the persecutor, and sent him to open the eyes of the Gentiles “so that they may turn from darkness to light” and “receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:18). Voices around us suggest a human-tradition version of what God teaches. They frequently call for “doing the right thing” rather than trusting in Jesus’s righteousness. It presumes that doing a good thing makes us a good person. God, and everyone else, should see us as more acceptable (righteous) than those who fail to do the same. Thus God’s law, written in the human heart, is at work but it is twisted into a piling up of right deeds often tweaked to add humanly-devised extra requirements, something to impress God. In the process, real acts of disobedience are ignored as though they never happened. Where did this version of religious life come from? People made it up. The listener will be helped by identifying some “human traditions” (Pharisaic alternatives) and by explaining how these differ from the words of Jesus. There are many options. What do surveys say? Which version of Christianity is most popular? What do friends say about pleasing God? Isn’t respect for the green earth the main thing? What behavior is most comfortable to my life style? Jesus hands down the way of God’s mercy. Doing some right things is not sufficient because “all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law . . . God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:12, 16). “The righteousness of God” comes “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22). This is the gospel that Paul brought to the Galatians and he got it from Jesus. It has divine authority. A human system for being godly and doing the right thing is no substitute for the divine design revealed by Jesus Christ. Listening to what Jesus reveals—what Paul brings from Jesus—is to hear what the Lord God says. It is a trustworthy source. Suggested outline Who told you that? I. Paul was taught by Jesus; he had to abandon human traditions. II. We encounter many voices that draw us away from what Jesus taught III. Paul calls us to trust only Jesus—good news of God’s mercy for Jew and Gentile alike. James L. Brauer 158

Proper 6 • Galatians 2:15–21; 3:10–14 • June 16, 2013

Proposed theme: The sermon focus developed here highlights the language of curse and blessing in Galatians 3. No power of our own, but only Jesus Christ, has delivered us from the God-sized curse of sin and death. Through Jesus, we receive the God-sized “blessing of Abraham.” General notes: This pericope continues from Paul’s confrontation of Peter in 2:11–14. Although the Jews have the law of God and may be conscientious to keep it, Paul reminds Peter of what every Jewish Christian should know: (sinful) man cannot be justified in the sight of God by acts of obedience but only through trust in Christ’s love and self-giving (2:20)—his righteousness-securing (2:21), redeeming, curse-removing, blessing-bringing death on the tree (3:13–14). In 2:16, where the ESV translates “a person is not justified by works of the law” and “by works of the law no one will be justified,” Paul’s Greek has a;nqrwpoj (a man is not justified) and pa/sa sa,rx (all flesh will not be justified). Man and flesh connect with Paul’s overarching theme in Galatians: salvation must be from God, in Christ, through the Spirit—not from the power of man or the power of flesh: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being completed by the flesh?” (3:3). Throughout Galatians, Paul constructs antitheses along this radical fault line: man, flesh, works, obedience, circumcision, etc. on one side, and faith in God, the cross of Christ, and the work of the Spirit on the other (1:1, 10, 11–12; 2:20; 3:1–9, 14, 22–24; 4:4–7, 23, 27, 29; 5:2–6, 16–26; 6:3; 6:12–15). Old Testament language and theology drive Paul’s thought here. Isaiah 31 is instructive: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help. They rely on horses. They have put their trust in chariots . . . But they have not looked to the Holy One of Israel, nor Yahweh have they sought! . . . Yet the Egyptians are man (~d”a’) and not God (lae); their horses are flesh (rf’B’), and not spirit” (vv. 1, 3a). Jeremiah 17:5 uses similar “Pauline” language: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man (~d”a’B’; LXX: evpV a;nqrwpon) and makes flesh (rf’B’) his strength (LXX: “who leans his arm of flesh (sa,rx) upon him [man]”), and whose heart turns away from Yahweh.” With this background, the ESV’s rendering of Galatians 3:10, while interpretive, expresses Paul’s sense well: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.” (See also Is 2:22; 40:6–8, 38–30.) Developing the theme: “Curse” and “blessing” are world-shattering and worldrestoring terms in the Bible’s account of creation, fall, and redemption in Christ. In popular usage, however, the terms “curse” and “blessing” have been diminished and obscured. “Cursing” refers to vulgar language in general, or to harsh statements such as “Damn you/it” or “Go to hell.” But such statements are not usually intended to involve divine powers or to actually impact eternal destinies. More often, they simply express the strength of the speaker’s hatred or displeasure. The concept of a “curse” also appears in fairy tales or in films: a “curse” may fall upon a character as a “hex,” a kind of vague, harmful power. “Blessing,” likewise, is commonly used as a mere expression of the speaker’s own sentiments, e.g. gratitude (“Oh, bless you, honey!”). Or I may name something a “blessing,” not really meaning that it came from God, but only that Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


I view it as a positive thing. In its overuse, the word “blessing” now sounds quaint or even sappy. The sermon could dust off these biblical expressions, reconnect them with the biblical story (assumed by Paul in the text), and proclaim the removal of the curse and the bestowal of “the blessing of Abraham” upon your hearers—not by any human effort, but in Christ’s death. The aim would be threefold: first, that hearers perceive the radical scope and consequences of God’s curse on human sin; second, that hearers believe and marvel at the depth of Christ’s love, who “became a curse” for us (2:20b; 3:13); and third, that hearers long more fervently for the restoration of all creation in Christ, the promised “blessing of Abraham.” God’s blessing begins in Genesis 1, and God’s curse enters the story in Genesis 3. Old Testament saints longed for relief, longed for rest, and restoration from this curse (e.g., Gn 5:28–29). God declared that blessing would return to humanity and to the creation, and that God’s blessing would come through Abraham and through his seed (12:2–3; 22:18). Luther writes, “The curse is a kind of flood that swallows up whatever is outside Abraham, that is, outside faith and the promise of the blessing of Abraham . . . All nations before, during, and after Abraham are under a curse and are to be under a curse forever, unless they are blessed in the faith of Abraham . . .” (AE 26:248). (See also Jn 3:18, 36; 1 Cor 15:17.) Luther notes how large this promised blessing is: “The prophets preach about this blessing everywhere . . . the sort of blessing that belongs to the imputation of righteousness that avails in the sight of God, that redeems from the curse of sin and everything that follows sin . . . [The sayings of the prophets] all flowed from these promises, in which God promised to the fathers the crushing of the serpent’s head (Gn 3:15) and the blessing of the nations (Gn 12:3)” (AE 26:246). In Galatians 3, then, Paul is speaking about ultimate, cosmic, eternal blessing or curse from God. The profound depth of the gospel is that Jesus himself received the curse, even “became a curse” for us, in his death on the cross. Through faith in Christ, the “blessing of Abraham” now comes also to us (Gentiles). This blessing of a restored, untainted human life within a restored, untainted creation is described vividly in the final two chapters of Revelation. “And there shall be no more curse” (Rv 22:3). Suggested Sermon Outline God’s Curse and God’s Blessing I. God’s curse over all (Gal 3:10–12) A. Such little “curses”—popular uses of the term B. God’s great curse II. God’s curse upon One: Christ Jesus (Gal 3:13) III. Through Christ, the “blessing of Abraham” comes to us (Gal 3:14) A. Such little “blessings”—popular uses of the term B. God’s great blessing Thomas Egger 160

