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Starlight, Starbright

1024pxMilkywaysummitlakewv1__West_Virginia__ForestWander

Forest Wander/Wikimedia Commons

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

One of my favorite activities during the summer is to leisurely walk my little buddy, Boomer, as the sun sets and the summer heat subsides. More often than not, we become witnesses to a wondrous spectacle of birds settling in for the night, rabbits and deer foraging, and a magnificent burst of colors as the sun recedes and the moon and stars appear. What a special time of year!

I hope as you travel or recreate closer to home, you take an opportunity to pause in your own wonder and worship. Consider the same loving God who created the world and stars created you. Like all of nature, you have a purpose and place in God’s loving, creative plan. In the hush of the evening, I suspect you might better hear and understand your call to reflect God’s beautiful light.

Yet like the stars above, we remain called to be in communion with one another – reflecting and sharing Christ’s love. We are asked to plant seeds of faith, justice and peace – as when volunteering at vacation bible school, local humane societies, food pantries, or serving in many other ways. At all times, we are invited to raise our voices in worship and praise of God with the mountains, seas, and firmament.

No matter where you go or what you do this summer, please contemplate our shared call to be church. We remain Christ’s, and it is Christ’s light and beauty which we are called to reflect and share. It is you, me and others that were created, called and baptized to be Christ’s church together.

 

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (July 2017). Revised version, 26 June 2017. 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2017 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Anchored Together

“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…” (Hebrews 6:19a)

anchorIn our sanctuary, you will find a stained-glass window featuring seven doves surrounding an anchor contained in a heart. The seven doves represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit alluded to in Isaiah 11:1-2. The heart represents our God who is the embodiment of love according to scripture. Yet, what’s the deal with the anchor?

It is likely the anchor became a Christian symbol very early on. Fishermen who intimately knew the dangers of the sea were Jesus’ first followers after all. They walked with Jesus during trying times – a time of radical change when they seemed surrounded by all kinds of threats. Where does a fisherman turn as storms approach? An anchor serves to moor a vessel and save it from destruction, and it is Jesus who desires to anchor and saves us.

It is little wonder then that this common image is used in Hebrews when the author speaks of the perils of falling away from our faith. The author writes, “For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

And what promises! Through faith, we share a certain hope of eternal salvation. We have an intimate connection to the love of God through the Holy Spirit and Christ’s Church. We are called to share in the glorious, life-transforming work of the Gospel. This is our call, and it will prove our joy.

I hope all of us enjoy summer activities and perhaps even travel, but I also encourage each of us to hold fast to our one and only anchor that can withstand any storm. No matter where we find ourselves, continue to worship, serve and rejoice in the Lord. Support the life of Christ’s church, and let the church support you. Together with Christ, we are not just able to survive life’s storms. We are being asked with Jesus to make them fade away forever.

Happy summer to one and all. May you be blessed to be a blessing.

Pastor Lou

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (June 2017).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2017 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Spring is here

flowers

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

In this world, nothing lasts forever: fortunes fade or disappear, relationships end or move on, opportunities pass, and people sadly die. Therefore, change is often feared and the unknown suspected. If not in our words, our actions often reveal our true thoughts about this “reality.” We tend to make choices that are meant to protect ourselves from the world. Often based on fears and the perception of or needs or wants, they end up being choices that can hurt ourselves and others rather than bless. They can unintentionally, slowly separate us from God, others, and the abiding joy Christ promised for our present.

In contrast, spring reminds us that our struggles won’t last forever. Against stacked odds, we become witnesses to new life brought forth and the dead resurrected all around us. Birds sing, and flowers bloom. Time and again, great prophets like Isaiah shared God’s promises through such images (as in chapter thirty-five): “The wilderness and the dry land will be glad” or “the mirage will become a pool of water.” Based on such promises, he goes on to give a charge to the People of God, “Encourage the exhausted, and make staggering knees firm. Say to those with an anxious and panic-stricken heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!’”

Sowers plant seed, wait and watch for spring while longing for the harvest. It takes time and patience, intentionality and effort. Storms or droughts might come, but we break the ground to refresh the soil, remove weeds and dead growth. There’s a kind of sweat equity needed, yet many hands make lighter work. And so, we are asked to join with others trusting winter, want and war will not last forever. We plant in hope and trust spring will come and a certain harvest will follow.

This Easter, I hope we all reflect upon what God has done for us in Christ, but we should also consider what God is asking of us in response. We have been sent to this time and this place, for we still live in much the same world of Isaiah. People need our hope, help and companionship, and we need there’s. There’s much work to be done. The time is right for you and me and all to recommit to the work of the church…of being church together.

True, we and our congregation face many challenges each day, but Christ holds us in his crucified, resurrected, loving hands if we let him. Don’t hold onto the past or present with anxiety. Hold on to the promises of the Resurrection. Be strong. Fear not. Share all that you are and have with his Kingdom. Turn over all your cares to Christ. For, it is time to open our hearts and hands toward all anew and discover all the good which God intends to grow and give for our sake and the sake of the world.

