The Lutheran Hero of the American Revolution  JULY 4, 2018 BY GENE VEITH

Among the heroes of the American Revolution, which we celebrate on this fourth of July, was a Lutheran pastor, Peter Muhlenberg.  An article in The Federalist tells his story.  And there was more to his career than his famous disvesting in the pulpit.

He became George Washington’s aide, was a military hero, and after independence became a statesman in the new republic.  Read about him, and then I have some questions.

From Ellie Bufkin, Meet A Friend Of George Washington And Patrick Henry Who Fought Boldly For American Independence:

In January 1776, a small church in rural Virginia burst at the seams with parishioners eagerly awaiting the arrival of their pastor. Members of the congregation, who had even spilled out into the cemetery, were alive with excitement.

Over the last few months, with tensions between the colonies and England ever increasing, the members of the Lutheran church had heard from their pastor that a revolution was imminent. He told them the time to take up arms in defense of their nation was now.

This particular Sunday was to be the pastor’s last sermon, and the large gathering represented far more citizens than those who inhabited the small town of Woodstock where the church stood.

Rev. Peter Muhlenberg entered the church dressed in his robe, with a sense of purpose that appeared to make him stand taller than usual. He ascended to the pulpit and delivered his sermon, acutely aware of the importance of what he would say.

As the sermon began its conclusion, Muhlenberg referenced Ecclesiastes chapter three: “In the language of Holy writ, there was a time for all things, a time to preach and time to pray, but those times had passed away.” He faced his congregation for the last time, and in words that he knew meant the end of life in the once- peaceful Virginia countryside, he continued, “There was a time to fight, and that time has now come!”

Muhlenberg removed his robe, revealing his colonel’s uniform, and descended from the pulpit to the sounds of drummers by the church door, drumming for recruits. Three hundred recruits signed that day at the church, and Muhlenberg’s was the first of the Virginia regiments ready for combat service just two months later.[Keep reading. . .]

So what are we Lutherans to make of Rev. Muhlenberg?  Was he violating the Two Kingdoms in preaching the American revolution from the pulpit?  Was he violating his vocation as a pastor, or just moving to a new calling as a soldier?  At any rate, does he not deserve our nation’s honor, along with Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the others who brought our nation into being?

There was a whole family of Muhlenbergs who were important in the early days of American Lutheranism. The key figure is Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, known as “the father of American Lutheranism,” who was Peter’s father.

Can anyone tell us more about the Muhlenbergs and their legacy in both the church and the state?

 

Illustration:  Portrait of Peter Muhlenberg, Public Domain, via Wikipedia

Make the sign of the cross show all the world how our true life was won

I make the sign of the cross while saying, “In the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, Amen!” There are people who will think, if not even say “that’s Catholic!” In a way indicating that it’s not appropriate for a Lutheran pastor. Well nothing could be further from the truth! ”

In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. (“Prayers for Daily Use,” The Small Catechism, An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism [Mankato, Minnesota: Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2001], p. 26)

In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall

say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. (“Prayers for Daily Use,” The Small Catechism, An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism [Mankato, Minnesota: Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 2001], p. 26)

To defy the devil, I say, we should always keep the holy name upon our lips so that he may not be able to harm us as he would like to do. For this purpose it also helps to form the habit of commending ourselves each day to God – our soul and body, spouse, children, servants, and all that we have – for his protection against every conceivable need. This is why the Benedicite, the Gratias, and other evening and morning blessings were also introduced and have continued among us. From the same source comes the custom learned in childhood of making the sign of the cross when something dreadful or frightening is seen or heard, and saying, “Lord God, save me!” or, “Help, dear Lord Christ!” and the like. (Large Catechism I:72-74, The Book of Concord, edited by Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000], pp. 395-96) (http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.signofthecross.html)

Making the sign of the cross is entirely appropriate for a Christian, any Christian, reminding us of what the Cross is about and Who it is about. I do get it, for many making the sign of the cross is simply a superstitious act “…just let me get a hit…”, “I don’t know, but whatever it takes right now…” Yet Luther was entirely about constant reminding of the cross and what it’s about.

Todd Hains, writing in Bible Study Magazine (June 2018 p 11) this is his link in “LinkedIn” ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/toddrhains/) I am going to quote the article extensively, because it is really good, just as it should be explained.

“With the sign of the cross we trample death.” The church fathers loved to point this out  – especially the fourth-century Egyptian bishop Athanasius. In On the Incarnation he mentions the might of this sign eight times.”

