Monday, May 31, 2010

Christ have Mercy 5

OK, let's do a little more.  I wish now it was not so off the cuff, but this morning I woke up panicking about my daughter's upcoming wedding shower, (which panic I will utilize into getting something practical done, as soon as this is finished for today) unlike Sunday morning when I woke up thinking wonderful, lofty things about how the Holy Spirit is "comforter", also sent to us in our pitiable estate.  The Spirit also shows mercy, in fact through him we have the forgiveness of sins in the church.  We can just be glad and glad and glad for all that.

Chapter 3 is mostly about "splanchnon"  this stirring pity, compassion, which is for us like a deep feeling in the gut or the heart, or the internal organs, something "visceral".  I seem to remember that the Greeks or some other ancients had seats for different things, such as emotions.  Was not the liver the place for something and other organs for other things?   So "splanchnon" is for Harrison, "one of the all time great Greek words".

Splanchnon has to be one of the all-time great Greek words in the new Testament.  You will not find more incarnation, enfleshed talk about Christ than in this word.  I am convinced the word is an onomatopoeia, that is, a word that sounds like what it denotes.  Repeat splanchnon a few times at a low decibel, smile inverted, and lips pursed, and you will know what it means even without Greek 101.  As you repeat the word, you can almost imagine a pagan priest removing these organs from a sacrificial animal and carting them on a surface to be "divined" to predict the future.  Say the word and you are back in Old Testament times, watching the priest removing the bowels of the sacrificial animal and casting them aside-splat! to be burned or hauled out of the city.  Splanchnon sounds like a verbal splat!  You can all but hear the word used in this most base and concrete meaning in Acts 1:18 "... falling headlong [Judas] burst open in the middle and all his bowels [splanchnon] gushed out"

In ancient pre-Christian usage, the Greek word splanchnon denoted the "inward parts" of a sacrifice, such as the "liver, lungs and spleen".  It also denoted the lower half of the body--the womb or the loins.  In more figurative usage, and for obvious reasons, the word meant "the seat of 'impulsive passions.'"  In pre-Christian use, splanchnon is never used for mercy.  In the Septuagint, the Greek edition of the Old Testament, splanchnon began its journey toward is significant and sacred use in the gospels, particularly in association with Jesus and His actions. (p. 40.)

That is hugely interesting, yet, we easily know this emotion from our very own innards.  Yes, yes, all emotions are mediated via hormones, etc.  They still seem to be located in the chest and solar plexus.   Sometimes the feeling is so strong we remember it years afterward and we remember whom we had it toward and why.  Unfortunately, I have to say I have it also toward myself, the selfish beast, maybe more often than anyone else.  And then we cry some about our lot in life and God even hears and cares about that.  Anyhow, we know very well what is meant and the excursion into the Greek is very understandable and great illustration.

Jesus has a lot of "splanchnon" in the Gospels.  And Jesus shows us what the Father is like in his love and compassion.  "Abba Father", indeed.  We get it.

In Chapter 3, we now have 12 passages from the gospels printed out where "splanchnon" is employed.  Jesus has a lot of it for the crowds and for individuals whom he heals.  The point is that "splanchnon" moves to action.  You don't have it and then simply go away.  It's not a TV soap opera for indulging in feelings.  People need help and they receive it.  Something gets done.

There are also the parables.  The "Good Samaritan" had it and he actually did something.  In German we say: "Der barmherzige Samariter."  So we use the "splanchnon" word in the title not the generic "good."

This makes me think about "the good tree" that we are supposed to be.  We know that is not something that can be simply commanded.  The Law has never produced the right kind of tree.  But "splanchnon" has, God's merciful action in saving us in Christ, does.  So this "good" tree, maybe is like the Samaritan not just simply "good" but more specifically "merciful" ("barmherzig").  I like this because often when there are good deeds, the focus seems to be on people trying to do something to justify themselves, or designing good works that do not fit the need of the recipient.  Nothing is more annoying than that kind of "good."  In fact, sometimes, it seems rather detestable and distancing. In contrast, a merciful work, moved by the need of the needy, will be truly good.