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (April 2017).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2017 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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95 Lent Madness Theses (Round 2)

Disputation of the Rev. Louis A. Florio, Jr.  (aka Lou the Lutheran – lou-d-luthrn  or @loudluthrn) on the Goodness and Efficacy of voting for  Dr. Martin Luther 

  • This edited version has been reposted after his sound defeat in 2013. Show mercy upon him, a sinner, as he competes in 2017. Vote Martin Luther at LentMadness.org today! #HereIVote #Reformation500 #Reformation2017 #Reformation #ELCA500

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Louis Florio, Master of Divinity, and ordinary pastor therein at Messiah Lutheran Church (Mechanicsville, VA), intends to defend the following statements and invoke your vote for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther during Lent Madness.

  1. Luther loved God. He forcefully argued over and over again that the Ten Commandments and all of scripture wrapped into those first three commandments (as Lutherans count them) to honor and love God. Loving neighbor served to help fulfill that call, and served as sort of twin commandments. To me, it sounds a lot like Jesus.
  2. Luther was a spiritual trend setter. When the system came out against him, he continued to seek the truth through faith, scripture and reason despite the costs – and for him, there were many. He faced death threats and suffering throughout his career as a Reformer. Word Alone – Faith Alone – Grace Alone; that was enough for Luther. He steadfastly argued we are saved by grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone.
  3. Luther loved his wife, Katharina, despite her perhaps smelling a bit like herring when they first met. Luther in some ways (not all) ended up ahead of his time for women’s rights. They shared in their family’s economic and social life as relative equals. She, a former nun, was a close advisor and coworker in the Reformation and his letters speak lovingly of her. She was called the Morning Star of Wittenberg, and she became almost a model that a woman could do anything. When Luther died, he left his entire estate under her control against the practice of society at the time. He looked upon marriage as an equal calling to celibacy. Marriage helped fulfill God’s command in Genesis to go forth and multiply, but it also echoed and modeled the love which is God active in our lives (with or without children). Not a shrinking violet when it comes to talk of sex, he encouraged husbands to attend to all their wife’s needs. Read more in Luther on Women by Susan Karant-Nunn.

    Katharina-von-Bora

    Katharina von Bora Luther, the love of Martin Luther’s life. Click here to watch “The Morning Star of Wittenberg.”

