Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Lesson From A Texas Immigrant

Saturday after the Epiphany of our Lord
January 9, 2009

The Lord be with you

Rev. Paul T. McCain posted the following on his facebook page. I like it enough to post it on this blog.

Thanks to Rev. Matthew Harrison for this great post. Johann Kilian (1811-1884) was a Wendish Lutheran who opposed the Prussian Union (the force uniting of Lutheran and Reformed congregations into one church by the Prussian King in 1817). Kilian preached at the dedication of an independent Lutheran church building in Prussian Lusatia in 1848 on being Lutheran. He suffered constant harassment as a genuine Lutheran, and finally emigrated with 500 Wends to Texas in 1853. The congregation at Klitten, Germany, where this address was given, is still a member congregation of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany. He officiated with Pastor Gessner, who had been imprisoned for five years for his refusal to accept the union of Lutherans and Reformed. Kilian was a great Lutheran, and founder of confessional Lutheranism in Texas. LCMS Lutheranism in Texas can trace its history directly back to Kilian and others like him. Texas Lutherans do well to remember and follow the example of their father in the faith. Here is how Kilian explained why the Book of Concord is so important for Lutherans.

Our Evangelical Lutheran church has such a unique written rule in the Catechisms of Luther, the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles and in the Formula of Concord. These confessions further explain the faith against erring superstition and unbelief, against which it must be defended. These confessions teach us how those who are called Lutheran understand Biblical truth. They show us in which parts Lutheran doctrine agrees with other parts of the church and in which not. Now when we set our public confessions, and also Luther’s writings, over against not only Catholic and Reformed errors, but also other errors, in doing so we in no way place our Catechism and the other Lutheran writings above the Bible. We only place them over other human writings on the faith and explications of the Bible. The Lutheran writings are to us more thorough, more correct than other human written descriptions of the faith. Our intent is only to understand and explain the Bible as those have understood it and explained it, in unity with the ancient apostolic church, and with Luther, against all Catholic superstition, and the unbelief of the Reformed and others as a man publicly bore witness and through their certain and powerful confessions, regarding Catholic, Reformed and other errors, they have separated themselves as a strong and united army. We do not judge the Bible according to this witness and according to their writings. We only judge various human expositions of the Bible, indeed even our own thoughts. And so we desire to remain disciples of the thousands who have left for us in our confessions such a beautiful pattern of churchly and doctrinal unity. We simply desire to understand, teach and learn the Bible according to the Catechism of Luther, the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, and according to the Formula of Concord. Each teacher explains biblical passages according to something and someone, if not according to a certain ordained doctrine, then according to his own reason, and if not according to someone else, then according to himself. It is a great act of arrogance to teach only according to one’s own ideas. So we Lutherans have been given the humility to realize that we are not alone wise, as though we do not need the instruction of our old Lutheran fathers any more. So we interpret the Bible according to our Catechism and according to Luther and the Lutheran confessors. In doing so, we do not place their writings above the Scriptures. We only place the confessions over the self-proclaimed Meisters [selbstklugen Meister], who are of the opinion, that they do not err, and are more informed than Dr. Luther when they teach what pleases them, along with their favorite theories. (Trans. Matthew Harrison)

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

(The photograph is of Rev. Kilian and his daughter.)

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