Proper 7 • Galatians 3:23–4:7 • June 23, 2013

Textual Considerations There are many details of this passage which could be developed in the sermon, some of which are quite significant, such as the wonderful implications of putting on Christ in baptism (3:27) and the dissolving of distinctions coram Deo among those who are baptized (3:28). But what this study focuses on is the overarching analogy or metaphor which Paul develops. First we will consider the source domain of that metaphor, then its target or application. Paul develops his argument by referring to the process by which a person moves from childhood to adulthood, his “coming of age.” It is helpful to understand what Paul is referring to when he uses customs which were familiar to his original readers, but may not be to us. The first reference is to the “guardian” (v. 24). This pedagogue (paidagogos) refers to a servant who was entrusted by wealthy parents to watch over their child. The modern equivalent might be a nanny. The pedagogue was responsible to oversee the comings and goings of the child, to accompany him and watch his behavior, and especially to see to the safe conduct of the child to school and home again. As such, the freedom of the child was curtailed and controlled by the custodial attendant. At a certain age the status of the child changed from that of a minor to an adult. In the Roman world the father had discretion in setting the date of his son’s coming of age, usually between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. As Paul states, “he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father” (4:2). At this event (among the Romans it occurred during the spring festival of Liberalia) the child was officially adopted by the father and was formally recognized as the son and received full inheritance rights to the family’s estate. James Boice describes this change of status: “When the child was a minor in the eyes of the law . . . his status was no different from that of a slave, even though he was the future owner of a vast estate. He could make no decisions; he had no freedom. On the other hand, at the time set by his father the child entered into his responsibility and freedom.”1 Now we consider the application of this metaphor. Paul writes to members of the Galatian church who have accepted the teachings of the Judaizers. They have been persuaded by these false teachers that the only way to become “heirs” of God’s kingdom is to submit to the Jewish law by becoming circumcised, by keeping dietary prescriptions, and by conforming to behavioral patterns. Paul counters by arguing that it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that one is justified and receives the status as God’s child and heir. This is the inheritance promised to the offspring of Abraham and now offered to all—Jews and Gentiles—who have faith in Christ apart from circumcision and the works of the law (3:1–22). Paul compares the law to the pedagogue, and those who are under the law to the child whose freedom is restricted and constrained by this custodian (3:23–24). As such, he “is no different from a slave” (4:1). However, this status has changed for the Christian. The Father has set a date for the coming of age of his people, and “in the Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


fullness of time” that has taken place through the incarnation, active obedience, and redeeming death, and resurrection of his preeminent Son, Jesus Christ (4:4–5). The result is that we receive adoption as God’s sons and become heirs of his kingdom (4:5–7). The apostle’s argument, therefore, is that one who remains under the custodianship of the law continues in the inferior status as a minor, living as a slave. Yet, because of Christ (4:4–5), and “in Christ” (3:26–28), those who trust Christ’s saving work and are baptized, experience new freedom and the status of being heirs of God’s kingdom. “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (4:7). This is what it truly means to be “Abraham’s offspring” (3:29). Homiletical Development: Since this text is enveloped by the extended metaphor described above, it seems best to develop the metaphor in the sermon. Indeed, the analogy can become the primary imagery used in the sermon and bring a sense of unity and wholeness to it. For this to be done, the preacher will need to explain the ancient customs and practices to the listeners. One way of doing this is to describe the opening scene in Lloyd Douglas’s classic novel The Robe in which the main character, the young Roman Marcellus, is formally acknowledged by his father to be his son and heir. The preacher may wish to refer to similar depictions in other contemporary media. One example is the character of Percy Jackson in the series of novels by Rick Riordan, most notably The Lightning Thief. In this book, which is widely familiar to pre-teens and teenagers, Percy Jackson comes to understand his identity as the demigod son of the Greek god Neptune. Under the watchful eye of his schoolmaster and in an abusive relationship with his stepfather, his true identity as a son of a god is then revealed to him. This revelation is accompanied by a coming of age experience in which Percy discovers a glorious inheritance and a meaningful destiny. Another parallel narrative is the experience of Cosette in Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables. In the story, young Cosette is liberated from abusive guardians by the protagonist Jean Valjean, who effectively adopts her and provides her with his love and inheritance, transforming her miserable life into one of hope. In the case of these illustrations, the parallels with Paul’s use of the metaphor are not always compatible in every detail. Accordingly, the preacher must pick and choose details which will make it work for the hearers. Ultimately what must be communicated in the sermon is not the contemporary parallels, nor even the ancient rite of passage, but the truth that it is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we become children of God and heirs of eternal life. David Peter Endnote 1


James Montgomery Boice, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 10, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 471.

Proper 8 • Galatians 5:1, 13–25 • June 30, 2013

Review some of the times in the New Testament that eleutherou is used in addition to its use in Galatians 5. These include John 8:31b–32, “If you remain in my world you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”; Romans 6:18, “Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness”; Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life”; and Romans 8:2, “For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death.” Review some of the times in the New Testament that eleutheria is used in addition to its use in Galatians 5:1 and 13 (twice). These include 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”; and 1 Peter 2:16, “Be free. Yet without using freedom as a pretext for evil, but as slaves of God.” Read Martin Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian, available on-line at places such as Major themes for Luther include: “I first lay down these two propositions, concerning spiritual liberty and servitude. A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone” (10). “True then are these two sayings: Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works” (23). “We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in himself, but in Christ, and in his neighbor, or else is no Christian; in Christ by faith, in his neighbor by love. By faith he is carried upwards above himself to God, and by love he sinks back below himself to his neighbor, still always abiding in God and His love” (32). It is useful, helpful, and important to read the whole work. Return to the text, Galatians 5:1, 13–25. Could this be your theme?: “For freedom Christ has set us free . . . For you were called to freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:1a, 13–14). Indeed, freed by the gracious and loving action of Christ from the tyranny of pleasing God with our works and trying to earn salvation, we are called to use our energy and our lives not in an exercise of self-gratification but rather in service and love to each other. This is truly what freedom in the gospel and service to the sister and brother in Christ is all about. Consider the conflicts in your life and those of your hearers that have to do with the freedom/service or self-pleasure/love of other polarities. For instance, I am freed from using my money to buy my way into heaven by giving to the church. For what then do I use money? To gratify myself? Is my freedom rather to use my money to love and serve others? For instance, I am freed from the terrors of my conscience by the forgiveness given by Christ. For what then do I use my sense of peace and my clean slate? To do what I wish in the satisfaction of my own desires? Is my freedom rather Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


