A Basic Structure for Christian Prayer

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As a congregation, we’ve spoken a few times together about prayer. In doing so, as often happens, people often wonder two things: How do I pray, and what ought I pray about? To the first point, I will say the following: We need not reinvent the wheel; the church has a great treasure for us all in the liturgy of the church. To the second point, let the Psalms and Scriptures guide the content of your prayers. Let these treas­ures be your guide. But, in saying this maybe you are asking, “What do you mean that we have a tre­asure in the liturgy and psalms?” well, in a very simple way, let me paint you to a few specifics: the Baptismal invocation; the psalter; the apostle’s creed; the Lord’s prayer.

I – The Baptismal Invocation

Baptism is the end of our earthly life in the sinful flesh. Romans 6 says that all who are baptized into Christ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit have died with Christ to the world. Yet, at the same time, in Baptism, we are born anew in the Life of Christ, arising as new men from the death to Sin. Thus, any time we wish to speak to God in prayer, we would do well to think on Baptism and what it means that we are dead to sin and alive to God through Baptism. As Dr. Luther teaches in the Small Catechism, begin every day, and end every day with the words of your baptismal reality: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, remember that you are dead to sin but alive to God. Thus, whenever you pray, it is also fitting start with these words, asking God to put to death again the sinful flesh and to strengthen us in the new life of Christ.

II – The Psalms and Scriptures

Once we have remembered this great fact that we are dead to world but alive to God it is of great help for us to turn to the Scriptures, for in them God tells us what we ought to pray for. If, for example, you were to read in the Old Testament that God was angered over some kind of sin, then pray at the end of your reading that God would help those who live in this kind of sin to repent. Or, if you were to read about how God saved a Gentile like Ruth or Rahab, then give thanks that he has also called you, a gentile by ancestry, to saving faith, and then pray that missionaries would be sent out to those who do not know Christ. These are, of course, only examples of some potential points of prayer based on readings from Scripture.

Now, if that seems too abstract, then turn to the Book of Psalms, which are themselves prayers. Not only are the psalms themselves prayers, but they are usually prayers which God’s people, like King David, wrote in the midst of very specific circumstances, both bad and good. Read the psalms then and let these scriptural prayers guide your own words. To aid you in this, many Bibles and Psalters (a little book containing only the Book of Psalms) often contain a list of specific topics or circumstances addressed in each psalm. For example, if you are troubled by sins, you may wish to pray Psalm 51, which was David’s prayer for forgiveness. If you are joyful, however, you may wish to pray Psalm 150. Or, if you are asking God for wisdom, pray a portion of Psalm 119. Truly, the Psalms cover nearly every circumstance in life, and so let these prayers be your constant source of words to pray. After all, God himself has given them to you to pray.

III – The Creed

Just as on Sundays we begin with the invocation, and then read the Scriptures and psalms, so we also confess our faith. On Sundays, we pray (yes, pray!) the Nicene Creed, where we consider in great detail the works and nature of God. However, at smaller services and in our daily lives we ponder the same God in a simpler way, instead using the words of the Apostles’ Creed, which is the creed of all the Baptized. The Creed, in many ways, reminds and teaches us the content of our faith, and in prayerfully confessing it, we should ponder and pray that God would enlighten our hearts and minds to believe and understand what it means to say, for example, “I believe in God, the Father,” or, “I believe in the life everlasting.” Pondering these words and seeking for God’s wisdom to live in light of them is also a kind prayer.

IV – The Lord’s Prayer

Finally, just as we pray in church the words which our Lord Jesus taught us, so we should always hold these words in our hearts and minds during our daily lives. Indeed, I say ‘always,’ because this prayer captures in a simple way the content of every prayer which the Church prays. Even when we find ourselves lacking words, the Lord’s Prayer contains, at its heart, every experience of all humankind. Our dear Dr. Luther said that he would sometimes pray only the first words and be given an entire day’s worth of things to pray about! So, if as you pray, your soul is led to contemplate what it means for us to “Hallow,” or to keep God’s name holy, or simply what it means for us to confess that God is holy, then let those words guide your prayer at that time. Pray for God to help you keep his name holy; pray that all Christians would live holy lives; pray that God would grant you the Holy Spirit to guide you in contemplation of holiness. This same point could be made concerning any petition in this the highest of prayers.

