Dr. Wade Johnston
Dr. Wade Johnston has degrees from Martin Luther College, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Central Michigan University, and Erasmus University Rotterdam. He serves as assistant professor of theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and served for ten years in parish ministry in Saginaw, Michigan.
Sitting in my office is a painting called The Two Crowns. In this painting, a king rides through the streets in full regalia, seated on an elegant, white horse. The crowd goes wild for him. The women swoon. The king, however, is distracted.
It’s been said that Martin Luther was an occasional theologian. Luther did theology as occasions arose. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing theology otherwise. It simply means that theology for Luther wasn’t some abstract thing removed from daily life and the people around him. I suppose the same could be said of Jesus.
It’s a humid, August afternoon. The courtroom is packed. There aren’t many murder trials in this town. Everyone and their mother wants a seat. The stench of sweat fills the wood-paneled room. The judge enters. The crowd rises on command.
Jesus has a way of ruining the cause. Whatever we pin our hopes on, whatever we convince ourselves is going to win us the future or stave off defeat, at least for a while, Jesus has a way of ruining.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:20, 21).
The Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas, or the Gentile Christmas as many have called it, is a festival rich in meaning. Many of our Christmas celebrations actually sprung from this day. We light Christmas lights and put stars on trees as a reminder of the light of the star that the Magi followed.
When we think of Advent, we probably don’t think about whether or not we have a free will in spiritual matters. Actually, most Christians really don’t wrestle with that question at all, whatever the season of the church year.
One of my favorite bands is Band of Horses. They are not a Christian band. I don’t think they’re Christian at all. To be honest, it doesn’t determine whether I appreciate their music or not. Non-Christians can write some great music. Christians have produced some duds. The opposite is also true. There’s one song from Band of Horses that especially sticks out to me—well, there’s more than one, but this one came to mind most recently. It’s called “Compliments.”
Galatia was a region, not a city. Paul knew the congregations there well. Galatians is one of the earliest epistles, or letters. It shows something, then, that already in this, one of the earliest epistles, Paul begins with a furious defense of the Gospel.
When we think of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone, the book of James isn’t the first to come to mind. James is no Galatians or Romans when it comes to that. But James does have something to teach us. James holds up a mirror, and we do well not to look away.