Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

30 November 2008
  + Andrew, Apostle +
30 November, New Testament

Saint AndrewToday we celebrate the Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. Most New Testament references include him on a list of the Twelve Apostles or group him with his brother, Simon Peter. But we see him acting as an individual three times. When a number of Greeks (or Greek-speaking Jews) wished to speak with Jesus, they approached Philip, who told Andrew, and the two of them told Jesus (John 12:20-22). Since "Philip" and "Andrew" are Greek names, these petitioners may have sought them out. Before Jesus fed the Five Thousand, Andrew said, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? (John 6:9)"

The first two disciples whom John reports as attaching themselves to Jesus (John 1:35-42) are Andrew and another disciple (unnamed, but commonly supposed to be John himself — John never mentioned himself by name, a widespread literary convention). After meeting Jesus, Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. Thus, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, we see him bringing others to meet the Savior.

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so the Western Church uses his feast to mark the beginning of the Church Year. The First Sunday of Advent is defined as the Sunday on or nearest his feast. (The way the reckoning was designed, it also means that there are always four Sundays in Advent, including, as in this year, the 24th of December, the Eve of the Nativity.

Union JackScotland considers Andrew to be its national saint. Meanwhile, George (23 April), Patrick (17 March), and Dewi (1 March) fill these roles for England, Ireland, and Wales, respectively. George, a soldier, is customarily pictured as a knight with a shield that bears a red cross on a white background. This became the national flag of England.

Tradition says that Andrew was crucified on a Cross Saltire — an "X"-shaped cross, which became his symbol and later, the national flag of Scotland. One symbol of Patrick is a red cross saltire on a white background. The crosses of George and Andrew were combined to form the Union Jack, or flag of Great Britain; later the cross of Patrick was added to create the present Union Jack.

Alas, poor Wales ... it doesn't appear on the British flag, perhaps because Dewi didn't have such a representative symbol.

Lection

Psalm 139:1-20 or Psalm 19:1-6
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 or Ezekiel 3:16-21
Romans 10:(8-9)10-18
Matthew 4:18-22 or John 1:35-42

Collect

Almighty God, by Your grace the blessed apostle Saint Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be His disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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27 November 2008
  Thanksgiving Day
Fourth Thursday in November, United States

Another year, another day to stop and say, "Thanks." Of course, we don't need to be reminded to be thankful, do we? God doesn't need to encourage our living lives of love and trust in response to His mighty deeds, does He? Sad to say, we do and He does.

How many blessings has God already given you? How many times have you been truly thankful? How many times have you acted like you deserve the favorable treatment? How many times have you gone on without so much as a token nod to the Giver of all good?

Martin RinckartAre we any better than those who've gone before us? Consider the lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17). All ten were cleansed (v. 14). Jesus sent them to the priests who were required to declare them ritually clean (see Leviticus 13). However, nothing either in the Scriptures or Christ's command prohibited them from returning first to the One who saved them from lives as outcasts. We don't know the motivation of those who kept going; we do know that one came back, "And he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving Him thanks. (v. 16)"

Jesus pointed out that the returning man was a Samaritan, not an Israelite. Why would God's covenant people — "church people" — continue on rather than first returning? Yet this one, whose people had removed themselves from Israel, demonstrated faith that grasped the blessings of God.

Even when they show initial thankfulness, God's children have a poor record of continuing in the same spirit. Israel, following the Red Sea crossing, sang and celebrated, praising and thanking the Lord for His divine rescue. Yet only three days later they complained about the bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:22-25). Satisfied by the miracle of sweetened water, they soon started doubting God's providence, whining about not having food, blaming Moses and Aaron for bringing them out "to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (Exodus 16:3)" In response, God sent His manna.

Time and again, rather than thinking, speaking, and acting in thankfulness, God's people forget about His blessings and focus on their problems. Yet God provides a few heroes of the Faith who have the strength to thank Him even in times of trouble.

Now Thank We All Our God

Martin Rinckart, a Lutheran minister during the 1600s, was called to pastor Eilenburg, Germany just before the Thirty Years War began and served until right after hostilities ceased. Eilenburg was a walled city where refugees sought protection. Thousands of citizens and sojourners died of famine or plague; one of these was his wife. Much of the time, Rinckart was the only pastor, sometimes doing burial services for as many as seventy people in one day. Catholic Austrians sacked the city; so did Lutheran Swedes. Yet in the midst of all this, Rinckart was able to give thanks to the Lord.