V – Conclusion

In summary, let the life we share as the Church be a guide to how you should pray when outside the public gathering. Begin with the invocation, leaving the world behind, then consider the Psalms, and the Scriptures, and the Creed, and then pray on what these things address. Finally, let Jesus’s own prayer guide you and inform your own prayers. If still you would like very specific topics for your prayers, I have included a little pattern of weekly prayer to help guide your thoughts. This weekly topic list is from the Oremus: A Lutheran Breviary by Rev. David Kind:

Monday – One’s own occupation and vocation in life; One’s fellow workers; Family; Friends

Tuesday – Enemies; Schismatics; Heathen

Wednesday – The impenitent and those who neglect their faith

Thursday – The Church, her institutions, and pastors and other church workers

Friday – The suffering, the sick, the persecuted, and the dying

Saturday – Your nation, your rulers and magistrates, and the whole world

Sunday – For the needs of the local congregation to which you belong

Now, may God grant you the peace which surpasses all understanding.

Looking Upon the Face of God

by Rev. Gino Marchetti II, Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

I recently spoke with a young man at our congregation about how Moses met God on Mt. Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments from the Lord (Ex. 33 – 34). According to the Scriptures, Moses meet God in person (this is the meaning of ‘face-to-face’ in some English versions), and yet, Moses could not look upon God’s gloriousness directly. Rather, Moses was only able to look upon God’s back when they met, and even then, after Moses came down from the mountain, God’s holy glory had so impacted Moses that he himself began to radiate with glory.

God’s holiness is, in a sense, contagious; being in contact with God’s holiness rubs off on people and things to such an extent that they themselves reflect it. In Moses’ case, so that the people would not be frightened or struck down by God’s rubbed-off glory, Moses veiled his face to cover up the holy glory that he now bore.

Now, this young man with whom I spoke had a great insight into what this means. He recognized that man could not look upon God and his glory directly because of man’s sinfulness. Yet, this young man also recognized that after the resurrection, when Jesus is showing his glory (which is the glory of his Father) constantly, believers can and do look upon it without being destroyed.

The implications of this, dearly beloved, is that you who believe in the Son of God, that he is risen bodily from the grave and stands in the glory of the Father, can look upon the glories of God directly, and indeed, on the Last Day, when Christ returns in the flesh, you will look upon the glory of God directly. This is the preeminent right of the Children of God, to look upon their Father in Heaven without terror and without being destroyed.

Even now, on this side of eternity, we are getting little glimpses through the Scriptures and the Sacraments of what this glory is going to look like when it is fully revealed on the Last Day. On That Day, we will fully know, just as we are already fully known. On That Day, we will no longer look through a dim glass, but a clear one. Until then, we ponder together what exactly it means that we can and, in small ways, do look upon the glory of God already.

New Beginnings Every Day

New Beginnings Every Day
by Rev. M.Barnes, Former Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

Far too often I see people who are oppressed in the present concerning sins from the past. And this is a great evil.

In Philippians 3 Paul begins with a beautiful declaration that our actions, all the good we think we do in reality count as nothing toward our peace of mind, let alone our relationship with God. But it was not always so with Paul.
In spite of what Paul believed about how good his life was, how well structured, and with his impeccable credentials, the real truth was revealed to him on the road to Damascus. Paul came to the realization that in spite of all that he had going for God, he was a sinner like everyone else. He also discovered that in his zeal for the will of God he was actually fighting against it.

Yet the Lord Jesus, in appearing to Paul on the Damascus Road, did not come to punish him. Rather, the encounter was to change his heart and his life. All the things Paul trusted were now set aside, put in the past. All those areas of his sinful life where he had failed, even his sinful persecution of the church of Jesus, were lifted from him. Jesus gave Paul an absolution of all his past, and consecrated him into the service of the Lord. Now there remains only that which lies ahead, the promise of God in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body to eternal life. The Lord revealed to Paul the cross of Jesus Christ, where true freedom, comfort, and salvation is revealed.

Paul did not let the past, with all its misplaced confidences and outright rebellion against God, define him. Instead, he focused his attention on the cross of Jesus and what that means for himself, and for all people.
He encourages you to do the same. How often have you let the past, particularly the guilt and weight of your personal sins, control who you are in the present? How often have you lived in the past of regrets and guilt, and allowed these things to define you in the present and to shape your future? How often have you let others (the devil, the world, a legalistic church) beat you down with the Law, with no reprieve? If you have, you are not alone. But there is freedom for you. The chains of your past are broken in Jesus Christ and Him nailed to the cross, and risen from the dead to life!

As the Baptized your life is not shaped by your past, it is created and defined by the One who holds eternity in His hands. Every day is new in Jesus with His forgiveness and salvation. Every day is a new start to your life because you have been forgiven. The burden of life, the sin and guilt that shackles you and weighs you down is nailed to the cross of Jesus, and you are now free to be the children of God.

