I just returned from the Annual TAALC Pastors’ Retreat in St. Louis. I want to express my appreciation to the congregation for allowing me to attend this retreat. Each year it is refreshing to learn and to fellowship with our pastors. This year was no exception. The theme was: The Word: From Text to Table.
On Tuesday Professor Jeffrey Pulse, Old Testament Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, spoke on the topic: The Hebrew verses the Rabbinic Understanding of the Old Testament. He challenged us to see the texts of the Old Testament from a different perspective.
Much of today’s Christian views about the Old Testament derives from the rabbinic perpsective, whereas the Hebrew perspective is different. For example, there is a difference in understanding of parables, critical for NT understanding. Paul was rabbinic trained, but after wilderness, he becomes Hebrew in his understanding.
The Babylon Captivity changes identity, etc. struggling to determine who they are (no city, no temple, no altar), so they turn to the book (found during Josiah’s reign); the perspective becomes apocalyptic, messianic, eschatological, with emphasis on death and resurrection. Now the synagog, scribal schools, Neh. 8 form the basis for rabbis (explaining the text).
The Rabbinic approach sees the OT as a story of moral examples, which often comes through in Christian teaching and preaching. Sadly, this approach even creeps into Christian Sunday School materials as well.
This distinction in Hermeneutical principles is evident when comparing Calvin and Luther
- Calvin: theocentric, rabbinic approach (Law–OT and Gospel=NT)
- Luther: Christocentric, which reflects the Hebrew approach, an approach similar to Ambrose, a 5th century Christian preacher.
Rev. Dr. Curtis Leins, TAALC pastor and Assistant to the Presiding Pastor, spoke on Wednesday. His theme centered on the Sacrament of the Altar. From an early church incident, when a group of Christians lost their pastor through martyrdom, they claimed “Without the Eucharist, we cannot live.”
Dr. Leins presented the historical process for the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist.
- Jewish Antecedents : Structure of the Passover meal; Birkat Ha-Mazon (recital of salvation history), Zikkaron (Anamnesis, Remembrance): past events become present experience through remembrance. Remembrance is primarily God’s remembrance of his people.
- The Lord’s Supper in the New Testament and sub-apostolic era: Sacrifice, Covenant, Presence, Presence of Body and blood in the Fellowship meal
- Patristic Development
- Luther’s revision of the Mass: primary focus was on who is doing the action. Middle Ages developed the human centered action, Luther restored the previous God-centered action.
- Our American Lutheran Heritage: He demonstrated the several strands of thought that have come from Luther and how that is expressed in the Lutheran churches today.
Excellent presentation: very scholarly, yet very pastoral in presentation and application.
On Thursday morning, Dr. C. George Fry spoke about the current need for missions from a Lutheran perspective.
The retreat was capped off with time for visiting with pastors, sharing ideas, and encouragement. Well done to all presenters and those who provided devotions at the beginning of each session.