Now Thank We All Our GodIn the heart of the hostilities, Rinckart penned one of the Church's enduring songs of faithfulness and thanksgiving. In our times of trouble, we can make it our own prayer: "Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, In whom His world rejoices; Who from our mother's arms Has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love And still is ours today."

Rinckart didn't look at the losses he or others had suffered. Instead, he focused on God's divine presence each day and the promise of eternal bliss: "Oh, may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us And keep us in His grace And guide us when perplexed And free us from all harm In this world and the next."

In the midst of death and destruction, Rinckart focused on the God of grace who faithfully keeps His promises. With unbridled joy, he bids us join the choir: "All praise and thanks to God The Father now be given, The Son, and Him who reigns With them in highest heaven. The one eternal God, Whom earth and heav'n adore; For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore."

Lection

Deuteronomy 8:1-10
Psalm 67 (antiphon v. 7)
Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Luke 17:11-19

Collect

Almighty God, Your mercies are new every morning and You graciously provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may acknowledge Your goodness, give thanks for Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience all our days; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Paul Gerhardt was another hymn writer who experienced great sorrow yet boldly and joyfully confessed his Savior. We certainly must number Oh, Lord, I Sing with Lips and Heart among Christendom's greatest songs of thankfulness. Another classic song of thanksgiving is Praise, Oh, Praise Our God and King by John Milton.

Scripture quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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23 November 2008
  + Clement of Rome +
23 November AD 100

Clement of RomeSaint Clement of Rome, Pastor and Bishop (ca. A.D. 35–100), is remembered for establishing the pattern of apostolic authority that governed the Christian Church during the first and second centuries. He insisted on keeping Christ at the center of the Church's worship and outreach. In a letter to the Corinthian Christians, he emphasized the centrality of Jesus' death and resurrection: "Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ, realizing how precious it is to His Father, since it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world" (1 Clement 6:31).

Early accounts claim that he suffered a martyr's death by drowning — specifically, he was said to have been tied to an anchor, hence his normal symbol is an anchor. Before his death, he displayed a steadfast, Christ-like love for all of God's redeemed people, serving as inspiration for future generations to continue building the Church on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the one and only cornerstone. His Epistle to the Corinthians addresses what he considered to be the improper dismissal of a bishop. It works both for good order and for abounding charity among the Corinthian Christians.

Here follows an excerpt from his Epistle to the Corinthians:

Let the one truly possessed by the love of Christ keep his commandments. Who can express the binding power of divine love? Who can find words for the splendor of its beauty? Beyond all description are the heights to which it lifts us. Love unites us to God; "it cancels innumerable sins," has no limits to its endurance, bears everything patiently. Love is neither servile nor arrogant. It does not provoke schisms or form cliques, but always acts in harmony with others. By it all God's chosen ones have been sanctified; without it, it is impossible to please him. Out of love the Lord took us to himself; because he loved us and it was God's will, our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life's blood for us — he gave his body for our body, his soul for our soul.

See then, beloved, what a great and wonderful thing love is, and how inexpressible its perfection. Who are worthy to possess it unless God makes them so? To him therefore we must turn, begging of his mercy that there may be found in us a love free from human partiality and beyond reproach. Every generation from Adam's time to ours has passed away; but those who by God's grace were made perfect in love and have a dwelling now among the saints, and when at last the kingdom of Christ appears, they will be revealed. "Take shelter in your rooms for a little while," says Scripture, "until my wrath subsides. Then I will remember the good days, and will raise you from your graves."

Happy are we, beloved, if love enables us to live in harmony and in the observance of God's commandments, for then it will also gain for us the remission of our sins. Scripture pronounces "happy those whose transgressions are pardoned, whose sins are forgiven. Happy the one," it says, "to whom the Lord imputes no fault, on whose lips there is no guile." This is the blessing given those whom God has chosen through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever.
.       .       .

Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

Clement of RomeIf we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has "offered the opportunity of repentance" to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God's message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God's forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God's people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God's grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: "As I live," says the Lord, "I do not wish the death of the sinner but the sinner's repentance." He added this evidence of his goodness: "House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, 'Father,' and I will listen to you as to a holy people."

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.

We should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: "The wise must not glory in wisdom nor the strong in strength nor the rich in riches. Rather, let the one who glories glory in the Lord, by seeking him and doing what is right and just." Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. "Be merciful," he said, "so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving."

Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: "Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful one who trembles at my words?"

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

Lection

Psalm 78:3-7 or 85:8-13
2 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 6:37-45

Collect

Almighty God, who chose Your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability, grant that Your Church may be grounded and settled in Your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and may evermore be kept blameless in Your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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22 November 2008
  O Give Thanks ... for a New BBOV
The Big Blogroll O' Vark®™©

BBOV by St. CharlesI'm glad I asked ahead of time. When I encouraged submissions, several people responded and instead of the paltry four additions I had on hand, I have twelve. There are eleven Lutheran sites and one from the Other Side. You'll see quite a variety among these and I bid you check each out, welcome them aboard the Big Blogroll O' Vark®™©, and read or subscribe as the spirit moves you.

Also, please note that Bob Waters hit the stop button on Watersblogged. However, he isn't taking it down. Therefore, since it harbors any number of insightful, inviting, and sometimes inciting posts, I've moved it to the Inactive but Worth Keeping category of the blogroll. And keep your eyes peeled as you read: One of our old timers has a new URL (although the old one still works).

If you're not sure what to make of the BBOV or wonder about the benefits of being listed and of listing others' blogs, please read the first three links under Aurous Effluence in the sidebar. Those who'd like the Big Blogroll O' Vark®™© can either email me or copy the list from the Alley's source code (click View | Page Source or Control+U in Firefox or View | Source in Internet Explorer).

MAY WE HAVE A DR-R-RUM R-R-ROLL, PLEASE!

Lining them up alphabetically by height, the first addition among the confessional Lutheran blogs is Blogia ... yes, it's an electronic offshoot of Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology. Next, please welcome Blogustana: The Fusion of 2 Natures and 2 Kingdoms. Confessional's Bytes belongs to Jim Pierce of Wittenberg Trail fame.

Hope for the Hapless, an LCC pastor's blog, is our latest Canadian import. While there, make sure to read his "hapless" essay. The punningly titled Light from Light "is about amateur photography, worship, history, and anything else of interest from a WELS confessional Lutheran layman’s Christian perspective."

It's semi-commercial, but it's also a confessional Lutheran blog — in other words, my blogroll, my rules, so Magdeburg Press gets to join. Here you can read excerpts from Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations, translated by Wade R. Johnston. If you visit the main site for Magdeburg Press, you can also order Even Death, Johnston's novel "rooted in the theology of the cross." (Now that I've said these nice things, maybe he'll comp Luther Library a copy so I can add it to my collection review it.)

'Twas submitted as Comfort Ye My People but by the time I got around to this update, it had become Notes to Myself. That's okay, it's good reading by either name. Pastor Jeremiah Gumm bills The Shepherd's Study as "A Place of Rest and Renewal for the Busy Lutheran Shepherd." Just in case it really relaxes you, bring a pillow ... unless you want QWERTY spelled backwards across your face.

From the rooftops, I recently shouted, "Achtung! Herr Doktor Luther ist Zurückgekehrt!" In case you missed that missive announcing his return, Martin Luther (Doktor) recently resumed his ongoing brawl with 21st Century "culture" while also continuing his struggle for blog space and the last word with his long-suffering amanuensis Anthony Sacramone at Strange Herring. Truly a fine kettle of fish.

Pastor Strey's Weblog proclaims "a confessional Lutheran perspective on apologetics, liturgy, music, preaching, and theology." Finnish Lutheran pastor Esko Murto, currently at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, writes Tentatio Borealis from an arctic perspective.

Our final Lutheran entry comes from Pastor Jonathan C. Watt of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa. He's already known to many BBOV followers for Watt's What (NB: this is the new URL mentioned above). Now Pastor Watt expands his proclamation of the Gospel, offering text and podcast devotions at God's Word for Today.

I also promised an addition from the opposition. Some of you may recall when Prince Beelzebub appeared back in May 2006. He evidently got into a hell of a mess, quit blogging, and slithered back into the outer darkness. I dropped him for cause in August 2007. Just the other day, though, he dropped a slimy load of comment spam, letting me know that he's back. He made the obligatory maiden post at his new site and once again included me among the links he loathes (as "Ugly Animal Theology" — how petty ... accurate, yes ... but still petty). Therefore, help me roundly diswelcome the disgraceful Prince B's disgusting Beelzeblog to my list of Other Blogs.

