|From the Editor
We’ve all read C. F. W. Walther’s warning: “Now remember, if you come out of your pulpit without having preached enough Gospel to save some poor sinner who may have come to church for the first and the last time, his blood will be required of you” (The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, Dau translation, p 409). To state it affirmatively, we’re going to preach Jesus’ death on the cross clearly in every sermon so that a visitor who previously knew nothing of God’s plan of salvation could now come to faith. And who would argue with that?
I suppose there’s point enough to be made already here (in fact, we did in this column four years ago), because I’m afraid we don’t proclaim the cross in every sermon. As much of a no-brainer as it seems to announce that Jesus died for you (considering, yes, faith in that is how someone has an eternity in heaven rather than forever in hell!), it’s way too often omitted. You and I both know it and maybe have done it.
But that’s not quite my point this time. Let’s assume we do indeed declare Jesus’ death for our sins in every sermon. My question this time is this: Is the cross what every sermon is all about, or is it just a checklist item that we make sure we dispatch while really preaching something else? You know, like one of the required elements in an ice dancing competition. Like touching all four corners of the mat in a gymnastics floor exercise. Just some rule you’ve got to avoid breaking. Is the cross the cause or just a coincidence in our preaching?
St. Paul, as we recall, “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). Yeah, in more than a year and a half in Corinth! Nothing but the cross. That’s not to say, of course, that Paul didn’t tackle any of the issues he addresses in his letter—factions, gross adultery, divorce, lawsuits, spiritual gifts, questions about the resurrection, and more—some of which must surely have been incipient already during that lengthy stay. It is to say that declaring the cross was somehow the key to every answer.
And so it is, because let us never forget or underestimate this reality: If not for Jesus’ death on the cross reconciling the whole world to God, no other meaningful issue would ever come up—and certainly could never be answered. If our sin still stood between the world and God, then “in the day that you eat of it you’re dead” would have been the last word. Being reconciled to God by the cross of Jesus Christ is the solution to factions and adulterous relationships and the reason for spiritual gifts and the resurrection. And so on!
And so, when we preach the cross (as we will!), is it the reason we’re preaching at all, or is it just an add-on? Do we first struggle with the question “How is the cross the cause of this text?” and then announce it as such? Or do we figure out what we’re really going to preach about and then “check off” the cross just for that visitor who might be out there? Is the cross declared at the crucial moment of the sermon, wherever the conflict has reached its greatest intensity? Or do we just tack it on at the end? Is the cross the crux of the message, or is it just a conclusion?
The cross is the crux of our theology, the cause of our preaching. Thank God!
Carl C. Fickenscher II
Editor: Carl C. Fickenscher II
Managing Editor: Scot A. Kinnaman
Designer: Chris Johnson
Parish Pastors: Nolan Astley (LCC), Dean W. Nadasdy, Henry A. Simon
Seminary Professors: Paul J. Grime, Glenn A. Nielsen, John T. Pless, David R. Schmitt
Council of Presidents: Herbert C. Mueller Jr.
Copyright © 2012 Concordia Publishing House
3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63118-3968
1-800-325-3040 • www.cph.org • email@example.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without purchasing this product from Concordia Publishing House. Through this registered purchase, you are granted a nontransferable license to use this product and adapt it for your personal or congregational use. Permission also is granted to duplicate portions for classroom purposes. For all other permission requests, contact CPH at 1-800-325-0191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scripture quotations from the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Quotations taken from the notes, introductory material, or original articles from The Lutheran Study Bible © 2009 by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Quotations marked LSB are from Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Quotations marked TLH are from The Lutheran Hymnal, copyright © 1941 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The quotations from the Lutheran Confessions in this publication are from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, second edition; edited by Paul McCain et al., copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The quotations from Martin Luther are taken from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The quotations from Luther’s Works on p 10 are from the American Edition: vol. 35 © 1960 by Muhlenberg Press. Used with permission.
The quotation from Luther’s Works on p 15 is from the American Edition: vol. 53 © 1965 by Fortress Press. Used with permission.
Quotations marked WA are from the Weimar Ausgabe editions of Luther’s Works. D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. 73 vols. in 85. Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–1993.
Quotations marked WA DB are from D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Die Deutsche Bibel. 12 vols. in 15. Weimar: Böhlau, 1906–61.
The quotation marked BSLK on p 10 is from Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, ed. Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchenausshuß (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1982).
Quotations marked WLS are from Ewald M. Plass, ed., What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 736.
This work uses the SBL Hebrew Unicode font developed by the Font Foundation, under the leadership of the Society of Biblical Literature. For further information on this font or on becoming a Font Foundation member, see http://www.sbl-site.org/educational/biblicalfonts.aspx.
This publication may be available in braille, in large print, or on cassette tape for the visually impaired. Please allow 8 to 12 weeks for delivery. Write to Lutheran Blind Mission, 7550 Watson Rd., St. Louis, MO 63119-4409; call toll-free 1-888-215-2455; or visit the Web site: www.blindmission.org.
Concordia Pulpit Resources (ISSN 1057-1833), published quarterly, succeeds Concordia Pulpit, an annual volume of sermons published from 1930 to 1990. The Sunday themes of the sermon studies and children’s messages are coordinated with CPH’s Every Sunday Bulletins and Creative Worship for the Lutheran Parish, a quarterly publication including ready-to-edit worship services in print format and CD-ROM.
Annual subscriptions in the United States are $54.99 ($64.99 for print and Internet access). Order by mail, online at http://cpr.cph.org, or phone: 1-800-325-3040. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Concordia Pulpit Resources, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63118-3875. Manufactured in the United States of America.
Please send your feedback to the editor at email@example.com.