  4. While always busy with the Reformation, Luther and Katie loved children and family life. They had six: Hans – June 1526; Elizabeth – 10 December 1527, who died within a few months; Magdalene – 1529, who died in Luther’s arms in 1542; Martin – 1531; Paul – January 1533; and Margaret – 1534. Although a man of his times in many respects regarding child rearing, Martin Luther spoke out against parents being overbearing and their responsibility to demonstrate Christian love at all times.Martin-And-Katherine-Luther
  5. Luther loved his neighbor and was compassionate towards them. For example, he argued that those who committed suicide should be shown love and mercy. They should be allowed to rest in hallowed grounds – not the practice of his day – for the darkness of this world had simply overcome them. Their salvation wasn’t resting on their own strength but the strength of Christ’s cross. (This is not unlike Hildegard of Bingen.) He was ahead of his time, perhaps since Luther seems to have suffered from depression himself. In his exposition of “Thou shall not murder,” Luther included ignoring your neighbor’s needs as a kind of murder. His faith was relational – toward God, toward neighbor, lived out together as church.
  6. Luther understood isolation and loneliness. Much like John of the Cross’ dark night of the soul, Luther wrote about Anfechtungen, the German word that Luther used to describe the overwhelming spiritual trial, terror, despair, and religious crisis that he experienced at times throughout his life. In such times, one must trust in the “hidden God” who is at work fulfilling all the promises of scripture (and more) with steadfast love. Luther often reminded himself of God’s promises in Baptism, simply reminding himself when afraid or filled with doubt, “I am baptized. I am Christ’s”
  7. Although in many ways a theological trendsetter, Luther was remarkably rooted in scriptures, those who came before him, and the mystical spirituality of the past. He loved the mystic who wrote Theologia Germanica, along with Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, Johannes Tauler, and Brigid of Sweeden; to name only a few. Don’t believe me? Read Theology of the Heart: The Role of Mysticism in the Theology of Martin Luther, by Bengt R. Hoffman.
  8. Luther loved animals and was bitterly opposed to hunting for sport. His beloved dog Tölpel (which means something like dunderhead) is mentioned affectionately again and again by Luther, and Luther expected animals to have a place in heaven thanks to our loving God. “Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.”
  9. Luther was extremely social. He loved gathering with friends and visitors to talk over current events, theology, and more while sharing a meal and a beer or two. (Hey, he was German, don’t forget.) His family frequently rested on the verge of poverty hosting so many people. Some of his most candid comments are found in a collection called Table Talk.
  10. Luther liked music, and he wrote many hymns. He is said to have sometimes taken common, popular music and attached Christian lyrics. The rumor is that A Mighty Fortress is Our God was from a popular pub song. He also believed if you couldn’t sing, sing loud anyway. It would scare away the Devil and bring you good cheer.
  11. Luther liked beer and even made it. No wonder the pope assumed he was just some “drunk German monk.” His favorite was said to be Einbeck beer, said to be the most famous beer of the Middle Ages, available everywhere in Germany and shipped as far as Jerusalem. Learn more about the beers of Martin Luther.
  12. Luther is your Homeboy. He was appreciated by contemporaries and later people for his down to earth language and theological approaches. Although, some (especially today) complain about these earthy characteristics and his bathroom language as well. Of course, who ever said saints are perfect?Luther is my homeboy.
  13. His theological descendants are your friends and neighbors. There are over 70.5 million Lutherans in the world. Visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to learn more.
  14. How many Lent Madness participants have rap songs written for them?
  15. Do you like reading or hearing scriptures in your own language? Well then, vote for Luther! Like Wycliffe and Hus, Luther advocated for it, and he created the first Bible in the German tongue. Bibles in the vernacular were still opposed by the Roman Catholic Church at the time – including in England.German_Bible
  16. Do you like receiving both the body and the blood of Christ during the celebration of the Eucharist? Well then, vote for Luther! Again like Wycliffe and Huss, he advocated for it, and it became a reality. (In his day, only the body was commonly shared with the congregation during the Roman Catholic mass.)
  17. Do you enjoy and find benefit from the liturgy in your own language? Well then, vote for Luther! He helped make it happen.
  18. Luther believed in the real presence – not transubstantiation or consubstantiation which are Aristotelian, metaphysical constructs. He didn’t want to even try to explain the mystery and risk being unbiblical, never mind use philosophy to do so. Instead, he suggested trusting that it was the real body and blood of Christ in, under and through the bread. Jesus said it. It is most certainly true. (We could perhaps avoid a lot of arguments with this simple approach.)
  19. Luther did not desire to break up the church only reform it, and he explicitely didn’t want a religion named after him. (Of course, you don’t always get what you want.) About ninety percent of all Lutherans still believe that there is one universal (i.e. catholic with a small c) church despite theological divisions, and they live their lives quite ecumenically. Our confessions, the Book of Concord, are held to be true as far as they are proven consistent with scripture. Thus, denominations like the ELCA feel free to work and worship with other denominations. The other 10%, called confessional Lutherans, hold the confessions to be equal to scripture. If you don’t agree with the confessions as written, you are deemed deficient if not heretical. I think the 90% are correct. Why not show them your support and vote Luther! While you are at it, read about The Catholicity of the Reformation or other Lutheran related books.

    The pastor's cat is a Lutheran cat.

    The pastor’s cat is a Lutheran cat.