Do you want to learn more about this forgiveness in Jesus and the freedom it offers? Contact me today!

Rev. M. Barnes, Pastor
Rev. M. Barnes, Pastor

St. Bartholomew: What Can We Learn from an Obscure Apostle?

by Rev. M.Barnes, Former Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

Recently I have come to know a new term in my working vocabulary, bloggify. Used in a sentence: “Pastor, you should bloggify that sermon!” Sigh. Here goes… with some major additions and deletions .
“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” (Lutheran Rite of Confirmation)
For many centuries the church has included this question in the Rite of Confirmation. During times of peace the question is seen as antiquated or even a bit harsh. After all, is there really any persecution like this anymore? Unfortunately events in recent years have escalated and the very group that has persecuted and martyred men, women, and children for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ, have made bold statements about coming to our shores. Indeed, they have even stated that they are already here.
Thus the question we pose to our dear catechumens at the end of their formal studies becomes a bit more meaningful, and gives us reason to pause and recall that vow which we ourselves have made. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”
Sunday we remembered one who is a part of the great cloud of witnesses who kept the faith even in the face of death. He was a missionary and an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ: Bartholomew. He died in a horrific way for having dared to proclaim Gospel. We hear his story and it horrifies us. And yet his is not alone. From the time of the beginning those who have trusted in God and have proclaimed his Word in teaching and in life, have faced opposition, even death. Yet they were not alone. Bartholomew was not alone. We are not alone.
There is One who has walked that path of opposition and persecution before us. There is One who has faced the abandonment of others. There is one who went through cruel torture and death on a merciless cross. Jesus walked the same path that we face as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But death was not the end of the journey. Having accomplished our salvation by His suffering and death, He rose physically from the dead and has given us the victory and vindication that He has earned.
Jesus walks the well familiar path with us, with all who suffer because of Him, and He keeps us firm in the faith and strong in the face of all who would oppose Him. He is your rock and your fortress who gives to you the life that can never be taken away.
Pastor Michael Barnes
Festival of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Martyred for the Sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Skinned alive and crucified upside down in Armenia by the pagan brother of the King of Armenia. (The king came to faith through the proclamation of the Gospel by Bartholomew.)

Why Do You Go to Church?

by Rev. M.Barnes, Former Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

Are You Here to Be Entertained?
When you walk into a church what are you expecting to happen? Are you expecting to be entertained with music that comes from, and speaks to, your heart? Are you looking for a venue in which your emotional wellbeing can be reset to something near normal? Are you wanting the high that comes from the adrenalin rush of a really powerful praise band?

How sad if you are!
How sad indeed, because all these things find their origins in … you. What I like! What (in my opinion) speaks to my heart (makes me feel good). Worship that originates from the heart of humanity has its roots in sinful flesh. It feeds on it as the roots dig deeper and deeper into that soil. And it sadly becomes what it consumes. It ultimately fails because all it does is provide you with a physiological and emotional response to a worldly form that must create its own theology in order to justify itself. And people are finding out that this is not what they are really needing from a church.

What does the soul really need?
The soul needs that which originates from God. It needs the Word of God. And traditional worship does that! Traditional Lutheran worship is properly called “Divine Service”. The emphasis in this is not our service to God, but rather God’s service to us. When you experience Divine Service in a Lutheran setting you hear one thing, and one thing only … what God has done and is doing for you! In that context we respond to Him with our praise of Him. And what is true praise of God? It’s not love songs that proclaim your love for Jesus. The highest praise of God is repeating back to Him the wonderful things that He has done in our salvation! This you have opportunity to do in traditional Lutheran worship.
We have nothing to offer God! Not even our hearts! God rather reaches down to us and gives us what we need, faith in Christ alone, and salvation that comes from Him alone. This you find in traditional Lutheran Divine Services.

Come and See!
Do you want an enriching service from God? Do you want candy and desert to sustain you through the week, or do you want meat and potatoes? Come and see! God has so much to give you in His Word.

Peace be yours!
Pastor Barnes

This We Believe, Teach and Confess

by Timo Matero, Elder at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

 At St. Peter’s, we are a confessional Lutheran congregation, meaning we accept the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God and subscribe to The Lutheran Confessions as articulated in the Book of Concord of 1580 because they are drawn from the Word of God and when rightly taught, are a pure exposition of the Word of God.

In this post we will look at two articles in the Augsburg Confession that clearly explain the one and only way a person can be justified before God…

Augsburg Confession Article IV: Of Justification.

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Augsburg Confession Article XX Of Good Works.
9) First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2:5, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. 10] Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6.

