Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Word of God in Song

Educators have known for a long time that music can be a valuable learning resource especially when one needs to memorize something. Furthermore, singing songs adds elements of participatory involvement. Luther encouraged the involvement and participation of the congregation in worship by having the congregation participate through the singing of the liturgy and hymns. It was also his conviction that the hymns sung should teach and proclaim the faith.

As noted the importance of music to Martin Luther can not be underestimated. Luther taught that through Christ we have been given direct access to God, just like a priest; thus the doctrine is called the priesthood of all believers. Because of this understanding of the priesthood of all believers, he prepared and preached a series of catechism sermons.

To insure that the theology of the hymns reflected the faith of the church and that the word and music properly proclaimed the gospel, Luther composed several catechism hymns to be sung during the service. For Luther, the Catechism has a liturgical function because it provides focus to Christian doctrine in prayer and praise. Luther also encouraged his musically talented friends to compose appropriate hymns.

Luther began to compose hymns in 1523. His first hymn was Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice. His first congregational hymnbook was published in 1524. In the preface, Luther indicated that hymns and psalms should be sung “so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.” Luther composed six catechism hymns, one for each of the six parts of the Small Catechism. Four of these were actually composed before he wrote the Small Catechism and two appeared after the publication of the Small Catechism. Some of his hymns were composed specifically for liturgical use. In place of the recital of the creed, one could sing We All Believe in One True God.

Luther strongly believed that the catechism has a liturgical function because it provides focus to Christian doctrine in prayer and praise. “For Luther worship was a corporate activity, an expression of the unity of the community of faith, a reality that was uniquely demonstrated in the song of the whole congregation.”[i]

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

[i] Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music, Principles and Implications (2007), 199.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The leper as a model

“Once again the example of love is prefigured in Christ with the leper. For here, you see how love makes him a servant, so that he helps the poor man freely and for nothing, seeks neither pleasure, favor nor honor thereby, but only the good of the poor man and the honor of God the father. For which reason he also forbids him to tell anyone, so that it be absolutely pure work of free kindly love.” Martin Luther

In the news, some one contributed 70 million dollars to a small group of colleges and universities. As a condition of the gift, the donor required the recipient to agree in writing not to attempt to ascertain the identity of the donor.

I am shocked. The donor wanted nothing in return. The donor should have also required that each of the recipients agree not to publicize the gift so that no one else, such a journalist, would attempt to ascertain the identity of the mysterious donor.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice

1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,

With exultation springing,

And, with united heart and voice,

And holy rapture singing,

Proclaim the wonders God hath done,

How His right arm the victory won;

Right dearly it hath cost him.

2. Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay.

Death brooded darkly o'er me.

Sin was my torment night and day.

In sin my mother bore me.

Yea, deep and deeper still I fell.

Life had become a living hell,

So firmly sin possessed me.

3. My own good works availed me naught,

No merit they attaining.

Free will against God's judgment fought,

Dead to all good remaining.

My fears increased till sheer despair

Left naught but death to be my share.

The pains of hell I suffered.

4. But God beheld my wretched state

Before the world's foundation.

And, mindful of His mercies great,

He planned my soul's salvation.

A father's heart He turned to me,

Sought my redemption fervently.

He gave His dearest Treasure.

5. He spoke to His beloved Son:

'Tis time to have compassion.

Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,

And bring to man salvation;

From sin and sorrow set him free.

Slay bitter death for him that he

May live with Thee forever.

6. This Son obeyed His Father's will,

Was born of virgin mother.

And God's good pleasure to fulfil,

He came to be my Brother.

No garb of pomp or power He wore,

A servant's form, like mine, He bore,

To lead the devil captive.

7. To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,

I am thy Rock and Castle;

Thy ransom I Myself will be,

For thee I strive and wrestle;

For I am with thess, I am thine,

And evermore thou shalt be mine.

The foe shall not divide us.

8. The foe shall shed my precious blood,

Me of My life bereaving.

All this I suffer for thy good

Be steadfast and believing.

Life shall from death the victory win.

My innocence shall bear thy sin;

So art thou blest forever.

9. Now to My Father I depart,

The Holy Spirit sending

And heavenly wisdom to impart

My help to thee extending.