to use my peace and clean slate by serving and loving others? Find some things in your life that can be shared that illustrates this principle. Suggested Sermon Direction When I was 14, I began to count down the days until I could get my driver’s license. The countdown began at day 830. Day by day I checked off time. Day by day I dreamed of the freedom I would have when I could drive: dates without parents taxiing us around; buddies speeding along together competitively; going where I wanted to go unencumbered by adults. The day arrived. Three days later I had my license. Two weeks later, while at the football field with my parent’s car I gunned the engine (in my freedom) and threw a rod. It took two years of working at the old Hyattsville Hardware store to pay that off. Freedom came; its misuse was costly. What do you do with your freedom? What do I do with mine? Christ has freed us from the burden of our sin, from our earning God’s love, from our pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps to approach God. With all that energy, no longer needed to earn a new and healthy relationship with God, what do I do with it? What do you do with it? You and I could go after our own desires. (See Galatians 5:17–21.) Go for it! We are free! Just do it! Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. I am the master of my own ship, my own fate. We live in the land of the free, so don’t tread on me. I have rights. Keep off my property! If you don’t do it the way that I want I’ll leave, because I have freedom. You and I could go after the fruit of the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22–25.) Go for it! We are free! Just do it! Love God, serve the neighbor. Give at least some of your money to the poor. Listen closely to those with whom we disagree, so closely that we can really understand why their position is so important to them. Take some time to find out about the person who sits down the pew from you. Begin, or continue, praying for others. Invite your neighbors over for food and talk. Engage those with whom you work in the name of Christ who set all of us free. So what will you do with your energy, your passion, your freedom in the gospel? This might be a good time for those who are listening to your sermon to become more active in it. Can you ask people to share what they will do with their freedom? Can they text their ideas to a screen or write them on a piece of paper and turn it in? In prayer you can bless all this energy born of the freedom in Christ. All in all, we are subject to none and subject to everyone. This is because the Christ became one with us and became subject to human flesh, form, and experience and in his life, death, and resurrection he brings us the freedom of a new and healthy relationship with God. Bruce Hartung


Proper 9 • Galatians 6:1–10, 14–18 • July 7, 2013

Galatians 6 includes the third part of the exhortation section of the letter (6:1–10) and the concluding postscript (6:11–18). Points of theological interest in this chapter are: 1. The concept of the “law of Christ” (v. 2); 2. The fact that we are morally accountable (vv. 7–10); 3. The idea that we are “crucified to the world” (v. 14) and 4. The idea that what matters is “the new creation” (v. 15).1 Verse 1: Ἀδελφοί “Brothers”: In this section Paul talks about the claims of brotherly love even when someone is caught in actual sin. We may assume that a harsh corrective is necessary, but Paul suggests otherwise. ἐὰν καὶ προλημφθῇ ἄνθρωπος ἔν τινι παραπτώματι “Even if someone is detected in some wrongdoing . . .” the καὶ functions adverbally as an intensifier. The statement is general. ὑμεῖς οἱ πνευματικοὶ καταρτίζετε “You, those possessing the Spirit, restore. . .” Paul urges gentle treatment of actual sinners. “You who are spiritual” refers to those who possess the Holy Spirit, Spirit-filled people. The present imperative “restore” suggests that this command is to be an ongoing process. Paul instructs that the offender be corrected with a view to restoring him, and he asks that it be done in a spirit of meekness—the task is a delicate one. σκοπῶν σεαυτὸν The switch from the plural imperative to the singular participle suggests that while the treatment of offenders belongs to the whole church, each member ought to examine him/herself individually. Paul starts with the assumption that we are all “poor miserable sinners” and that our care of others must proceed from this recognition. If it doesn’t we are likely to fall to temptation ourselves. Verse 2: Ἀλλήλων τὰ βάρη βαστάζετε The reciprocal pronoun aλλήλων (of one another) is often found in exhortations where Paul assumes that the obligations believers have with each other (he calls us “brothers” in v. 1), is based on the connections they have with the risen Christ, as he does here. This is a beautiful metaphor that helps us think about what “loving our brother looks like.” Paul gives us a way to think about Christian love and what it looks like. τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ Here Paul reformulates what he says in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (cf., what Jesus says in John 13:34). Christ fulfilled this law in a remarkable way through his own faithful obedience even to death on a cross. Verses 3–5: We who think that our strength and goodness are our own doing are only deluding ourselves. We must not compare our work to that of others because it will only feed our vanity; rather, we ought to scrutinize our own work and then rejoice in what has been given by God’s grace. Verses 7–8: θεὸς οὐ μυκτηρίζεται “God is not mocked” the verb means “to turn one’s nose at” or “to treat with contempt.” Those who mock God are playing with fire because they will reap what they sow. The lives we lead now have (ultimate) consequences. The description of “the one who sows to his own flesh” and “the one who sows to the Spirit” is spelled out in Galatians 5:16–26. The future tenses of the verbs, Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


the metaphor of “reaping what you sow” (i.e. the harvest) and the reference to eternal life suggest that Paul is talking about the final judgment. Verse 9: τὸ δὲ καλὸν ποιοῦντες μὴ ἐγκακῶμεν the participle ποιοῦντες completes the thought of the main verb, ἐγκακῶμεν.2 ἐγκακῶμεν is a hortatory subjunctive used to exhort someone else, and so it is translated, “let us . . .” μὴ ἐκλυόμενοι “if we do not lose heart” the participle suggests a condition (not losing heart) on which the accomplishment of the idea in the main verb θερίσομεν depends. Verse 14: δι᾿ οὗ ἐμοὶ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται κἀγὼ κόσμῳ In 2:19 Paul writes that he has been crucified with Christ. In 5:24 he says that those who belong to Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Here he says that by Christ’s cross (i.e., his crucifixion) he (and all believers) has been crucified to the world and the world to him. For those who are not Christian, this world is the all-encompassing and only reality, and they must order their lives according to it. In other words, they are under its power. But we who have been crucified with Christ share in his victory. For us who are in Christ, the power of the world over us has been broken, as has our selfish love of the world. We are “dead to the world,” and the world “is dead to us.” Verse 15: Compare v. 15 with Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love,” and 1 Corinthians 7:19, “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” What matters is “the new creation” in which faith works through love. Rather than being slaves, God’s people are sons and their lives, led by the Spirit are lives lived in gratitude for the grace that they have been given. Timothy E. Saleska Endnotes

1 Thomas W. Gillespie, “Galatians 6(1–6), 7–16,” in The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Texts, The Second Readings: Acts and the Epistles ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 299–302. 2 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), 646; H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), #2098.

Proper 10 • Colossians 1:1–14 • July 14, 2013

General Setting Colossians is one of the “captivity epistles.” It is probable that Paul is imprisoned in Caesarea in Judea. We know that Paul was imprisoned there for several years, under two procurators, Felix and Festus, in the late 50s, so we may date it to AD 59 or so. Paul is writing to recent converts after his third missionary journey, it seems, and he sends his instructions through Tychicus (4:7) and Onesimus (4:9). Textual Notes 1:5: This verse gives the basis for faith and love, viz., hope (something in short supply for many in the Roman Empire)—a hope that is sure and reserved in heaven. 166

