I must still read and study the Catechism daily.

“Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism,” writes Luther in the Preface to the Large Catechism. “Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly” (LC Pref 7-8). How well it would be with us Lutheran pastors, how well it would be with our church, if we paid more attention to this word and let it become active in our life and in our office! How many false conceptions of Lutheranism would be gone from our own souls, how many prejudices about our church on the part of the world would then vanish all by themselves! Kyrie eleison!

Letters to Lutheran Pastors Vol. 1
Hermann Sasse
p. 67


Luther “believed in the Church because he believed in the real presence.”

When from the balcony I look at this church on Sunday and out into the congregation gathered for the Divine Service, my eyes cannot distinguish this gathering from a worldly gathering or of the gathering of any other religious cooperative of the world. And yet I know: In, with, and under the outer gathering there is the Church of God. I know it certainly enough, because the means of grace are there: the Holy Gospel, Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar. Where the Gospel of the grace of God is proclaimed, the justification of sinners, completely free, without works of the Law but by faith alone, there Christ is present in his Word. There he forgives sin. Where a child of man is baptized, there Christ is present. There he, who is the true Father of all, speaks what the children in heaven and on earth call his great word of grace: “I have called you by name, you are mine” [Isa. 43″1]. Whatever becomes of these children of men, if they remain with Christ the Lord or leave him, if his way leads to eternal life or to eternal death, what was said to him there in the hour of Baptism remains valid as God’s offer and is meant seriously. As deep as baptized souls may fall, as far as he may flee from God, the fatherly arms of God remain open for him, as long as this life remains. And the forgiveness that the Lord Christ has acquired for him is certain when he returns to his Baptism with sincere repentance. And where a congregation celebrates the Lord’s Supper according to his institution, there Jesus Christ is truly present according to his divine and human natures. He serves the sinners with his true body and blood, and with these he incorporates them all into one, he incorporates them anew as members of his Body.

Where the means of grace, the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are, there Jesus Christ is really present. Our eyes don’t see him. Yet he is there, so real, so near, as only he is in his own. And in the inconspicuous means of the Word, Baptism ad the Lord’s Supper he performs the great miracles of his saving mercy. A miracle is not merely such a thing as the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter [Mark 5:22-24, 35-43] or the stilling of the storm [Luke 8:24]. A miracle is the rebirth of Baptism. A miracle is the eating of his body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. These great things are hidden under the inconspicuous means of grace. The world does not see this and cannot see it. Our natural eyes perceive nothing of it, and yet the real present of the Lord is there, the reality of his miracle, the reality of his Church.

That is the deepest essence of the Church as Luther understood it. The Church that Luther believed was the Church of the real presence. He believed in the Church because he believed in the real presence. Perhaps there are many among us who have wondered about that and perhaps have taken offense that Luther remained so stubborn in the strife over the Lord’s Supper concerning the meaning of the words of institution: “This is my body.” That is not his obstinate nature, but his great worry that the Church of the Reformation would lose that upon which the Church has always lived, faith in the real presence of Christ. If Christ is in a heavenly location far from this world, where he has only left behind authoirty, orders and commands; if we confuse him with our fantasy, and must visualize him with our faith; if he is only present according to his divine nature, and not also according to his human nature as the God-man, who has taken on our poor flesh and blood, and is present with us according to his humanity, as he is present with the Father according to his divinity, then we are a lost little band in this world. Because, we have to admit that without him we are nothing, that without him and his presence, the Church is helpless, poor, despairing band of men.

Hermann Sasse “Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944″
trans. Bror Erickson
Luther’s Faith in the One Holy Church
Augsburg His Peace Festival
August 8, 1943
p. 316-318

