the gospel life

The same friend who previously asked via Facebook, “What is the GOSPEL?”, posted this:

“Follow-up question: Which is MORE important, preaching the GOSPEL correctly or living the GOSPEL correctly, and why?”

Some of the comments were beginning to mix Law and Gospel.

Below is my “comment”/response:

The two are so intertwined. They have their own distinctions, but the preached gospel is infused in the gospel life. There is no gospel life apart from God’s Word.

The gospel life is wonderful and glorious, and must always come from Christ. It is always God’s work. It’s not our work. We are dead to sin. Dead meaning can’t do nuthin’, bro. The Law strikes us down and strikes us down hard to death. We’re gonners. Now, God is merciful and gives us life in Christ. Any fruit from the Gospel life is sourced from the Jesus on the Calvary tree.

We can’t go back 2,000 years to that Calvary tree to claim the fruit. It’d be cool if we could. Firstly, we can’t go anywhere to find God. The Law is written on our hearts, our sinful hearts, and we really, really want to use the law by our will and our standards to get to God and ultimately make our own god. We’re so broken. It’s God that finds us. Read the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). The coin can’t flip back up into the owner’s hand. It’s motionless. We’re that coin, man. God finds us. And God then uses us, the coin, to do good things. God’s use of the coin is THE gospel life. I love that story.

Secondly, how does He deliver Himself to us? How does He give us that Calvary fruit? God uses His Word.

The Bible tells us that through the ordinary means of water coupled with Jesus’ words, shared by the tool of the pastor, God gives Himself to us in Baptism. He puts His holy name on us by forgiving our sins in the stead of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. We’re in His family from Baptism. It binds the church and our lives. We belong to Him. It’s His work.

God gives Himself to us in the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s body and blood. The real deal. Crazy, crazy stuff. No man can rationalize it. It’s the work of God after all. His Word is true and it’s His Word that delivers His body and blood for our forgiveness. It’s right there. Holy blessings abound! The Supper is a direct conduit to Christ on the cross who won our sins once and for all. All these blessed things are given to us in God’s overflowing love. That’s Gospel. From there we live the gospel life, a gospel life of God doing His holy work.

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What is the GOSPEL?

An old college friend posted this question on Facebook, “What is the GOSPEL?”

It’s so wonderful to have a church with an historic book of confessions. Below is my posted “comment”/response:

God’s saving mercy, the work and gifts of God alone.

Or to put it more specifically from the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, V, 20:

The content of the Gospel is this, that the Son of God, Christ our Lord, himself assumed and bore the curse of the law and expiated and paid for all our sins, that through him alone we reenter the good graces of God, obtain forgiveness of sins through faith, are freed from death and all the punishments of sin, and are saved eternally.

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Ich bin dennoch getauft

A project under future consideration is a casket garment. One that may be used for the eventual time of my death. It’s not that death has been on my mind, but rather the life in Baptism. On the garment will have the text “Ich bin dennoch getauft”. That’s the original German from Luther’s Large Catechism which translates to “Nevertheless I am baptized”.

Just as Christ being crucified on the cross was a sure and certain event so is the event of the Christian’s Baptism. It’s so because God promises it to us. He gives it to us. He unites us to Christ’s death and resurrection delivering forgiveness of sins. He puts His holy name on us and makes us His own. It’s something that goes with us through our entire Christian life for all eternity. When trouble comes, one can simply say, “Nevertheless I am baptized.”

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Lutheran best man speech/toast

Here’s the best man speech/toast I gave for my brother, Matt Maldre, on his wedding day last week.

Hello everyone. I’m Erik. Matt’s best man. Thanks everyone for coming here…

Thanks to Mike and Nancy for having us all here on this finest of nights.

And I simply must say how excited we all are to have Sarah as a part of our family. From the time that we first met her, and continually throughout Matt and Sarah’s relationship, we have been simply thrilled to see them together. And we’ve eagerly hoped for and awaited for this day to come.

There’s one word I’d like to focus on for a moment. It’s the word, “Reflection”. First and foremost marriage itself IS A reflection. It is a reflection of God’s love for us. All the mercy and grace He pours on us in Word and Sacrament is rooted in the loving sacrifice that Christ made on the cross so that we may walk in the newness of life with Him. So the church is the bride to Christ, united to Him in unceasing love. We belong to Him. Now you, Matt and Sarah, belong to each other, bonded in marriage reflecting that perfect love Christ has for us, His Church.

A great example of marriage reflecting God’s love is in the sacrifices that our parents have made for our family and they have made for each other throughout their marriage. I want to thank you, Mom and Dad, for all the love you’ve given to all of us, and also to each other.

We can see that reflection of love in all the people gathered here in fellowship with one another in celebration of Matt and Sarah’s marriage.

And there’s so many examples of the commitment Matt and Sarah have shown each other. Most recently the fruit of which can be seen in the incredible work Matt and Sarah have done in all wedding invitations, website, blog, and everything else. That work shows their care and attention.