“Athanasius and the fathers were riffing on Colossians 2:15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (NIV)

“Here Paul depicts Christ’s victory over Satan and his minions with the imagery of a Roman military parade called ‘the triumph’. During these parades, soldiers would march the spoils of their victory through the streets of Rome. By triumphing over his enemies with his cross., Christ mocks them with the very weapon they tried to murder him with…”

“God’s enemies thought they were merely killing a man. But as God, Jesus is Life itself. “Since he was not able to die”, Athanasius wrote, ‘he took to himself a body able to die,’ But Jesus was no mere man. In trying to swallow Life, death destroyed itself.”

“Athanasius vividly describes the brawl between Jesus and his enemies. Like a courageous fighter, Jesus stands in the ring and invites his enemies to choose their champion who will challenge him. They choose crucifixion at the hands of the Romans – but they don’t know what they’re getting into”

“On the cross Jesus reversed his enemies’ assault. As Athanasius puts it, ‘that ignominious death which they thought to inflict, this was the trophy of his victory over death.’ According to the eyes of reason, Jesus was bound, mocked, spat on and nailed to a tree under a humiliating sign: ‘King of the Jews” But according to the eyes of faith, Jesus had bound, mocked, spat on, and nailed death to a tree under a humiliating verse: ‘Death also having been conquered and placarded by the Savior on the cross, and bound hand and foot, all those in Christ who pass by trample on [death], and witnessing to Christ they mock death, jeering at him and saying what was written above, ‘O death, where is your victory? O hell, where your sting?'”…

“… The cross is the trophy of Jesus’ victory – a trophy reminding Christians that death, the devil and sin are powerless against them. And so, when ancient Christians made the sign of the cross, they proclaimed Christ’s victory and mastery over death. They proclaimed that they were free.”

I’ve actually collected a few trophies in may life, very few, (two have gotten wrecked in boxes in moves), but I have them to show that yes in a few instances I could proclaim victory, that victory was acknowledged with those awards. But the greatest victory that we can all claim, because it was won for each one of us, individually and collectively as the Body of Christ, is the Cross. That Cross, which is grim, it is a horrible death, but through it Jesus made the payment for the sin of all of us. It is that trophy of eternal victory, for our eternal life in Jesus. Why on earth would we not make the sign of the cross at every opportunity? As a Lutheran pastor it is all about being a “theologian of the Cross”. As Dr Hains points out; it reminds us of whose we are, who made that propitiatory act in order to pay for the sins we committed and to assure us that those sins are as far away as east is from west, never to be held against us. Why wouldn’t we remember that once and for all eternal act of Jesus on that Cross? Take every opportunity to show brothers and sisters in Jesus and also those in the world what is truly important.

The word “catholic” means “universal, authoritative” it is not just the name of a particular church. We Lutherans are certainly “catholic” in that respect. No less that we make the sign of the cross, that it’s not just “catholic”. It is often abused, and instead of us avoiding it so that no one things we are being weirdly superstitious, it’s up to us to point out to others what the sign of the cross is about. Why would we give up the ultimate point of our lives in Jesus, in His church, because others have slapped a label on it? It is what it is, the trophy that Jesus has given us to assure us of eternal life in Him in the New World of our resurrection.

INI  (In Nomine Jesu) amen!

Montage of pictures I took in Israel

 

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Atrium at hotel in Caeserea

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Entrance to hotel in Caeserea

Hotel in Caeserea

Priest at holy place in Israel Greek Orthodox priest at the church located at Jacob’s well.

Shepherds field in Bethlehem The traditional location where the shepherds were watching their sheep, then were directed by angels to Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Israel picture

In Jerusalem

Israel picture IV

Dead Sea area

Israel picture III

Elijah statue on Mt Carmel where he confronted the priests of Baal

Sheep tending and pasturing

 

From the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The picture that looks kind of like a fireplace with lanterns, this marks where the manger was that held the baby Jesus.