Without hope, faith and love cannot survive (1 Corinthians 13:13 is making a different point, which has to do with visibility and presence). Important also is that the basis for all of this is the gospel, which is characterized as the word of truth. So this chain develops: faith and love depend on hope, which depends on the gospel—good Lutheran stuff! 1:10: The chiastic construction of the latter part of this verse is striking, with phrases and verbs: ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ (A) / καρποφοροῦντες (B) // αὐξανόμενοι (B’) / τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ (A’). In terms of argumentation, the idea of walking in a way worthy of the Lord is important; the Christian’s life should reflect his faith. This is amplified by the further thoughts of bearing fruit in good works and increasing in knowledge. No content-less Christianity here! Faith is incarnated in a new creation. 1:11: As Paul continues, it is apparent that this new creation living is not on “one’s own steam,” as it were. Christians are empowered by “the power of his glory,” which is a difficult phrase but probably means something like this: “Glory” in the OT and NT involves the revelation of God for who he truly is. For Christians this means that he stoops to be incarnate and to serve (in which condition one truly “sees” God, but also that in resurrection and ascension he is Lord over all. So here the power of him who is one with us in the flesh and now has authority over all things empowers those who are his. And this issues in endurance and long-suffering, which will characterize and be the lot of those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints (1:3). “With joy” probably goes with the participle following. 1:12a: Note the return to thanksgiving! This is the final response for all that the Christian receives. 1:12b–14: The thought progression of these verses is well worth paying close attention to. I. First, the Father has made the Colossians sufficient for participation in the lot of the saints in light. II. He (= ὅς), the Father, has rescued us from the authority over darkness and transferred us into a new lordship, the reign and rule of his Son who is the incarnation of his love. III. In that Son (ἐν ᾧ) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Run the thoughts backwards: the forgiveness of sins is the basis for Christians being under the reign and rule of Christ, and that reign and rule frees us from darkness and gives us a destiny in light. Note that dealing with the problem of the relationship between God and man (i.e., sin) is at the root of all (further) positive developments such as new lordship and the final inheritance of the saints. Thinking and Preaching Theologically This text has enough for five sermons, and any sermon on it will have to determine focus. Moule’s Commentary on Colossians and Philemon notes (p. 47) that the petition of Paul from 1:9ff is for: I. “sensitiveness to God’s will,” including a “grasp of what is spiritually valuable.” Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


II. “issuing in conduct worthy of Christians and pleasing to Christ,” which involves good works and growing in understanding, III. “the equipment for this being strength, a strength derived from God’s power . . . in keeping with his revealed splendour (sic), a strength which cheerfully stays the course.” This is followed by the thanksgiving. But, Moule continues, “the prayer had already sprung out of an antecedent thanksgiving: its foundation is the solid fact of what God has done (alluded to already in vv. 5–7), and to this it returns in vv. 12–14.” On the basis of these insights, a suggestion is to run the text in reverse for homiletical purposes. Thus, begin with what is detailed in the last textual note, above (1:12b–14), that is the foundation for the Christian life. But one builds upon a foundation. What such building means is laid out clearly in verses 9–11: through the power of God, doing good works and growing in understanding, on the basis of the knowledge of the will of God. And where does one find that knowledge? In the “word of truth of the gospel” (1:5), which does bear fruit (1:6) and does give knowledge of the grace of God (1:6)—bringing us full circle. The entirety of the Christian life and hope can be surveyed in these words, written from a prison cell by a slave of Christ whom no manacles or bars could keep from the glorious promises of the gospel. James W. Voelz

Proper 11 • Colossians 1:21–29 • July 21, 2013

Reconciliation: Ministry and Mystery We all love a good mystery; a mystery where we don’t find out until the very end who the “mystery person” is. This may be likened to, “Oh, he/she is the one!” And when we see and hear who this “mystery person” is, the whole story line is reconciled. We get the big picture and context of the story. As St. Paul writes to the church of Colossae, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ, he is setting the record straight regarding the incarnation of Christ and his resurrection in the face of the “pre-gnostic teachings” that were running rampant around Colossae (I would refer you to Dr. Paul Deterding’s Concordia Commentary on Colossians for an expanded discourse on these heresies). To that end, Paul emphasizes the mystery that was hidden for ages and is now revealed in Jesus Christ, his person and work, who reconciles all creation. The ministry and mystery of reconciliation rests with Christ who joins us to him by grace through faith alone. The mysteries of books and movies resolve when the “mystery” is revealed. There is nothing more for us to anticipate or learn. The mystery is revealed and the story is over. However, this is not the case as Paul writes to the saints at Colossae assuring them that the mystery hidden for ages is revealed in the incarnate Christ Jesus who entered the


human story of our sinful “alien hostile mind and evil deeds” and reconciled us to himself by his death and resurrection. We are declared reconciled by Christ’s “body of flesh by his death.” God baptized us into this “body of flesh by his death.” We are stable and steadfast by faith alone. You have heard this gospel message of reconciliation. As Martin Luther writes in the FC, SD, VIII, p. 634, 96: “ . . . the Holy Scripture (Col 1:27) calls Christ the mystery, over which all heretics stumble and fall headlong, we warn all Christians that they not pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason but simply believer with the dear apostles, shut the eyes of their reason, take their understanding captive in obedience to Christ, and take comfort and rejoice without ceasing in this, that in Christ our flesh and blood have been raised so high, to the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God.” This story is no longer a mystery to Christians. Christ is revealed and gracegifted to us in our baptism assuring us that the storyline continues when he presents us to his heavenly Father on judgment day in heaven and says: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Suggested Outline I. The revealed reconciliation (vv. 21–23) A. From brokenness to blamelessness in Christ (vv. 21–22) B. From faithlessness to faithfulness in Christ (v. 23) II. The mystery in reconciliation revealed (vv. 26–27: Christ is the mystery revealed) III. The ministry of reconciliation proclaimed (vv. 23, 28–29 A. Proclamation of reconciliation in Christ in all creation (v. 23 B. Proclamation of reconciliation in Christ in all things (vv. 24, 28–29) 1. In suffering for the sake of the gospel (v. 24) 2. In stewardship for the sake of the gospel (v. 25) 3. In all wisdom for the sake of the Gospel (v. 28) 4. In the future glory of salvation and eternal life (v. 27). Robert Weise

Proper 12 • Colossians 2:6–15(16–19) • July 28, 2013

True to form, Paul uses the first verse, bluntly to declare his point: you received Jesus Christ the Lord, so walk in him. The rest of the pericope simply unpacks the admonition in a Colossian context—one with more than its share of threats to Christian faith and a life walking in harmony with that faith. The greatest threat in Colossae seems to have been some strain of Judaizers. But there were the added problems of “philosophy, empty deception, traditions of men, and elemental world principles.” Faced with this list, we encounter our greatest threat: trying to make the

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problems of Paul’s readers relevant to twenty-first century listeners. In case you have failed to notice, Judaizers do not pose a threat to your parishioners. No one in your congregation is being urged to undergo circumcision for promised spiritual benefits. Carefully explaining the problems of Paul’s people (an introduction to the tenets of Judaizers, an overview of first century Greek and Roman philosophy, an exploration of the possible translations of stoiceia) does not help. The problems of Paul’s people are not the problems of your people—at least not exactly. To make this text speak directly to your people, simply recognize the very real threat to your own congregation that comes from the immediate context of the surrounding culture. Judaizers may not be lurking in your narthex, but the problems of philosophy, empty deception, traditions of men, and the world’s governing principles are there. In fact, they are in your nave. Living as we are on the especially ugly side of the Enlightenment, there is a dominant philosophical human tradition that drives the culture and infiltrates the thinking of every person in your pews. You recognize it even if you don’t name it: the autonomous individual benignly searching for a meaningful life while granting to other autonomous individuals their innate right to seek and find their own meaningful lives. This basic world principle takes on many forms and is expressed in a variety of innovative philosophies, all of which afflict your people to varying degrees. Add to this the lure of awed, unflinching trust in the radical materialism of science as master narrative, the errant pursuit of a nation founded on biblical principles, and the sequestering of God-talk and God-thought to the corner of life called “spirituality,” and you have a glimpse of the twenty-first- century threats to a Christianity that is walked 24–7. Our people are left believing that the church is there to provide meaning for life, strength for the important things that need doing during “real time,” and refuge from the hurts and sorrows of “real life.” What they are not taught is that the Christ and his church should so capture, conform, and direct the individual into God’s narrative that nothing is the same anymore, and all of life is redefined, reshaped and reoriented in disorienting and dramatic ways. Why such a life-shattering new reality? Simple: Jesus is God. Learning this, people learn to walk in Jesus Christ the Lord. Your task is to teach it. Goal: Since Jesus is Lord his reign should extend over his people—even the mundane, routine, and “secular” parts of their lives. Malady: We relegate Christ’s rule to “spiritual” or churchly things and let the driving forces of culture regulate the rest of life—the practical and relevant parts. Or, we use Christ and his church as a tool for finding a meaningful and fulfilling life. Means: Jesus is God. He has authority. You are joined to him in baptism. In his church he conforms you to his reality. Suggested Outline Who’s Your Drummer? Introduction: Whether we know it or not, we all walk in step with a certain cadence.