This is what Jesus did, anyhow.  He fixed the sight of those who wanted and needed it fixed.  The Samaritan saved the man who lay bleeding from assault.

I notice that none of the examples are from John.  He seems to deal  in "agape".  Paul uses "agape" in 1. Corinthians 13, but "splagchnon" in a few other places, as well.  They don't mean exactly the same thing it seems.  Maybe agape is a little more clean word,  it sounds so soft and lovely.  "Splanchnon" is this from the gut, almost convulsing, maybe a little down and dirtier (enfleshed), word-- stronger, more masculine even, perhaps.  More adrenaline, more urgent action. (I am gathering.)

I marvel that the evangelists would always add this in about Jesus' "splanchnon".  They could just have said:  "There were these blind people and Jesus healed them."  And we would have realized Jesus saw them, loved them and did something for them.  But, no,  we are told very specifically that he had this feeling.  Now, that I think about it, I am glad they mention it.  For some reason it is God's most urgent agenda to save us at all costs.   


Now the author of the book wants to be very clear that here we do not have a call for "ethics" for "law" or a protocol for how to act or care for the needy.  Ethics can be found in other religions, too.  He says:  "The attempt to follow the example of Jesus as a means to gain God's favor merits nothing but hell" (p.44).

Instead we should realize this:

The coming of God into the flesh is Gospel.  It is God's gracious act to accomplish our salvation.  Luther writes that Jesus "became incarnate to comfort."  Jesus is mercy incarnate.  Christ's life is filled with compassion and compassionate action for those in need.  Christ's life is more than an example for our living.  The incarnation of Christ is the strongest and most powerful gospel gift.  He was the sacrifice that earned salvation for us.  In Word and Sacrament, the church delivers what Christ obtained on Calvary--forgiveness of sin.  In newness of Life (Romans 6), the believer demonstrates compassion for those in need, the lowly, the suffering, the orphan, etc.  However, God Himself, God accepts our daily acts of compassion as our daily and holy worship because of Christ.  Philippians 2: 5-8, the great Pauline hymn of the incarnation, teaches us the key motivation for divinely wrought mercy...

We are baptized by Christ into merciful compassion for those in need around us.  In this way we indeed become "incarnate" to our neighbor. Luther nailed it when he wrote:

Therefore, if we recognize the great and precious things which re given us, as Paul says [Rom.5:5], our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit with the love which makes us free, joyful, almighty workers and conquerors over all tribulations, servants of our neighbors, and yet lords of all.  For those who do not recognize the gifts bestowed upon them through Christ, however, Christ has been born in vain... Just as our neighbor is in need and lacks that in which we abound, so we were in need before God and lacked his mercy.  Hence, as our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christ to one another and Christ may be the same in all, that is that we may be truly Christians.

Because of Christ's incarnation, we are freed and sent by God as "incarnate" christs to one another.  As Luther said, we "clothe ourselves in our neighbor's flesh"  We have compassion (splanchnon) enlivened in Christ, and that compassion takes action.  To refuse to "have the mind in you" is to refuse mercy.  It is worse than a mere transgression of the Law;  it is a denial of the very incarnation of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Thus John the apostle could write:

By this we know love, that he laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart [splanchnon!] against him, how does god's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3: 16-18.  (pp. 45-47)

On the internet, here, we sometimes debate, if Christians are any better than atheist, on average.  Does it make any sense to talk this way?  How does one talk with atheists?  There is nothing worse than the self-righteously arrogant.

Still, last months' McClean's Magazine had a story about how much more Christians give to charity than uncommitted people.  It seemed to be a reason, not to try and get rid of all the churches.  What will we do when all the churches close down?  Who will be doing the volunteer work and give to charity?

That was interesting.

All I can say is, we do have this in the church.  We have God's mercy and we have it for each other.  Maybe there could be much, much more and we can work on that, and organize it better, etc.  And the last thing one would want to do is brag about being better.  If we keep our eyes on Christ and his "splanchon" we'll be alright.  "Christ have mercy" never goes away.  It is the daily cry.