  20. In an attempt to be biblical, Luther reviewed what should be considered a sacrament. The seven sacraments were settled upon in about the 12th or 13th century. The 16th Century Luther preserved what had been the seven sacraments as ministries of the church, but only two remained as sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why? Simply put, Jesus commanded these actions, and God’s Word is joined with physical things to become means of grace through faith. Confession almost made the cut, but it has no physical sign attached to it. Lutherans still practice corporate and private confession which Luther called a “healing medicine,” but it isn’t mandated. See, we Lutherans aren’t so different after all…
  21. Luther had a great sense of humor. Check out The Wit of Martin Luther by Eric W. Gritsch.
  22. How many Lent Madness participants have polkas made for them? (And seriously, who doesn’t like a good polka? #guiltypleasure)
  23. Luther was very human and certainly could be hot headed at times. The Lutheran Insulter is a fun tool to get your frustrations out.
  24. Imperfect as he knew he was, Luther held on to the grace of God even more. He viewed all Christians as simultaneously sinners and saints. When someone was struggling with sin, he advised, “sin boldly, but believe more boldly still.” This is all based upon his concept of justification by faith alone.Sinner Saint dog tags
  25. Luther believed Jesus never lied. Jesus died for us and spoke forgiveness to us. He died for our past sins, current sinfulness, and even future sins. We should trust him! To do otherwise is to laugh at or discount his cross. We would believe in our sin more than Christ. (…Not such a good thing, and something I had to learn.)
  26. Luther said, “Although the Christian is thus free from all works, he ought in his liberty to empty himself, take upon himself the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in human form, and to serve, help, and in every way deal with his neighbor as he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him. This he should do freely, having regard for nothing but divine approval.” Loving neighbor was a gift in itself to us, even as it is pleasing to God. We should give ourselves to “Christ in our neighbor” just as Christ gave himself to us. When he had a sick friend write of an illness, Martin Luther heard Christ’s own call to be helped – the living Christ in his friend. Like Christ, we too must carry our crosses – service to others or our own sufferings – with faith. He developed a Theology of the Cross in opposition to a Theology of Glory. There would be no prosperity gospel for Luther. Life is hard, but God is good…always.
  27. Luther taught that we bear the name of Christ because Christ truly dwells in us, and we in his body the church. He argued we should trust in this reality and live like we believe it is true at all times.
  28. Luther wasn’t against Christian works; only that they didn’t save. Our works and sufferings are used by God to help faith grow in us and others, and it is used by God to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot sanctify ourselves. No cheap grace for him, as the Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer later expands upon in The Cost of Discipleship and elsewhere. If you appreciate Bonhoeffer’s writings or Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation
    and Criticism of Christian Theology, you really should vote for Luther.
  29. Although Luther was against the mass as a sacrifice or something that gets one extra credit for heaven, he valued and argued to maintain the liturgy when others wanted to punt it. In some Lutheran countries the Lutheran service is still called a mass. Click the picture below to learn about Lutheran worship, “a foundation of faith to everything we do.”Lutheran-Service-610x351
  30. Luther believed in the priesthood of all believers. “All Christians are truly of the spiritual estate.” You are not defined by any vocation. We are all equally and eternally children of God with important tasks to do on Christ’s behalf.
  31. Luther tried to empower families to be a little church within the greater church. His Small Catechism was for home use.
  32. Luther believed if God could speak through an ass against a prophet, God could use any person as a pastor. His Large Catechism was originally written for pastors, but today, it is widely read by people of all kinds of vocations. He argued for an educated pastorate for good order, but pastors are human like everyone else. Your pastoral call is temporary, but you call as a child of God is eternal.
  33. Vote for Luther! He has his own bobble head. If he wasn’t important, would he have a bobble head?Martin and Katy
  34. If you prefer, show your support with a cute Luther windup toy, then go vote. (Yes, there is a Katie version too.)ml_windup_150
  35. What man doesn’t like to read in the bathroom? That’s a great use of time, and Luther is said to have some of his best ideas come to him there. (This rumor might not be true, but I would like to think so…)
  36. Luther believed in Two Kingdoms. This helped lead to a separation of church and state, a modern polity in the church, as well as our modern democracy.
  37. Luther believed believers should be actively engaged in civil life, not separated or hidden away. Christians need to be involved in the community and its politics.
  38. In his Smalcald Articles, he described the saints as currently residing “in their graves and in heaven.” Luther maintained that it was not false doctrine to believe that a Christian’s soul sleeps after it is separated from the body in death, but he also didn’t condemn those who believed in immediate life after death. The bible isn’t clear. In addition, he hated to declare who would be saved and who would not in detail. To do so risked being unbiblical. He trusted those who believed in Jesus would be saved, but beyond that, it is up to God to discern. With our limited intellect and failings, we risk error to do otherwise and dangerously play at being God. He was for people discerning their beliefs based upon scripture, but he didn’t dictate his own beliefs as dogma. Pretty darn nice of him, I think.
  39. If you haven’t already noticed, Luther hated being unbiblical, sometimes to his detriment –consider the bigamy issue. (See #90.)
  40. Luther wrote often about the Jewish people, but his attitudes reflected a wrong-headed theological and cultural tradition which saw them as a rejected people guilty of the murder of Christ. At the same time as early as 1516, Luther wrote, “…[M]any people are proud with marvelous stupidity when they call the Jews dogs, evildoers, or whatever they like, while they too, and equally, do not realize who or what they are in the sight of God.” In writings, Luther sometimes advised kindness toward the Jews in that Jesus Christ was born a Jew, but his aim was often converting Jewish believers to Christianity. When Jewish people resisted conversion, he got more and more hard hearted about it. He couldn’t believe with the Reformation that they didn’t see the light of Christ. In short, he was often wrong (aka human) in his offenses. Sad but true, and I hope that this later errors doesn’t stop you from voting for him. He was a man of his time (the Dark Ages to be sure), likely suffering mental illness at the time of his most offensive writings, and no saint is perfect. He did a lot of good too. Can you forgive him this error? I hope so.
