Monday, March 30, 2009

Going on a quick trip

In apologizing for any interupted conversations, I just want to say that I won't be around the blogosphere because I'll be going on a trip (by myself). The other days I'll be working, so there is no time. Thanks.

I'll be visiting my sister's family for spring break, staying with and doing something fun with my friend in Calgary, and visiting an incapacitated friend in Didsbury. I should take the trumpet along to keep working on the embature (spelling??? the spell checker does not know it or have alternatives). The niece and nephew might have fun with the instrument, too.

You might say a little prayer for me. All the stops promise to be interesting. The weather is still variable.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Easter, last year

On this short clip of the Easter service at Bethel, you may notice several things:

1. Stefan's beautiful vibrato playing his good adult cello (12 years of Suzuki lessons; first cello was 1/16th size)
2. Andrea playing beautifully, also.
3. The big Easter band that gets formed just for the Easter service. Anyone with an instrument can play.
4. The Power Point is not working and the hymn verses are not up on the screen, hence the words need to be shouted out.
5. The "flowering of the cross": is an idea my friend had (she seems to be in charge of decorating and undecorating the church). This has become a tradition at Bethel. All during lent, a very rough cross in the front has this big stuffed snake on it. For Easter it's gone and everyone comes and puts a flower on it before the service.

So much for this little clip, marking almost three months since Stefan's death.

I think I just motivated myself to get my trumpet out and get lips in shape for Easter. Just enough time for that.

March 28, 2009

This is a picture from a few minutes ago. As you can see, everything is bright but the snow cover persists and was added to yesterday. Yet, spring feelings are stirring. Stefan's accident was just over the hill on the left side.

It has now been nearly three months since Stefan's death. This was the first week we did not receive any condolence cards, also I have no more funeral related visits on our social calendar. In terms of funeral food, I think there is only some bread left in the freezer, though I still need to return containers and books and CD's. Everywhere in town and church people are still stroking and hugging me, and I think no one will soon forget. Thankfully, I don't mind hugging. In fact, someone commented on what a good hugger I was; I told her that it has become my default posture/gesture.

So, now I am getting the feeling that I need to pick myself up and get a little more pro-active about life--like clean house and invite people over here. Also, I might run down to Canmore and visit my sister's family during spring break. Easter Sunday is scheduled for my house (my sister-in-law is in Germany for her parent's 50th wedding anniversary), so I might actually have to decorate some and think of fun things for the kids. Time to get the act together a little more.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On dying in the faith

Last night, I was surveying the rest of the collection of Luther's theological writings. On page 638 starts a "Sermon on Preparing to Die". The introduction says that a quite pushy person ("importunate" is what the intro says), Mark Schart (poor man, that's how he is remembered now), pestered Luther, when he was really busy,
to write something to help him deal with his fear of death.

Luther deals with practical concerns, with making peace with your neighbors, with making a "sincere confession" (of sins), of partaking of the sacrament and believing firmly in the word of God, as well as the communion of saints.

In the hour of his death no Christian should doubt that he is not alone. He can be certain, as the sacraments point out, that a great many eyes are upon him: first, the eyes of God and of Christ himself, for the Christian believes his words and clings to his sacraments; then also, the eyes of the dear angels, of the saints, and of all Christians. There is no doubt, as the Sacrament of the Altar indicates, that all of these in a body run to him as one of their own, help him overcome sin, death, and hell, and bear all things with him. In that hour the work of love and the communion of saints are seriously and mightily active. A Christian must see this for himself and have no doubt regarding it, for then he will be bold in death. He who doubts this does not believe in the most venerable Sacrament of the Body of Christ, in which are pointed out, promised, and pledged the communion, help, love, comfort, and support of all the saints in all times of need. If you believe in the signs and words of God, his eyes rest upon you, as he says in Psalm 32:8, my eyes will constantly be upon you lest you perish.

I think this not being alone is very important for the dying person. Just your faith and you is not enough. You need the support of the community and the external word and sacrament. If there is nobody with you there are the eyes of God, the angels and the departed saints.

