Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sermon: Presentation of the Augsburg Confession

25 June 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 1 Tim 6:11b-16

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The devil hates the Church. The devil wants to destroy the Gospel. He always has, and always will as long as he exists. His greatest weapon is the lie, for Satan is the “father of lies.”

Ironically, our congregation bears the name “Lutheran” thanks to one of Satan’s lies. But like the cross, a scandal to the world but the glory of the Church, we keep this name as a testimony of Satan’s sinful attacks upon the Gospel.

For the Church is “Christian.” We are not followers of Paul or Apollos, nor even of Luther – but of Christ. We are Christians. And we are catholic Christians, meaning we are Christians who confess the same faith as Christians in every time and place. The church is catholic, that is, universal, bigger than this little group or that small time period.

In the middle ages, the Church became rich, powerful, and worldly. She lost her innocence, and began to sell what she should have given away for free. Christ took a back seat to political might. The Gospel gave way to worldly wealth. Faithful Catholics around the world were appalled. Many called for reform. A lot of reformers were put to death.

There were two kinds of reformers. Some were faithful Catholic Christians who stood with the historic faith of the Bible. Others pushed for changes that were outside of the Scripture. One of the defenders of the corrupted church, Dr. Eck, lumped all the reformers together. This is known as “tarbrushing.” It’s a dishonest way to discuss any issue.

A reformer named Martin Luther, and others who thought the way he did, were “tarbrushed” by Dr. Eck. They were accused of leaving Christ to follow Luther. They were considered no longer catholic Christians, but Lutheran heretics. And this “tarbrushing” is how a group of German Catholic reformers became known as Lutherans.

And so the “Lutherans” did what all Christians are called to do, in the words of St. Paul in our epistle, they “confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Under pressure from the emperor, a meeting was called on this very date in 1530 in the City of Augsburg. The so-called Lutherans were to write up a paper, a “confession” of their faith. The emperor’s idea was that this confession would prove that these reformers were not Christians, not Catholics, but rather “Lutherans” and heretics.

So here was a chance for the reformers to confess. And what did they say in the face of Dr. Eck’s dishonest accusations?

To the charge that they had left the Catholic faith, they said this: “This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers.”

To the charge that they worshiped a different God, they said: “Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting.”

To the charge that they abolished the ministry, they said: “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.” To the charge that they had abolished priestly ordination, they replied: “no one should publically teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called” (and they used the Latin term “rite vocatus”, a canon law term for ordination of presbyters by the laying on of hands).

To the charge that they had abolished the traditional forms of worship in favor of something more “contemporary,” the Lutherans confessed that they “teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy-days, festivals, and the like.” They also confessed: “Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also reserved…. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.”

And concerning ceremonies, it is a Satanic lie that we Lutherans have gotten rid of the ancient, traditional Catholic rituals and ceremonies, for the Confession retorts: “It is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches.” We Lutherans retained everything from the past, unless those things were sinful. Contrary to the lies of the devil, we have retained things like vestments, traditional hymns, the order of the liturgy, chanting, the lectionary of readings and the historic church calendar, the sign of the cross, bowing, genuflecting, incense, candles, bells, etc. Not every congregation must make use of all these things, but none of these ceremonies were abolished by the Lutherans – no matter what lies the devil has told about us.

The Lutherans also confess closed communion, citing as authority one of the ancient fathers of the Church, St. John Chrysostom: “the priest stands daily at the altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others.”

To the charge that the Lutherans had abolished private confession and absolution, the Good Confession states: “Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved” and “Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches.”

To the charge that the Lutherans did not believe in good works, the Lutherans themselves confessed: “This faith is bound to bring forth good works, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God.”

To the charge that we deny the power of baptism, our confession replies that baptism: “is necessary to salvation” and we further “condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism.”

And yes, it’s true, our priests are permitted to marry, for as the Confession points out, it is a matter of history: “It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men.” We are the ones who appeal to antiquity.

After the Augsburg Confession was presented and read publically, exactly 478 years ago, there was quite a stir. Prince William of Bavaria said: “I’ve been misinformed about what you Lutherans teach.” He then asked Dr. Eck, the one who had been doing the misinforming, if he could discredit the Lutheran position. Eck replied that he could not by using only Scripture. Prince William was stunned: “Do you mean to say,” he asked Dr. Eck, “that the Lutherans are sitting inside the Scriptures and we outside of them?”