I. Jesus is Lord. A. He is God. B. He claimed you in baptism. II. The world’s ways deceive us. A. We limit Jesus’s reign. B. We try to use Christ and his church to meet our world-driven goals. III. Walk in Jesus. A. Don’t walk over, around, or through Jesus. B. Walk in synch with his purposes—drums—for you. C. Follow his drums in all of life: family, finances, work, politics, and entertainment. Joel Biermann

Proper 13 • Colossians 3:1–13 • August 4, 2013

Colossians 3:1–13 divides neatly into two sections. The first (vv. 1–4) calls believers to focus their attention on Christ, in relation both to his finished work (v. 1“sitting”), as well as the coming work of Christ on the last day (v. 4, “whenever”). The second (vv. 5–13) commands believers to act on the basis of the life we have in Christ, by killing “the members which are on the earth,” an unusual phrase which (thankfully) is immediately explained in terms of various sinful desires and actions. Verses 1–4: The little word “therefore” (v. 1, ou=n) matters. Paul has expressed his dismay (2:20–23) that the Christians have been submitting to “pious requirements” regarding food and festivals; these things have only the “appearance of wisdom” (2:23). To regard such things as necessary is to demote Christ and deny his sufficiency. The Colossians, however, are baptized, that is to say, their old way of life died (2:11–12). So Paul offers a conditional clause—but one they really know is true—“If you died with Christ (and you have!), then keep on seeking the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.” In a sense, the reading could stop here, with the main clause presented: “Keep on seeking the things that are above.” Verse two repeats and explicates, namely, that the things above are not the things merely on the earth. Verse three explains why (ga,r) the believers should seek the things above. In so explaining, Paul fleshes out the significance of baptism: “you died with Christ, and your (real) life now remains hidden (the force of the perfect, “has been hidden”) with Christ, in God. Verse four contrasts the present hiddenness of the Christian life with the great eschatological promise of the time when believers will no longer have to seek the things above and nothing will remain hidden. Christ’s death, resurrection, and session at God’s right hand have given believers a new way of life—nothing else is needed, and any necessary “supplement” leads to disaster. Christ’s future glory will also be the glory of his believ-

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


ers. All the attention (and glory) belongs to Christ, and this provides the transforming good news to us. A warning might be necessary. In our present context, where “spiritual things” and “heaven” often are conceived of in virtually platonic fashion, one might be tempted to use this text to despise “mundane” matters. In this misunderstanding, “the things above where Christ is sitting” would be otherworldly, non-physical things. Nothing could be further from Paul’s intention! Christ has accomplished all that he has for the believers precisely through “mundane” things, namely, the blood of his cross (Col 1:20). The believer’s death with Christ and new life with him has been inaugurated through the circumcision made without hands, but using the earthly element of water (Col 2:11–12). The “things above” that the believers are to seek are precisely those promises and perspectives that have come true on earth, and that now are sealed and certain because Christ who accomplished them is sitting in divine power and splendor. The promises and priorities are “with Christ,” but they are all about life here on earth, lived through faith in Christ and in love for one’s neighbor. The “things above” are the good news that empower and direct life lived here on earth. Verses 5–13: Paul repeats “therefore” (v. 5). Precisely because our life remains in a hidden state with Christ in God, our present experience of life involves grave spiritual dangers. And precisely because we do have such life with Christ in God, strength of will is available to us to act in the face of spiritual danger. The dangers are sinful desires and choices. The action we are to take is simple—kill them. Turn away, denounce, rebuke, deny, and refuse to do. The list in verse five is typical, not comprehensive; one might note that covetousness occupies the final position, and is termed “idolatry”; we are all being catechized to be idolatrous consumers. Such works bring God’s wrath, and so Paul repeats his command (v. 8), now switching to the metaphor of clothing. Interesting, the apostle devotes significant attention to the issue of “lying to one another” which we must not do since the stripping of the old man and the putting on of the new man has already happened in union with Christ. No cultural divisions can matter when it comes to our loving, truth-speaking with one another (v. 11). Christ is all things; Christ is in all things. Verses 5–13 urgently call us to repentance; not repentance as it is sometimes misunderstood, which is to say, “feeling sorry” about something. Paul is calling the believers to change their behavior, and to live differently. This is always difficult. In our culture, anger has been elevated to the status of a moral virtue (“outrage” or “being offended”), and evil insults and shameful speech are the order of the day on social media. We are, however, to be different. We have a different life, one that is not created or preserved by our faithfulness, our consistency in living differently—even though we are called to such living. Our life is accomplished by Christ, and now hidden with him in God. When our hearts are focused on what Christ has already done, and upon what he will one day do—the only response we can possible make to the urgent call to full repentance is faith’s response, “Yes.” Jeff Gibbs



COncordia Journal

Weaving Reflection into Civic Life

Resources for Reflective Reading on Leadership, Service, and Vocation

Elizabeth Lynn

THE PERFECT GIFT: The Philanthropic Imagination in Poetry and Prose. Edited by Amy Kass. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2002. THE CIVICALLY ENGAGED READER. Edited by Adam Davis and Elizabeth Lynn. Chicago: Great Books Foundation. 2006. HEARING THE CALL ACROSS TRADITIONS: Readings on Faith and Service. Edited by Adam Davis. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2009. TAKING ACTION: Readings for Civic Reflection. Edited by Adam Davis. Chicago: Great Books Foundation. 2012. CALLINGS: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation. Edited by William Placher. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2005. LEADING LIVES THAT MATTER: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be. Edited by Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2006. Christians have long understood reflection as an essential companion to action. We weave reflection into our congregational life and into our daily routines. We begin church meetings and meals with reflection; ideally, we end each day in reflection. Our practice of worship has at its center an act of reflection (the sermon) that hopefully leads to some kind of action in response. And, characteristically, our reflection takes the form of gathering around a common text to ask what it means for our life in the world. When, however, we step outside our congregational comfort zones to take that action in the world, answering our call or vocare to lead and serve in community settings, we tend to leave the gift of reflection behind. Civic life is, after all, the active life—it is where one goes to act on one’s values in the world. Pausing for reflection in these settings can feel like a step backward, away from the needed action. Elizabeth Lynn is the inaugural director of Valparaiso University’s new Institute for Leadership and Service, and the founding director of the Project on Civic Reflection (now the Center for Civic Reflection). Active in her community and state, Lynn serves on the advisory board of the Lake Institute on Faith and Giving at Indiana University, the governing board of Indiana Humanities, and the Valparaiso Board of Zoning Appeals. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