  41. Yes, he was a complicated, sinful person like the rest of us. On one hand, he wrote with promise toward his Jewish neighbors, hopeful they would see the light of the “true faith” lifted up in the Reformation. As he got older, suffered the death of his daughter, and most likely continued bouts of depression and perhaps even had mental issues due to urine poisoning (after a fierce case of urinary track blockage), he wasn’t so kind. He was a product of his time and circumstances to be sure, yet there’s no excuse good enough, and modern Lutherans have issued formal apologies. Too late perhaps for some people, but perhaps it can count for something when evaluating Luther’s legacy (and voting in Lent Madness).
  42. Printed images of Luther that emphasized his monumental size were crucial to the spread of Protestantism – a large, portly size with double chin indicated he was a common guy, not some frail Catholic saint removed from the real world. Indeed, he was quite popular with the common folk.Martin Luther
  43. Although not seen as a traditional systematic theologian, his theological writings are quite numerous. He wrote and wrote in response to questions and debates as they came up. His works translated into English are in more than 55 volumes, and they don’t hold everything he wrote! (Try the cd-rom or buy the set.) The Weimar edition of his works began in 1883 and were completed in 2009 with 121 volumes in quarto format (around 80,000 pages). “For Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there”  (Luther’s Works, Vol. 42, x).
  44. He was a reformer of the faith, but the reforms led to other modern changes in government, church, economics and more. Check out Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation, by John Witte, Jr.
  45. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness. When he was young, God seemed not love but hatred. Johann von Staupitz, his spiritual director, advised him to study the mystics, following their path of surrender to the love of God. This helped lead him to Reformation understandings. Who doesn’t like a good conversion story?
  46. Luther’s “evangelical breakthrough” did not come all at once, but unfolded within the context of his teaching and pastoral responsibilities. However, a turning point came in 1515, when he was lecturing on Romans, in particular the passage on the “righteousness of God” (1:17). If Paul’s Letter to the Romans touches your heart, you’ll probably like Luther and should vote for him. By the way, it is likely fiction that it came to him in a bathroom, but who really knows. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Other’s suggest it meant his enlightenment came during a time of melancholy.
  47. Luther sought to steer a middle way between papists to the right and political radicals and Anabaptists to the left. Thomas Müntzer (1488-1525) taunted Luther as “Dr. Easychair and Dr. Pussyfoot” but names never hurt old Luther. (He certainly hurled them back at times. See #23.) Despite Luther’s own occasional blustering against opponents, he hoped for ultimate reconciliation and unity. I argue that a vote for Luther is a vote for unity.
  48. Luther wasn’t always certain about what should be done. In the Peasant Rebellion, he saw the need for much change, but he also hated the excesses of violence and unrest. As the revolt broke the peace, Luther ultimately supported the authorities which led to many deaths. Again, do you really expect or want a perfect saint? It is hard being Christian in the real world. Show your forgiveness and vote for Luther.
  49. Luther’s 1534 Bible translation inspired William Tyndale, who spent time with Martin Luther in Wittenberg. Tyndale’s translation was foundational for the King James Bible. Thus, Luther’s work influenced the King James Version of the Bible, still the most popular English language translation. If you like it, say thank you by voting for Luther!
  50. Martin Luther had his own PBS documentary, The Reluctant Revolutionary. Could PBS be wrong about Luther being a cool guy? Another PBS production is expected in 2017.
  51. He has number of movies about him too, such as the 2003 version with Joseph Fiennes as Luther and Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise.
  52. He has his own comic book or graphic novel (if you prefer).Echoes of the Hammer
  53. The Moravians love Luther, and they commonly use his Large Catechism. They also make tasty cookies.
  54. John Calvin often spoke of his debt to Luther. If you are of the Reformed tradition, you owe Martin Luther to vote for him. (Just saying…)
  55. Martin Luther King liked Martin Luther too. In fact, he respected the #BigLutheran so much, he had his own name and the name of his son legally changed from Michael King. We now know his son as Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of the #BigLutheran. Reformers themselves, I wouldn’t be surprised if they would vote for Martin Luther in Lent Madness (if they could).
  56. Although sharing some similarities in life and faith, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King shouldn’t be confused. Check out this test called “Who said what.” If you like Martin Luther King, Jr., you might just like Martin Luther enough to vote for him during Lent Madness.
  57. Martin Luther was quite practical. He preached a Sermon on How to Prepare to Die, including both spiritual and practical advice on caring for your loved ones left behind. In another writing dealing with the plague, he urged people to use their heads. Christian mercy required pastors to tend to their flock, but only those needed should risk their lives. If one would do, one should go. We don’t need to needlessly rush into martyrdom.
  58. Martin Luther understood we lived in a fallen world and there exists a tension between valid use of force and pacifism within Christian ethics. I suggest you read his short piece, Can a soldier too be saved. If you’re a veteran or a police officer, you’ll probably agree with the general thesis of this work. “What men write about war, saying that it is a great plague, is all true. But they should also consider how great the plague is that war prevents.”
  59. Martin Luther taught a great deal about Christian vocation in the widest of terms. If you are a ditch digger or king, be a Christian in how you live those calls out. Read about Luther on vocation. Your work is sacred when done in love – even if changing diapers – according to Martin Luther.
  60. His teachings helped lead to spiritual renewal, pietism (a heart centered, lived faith), and indirectly the German revivals and Great Awakenings.
  61. At the same time, his teachings helped lead to a love of liturgy and orthodoxy (which are not always known for the traits listed in #60.)
  62. His Luther Rose or Seal is both stylish and theological! Click the seal to learn how.Luther Rose
  63. Martin Luther was an avid supporter of public education. The Reformation helped lead to more public schools and libraries.
  64. He was actually humble, often insulting himself and not just others for foibles and failings.

