Four Branches November 2018

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Exegetical Theology: Little Words, Big Worth – καί

These last two months we’ve discussed how particles like ἀλλά and δέ help an exegete navigate a text. Today we’ll do the same with καί.

Just like we saw last month with δέ, καί too can often be translated “and” or “but,” but does not inherently communicate either connection or contrast (context takes care of that). But while these particles share glosses, καί and δέ do opposite things when it comes to connecting clauses. As we saw last month, δέ signals discontinuity—a shift or development in the discourse. καί, however, signals continuity—a linking together. Whatever the exact relationship between clauses might be, when linked together with καί, they go together and are part of the same stage of the narrative or argument.

When doing exegesis or text analysis, instead of using either your own divisions of the text or someone else’s divisions of the text (the verse numbers), try letting the inspired author himself guide you in how you chunk the text. καί keeps things together. δέ breaks things apart.

One of the upcoming lectionary readings shows us a time where recognizing how καί acts over against δέ can provide great dividends in following what a text is saying. Here’s Philippians 4:6-7 (the final two verses of the CWS epistle for Advent 3—Dec. 16):

Don’t be anxious about anything, but by every prayer and petition, along with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God καί the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So the imperative (γνωριζέσθω) saying to bring your requests to God is chunked together with the future indicative (φρουρήσει) saying that God’s peace will guard us. What does it mean that they are part of a continuous stage of text? An imperative connected like this with a future indicative sets up a sort of conditional statement. (For example, “Come and you will see,” or “Do that and you’ll be sorry.”) Here the apostle tells us, “Present your requests to God in prayer and God’s peace will guard you.”

If we pray to him, God keeps us with his peace. That may sound like it’s a conditional statement (and it is, in a purely grammatical sense), but it’s a really a promise. Much like the assuring words of a father or a firefighter, “Jump and I’ll catch you.” God invites us to place all our problems and fears in his hands, promising that when we do we will have the intellect-transcending peace that those issues are in not our feeble hands but his mighty but tender hands. καί shows us this connection between our prayers to God and his peace to us.

Blessings, brothers, as this next month you bring the world the peace God brought to earth in Jesus. And in stressful and easily disappointing times as these, cast your cares upon your Savior, and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

For further reading on what different particles do, and how they organize the logic of a text, read Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament.

Rev. Aaron Jensen serves as associate pastor at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Adrian, MI and is the author of research articles on the biblical languages published in a number of academic journals.


Systematic Theology for Everyman: A Lutheran Treasure

What treasures from Luther and the other reformers did you hold before your people in your Reformation celebrations?  Did you relish the opportunity to sing some magnificent Lutheran hymns?  Did you make use of portions of the Small Catechism as part of special order of service?  Maybe as you listened to your congregation belt out a hymn you smiled to yourself and thought of Luther’s statement, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”  Perhaps you reminded your people of Luther’s boldness at Worms to stand for the gospel, or his zeal for the Word of God that led to his translation of the Bible, which opened the floodgates of translations even into English.  There are many treasures we have as Lutherans.

Systematic theology is also a Lutheran treasure, just one that does not get as much attention.  Luther’s theology of the cross, laid out in the Heidelberg Disputation, makes those theses a masterpiece.  His three tracts from 1520 systematically laid out doctrines such as the priesthood of all believers, the two kingdoms, the sacraments, and the relationship of faith and works.  While The Bondage of the Will is technically a polemical writing, it is without a doubt systematic in the way it destroys Erasmus’ position and builds the Scriptural position on that doctrine.  And this is to say nothing of the great systematic works by other Lutherans, such as Melanchthon’s Loci Communes, or Chemnitz’ Two Natures in Christ.  Systematic theology is filled with Lutheran treasures.

Of course the value of our Lutheran treasures is found in their use.  Singing the great hymns of the Lutheran Church engraves them on the hearts of our people.  Lutherans gained the reputation as the singing church because they used that noble art given by God.  People love to hear the familiar phrases of the catechism because they spent time and effort committing them to memory.  The same is true for the treasure of systematic theology—its value is found in its use.

Such use starts with us pastors.  Your members see what you treasure and are enthusiastic about—and that has an impact on them.  Most of your members may never read some of those thicker systematic works, but will they appreciate and benefit from the insights such writings give you.  Why not read through Luther’s Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation when prepping that election year Bible Class on government?  Why not regularly glance over the Heidelberg Disputation as an aid for those Sundays when you get to preach on texts that speak of the Christian life under the cross?  Find a reading list of some of Luther’s key works[1] and refresh them every few years—the review of basic Lutheran theology is guaranteed to pay dividends in Bible Class, sermon, and counseling work.

Before next Reformation, make it your goal to have a few more Lutheran systematic treasures to share with your people!

[1] Here are a few examples:

Pastor Joshua Becker serves Christ Lutheran Church in Saginaw, MI.

Historical Theology: Classics – St. Augustine’s The City of God

In the second half of City of God, St. Augustine takes us back to Eden and then forward to the End. He sets the two cities side by side, searching out where they originated, how they have developed and where they end up.