IN CONCLUSION

For all those enrolled in the BBOV, links back are certainly appreciated. And don't forget that all of those listed benefit when you use the entire blogroll. Also, if you'd like to graphically point to the Alley and the Big Blogroll O' Vark®™©, you may use the above design from St. Charles the Illuminous or one of these blog buttons:
Each of these buttons measures 80x15 pixels. Should you choose to use one, please link back to either the main Aardvark Alley URL or else to the post What Is the BBOV.

Finally, if you own or know of a Lutheran blog demonstrating a quia confessional subscription and would like me to consider it for inclusion, please leave a comment. And again, for more information about why this stuff benefits confessional Lutheran blogging, morality, and other worthwhile endeavors, please check out the first three links under Aurous Effluence in the sidebar.

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19 November 2008
  + Elisabeth of Thuringia +
19 November AD 1231

Elizabeth of HungaryAlso known as Saint Elizabeth of Hungary — Szent Erzsébet in her native tongue — Elisabeth (also Erzsebet) was born in Sárospatak in 1207, the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. When only four years old, she was betrothed by parental arrangement to Ludwig (Louis), son of Hermann I, Landgrave of Thuringia, and Duchess Sophia. At this tender age, the child moved to the Thuringian court. She married him in 1220, when just fourteen. He was only twenty and had been ruling as Ludwig IV since 1217.

Her spirit of Christian generosity and charity pervaded the home she established for her husband and three children in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach. Their abode was known for hospitality and family love.

Elisabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy, even giving up her bed to a leper at one time. Unlike many medieval men, particularly the rulers, Louis encouraged her efforts and contributed directly to them. This seems due, in large part, to a faith that depended much upon works in order to guarantee eternal reward — or, at least, to avoid Purgatory.

When she was widowed at 20, circumstances drastically changed. Already possessed of a charitable heart, Elisabeth increased her work on behalf of others — her confessor, the inquisitor Konrad von Marburg, encouraging (or pushing) her growing spiritual discipline. Some accounts say that Konrad not only enforced his will through a strong personality but that he also resorted to beatings and separating her from her children.

Elisabeth Helps the PoorLater, she arranged for her children's well-being and entered into life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial, quite possibly abetted by harsh treatment at the hands of her confessor, led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at age 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elisabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.

She was laid to rest in a gold shrine in Elisabeth Kirche in Marburg. The second illustration above is a scene of her helping the poor from that church's Elizabeth Window. Her popular cultus, aided in large part by political considerations, led to a rapid canonization. In 1235, Pope Gregory IX named her St. Elisabeth. Her official canonization ceremony was Pentecost (28 May), only about three and a half years after her death. The lasting effect she had on individuals, the Church, and on health care have led many to call her "the greatest woman of the German Middle Ages."

As we see from Rosenwunder: Wege zu Elisabeth von Thüringen, Elisabeth was the 2007 "cultural theme" for Erfurt. Along with Elisabeth Kirche, this site has a wealth of additional information and illustrations.

Note: For Lutherans, Wartburg Castle holds special significance because of events happening some three hundred years later. It was to the Wartburg that friends moved Martin Luther in 1521 to escape enforcement of the imperial ban and possible death. Hiding under the name Junker Jörg (Knight George), Luther employed himself by continuing his doctrinal and polemical writing and translating the New Testament.

Lection

Psalm 146:4-9 or 112:1-9
Tobit 12:6b-9
Matthew 25:31-40 or Luke 12:32-34

Collect

Almighty God, by whose grace your servant Elisabeth of Thuringia recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world, grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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14 November 2008
  + Justinian, Christian Ruler +
14 November AD 565

Justinian IJustinian, Christian Ruler and Confessor of Christ, was emperor of the East from A.D. 527 to 565, during the time of decline of the Roman Empire. Aided by his beautiful and capable wife, Theodora, he restored majesty to the Byzantine court and is considered by historians to be the last true "Roman" emperor. During his reign the Empire experienced a renaissance, due in large part to his ambition, intelligence, and strong religious convictions.

His beginnings rival most any tale of rags to riches. Born into a peasant family, he was adopted by his uncle Justin, his mother's brother. Justin went from being a member of the imperial guard to Emperor and even, before reaching this pinnacle of power, was in a position to provide the best education possible for his nephew cum son. Justinian partially repaid his uncle's kindness by supporting Justin's selection as emperor.