The Three Things Wherever Christ’s Church Wishes to Be

During these hours, we will ponder the miracle of the Church as we speak of the Lord’s Supper, because the Church and the Sacrament of the Altar belong together in a completely different manner. There are three marks by which the teachings of our confessions recognize the Church: The Gospel, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Everything else that the Church may have can be done without in time of need, but these three things must be wherever Christ’s Church wishes to be. The Church must proclaim the Gospel. I must baptize in the name of the triune God. And It must celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And these three things are only found in the Church. There are many heart-rending spiritual messages in the world, but there is only one Gospel. Because the Gospel is the only grace-filled message of the forgiveness of sins according to Christ’s will. According to Christ’s will! It is the glory of Jesus Christ and the nature of his office as the Redeemer of the world that there is forgiveness of sins in him and his will alone. It is not found anywhere else in the world. “That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin ho knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:19-21). That is the Gospel and nothing else. With this Gospel, the Church as come to the people of the world. We should ponder for a moment the possibility of her coming to the world without the Sacrament, as for example the so-called Christian Quaker churches did. Can the Church call to men and cultures with the word of the Gospel alone? The answer is a definite: No! Without the Sacraments, the call of the Gospel would die, as a voice dies in the wind. Perhaps, it would echo softly for a while, but it would die. Therefore, the Sacraments must accompany the preached Word. This is shown by example at Pentecost where the first missionary sermon the apostles was followed by the first missionary Baptism! “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). So a congregation was instituted, and there was a Church in the world. If one only preached on the mission field, and did not baptize, no Christian congregation would ever be instituted, but merely an institution for the care and support of a new worldview. If a congregation of baptized Christians abandons the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, she will soon lack an understanding of Baptism. She would then become a religious organization that could not be distinguished from any other human institution.

… The Church is not only a spiritual congregation, like a school of philosophy, a society for the cultivation of a worldview, or what is called a “think tank” today, but it is a spirit-body congregation. Because that is so, the Church does not hover high above the lives of men like a Platonic or Hegelian School. Rather, it dwells deep within the real lives of men and cultures. Christ gave the Sacraments to the Church because she is one such spirit-body congregation that the whole of man belongs to completely. These Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are not merely metaphors or symbols of what God does for us; God actually works on us in them. They are not mere illustrations of the Gospel, visible representations of Christ’s Word and deposits of his promise, but they are particular acts of God in which his Word is served by an earthly element through which the whole man, body and soul, is redeemed. These Sacraments are as completely incomprehensible to the world as the Church to which they belong as her essential characteristics. They are as incomprehensible to the world as Jesus Christ and the miracles that tell of him. But we who believe in Christ cannot endeavor seriously enough to understand them in faith. And perhaps the right understanding of the Sacraments is an issue of life and death for our Church today in a way that most Evangelical Christians can no longer understand.

Hermann Sasse “Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944″
trans. Bror Erickson
The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church
Week of the Church in Nürnberg
January 5, 1939
p. 261-263, 265-266

The Church Lives “Precisely Because She Always Preaches the Same Thing” — Sasse

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” They would not tire of listening to the Word that came out of the mouths of the apostles, the witness of Jesus Christ, about his becoming man, of his deeds and words, and “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptuures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). From these words Paul handed down to us, the oldest form of the apostolic proclamation, we received the beginnings of the later confession, “died, buried, and on the third day rose again from the dead.” That was the teaching of the apostles. That was what they repeated day after day. “And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:39-42).
It was the same message, told and retold with elevated monotony from the apostles as eyewitnesses, and then after their death from those to whom the continuation of the apostolic proclamation was entrusted because the Church of all times has lived on the teaching of the apostles. Is it really so? Must not the Church fit her message to be relevant to the present? How often has she heard the hard reproach made by German citizens of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the naïve belief in progress, that she does not speak contemporarily, but just keeps repeating the same message as Peter in Acts? How many theologians, yes whole churches, have finally come to an end? They are not devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They have preached something else. For forty years they have preaching Goethe and Schiller. They have preached the corresponding worldview, a worldview most could stumble upon with luck when they were thirty years old. And the church did not become more full, but ever emptier. And rightfully so. Because what the newest and only right worldview is, the least of the German city dwellers since 1848 could read in the newspaper each morning with their coffee. For this I do not need to go to church. But where the Church lives on the apostle’s teaching, there also lives the congregation.
It is a riddle to the world that the Church lives, even through she always preaches the same thing. In reality, she lives precisely because she always preaches the same thing, namely the teaching of the apostles. Yes, because this teaching is the eternal Word of God for all men, for all people, for all times. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and became man, who died for our sins, who rose from the dead for our justification, who sits at the right had of the Father, whose kingdom will have no end.” It is the witness of the enfleshed Word of God. In this witness, in the simple preaching of the Church, Christ, the eternal Word himself, is present. Therefore, the Church lives because of this.

