The First Sunday in Lent

This Sunday will be a first … a ‘blurb’ in two parts. Part 1 today and Part 2 next Sunday. It is material from Martin Luther in the Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of his German works, 1539, and is popularly known as ‘Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio’ (usually translated as ‘Prayer, Meditation, Temptation’). It is material that has a focus on theological education –and that is something in which all Christians can grow. This is not a matter of what we do but of what we receive from the Holy Spirit, from the Word of God, and from the Devil (yes, you read right!). During Lent, you may also like to read our Lenten daily devotional booklet ‘Comfort, Comfort’ with writings from folk from and known to Ascension, Good Shepherd, and Redeemer. In this way you may experience a little of the right way to study theology.

Right Way to Study Theology

I will show you a right way to study theology, which I myself have practiced, and, if you adhere to it, you too shall be so learned that, if need should arise, you will be able to write books that are as good as those of the fathers and councils, just as I may make bold to boast in God, without pride or de-ceit, that I would not acknowledge that some of the fathers had much on me when it comes to writing books, though I am far from being able to boast the same of my life. It is the way that King David teaches in Psalm 119 and which was without a doubt adhered to by all the patriarchs and prophets. There you will find three rules which are abundantly set forth in the whole psalm: oratio, meditatio, tentatio.

First, you must know that the Holy Scriptures is a book that makes foolishness of the wisdom of all other books, because none of them teaches eternal life, only this one alone. Therefore you must straightway despair of your own mind and reason, for you will not attain it by these. On the contrary, with such presumption you will cast yourself, and others with you, from heaven into the abyss of hell, as did Lucifer. Rather kneel down in your closet and pray to God in true humility and earnestness that through his dear Son he may grant you his Holy Spirit to enlighten, guide and give you understanding. You see how David in the above-mentioned psalm prays again and again: Teach me! O Lord, instruct me! Show me! and many other expressions like them. Even though he knew well the text of Moses and other books and heard and read them daily, he still desires the real Master of the Scriptures himself in order that he may not tackle them with his reason and make himself the master. For this pro-duces those sectarians who allow themselves to think that the Scriptures are subject to them and easily mastered with their own reason, as if they were the fables of Markolf or Aesop, which require neither the Holy Spirit nor prayer.

Part 2 next week