Perhaps due in part to his own family's peasant members, Justin decreed that differences in social class were no longer barriers to marriage. Some time later, Justinian found a woman to claim as his bride. Since Justin had removed class barriers, Justinian made full advantage of the changes by taking Theodora as his wife. Here was a truly disparate set of individuals: While the emperor in waiting had ascended from peasant stock to ruling class, his bride came from a background considered lower than peasant — perhaps even lower than slave, for she was an actress and a courtesan.

Despite such unsavory beginnings, Theodora proved herself a worthy companion for the Emperor. Throughout her life she was Justinian's staunchest supporter and one of his most trusted advisers. Many historians believe that without her intellect and decisiveness, Justinian might have been deposed and the empire torn apart in the Nika riots.

Although he was responsible for a considerable number of civil and military accomplishments, Christians chose to remember Justinian for his religious contributions. He was a champion of orthodox Christianity. From this confessional position, he attempted to unite a sharply divided Church, seeking agreement among the parties in the Christological controversies of the day. He was particularly eager to bridge the gap between Chalcedonian Christians and the Monophysites. These parties disputed the relationship between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. His special interest likely because a large number of Monophysite Christians lived within the empire — including, at least in her younger years, his own wife. The Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in AD 533 addressed these disagreements but a full solution never presented itself.

TheodoraBoth Justianian and Theodora accomplished much. However, as with many other renowned champions of the faith, the emperor sometimes exhibited less than exemplary behavior. He often fostered overzealous attempts to forward or defend Christianity by fiat or force of arms. The list of those he suppressed, condemned, and sometimes killed is considerable. He set Athens' Neoplatonic Academy under state control, ending its teaching of unchristian Hellenistic philosophy. He suppressed Paganism. He halted the worship of Amun at Augila in the Libyan desert and that of Isis on the island of Philae.

Justinian's government restricted the civil rights of Jews and the emperor actively interfered with the synagogues, going so far as to forbid the use of the Hebrew language in worship. Resistance might be met with corporal penalties, exile, and property confiscation. The empire likewise persecuted the Manicheans. They, too, faced punishment and threats including exile and capital punishment. The incident that probably leaves the darkest stain on his reputation occurred at Constantinople. There, after severe questioning, a number of Manicheans were executed in his presence. Some were burned, others drowned.

The other side of his enthusiasm for God's Word and orthodox Christianity exhibited itself in his missionary zeal. Missionary ventures that Justinian sponsored helped to lead thousands in Africa and Asia Minor to the Christian Faith. For example, John of Ephesus claimed to be involved the the conversion of some 70,000 pagans in Asia Minor. Others led to Christianity included Huns dwelling near the Don, the Abasgi, the Heruli, and the Tzani of Caucasia. A mission to the Nabataeans was led by Julian the Presbyter and the Bishop Longinus. Justinian also tried to strengthen Christianity in Yemen by sending a bishop from Egypt to that region.

Theodora, born about twenty years after her husband, died about twenty years before he did. Meanwhile, Justinian died in his eighties, without seeing the completion of his desire for a solidly orthodox Christian empire. Due to his ongoing championing of the faith, the Eastern Church counts him as a saint, as it also does Theodora.

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12 November 2008
  BBOV Pre-update Appeal
Can We Do Just One This Time?

A fair number of updates to the The Big Blogroll O' Vark®™© have triggered the submission of other blogs, all of which I was unaware. Now I don't mind rolling out the occasional list of additions, subtractions, and corrections, but I dislike having to manually code all changes to the sidebar with those attention grabbing announcement doohickeys — you know: +New Addition+ & +New URL/Name+ & +Reactivated+ and the like.

Also, each update here means that others who manually insert the BBOV on their own blogs (see related posts below) must likewise redo their own templates. This can make them grumpy. And no one wants to be on the wrong side of a grumpy Lutheran who has better than marginal typing skills and access to the internet. It's almost as scary as meeting a Lutheran pastor before he's had his morning coffee.

Therefore, I ask that if you own, participate in, or know of a blog that isn't listed, to please let me know before the impending update. Please don't submit that 525 year old film critic, I know full well that he's back among us. However, any other unlisted sites are fair game. The only qualifications are that they aren't sloppy, filled with lies or lazily reported half- or un-truths and that the blogs' owners embrace, support, and firmly subscribe the Lutheran Confessions.

