Your Questions Please!

I would be very happy to entertain whatever questions come to your mind regarding the Bible, theology, Lutheranism, liturgy, church history, or current religious issues, and publish answers (such as I am able to talk intelligently about them!) in the church bulletin and on this website. 

For visitors to this site, this may be an opportunity to ask questions about St Stephen, Christianity in general or the Lutheran church in particular, or anything else that is on your mind.

To submit a question, you may send me an e-mail at, hand me a note, or otherwise communicate with me. Your identity will be kept confidential, and I will TRY(!) to keep my answers as concise as possible. Put on your thinking caps!

YOUR QUESTIONS PLEASE!             #4                    

Jesus said, ‘When someone has been given much, much will be required in return;
and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.’

This passage haunts me.

Do we know when we have returned as much as Jesus requires, or have we entrusted as much as He required?

Do most religions read this passage and act on it?
When thinking about any saying of our Lord from the Gospels, or indeed any biblical saying, it is important to pay attention to the context; that is, the situation in which Jesus’ words are found.

Peter asks if the parable about keeping watch for the coming judgment (Luke 12:35-40) applies to everyone or just for the apostles. Jesus answers with another parable, that of the faithful and wise manager (Luke 12:42-48):
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you,he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
The meaning of the parable seems to be that the apostles (the twelve disciples whom Jesus chose to be his nearest disciples and who were sent out after the resurrection to preach in Jesus’ name), because they have given this honor, are also given much more responsibility and will be held accountable. They are given a position of authority over the Church. They therefore are to be diligent in doing the work of ministry among the people. However, if they focuson the delay of the final judgment (which, of course, continues to our own day) they might be tempted to abuse their positions of power for their own personal benefit.

One might think of those who have used their positions in ministry to enrich themselves financially; to draw others into adulterous relationships with them, or to abuse children. Jesus seems to answer Peter’s question in the affirmative, saying that the judgment will be more severe on those who knew the master’s will than for those who did not know. Because the apostles have been given such great treasures, they are expected to use them well and will not be spared if they abuse them.

Of course, many of us have been given knowledge of God and many gifts of time, talent, and treasure to use for God’s kingdom, and we need not necessarily excuse ourselves from the parable’s thrust simply because we do not have an explicit position of authority in the Church. A similar message of responsibility is given by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 in the parable of the sheep or the goats. A parishioner in my last congregation would ask me, ‘How do I know if I have passed Jesus by in disguise and have not done what is required?’ This seems to be a similar question to ‘Do we know whether we have done what was expected of us?’

This question can be ‘haunting,’ as you say. It is the kind of question that tortured Martin Luther, but he found grace in the Gospel. We have to hold this warning of judgment together with Jesus’ promise of forgiveness.

Jesus does not tell parables to make us feel guilty about the past and doubtful about whether God will forgive or accept us – that we might be haunted by the idea that it is too late for us. Jesus tells the parables to exhort and motivate us to make choices and adopt behaviors that glorify God. None of us will have used our gifts in the right way all the time, and none of us will use them perfectly in the future either. But by telling his parable, Jesus wants us to hear the Word so that we recommit ourselves each day to seek as best we can to be wise stewards of what God has given to us. He also may wish us to focus not on what others should be doing (the slaves who do not know what their master wanted and did what was wrong), but on what we who do know the Father’s will should be about.

So Jesus does not tell this parable to make us ruminate about our past, but to orient us toward the present and the future. He wants us to hear, and then to act!

Finally, you ask whether world religions follow this teaching. The specific teaching, about the responsibility of the apostles toward the Church, is unique to Christianity. But teaching about duty and acting properly toward God or the gods according to one’s station in life is found throughout world religions. Of course, individuals of whatever religion follow or do not follow their Scriptures to varying degrees.
Thank you for the question!
Pastor Frontz

‘Why don’t Roman Catholics say the entire Lord’s Prayer?’

Before I get to the specific question, let me say more about the Lord’s Prayer in general.

The Lord’s Prayer (the ‘Our Father,’ the ‘Prayer of Jesus,’ etc.) is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Matthew 6, it forms part of the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke 11, the disciples ask him to teach them to pray as he prays. The wording is slightly different between Matthew and Luke.

Jesus prays as a beloved Son to his heavenly Father. In baptism, we are adopted into this relationship of son or daughter to the Father. We therefore may use the words of our elder brother and be assured that just as the Father always hears Jesus, he always hears those who pray in his name. Therefore, this prayer should be precious to every Christian, for every time we say it, we say it with Jesus and with his whole Church throughout time and space.

