|Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June 1530 before Emperor Charles V
(Click for Larger Image)
I will speak of your statues before kings, O Lord, and will not be put to shame.” — Introit Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, Psalm 119:46.
Apart from the Lord’s salvific events recorded in the Old and New Testaments, particularly Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, “one of the greatest days in human history” was “when the Augsburg Confession was first publicly read before the emperor.” (Klug, Eugene F A. “Lutherʼs contribution to the Augsburg Confession.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 44, no. 2-3 (1980): 155-172, pg. 159.) Martin Luther called the Diet of Augsburg where the Augsburg Confession was read, “the last trumpet before Judgment Day.” The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession 481 years ago changed the world. Arguably, the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession is even more important than when Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses on the castle door in Wittenberg in 1517. The Augsburg Confession was read in German, not Latin, on June 25 at 3 p.m. by Chancellor Beyer. He read with a clear, loud voice for nearly two hours. At least seven (if not nine) Electors and Princes of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany, for all intents and purposes) signed the Augsburg Confession. George of Brandenburg declared, “Rather than deny my God and suffer the Word of God to be taken from me, I will kneel down and have my head struck off.” (Eh ich mir will das Wort Gottes nehmen lassen und meines Gottes verläugnen, ehe will ich jetzt niderknien und wir den Kopf lassen abhauen.” Corpus Reformatorum 2, 115.) Although the German princes who signed the Augsburg Confession did not lose their heads, others would lose their heads.
|The Execution of Twenty-seven Nobles in Prague
After the Bohemian defeat at the Battle on White Mountain.
Just a decade shy of a century after the Augsburg Confession was signed, twenty-seven Bohemian nobles were executed for their confession of the Protestant faith (The Bohemian Confession of 1575 based on the Augsburg Confession), and in some cases for their confession of the Augsburg Confession. The nobles were various shades of Lutherans or Calvinists. Among those executed was Jan Jesenius, physician to the Prince of Saxony 1593, and professor of anatomy in Wittenberg from 1594 until 1600, when he relocated to Prague. He was executed along with twenty-six other nobles for refusing the Roman Catholic faith. In 1621, the Emperor ordered all Calvinists and non-Lutherans to convert in three days to Roman Catholicism or to leave the Czech lands. In December 1621 under Archbishop Lohelius, “The last Administrator, the Lutheran Jiřík Dykastus, was exiled from Bohemia with other Czech Protestant clergy.”(David, Zdenìk V. “THE WHITE MOUNTAIN, 1620: AN ANNIHILATION OR APOTHEOSIS OF UTRAQUISM?” Communio Viatorum 45, no. 1 (2003): 24-66, 35.) A few years later the Silesian Lutherans would come under persecution for their confession. From the 16th century until the present day, many would stand before kings and confess the faith confessed at Augsburg.
|Title Page of Confessyon Of The Fayth
Of The Germaynes
Translated by Richard Taverner
Richard Taverner (c. 1505 – 14 July 1575) best known for his translation of the Bible into English, first translated the Augsburg Confession and the Apology into English in 1536. Taverner’s commitment to Lutheran theology is questionable, at the very least he was unwilling to lose his life for it. The English Ten Articles of Religion are based on the Augsburg Confession. The effects of Taverner’s translation largely are limited to a brief period of time in the 1530s.
|Acta et Scripta Theologorum Wirtembergensium et
Patriarchae Constantinopolitanti D. Hieremiae, 1584.
After Luther’s death, the Lutheran’s continued to reach out to others with the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon is believed to have sent a letter to Patriarch Joasaph II (1555-1565) in 1559. After Melanchthon’s correspondance, Demetrios Mysos came to study in Wittenberg for about six months. During this time, Melanchthon and Mysos are believed to have translated the Augsburg Confession into Greek. Melanchthon died in 1560 and there is no evidence that Mysos returned to Constantinople with the Greek version of the Augsburg Confession.
|The Augsburg Confession’s Title in Greek Reads,
“A Confession of the Orthodox Faith.”
Patriarchae Constantinopolitanti D. Hieremiae, 1584, can be downloaded here in PDF.