It would also be very helpful to know if any of these links are dead or if the content is no longer confessional Lutheran, either by renunciation of the Confessions or by hijacking of URL. And if anyone could help dream up a "fair and balanced" way of subdividing the BBOV without putting those that deal mainly with Lutherans blogging about their "secular" vocations (as if such things truly existed!) into some sort of low-theology ghetto. I don't really even like separating the pastors from the laity, since many of the lay bloggers have an astounding theological acumen.

Finally, why do I keep the BBOV going? And what is its purpose? I think that if you read the following three posts, you'll have a pretty good idea why I (and others) think that the BBOV is a pretty good idea:

Building a Lutheran Presence: Part 1

Building a Lutheran Presence: Part 2

What Is the BBOV?

Clicking Here Signals Intent
to Assist the Beleaguered Aardvark
in Expanding, Updating, or Correcting the BBOV


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11 November 2008
  Veterans' Day
Eleven, Eleven, Eleven

Veterans' DayIn parts of the world, including these United States, 11 November is a day of remembrance growing out of the end of World War I. It grew from the armistice ending western European hostilities in the First World War. This post's subtitle comes from the implementation of the armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — that is, at 11:00 a.m. GMT on 11 November 1918.

Originally known as Armistice Day (and still called this by some) the United States expanded the emphasis from gratitude for the end of the "War to End All Wars" to remembering and thanking all of our honorably discharged military personnel. The US holiday was officially established as Veterans Day in 1954.

Spiritually, the "Great War" of the early 1900s ended much positive thinking about the upward climb of mankind and helped usher in the era of Modernism. The harshness of the "peace" which followed led to renewed hatred and hostilities in Europe. Coupled with the Great Depression, this helped to begin events leading to the Second World War.

The false hope much of the world, including many Christians, held for a utopian earth with no more armed conflict perished on the battlefields of these two world conflicts along with thousands upon thousands of armed combatants and millions of civilians. Wars and rumors of wars continue to testify against this fallen Creation and point to the final end of conflict, when our Savior returns in judgment.

We will still remember those who served honorably to defend the ideals upon which our Republic was founded. We will also continue to pray that America would return to much she has forgotten about both individual freedom and the interdependence of all citizens in a free society.

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  + Saint Martin of Tours +
11 November AD 397

Martin of Tours, pastor and bishop of the Church, was born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary around the year AD 316. He grew up in Lombardy (a region in Italy) and came to the Christian faith as a young man. He then began a career in the Roman army. But sensing a call to a church vocation, Martin left the military and became a monk, affirming that he was "Christ's soldier."

Saint Martin of ToursAccording to early stories, the change came about when Martin was about 21 years old. It was said that he passed the gates of Amiens and saw a man freezing on the side of the road. Taking pity on him, Martin ripped his army issue cloak in half and gave it to the man to help comfort him. That night, Martin dreamt of Jesus Christ wearing that half cloak. This vision shook Martin to the core. No longer wanting to be part of the army, he succeeded in attaining a discharge from service.

Martin journeyed to the city of Poitiers where he met Bishop Hilary. As was not uncommon at the time, even though Martin already considered himself a Christian, he was not yet baptized. Therefore, Hilary administered the sacrament before Martin left Poitiers.

Returning to Gaul, Martin found that the Arian heresy had taken a firm hold. He spoke out against it and was singled out for persecution and forced to flee. The same happened shortly thereafter to Saint Hilary. Martin fled to an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, living as a hermit. In 361, Martin discovered that Hilary had regained his seat in Pontiers; this news moved Martin to return to Gaul.

Hilary sent Martin to Leguge, a Benedictine monastery, to continue his ways as a hermit; there Martin spent the next ten years. In 371, the Bishop of Tours died and Martin was asked twice to assume that seat — he respectfully refused both times. Martin was tricked into coming to Tours to administer the Anointing of the Sick to a friend's wife. This time Martin was persuaded to accept the responsibility as Bishop of Tours. We remember him for his simple lifestyle and his determination to share the Gospel throughout rural Gaul, as well as his work as bishop in successfully staving off numerous heresies.

Hilary was named as a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1851. However, both he and Martin were already acclaimed as saints by general consensus before any official system of canonization was established.

Over a millennium later, on St. Martin's Day 1483, the one-day-old son of Hans and Margarette Luther was baptized and given the name Martin. Coincidentally, much of the world commemorates the armistice ending World War I and honors veterans on 11 November. Thus we also note that St. Martin is a traditional patron saint of soldiers.