In Summary
We believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord, and that only through faith in Him we receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. In no way can our works reconcile us to God or merit forgiveness of sins. Faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning death for our sins on the cross is the only way to heaven, and all who die without faith in Him are eternally damned.

If you want to learn more about this faith in Jesus Christ, justification, and salvation please contact Pastor Barnes. And please consider joining one of our instruction classes where we explore these wonderful subjects further in depth from the Scriptures.

Easter IS Coming. Despite Plagues, Persecutions, Pestilence, Darkness…etc.

Repent, and Believe the Gospel” – said Jesus Christ

A Special Coronavirus Message from Chad England, Head Elder at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church

During our Ash Wednesday service here at St. Peter’s, an ashen cross was placed on our forehead with these words recited: “Repent, and Believe the Gospel.” It is the theme of this time of the year, Lent, the forty days preceding Easter. We are called as believers to reflect, to pray, to fast, and to give alms. We look at our ourselves, our shortcomings, and we recognize them, repenting before God. We detach ourselves from the “loss” of this world, as St. Paul describes it. After pointing out all that he had as a Jew, as blameless under the righteousness of the Law, his zeal as a persecutor of the Church, he writes:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phillipians 3: 8-11

As the coronavirus wreaks havoc upon our lives, disrupting everything that we do, we should be encouraged to take this time and reflect. We read these words of St. Paul and ponder the surpassing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ above all things. We recognize as Christians that it is FAITH IN CHRIST and his eternal promises that strengthens us. He is the ultimate help, He is Righteousness, and He is hope and comfort; indeed, “a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
As we work through these troubling times currently upon us, reflect upon the important things in life. We listen to the authorities, God’s appointed for our good, and do what we must. But as we are doing so, nervous, uncertain, and perplexed at times, we hearken back to the Lenten message and focus on the second part; “Believe the Gospel.” Jesus died for our sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He “…will never leave us or forsake us.” Hebrews 13:5.
During this troubling time, and there will be more in our lives, indeed, call upon Jesus. Find TRUE comfort. Discover the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Call upon the only salvation for the world.
St. Peter’s invites you to reach out to us. We share with you this Lenten message, and remind you that Easter is coming.

“Repent, and Believe the Gospel.”

God’s Blessings to all.

Augsburg Confession XVI: Civil Government (Concordia p.39-40; 1-7)

On this 4th of July Holiday we thought it beneficial to post the Lutheran view of Civil Government as found in the Lutheran confessional writings. If you would like further elaboration, please ask your questions and we will respond in good order.

[1] Our churches teach that lawful civil regulations are good works of God.

[2] They teach that it is right for Christians to hold political office, to serve as judges, to judge matters by imperial laws and other existing laws, to impose just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to take oaths when required by the magistrates, for a man to || marry a wife, or a woman to be given in marriage [Romans 13].

[3] Our churches condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these political offices to Christians.

[4] They also condemn those who do not locate evangelical perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but place it in forsaking political offices.

[6] Therefore, it is necessary for Christians to be obedient to their rulers and laws.
[5] For the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart (Romans 10:10). At the same time, it does not require the destruction of the civil state or the family. The Gospel very much requires that they be preserved as God’s ordinances and that love be practiced in such ordinances.

[7] The only exception is when they are commanded to sin. Then they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

“Contemporary Worship” The Original Virus

by Timo Matero, Elder at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

We as confessional Lutherans understand contemporary worship rightly. It is an infection. A flu bug foreign to our church body. The churches (yes even some weakened Lutheran churches) where this virus has infected are failing to understand the full ramifications of the danger this virus brings.

This seemingly harmless strain started in the worship halls of non-Lutherans who do not adhere to our confessions, theology, and doctrine. They do not believe as we confessional Lutherans do, and are blinded by their own sense of self-importance and a low esteem for the sacraments and the very God who instituted them. These new churches, adrift without theological or doctrinal anchors of truth became infatuated with church growth. And to spur growth, they gave the people what people love the most. Themselves.

Thus was born, a contemporary service where it all focuses on YOU! Your feelings. Your emotions. Your life. Your money. Your time. Your love. How much you love Jesus. How much you love each each other. You. You. You.

The contemporary service is not Christ-centered. The means of Grace are ignored completely or downplayed to an intermission for coffee and cookies from Starbookies.

Contemporary worship symptoms include; man attempting to serve God with popular music, swaying arms, and emotions just like a concert or a pep rally. The symptoms illicit strange responses like a walk down the aisle to show you’ve “made your decision” to follow Christ. A weeping of joy. A tingle down the spine. Everyone feels great, they are high on church! But yet, the infection grows.