And all those origami butterflies! Matt was telling me the other day he was folding butterflies on the CTA bus, in the middle of the night, half asleep, with his eyes closed, while he was folding. Just picture it! You walk on the bus {repeat, tell details} Folks, that’s Matt Maldre. Another example of their commitment is from early in their relationship. No more than 6 months into their relationship… {fantasy football draft story}.

Of course I can’t think about the word, “reflection” without mentioning Matt and I being twins. Mirror twins in fact, because I’m left-handed to your right-hand.

So it’s rather appropriate to see Matt and I dressed the same. A true visual reflection. It seems it’s always on special occasions when that happens: today on Matt’s wedding day, the wedding of Andrea and I, Kris and Gary’s wedding day, our time as Cub Scouts, going to Cubs games; those are all special events, and of course we dressed the same for the first 9 years of our life. Maybe that’s why Mom dressed us the same… because she knew that each and every one of those days we spent together was special. So it’s fitting that we are here together now in our matching suits.

We’ve lived lives of reflection sharing similar paths and common interests. It’s with great joy that you and Sarah can now can live the love resulting from marriage that I’ve been blessed to experience in my marriage to my incredible wife, Andrea, and the resulting fruit of that love in the growth of our family with Olivia and Luke.

We all love you dearly, Matt and Sarah.

So let’s raise our glass together.
May the grace of God unceasingly fill the hearts of Matt and Sarah in overflowing love.

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Luther’s Works for $2

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CPH publishes the series “Luther’s Works” for $34-$55 a pop. Imagine having the chance to get five of those books for $2 each.

That opportunity was mine last night. The five books were stacked at a not-for-profit community book sale. When the sale opened doors I started looking at the Art section for a few minutes then went over to the Religion section. As a man was scanning the first Luther book with his iPhone my jaw literally dropped to the floor. After scanning that first book he promptly grabbed all five and put them in his bin.

My head was spinning as I entered some alternate universe briefly while my brain processed what just happened. I meagerly offered to buy the books. “How much you want for the Luther books?” I asked. “I don’t have an answer,” was his reply. That man hit the jackpot and had absolutely no idea. Whatever his little scanner says was the only prompt for him to snatch those treasured books.

There wasn’t any jaw-droppers in the Art section either. Next time I’ll know to hit up the Religion section first. No doubt.

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difference between Reformed and Lutheran theology

Reformed theology sees the tapestry, analyzes it by unraveling it and reconstruction. It receives further joy from the resulting discoveries of God’s sovereign state.

Lutheran theology lets the tapestry be as it is, marvels at its beauty and receives endless joy from the unceasing, rich beauty that it offers.

The exercise of Reformed theology boils down to analyzation. The exercise of Lutheran theology boils down to marvelation (being marveled). It’s a culture of answers versus mystery.

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Taking that which is ours

Jesus releases death from the condemned by becoming our death on the cross.

Jesus conquers death in His (our) resurrection so that death does not conquer the dead, but brings life through and by Him in Holy Baptism.

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Artist Statement for 2014 Christmas card

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Artist Statement for “Annunciation and Atonement”
Erik Maldre

GOD FOR US, IN REALITY, THROUGH EARTHLY MEANS
Of note, this artist statement works within the sphere of the art itself. References touch upon qualities of the produced work resulting in conceptual thought. Blessed are we that God works not in concept or symbol, but in the real tangible means of His Holy Word and Holy Sacraments. The reality of his body and blood given for us in the present tense means of the Lord’s Supper is God at work pouring his mercy upon our sinful bodies. I thank God for His real presence. This artwork is a way to reflect God’s love.

CONCEPT BEHIND MEDIUM AND PROCESS
The miter saw blade is the God-figure within the conceptual realm of this art. Its overall shape is circular, speaking to God’s eternity. There’s a sense of awe when this blade seemingly changes form as it spins blurringly in its poetic glide. A powerfully gentle hum accompanies the action.

The table of the miter points toward the altar in the Holy of Holies and the altar at the Lord’s Supper. The God-figure blade comes down to us at the miter saw table paralleled by God coming down to us in Lord’s Supper at the altar. As the cloud of incense billows around the altar at the Supper so does sawdust fill the air as the blade enters the wood.

Approach the miter saw blade incorrectly and you will suffer great destruction. It will tear you up with less than shreds remaining. Approach the miter saw blade correctly within the properly allowed context and things of great beauty and function will be possible. It is through the joyful and respectful function of the God-figure blade (conceptually, conceptually) that this art has taken form.

The miter saw blade is never directly seen in the presentation of the art. Only the results of its work are on display.

The God-figure saw blade crafted this wood through the use of the artist working within the parameters of time and space just as God inspired the authors of the Bible to record His Word through the historical parameters of actual events in history. The artist works similar in course as how pastors in the catholic Church work. That is as instruments of God who distribute His Word.

The wood itself carries important meaning stretching throughout salvation history from the creation of all that’s good and right in a world of God’s liking from loving creatures to preciously pure water to beautiful trees then onto the aberration of the Fall of man at a tree in the Garden to the redemption and restoration of man at the tree to which Christ was crucified.

