Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spiritual Renewal Retreat/St. James Conference

Spiritual Renewal Retreat/St. James Conference
October 25, 2008
Text: Psalm 133

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1; ESV). Beloved, one mark of our unity as members of the Holy Christian Church, the one body of Jesus Christ, is our life of worship together. That is why historically the Lutheran Church has always been a liturgical church. In other words, we use the historic liturgies of the Church in the Divine Service and in our prayer offices because these unite us with our fathers in the faith who used them before us, and with Christians throughout the world even now, as well as with those who will come after us and continue to use the historic liturgies of the Church.

The liturgy also unites us doctrinally. Prosper of Aquitaine, a fifth century Church father, wrote: “lex orandi, lex credendi,” “The rule of praying is the rule of believing.” In other words, our worship reflects and shapes our doctrine, and our doctrine shapes and reflects our worship. How true this maxim is! If the liturgy of the Church faithfully expresses and teaches right doctrine, Law and Gospel, justification and sanctification, as the liturgical forms we Lutherans have inherited do; if the liturgy gives us Christ Crucified and His Holy Word, unencumbered by any human invention that detracts from the Gospel; if the liturgy serves as the setting for the precious jewels of Word and Sacrament, then Christians are fed by God Himself. The liturgy guards the doctrine of the Church from false teaching. When a pastor teaches false doctrine, or perhaps doesn’t preach the full counsel of God, the liturgy faithfully presents what is missing. What is deficient in the preacher is made up in the liturgy. Many Christians have been preserved in the one true faith of Jesus Christ in spite of the false teaching of their pastor because the liturgy has been a constant, feeding them and nourishing them with the wholesome food of the Word of God.

When we gather as Christians to sing and pray the liturgy, we are singing and praying the very Word of God. In the liturgy, God speaks, and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Then we say back to God what He has first said to us.[1] We also confess the faith to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). In other words, in the liturgy, in many cases directly quoted from the Scriptures, God bestows Christ and the Holy Spirit on His people. He forgives your sins. He washes you clean. He pronounces you righteous. He names you with His Name. He speaks His very Word into your ear and heart. He feeds you with the body and blood of Christ, the very same body and blood given and shed for you on Calvary for the forgiveness of your sins. He strengthens you for your baptismal life. He blesses you. And He brings forth in you sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, which begin here in the Church, but continue throughout the week in your daily vocation. In short, the liturgy provides the context in which you encounter the living God, and find Him to be gracious. And so you are empowered by that same God to be gracious to others, to dwell with your brothers and sisters in Christ in unity, which is good and pleasant. As the Psalm points out, such unity is always based in the gracious activity of God: “For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore” (Ps. 133:3).

At this conference, you will hear us make a number of suggestions for your personal prayer life and our corporate prayer life together. Many of them you may take or leave. Please understand that there is great freedom here. There is not necessarily one right way to do it. One person may make the sign of the cross, another may not, but we all remember our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. One person may use icons in their devotional life, another may not, but we all recognize that whatever visually aids our devotional life is permissible and good, as long as it does not detract from the Gospel. One person may use the rites in the hymnal for individual and family devotions, and another may not, but we all recognize that these are fantastic resources passed down through the generations for our spiritual edification. And corporately, one may prefer Divine Service Three, and another Divine Service Two from Lutheran Service Book, but we all recognize that Christ gives His gifts equally in each of these services, and out of love for our brothers and sisters, we die to our own selfish preferences and unite ourselves to the Body of Christ in her worship. We dwell together in unity, a unity given by Christ Himself. And whatever we do for our personal devotions, whatever Divine Service we use in corporate worship, we gather before the throne of God as one Body, the Body of Christ, forgiven and redeemed, to receive His gifts, and join in His unending worship “with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven.” This is good and pleasant, a unity that is unshaken and unshakeable. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] See the marvelous Introduction to Lutheran Worship (St. Louis: Cocnordia, 1982) pp. 6-7.


Blogger Rev. Jim Roemke said...

Thanks so much for inviting me to participate. It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to hosting something next year. I already have some ideas floating around. What do you think of Sacramental Living and Theology??

10:11 PM  

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