Das Augsburger Bekenntnis von 1530,
ergänzt durch die Apologie des Bekenntnisses
Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1531
The Augsburg Confession confesses, “Ecclesiae magno consensu apud nos docent,” that is, “The churches among us with great consensus teach.” This is an ecumenical statement that the Augsburg Confession is a universal creed, that correctly expounds the Scriptures and believed by all Christians. On this Dr. Charles Arand writes, “And so in the Augustana they proclaim, “This is the one holy catholic and apostolic faith” which is proclaimed among us. Therefore the one holy Christian church exists among us in its fullness. In this claim of catholicity the confessors issue a call, inviting others to confess their catholicity by confessing the Gospel as it is set forth in the twenty-eight articles of the Augustana. And then they issue a bit of a challenge: And we hope that it exists among you.” (Arand, Charles P. “The Future of Church Fellowship : A Confessional Proposal.” Concordia Journal (July 1999), 248-249.)
The Augsburg Confession is the bold confession of the Lutheran, rather of the Christian Church, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Rediscover the joy of being a Christian! LCMS president Matthew Harrison has produced a well written exploration of the nature of life in the fallen world and the joy that we have in Christ. Read about the joy of life together in community, marriage, and family, or the joys of humor, worship, the sanctity of life, and the wonders of creation.
• Study questions at the end of each chapter, perfect for Bible study or small group study.
• A Prayer Guide for “The Great Ninety Days of Joy after Joy with texts and prayers from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost.
• “Something to Think About” questions are included at the end of each chapter.
…And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! Jn. 1:36
Other prophets have also foretold how Christ would come and how He would free the world from sins. But neither Isaiah nor Jeremiah would have been able to say: This is the one whom you must accept. John is the only one whose voice was the first to announce Christ and whose fingers pointed to the person where the forgiveness of sins is actually to be found. No human being had ever had or seen fingers like those of John, with which he pointed to the Lamb of God. Therefore, when we are oppressed by sin, or terrified by the Devil or by Death, what we need to do is to look at the mouth and fingers of the preacher, who will give us the correct teaching and show us how to come to the forgiveness of our sins and how to make our peace with God. This is the joy that the whole world, not just Elizabeth and Zechariah, should have in John.
Martin Luther in Luther’s Breviary: A Meditation for Each Day of the Year (Wartburg Verlag 2007), p. 192
The following homily was preached this Tuesday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity in the LCMS International Center Chapel by Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Executive Director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16–20, ESV]
These are familiar words, heavily emphasized in recent years in our church body and many others. The emphasis—appropriately so—has been on the command to make disciples. As such, the “Great Commission” rightly demands that we give attention to the church’s mission and the call to share the Gospel with the world. This text has served that purpose again and again.
It has also led us to reflect on the sacrament of Holy Baptism and on the Church’s ministry of teaching. Again, these are appropriate emphases from these verses that demand our attention.
Far less recent attention, however, has been given to the Name in which all this is done. Our attention has been so captured by the missionary mandate, Baptism, and teaching that we have in recent decades, it seems to me, neglected the Name that is at the heart of this text.
What a good thing that this is the week we have celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. In many churches we confessed our faith this past Sunday using the little-known and sometimes-feared Athanasian Creed with meticulous assertions like, “Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit,” each uncreated, infinite, eternal, almighty, but not so that there are three eternals or uncreateds or infinites or almighties. The third of the ecumenical creeds often raises eyebrows and provokes perplexity, yet we ought to give thanks for its careful words that prevent so many false understandings of the Triune God and Christ’s person as the God-Man. It is a rich gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church precisely because of the devout care with which it guides our confession of the catholic faith.
Yet, for all its careful speaking and precise formulations, there is also a kind of simplicity about that creed. Having curbed so many false views, it expresses the faith we believe in such ways as: “there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.”
With such simplicity, we’re right back to where we started today, at Jesus’ command to baptize “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Stick with Jesus and the most challenging things are often made simple. So it is with God’s Name.
Perhaps you saw this morning’s Wall Street Journal, page one, below the fold: “Dr. Chopp, Meet Congressman Weiner.” It’s a clever article about names, toying with the suggestion that a name might somehow determine one’s life or character, telling us first about the headline’s surgeon, Dr. Chopp, and the former congressman who has been too much in the news. It also identifies a lawyer named Patricia Boguslawski and another named Sue Yoo. It tells of a realtor named Anita House—yes, really; a sex therapist named Jacqueline Rose Hott; a cardiologist, Dr. Douglas Hart; and a politician who is confidently named Will Wynn (and he did). The article’s requisite expert about names, however, says he doesn’t believe in “nominal determinism.” [Rachel Emma Silverman and Joe Light, WSJ, Tuesday, June 21, 2011, pages A1, A12.]
