Having celebrated the greatest event in God’s history of salvation, the death and resurrection of the Son of God, we pause a bit at the Feast of the Holy Trinity (June 3 this year) to consider the essence of God. Certainly the essence of God is beyond our weak comprehension but that He has graciously revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we want to summarize all the Holy Scripture says about God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier we call Him the Holy Trinity. Even beyond the glorious summary of the Persons and work of God found in the Creeds, to speak of God as the Holy Trinity says at one time all the many things that the Scriptures say about God. Our worship never ceases confessing our faith in the Triune God and giving “glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”
Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever. (L52; Collect for Holy Trinity, Lutheran Service Book)
Pentecost is celebrated fifty days after Easter (May 27 this year) and celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to the Church. Red, the color of fire and blood, is the color for Pentecost. The Sundays after Pentecost make up the longest portion of the Church Year.
During the season after Pentecost, we focus on growing together in the life God has given us through the Means of Grace. The color for most of the season of Pentecost is green, but other colors are used for some special days. Red is used when celebrating Reformation and special days that commemorate those who died for the faith. White is used when celebrating special feast days that mark celebrations in the life of Christ or His Church.
- From Lutheranism 101, p. 230
O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and every more to rejoice in His holy consolation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (L50; Collect for Pentecost, Lutheran Service Book)
January is over, the groundhog is back in his home, and everyone has finished The Course, right?
Okay, maybe not everyone. But we know a lot of congregations have been making their way through The Course in small groups and Sunday School since the beginning of the year.
While working through The Course, you are directed to several resources that will help you work through the questions: a Bible, the Book of Concord, a hymnal, and Luther’s Small Catechism. Which of these resources have been most helpful to you? Was there one that you opened for the first time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Epiphany is on January 6. Epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” and is often called the Gentile Christmas because this is the celebration of when the Magi, who were Gentiles, came to worship Jesus. The Epiphany season continues until the day before Ash Wednesday. The color for most of the season of Epiphany is green. White is used on the Day of Epiphany, on the first Sunday after January 6 when we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, and on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday when we celebrate the Festival of the Transfiguration.
- From Lutheranism 101, p. 229
For more information, including a list of historic readings, click here.
The time of Christmas begins with Advent, which is Latin for “He’s coming.” These four Sundays before Christmas are dedicated to preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ, teaching us to hope for the right things. At this time of year, the television commercials and newspaper advertisements are trying to convince us to hope for all the wrong things: more toys (for kids and grown-ups alike), more debt, more worry, more stuff, more discontent with what we already have.
But if you wander into a Lutheran church during Advent, you will get a very different feel. Even the colors in the church (blue or violet) say it is just not Christmas yet: we are taking our time and still getting ready. Ready for what? Listen to the readings in Advent—we are waiting in hope for a King who will come and save us from our need to justify our lives with stuff.
While the world is running haphazardly, the Church is at peace, waiting in anticipation for the King of peace.
That is why the Church still has plenty of energy for a celebration of Christmas that keeps going through Epiphany (the coming of the Wise Men) to the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus, His first miracles, and His glorious transfiguration.
On October 31, it will be 494 years since Martin Luther penned his 95 statements and famously attached them to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg in Electoral Saxony.
Luther’s Life Leading Up to the 95 Theses,
from Lutheranism 101
Martin Luther was born into an average middle class German family. His father was a successful and pragmatic businessman who wanted his son to have a good education and career. Luther entered the University of Erfurt law school at the wishes of his father and received his master’s degree in 1505, but he was unhappy with his circumstances. Then, unexpectedly, when returning to the university after a trip home, Luther encountered a severe thunderstorm and a lightning bolt struck near him. In terror of death and divine judgment, Luther cried out, “St. Anne, help me! I will become a monk!” (Okay, so maybe this story can’t be completely substantiated, but it has been included in most major Luther biographies.)
After this turn of events, Luther entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt in 1505. Although Luther dedicated his life to the disciplines of the monastery, he still felt uncertainty and doubt about his salvation. He regularly engaged in fasting, flagellation, and confession, but still he experienced continual deep spiritual despair. To distract him from his depression, Luther’s supervisor, Johann von Staupitz, ordered that Luther pursue a degree in theology. So, after being ordained as a priest, he started theological studies at the University of Erfurt in 1507.
At the University of Erfurt, Luther was exposed to the current humanist ideology. His studies were influenced by the dominant philosophy of returning “Back to the source!” that is, the original texts in each area of study. For theologians like Luther, that meant the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible. After receiving his doctorate in theology in 1512, he became professor at Wittenberg University. For Luther, this became a period of intense study. He prepared and gave lectures on Psalms (1514–15), Romans (1515–16), Galatians (1516–17), and Hebrews (1517–18). It was in his study that Luther encountered the words of Romans 1:17: “The righteous shall live by faith.” According to Luther himself, “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” This marked the turning point for Luther.