Published by Concordia Publishing House of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Volume 22, Part 4, Series B
September 9–November 25, 2012
Preschool Chapel Services
Ken R. Schurb
Preaching James with Luther
Jason D. Lane
Excerpts from Preaching the Reformation: The Homiletical Handbook of Urbanus Rhegius
From the Editor
Ideas for Illustrating
Pentecost 15, James 2:1–10, 14–18
In Us and Through Us—Jeffrey W. Jordan
Pentecost 16, James 3:1–12
A Perfect Man—Jeffrey W. Jordan
Pentecost 17, Jeremiah 11:18–20
Beware of Prophets!—Timothy E. Saleska
Pentecost 18, Mark 9:38–50
Salt Can Lose Its Saltiness; Have Salt in Yourselves—Juan D. Palm
Pentecost 19, Hebrews 2:1–13 (14–18)
God’s Own Child—Allen D. Lunneberg
Pentecost 20, Amos 5:6–7, 10–15
Silence Is Deadly—Daniel L. Gard
Pentecost 21, Ecclesiastes 5:10–20
The Meaning of Life—Daniel L. Gard
Reformation Day (Observed), John 8:31–36
Watch Out! The Reformation May Not Be the Truth You Think—Wilhelm Torgerson
All Saints’ Day (Observed), Matthew 5:1–12
The Saints: They’re with Us, and They’re Waiting for Us—Wilhelm Torgerson
Pentecost 24, Mark 12:38–44
Giving Into (or In to) Uncertainty—Carl C. Fickenscher II
Pentecost 25, Mark 13:1–13
Jesus Is Not Just the Messenger—Timothy E. Saleska
Last Sunday of the Church Year, Mark 13:24–37
Keep Your Head Up While You Work—Juan D. Palm
Historical Sermon: Reformation Day, Matthew 18:20
Too Catholic?—Norman Nagel
Historical Sermon: All Saints’ Day, Matthew 5:1–12
“Blessed Are Those Who Mourn”—Norman Nagel
A Sermon for Seminarians (and Pastors), Acts 16:1–4
“When in Lystra . . .”—Peter J. Scaer
Wedding Sermon, Genesis 2:24
For These Reasons—Nolan D. Astley
Funeral Sermon, Isaiah 63:1–6
Who Is This from Edom?—Carl C. Fickenscher II
Children of Abraham—Vernon D. Gundermann
1. Children of Abraham—The Promise
2. Children of Abraham—Count Them
3. Children of Abraham—Suppose
Pentecost 15–16—Jeffrey W. Jordan
Pentecost 17–18—Rebecca Greer
Pentecost 19–21, Reformation Day—Pat List
Pentecost 24—Carl C. Fickenscher II
All Saints’ Day, Pentecost 25, Last Sunday—Carol Albrecht
Your Responses to Practical Preaching Questions
Q: What have you learned about or for preaching from Martin Luther?
A: Hands down, Dr. Luther’s teaching on the “theology of the cross” has been the primary influence on my preaching of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Through Luther’s influence over the past twenty years, I’ve grown in my conviction that he who hears the preached Word apart from the proclamation of the Lord’s substitutionary atonement on the cross can be likened to a man who sits down day after day at the dinner table and never consumes a life-sustaining morsel of food. You can be at the right place at the right time, and yet unless you’re fed and consume the right stuff, the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ crucified, you may find yourself dying in the very pew in which you sit week after week.
The didactic (instructive) Word, as true as it may very well be, preached apart from the kerygmatic mode of apostolic revelation will leave one having heard the Word and yet not having received the forgiveness of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. (Thanks be to God for his fail-safe, his divine Word delivered in the liturgy, for even when the preacher fails to provide the goods, we can rest assured the external Word of the Gospel in the Divine Service is present for the Lord’s baptized to feed upon and be spiritually sustained.)
The saving message of the cross by the one called to proclaim it results in Christ’s righteousness actually being given, imputed, to the hearers; it’s the very means the Holy Spirit uses to fill them with faith. Thus the Lord gathers for himself an Israel by giving them refuge in Christocentric preaching, the preaching of the cross.
Luther well understood the Office of the Ministry (Predigtamt) as God’s instrumentality of means. That is, the called and ordained servant of the Word is the responsible and accountable party by which God’s divine Means of Grace are rightly and ritely administered. These means deliver the forgiveness of sin wrought by Christ for the reconciliation of mankind. To him be the glory.
Rev. Randal G. Ehrichs, pastor
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Callaway, Florida
A: I could answer this question in any number of ways:
We recall Martin Luther’s description of the three indispensable qualities of a good preacher. “First, that he step up; secondly, that he speak up and say something (worthwhile); thirdly, that he know when to stop” (What Luther Says § 3544). I always thought this description was amusing, especially the third point.
There was Luther’s boldness in speaking the truth. His stand against emperor and pope at the Diet of Worms is an inspiration to all Christians to speak boldly the truth of God. Luther declared, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
And there was the advice Luther gave to preach in a simple manner so that children would be able to understand. “I will not,” Luther said, “consider Drs. Pomeranus, Jonas, and Philipp while I am preaching; for they know what I am presenting better than I do. Nor do I preach to them, but to my little Hans and Elizabeth; these I consider” (WLS § 3610).
Of course, we could emphasize Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism. Next to the Scriptures, I’ve quoted the Small Catechism the most in my messages. It’s what we’ve learned to be the Christian faith in confirmation class. It’s what continues to inform our faith and life.
These things are fine contributions to my preaching. But most important? I’ll answer this way: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Luther writes, “If you ask: What is the Gospel? no better answer can be given than these words of the New Testament: Christ gave His body and shed His blood for us for the forgiveness of sins. This alone is to be preached to Christians, impressed upon them, and faithfully commended to them for constant meditation” (WLS § 1700). This is Christian preaching; this is Lutheran preaching. And this is the best and most important contribution Luther has made to my preaching.
Rev. David Tilney, pastor
Ascension Lutheran Church, Daphne, Alabama
23–1: What’s the least helpful tip you received in a hom class at the sem? (Go ahead. We can take it!) (Thank you for your responses.)
23–2: What are your thoughts on a first sermon at a new call or on a “farewell” sermon when leaving a call? (Submit by September 1, 2012.)
23–3: What’s the most difficult text you’ve ever preached, and what did you do with it? (Submit by December 1, 2012.)
23–4: What suggestions do you have to offer for children’s sermons? (Submit by March 1, 2013.)
Responses should be a maximum of 250 words and may be sent to Editor, Concordia Pulpit Resources, 3558 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, MO 63118–3875 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite suggestions for future topics.
Note: In the print edition of this issue of CPR we introduce a new feature, the inclusion of cover visuals from Concordia’s Every Sunday Bulletin Series (ESBS). CPR and ESBS have always been coordinated products. By including a visual of the bulletin cover alongside the sermon notes for each Sunday, it is hoped that as you prepare your material, you may be better equipped to include the ESBS image as a talking point or illustration in your sermon, children’s sermon, or Bible study on the liturgical texts. We trust that you will find this new feature to be beneficial in your sermon preparation. If you are not currently using ESBS you can get more information at cph.org, search word: ESBS, or call 1-800-325-3040 to order.
Preschool Chapel Services
Rev. Ken R. Schurb, PhD., pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Moberly, Missouri
I made every mistake imaginable.