We ask in the first three petitions: Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This simply means that we ask, as Jesus did, that God make his kingdom to come fully in us and in the whole world. In Jesus, the kingdom is already on earth in its fullness; in us, it is on earth and is growing to fruition. The Church will pray this prayer until all is on earth as it is in heaven.

Then we ask for God to give us what we need until that day comes. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We need what is necessary for this earthly life, the forgiveness of our sins, and defense from the evil one.

A ‘doxology’ is a brief exclamation giving glory to God. The ‘doxology’ of the Lord’s Prayer, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen, is in several Greek copies of the Gospel according to Matthew. Our English New Testaments are based on these ancient Greek manuscripts. It is generally supposed that the earlier a witness is, the better the chance that it is original. Thus it is surprising to find out that the earliest witnesses of Matthew, the earliest manuscripts, do not include the doxology. Not only the New Revised Standard Version but also the supposedly more ‘conservative’ English Standard Version relegates the doxology to a footnote: ‘Other ancient authorities add…’ etc.

Nevertheless, the doxology has been passed on to us, for it has been used in public worship and private devotion by the Church for centuries. Indeed, Roman Catholics also use the doxology. They just interpose a part of the Eucharistic prayer between the ‘deliver us from evil’ and the doxology. This is said by the priest: ‘Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.’

According to the 2010 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, ‘the Priest pronounces the invitation to the prayer, and all the faithful say the prayer with him; then the Priest alone adds the embolism, which the people conclude by means of the doxology.’

So Roman Catholics do say the ‘entire’ Lord’s Prayer. They just say it in a different way than we do, and moreover, this way that we share may be different from the Lord’s Prayer as it was recorded by the original Gospel writers, and perhaps different than it was spoken by Jesus himself. We need to remember that there is no way we can get back to the ‘original’ words of Jesus. However, we as Christians trust that by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the sense of Jesus’ words has been passed down to us and we can trust them as Jesus’ own teaching. It’s a complicated thing, but if these questions had easy answers, we’d have no reason to ask them.                            
Pastor Frontz

How do you retire an old Bible?

A GREAT question, to which there is no one answer. However, it gives rise to opportunity to talk about some other things.

  1. In the early Church, you couldn’t go to your local Wal-Mart or Christian bookstore and buy a Bible. The copies of the Scriptures were kept with the bishops or pastors and used in church. In that day, because so few could read or write, memorization of a spoken text was both more important and easier for the mind. We had not lost the habit of memorization. Not just anyone could have a Bible. The Bible was treated as something which only believers could possess (although anyone could hear the Scriptures, including those who were interested in the faith and came to the first part of the church service where the Word was preached.) Many priests and bishops who, under persecution, ‘handed over’ the Scriptures to non-believers were excommunicated and had to do penance before being readmitted to communion.
  2. At St Stephen, in opposition to some other places, the ‘leftover’ elements of the Eucharist are treated with reverence and not simply discarded. Because they have been ‘consecrated’ and the body and blood of Christ are in, with, and under the bread and wine, there is no clear time in which they stop being such. So, they may be reverently consumed, the leftover wafers are kept in the host box, and the wine which has not been poured into the chalice is poured down the ‘piscina’ (a special drain in the sacristy which leads directly into the earth).

All of these things being said, to your question: the Church has no 'official' guidance about retirement of a Bible. This is not something on which the Church gives guidance. You could pass it on to a thrift store. You 'could' burn it. Traditionally we have not done such things such as burn it as in burning a flag.

I found an online article that is helpful. It suggests passing it on, repairing it, simply storing the Bible, burying the Bible, cremating the Bible, or even recycling the Bible.

It would not be wrong to discard a copy of the Bible if it is ruined. The written word is not an idol. It 'contains' the Word of God, and it 'is' the Word of God because it witnesses to Jesus who 'is' the Word (John 1:1, 14: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ To discard an old Bible does not destroy the Word. Your personal piety and sense of propriety may demand another method. If you cannot dispose of a Bible in any other way than discarding it, then, as Luther said, 'sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still.'

Whatever we do, we ought to treat the Scriptures with reverence and respect, not simply by putting them in a prominent place in our home or by properly disposing of the worn copies, but by READING them!

Blessed Lord,

who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen (Book of Common Prayer)

Pastor Frontz 

Your Questions Please 1