    I humbly and subtly try to encourage a fair and unbiased vote from the congregation during Lent madness.

    I humbly and subtly tried to encourage a fair and unbiased vote during the previous vote of Lent Madness 2013.

  65. Luther worked for his keep. He worked as a carpenter, made and sold some beer, and grew food for sale. He was apparently known for his wonderful lettuce, beans, melons and cucumbers. He also was a professor and pastor. Of course, don’t forget Katie. She was the real business sense behind all these ventures.
  66. Martin Luther has inspired a lot of “Lutheran fun” (and merchandise) at Old Lutheran and elsewhere.
    $_58 MartinLutherwithbaseBiblefront
  67. It’s fun to be Lutheran, you just have to know how…Dr. Seuss, a Lutheran, would probably vote for Martin Luther if he could. So, don’t be a Grinch.GrinchVote for Luther too! Just for a taste of Lutheran fun, you might like to read One fish, two fish, Lutherans catch fish…and people too!
  68. Famous, perhaps infamous, and some not so well known people call Luther their friend. Listen to the Lutheran Song by Lost and Found for proof.
  69. Bach and many other composers loved music and Luther. Ahhhh, Bach!
  70. Let’s face it. You may not agree with everything he did or said, but he was pretty brave. Stand with him. Vote for him in Lent Madness. #hereIvote
  71. He’s on twitter, and those not old fashioned at all.
  72. He’s on Facebook, proof he is cutting edge.
  73. He inspires laughter. (For good or ill, Lutheran Satire is on Twitter and Facebook and Youtube – not always tastefully done, but it is there.)
  74. In 2017, it will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (or Protestant Revolt for you old timer Catholics). Let’s start the party early. After all, some are calling it the Luther Decade. Vote Luther!LutherLogo_500
  75. Many of the changes he advocated are today part of Vatican II reforms in the mid-twentieth century. As of 2006, Lutheran, Roman Catholics, and most recently Methodists have signed on to a Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith. (Who would have thunk it possible back in 1517?)
  76. He didn’t like indulgences nor corruption in the church. Neither should we.indulgence
  77. His advocacy helped bring on what we know as modern, scholarly exegesis of biblical texts.
  78. He started from a peasant family that made good in mining, but he answered God’s call rather than the call of commerce or law school as his father wanted. Herr Luther was pretty mad…He might be happier if Martin makes a name for himself in Lent Madness.
  79. Caught in a horrific thunderstorm and terrified that he was going to die, Luther yelled a vow, “Save me, St. Anne, and I shall become a monk.” (St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of miners.) He was good to his word and joined the Augustinians at Erfurt. And yes, St. Anne has been in Lent Madness. Perhaps it is a sign! Vote for Luther!
  80. Many of Luther’s teachings echo those of Augustine, a pretty smart dude.
  81. Luther was a beloved instructor at Wittenberg University and had a Doctor of Theology degree. He was no dummy either.
  82. He wasn’t a big fan of Greek philosophers, especially the excitement surrounding Aristotle. If you barely survived your college philosophy class(es), vote for Luther! He never cared for “mental gymnastics” in trying to prove a theological point.
  83. Luther prayed the Apostles’ Creed as do modern Lutherans. He believed in the communion of saints, but in searching scripture, he became less than keen on praying to saints or focusing upon saints interacting with us from heaven. In his mind, there was no clear evidence of this in the Bible, so why should one do it when we can cast all our cares on Jesus? He advised against it, instead focusing upon the church on earth, the Holy Congregation in German. See his Large Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, Article III. For similar reasons, he didn’t like all the superstitions and excess related to the veneration of saints and their relics. By the way, he remained a great fan of Mary the Mother of Jesus. Luther often called her the Queen of Heaven, suggested her statue could rightly be in ever church, and wrote Commentary on the Magnificat (1521) where he extolled the magnitude of grace given to Mary and her important Christian example.
  84. Still, commemorations of “saints” (all those who believe in Christ are considered saints, but some folks are exemplary) remain in the Lutheran faith traditions. We give thanks for their Christian life and witness. Many of those on the Episcopal calendar are commemorated, and even a number of Catholics, Reformed and Methodist Christians can be found on the ELCA’s list.
  85. Luther took no bull from the pope. When he received the papal bull, Exsurge Domine, threatening excommunication from the church and condemning his works, Luther burned it publically on December 10, 1520. On January 3, 1521, the Bull Decet Romanum officially declared Luther a heretic, as well as his followers, and anyone who from then on accepted or helped Luther and his followers.
  86. He wasn’t a big fan of the Book of James because it sounded so works oriented, but in reviewing what should be in the canon, he stuck with the opinion of the earlier church.
  87. Exceptions to this included the books of the Apocrypha. Instead, he went along with the Jewish scholars of his day to help discern what should be canonical.
  88. If nothing else he was consistent. When a question of divorce or a polygamous marriage came up, he couldn’t find any explicit orders against polygamy in scripture. Indeed, the patriarchs often had multiple spouses. This didn’t go over so big. Learn more about this scandal here.
  89. Lutherans tend to eat a lot of lutefisk. Feel sorry for us and vote for Luther.