When my father was dying, he was completely rational when the morphine was not putting him to sleep. Not everything was really well in the extended family. It was a source of tribulation to the end. But we were there and we could pray the Lord's prayer and sing to him all the old hymns.

This brings us to the part that we cannot trust in our own faith, but even pray the Spirit for it.

...God has enjoined us firmly to believe in the fulfillment of our prayer (Mark 11:24) and that it is truly an Amen. We must also bring this command of God to his attention and say, "My God you have commanded mt to pray and to believe that my prayer will be heard. For this reason I come to you in prayer and am assured that you will not forsake me but will grant me a genuine faith."

Moreover, we should implore God and his dear saints our whole life long for true faith int he last hour, as we sing so very fittingly on the day of Pentecost, "Now let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the true faith of all things the most, that in our last moments he may befriend us, and as home we go, he may tend us."

This above quoted song comes to me readily in German, though I can't recall when I've last sung it: "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, um den rechten Glauben allermeist, dass er uns behuete an unserem Ende, wenn wir heimfahren aus diesem Elende, Kyrieleis." (13th century). It has the neatest rhythmic medieval melody. I'd love to sing it to you, if you were here. And so we should always implore the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the Words of Institution are a Promise

I'm still trying to get through the entire Lull's Anthology of Luther's Theological Writings. Presently, I'm on p. 357, which is about half way through (the document there is titled: "Concerning Rebaptism".) I like it, but it takes time.

In the "Babylonian Captivity of the Church", Luther decries a few abuses, but nothing as much as that faith is not taken as important or necessary in the Lord's Supper.

First of all, even the very words of promise of the words of institution seem to have been removed from the laity.

But how many are there today who know that the mass is the promise of Christ? I will say nothing of those godless preachers of fables, who teach human ordinances instead of this great promise. And even if they teach these words of Christ, they do not teach them as a promise or testament, neither therefore as a means of obtaining faith.

What we deplore in this captivity is that nowadays they take every precaution that no layman should hear these words of Christ, as if they were too sacred to be delivered to the common people. So mad are we priests that we arrogate to ourselves alone the so-called words of consecration, to be said secretly, yet in such way that they do not profit even us, for we too fail to regard them as promises or as a testament for the strengthening of the faith.

Then he goes on to stress how the words of promise ought to call forth faith.

For God does not deal, nor has he ever dealt, with man otherwise than through a word of promise, as I have said. We in turn cannot deal with God otherwise than through faith in the Word of his promise. He does not desire works, nor has he need of them; rather we deal with men and with ourselves on the basis of works. But God has need of this: that we consider him faithful in his promises (Heb. 10: 23), and patiently persist in this belief, and thus worship him with faith, hope, and love. It is in this way that he obtains his glory among us, since it is not of ourselves who run, but of him who shows mercy (Rom 9:16), promises, and gives, that we have and hold all good things. Behold, this is that true worship and service of God which we ought to perform in the mass. But if the words of promise are not delivered, what exercise of faith can there be? And without faith, who can have hope or love?

... For anyone can easily see that these two, promise and faith, must necessarily go together. For without the promise there is nothing to be believed; while without faith the promise is useless, since it is established and fulfilled through faith. From this everyone will readily gather that the mass, since it is nothing but promise, can be approached and observed only in faith.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bach for this Sunday

Yesterday and today it has been quite cold and blustery again. I had to go for my walk all by myself, even the dog is too sick, but took the St. Matthew's Passion along.

The part I really liked yesterday was number 11, which features the words of institution of the Lord's supper. The bass singing Jesus word's on my disc sang it so invitingly and warmly (Dietrich Henschel), more so than the bass in this Youtube excerpt, I'd say. It is such a broad and sweeping piece of music. I love it. (It was harder to find because it is not one of the big famous arias.)

The words of institution part does not come til the very end of this particular 10 min. selection.

I'll print all the words and translation for this section (numbers 8, 9, 10, and 11).