BUT, it is true;  we have this.  We have mercy and freedom and love and joy and I don't even know how other people go through life without  this "comfort".   This is why they seek it in all the wrong places and in the wrong ways and we witness what we witness, although, often enough this happens to Christians, too.  This is why it is our  job to tell everybody about him and paint him before their eyes, as we received in this chapter.  He has "splanchnon" for us all, and this all the time, and again and again.  And we are seriously reminded, you dare not neglect to help your neighbor in need, in view of this mercy.  This is what shapes the great and harmonious community which we desire.  It can't spring from any other source than God's love, his actual doing in the body for all.

The atheists we talk to on-line are very angry that the messages contains condemnation. People who do not believe in Christ will not be saved.  They hear in their mind a harsh message.  The fact is that without Christ we truly are and have nothing.  You are already lost whether you know it or not.  You are already dead, condemned, lost, blind, deaf until Christ's mercy opens your eyes and ears.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

More mercies today



The Lord is giving us all the moisture we prayed for in white form.  The fires are out.  We just lost 36 square kilometers to burning 20 min. north from here.  You'd think the farmers are in church today.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Coyote

There was a coyote just outside my window while writing the last post.  I've never seen one in the yard.

Mercy and Me and You/ Christ have Mercy 4

This morning we have received several mercies.  One of them being  Rev. Harrison mentioning this little effort on his blog and sending people to read it.  (Now it better be good! :) )  Thank you and hello, in any case!  I'll take from that permission to keep quoting the book. 

The other thing that happened this morning:  I got up and did what Luther said. (This is code for Lutherans;  the others have to read the small catechism.  :)  ).  (Do it.)

When we call upon the name of our triune God, we say that we remember our Baptism, the beginning God made with us.  Now, when I grew in very Christian circumstances in Germany, nobody told me to make an invocation, make a sign of the cross or remember my baptism.  (Nobody went through the catechism, either).  So it was quite a gift to learn that here we are to take complete comfort and reassurance of God's grace distributed to me and all others in the Sacrament.

But now that I'm hovering between chapter 2 and 3, and am thinking about the great mercy of the great God, and being told that "splagchnon" is a deep feeling from the gut (we've all felt that), and thinking that in German "Barm" is something like "Darm" (also "gut"),-- today, I remembered that when we reassure ourselves of God's grace in baptism, we are reminding ourselves of his great "splagchnon", his very deep affection and compassion.  In remembering Baptism we reminded of this fatherly feeling and motivation for providing this salvation in Christ! 

This is what:  "We worship your name for ever and ever"  means (Matins).  We receive from this name and this God everything through Grace.  But Grace is not just a word, a formulation, a doctrine to be received, a method, not something infused, etc.  It is as we heard in Chapter 2, it is the very nature of the living God, the dear Father in heaven, to have this disposition towards each one--to me and to all.  Call upon the name of the Lord because he is so gracious and compassionate.  And he wants us to know it.  And he wants us to know it by telling each other.

This was all made clear in Chapter 2, but I did not get the connection right away.

The clearest and most direct revelation of the Trinity is in Christian Baptism, which shows God as mercy.  according to Luther, "in Baptism, heaven is wide open and the Trinity is present  to sanctify and save."  The apostle Paul writes:  "He [the Father] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:5-6)... In this life we find sin, death, and misery.  In Baptism we find God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the triune God of mercy, life, and love, and we find that, mercifully, "heaven is nothing but windows and doors."  p.33

And then again about the orphans in Othoro.

