#8-The Preachers Are God’s Messengers; The Shepherds the Learners

Here then we have these two, the faith and the Gospel, that these and nothing else are to be preached throughout Christendom. Let us now see who are to be the preachers and who the learners. The preachers are to be angels, that is, God’s messengers, who are to lead a heavenly life, are to be constantly engaged with God’s Word that they under no circumstances preach the doctrine of men. It is a most incongruous thing to be God’s messenger and not to further God’s message. Angelus means a messenger, and Luke calls him God’s messenger (Angelus Domini)….
55. There is no more terrible plague, misfortune or cause for distress upon earth than a preacher who does not preach God’s Word; of whom, alas, the world today is full; and yet they think they are pious and do good when indeed their whole work is nothing but murdering souls, blaspheming God and setting up idolatry, so that it would be much better for them if they were robbers, murderers, and the worst scoundrels, for then they would know that they are doing wickedly. But now they go along under spiritual names and show, as priest, bishop, pope, and are at the same time ravening wolves in sheeps’ clothing, and it would be well if no one ever heard their preaching. 56. The learners are shepherds, poor people out in the fields. (Luther’s Church Postil, V. 1.1, #54-56, p. 153-154).

#7-Not All Mangers Have Christ

He lies in the manger. Notice here that nothing but Christ is to be preached throughout the whole world. What is the manger but the congregations of Christians in the churches to hear the preaching? We are the beasts before this manger; and Christ is laid before us upon whom we are to feed our souls. Whosoever goes to hear the preaching, goes to this manger; but it must be the preaching of Christ. Not all mangers have Christ neither do all sermons teach the true faith. There was but one manger in Bethlehem in which this treasure lay, and besides it was an empty and despised manger in which there was no fodder. Therefore the preaching of the Gospel is divorced from all other things, it has and teaches nothing besides Christ; should anything else be taught, then it is no more the manger of Christ, but the manger of war horses full of temporal things and of fodder for the body. , 51. But in order to show that Christ in swaddling clothes represents the faith in the Old Testaments, we will here give several examples…” (Luther’s Church Postil, V. 1.1, #50-51, p. 151-152).

Picture:  The hand-carved wooden altar of Historic Trinity Evangelical Lutheran dates from 1896.

#6-Christ Was Born at Midnight-Into a Dark World

In the second place it is pointed out by the fact that Christ was born at midnight, by which he indicates that all the world is in darkness as to its future and that Christ cannot be known by mere reason, but that knowledge concerning him must be revealed from heaven.
38. In the third place, it is shown by the light that shined around the shepherds, which teaches that here there must be an entirely different light than that of human reason. Moreover, when St. Luke says, Gloria Dei, the glory of God, shone around them, he calls that light a brightness, or the glory of God, Why does he say that? In order to call attention to the mystery and reveal the character of the Gospel. For while the Gospel is a heavenly light that teaches nothing more than Christ, in whom God’s grace is given to us and all human merit is entirely cast aside, it exalts only the glory of God, so that henceforth no one may be able to boast of his own power; but must give God the glory, that it is of his love and goodness alone that we are saved through Christ. (Luther’s Church Postil, V. 1.1, #36-38, p. 147-148).

Picture:  Noah’s Ark resting on a hill as the waters of the deep break forth.

#5-The Supernatural Sermon and Light

Now it is clear that nature could not have discovered such a doctrine, nor could all the ingenuity, reason and wisdom of the world have thought it out. Who would be able to discover by means of his own efforts, that faith in Christ makes us one with Christ and gives us for our own all that is Christ’s? Who would be able to discover that no works are of any value except those intended to benefit our neighbor?  Nature teaches no more than that which is wrought by the law. Therefore it falls back upon its own work, so that this one thinks he fulfills the commandment by founding some institution or order, that one by fasting, this one by the kind of clothes he wears, that one by going on pilgrimages; this one in this manner, that one in that manner; and yet all their works are worthless, for no one is helped by them. Such is the case at the present time in which the whole world is blinded and is going astray through the doctrines and works of men, so that faith and love along with the Gospel have perished.
36. Therefore the Gospel properly apprehended, is a supernatural sermon and light which makes known Christ only. This is pointed out first of all by the fact that it was not a man that made it known to others, but that an angel came down from heaven and made known to the shepherds the birth of Jesus, while no human being knew anything about it. (Luther’s Church Postil, V. 1.1, #35-36, p. 147)

Picture:  This side of the baptismal font depicts Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”  We are satisfied with our Lord’s baptismal provisions.  When downcast, we hope in God!