Lection

Psalm 15 or 34:15-22
Isaiah 58:6-12
Matthew 25:34-40

Collect

Lord God of hosts, You clothed Your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice and set him as a bishop in Your Church to be a defender of the orthodox, catholic, and apostolic faith. Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

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10 November 2008
  Dear Reverend Spurgeon
An Open Letter to the Late Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Regarding Babies & Bathwater and the
Embracing of Paradox

C. H. SpurgeonThanks to the ever-vigilant Martin Luther (Doktor), I discovered one of your 21st Century disciples blogging an excerpt from The Soul Winner: Soul-Winning Explained, thereby continuing to propagate your misleading, false, and possibly soul-destroying teaching that Baptism does not, in any way, cause regeneration or bring salvation. In his post entitled Spurgeon on Infant Baptism — an Abomination! (exclamation point, his), Adrian Warnock exposes your disbelief and rejection of the plain words of Christ and His holy apostles, as recorded in Sacred Writ.

One would think that after one hundred plus years of your assuming room temperature, portions of your egregious and unbiblical thinking would also flatline. Granted, by your preaching and writing, God may have used you to bring many people to the Faith. Yet by your continuing departure from Scripture and the ancient Church regarding infant baptism, you and your followers have also banned and barred countless of the "least of [Christ's] brothers" from entry into His kingdom.

It seems that even some modern followers of credobaptismal theology were distraught with the vigor and directness of the text cited by Warnock. This, in no way, contributes to my reaction. Au contraire, I appreciate straight talk, even when proclaimed in a state of emotional agitation. I enjoy satire and revel in revealing my own opponents' foibles, so why should I deprive you of similar pleasure?

No, I instead reject, dismiss, and despise these words because they are not built by the Holy Spirit upon Scripture's foundation. Instead, you stand in a long train of great thinkers who have allowed their own reason and strength to supplant the perfect and holy Word and will of the Almighty. I detect in this writing a special venom directed toward the Roman Church, certain of whose doctrines seem to cause you extreme distress. While I, too, reject some of Rome's teachings, I — with them, my fellow Lutherans, and other orthodox Christians throughout the ages and around the world — confess the Nicene Creed, including the salvific regeneration expressed in our confession of "one baptism for the remission of sins."

Baptismal FontBecause you reference the sainted Doctor Luther in your diatribe against the "Popish owls," I must remind you that the same Luther decried the magisterial use of reason in theology, naming such unchecked free thinking a "whore." This same Luther categorically rejected credobaptism, anabaptism, and any other "baptism" that denied baptismal regeneration or despised the notion that even the littlest ones could hold Spirit-created and sustained saving faith in Jesus Christ.

You correctly note that, according to Scripture, Luther taught salvation by grace through faith in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:8). However, this same Luther held fast to all of the sacred Scriptures and thus also believed and taught that infants should be brought to the font so that through Baptism, the Holy Spirit might give them death to sin and new life in Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-4) through saving faith in the One who suffered and died on their behalf.

Justification by grace through faith in Christ is not restricted to Ephesians 2:8 but is Scripture's central teaching. This, Dr. Luther proclaimed: iustificatio articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae; i.e., justification is the article by which the Church either stands or falls. Remember that the apostle Paul also wrote, "When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)"

You and I agree with Ephesians 2:8-9, which confesses that salvation is completely "by grace ... through faith" and "not a result of works, so that no one may boast." You, however, have trouble with the blessed apostle Peter, who wrote, "Baptism ... now saves you ... through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)" If you accept this as God's true, unshakable word while continuing to confess salvation "by grace through faith," you must seek a reconciliation of these passages that's beyond human intellect.

Jesus and Little ChildrenPlease allow Scripture to guide mediate your reason and thus convince you that even though there are human actors and earthly elements, Baptism is not man's work done for God but God's work done to (and for) man  ... and woman  ... and child. Only after we are justified by grace and have received saving faith are we equipped "for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)"

Along with you, I disavow ex opere operato sacramental theology predicated by crass sacerdotalism. However, you miss the mark when you say, "Priestcraft, let us hope, is an anachronism, and the sacramental theory out of date." You rebuke those bringing their little ones to be baptized, calling the practice a "beautiful piece of magic, which excels anything ever attempted by the Wizard of the North." Yet you ignore what happened when our Lord's disciples similarly rebuked people for bringing their youngsters to Him. "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 19:14)"

Did you not study logic during your school days? When the Lord bends our thinking to His wisdom, He compels us to accept His syllogism:

A) Only believers in Christ are forgiven and made possessors of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9), while

B) children may possess citizenship in heaven's kingdom (Matthew 19:14),

C) therefore, children are capable of belief because Jesus says that they can posses the kingdom.