The Bishop of Augsburg said of the Good Confession of the so-called Lutherans: “It is the truth, the pure truth, we cannot deny it!”

For Satan’s lie cannot endure. As we confess in the Augsburg Confession: “our churches dissent in no article of faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new.” As St. Paul implores us to confess the faith, our forefathers in Augsburg confessed: “it was necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies, nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic.”

We Lutherans, the name having been put upon us notwithstanding, are Christians, Catholic Christians, members of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” the Church that believes, that teaches, and that confesses, the Church that makes disciples of all nations by water and the Spirit, by the Word of God and the holy sacraments. And that Church’s mission and ministry are to give away what we have been given for free: salvation and eternal life.

This is what it means that we are saved: “by grace.” It’s free. It’s been won for you by Christ alone. It is testified in the Holy Scriptures and confessed by the Church from the time of the apostles. Salvation and eternal life are not for sale. You can’t earn them. You can’t buy them. You can’t store them up and sell them to the highest bidder.

That is the central message of Augsburg, of the “good confession in the presence of many witnesses” that St. Paul implores Timothy, all pastors, and all Christians, to believe and to proclaim, to cling to against every lie of Satan.

We give thanks to God for the brave confessors of Augsburg, who risked life and limb to “make the good confession” even before kings and princes, in the very teeth of the devil who sought to silence the Gospel.

We pray that we, who bear the name “Lutheran”, may continue in their confession, that we may hold the same doctrine, that we may never be ashamed of the Catholic articles of faith confessed by the 16th century confessors of Augsburg, and that this “good confession” is our confession in 21st century Gretna. May we continue “without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing,” when He will “make the good confession” concerning us before His Father. “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords… to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.


Pr. H. R. said...

Spot on.


Augustinian Successor said...

No, not spot on. But speak for yourself. The papacy is the seat of the Antichrist. Justification is the central article of the Gospel message and ministry. This is why the Sacrifice of the Mass is an abomination of the desolation.

Woe unto you wolves in sheep's clothing for you shall reap what you have sown.

And so may it be.

Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto; sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in secula seculorum. Amen.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Augustinian Successor (Jason):

With all due respect, your profile says that you are

"a Prayer-Book Anglican standing in the tradition of classical Protestantism of the 16th century Reformation and belong - as a lay-member and assistant legal advisor -to the Church of England (Continuing): the only true and authentic monochrome claimant and inheritor - to the theological legacy of the Church of England as an Orthodox branch of the Reformed Churches and the wider Protesting Catholic movement as forefronted by the Lutheran and Presbyterian traditions."

So, your little sect is the True Church (only, true, authetic, and monochrone? monochrome?), and it is somehow related to Lutheranism and Presbyterianism (which make opposing confessions about the Mass).

You can't seem to figure out what you believe (but whatever it is, you know it's right), and you are calling me a "wolf in sheep's clothing"?

Maybe as a layman you don't realize how offensive that is. To call a pastor a "wolf in sheep's clothing" is not a casual insult, rather it is to accuse him of being Satanic. You might want to really make sure that's true before you let that slur fly. Why not start small and call me a "jerk" or an "ignoramus" before heading right to the nuclear option? This is the kind of thing that gives traditionalism a bad name.

Jason, you don't even subscribe to the Augsburg Confession, but you seem interested in anything in the blogosphere that has the word "Lutheran" in it. That's kind of creepy. Look, if you want to convert to Lutheranism, just say so. I'm sure we can help.

And exactly what in my sermon is false, makes you think I'm a "wolf in sheep's clothing", is pro-papacy, is anti-Gospel, anti-Justification, or pro-Roman-canon (the latter of which is, in fact retained by many continuing Anglican traditions)? Why would you make such assumptions?

Regarding law preaching, Luther said that when you toss a stick into a pack of dogs, the one that howls is the one that got hit. Did this sermon touch something in your conscience?

Pax autem Domini Jesu Christi tecum, gratias scribere ago tibi, bona fortuna, et cetera...

Pr. H. R. said...

Brother Loh,

I am thoroughly confused.

I agree with all three of your statements on the papacy, justification, and the sacrifice of the Mass - as all are taken directly from the Confessions to which I have pledged myself.

So where in Fr. Beane's sermon were they violated? Or is this another time when I've missed some internet irony?

Confused in cyberspace,

Jeff said...

Great Sermon.