Three Things…

There are two things I wanted to write about, three things that this column is for.  If you were in our Wednesday morning bible study, you might get the joke about that opening.  The two things….three things is the start of a Hebrew wisdom poetry form.  You can see examples in Proverbs 6:16-19 and 30:15-16, 18-19.  So that would be the first thing.  That bible study meets at 10 AM weekly and you are invited.  I’ve called it “Necessary Stories”, but what it has been to date is a tour of the Old Testament. The goal was to provide a foundation for personal reading. Both in terms of the stories that always hover in the background and some methods for understanding the variety of genres and books that are in the bible.  Don’t worry about “being behind” because each session is meant to be a stand alone.  But also, if you are worried, there will be a couple of good jumping in points.  The last section of the OT tour which will start Nov 8th will be on the Prophets.  Then sometime after the New Year we will be starting the New Testament tour.

The second thing.  If you are a visitor this Sunday, I’d like to welcome you.  Mt. Zion is a Lutheran church.  What is the Lutheran church?  There are different answers, but I’m picking a historical one today. Historically there is a period of time called The Reformation.  Roughly 1517 – when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany – to roughly 1563 – the end of the Council of Trent, is the time span called The Reformation.  You can back it up before then and it unwinds all the way out until today, but 1517-1563 is the basic time. Coming into that time span you had The Old Western Church roughly defined by the Scriptures, the Apostles Creed and the Bishops. (There had already been a schism with the Eastern Church in 1054 simplistically over which Bishop was more important.)  Over those years of the Reformation the various churches that we know today defined their particular doctrines.  The Lutheran church in 1530 with the Augsburg Confession.  The Anglican Church published their 39 Articles in 1563. The Reformed published the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563 summarizing various prior agreements. And the Roman Catholic in 1563 at the close of the Council of Trent.  Alongside those Magisterial Reformation bodies – meaning that monarchs and rulers signed onto those documents – you had the Radical Reformation which is represented today by Amish, Mennonites and Pentecostal groupings. So, what is a Lutheran church? It is a church that kept the Scripture and Creeds as the appropriate norms of our life together, it also kept as much of church life as was in accord with those, while holding that Bishops are a valid man made way to govern ourselves but not the final authority.  So how do we argue?  Which we are human and sinful, so we argue. We argue over Scripture.  The Reformation started with a phrase “Ad Fontes” – to the sources – and as a church body we are concerned with constantly renewing ourselves in those streams of living water.

Third thing. That historical answer and the doctrinal formulations often seem dry.  Why should we care about something so far away?  Surely there is nothing meaningful for us today?  But in an age of chaos and confusion, those simple doctrinal formulations contain a lot of wisdom.  What is the foundation? Augsburg Confession 1 (AC1): God. Proverbs would say “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom (9:10).” Without God we are just lost in foolishness. What is the problem with the world?  AC2, we are sinful beings. Which makes us deny God.  What is the solution? AC3, we can’t get to God, so God sent His son Jesus to us.  How does that help us? AC4, by faith Christ justifies us. You have been forgiven by the work of Christ.  How do we know this? AC5, to obtain this faith the ministry of the Gospel was instituted. That Gospel is proclaimed every Sunday and whenever 2 or 3 are gathered in Jesus’ name.  The map continues.  But if you are lost, and much of our world today is lost, here is a map, and food and drink for the journey. You are invited to journey with us.

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