Because you cannot or will not see the hand of God through the eyes of faith, you focus only upon the hands of priests and pastors, none of whom can lay claim to perfect holiness. However, it isn't the "priestcraft" of any earthly priests but the doing of our own High Priest. He, through His Church, most often using the hands of His called pastors washes away our sins. When children, even tender babes are brought to be baptized, Christ claims these poor little wretches for Himself. These tiny sinners, even the newest of newborns, with David could lament their godless natures: "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)" Yet, because they are baptized, they are saved.

BassookaI pray that those who stubbornly cling to your intellectualized and anthropocentric interpretation of Baptism would have their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit working through God's Word. I ask that He would lead them to understand that saving faith and intellectual assent are as different as bassoons and bazookas. In other words, they must realize that while a cursory glance provides similarities, close examination compounds the differences. Most of all, I pray that "well-meaning" Christians would cease throwing barriers between babies and Baptism, stop teaching that Baptism is a human work or a divine ordinance, and then confidently confess that Baptism now saves. Period. Amen.

Remember, C. H., for almost two thousand years, Christians (including you!) have proclaimed Holy Baptism. Somehow, you've forgotten or ignored this simple truth: Baptism's holiness comes not because individual Christians do it nor because Christ's Church does it but because Christ does it — albeit in His holy Church and through His holy people — solely by His holy Word and the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Spurgeon, don't forget what happened when a boy's distraught father brought his son possessed by an unclean spirit to Jesus. The man wavered between hope and doubt. "[He said,] 'If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'" In response, "Jesus said to him, '"If you can"! All things are possible for one who believes.' Immediately the father ... cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!' (Mark 9:22-24)" All things are possible, even baptismal regeneration, even saving faith in newborn children. You, however, confessed, "This aqueous regeneration surpasses my belief." Were you still living, I would gladly complete the petition: "Help Charles Haddon's unbelief."

Sincerely yours,

Orycteropus Afer, MDiv +


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  Ta-Dah!
Pretty Spry for Five Two Five!

Pretty Spry for an Old Guy

How does he stay so slim after shoveling five centuries of birthday cake down his pie hole?

HT: The Rebellious Pastor's Wife

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  525th Anniversary of the Birth of Martin Luther
10 November AD 1483

CandlesAfter celebrating the birth of the Second Martin, we immediately turn to the natal anniversary of of the original Martin. Yes, on this date in 1483, a baby boy was born in the Saxon town of Eisleben to Hans and Margarette Luther. On the morrow, they would have the child baptized and given the name of that day's saint, Martin of Tours.

The rest, as they say, was history, of which you can read a bit more at the commemoration of his death.

If you celebrate the day with (German chocolate) cake and candles, I suggest baking a couple extra in order to hold all the lights. Then leave a window open so as not to deplete the oxygen supply. Finally, you might also want to contact the local fire marshal.

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09 November 2008
  Achtung! Herr Doktor Luther ist Zurückgekehrt!

For those who've been waiting with bated breath, I offer succor.

For those who've been waiting with baited breath, I offer Scope.

For those who haven't been to a movie since the cranky reformer took a powder, I offer hope.

For those who've faithfully observed the commemorations of Staupitz and Chemnitz while waiting for the 525th natal anniversary of that special someone, I offer a day-early gift, unwrapped and ready to enjoy.

Martin LutherThese could be, they actually might be, signs of a semi - partial - perhaps - permanent(?) return to the ranks of the semi-active confessional Lutheran bloggers for the venerable — if oft dyspeptic — author of Luther at the Movies.

In the immortal words of Flatbush's greatest contribution to the silver screen, "What's up, Doc?"

The sainted doctor's trusty amanuensis, meanwhile, has also resurfaced, seemingly (and speaking of bait breath ...) in the guise of a fish monger. Please drop by both locales and welcome these gentlemen (or this gentleman and that grumpy old man) back to the fold.

Looks like we're about ready for an update of the BBOV.

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