Dr. Martin Luther
While professor at the University of Erfurt, Luther also was priest at Wittenberg’s City Church. During this time, the popes were often more concerned with political questions than with the duties of their office as supreme governors of the Roman Catholic Church. They led wars and were more interested in their position as princes of the territory of the church state and the enlargement of their political powers. Wars and huge building projects like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome were costly, and so the raising of money became an issue. It was a common practice in the Roman Catholic Church to raise money by selling indulgences, a piece of paper stating their sins were forgiven. Unfortunately, there were some in the church who took advantage of the poor in the selling of these indulgences. John Tetzel, a Dominican monk, was notorious for this practice. On October 31, 1517, when Tetzel came to a town near Wittenberg to peddle these indulgences, Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses, or propositions, condemning this practice and other abuses within the Roman Catholic Church. (This event might be familiar to you if you have seen images of Luther nailing a piece of paper to a wooden door.)
Luther’s intent by posting his theses was not to break away from the Roman Church, but to stimulate academic debate and draw attention to the practices of the Church. For Martin Luther, the problem was deeper. It was not primarily the morality of the clergy, nor even its ineptitude, but rather how the Church thought and taught about salvation that got him interested in the reform of the Church. He ultimately wanted to convince the Church of its errors, thus reforming its doctrine. The Ninety-five Theses were quickly printed through the availability of the printing press (see p. 174) and spread all over Germany.
Want more information about Luther? Check out the selection of resources here.
If you like your history set to music, may I introduce you to the historyteachers. Here is their lesson on Luther and the Reformation, using outtakes from the movie Luther,
Celebrating the Reformation at Home or Among Friends
Reformation is a great time to explore the heritage of Luther and the Lutheran reformers. It’s also a great time to get together with friends and family and celebrate the lighter side of being a Lutheran. Here are just a few ideas:
We received a great question from Richard Kauzlarich in VA, who is wondering where to go after his class finishes Lutheranism 101. His question and our reply is below. How would you respond to Mr. Kauzlarich? What resources would you suggest? Leave a comment with your suggestions to help our list of resources grow!
Our Savior Lutheran Church in Arlington VA has been working through Lutheranism 101 since May as one of our adult bible class offerings. We are now up to Chapter 13.
As the moderator of the course I have recognized that not everyone will read the chapters before class or can make each class. I’ve prepared a detailed PowerPoint summary for each chapter and posted it on MobileMe: http://public.me.com/rdkauzlarich (password is bibleclass) so those who can’t make every class can know what we have covered. I’ve ordered The Course (and appreciate the leader’s manual) because one of the criticisms (and I have very few criticisms) of Lutheranism 101 is the lack of questions to help generate discussion. The Course from what I have seen fills that void. Given where we are as a group I will probably continue my PowerPoint summary — with full credit to CPH! Thanks for the PowerPoint templates too. You have completed a great package with The Course.
Time to think ahead however. I’ve noted on other blogs that I would find a Confessions 101 or Book of Concord 101 a great next step. Personally, I can’t figure out how to approach the Book of Concord — its size scares me. I’ve moderated a class on the Augsburg Confession using the excellent CPH course. That worked. But we need a less scary but systematic and orthodox way of looking at the Lutheran Confessions that would appeal to today’s audience. Lutheranism 101 is a good model.
Dear Mr. Kauzlarich,
Thank you for your kind words about Lutheranism 101. It sounds like you are a wonderful and organized leader for your class. The Course will definitely help you take the discussion further.
Your question about where to go after Lutheranism 101 is a great one. How do you take the next step and dig into the Lutheran Confessions? We’ve pulled some resources together for you below. Click the links to go directly to the product page for excerpts and detailed information.
Why I am a Lutheran is a great little book that might be a perfect transition for your class. There is a free downloadable study guide available under the “downloads” tab.
Many people are intimidated by the size of the Book of Concord, but my suggestion is simply to open it up and start reading! Most will be surprised to find just how easy it is to follow. And if you use the Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, it’s even easier. The Reader’s Edition doesn’t just include the Confessions, it actually gives you a user’s guide on how to read them (see p. xxvii)!
–If it’s hard to get past the essays in the front of the book, my next suggestion is to open the Reader’s Edition to p. 31. This is the beginning of the Augsburg Confession – you’ll get right into the meat of the text and see how short and simple the articles are.
–Another tip: Under “downloads” on the product page are PDFs that could be helpful to anyone leading a class.
Have you looked at our Lutheran Spirituality series? This eight-part study explores the Bible, Luther’s Small Catechism, and the Lutheran hymnal. There are many different formats (each link will take you to the product page with detailed information):
We’ve gotten so many wonderful comments from people excited about The Course. (See our Facebook page for more.) We’re excited as well and can’t wait to hear how you guys will be using the book. Let us know what your plan is – are you using it in a class at church? on your own? with friends?
Yes, it’s still only $5.00 for a single copy! Click here and make sure to use promo code YTH at checkout.
Need the book as well? Click here to get Lutheranism 101 and The Course for $19.99.