I guess that means he doesn’t think your name determines anything about who you will be or what you will do.
But what about this Name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Would God by any other name smell as sweet—or, rather, be who He is? Could we join those voices who suggest alternatives that are, perhaps, less “sexist,” and call Him…errr, well, call God something like Source, Savior, Sanctifier? Is it enough just to use three words to describe the one God? Is that all the Trinity is?
Such views are wrong in many ways, but perhaps most especially because they view the Name of God as an intellectual challenge—kind of an interesting conundrum. The doctrine of the Trinity becomes a sort of—Let’s see if you can figure out God.
Actually, if we approach it intellectually, you would have to say that the doctrine of the Trinity tells us to stop trying such foolishness. I once asked a Bible class what it means that we confess faith in the Trinity? One of the first answers was, “It just means that you can never figure out God.” Three in one just doesn’t compute according to man’s math, so the Bible class answer is true and there is real value in always remembering it.
But we shouldn’t stop there. Indeed, it would be wrong to understand the Trinity as some kind of purposeful obfuscation of God. Instead, this doctrine celebrates how God has revealed Himself to us in Christ.
Stick with Christ, and He will tell us what we need to know of God. And here He names Him, very simply.
It isn’t that nothing of God had been known before. From the beginning God has shown His eternal unity and magnitude and power and wisdom in the world He has created: as Psalm 19 reminded us again today, heaven and earth declare His glorious greatness. The voice of Creation compels our acknowledgement of the One God who rightly can declare a perfect Law. Creation also compels the fear of the Lord, which warns us, shows us our errors, and compels us to pray, as we did, that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts would be acceptable to God (see vv. 1, 7, 9, 11, 14). But if that is all we knew of God, we are left with nothing but fear and trembling in the face of such majesty.
Is there more to know? Even in the revelations of the OT, there are only hints of his Trinitarian nature—a God who speaks in plural at Creation; a God who comes calling on Abraham in three men with one voice; a God praised by a threefold “Holy, Holy, Holy” as we sing so often. But Israel was not—and we are not—good with only subtleties about God.
We need something more really and truly to know God. So the same God who revealed His might in creation and His right at Sinai did not want us to take flight from His awesome majesty. Instead He gave prophets to speak promises of redemption and then—yes, then—He sent His Son into the world.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the gracious truth of God. The Word identified Himself as the very Son of God and so revealed the God who is the Person of the Father. Then, with the Father, the Son gave us the Spirit who alone works that faith which sees this astounding revelation as true. God really is one, yet He is also three—the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is His three-fold Name because that is who He really is! This name is no metaphor, it is who God is—who He is for us and for the world.
Is anything lovelier than to know this God? Is anything more important? All the world struggles to know the great mystery of life. It wonders whether there is anything or anyone to hold things together and bring meaning. The world’s religions are proof of this struggle. Buddhism would have us seek ultimate truth in our contemplations. Hinduism will declare three gods, or three million, and end with moral counsel. Islam commands that we just submit to God’s might. We could join the Animist search for our own god. Or perhaps we should just give up the entire quest with all the secularists.
But there is another way and it has been given to you. God has granted you to know Him, truly, really. He is Father and Son and Holy Spirit. He is the tender strong mighty God who uses His power to give life, to nurture, and to protect—yes, He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and He is our Father.
God is the Son, one with the Father, in very nature God, but refusing to use His divinity against our humanity. Instead He is made the very image of the invisible God—the invisible God made visible in the one who humbled Himself to be born of the virgin Mary, to live for us, to die for us, and to rise for us.
And God is the Holy Spirit, God’s own good and Holy Ghost who possesses you and me in our Baptism, breathing the breath of faith into us, teaching us to pray “Abba” in Jesus’ name.
Yes, think of it! God has revealed Himself to us as one in the threefold Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He has made Himself known so beautifully, so simply. So of course He will not have us be silent about it. Rather, we have this name to sing and to share with all the nations.
He is God for all the nations—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but, today, remember that He is your God and you are His, baptized in His name. With Luther, take it each day for your own.
In the Name of the Father and of the ╬ Son and of the Holy Spirit.
–Rev. Larry Vogel