The stain on the wood shows sin infiltrating man’s essence while the white paint is Christ cloaking us with His righteousness. The stain remains as we live in this world, yet at the same time we are declared righteous in the stead of Christ. We are sinner and also saint.

This helps provides insight for the use of unseen miter saws, the artist’s role in such, and the medium of wood, stain, and paint.

GOD’S STORY
Now onto references in “Annunciation and Atonement”. God’s Word reveals His salvific plan throughout the events of history all pointing towards God’s redemption of the broken man through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This piece focuses specifically on the Annunciation of our Lord to the virgin Mary. Just as this Biblical account references other Biblical events so does this piece of art.

It is best to start with the Biblical text for this event: Luke 1:26-38.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

CONNECTING THE ART TO THE STORY
First, we find Mary greatly troubled upon the arrival of Gabriel. Historically, the sight of angels in the Bible meant angels delivering destruction as a result of sin and evil. Mary had good reason to be troubled. Consequences result from sin and now Mary was thoughtfully staring down her judgment from sin. The wood in the art is stained to show the sin of all mankind including Mary.

Stained Wood, Painted Wood
Yet, the angel’s first words are one of absolution and comfort for Mary’s penitential heart, “‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!'” (Luke 1:28). This faith gifted to Mary is now cloaked in the righteousness of God. Sinner and saint. White paint on stained wood.

The Arrow of God
How is is that a virgin conceives a child in her womb? Martin Luther famously said she conceived “through her ear”. The Holy Spirit used the means of Gabriel’s spoken words found in Luke 1:26-38. So this piece of art is carved and shaped with forms similar to an arrow.  Within the context of this piece the carved wood is God’s Word. It’s a holy arrow of God’s words traveling from above, downward into Mary’s ear. The repetition of the arrow-forms relates the pattern and repetition inherent to the chosen means of language.

Ark, Staff, Tablets, Manna, and Christ
The presence of God’s holiness now dwells in the holy pregnant womb of Mary. She now bears Israel reduced to one, that is Jesus. Formerly the ark of the covenant contained God’s presence. Within the ark was Aaron’s budded staff, the Ten Commandments, and the gold jar of manna (Hebrews 9:3-4). The long slender decorative appearance of “Annunciation and Atonement” references Aaron’s staff. There are also ten full, completed arrow-forms that point to the Ten Commandments. And the white paint references the manna which was “fine as frost” (Exodus 16:14).

The manna of which foreshadows the sustenance received at the Lord’s Supper, which is the Bread of Life, which is Christ’s actual body, which became flesh at the Annunciation so that it may be nailed to a tree for our sake, then delivered to us at the Supper. See how everything weaves together? Great joy!

Bronze Serpent and Christ
The arrow bands also have serpentine qualities which reminds of the Bronze Serpent staff, the event of which provided miraculous, merciful healing to those sinners who simply gazed upon it, foreshadowing Christ’s atoning crucifixion (Numbers 21:4-9).

Shepherd’s Staff and Christ
The staff-like shape hints at the shepherds’ staffs who were graced by the appearance of angels declaring the birth of the Savior. The repeated arrow-forms take on the soaring wings of the multitudes of angels filling the sky in unified concert (Luke 2:8-20).

The Cross and Christ
Within the arrow forms are horizontal bands that point outward. When this feature is paired with the overall vertical form along with the wooden media then a connection is made to the crucifixion cross where atonement was made for the sins of the world. The Son, the perfect one, took on flesh to take our sins and make us right before God. This is what Luther calls the “Blessed Exchange”. (Luther, M. (1999, c1959). Vol. 51: Luther’s works, vol. 51 : Sermons I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (51:III-316). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)

Christ in Flesh for You
The Annunciation is a crucial step in the execution of the Atonement because God became man so that we may be joined to Him in His atoning death and resurrection in our Baptism so that we too may die to sin, and be resurrected to a new life (Romans 6:1-11). Jesus’ body and blood is our connection to God. Without it we are lost.
And why celebrate the Annunciation in a Christmas card? Well, the church celebrates March 25th as the Feast of the Annunciation. (An alternate title for this piece was “March 25”). In those ancient times the day one was born was very rarely recorded. It was custom to acknowledge that the day one left this earth as the day they were brought into it. Early Christians recognized March 25 as the day of Christ’s crucifixion so then the day of Annunciation was established on the same day. Fast forward nine months and you have Christmas Day, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

A blessed Christmas to all!

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Holy Baptism for us

Holy Baptism is the Word from God, an ordinance, one of Gospel gift from God to us because it directly flows from the mercy of the cross and actually brings God’s real grace, the real presence of God Himself, and real salvation to all, thus defining the church.

Baptism is the greatest of all gifts.

In one respect it’s incredibly un-Lutheran to declare Baptism as the greatest of all gifts. Comparison between God’s gifts is not necessary. The question need not be asked or addressed because it is already answered. All the mercy that comes from God is of pure and unparalleled love. That statement brings our attentiveness to just how central Baptism is in the Church’s life.

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