    Lutefisk-Car-Emblem-(2382)

    Click here for a recipe! Mmmmm…

  90. This Italian-Irish-andweebitJewish Lutheran endorses Luther in Lent Madness 2017.
  91. It is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Let’s celebrate by voting for Luther! My congregation has additional resources posted on its website to help you learn about the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
  92. The Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions, is filled with good old fashioned theology. Many of the works included were written by Luther. Even if not Lutheran, you might find helpful theological tidbits for your consideration (if not your life).
  93. Luther said, “Pray and let God worry.” Sage advice during Lent Madness.
  94. The past Pope (Benedict) and current Pope (Francis) have spoken with some approval of Martin Luther. The Vatican recently even named a square after him. I am confident Pope Francis would forgive…nay, even urge…Roman Catholics and others to vote for Luther in Lent Madness. After all, he met with Lutherans in Sweden to commemorate the start of the 500th Reformation Year.
  95. Martin Luther had 95 theses, but the pope wasn’t one.

Although much of the above is most certainly true, I offer it with tongue in cheek. I hope you learn something, maybe laugh a bit…and, oh yeah….vote for Martin Luther! #HereIVote. I can do no other. So help me God.

© 2017 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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Never give up hope, but always share it

bcr-finish

Annette Pfohl (2nd from left) and family finish the Battling Cancer 5k Race/Walk

Long ago, Cris Pfohl and I were serving on the same police squad and had just begun commuting together. I was a bachelor, had no family in the area, and to be honest, felt quite alone and unloved at that time in my life. As often happens as a junior police officer, we were scheduled to be on duty for Christmas Eve.

Hearing this, Annette, his new wife, made room at their holiday table for me, along with his mother and father, before Cris and I reported for duty. That simple act of breaking bread and Christmas hospitality opened an unexpected gift where we would eventually become family for one another. Since 1989, we have experienced the promised “future full of hope” together (Jer.29:11) as the years rolled by. As they had children, Curtis and Kyle, and I married Kristine, our faith, hope and love only grew. Yet this year, it is going to be a very different Christmas for the Florio-Pfohl clan. As most of you know, Annette died from cancer right before the holiday season.

Yes, we will miss Annette at the table, around the Christmas tree, and even in her usual holiday pew at Messiah Lutheran. As she faced over 100 chemo treatments, approximately 60 radiation treatments, 7 surgeries, and several SRS therapies over eleven years, she grew to look forward to our annual family Christmas photo on Christmas Eve in front of Messiah’s tree. You would often hear her say, there and elsewhere, “Never give up hope.” She lived that way too. She served as a teacher rarely missing a day. She mentored others facing cancer for the first time. She continued to welcome people into her heart and home, expanding our “family” connections. She never let terminal cancer define her. As much as things have changed with her passing, I trust hope remains.

How can we still say that? Why do we believe? Because whatever happens good or bad, no matter if we have family or not, our hope came to us long ago as a vulnerable babe. He found no grand, warm welcome. He was born in what was likely a cold cave used for stabling animals. His family were what today might be called the working poor. He soon became hunted by those in power, and he and his parents fled as refugees. We don’t know much about his life after that time until he went into his public ministry. Then, he had no real home. His family of blood often made jokes and scoffed at him. His neighbors turned their back. Yet on his way, fisherman and other low-lifes and “losers” – people who often felt unlovable – crossed his path and began to walk with him.

Jesus spoke of hope. He shared his love, and before long, those who welcomed him in relationship became like family. They even called each other brother and sister, and they continued to welcome more into his family even after his death on a cross. All at first seemed lost, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Gal. 4:4-5). When hope seemed beyond our reach and power, God sent his hope to us in Jesus.

Remember again the Nativity story. Amidst the poverty and problems, strangers felt drawn to Jesus. They even brought their friends. It remained that way throughout his life and after his death. People were brought together and found they really could love one another; be family together. It is true we should never give up hope, but perhaps we can all learn a bit from Annette and these other saints. Let’s also seek to also share that hope with others. This isn’t a gift to be hoarded.