In 2002, I accepted the call to be pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Moberly, Missouri. I was looking forward to leading chapel and proclaiming the Good News to the pupils at the church’s preschool. Truth was, though, I had never done anything quite like that before.
Previously, I had preached a number of children’s sermons during church services and on other occasions, but these were almost always aimed at older children. I had long since concluded that I was wrong to “pitch” at those higher age levels. Moreover, even with older hearers, I knew I had been unwise to lean on object lessons as heavily as I used to.1 Yet these mistakes seemed mild compared with those I began to make when I started talking to a bunch of four-year-olds.
I was treating these children as if they were older. My practices hardly stood out as developmentally appropriate. In my first preschool chapel, I stressed the importance of our church building having no interior walls inside the nave and a center aisle that goes right up to the altar. Never mind the theological point at which I was driving; clearly, the kids were not coming along for the ride. Small wonder that I made every imaginable mistake!
Far be it from me to lay claim to expertise even now! However, I have been learning for about a decade. This article reports on what we have learned at Zion Lutheran Preschool.2 This article will eventually settle upon Gospel proclamation through preschool chapel, but it begins by putting this proclamation in its setting.
The Setting: Fours and Their Families
Although three-year-olds attend our preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, chapel services are designed for the four-year-olds who are with us on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We find them more capable of sitting for a fifteen to twenty minute service than the threes.
Chapel takes place early on Wednesdays and centers on the Bible story introduced in class on the preceding Monday. If Monday was a holiday, the story is introduced in chapel on Wednesday. The story is reviewed in class on Friday each week. We have found this repetition and reinforcement helpful. Parents frequently tell us that their children seem to learn and retain Bible stories well at this rate of one a week.
We invite parents to chapel. Our official preschool philosophy statement, with which we familiarize all parents, includes a poem that sets forth the Christian and Lutheran character of our preschool in what we hope parents will find a winsome way. We want them to know that we intend to tell their children of Christ:
“This School Called Zion”
There is a school for little tykes
Who like their dolls and balls and trikes,
Who love to play and laugh and sing
And want to learn of everything.
Their world is op’ning up real wide,
So wide that they could use a guide
To show them what is truly great.
They move so fast, they just can’t wait.
Beside the things that they can see
Is God, who made all things to be.
This God now wants their minds to teach
And with His Word their hearts to reach.
He’s One who loves them much, much more
Than moms and dads and friends galore.
He’s Christ, their Savior and their Friend.
He wants them with Him in the end.
For them He lived, for them He died—
For them, yes, even crucified.
All this to take their sin away,
And then He rose on the third day!
They need to know of His great love.
It must be brought them from above.
Christ gives His Word so they believe
And all His blessings thus receive.
They need to know God’s own good Word,
The greatest Word they ever heard.
This Word, much more than any rule,
Is what they learn here in this school.
To tell of Christ, this school is here,
And so to us this school is dear.
To tell of Christ—true, and no lyin’—
Is why we have this school called Zion.3
We also tell parents about Jesus. Monthly devotional pieces from me accompany preschool news into their hands. In addition, our bi-monthly church newsletter is mailed to all preschool families.
On chapel days, I start standing at the church’s front door about fifteen minutes before class begins. I’m there to greet the children and whoever drops them off, usually a parent. We take photographs of all the families at an open house prior to the first day of school. One set of prints is issued to me. On the back of each photo are inscribed the names of everyone in the picture. I use these photos, flash-card style, as I learn the names of pupils and parents. It’s one more step in communication with families. There may not be much time for conversation at the door, but who knows when unchurched parents will have a problem? They might seek out the only pastor with whom they have an acquaintance.
The Service: Liturgy for Little Ones
Chapel is conducted in the church. The children, teacher, and teacher’s aide sit in the front two pews on one side of the nave. When they make their way up the stairs, I am already there, vested for the service. For most of chapel time I sit, facing them, in a folding chair a few feet from the front pew.
The service begins with the opening versicles of Matins/Vespers and the Gloria Patri. These are taught gradually, adding a bit each week. It usually takes until about late January for everyone to fix this opening of the service well in mind, but for the rest of the year it is second nature.
Then I go to the “Commandment Corner.” I sit in another folding chair located in the nearest corner of the nave, still not far from the children. We concentrate on one of the Ten Commandments each month, repeating it every week. (We let “You shall not covet” suffice for the Ninth and Tenth Commandments during May.) In fact, every “Commandment Corner” includes a cumulative recitation of all the commandments learned up to that time.
Although the particular commandment of the day (month) may or may not bear a close connection to the day’s Bible story, “Commandment Corner” has helped me in proclaiming the Law to four-year-olds. Instead of broad-brushing sin as “bad things we do,” after the pupils learn a few commandments, I can speak more specifically about sin in treating Bible stories. As always when speaking with children, the challenge remains of introducing sin as a condition, not only discrete acts. Yet I find various individual acts much easier to identify as sin after the children know something of God’s Law. No surprise!
We are just beginning to incorporate a “bookend” time to concentrate on the Creed. It will follow the day’s Bible story, just as the “Commandment Corner” is a set piece preceding the Bible story. In the past, we have experienced difficulty getting pupils to learn the words of the Apostles’ Creed. We are beginning to use a set of movements that can be made by leader and children as the words are spoken, not only in chapel but also at other times throughout the week.4
More below about the Bible story, which lies at the heart of chapel! For now, let me finish describing our chapel order. I move back to my original chair for the Bible story (and the new Creed component). Then I lead a “repeat after me” prayer based on the Bible story. These prayers are usually short: two or three sentences, spoken and repeated a few words at a time, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. When the year begins we say the Lord’s Prayer line by line in “repeat after me” fashion, but we usually find it is known by enough of the children that before long we are praying it in unison.
By the way, you might have noticed that our preschool chapel services feature the three primary texts of the catechism. We include the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer.
Two other elements conclude the service. They rotate on a monthly basis. One is a short Bible verse of the month (such as “Christ died for our sins”), accompanied by appropriate motions.5 The other is a song (e.g., “Jesus Loves Me”) or hymn stanza of the month. (Year after year, we have found that kids love “The Lamb,” LSB 547.) Short liturgical portions such as the Kyrie can also be taught in this way. Before school commences each fall, we schedule these monthly elements to coincide with the Church Year seasons and Bible story selections.