Augustine lays out the doctrine of Original Sin and the redemption Christ brings.  In reply to the philosophies of Plato and Porphyry he says it’s too bad that they could not accept that we are not only saved from material things, but in some sense for these things.  For Augustine, the account of creation and the incarnation of Christ are evidence that human flesh and the material things in this world are not intrinsically evil.  Flesh is corrupted but redeemed and awaiting its final redemption, where it can finally flourish.

Augustine says it’s a universal truth that humans love.  He essentially defines the two cities and their progress by what they love; the differing objects of their love, he says, are what either forms and unites a community or sets people apart.  The earthly city loves created goods.  Those healed by Christ, adore the City of God and praise Him.  Here are Augustine’s words about the right ordering of our love:

What we see, then, is that two societies have issued from two kinds of love.  Worldly society has flowered from a selfish love which dared to despise even God, whereas the communion of saints is rooted in a love that is ready to trample self.  In a word, this latter relies on the Lord, whereas the other boasts that it can get along by itself.  The city of man seeks the praise of men, whereas the height of glory for the other is to hear God in the witness of conscience.  The one lifts up its head in its own boasting; the other says to God: ‘Thou art my glory, thou lifteth up my head.’ (Book XIV, chapter 28)

And yet, Augustine is a man in love with grace and gospel.   “Even our virtue in this life, genuine as it is because it is referred to the true goal of every good, lies more in the forgiveness of sins than in the perfection of virtues.” (Book XIX, chapter 27).

Finally, the earthly city, like Rome, is destined to fall.  Augustine wants us to find the security and peace that comes from attaching first to the everlasting City of God.  This sets one free to actually find a happy life here in time while longing for the supreme good that the City of God has now by faith but then by sight in the world to come.

In a massive undertaking stretching over more than a decade of writing, St. Augustine defended the glory of the City of God. His presentation of Christian doctrine has not only stood for nearly 1600 years but is still formational in the Christian Church. His goal remains ours:

 On that day, we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise – for this is to be the end of all our living, that Kingdom without end, the real goal of our present life.  (Book XXII, chapter 30).

Pastor Tyler Peil serves as associate pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, secretary of the WELS Nebraska District and on the Scripture Committee of the new hymnal project.


Practical Theology: Effective Follow-Up

A new guest visited your church on Sunday morning.  Now what?  If you don’t have an answer for that question it’s time to get one.  If you have an answer it may be time to evaluate its effectiveness.

Following-up on visitors is integral to the life of any church.  We bend over backwards hosting events, being in the community, and inviting others with the hope that someone might visit.  When they do visit we must be prepared with what comes next.

Effective follow-up is automatic.  It is a habitual process that happens once a visitor comes.  Ideally, it should happen at the same time, every time to ensure consistency.   There should be no guesswork about when or what will happen.

Effective follow-up is systematic.  Systems are important to the life of any church.  You have a system for writing a sermon.  The system starts with a text study and ends with amen, but there are steps you take along the way for every sermon.  There should also be planned out steps for your follow-up from start to finish.  Here are some steps you might consider based on our approach at Amazing Love.  For more broad rationale on follow-up please consider these resources.

  1. Information Gathering – Connection cards are an essential way that we gather information at Amazing Love.  Here is an example.  You might also use a pew binder, or a guest registry at the front of church. [1]
  2. Initial Contact between 24-48 hours – This could take the form of an email, phone call, house visit, or handwritten note.[2]  Currently, we send out a handwritten card on Sunday after receiving the connection card.  We include a $5 gift card to Starbucks for each adult.  On Saturday, I follow-up with a phone call thanking them for worshiping with us and answering any questions.
  3. Invite them to meet with you – Hopefully, the first-time visitor has now returned.  Upon their return do your best to line up a meeting whether on the spot, or asking if you can call later in the week.  At this meeting get to know them and share the Gospel.  I love using The Bridge as a Gospel presentation.  I also integrate other Scriptures based on their background and their walk with the Lord.  At the end of this meeting the goal is to invite them to Bible Information Class (BIC) which we call Starting Point.
  4. Follow-up invite to Starting Point – As a new session of Starting Point begins, it is a natural time to follow-up with anyone who has worshipped with you recently.  The invite to Starting Point is two-pronged.  First, we send an informational postcard for Starting Point, which you can see here.  Second, we send an email or give a phone call to personally invite them.
  5. Welcome them to Starting Point – This is the end game for the activity of follow-up.  From there you will hopefully enjoy one of the greatest parts of ministry as you share the best of God’s Word with them.  This is not the end of all activity, after Starting Point you will consider how to assimilate them into the congregation as a member.

[1] I have found many guests are reluctant to fill out the contact information.  It is more common for guests to worship a few times before leaving any information.  It is helpful when members lead by their example in filling out contact information.  In my limited experience with guest registers in front of church I have found other WELS visitors very comfortable leaving their information, while many first-time community guests reluctant to use this particular form of information gathering.

[2] I think it is key to evaluate what is working in your follow-up approach.  I have received a great deal of positive feedback over the handwritten notecard and the $5 Starbucks gift card.  I have received love/hate reaction to dropping by unannounced with a gift.  I do believe Baby Boomers are more likely to warmly receive a drop by visit, while Millennials in general do not.  One’s own context of ministry and evaluation will be key.

Pastor Dustin Blumer serves Amazing Love Lutheran Church in Frankfort, IL.