Aria: (we are talking about Judas having gone making arrangements for the betrayal.)
Blute nur, du liebes Herz! Ach, ein Kind, das du erzogen, das an deiner Brust gesogen, droht den Pfleger zu ermorden, denn es ist zur Schlange worden. (Bleed on, dear heart. Ah, a child that you raised, that sucked at your breast, threatens to murder its guardian, for it has become a serpent.)
Evangelist: Er sprach. (And he said.)
Jesus: Gehet hin in die Stadt zu einem, und sprechet zu ihm: Der Meister laesst dir sagen: Meine Zeit ist hier, ich will bei dir die Ostern halten mit meinen Juengern. (Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.)
Evangelist: Und die Juenger taten, wie ihnen Jesus befohlen hatte, und bereiteten das Osterlamm. Und am Abend setzte er sich zu Tische mit den Zwoelfen. Und da sie assen, sprach er: (And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover. Now when the evening was come he sat down with the twelve. And as they did eat, he said,)
Jesus: Wahrlich ich sage euch: einer unter euch wird mich verraten. (Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.)
Evangelist: Und sie wurden sehr betruebt, und huben an, ein jeglicher unter ihnen, und sagten zu ihm: (And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and began everyone of them to say unto him)
Chorus: Herr, bin ich's? (Lord, is it I?)
Choral: Ich bin's, ich sollte buessen, and Haenden und an Fuessen, gebunden in der Hoell! Die Geisseln und die Banden, und was du ausgestanden, das hat verdienet meine Seel. (It is I. I should atone, on my hands and feet, bound, in hell. The scourges and the fetters, and all that thou dist endure, that has my soul earned.)
Evangelist: Da antwortete Judas, der ihn verriet, und sprach: (Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said,)
Judas: Bin ich's Rabbi? (Master, is it I?)
Evangelist: Er sprach zu ihm: (He said unto him)
Jesus: Du sagest's (Thou hast said it.)
Evangelist: Da sie aber assen, nahm Jesus das Brot, dankete und brach's und gab's den Juengern und sprach: (And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said,)
Jesus: Nehmet, esset, das ist mein Leib. (Take, eat; this is my body.)
Evangelist: Und er nahm den Kelch und dankete, gab ihnen den, und sprach: (And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
Jesus: Trinket alle daraus, das ist mein Blut des neuen Testaments, welches vergossen wird fuer Viele, zur Vergebung der Suenden. Ich sage euch: Ich werde von nun an nicht mehr von diesem Gewaechs des Weinstocks trinkern, bis an den Tag, da ich's neu trinken werde mit euch in meines Vaters Reich. (Drink ye all o fit; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you: I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Kinds of Righteousness/Luther/ Lull

I'm still busy with "Luther's Basic Theological Writings" (Lull). Part III, "The Righteousness of God in Christ", leads in with the sermon, titled here "Two Kinds of Righteousness".

Doctrinally the sermon is nice and clear on the "two kinds of righteousness". The sermon actually aims to deal with the text: "have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil 2:5-6). The two kinds of rightousness are needed to fulfill such a thing as having this mind of humility among ourselves.

If you think this quote is long, it has been distilled from 12 pages to 3 pages.

Two Kinds of Righteousness

Bits from the INTRO
Sermon from late 1518 or early 1519. Based on the traditional Epistle text for Palm Sunday. An early an clear statement of Luther’s understanding of how the righteousness of God has been manifested in Christ Jesus.

The first type of righteousness is alien or external righteousness, that which can never be found in a sinful human individual intrinsically, but which has been freely given in Jesus. This righteousness, given to the baptized and in repentance, allows the poor human being to claim all that Christ has accomplished on the cross. Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as I have lived, done, spoken, suffered and died as he did.

And this alien righteousness is the primary form; it, and it alone, is “the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness."

This alien righteousness comes to us by grace alone, in preaching and in the sacraments. It comes both decisively and repeatedly, for ‘it is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.” The gospel is precisely the news that this surprising possibility exists fur humanity, that God accepts sinners not through some exertion on their part, but freely, and for Christ’s sake.

