Pastor David Nehrenz
Dear Saints in Christ
With his October 31st, 1517 posting of the 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther directed the Church back to the written Scripture in the Old and New Testament as the inspired Word of God. Here alone can Christians know for certain what God’s truth is. Here alone can we say, “Thus saith the Lord!”
We will celebrate this event here with the Reformation Festival on Sunday Oct. 28. Our motto is “Sola Scriptura -Sola Gratia -Sola Fides” (Scripture Alone-Grace Alone-Faith Alone) as professed in our confessional writings- “The Book of Concord.”
Our Lutheran forefathers in the faith wrote in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord in 1580:
“We believe, teach, and confess that the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments are the only rule and norm according to which all doctrines and teachers alike must be appraised and judged, as it is written in Ps. 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” And St. Paul says in Gal. 1:8, “Even if an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Other writings of ancient and modern teachers, whatever their names, should not be put on a par with Holy Scripture. Every single one of them should be subordinated to the Scriptures and should be received in no other way and no further than as witnesses to the fashion in which the doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved in post-apostolic times.”
What a joy to proclaim these timeless truths in the midst of a world surrounded by lies and falsehood. We can boldly announce that God has redeemed us through His Son Jesus Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life!
Everything we do in our Church, School and Campus ministry revolves around these essential truths: We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture alone. This is as important now as it was 501 years ago. With all the sects, cults and false religions surrounding us, it is essential to be faithful to the Word of God in our generation
We can never turn away from our responsibilities to be true to Scripture, the Book of Concord, the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments. The world does not realize it, but it needs what we have to offer. The divine service, liturgy, creeds, psalms, hymns and the proclaiming of the law and the gospel can truly meet peoples’ need for forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We are not here to merely meet people’s “felt needs.” We are here to meet their “real needs” which are repentance, faith and a new life in Christ!
May we boldly dedicate ourselves to this work. We will only get grief and even persecution from our increasingly pagan and debauched world. But we will not be dissuaded from this God-given task. Until our Lord Jesus Christ returns, be faithful in attending the divine service, studying God’s Word and serving him within your own vocation and calling. After all, it is God’s work we are doing!
Pastor David Nehrenz
Vicar David Keating
The past few weeks, my Sunday morning Bible study has been diving into the Epistle of James. This may, at first, seem like an odd choice. After all, Luther, somewhat famously, had some issues with James’ letter. Luther did not tear it from the canon of Holy Scripture, as some claim, but instead, he placed it toward the back of the room, so to speak. Luther’s issues with James were theological, and he much preferred the grace drenched letters of Paul to the Romans and Corinthians. My argument has been that this apparent clash between James and Paul need not be.
Part of what I have been trying to do is to reframe our understanding of blessed St. James. A professor of mine once called James “the apostle of faith,” and I think this an apt title for our brother in the faith. Rather than pit Paul against James and have them duke it out for the heart of the Reformation, I would instead encourage seeing James’ teaching as the culmination and the natural conclusion of the Christian life.
Think about it like this: God, who takes on flesh in order to atone for our sin, stoops down to our level and gets right into the muck and the mire with us. It is the Word Himself who suffers alongside us by enduring the agony of the cross. His glorious resurrection gives us the assurance of life eternal. At the core of this is free, unmerited grace.
Would it not make sense for our response to this kind of gift to be an outpouring of love and thanksgiving? Wouldn’t this outpouring of love and thanksgiving manifest itself in acts of mercy towards our neighbors?
Instead of viewing James as “all Law,” I would encourage you to look at James as an instruction on what the Christian life looks like as those who are freed by grace. James’ wisdom comes from the fact that he points us to the Church, which, in turn, points us directly to Christ.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” – James 5:13-16
Vicar David Keating