Baptism now saves you

1 Peter 3:20-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

 

20 because[a] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
 Make this statement on line; “Baptism saves you”, the response will be immediate, “no it doesn’t”. The respondent never really says what does. Of course those who make their “decision” to “accept” Christ. Well just how magnanimous and smurfy of them. Because of course Jesus is waiting there just begging them to accept them, just hoping that they will be so kind as to accept Him so that He can then be their gini in a bottle.
Baptism saves you. You are led to church to be baptized. It is your sign that God has accepted you, that you are now born again in Jesus Christ, that you are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has become the Lord of your life through baptism, in His church, through His chosen minister. Not the concierge of your life.
For those self-appointed arbiters, who are basically taking direction from others that are more cheer-leaders and entertainers than Bible scholars, back up and really understand what you’re saying. You want to be baptized, as soon as possible. You want to be given that new life in Christ. You want that it is entirely God’s call and not yours. Why? Because when it’s God’s call, God’s action, God’s result, you know that it’s completely true and will not fail. When you presume to “decide”, “accept”, “make”, you look back after awhile and begin to think “did that really happen?” “did I do it right, right time, right way…” You don’t have any assurance, you just have continued doubt.
When someone comes to the altar at a, real, Lutheran Church, be they 8 hours, 8 days, 18 or 80 years old and are presented for baptism and baptized by a Christian minister, they know it was nothing about them and all about God. They are saved! Can they mess it up, can they reject and lose that salvation? Sure. But then they know it’s all about them and nothing about Jesus. Jesus did all that was necessary to save them. If they reject that, or presume on that, then it’s entirely on them.

Spiritual? Cut it out! Isn’t it time to get serious about Jesus?!

“If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours.” John 15: 7

Why do we study history? There is such great wisdom, people who’ve confronted the same issues we’re confronting today and have given us such deep thought. Dr Martin Luther wrote voluminously is his time. He has created such incredible wisdom, he really did conflate the left and right hand kingdoms (the left is the government/society, the right is the church) in that both are in God, and both need to be focused on God’s will and not man’s. He gave us so much guidance in how we should deal with trials, he spent a good deal of his life being a marked man by the Roman Catholic church which wanted Luther burned at the stake. He certainly knew how to deal with the trials in his life. He gave us so much on how we as Christians should see those who are lost in the world.

I refer you to Dr Luther in a particular writing on prayer. I would stipulate that many people who pray and who are not Christians, and what Dr Luther points out as the profound difference between the two types of people:

“This is a miserable world for unbelievers. They work so hard, yet accomplish nothing. They may even pray a lot, search all over and knock at the door. Yet nothing is gained, found, or achieved, for they’ve knocking on the wrong door. They do all this without any faith. That’s why they can’t really pray.”

“Prayer is the work of faith alone. No one, except a believer, can truly pray. Believers don’t pray on their own merits, but in the name of the Son of God, in whom they were baptized. They’re certain that their prayers please God because he commanded them to pray in the name of Christ and promised he would listen to them. But the others don’t know this. Instead, they pray in their own name and believe they can prepare themselves. They think they can read enough to make themselves worthy and smart enough to make prayer into an acceptable work. And when we ask them whether their prayers have been heard, they reply, ‘I prayed, but if my prayers were heard only God knows.’ If you don’t know what you are doing or whether God is listening, what kind of a prayer is that?”

“But Christians don’t approach prayer this way. We pray in response to God’s command and promise. We offer our prayers to God in the name of Christ, and we know that what we ask for will be given to us. We experience God’s help in all kinds of needy situations. And if relief doesn’t come soon, we still know that our prayers are pleasing to God. We know that God has answered us because he gives us the strength to endure.” ( Martin Luther quoted in “Through Faith Alone” Concordia Publishing House 1999 Jun 11 page)

I’ve seen many genuine Christians pray, and yes I understand we all know to where/whom, they are praying. But I would certainly encourage Christians to end all their prayers “In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Amen”. Then there’s no doubt what you are doing, that our prayers are only in the Holy Spirit to our Lord Jesus Christ. Any other prayer just doesn’t matter, so why even pray it? I was asked to open sessions of county commissioners meeting. The only caveat was not to pray in Jesus’ name. I respectfully refused. Why would I do that? What’s the point? I’m a Christian pastor, there’s only one way I’m going to pray. I understand in today’s world of American Christianity (which is at best nominally “Christian”), we have accepted this civic sort of “To whom it may concern” prayer. Again what’s the point? I’m frankly a little afraid of what/who we’re praying to if not in Jesus’ Name. Which of the many idols we see in America are we actually offering prayer? Jesus tells His disciples in John 14:13 that we should pray in His Name. There’s only one, God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and it is in the all powerful Name of Jesus Christ our Lord that I offer any prayer.