Alien righteousness must come first. But there is also a second kind or type of righteousness, that which flourishes in that woman or man who has found justification in Christ Jesus. Here Luther comes to ethics, to good work, to the love of neighbour and life in the world. But all of this is lived not according to one’s own inherent possibility; the women or man in Christ lives only in reflection of and response to that alien righteousness that has been received as a gift.

Now we get Luther himself.


Brethren, “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (Phil.2:5-6)

There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds.

The first is alien righteousness that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without. This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies through faith, as it is written in 1 Cor. 1:30: “Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” In John 11 (25-26) Christ himself states: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…shall never die. Later he adds in John 14(6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” This righteousness, then is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant. Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say: “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”

(He brings in more Bible passages)

Through faith in Christ therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours.

Therefore this alien righteousness, instilled in us without our works by grace alone—while the Father, to be sure, inwardly draws us to Christ—is set opposite original sin, likewise alien, which we acquire without our works by birth alone. Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow. For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.

What strikes me here, is that the exchange is not a matter of "robe of righteousness" but that it is Christ himself, who is everything. He becomes mine, my everything. Somewhere else he says that that is process that is not complete until eternity. Here he says that it makes "progress" as Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more. We are talking about the alien rightousness, here, as "faith and knowldege of Christ grow".

The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. this is that manner of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self, of which we read in Gal. 5:24: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” In the second place, this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbour, and in the third place, in meekness and fear toward God. The Apostle is full of references to these, as is all the rest of Scriptures. He briefly summarizes everything, however, in Titus 2:12: “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neighbour), and devoutly (relating to God).”

This righteousness is the product of the righteousness of the first type, actually its fruit and consequence, for we read in Ga. 5:22: “But the fruit of the spirit (i.e., of a spiritual man, whose very existence depends on faith in Christ) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This righteousness goes on to complete the first for it ever strives to do away with the old Adam and to destroy the body of sin. Therefore it hates itself and loves its neighbour; it does not seek its own good, but that of another, and this its whole way of living consists. For in that it hates itself and does not seek its own, it crucifies the flesh. Because it seeks the good of another, it works love. Thus in each sphere it does God’s will, living soberly with self, justly with neighbour, devoutly toward God.

This righteousness follows the example of Christ in this respect (I Peter 2:21) and is transformed into his likeness (II Cor. 3:18). It is precisely this that Christ requires. Just as he himself did all things for us, not seeking his own good but ours only—and in this he was most obedient to God the Father—so he desires that we also should set the same example for our neighbours.

That's pretty good, how he summarizes the Christian life:
Titus 2:12: “In this world let us live soberly (pertaining to crucifying one’s own flesh), justly (referring to one’s neighbour), and devoutly (relating to God).”
This devoutly relating to God, i.e. in humility, fearing your good works to be sins (Heidelberg dispuation), is always something that has to be kept in mind. It is also key to understanding how one is to serve the neighbor humbly, with the mind of Christ, as he presses on to show next.

…This is what the text we are now considering says: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). This means you should be as inclined and disposed toward one another as you see Christ was disposed toward you.

… He was not like the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men”, for that man was delighted that others were wretched; at any rate he was unwilling that they should be like him. This is the type of robbery by which a man usurps things for himself—rather, he keeps what he has and does not clearly ascribe to God the things that are Gods’, nor does he serve others with them that he may become like other men. Men of this kind wish to be like God, sufficient in themselves, pleasing themselves, glorying in themselves, under obligation to no one, and so on. Not thus, however, did Christ think; not of this stamp was his wisdom. He relinquished that form to God the Father and emptied himself, unwilling to use his rank against us, unwilling to be different from us. Moreover, for our sakes he became as one of us and took the form of a servant, that is, he subjected himself to all evils. And although he was free, as the Apostle says of himself also (I Cor. 9:19), he made himself servant of all (Mark 9:35), living as if all the evils which were ours were actually his own.