Moreover, community groups are made up of people who likely differ in religious and political values despite meeting on the ground of some common action. In these settings, reflection can feel not only counter-productive but potentially destructive—revealing hidden differences and threatening precious relationships and resources in the process. Think for a moment of a community board on which you have served, or a volunteer coalition you have joined. What did you really know--and what would you have been at ease to ask--about the values of others around the table? Reflection with our fellow citizens has costs. Yet the failure to reflect has higher costs. As society grows more diverse and more polarized, we need forms of civic reflection in order to understand and be understood by one another in the midst of common work. Avoiding meaningful discussion of values and experiences in the midst of such work breeds discomfort and distrust, leading over time to disengagement and civic fatigue. In short, we need more—not fewer—opportunities for thoughtful reflection in community settings. Christian clergy and laity, many of whom who are already leading and serving in these settings, could play a valuable role in fostering the needed conversations, given the right resources. In this essay I want to introduce one such set of resources. For the past 15 years, mindful of the growing reflection gap in civic life, an informal network of educators in Indiana and elsewhere have been seeking ways to foster meaningful reflection in the midst of community work. In particular, we have been exploring how the practice of reading and discussing a common text might help citizens engaged in leadership and service to talk more reflectively with one another and, as a consequence, work more effectively with one another. The result of our efforts is a set of resources for civic reflection, which may be of direct assistance to pastors and lay leaders engaged in community work who wish to bring the gift of reflection with them into that work rather than leave it behind. These resources include the practice of reflective reading and discussion; an extensive body of practical knowledge about facilitating these discussions in community settings; and a rich set of anthologies on leadership, philanthropy, service and vocation to get the conversation started. Resources for Civic Reflection The first of these resources is a simple model of reflective reading and discussion developed by the Project on Civic Reflection (now the Center for Civic Reflection), which I founded at Valparaiso University in 1998 with support from Lilly Endowment. We call this practice civic reflection. In civic reflection, a group of people who are doing community work together sets aside time for facilitated conversation about fundamental questions rumbling around beneath that work—questions much like those highlighted in this journal, such as How do we become leaders? Who is my neighbor? What calls me to serve in one way and not another? To whom should we give? Brief, thought-provoking readings from literature, philosophy, history and religion, sometimes accompanied by photographs or other images, anchor the discussion. The facilitator asks open-ended questions that invite participants


to articulate and examine their beliefs and values, interpret the meaning of the text, and consider the implications of both for the larger challenges of their work in the world. Thus, the staff of a neighborhood service center might set aside time at a routine meeting to talk about a question that both underlies and overhangs their daily work— What is a good neighbor?—by reading and discussing Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” with its unsettled argument about whether fences make good neighbors. Or the members of a giving circle might preface their philanthropic deliberations with a reflective conversation about “The Eleventh,” a brief fable by Henri Barbusse that focuses on the person not served. These discussions are low cost and low tech (just chairs pulled into a circle, a reading handed out on paper, a facilitator prepared with a few good questions) but they can bring remarkably high rewards, helping participants gain fresh clarity about their values, a sense of community with others, and commitment to the work ahead. Both the Frost poem and the Barbusse story mentioned above are available at, an online resource designed by the Center for Civic Reflection to support reflective reading in community settings. There you will find a step-by-step guide to planning and leading your own civic reflection discussions, along with hundreds of recommended readings, accompanied by discussion plans and facilitator summaries. Readings for Civic Reflection In addition to creating these online resources, over the past decade the Center for Civic Reflection has published four collections of readings for discussion in community settings, organized around fundamental questions of civic engagement. The first of these anthologies, The Perfect Gift, invites readers to reflect on the choices that confront us specifically as givers: Why give? To whom should I give? Can giving be taught? Edited by acclaimed University of Chicago lecturer Amy Kass, its chosen texts are (not surprisingly) classic and complex, challenging the reader to wrestle with the ironies and difficulties of giving across centuries of Western culture. The Civically Engaged Reader, edited by Adam Davis and myself, considers the activities of serving, leading and associating as well as giving, through 45 shorter readings (here you will find both the Frost poem and the Barbusse story mentioned above). The readings in Taking Action, also edited by Adam Davis, are shorter still, ensuring they can be read “on the spot” in a meeting, and organized around themes (need and care, difference and connection, protecting and serving) that cut across many different forms of civic action, from charitable work to teaching to military service. Both of these last two collections, published by the Great Books Foundation, include prompts for discussion that follow the civic reflection model, starting with clarifying questions about what is happening in the text and expanding to invite readers to make connections to their own civic engagement. Another Davis anthology, Hearing the Call Across Traditions, offers short readings on faith and service from a range of religious perspectives, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judiasm, Islam, and Hinduism. The collection, designed especially for interfaith service groups, includes a preface by Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core and thoughtful questions for interfaith discussion, along with tips for organizing such Concordia Journal/Spring 2013


a discussion. Indeed, one of the real virtues of civic reflection is that it allows interfaith groups (as many community organizations now effectively are, and at all organizational levels from staff to board to volunteers) to engage in conversation about their own beliefs and ways of working in the world, without forcing an explicitly inter-religious exchange or the establishment and defense of doctrinal positions. Finally, alongside these four works from the Center for Civic Reflection, several years ago my Valparaiso University colleagues Dorothy Bass and Mark Schwehn joined with the late William Placher of Wabash College to produce two remarkable collections of readings on vocation, again with support from Lilly Endowment. Placher’s collection Callings culls readings from 20 centuries of Christian tradition (including a prologue of Biblical texts) and arranges them historically, carrying us from Ignatius of Antioch to Dorothy Day and Karl Barth in finely edited increments of 20 pages or less. Bass and Schwehn’s expansive collection, Leading Lives that Matter, beautifully complements Callings by offering more than 60 readings from beyond the Christian theological tradition (although many are by Christian writers) organized thematically under compelling questions of vocation that speak to younger as well as more mature selves: Are Some Lives More Significant than Others? Must My Job be the Source of My Identity? And finally, How Shall I Tell the Story of My Life? As a group, these anthologies spur reflection on our vocation in the world, from acts of leading and serving, to conceptions and choices of calling. Set alongside the model of civic reflection, and the practical wisdom about facilitation available at, they invite us to weave the practice of reflective reading and discussion more deeply into the fabric of our civic life, strengthening it—and ourselves—to serve.