Who do we know who is alone? Where do we see someone suffering? How can we be one with them this Christmas? I don’t know your answer(s), but I’m sure Jesus will show us all our individual way if we ask. It might be as simple as seeing someone who is easily ignored and speaking with them – or perhaps better, listening. It could be that you offer space at your table – or better yet in your heart for relationship. And when we meet these strangers who become friends, brothers and sisters, we will find out the hope we celebrate at Christmas is real and need never end. It’s a gift that goes on from one heart to another, generation to generation, until Jesus comes again.

Never give up hope. Always boldly share it. Kristine and I give God thanks for you, especially at this time. On behalf of the Cris, Curtis, Kyle and ourselves, thank you for your kind words and prayers this last nine years. We will look forward to seeing you gathered around Messiah’s tree on Christmas Eve!

Sincerely,
Pastor Lou

 

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (December 2016/January 2017).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2016 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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We are all strangers in a strange land

“Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. She bore a son, and [Moses] named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”(Exodus 2:22)

Throughout scripture, we often sense the feeling of isolation and yearning for home. The people of God faced conquest, exile in foreign nations, and during the diaspora never quite fit in. Even in Jesus’ time, faithful Jews lived within a predominately Greco-Roman culture. It got even worse once Jesus preached a message contrary to the way the world so often operates. Jesus bluntly told his disciples, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

The truth remains, if Christian, we won’t ever feel like we fit in perfectly. God has put a yearning in our hearts for a heavenly home. The peace and justice promised us is not of this world. The faith, hope and love we possess isn’t always recognized or appreciated. Perhaps in this year’s caustic national election cycle, it has been particularly so.

Yet recall what Jesus also said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1). He prepares for us a new home even now in his heavenly kingdom. We need seek to only follow Jesus in trust. Injustice and fighting will happen in this world. There will be wars and rumors of war with many things to rightly fear. Yet, Jesus promises these things must happen, but good will also come from them for the people of God.

This world can never fully satisfy us, so why play its political games? Pray for the “city of your sojourn” (Jeremiah 29:7). Be kind to those who persecute you or with who you disagree. Vote your conscience seeking to conform to God’s will as best as you understand it from your prayers and scripture, but also trust God will forgive you if you err. Never conform to the political hype and hatred, but conform to Christ. Love one another. Ask for the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

There is much to bother many of us about this election, and we may at times feel like casting stones. Yet we are called to be light in the darkness, ambassadors for Christ. We need not fear. No matter who wins the election, God promises to lead us home.

Remember what Paul tells us: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20). Why be lost in anger? Why waste our time in fear? Politicians come and go, and we have more important work to do.

Christ’s peace be with you,
Pastor Lou

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (November 2016).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2016 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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May I have a word, please.

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

God created all that is with a word. When the world lost its way, he sent his living Word, Jesus Christ, his beloved son. Through him, we have redemption and access to an abundant, eternal life. Because of him, we learned that God can be described with one word. As John teaches, God is love (1 John 4:8).

For over twenty years, a generation, Messiah members have generously supported Messiah Lutheran School. Over that time period, our varied staff members taught children many words. Among the most important were those relating to Jesus Christ. Weekly in formal chapel, in daily classroom study, service and play, they learned about love. They experienced what it means to be loved and to love.

In my eight plus years here, I have seen remarkable things. This particular ministry didn’t get us many new members, yet it was meant to be an offering, not a membership drive. It did at times help us financially, but for the most part, we shared the love that we have with others sometimes with great sacrifice. We assisted some children make sense of their world when love was lacking or there was abuse. We helped families during loss of jobs or loss of loved ones. We offered care for those suffering severe developmental disabilities and families who struggled to earn their daily bread. Scholarships were utilized to help kids stay in school when parents couldn’t manage, and food was sent home at times when people didn’t have enough. We supported families at time of birth and adoption, and we offered counseling to those who struggled to remain a family.

All the while, we worked with our families to provide the best learning environment possible. We shared in efforts to make the world a better place through St. Jude’s Trike-A-Thon, Operation Christmas Child, MCEF, and more. Together, we struggled to make love known – to make Christ present – in our world and accomplish the work set before us. On our way, we made many friends.

Like many of you, I’m going to miss the children who have been entrusted to our care. Their laughs and tears brought life to this building. I will grieve the loss of Messiah Lutheran School with many. Yet, I don’t think the time with our school should be regretted. God’s word is still at work in the lives we have touched. The time for this ministry might have past, might have seemed all to short, but it has succeeded accomplishing what God wanted. It had its season, and our love was not wasted. Our love is never wasted. It has changed the world whether we realize it or not; whether we see all the results or not.

Now as a community, we say goodbye to some faithful employees and friends. We have many good memories to sustain us amidst any grief. Yet, I also wonder, where will God send us now as a congregation? Where will we be sent next to share God’s Living Word? I don’t know yet, but I’m sure God will make it clear to us. I trust his Word is still on the move, and I know the world is still in need of such love.

Christ’s peace,
Pastor Lou

Originally published in Messiah Lutheran’s newsletter, The Messenger (August 2016).

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2016 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.

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