The Stories: Strategically Set
We also arrange our Bible stories—the texts for the chapel sermons, as it were—into month-by-month groupings around central themes, for example, “Jesus, God’s Son, was born to save me” in December. We have also developed short lists of vocabulary words that arise from each month’s stories. Our goal is to teach these vocabulary words in and out of chapel and thus contribute to the “linguistic explosion” taking place in young minds. At this age, their vocabulary expands an average of ten words a day!6
Of course, preschoolers do not think abstractly. However, abstract thinking should not be confused with thinking about abstract concepts. Preschoolers deal with abstract concepts all the time, but they do so in concrete terms. For example, they get to know the abstract concept “big” by comparing big objects with little ones. It comes as no surprise that much of classic children’s literature includes conflicts between opposites.7 The Bible does too. No one understood this better than Luther. “When I preach a sermon,” the reformer said, “I set up a conflict.”8 He drew out the conflicts in biblical stories. We can do the same for preschoolers.
Almost all of our Bible stories come from the New Testament, the lion’s share of them from the Gospels. We are taking the most direct way to tell young children of Christ, with the help of CPH’s Little Lambs and Little Lambs Too.9
We begin the year with the Passion story. A huge crucifix is mounted on our chancel wall. It catches every eye, including those of four-year-olds. Back in the days when we tried to begin more conventionally, with a topic such as God’s creation of the world, we found ourselves constantly deferring questions about the details of Jesus’ suffering and death. (“What’s that on his head?”) So we have taken to starting every year with a two-month long unit, more or less “homemade,” on the Passion and resurrection of Christ. Just as “Commandment Corner” has facilitated the proclamation of the Law, this early Passion unit has enhanced our proclamation of the Gospel for the rest of the year. In both chapel and classroom we can continually refer back to the crucifixion and resurrection, which form the very heart of the Gospel.
Our remaining topics unfold rather predictably. We have stories of God’s creation and preservation of the world in November (leading up to Thanksgiving), of Jesus’ birth in December, then his Baptism, miracles, and teachings in January through late Lent. We talk about Palm Sunday the week before Palm Sunday. Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper forms the focus for Holy Week, and we revisit the resurrection account during the week after Easter. Then come stories about the risen Christ. The school year ends with Pentecost and a story or two of the apostolic era Church.
The Sermons: Stories Said and Sung
and Said Again
When engaging the week’s Bible story in chapel, I briefly say something to arouse interest. Immediately, I hold up a Bible and sing the refrain of “Listen, God Is Calling” (LSB 833). Before long, the pupils join me in singing.
Overall, I should note the role that song can play in preschool chapel, and not only singing with pupils. We can also sing to them, in addition to saying words to them.10 I have been singing to kids more every year. “Commandment Corner” begins and ends with short songs, as will our new Creed component. At times, my proclamation of God’s Word in the “Bible story” portion of chapel consists in part of singing something I have found, adapted, or made up myself.
Basically, however, I proclaim God’s Word simply by telling the Bible story and pointing out Law and Gospel. Almost every week, I display an old CPH poster depicting the appropriate story. The children usually show great interest in these posters. They see details, ask about them, and give me an opportunity to explain.
I ask the pupils questions too. In the middle of introducing a story, for instance, it can be good to pause and ask them to predict what will happen next.
An adjunct to telling the story can be for pupils to assume various roles and act them out on a modest basis. Once I resorted to this technique when another plan fell through at the last minute, but it worked so well that I went back to it. Now it has become one of my favorites. It involves the pupils who are playing the various parts, of course, but it also captures the attention of those who remain sitting in the pew. Sometimes, the acting-out follows my telling of the story, but more often I narrate while the pupils are acting. In any case, I always give the “actors” a lot of “cues.” Their actions are very simple, done in pantomime. We rely heavily on youthful imagination to turn a space in the aisle into a boat being buffeted by waves on the Sea of Galilee, or to think of the chancel step as a rock on which the disciples leaned when they went to sleep at Gethsemane.
Another device I use for reinforcing the Bible story is to recite, one line at a time, a poem that retells and applies the story, modeling simple motions for each line of the poem. Pupils repeat my words and actions. The CPH Little Lambs and Voyages series offer many such poems and other recitations. I often turn to this device when the week’s Bible story does not lend itself to dramatization, such as the Ascension or Pentecost.
Sometimes, we dwell on church furnishings and appointments as visual aids. Kids never miss a change of paraments! In chapel on the week in January when our Bible story is the Baptism of our Lord, I call attention to the baptismal font. I pour water from it for everyone to see and thus introduce the subject of Baptism. I return to this important topic, using the font in a similar way, a few more times before the school year ends.
A Concluding Plea
Pastors, please don’t pass up the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in your church’s preschool, even if it is not affiliated with a Lutheran elementary school. If I can do this after making every imaginable mistake, I am confident that you can—all by the grace and help of God.
1. On these matters I agree with Mark Barz, “Children’s Messages: One Pastor’s Story about Telling Stories for Children,” Concordia Pulpit Resources, vol. 22, part 1, p. 5.
2. My hat goes off to Megan Pemberton, Zion’s preschool director, who commented on a draft of this article. So did Dr. Paul Grime of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. Any faults, however, are my sole responsibility.
3. We have not copyrighted this poem. So far as our church is concerned, you are welcome to use it if you wish. Unless your poetic standards come down to my level of doggerel, however, you may not want to include the last two lines—even if your school’s name is Zion!
4. DCE Emily Kennell gave us these motions.
5. See Christine Suguitan Krug, Favorite Action Bible Verses: More of God’s Word in Finger Plays (St. Louis: Concordia, 2003).
6. Helen Bee, Denise Boyd, The Developing Child, 12th ed. (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2009), 209.
7. For clarity of statement on this point I am indebted to Diane J. Hymans, “The Child Grew: Understanding Children’s Development,” The Ministry of Children’s Education: Foundations, Contexts, and Practices (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004), 45–46.
8. Quoted in Fred W. Meuser, “Luther as Preacher of the Word of God,” The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 143.
9. Published in 2001 and 2005, respectively.
10. Dr. Roberta Nelson, personal conversation with the author.
Preaching James with Luther
Rev. Jason D. Lane, pastor, Celebration Lutheran Church, St. Johns, Florida
The new three-year Lectionary offers the Church and her pastors more James than ever before. Whereas the one-year Lectionary that Luther followed called on James only twice a year (Rogate and Cantate Sundays) and covered only parts of the first chapter (James 1:16–27), modern preachers following the three-year Lectionary will have the opportunity to preach from the epistle on six occasions. Series A offers James 5:7–11 for Advent 3. Series B, however, is the most comprehensive, offering James 1:12–18 as the Epistle for Lent 1, and then adding a string of four more lessons in Pentecost for Propers 18 through 21 (2:1–10, 14–18; 3:1–12; 3:13–4:10; 5:[1–12] 13–20). Yet whether Lutheran preachers should make the Epistle of James a healthy part of the Church’s diet is a question that deserves further historical and theological consideration.