…The Apostle means that each individual Christian shall become the servant of another in accordance with the example of Christ. If one has wisdom, righteousness, or power with which one can excel others and boast in the “form of God, “ so to speak, one should not keep all this to himself, but surrender it to God and become altogether as if he did not possess it (II Cor. 6:10), as one of those who lack it.

Paul’s meaning is that when each person has forgotten himself and emptied himself of God’s gifts, he should conduct himself as if his neighbor’s weakness, sin, and foolishness were his very own. He should not boast or get puffed up. Nor should he despise or triumph over his neighbour as if he were God or equal to God. Since God’s prerogatives ought to be left to God alone, it becomes robbery when a man in haughty foolhardiness ignores this fact. It is in this way, then, that one takes the form of a servant, and that command of the Apostle in Gal. 5:13 is fulfilled: “Through love be servants of one another.”

There is some more, but not today.

This idea of robbery is paramount in this section. If we get puffed up we are robbers of the neighbor and of God. We might be really growing in comparison to someone else, and you and others might even notice this, but it means nothing. Just take on the lowliest attitude, the way Christ did. As always, nothing good is really of yourself and everything good is mingled with our sinfulness and feared to be sin.

Just a little more from Philippians: "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others."

How are you?

What do you say when people continually ask you how you are?

And then they ask how your husband is and how your daughter is...

Come to think of it, I've done the same thing. Asked ever so compassionately how someone is doing...

It's not a bad thing. Indeed, it would be worse if no one cared.

Yet, every time you are forced to make a decision to just say: we're doing ok. we're managing. we're coping. we're keeping busy. -- or to tell them something more.

It's hard work. You have take your cue from the situation, the person, where you're at yourself at the moment. To share or not to share and what is the question. It's never the same unless you are going by rote. It's like law and gospel; we are all in a different place with that at different times. You have to actually be in dialogue, listen and care.

Then there is the silly thing of what kind of image you are projecting. You don't want to look like a basket case, nor like you have no feelings. You need to seem reasonably sad and composed at the same time. This is ridiculous. I'm not much into pretending but you don't want to be offensive.

Truth is, it is always changing. Sometimes we're sad. Sometimes we're bitter. Sometimes we're overwhelmed. Sometimes we're relieved. Sometimes we're ok. Sometimes we are content. Sometimes we are happy. Often we nurse regrets over what could have, should have, might have... But we quickly let that go. It helps nothing.

There you go, that's how we are. All over the map. Probably, just like most people.

If people would asked me not how I am, but what I am thinking about, that would be easier to answer. I think about God and Stefan, and Martin and Andrea, and all our families and all my godchilddren, and about someday getting around to getting my bookkeeping, banking, taxes done.

There's actually no change here. That's what I've always been thinking about. Sometimes in different orders of priority. Now that I'm thinking about it the booking/taxes category needs to move up much higher in priority. There you are: How am I? I am worried about not getting the tax stuff together.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg

One of my favorite pieces of music and words. Luther/Bach
(I've sung the cantata in youth choir under Cantor Miller in Bensheim and we took it on tour in Great Britain, in 1978; looong time ago.)

There are other versions on Youtube. But I like this one; it seems less artistic than the others, but it makes it feel more like you are focusing on the text.

"Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg, da Tod und Leben rungen.
Das Leben das behielt den Sieg, es hat den Tod verschlugen.
Die Schrift hat verkuendiget das, wie ein Tod den andern frass.
Ein Spott aus dem Tod ist worden.

"It was a strange war, when death and life were wrestling.
Life obtained the victory; it devoured death.
Scripture has proclaimed, how one death devoured another.
Death has become a ridicule (joke, laugh).
(my translation, direct)

From English hymn book:
"It was a strange and dreadful strife when life and death contended;
The victory remained with life, the reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith that death is swallowed up by death,
Its sting is lost forever."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

From Lull's Anthology/Luther/Passion

In reading through Luther's theological writings, edited by Lull, one finds the "A Meditation on Christ's Passion", which Forde also brings into the "On being a Theologian of the Cross". It's an amazing piece and I read the whole thing to Martin last night.