He shall in trouble comfort thee,

Teach thee to know and follow Me,

And in all truth shall guide thee.

10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,

My ways forsake thou never.

So shall My kingdom flourish now

And God be praised forever.

Take heed lest men with base alloy

The heavenly treasure should destroy.

This counsel I bequeath thee.

Written in 1523, this was Martin Luther's First Hymn, Richard Massie, translator.
Text transcribed From The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, 277-8.

A work in progress.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Music drives away the Devil

Martin Luther had intended to prepare a treatise on music but the only evidence discovered of his intentions was an outline he prepared setting forth five points. The title of this piece was point 3 on the outline. About the same time that he prepared this outline, he wrote the following to a composer friend:

“For we know that music, too, is odious and unbearable to the demons. Indeed I plainly judge, and do not hesitate to affirm, that except for theology there is no art that could be put to the same level with music, since except for theology [music] alone produces what otherwise only theology can do, namely a calm and joyful disposition. Manifest proof [of this is the fact] that the devil, the creator of saddening cares and disquieting worries, take flight at the sound of music almost as he takes flight at the word of theology.”

The importance of music to Martin Luther can not be underestimated. It permeates his thinking and influences his theology. Therefore it is necessary to consider the implications of “the sound of music” in analyzing whether or not Luther has adopted the victory motif as asserted by Gustaf Aulen.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What I am reading

I have decided to go off the reservation and actually read a few books about Martin Luther. I am very interested in ascertaining whether or not Gustaf Aulen is correct in his assertions about Martin Luther’s use of the victory theme.

What is so unusual about my selections is that I am reading about the devil, drama, dualism, music, symbols and the suffering of God. I decided with so many new books published on Martin Luther every year, I need to “take the road less traveled” and approach the subject from a different angle.

Copyrighted 2009. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Victory of Christ

When we properly understand the victory of Christ over Satan, death, sin and all evil powers, we recognize that the criticism of Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor (1931) is unfounded. Aulén is criticized for not fully explaining the victory and for not providing an explanation of the benefits that the victory provided the average twentieth century man on the street.

Albert Schweitzer, with his detailed discussion of the belief of Judaism in a period of tribulation before the final age, explained the victory as eliminating the need for believers to experience the tribulation prior to entering the kingdom of God. In Aulén’s words, “The work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.” Thus for Aulén, victory over all powers includes, inter alia, the victory described by Schweitzer and Luther over the tribulation.

The second criticism ignores these words written by Aulén in his discussion of Athanasius: “The work of Christ is the overcoming of death and sin; strictly, it is a victory over death because it is a victory over sin. And, further, the note of triumph which rings through this Greek theology depends not only on the victory of Christ over death accomplished once for all, but also on the fact that His victory is the starting-point for His present work in the world of men, where He, through His Spirit, ever triumphantly continues to break down sin’s power and ‘deifies’ men.”

Schweitzer recognized that the need for repentance and its related requirements are very important to Jesus. In fact, the Lord’s Prayer in the Petition that says “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” seems to place emphasis on this so much that Schweitzer said “Even if the Servant passages suggest it, Jesus cannot regard his death as a sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of sins. His view of the unconditional forgiveness that comes from God’s compassion precludes it.”

This petition of the Lord's Prayer is a demanding one. Not only do we ask God's forgiveness for our daily offenses, but we link God's forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. Forgiving others is not always easy to do. We need God's help to do it. But it must be done or we ourselves cannot receive God's mercy. There is no indication according to Schweitzer that Jesus changed this.

Thus it is clear that Aulén, as does Schweitzer, recognizes “that His victory is the starting point for His present work” which is on-going. The victory for Aulén is only a motif; it is not a theory or doctrine of atonement. It is the arrival of the ministry of Jesus, which is continued by the apostles, which brings salvation. Neglecting the continuing need “to break down sin’s power” trivializes the significance of the victory, the on-going ministry and the contribution of Gustaf Aulén.

The existence of evil spiritual beings and the defeat of Satan are presented to all people with blemishes as integral parts of the gospel message of the victory of Christ in death and resurrection over all enemies.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2009