OF PRAYER WITH DIET15 DAYS RICH BONHOEFFER. By Matthieu Arnold. Translated from the French by Jack MacDonald. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2009. 141 pages. Paper. $12.95.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they set a pattern for Christians ever since. The people of God are always turning to each other for models of prayer. Mattheiu Arnold, professor of church history at the Faculté de Théologie Protestante of the University of Strasbourg, has contributed to a series that uses a fifteen-day structure for instruction on prayer. Arnold sets before us the example of this German theologian, famous for his bold testimony against the assaults of National Socialism, who responded to God’s word with a disciplined life of prayer that, as Luther prescribed, set the tone for the reformer’s conduct of his whole life. In the winter quarter of 1964–1965 I took a seminar from Hermann Sasse in Saint Louis. Sasse recalled his working together with Bonhoeffer and their somewhat parallel paths from the theological Liberalism of their student days to ever firmer commitment to the theology of Luther and the Lutheran confessions. Arnold’s account of Bonhoeffer’s prayer life exhibits his engagement with Luther and his faithful reproduction of much of his way of conversing with God. Arnold introduces texts from Bonhoeffer’s prayers passed to us in print and manuscript and then places them in the historical context of his own experiences as young pastor and later teacher of students in the theological training program of the Confessing Church. Concordia Journal/Spring 2013

Bonhoeffer’s struggles with the increasingly secularized society of his younger years and the fierce hostility of the Hitler regime to the gospel of Christ took place in the context of his daily turning to God in prayer. Following Luther’s example, he searched the psalms for words for his own prayers and paradigms for his ways of approaching God in the midst of personal and national crises: he wrote “the Psalter is the greatest school of prayer: We learn from it first and foremost what prayer means: prayer is grounding itself and us in the Word of God … in the divine promises” (46). This book moves chronologically through Bonhoeffer’s career into his days in prison, where he experienced God’s power as the Lord “preserved him from the temptations of the night,” as Luther also prayed in the Small Catechism. The Holy Spirit fights for his people, Bonhoeffer knew, when we are powerless in sleep against the darkness in and through which the devil assaults us (102). This simple but profound study of one man’s thanksgiving to and pleading with God in the midst of the terrors of twentieth-century evil of the most demonic sort inspires and instructs us as we confront the evils of our own time. From Bonhoeffer, and from his mentor for prayer, Martin Luther, we, too, can learn to chat and argue with the God of conversation and community, who has come to teach us to pray and to hear our prayers as a dear Father listens to his dear children. Robert Kolb


FROM ABRAHAM TO PAUL: A Biblical Chronology. By Andrew E. Steinmann. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. 464 pages. Hardcover. $79.99. It is misguided to study theology and biblical narratives, preach and teach from Holy Scripture, expound upon transformational insights and truths, and do it all with little or no awareness of when any of it actually took place. But, sad to say, this is a frequent approach to the Bible. There appears to be apathy, or worse, a dislike, for biblical chronology. Andrew Steinmann, professor of Theology and Hebrew at Concordia University, Chicago addresses this dismal situation and in doing so presents us with a marvelous gift. From Abraham to Paul discusses biblical chronology in terms that are understandable by laypeople and pastor alike. Though accessible, Steinmann does not cut corners, as evidenced by a thirty-page bibliography. He has done his homework and interacts with a host of scholarly writings. This is not a project that dates when biblical books were written nor does Steinmann significantly interface with historical events surrounding the divine narrative. Instead, he provides easy-to-follow discussions that also serve as an apologetic against those who doubt some or much of the Bible’s presentation of history. Steinmann uses the Jubilee Year (Lv 25:8–9) to substantiate several key Old Testament events. For example, after he establishes the benchmark dates of Solomon’s death (931 BC) and Israel’s departure from Egypt (1446 BC), he argues that the Jubilee cycles agree exactly with a 1446 BC dating of the


exodus when calculated from 1 Kings 6:1. Armed with this evidence, Steinmann deftly deflates those who embrace a thirteenth-century dating of the exodus. An extended example will demonstrate the book’s usefulness. David’s reign in 2 Samuel 5 is not arranged in strict chronological order. For instance, 2 Samuel 5:11–12 notes that David’s building activity was aided by Hiram of Tyre, whose reign began in 980 BC, almost twenty years after David conquered Jerusalem, while 2 Samuel 5:9–16 is a summary of his activity in Jerusalem. These notices, plus the list of sons born to David in 2 Samuel 5:13–16, marks most of 2 Samuel 5 as an overview of David’s thirty-three years in Jerusalem. Steinmann goes on to offer an approximate chronology of the events of David’s life: 1039 David is born 1002 David conquers Jerusalem/ defeats the Philistines (2 Sm 5) 998 The Ammonite war begins (2 Sm 10:1–11:1; 12:29–31) 997 Rabbah is captured/David commits adultery (2 Sm 11–12) 994 Solomon is born (2 Sm 12:24–25) 985 Amnon rapes Tamar (2 Sm 13:1–22) 983 Absalom murders Amnon/ Absalom goes into exile (2 Sm 13:23–39) 980 Absalom returns from exile (2 Sm 14:1–27) 979–976 David builds his palace (2 Sm 5:11) 978 Absalom is received again by David (2 Sm 14:28–33) 975 The ark is moved to Jerusalem (2 Sm 6); God’s covenant with David is made (2 Sm 7)

974 Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sm 15:13–19:43) 973 Sheba’s rebellion (2 Sm 20) 972 David orders a census to be taken (2 Sm 24) 969 David dies (1 Kgs 2) Are you preaching on the patriarchs and wondering when they were born and how long they lived? What about the pharaoh of the exodus? Who was he? Then there is the period of the judges which can be a chronological nightmare. Have you ever wondered (I certainly have), when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians? Was it in 587 or 586 BC? And what about the birth of Jesus, as well as his death? When did these world-shaking events happen? Having Steinmann’s book in your library will answer these questions, and so many more. From “in the beginning” (Gn 1:1) to “behold, I am coming quickly” (Rv 22:20), the Bible is resolutely concerned about time. This study helps us keep track of it all. Steinmann puts back together what we so carelessly tear asunder, divine revelation and history. As a bonus, the author includes fifty-nine tables in his book, and those who buy it receive access to a host of chronological electronic charts. Both the church and evangelical academy will profit from this book for years to come. Reed Lessing THE FUTURE OF FAITH. By Harvey Cox. New York: HarperOne, 2009. 256 pages. Hardcover. $24.99. From his office at Harvard University, Harvey Cox has commented on the shifts of faith quite accurately

Concordia Journal/Spring 2013

through the years. He has kept his ear to the ground as the Christian church interacted with culture and society. From his careful analysis of the twentiethcentury moral shift from Christian values in The Secular City, to his recent study of Pentecostalism in the third world, The Rise of Pentecostalism, he has helped us understand the challenge of proclaiming the gospel in a changing world. In previous work Cox predicted that secularism would diminish Christianity. As the century turned he apologized for his mistaken prediction and documented the surprise growth of four hundred million Pentecostals throughout the world, especially in the southern hemisphere, which he never expected. In this 2009 study on the age of faith he defines the rise of spirituality worldwide as a kind of “religionless Christianity” apart from creedal institutions. Written while in his eighties, The Future of Faith is a kind of last will and testament concerning faith and culture. He divides church history into three epochs: the early church of faith; the church of creeds from 300 AD to present; and the emerging church of the Spirit and faith today. His critique of church history posits that creeds were a painful overkill moving the cross from Calvary to the emperor’s shield. He calls creeds “intrafaith dialogues” with anathemas aimed at fellow Christians instead of defining the doctrines for the world to understand. Politicians and clerics moved doctrinal discussions to declare fellow Christians heretics and to fight for the truth in religions wars. He argues that the idea of heresy still has political overtones not helpful in today’s milieu. He notes that church growth in the twenty-first