There are 15 points on what is profitable meditation and what is not. Here are some of what one should do:

They contemplate Christ's passion aright who view it with a terror-stricken heart and a despairing conscience. This terror must be felt as you witness the stern wrath and the unchanging earnestness with which God looks upon sin and sinners, so much so that he was unwilling to release sinners even for his only and dearest Son without his payment of the severest penalty for them. Thus he says in Isaiah 53:8: "I have chastised him for the transgressions of my people." If the dearest child is punished thus, what will be the fate of sinners? It must be an inexpressible and unbearable earnestness that forces such a great and infinite person to suffer and die to appease it. And if you seriously consider that it is God's very own Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, who suffers, you will be terrified indeed. The more you think about it, the more intensely will you be frightened.

You must get this thought through your head and not doubt that you are the one who is torturing Christ thus, for your sins have surely wrought this. In Acts 2: 36,37 St. Peter frightened the Jews like a peal of thunder when he said to all of them, "You crucified him." Consequently three thousand alarmed and terrified Jews asked the apostles on that one day, "O dear brethren, what shall we do now?" Therefore, when you see the nails piercing Christ's hands, you can be certain that it is your work. When you behold his crown of thorns, you may rest assured that these are your evil thoughts, etc.

...Until now we have sojourned in Passion Week and rightly celebrated Good Friday. Now we come to the resurrection of Christ, to the day of Easter. After man has thus become aware of his sin and is terrified in his heart, he must watch that sin does not remain in his conscience, for this would lead to sheer despair. Just as our knowledge of sin flowed from Christ ans was acknowledged by us, so we must pour this sin back on him and free our conscience of it. Therefore beware, lest you do as those perverse people who torture their hearts with their sins and strive to do the impossible, namely, get rid of their sins by running from one good work or penance to another, or by working their way out of this by means of indulgences. Unfortunately such false confidence in penance and pilgrimages is widespread.

... After your heart has thus become firm in Christ, and love, not fear of pain, has made you a foe of sin, then Christ's passion must from that day on become a pattern for your entire life. Henceforth you will have to see his passion differently. Until now we regarded it as a sacrament which is active in us while we are passive, but now we find that we too must be active, namely, in the following. If pain or sickness afflicts you, consider how paltry this is in comparison with the thorny crown and the nails of Christ. If you are obliged to do or to refrain from doing things against your wishes, ponder how Christ was bound and captured and led hither and yon. If you are best by pride, see how your Lord was mocked and ridiculed along with criminals. If unchastity and lust assail you, remember how ruthlessly Christ's tender flesh was scourged, pierced, and beaten. If hatred, envy, and vindictiveness beset you, recall that Christ, who indeed had more reason to avenge himself interceded with tears and cries for you and for all his enemies. If sadness or any adversity, physical or spiritual, distresses you, strengthen your heart and say, "Well, why should I not be willing to bear a little grief, when agonies and fears caused my Lord to sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane? He who lies abed while his master struggles in the throes of death is indeed a slothful and disgraceful servant."

So then this is how we can draw strength and encouragement from Christ against every vice and failing. That is a proper contemplation of Christ's passion, and such are its fruits....Those who thus make Christ's life and name a part of their own lives are true Christians. St. Paul says, "Those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with all its desires. Christ's passion must be met not with words or forms, but with life and truth.

That's few things to think about.

Fasting in lent and me in general and this year

I have a somewhat disturbed relationship with lent and fasting.

That's because I grew up "evangelical" in Bavaria. There were 5 girls in my Catholic school class that were not Catholic. And I was one of them. We 5 did not pray the Hail Mary's when everyone else did, for example. We had our own religion class and our own opening and closing services for the school year, together with other "evangelicals" from other schools. We were different.

During lent there was a hubbub in my convent school about whether our nun teachers had had breakfast.