The Authority of James in the Lutheran Church
It is well known that Luther had harsh words for the book he called “straw.”1 Drawing on the imagery of St. Paul in 1 Cor 3:12–15 to describe his view of Scripture, Luther was convinced by the internal witness of James that he had built on the foundation of Jesus Christ with straw. That does not mean that Luther rejected James, as is often assumed, but only that the message of James, like the message of every preacher, will be revealed by fire on the Day of Christ, as Paul argues, for the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. According to Luther, James does not lay the foundation of Christ and faith, since he does not preach Jesus’ death and resurrection, but addresses—almost exclusively—the Christian ethos. Considering its limited scope, not to mention spotty reception in the Early Church, Luther therefore thought it unwise to treat such a book on the same level and authority as St. Paul and the rest of Scripture.2
Influential heirs of Luther, most notably Martin Chemnitz, confirmed the reformer’s skepticism of the epistle’s authority in their defense of the inspiration of Holy Scripture against Jesuit opponents. Concern for Holy Scripture as the only rule and norm of faith (sola scriptura) had led many Lutherans in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to question James and the other antilegomena (Hebrews, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation) as authoritative for the Church’s doctrine. Yet their hesitancy to accept the antilegomena in the canon tells us very little about how these books were used to edify, nurture, and exhort the Church. So as long as their canonical or apostolic authority was in question, Lutherans agreed that one may not derive Christian dogma from them. “[W]hat is said in these books must be explained and understood according to the analogy of those things which are clearly taught in the canonical books.”3
For Luther and Chemnitz, canonicity was a matter of divine authority, not merely of authorship. From this perspective, their approach to James was strictly dogmatic in nature. Is James part of the Bible or not? Is it normative for faith? For later Lutherans, however, the definition of what makes a book canonical had shifted. On this point, Robert Preus has rightly criticized J. Gerhard, J. A. Quenstedt, and the later dogmaticians.4 Preus points out that after Gerhard, Lutherans made no real distinction between the homologoumena and the antilogomena of the New Testament. They had reduced canonicity, which for Luther and Chemnitz was predicated on divine authority, to a concession of divine authorship, without real concern for the historical origin of the text or the human being whom the Holy Spirit would have carried along (1 Pet 1:21). In other words, an affirmation of the Holy Spirit as autor primarius of the antilegomena made any further distinctions superfluous. Even if one had doubts about the autores secundarii (Did James write it? If so, which James?), the conviction that the books were “God-breathed” led one to regard them unequivocally as Scripture.5
So where does this leave the pastor who does not want to go beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6)? Can we be sure that James is God-breathed Scripture? One way to calm our fears would be to follow Gerhard and Quenstedt and accept James’s authority without reservation. But it hardly seems wise to overlook the book’s limited reception in the Early Church or to deny the dogmatic concerns that Luther, Chemnitz, and many others had about the sole norm of faith. A better way would be to look at how Luther himself used the Book of James, not in doctrinal disputes but as part of his pastoral care. How did Luther apply the message of James to his hearers? By accepting the concern of the Early Church and the Lutheran reformers as to what makes Scripture Scripture, we can recognize the limitations of James and the other antilegomena and leave the question of their canonicity open. If that question is open, we agree that these books cannot determine Christian doctrine without the greater witness of the canonical Scriptures. Although this limits the use of James in dogmatic discourse, it should not deter the preacher from proclaiming the message of James for the life of the Church. The Lutheran pastor should be encouraged to preach on James, knowing the book’s message has an important place in the broader scope of the biblical kerygma. To use Paul’s construction imagery again, even if a house may be more beautiful with precious stones set in its arches, sometimes what a house really needs is straw to keep the rain out. At times, James is exactly what Christians need to hear. Moreover, it may encourage pastors to know that to preach James is merely to follow the lead of Luther and his theological heirs. Regardless of their canonical view of James, our Lutheran fathers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries recognized that James has something needful to teach the Church. Therefore, the opinion that Lutherans neither understood nor appreciated James simply because they questioned its canonical status needs to be seriously reconsidered.
A look at the wealth of Lutheran sermons, commentaries, and use of James to interpret other passages of Scripture from Luther into the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy indicates that James was never set aside in the proclamation of the Word or in biblical exegesis and was never taken out of their Bibles. That is not to deny that Lutherans criticized James (sometimes brutally!), but only to recognize a distinction between the Lutheran Church’s defense of dogma and her piety. When opponents used the book to defend an erroneous doctrinal position, Luther and his followers were quick to jettison the book for the clearer testimony of Scripture.6 Indeed, Luther gives his harshest critiques of James when the doctrine of justification is at stake.7 His sermons on James, however, show a completely different side to the reformer’s treatment of the epistle. Not only can one see in these sermons on James 1:16–27 how versatile Luther is at expounding difficult passages of Scripture as he allows Scripture to interpret Scripture, but, more important, one also sees how Luther anticipates further difficulties for the reader of James and so lays out a pattern of interpretation for the entire book.
Luther’s Sermons on the Epistle of James
In his career, Luther preached on James on five separate occasions and followed the arrangement of the one-year Lectionary. Only five sermons from such a prolific preacher may seem like a scant treatment of a biblical book, but considering what he said about James, it is astonishing that Luther preached on James at all. With the Lectionary in place, Luther certainly had the option of preaching on James every year, but it was an option he avoided until Rogate Sunday in 1535, when he preached on James 1:21–27 (to be published by CPH in LW 57). He then preached on James 1:16–21 the following two years (1536–37). Finally, in 1539, he preached on both texts—a total of five sermons.8 The dates are significant. Prior to 1535, Luther typically preached the Gospel lessons (both from John 16) at the morning services. But in 1535, things changed. The resurgence of the antinomian disputes involving John Agricola and several of Luther’s and Melanchthon’s students9 caused Luther to take up James, in order to exhort and admonish Christians to a true faith, full of good works. The sermons, which to my knowledge are not scheduled to be part of the extension of Luther’s Works in English (except the one noted above), offer many insights into Luther’s mind during the antinomian controversies. They also serve as shining examples of Luther’s skill as a preacher to distinguish between Law and Gospel.