Hermann Sasse “Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944″
trans. Bror Erickson
Sermon for First Sunday after Trinity: June 27, 1943; Acts 2:42-47
p. 158-160

Jesus “enveloped you in His merciful salvation…” Sasse

God’s holy people: that is the Church of Christ in the world. That was the Church in the days of the apostles. That was every chosen stranger in Asia Minor, the small congregations who lived amongst the distractions of the great Roman Empire. God’s holy people, that is the Church of Christ today. And we belong to this Church. Therefore we will remember the last exhortation of our Epistle: Forget not, that you have been redeemed? “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” [1 Pet. 1:18-21]. You are redeemed. Soul, forget that not! God had foreknown that he, as the lamb without blemish or spot, would bear all the sin of the world. God had chosen you, faithful soul. As his beloved Son wandered about the earth, there he enveloped you in his merciful salvation, as he carried the arduous burdens of calling everyone to him. And then he also thought of you when he cried, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. And when you were baptized, the heavenly Father called you by your name and had given all of you everything that Jesus Christ had acquired for you, and these commitments remain to stay. And when you leave him, the door to the Father’s house is still open to you. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the Word of his mercy never fades, and trusitng in this Word you may rejoice:

O wonder love, who chose me
Before the world began
And me to your children counted
For whom you the kingdom ordered
O father’s hand, o mercy’s desire
Who in the book of life did me write!*

Hermann Sasse “Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944
trans. Bror Erickson
Sermon for Oculi: Feb. 28, 1937 on 1 Peter 1:13-21
p. 97-99

* O Wunderliebe, die mich wähtle vor allem Anbeginn der Welt.

Excerpt 2 from “On Doctrine De Scriptura Sacra (1950): Letters Addressed to Lutheran Pastors, No. 14” by Sasse

No one can, however, contest the fact that the matter which the Age of Orthodoxy exegesis found expressed in 2 Tm. 3:16, the doctrine that the Holy Scripture arose through the working of the Holy Ghost and is filled with the Holy Spirit, is the viewpoint of the New Testament. Thus Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the church of the apostles understood the Scripture, the Bible, that is, what we call the Old Testament. In the Torah, in the Prophets, in the Psalms it is the Holy Ghost who is speaking. The unity of the Holy Scripture consists in this, that the Holy Ghost speaks in the various writings which make up the Scripture. Therein it is different from all other writings. The problem exists also for us people of the New Testament in view of the HOly Scripture, namely, where the boundaries of the canon are. A person can have various opinions concerning which writings belong to the Bible (cf. quotations such as 1 Cor 2:9f.; Jude 14f.). But of every word that is in the Scripture, and not only of this or that one, Jesus and the apostles would be able to say what Heb 3:7 says in introducing the quotation of Ps 95:7-11: “as the Holy Ghost saith.”

Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse
edited by Jeffrey J. Kloha and Ronald R. Feuerhahn
p. 63

Excerpt 1 from “On Doctrine De Scriptura Sacra (1950): Letters Addressed to Lutheran Pastors, No. 14” by Sasse

The doctrine concerning the Holy Scripture must first proceed from the statement, and is in face nothing else but an unfolding of the statement: The Holy Scripture is God’s Word, Sacra Scriptura est Verbum Dei. God’s Word exists also outside the Scripture; it existed before the Scripture as the Word of the Lord that came to the prophet, was given to him, and was written down only later; and it exists after the Scripture as the preaching in which the Scripture is expounded. God’s Word existed before human language and human writing existed, before a human ear could hear, before a human mind could understand a word. God’s Word existed before all created things: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Was was with God, and God was the Word.” “And the Word was made flesh.” But all other forms of the Word (God’s Word as it was received by a prophet, as it was preached, as it became flesh and, being the verbum incarnatum, it was even seen, 1 Jn 1:1) stand in right relation to the written Word, to the Holy Scripture. Even though God’s Word exists also alongside of, outside of, before the Scripture, no Holy Scripture exists, however, which is not God’s Word. What belongs to the Holy Writ, where are its boundaries, the boundaries of the canon––that is ofter uncertain. Israel, the synagogue, the ancient church, sixteenth century Christendom have often debated that. But one point was always clear: every writing that is God’s Word belongs in the canon of Holy Writ, and, conversely, no writing that is not God’s Word can have nay place there. The boundaries of the canon can be uncertain. But was far as what belongs basically to the canon––on that there is no uncertainty: everything is God’s written Word and nothing but God’s Word written! Of all that the church considers canonical it confesses: it is God’s Word That is an assertion made of faith. Only by faith can we recognize all portions of the Pentateuch, the entire Psalter, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon as God’s Word.

Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse
edited by Jeffrey J. Kloha and Ronald R. Feuerhahn
p. 58-59