When others are currently on some kind of fast, I feel no compulsion to join them. I maintain my liberty not to fast when others are fasting. I do admire them for it, though. I have no problem with it in principle.

This particular year, I really feel I don't need to fast in a special way. I think I have come as close as I ever will to having my own crucifixion. I have been a public spectacle in my pain for hundreds, may be a thousand to observe, or so it seems to me, and it's not finished, yet. Of course, it does not compare, but there are similarities. It is a very tough and awkward thing. I am not an extremely private person (as you see). I think it would be even worse for others.

Maybe I should have come up with a fast to focus on Christ's crucifixion instead. It's not too late. There is more lent left. Maybe starting Monday. I'll think about it tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thesis 7 revisited

I've been thinking all day about Thesis 7, (see yesterday), and how negative it sounds.

But it is just one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is that because our works don't do anything for us before God, and we always, always should fear him and be humble, we receive his love and mercy and we are free. This is what God is aiming for. Superabundant mercy.

Rom. 9:14. What then shall we say: Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

It seems unfair also, that we can't keep the law. But the point is God's mercy. There we can really live and breathe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Forde and other things

I want to write some posts on Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross when I get a chance. I want to also summarize some more dental seminar sessions.

Presently, however, I should take care of my household (like buy some milk and stock the fridge after being away). Also, I'm compelled to read the "Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings", edited by Timothy F. Lull, on my bookshelf, before I say much else.

For today, I'll just post this thesis from the Heidelberg Disputation (these scholastic disputations are something else):

Thesis 7: The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

A key, here, in all our debates about law and gospel, seems to me to realize that whatever we do, converted or not, however good it looks, and however much it helps a neighbor, has always this stench of our self-centeredness connected to it. Hence, at all times, we are cast upon the mercy of God in Christ.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dr. Crossley/neurochemistry/addiction

Last week I attended a lecture, 5 hours worth, by Dr. Harold Crossley, DDS., Ph.D., entitled: Street drugs and their effects on you, your family, and your dental practice.

He invited everyone in attendance to visit him at his home or else to e-mail him with any questions and concerns. He really, really wanted all his contact information published so people can contact him. If he does not reply in 48 hours, he did not get the message and one should try another way.

His e-mail is: askmypalhal@gmailcom.
He teaches policemen in Baltimore among other activities.

The resources he listed were:,,

The concepts he really wanted to stress were the biochemistry of addiction, neurochemicals and neurotransmitters. It was very helpful. I explained to two smokers today, how nicotine addiction works at the synapse level. Now I think that I don't know enough about it.

Recently, I heard a presentation on teen sexual promiscuity, where the issues were discussed in a similar biochemical context--dopamine and serotonin, etc. The book to read, which I have not done yet, is: Hooked by Joe S. McIlhaney.

I am not sure what good any of it does, but perhaps it helps to de-romanticize harmful behavior and motivate some to get their mood elevation from healthier sources. In schools and health offices you have to speak in this manner. Of course, it is just one aspect.

All of it made me think how someone famous (Marx?) said: Religion is the opiate of the people. Well, it looks like the people abandon religion for the opium. That is certainly not an improvement.

All of it also works on the neurochemical level.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Back from Vancouver

Back from Vancouver. Walked a lot. Learned a lot. Visited a lot. Cried a lot. Everyone was sweet and generous. Tragedy feels just as sad far away from home. Finished the Forde. Want to learn more about neurotransmitters. Took a whole day course from a pharmacologist.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Going away

We'll be gone for a while to Vancouver. Flying out tomorrow. We'll be at convention at the convention center (see big white triangles on roof, middle of right side of picture), plus seeing lots of family. Weather is said to be nice. Can use a change from 3 months of 20 below. This has been an unusually cold winter.

The Gerhard Forde came yesterday. I think he'll be coming along.

March 3, 2 months.

Didn't cry today (yet). Cleaned one of his friend's teeth today.

I think we can leave the flowers (well freeze dried) as a caution to drivers, til the wind blows them away or the snow melts and it's not so treacherous.