Luther on James 1:21–27
Luther observes in his first sermon on James that from the start, the apostles had to work constantly to urge their hearers to true faith. True faith has works and makes itself known to others by the good fruit it bears.10 As long as the Lord keeps his Gospel pure, those in the preaching office must preach, exhort, plead, and pray, so that whoever wants to be a Christian would be excited (excitentur) to be true and not a false Christian.11 Warning preachers to excite and stir up Christians to be true and not false is a theme Luther picks up both here and in his 1539 sermon on the same text. But how does Luther suggest preachers should excite people to true faith? And what is being stirred up in man?
James’s language at 1:21 of the implanted Word causes Luther to recall Christ’s parable of the sower (Mt 13:1–9, 18–23; Lk 8:4–8; WA 41.69.6–7) in which Christ describes the seed that fell on different soil. Some seeds fell on the road and were devoured by the birds. Others fell on the rocks and, because the soil was shallow, they sprang up quickly, but when the sun rose they were scorched by its heat. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seed, however, fell on good soil and produced wheat, even a hundredfold. The parable is indicative of how Luther handles the exhortations to true faith in James: the seed is the Word, not faith; the Word is the Gospel, not Law. The preacher’s task, therefore, is to stir up the Word of the Gospel that has been planted in the heart of every Christian.
The preacher, however, must recognize that the Word may not always fall on good soil. “We can’t bring everyone [to true faith]; we can’t prevent seed from falling on the road, under thorns, and on rocks. Still, the office of the ministry must diligently uphold, admonish, and teach—not only as James, but also as the prophets and apostles—that whoever wants to be a Christian should be serious and no hypocrite” (WA 41.69.12–13). Every Christian who looks intently at himself will find that he still has that old Adam in him, who is lazy and tired of hearing God’s Word. The old Adam is always looking for an easier way. And the easier the way, the easier it is for Satan to rob the Christian of faith and pull him back into “the woods of Satan.” Therefore, James tells us to leave behind all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive the implanted Word. Only when the Word is received and cultivated does the Christian live according to his new self (rechtschaffen wesen) (WA 41.69.24). Because everything about faith depends on the Word, Luther places more emphasis on the Word than on the Christian’s faith. The Word is planted, and the Word brings forth the fruit of eternal life. God has planted his Gospel in us through the apostles’ preaching. Like James, “[Paul] says that the Gospel is a little plant [pfentzlin] that is preached through the mouth of men, and it is so strong that whoever believes it is planted and rooted so deeply that he is saved” (WA 41.70.38ff). Therefore, the apostolic preaching office, which delivers the Word, should exhort Christians, especially children, to hold to the Word by holding to the catechism (WA 41.72.14–17).
Luther’s 1539 sermon on James 1:22–27 has similar themes. This time, however, Luther takes special interest in James’s use of a mirror (1:23–24) to describe the Christian life. “Why do we use a mirror?” asks Luther. “It is to see what’s messy, so that we can clean it with a cloth . . . so that we see what is deficient and not be filthy, but rather pristinely adorned” (WA 47.753.14–16). As long as we are sinners, we must not turn away from us the mirror of the Law. Here, Luther takes aim at the antinomians, who say that for the Christian there is no use of the Law. “We must not turn away from the mirror, but turn to it. If you gaze into the mirror, then go like a bride from the mirror to the basin, and, as long as you see dirt, never stop washing” (WA 47.754.16–19). Luther thus interprets James in the context of the Christian’s baptismal life, which is also a life of distinguishing Law and Gospel in the heart. While afflicted and at the brink of despair, the Christian ought to turn to the sure promise of his Baptism. “[T]he sin of disobedience is imbedded so deeply. I should believe and not doubt that I am baptized and that I hear the Gospel concerning Christ who was delivered unto death. But even if that may be planted rightly in the heart, look how I feel after I defy the devil and death. The Law is greater than the Gospel. For I know the art of being uncertain and the art of not really trusting much better than I know its opposite. Look in the mirror. . . . That art is easy, for we inherited it from our parents” (WA 47.752.18–25).
Despite Luther’s disregard here for the law of liberty as Gospel, it is of interest to the discussion of the third use of the Law that Luther does not deny that there is a freeing use of the Law. Although it seldom happens in this life, the Christian may still look into the law of liberty (the Commandments) and gladly see the things that please God and do them. Luther says, “If you look in the mirror and there’s nothing dirty, then notice instead how you’re adorned; but beware, whenever we throw out the Law, we stop paying attention to it” (WA 47.754.19–20). The Law is therefore only in effect when the Gospel is a welcomed guest, because the Gospel allows the Christian to see, as in a mirror, that all is accomplished. In that moment, one sees no stain, but only how Christ has adorned the Christian with his own work and fulfilled the Law in the sinner’s place. Although the writers of the Formula of Concord, Art VI 9, point their readers to Luther’s sermon on the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Eph 4:22–28)12 as an explanation of his view on the third use, they could have just as well directed us to Luther’s two sermons on James 1:21–27.
Luther on James 1:16–21
The three sermons that Luther preached on James 1:16–21 (Cantate Sunday 1536, 1537, and 1539) expand on the themes already mentioned. Luther sees a twofold scope of the first chapter: First, the author exhorts us to remain with the external Word (cum verbo audito) since the Word remains forever.13 Second, the author wants to show the power and potency of the Word (vim et potentiam; WA 45.78.1). These two themes, the assuredness of God’s Word and the Word’s efficacy, serve as Luther’s two interpretive keys to unlocking the first chapter of James. Furthermore, these two aspects have implications as to how Luther, given the chance, might have preached on the rest of James.
Luther begins at 1:16 to criticize both the enthusiasts and the papists. The enthusiasts do not bind themselves to the external Word, yet claim to have the truth of the Spirit. The papists claim to have the Holy Spirit, to have the sacraments, and to be the Church, yet have no regard for the implanted Word. The implanted Word, however, is not the same as God’s truth, as the enthusiasts claim. The devil tried to use God’s truth to trap Christ (Matthew 4). Therefore, God’s Word can be true, but that is not the same as the true implanted Word. God’s Word is Spirit too, but one has to recognize that the Spirit speaks in the grammar handed down through Christ and his apostles.14 Luther thus urges every Christian to remain “with the word that is planted in him, that comes forth from the mouth of Christ and is planted thereafter through the apostles.”15 The word is a perfect gift (perfectum donum) of God that remains because God remains with it. As sure as the Word is, so sure are the sacraments which hang on the Word.16 This gift of the implanted Word is for Luther not just any Word, but the divine Word, having both the quality and characteristics of God. Like God, the Word is immovable and radiant. “When I hear that Word, ‘I am baptized,’ it is not a human gift, but a gift from the Father of light,17 who lives in pure light that shines and remains forever.”18 The logic is as follows: The Word is a gift and remains forever, because God is pure light and remains forever, and the sacraments are God’s gifts because of the Word, and therefore they, too, are immovable.
