Quote of the Week – Worthily, Not Worthy

The following is taken from A Sermon on the New Testament, that is, on the Holy Mass (1520) by Martin Luther. The work as a whole does not yet represent Luther’s mature thought on the Lord’s Supper, but it does “replace the traditional notion of the mass as a sacrifice with the scriptural teaching of the Lord’s Supper as a testament” (LW 35:77). The very first paragraph is also a masterpiece on the purpose and limitations of the law, and may appear in a subsequent Quote of the Week. In the quote that follows, from paragraph or section 15, Luther helps us to distinguish between taking the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27) and taking it as intrinsically worthy people (which we neither can nor do).

Now if one of these two thoughts should assail you (since even [when we believe Christ’s testament in the Lord’s Supper] these thoughts do not leave)—the first, that you are way too unworthy of such a rich testament, and second, even if you were worthy, what it gives is still so great that human nature shudders when confronted by the greatness of the gifts (for what can be missing when there is forgiveness of all sins and eternal life?)—then, like I said, you must pay more attention to the words of Christ than to such thoughts. He will not lie to you; your thoughts will deceive you.1 If a thousand gulden [or $300,000] were bequeathed to a poor beggar or even to a buffoon, he would not claim it out of his own merit or worthiness, nor would he relinquish it on account of how great the gift was. And if anyone would throw his unworthiness and the greatness of the gift in his face, he would certainly not let any of this scare him away and would say, “How is this your business? I know very well that I am unworthy of the testament. I do not claim it on the basis of my merit, as if anyone owed it to me, but on the basis of the favor and grace of the testator. If he did not think it was too much to bequeath to me, why should I despise myself so, and not claim and take it?”

Source
Weimarer Ausgabe 6:361,362

Endnote
1 Luther has this, intentionally or not, in the form of a memorable rhyme: Er wirt dir nit liegen, deyn gedanckenn werden dich triegen.

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Quote of the Week – Grace Means Unearned

The following is taken from Philip Melanchthon’s Apology (or Defense) of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV (Justification), verses 40 and 41:

Since then no one is able to keep God’s law by his own powers, and all are under sin and deserve to be condemned to eternal wrath and death, we are therefore unable to be freed from sin or to become upright in God’s sight through the law. Instead, forgiveness of sins and righteousness is promised through Christ, who has been given for us to pay for the sins of the world and who is the only Mediator and Redeemer. And this promise does not say that you have grace, salvation, etc. through Christ if you earn it. No, he offers forgiveness of sins purely out of grace, as Paul says, “If [forgiveness of sins] is by works, then it is not grace” [Romans 11:6]. And in another place: “This righteousness that avails before God is revealed apart from law” [Romans 3:21], that is, forgiveness of sins is offered for free.

Source
Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 167,168

Quote of the Week – Entirely God’s Gift

Augustine of Hippo wrote the following circa 428 AD in Chapter 3 of his anti-Pelagian treatise The Predestination of the Saints. It is also cited somewhat periphrastically and in abridged form in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration II:27.

It was chiefly by this testimony [namely, 1 Corinthians 4:7] that I myself was also convicted when I held to a similar error, thinking that the faith by which we believe in God was not the gift of God, but that it was in us from ourselves, and that through that faith [from ourselves] we obtained God’s gifts that enable us to live temperately and uprightly and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God’s grace, in order that the profitable things we might ask for might then be given to us through that faith. I did know that we were unable to believe if the proclamation of the truth did not come first, but agreeing with the gospel when it is preached to us—I thought that was our own doing and was ours from ourselves. This error I had is on sufficient display in several small works of mine written before I became a bishop.

Source
Patrologia Latina 44:964

Martin Luther’s Table Prayers

Translator’s Preface

Every so often I like to translate something familiar that has already been translated. Re-translating it makes me think about the words and appreciate the content all the more.

This time I decided to return to Luther’s Small Catechism, to Luther’s Table Prayers in particular. I consulted the critical edition: Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (The Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church), 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 522-523.

This choice was inspired in part by the fact that my wife and I have been looking for some variety in our table prayers. Although I knew that these prayers existed in Luther’s Small Catechism, they were not something I was taught by my family or in Catechism instruction. (We were simply taught the “common table prayers” – “Come, Lord Jesus,” etc.) The translations in the Catechism used by our synod (Kuske ed.) are somewhat abridged and include none of Luther’s rubrics. The strength of Luther’s prayers lies especially in the Prayer of Thanks, which he uses as an opportunity to teach the children Psalm passages that highlight more general and more important scriptural truths than simply the fact that God is the one who has given them their food.

May God grant that this fresh translation, even if only in a small way, aid the Christian reader in his or her prayer life, for Jesus’ sake.

How the Father, as the Head of the Family, Should Teach His Household to Ask God’s Blessing and to Give Thanks

The Table Blessing1

The children and servants should present themselves before the table with folded hands and good manners and say:

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and gratify everything that lives with satisfaction.2 3

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these gifts you have given us, which we enjoy from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Prayer of Thanks4

So too after the meal they should likewise fold their hands and politely say:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is kind and his goodness endures forever. He gives food to all flesh. He gives the cattle their fodder, and feeds the young ravens who call on him. He does not take delight in the strength of the steed or take pleasure in anyone’s legs. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him and who wait upon his goodness.5

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

We thank you, Lord God our Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all the favor you show us, you who live and reign forever. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Borrowed by Luther from the breviary

2 Scholia: Satisfaction means that all animals get enough to eat so that they are glad and in good spirits about it, for worry and greed hinder such satisfaction.

3 Psalm 145:15-16

4 Composed by Luther, leaning on the breviary

5 Psalm 106:1; 136:25; 147:9-11