#4 Christian Holiness by Faith also Gives A New Life to the Body(Sanctification)

In accordance with the second table, He also sanctifies the Christians in the body and induces them willingly to obey parents and rulers, to conduct themselves peacefully and humbly, to be not wrathful, vindictive, or malicious, but patient, friendly, obliging, brotherly, and loving, not unchaste, not adulterous or lewd, but chaste and pure with wife, child, and servants, or without wife and child. And on and on: they do not steal, are not usurious, avaricious, do not defraud, etc., but work honorably, support themselves honestly, lend willingly, and give and help wherever they can. Thus they do not lie, deceive, and backbite, but are kind, truthful, faithful, and trustworthy, and do whatever else the commandments of God prescribe. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and also awakens the body to such a new life until it is perfected in the life beyond. That is what is called “Christian holiness.” And there must always be such people on earth, even though it may be but two or three, or only children. Unfortunately, only a few of them are old folks. And those who are not, should not count themselves as Christians; nor should they be comforted with much babbling about the forgiveness of sins and the grace of Christ, as though they were Christians—like the Antinomians do. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.146-147)

Picture:  This side of the baptismal font includes Jesus and the little children from Mt 19:13-15, “Let the little children come to me….”

#3 Christian Holiness Consists of Faith in Christ (Justification)

For Christian holiness, or the holiness common to Christendom, is found where the Holy Spirit gives people faith in Christ and thus sanctifies them, Acts 15 [:9], that is, he renews heart, soul, body, work, and conduct, inscribing the commandments of God not on tables of stone, but in hearts of flesh, II Corinthians 3 [:3]. Or, if I may speak plainly, he imparts true knowledge of God, according to the first table, so that those whom he enlightens with true faith can resist all heresies, overcome all false ideas and errors, and thus remain pure in faith in opposition to the devil. He also bestows strength, and comforts timid, despondent, weak consciences against the accusation and turmoil of sin, so that the souls do not succumb or despair, and also do not become terrified of torment, pain, death, and the wrath and judgment of God, but rather, comforted and strengthened in hope, they cheerfully, boldly, and joyfully overcome the devil. He also imparts true fear and love of God, so that we do not despise God and become irritated and angry with his wondrous judgments, but love, praise, thank, and honor him for all that occurs, good or evil. That is called new holy life in the soul, in accordance with the first table of Moses. It is also called tres virtutes theologicas, “the three principal virtues of Christians,” namely, faith, hope, and love; and the Holy Spirit, who imparts, does, and effects this (gained for us by Christ) is therefore called “sanctifier” or “life-giver.” For the old Adam is dead and cannot do it, and in addition has to learn from the law that he is unable to do it and that he is dead; he would not know this of himself. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.145-146)

Picture:  John the Baptist brings a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

#2 The Church is a Holy Christian People

But since we use this meaningless word “church” {ecclesia}  in the Children’s Creed, the common man thinks of the stone house called a church, as painted by the artists; or, at best, they paint the apostles, disciples, and the mother of God, as on Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit hovering over them. This is still bearable; but they are the holy Christian people of a specific time, in this case, the beginning. Ecclesia, however, should mean the holy Christian people, not only of the days of the apostles, who are long since dead, but to the end of the world, so that there is always a holy Christian people on earth, in whom Christ lives, works, and rules, per redemptionem, “through grace and the remission of sin,” and the Holy Spirit, per vivificationem et sanctificationem, “through daily purging of sin and renewal of life,” so that we do not remain in sin but are enabled and obliged to lead a new life, abounding in all kinds of good works, as the Ten Commandments or the two tables of Moses’ law command, and not in old, evil works. That is St. Paul’s teaching. But the pope, with his followers, has applied both the name and the image of the church to himself and to his vile, accursed mob, under the meaningless word ecclesia, “church,” etc. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.144-145)

Picture:  The baptismal font was made of wood in 1864.  It stands in the middle of the narthex, so that all who enter the church pass by it..

#1 A Communion of Saints

Well then, setting aside various writings and analyses of the word “church,” we shall this time confine ourselves simply to the Children’s Creed, which says, “I believe in one holy Christian church, the communion of saints.” Here the creed clearly indicates what the church is, namely, a communion of saints, that is, a crowd assembly of people who are Christians and holy, which is called a Christian holy assembly, or church….  . Now there are many peoples in the world; the Christians, however, are a people with a special call and are therefore called not just ecclesia, “church,” or “people,” but sancta catholica Christiana, that is, “a Christian holy people” who believe in Christ. That is why they are called a Christian people and have the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies them daily, not only through the forgiveness of sin acquired for them by Christ (as the Antinomians foolishly believe), but also through the abolition, the purging, and the mortification of sins, on the basis of which they are called a holy people. Thus the “holy Christian church” is synonymous with a Christian and holy people or, as one is also wont to express it, with “holy Christendom,” or “whole Christendom.” The Old Testament uses the term “God’s people. (Luther’s Works, v.41, p.143-144)

Picture:  In June of 2019, our congregation took a road trip to St. Louis.  This year’s pictures are from a tour of Historic Trinity Evangelical Lutheran in the Soulard Market area.  The first records of this congregation date to 1839 establishing it as the oldest Lutheran congregation west of the Mississippi.  O.H. Walther was installed as her first pastor on June 9, 1839.  The present structure is third church building and dates to 1864.  There was a building restoration in 1980, but the pulpit, baptismal font, etc. still date from 1842.  C.F.W. Walther was the congregation’s second pastor.