Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Feeding on the "full force of Evangelical Lutheran preaching"

Today is CFW Walther's 200th birthday. He was the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod's first president and many are referencing Walther's seminal text,  The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.  I recently tweeted that all Lutheran educators and administrators need to read William Fischer's book, Teaching Law and Gospel.  Well, all Lutheran educators and administrators also need to read or reread Walther's book. Walther clearly and powerfully articulates the importance of discerning Law and Gospel in preaching and teaching. CFW Walther writes:

There is a general tendency among young people to value the beautiful language and style of an author more than the contents of his writings. That is a dangerous tendency. you must always have a greater regard for the matter than the manner of a treatise. —
The Law must be preached in all its severity, but the hearers must get this impression: This sermon will help those still secure in their sins towards salvation. Whenever the Gospel is preached, this is the impression that the hearers are to receive: This sermon applies only to those who have been smitten by the Law and are in need of comfort.
On the words of Christ, John 7, 37: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink,” Luther offers this comment: “These are the two subjects on which we preach. The Law produces thirst; it leads the hearer to hell and slays him. The Gospel, however, refreshes him and leads him to heaven.”...
Now, when Christ invites those who thirst, He means such as have been crushed under the hammer-blows of the Law. Directly Christ invites only these to come to Him; indirectly, indeed, He invites all men. A person thus thirsting is not to do anything but drink, that is, receive the consolations of the Gospel. When a person is really thirsty and is handed but a small glass of water, how greatly refreshed he feels. But when a person is not thirsty, you may fill one glass of water after the other for him, and it will do him no good; it will not refresh him.
 I love that last paragraph.  Walther's metaphor clearly explains why Law and Gospel need to be clearly preached and taught.  That's what we need to hear from our pastors in every sermon.  That's what teachers, administrators and even youth ministers, given the responsibility to preach God's Word in all its truth and purity, need to clarify in every chapel message they give to the young flock placed before them.

And that's exactly what I heard as I listened to Rev. Anthony R. Voltattorni's sermon based on I Corinthians 5.  Rev. Voltattorni is the pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Standish, Michigan. 

Click here and listen to Rev. Voltattorni's sermon as he carefully and powerfully discerns, preaches and teaches God's Word.

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