The virus once released spreads into the masses like wildfire, consuming and catching souls until a super-church with high attendance appears. And the more entertainment the infected church provides, the more people become desensitized to it and demand even flashier shows to excite. The need to experience more, get more, and do more never ends. Service after service they hear the music, feel the sounds, watch a cool guy or gal deliver a motivational speech that’s all about them.

But the emotional high can only last so long. Enthusiasm that is created by man will fade. The people are left deflated, confused and empty. Wasn’t this the path to God? A church we created for us, by us? Filled with the music we like? A pastor/teacher/guru we employ for us, telling us what we want to hear? It was great… for a while. But I’m bored. Church isn’t for me, I’m over it. I’ll just do small groups now. Spiritual, not religious. That sounds cool. Wait! Maybe those Buddhists are on to something…. The virus has done its work. Another lost soul.

As Warsaw’s confessional Lutheran church we cannot accept nor approve of the practices of the contemporary worshipers who have a completely different theology and doctrinal belief than ours without harming our faith, confession, and the souls of our congregants.

Our Divine Service stands apart from the world, because it is not of this world. Just as we confessional Lutherans are called not to be a part of this world. Thus we remain immune from the contemporary worship virus.

And if your church (especially LC-MS Lutheran ones) are infected with this virus, there is a cure. Weekly doses of the traditional Lutheran Divine Service with full on liturgy.

If you are an individual sick with, or of, contemporary worship, the hospital of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw is open for new patients.

The “Crux” of the Matter

by Rev. M.Barnes, Former Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw

The False Hope of Facebook Memes vrs The Only Hope in Christ

“It sounds wonderful! It is so full of promise and hope!”

And you do everything you are told to do. You “like” it. You “Share it.” You relax. You did what you were told to do. Now great things will happen and your life will be at ease, just like it promised!

And nothing happens.

What did you do wrong? You thought everything was going to be okay. But nothing changed. No special influx of cash. No special healing for disease. Maybe your faith is just not up to snuff. Maybe you should get your mind and faith right before you offer God your Facebook post and expect Him to honor it. Or maybe this whole “God thing” is fake. Or maybe God doesn’t exist. Or maybe He does, and He just doesn’t care.

Is that what Christ is all about? Prosperity? Complication free life? Have you reduced Him and His working in your life to a posting on Facebook?!?!

When the Word of God is not a part of your life, it becomes very easy to fall for the quick fix of the Facebook postings, or the prosperity teachings of the modern false prophets. “God wants you to be prosperous in all you do, just follow these steps and the good life is yours!” But God doesn’t respond.

“He was despised and rejected by men.” His life became more and more “complicated” with slow to learn disciples and official opposition until He was finally betrayed, abandoned, and denied. He was falsely accused, savagely beaten, humiliated, crucified, forsaken by God, and died in agony.

As with the Master… Following Pentecost, His apostles left behind everything of their old life. They proclaimed Jesus as Savior and Lord. They proclaimed resurrection and victory over sin and death and the devil in Jesus. Yet they were opposed, falsely accused, savagely beaten, publically humiliated, and put to death in horrific ways (except John). And so also many of His disciples in every age.

It was only after the cross that there was for Jesus the glory of the resurrection, the ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the promise of return in that glory. His apostles proclaimed His cross and the promise of His glory. His disciples continue to proclaim it in joy and hope, even as they walked the pilgrimage to that Promised Land through every cross and trial.

In this world we remain “aliens and strangers in a strange land”. The world hates us. The world continues to be a place of corruption, decay, and death. And we are reminded of that as you follow the pilgrimage of Jesus in this life, you follow it in its entirety. The life of this world is not good, and shall never be great. You suffer. You die. Yet it is in suffering and death that the life hidden in you, Christ’s life, is fully revealed. Then comes resurrection. Then comes the glory earned by Christ and given to you.

As disciples of Jesus you are called upon by Him to bear a cross in His name, yet you bear it in victory, not in prosperity. He promised you nothing in this life like that. He did say that the victory is His and the evil is defeated. The promise of the resurrection and new life that comes from Him to you comes through His cross (what He has done for you) and not through your cross (what you do for Him). The victory follows the cross and death and into the resurrection on the Last Day and forever.

Don’t look for cheap ways out of the evils of this life. Instead rely on His grace, which is sufficient for you in all things, and power of God at work in the weakness of your existence. That is when you will have true freedom, and true peace.

Pastor Barnes

(Crux Sola est Nostra Theologia; the Cross Alone is Our Theology)