century has moved from denominational congregations to a hodgepodge (my word) of small gatherings accepting people wherever they are in their faith journey. Freed of organizational demands and doctrinal standards people respond to one another with love in a changing world. This shift is found in Roman Catholic based communities among the poor in South America, and also the emerging church movement in America. From the LCMS perspective, his prediction of the demise of fundamentalists and dispensationalists is welcome news. Still he does not really understand the confessional stance of the LCMS. We are lumped together with other educated conservative denominations that avoid fundamentalism and remain devoted to creedal Christianity. In spite of this criticism of our confessional stance, his study can help us frame our strategies for growth in an increasingly diverse and spiritual society. Cox will help us remove some of the cultural walls that keep LCMS congregations from reaching its youth and the diverse ethnic and religious friends who live next door. He has an insightful summary of the spiritual movements in Islam, Judaism and Eastern faiths that mirror the emerging church movement in Christianity. He finds they reflect a new worldwide Christian movement of God’s reign of shalom which is the new age of the Spirit and that the future of faith will prevail. As we oppose fundamentalist reactions that produce terrorism founded on misguided faith, we can work at speaking the gospel clearly with a winsome invitation to people who have little knowledge of Christianity in a postmodern world. Although Cox helps us understand 182

the postmodern age that considers religious truth relative and catechesis outdated, he gives few suggestions of how to do church in this new cultural revolution. Vintage Church in Santa Cruz, California, provides a helpful model of ministry for teaching the whole counsel of God to a skeptical generation. Feeling frustrated after reading Cox’s critical stance toward creeds, I found Vintage’s commitment to historic Christian teaching outlined in The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball refreshing. It is a study of the new generation of post-seeker-sensitive people not raised in the church and having no clue of Christian doctrines. This church in Santa Cruz, California, does not water down doctrine for the spiritual people who reject Christ as the only way of salvation. Rather it teaches courage to stay true to the Scriptures while radically rethinking how to present the age old truth to a generation that rejects the exclusive claim of truth in Scripture. We will better speak the truth in love having read and understood these two writers. Rodney D. Otto Grand Rapids, Michigan QUITTING CHURCH: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About It. By Julia Duin. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008. 192 pages. Hardcover. $17.99. Julia Duin is the religion editor of The Washington Times. As an observer of the American religious scene, Duin offers an assessment of what is taking place in American churches in terms of the severe “drop-out” of American Christians. In addition to her personal insights, she has collected research from various sources seeking to answer the question, “Why are

people quitting churches?” The book is written from both a journalist’s viewpoint as well as from a personal exploration of modern church life. One of the first points made is that this topic is about faithful people, not non-believers. According to recent studies, churches are reporting that once faithful, active members are simply walking away from the congregations they had participated in. Duin reflects prevailing attitudes both in the research findings of numerous studies as well as from personal interaction with friends and acquaintances. Additionally she relates stories from personal experience as someone who has lived and worked from coast-to-coast. She has experienced a variety of worship settings, interviewed a vast array of noted church leaders, and even “dropped-out” of active church attendance herself. A telling observation from Duin states: “Survey after survey says many Americans continue their private religious practices, such as reading the Bible, praying to God, and even sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. But they have given up on the institution.” The ten chapters of Quitting Church relay research data over a number of issues that Duin maintains have contributed to the exodus of the faithful from the local congregation. While the subtheme is Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It, the book is heavily loaded on discovering the reason for the numbers of people leaving and sheds just a little light on how to stem the tide. She does give some insights from a variety of church leaders and alternative models, but mainly the book serves as a critique of modern American Christianity. Nevertheless the critique Concordia Journal/Spring 2013

itself is worthy of one’s time and effort. Duin maintains that “irrelevancy” is one of the chief problems in the American church. Referencing another religion writer, Bob Lobdell, she shares his insight that “what’s preached and taught is irrelevant to the questions on the ground.” Simply put, the typical sermon may cover a broad range of historical and theoretical topics, but they do not intersect with the real questions of the real people that the sermons are addressing. Part of the problem is that much of today’s preaching refuses to engage the difficult questions. But a greater issue is the matter of Christianity as propositions to believe rather than Christianity as a way of life. Duin quotes the insight of Shane Claiborne of Simple Way: “It’s not so much what Jesus and his disciples said, but how they lived that was so compelling.” Other problems that Duin presents deal with the sense of community within American churches (too many people feel loneliness because of lack of connection within a congregation); a discussion of the “emergence” models of ministry (reinventing church to counter dissatisfaction); lack of meaningful ministry among singles (a fast-growing demographic in many major cities); the lack of solid theology; the pastoral office (both incompetent pastors as well as overwhelmed pastors); the marginalization of women even among churches that accept female clergy; and the drought of spiritual authority (the chapter’s subtheme is “Looking for the Spirit in a Parched Land”). All-in-all, Duin presents the frustrations that have been reflected through research and personal interaction with various people across America. The insights (even when you do not agree


assessment) are thought-provokwith her ing for the modern pastor and worthy of consideration and contemplation. The final chapter is entitled “Bringing Them Back: If They Want to Come.” Duin acknowledges from the outset that thus far the book has been highly critical and seeks to offer some thoughts for consideration. She points to the conclusion of the Willow Creek Church’s 2007 survey that maintained that “The typical church…made a huge difference in people’s lives early in their Christian walk, but the longer they were Christians, the less impact the church had.” She quotes Bill Hybel’s summation of the implications of the study when he said, “We made a mistake…What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and became Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self-feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught them how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” While she brings some support for this Willow Creek conclusion, she suggests that the “house church” model is best. Her concluding paragraph aptly summarizes her thoughts:

Right now, Christians all over the English-speaking world are casting about, looking for a solution to the


present malaise. Like the builders on Nehemiah’s wall, they have often operated too-separately and too far apart. Their best efforts get diminished, then absorbed by the culture. Miracles happened in Acts 2 when Christians decided to share things in common, be willing to suffer together, and be part of a supernatural church. They can happen again if enough believers are willing to pay the price. Then people will begin craving church instead of quitting church and the exodus will be no more. While I would (and do) readily recommend this book, I do so more for the gathered insights and research conclusions that Duin shares. Her personal insights and suggestions are helpful and informative, but too subjective and limited to her background and experiences to be adopted universally. The book gives insight to some subjects and a taste of alternative philosophy of ministry to be considered, but the thrust of her suggestions are too broad-stroked to be effectively applied. The concerned pastor will make use of the insights of this book to supplement his own study of his congregation and demographics to tackle the question, “Why are people leaving the church?” Mike Ramey Bel Air, Maryland

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I’m Nate, and this is my part.

Nate will be one of the emcees at the National LCMS Youth Gathering, July 1-5, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.

“You recognize right away that this is a place that takes faith seriously, that faith is an important part of campus life here.”

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Concordia Journal

Concordia Seminary 801 Seminary Place St. Louis, MO 63105

COncordia Journal

Spring 2013 volume 39 | number 2

Spring 2013 volume 39 | number 2

a partnership issue

The Human Face of Justice Called to Milk Cows and Govern Kingdoms HOLLIS and the Holy Spirit Weaving Reflection into Civic Life

Concordia Journal | Spring 2013  

The Human Face of Justice; Called to Milk Cows and Govern Kingdoms; HOLLIS and the Holy Spirit; Weaving Reflection into Civic Life