In the Augustinian tradition that nurtured Luther’s early theology, res (the thing itself) is distinguished from signum (sign). Following the grammar of James, however, Luther finds no real distinction between the two, and so exemplifies how one may preach James sacramentally. Unlike the enthusiasts and his Catholic opponents, Luther operates with the assumption that the res (God) and signum (gifts) are intimately joined and constantly in communication. What is said of the sign must also be said of the thing itself. The Christological implications become clear. In the same way, Luther writes in the Large Catechism on Baptism: “I encourage again that these two—the water and the Word—by no means be separated from each other and parted” (LC IV 22). Because of the unity of the gift, faith looks to the divine Word (res) as the effective agent in Baptism: “Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God’s command and connected with God’s Word” (SC IV First Part). But faith is also directed to the signum that possesses the attributes of the word with its command and promise: “Faith clings to the water.”19 On account of the unity by communication of the res and the signum, there is one Baptism. Thus to cling to the water is to cling to the whole gift with its command, word, and promise.
At James 1:17, Luther sees a communication of attributes between God and his gifts: “Just as [the Father of light] is radiant and shines, so also his gifts.”20 To reject the gift is to reject God, even though one’s rejection does not change the immutability of the gift. “[God] is light and he remains, and what he gives is light, thus Baptism is his radiance (glantz) and it remains.”21 With God it is not dark today and light tomorrow, but with God it is eternal day (sed eterna dies). The radiance of God and his Word shines in Baptism as God communicates his attributes in and through that Word. He takes up lowly means and sanctifies them, even as Christ sanctified humanity by taking up the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3).22 The analogy of the hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures gives Luther the theological insight to preach the gifts and God’s effectivity through them.23
Luther comes to the second part of James’s twofold scope, the effect of the Word, by making use of James’s birth analogy and combining it with the analogy of a woodworker or artisan. “We now come to the good Shepherd and Bishop not as those born of ourselves, like those who are ever-changing try to carve us out as a product of our own virtues and ability.”24 The language of carving and the reference to Christ as shepherd and bishop are taken from 1 Pet 2:21–25, the lesson for the previous Sunday on which Luther had preached.25 Luther not only diagnoses a constant problem in our sinful flesh, but with the reference to 1 Peter displays his pedagogical approach to preaching. His hearers are able to recall the previous sermon and see the continuity of the biblical message. The analogy of a woodworker in that sermon was Luther’s way of applying 1 Pet 2:21: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” Christ’s suffering is an example for Christians to follow, but his image “is far too high for us.”26
Again, Luther carries over the language from his sermon on 1 Peter to his interpretation of James: those who attempt to follow Christ by whittling away at their image through penance, prayer, and good works make an image, but it is nothing more than graven.27 God’s image cannot be carved with human hands. Here the two texts converge in his understanding of the imago Dei. 1 Peter speaks of Christ as an example of suffering for others, much like Phil 2:1–11. As Luther works through James, he presents both the image as a result of the new birth (1:18) and the image of God in Christ, whose Passion is a pattern and example that we can look at intently, as in a mirror, and follow (1:23–24).28 Luther then ties the graven image of man’s works together with the imagery of birth. Sinful flesh gives birth to sinful flesh. Yet carving away at the flesh by penance, prayer, or some form of mortification will not only hurt, but it will also drive a person either to delusion or despair. Even if one can carve back his flesh slightly, he will be sure to find sin at the bone. He cannot make himself; he must be born again in the image of God.
Against his Roman Catholic opponents, Luther presses the language of imago with the birth analogy at 1:18, challenging a false view of his day that one attempted to conform one’s self to the form or image of Christ through prayer, meditation, and contrition. Through the analogy of birth given by James, Luther put the conformity to Christ of 1 Pet 2:21–25 not as a work we do, but as something God does to us. “God through mother Church [makes men in his image]. The mother’s womb wherein the child is conceived is the Holy Gospel. We are conceived in it, and through it he makes us into his own image.”29 The language is striking: “Deus pater, verbum mater et Ecclesia. ‘Verbum veritatis’ est mater” (WA 45.80.26–27). The Word is mother, and she has the power to resurrect the fallen image. The interpolation of the 1 Peter passage is Luther’s way of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Both texts are understood in and through the other. Hence, Luther uses James’s death and life imagery to guard against a false understanding of conformitas in 1 Peter. At the same time, however, he shows that James is properly speaking about the example of Christ’s cruciform life. This life is a life of death and resurrection that God himself works in us through the Word. The Christian born of water and the Spirit now lives between death and life, between both the image of Satan, whose deadly tongue gave birth to sin and sin to death (Genesis 3; James 1:15), and the image of Christ, which is renewed in us through his Holy Gospel: “per [Sanctum Euangelium] facit nos imaginem sui.”30 Even the Christian with new and holy impulses by the Spirit cannot conform to the image of Christ unless God resurrects him in his image through the Word.
A cursory look at Luther’s five sermons on the Epistle of James demonstrates how Luther was able masterfully to lay hold of the biblical imagery in James. His treatment of these images in the first chapter of James should help the preacher as he approaches some of the more difficult passages of the epistle, especially James 2, concerning justification and good works. Luther would agree that works certainly do declare us righteous (justify), but as St. Paul says, “not before God” (Rom 4:2). God does not justify us because we have good fruit, and certainly not because we are good trees. He calls into existence that which was not (Rom 4:17) and makes bad trees good by the Word of truth (James 1:18). Once God has made the tree good, no one will deny that good fruit indicates a good tree. The examples James gives of Abraham and Rahab (2:21–26) are not examples of God’s justification (making the tree good), but a fulfillment of that justification (bearing fruit for all to see). Luther captures this argument of James in his sermons on ch 1 and directs our attention not to the old Pauline/Jacobean debate over faith and good works. Rather, Luther finds in James a component of the biblical kerygma that informs the entire discussion of faith and good works and has its origin in the preaching of Jesus. In James 1, both faith and good works are a product of the implanted Word, which God himself has sent from above (1:17). Works, then, do not proceed from faith itself but from the Word that is able to save souls—the same Word that faith receives. God is, as James implies at 5:7 (Series B, Proper 21), the Farmer who plants good seed (the Word) and waits patiently for it to grow. His sermons indicate how attentive Luther is to James’s biblical imagery: “A sower went out to sow” (Mt 13:3); and “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. . . . The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man” (Mt 13:24, 37).
To the preacher who wants to preach James wisely, let him ask God for wisdom, not doubting but firmly believing, for God gives generously. But let him also gain a bit of wisdom from Luther. His sermons were not filled with an apology for the letter’s canonicity or authorship. In fact, Luther tells his congregation in more than one sermon that he doubts its apostolic character. Nevertheless, Luther embraces the imagery and argument of James 1 that sets the tone as to how one should understand the rest of the book. Front and center is the Word, which has resurrection power and remains forever, just as God remains. Looking broadly at the place of James in the Church, Luther concluded his preface to the epistle with these words: “In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task. He tries to accomplish by harping on the Law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love” (AE 35:397). But upon his closer inspection, Luther could say of James: “[T]his epistle has to do with the resurrection of the dead, because we now have a glorious and priceless gift; to be sure, they’re not perfect [in us] yet, but God has begun to build and beget us.”31 Luther is a fine example of how the closer one looks at James and remains there, the more one will sees the power of the implanted Word, which is able to save his soul.
1. AE 35:362; WA DB 6:10.33–34. “Preface to the New Testament, 1522.” “Darumb ist sanct Jacobs Epistel eyn rechte stroern Epistel [. . .], denn sie doch keyn Euangelisch art an yhr hat.”
2. WA DB 7:387.15–18. “Preface to James, 1522/1545.” “Therefore I cannot place it among the proper chief books; but I won’t stop anyone from having a place for it or defending it how he pleases, for it has many good sayings in it.” “Darumb kan ich jn nicht vnter die rechten Heubtbuecher setzen, Wil aber damit niemand wehren, das er jn setze vnd hebe, wie es jn geluestet, Denn viel guter Sprueche sonst darinne sind.” WA 30/II:664.24–28. “De loco Iustificationis, 1530.” Commenting on James 2:26, “Faith without works is dead,” Luther writes, “James is speaking of morality, not of theology, as almost the entire [book] is moral. Morally speaking, it’s true, faith without works is dead, i.e., if faith does not work, or if works do not follow faith. For the kind of faith [we are discussing] cannot be without works, i.e., it cannot not work, or else it is not faith.” Now if Luther is critical of the message of James, it is because he is critical of morality and philosophy (improvement in human virtue) when they are used to take the place of the subjects of theology: man as sinner and God as the Justifier of the ungodly. See AE 12:311, Luther’s “Commentary on Psalm 51.” It is also worth noting here how clear Luther is on his interpretation of James 2. James is not speaking about works as the source of our justification, but as the effect of our justification. If there is no fruit, something is wrong with the tree.
3. Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), 189.
4. Robert Preus, The Inspiration of Scripture: A Study of the Theology of the 17th–Century Lutheran Dogmaticians (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1957), xi–xv.
5. Preus, Inspiration, xiii.
6. An example of this is Luther and Melanchthon’s student Andreas Althamer, who wrote the first and by far the harshest Lutheran commentary on James (1527). However, in his second and much more amiable exposition of James in 1533, Althamer explains his severity. He wrote his first commentary “because of the quarrelsome Sophists, Scholastics and Papists. . . . [T]hey thought they had taken hold of the proper sword to combat our holy, indestructible doctrine of justification by faith and other points of doctrine.” Andreas Althamer, Die Epistel S. Jacobs Mit newer auslegung/Andree Althamers. Wie sie gepredigt worden Zu Onoltzbach (Wittenberg, 1533), A2 r.
7. Luther’s preface to James from 1522: “One man is no man in worldly things; how then should this single man alone avail against Paul and all the rest of Scripture?” AE 35:397, note 55; WA DB 7:386.17–21.
8. Rogate: James 1:21–27, May 2, 1535, WA 41.69–73; Cantate: James 1:17–21, May 14, 1536, WA 41.578–90; Cantate: James 1:16–21, April 29, 1537, WA 45.77–81; Cantate: James 1:16–21, May 4, 1539, WA 47.742–48; Rogate: James 1:22–27, May 11, 1539, WA 47.748–56.
9. See Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532–1546 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 147–73.
10. WA 41.69.5–6.
11. WA 41.69.8–9.
12. WA 22.311–22; Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. and trans. John N. Lenker, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 304–16. See The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000), 589.
13. WA 45.77.36ff. Luther’s addition of the phrase Verbum domini manet (1 Pet 1:25) indicates his view that James has correlates to St. Peter’s first epistle.
14. WA 39/II.104.24 (Disputatio de divitate et humanitate Christi contra Schwenkfeldt, 28 Feb 1540).
15. WA 45.78.29–30.
16. WA 45.79.24–31. “Therefore, if one speaks of baptism and the sacrament of the altar through the word, he can be sure that he has a true and perfect gift, and that God remains with it forever. Unless the word should cease or there be another baptism or absolution, God will stand forever by what He has established, regardless of whether the whole world fights against it. So if the word does not cease, then these are perfect gifts, because the word comes from above.”
17. Luther does not always follow the text, which says “the Father of lights” (pater luminum) but uses frequently the singular (pater lucis) as the early fathers did to indicate Christ, the Light of the world (Jn 8:12).
18. WA 45.79.31–33.
19. LC IV 29; BSLK 696.35. “Also hanget nu der Glaube am Wasser.”
20. WA 45.79.33. “Sicut ipse leuchtet und scheinet, sic eius dona.”
21. WA 45.79.41–42.
22. As it is confessed in the Athanasian Creed, Christ is “one, however, not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh but by the assumption of the humanity into God” (Paul McCain et al., eds., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, second ed. [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006], 18).
23. Johann Anselm Steiger, “The communicatio idiomatum as the Axle and Motor of Luther’s Theology,” trans. Carolyn Schneider, Lutheran Quarterly 14:2 (Summer 2000), 125–58.
24. WA 45.80.10–12.
25. WA 45.73–77 (Misericordia Domini, 15 April 1537).
26. WA 45.74.16. “[Sein Vorbild] ist uns viel zu hoch gestellt.”
27. WA 45.80.13–15.
28. Luther is not interested in the mirror as the Law, but as the image of Christ that we must imitate.
29. WA 45.80.15–17.
30. WA 45.80.17. “through [the Gospel] he makes us into his image.”
31. WA 41.582.3–5.
Preaching the Reformation:
The Homiletical Handbook of Urbanus Rhegius