The promise Christ gave to His disciples holds good in Othoro even as it does for you:  " I will not leave you as orphans;  I will come to you"  (John 14:18).  How wonderful that in one of the only passages in which Jesus speaks of orphans, He has just comforted His disciples with the doctrine of the Trinity.  In Christ you, though once orphaned, have a heavenly Father.  In Christ you have a beloved Brother who has borne your every burden in mercy (Hebrews 2:14).  In the Holy Spirit you have eternal consolation and comfort.  And like the Othoro children, you have a Church as your community of mercy.   p. 36

How very, very good that we are not pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.  If we can remember this mercy towards ourselves --the fullness, the completeness, the depths, the breadth, the eternity, the richness, the sacrifice of it, the feeling of it--by our very own Maker, Father, Brother, Comforter--found in the church, we have enough to ponder.  Let it animate our being.

We need to remember this also in our own suffering.  How is it that this merciful God lets such awful things happen to us?

The Othoro orphans are a gift.  The world and this sinful flesh might view them as a burden.  However, they have become an opportunity for mercy and compassion.

So are we an opportunity for compassion.

I don't like to be very gushy on this blog, but I do want to really give thanks here, like the boy, to God and Jesus Christ, that He and others have seen me as a human being.  My own father and mother have passed on, but there have been other friends, family, neighbors and congregation members and bloggers, who have cared for us in God's name, each in their own way.  I've tried to help them, too, by helping them deal with our distress by drawing their own eyes to his comfort.  So it is all mutual and shared.   All this gut-wrenching stuff is love, grows love, shows love.

Sometimes, it does not happen.  Sometimes, people are revolted, shocked, too grieved to understand, too frightened, too selfish, too haughty...  Sometimes they leave you by the wayside, ignore you, spurn you, reject you.  I can't do anything about that.  If feels quite bad.  But I can rest in God's compassion for me and for them and go in this knowledge.  I can even feel some "splagchnon" for them and pray for them.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Christ have Mercy, 3

The book is easily found at CPH, but also on Amazon, where it is less expensive, it seems. 

Chapter 3:  Father, Son, and Spirit, Who God is and how we will be. 

"Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."  Luke 6:36.


"I must believe in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then also love my neighbor.  The Catechism teaches me this.  Yet we minimize the importance of such doctrine today.  How many of us pay heed to it?"   Luther.

"I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings."  Eric, of Othoro Lutheran Rescue Center, Kenya.
I like that Rev. Harrison uses his own stories and pictures.  Sometimes I read some people and if anything said is not directly something Jesus said and did, it's not ok to mention.  If it is not directly Word and Sacrament it's not worth mentioning.-- We must be able to talk about the work that is being done, the experiences that are being had without thinking we are straight in evangelical or pietist land.  We don't have to go there. 


So, in this chapter we learn first of all how mercy is about who God is.

Mercy is about who God is and who we are in Christ.  To deny mercy is more than a mere transgression of particular laws.  Denying mercy is a denial of who God is in Christ, a denial of the holy Trinity.



In this chapter we get the story of Harrison going to Kenya, where the HIV rate is very high.  We get a glimpse of the country where death is decimating families and communities.  The plight of orphans is always particularly pitiful.

My first visit to Othoro brought a "17-percent HIV/AIDS infection rate jolt.  I found a traditional mud-and-stick hut in pathetic disrepair about twenty yards from a modest church building.  I had been in Masai cow-dung dwellings at the far edges of the Serengeti Plain.  I had been in homes of mud construction that were beautifully painted, sporting marvelously troweled cow-dung floors, painted interiors, overstuffed chairs, and even doilies.  However, the Othoro boys lived in squalor when compared to the standards of their own community.  I have rarely beheld such lonely despair.  Inside the little hut, which was not more than ten feet square, there was no furniture, not even a stool or bench.  A scavenged rusted galvanized roof covered a mud floor.  Two or three mats of elephant grass had been rolled and propped in the corner.  Next to the mats were a half dozen worn plastic bowls of various shapes and colors.

As at many, perhaps even most, of the other Lutheran parishes across rural Kenya, the boys of Othoro had suffered the loss of both parents to AIDS.  Without their little Lutheran parish, these children would even now face an unfathomable darkness.  But the small congregation had mustered the mercy and means to provide a housemother to cook and look after them.

I note the dialogue that goes on with this mercy mission.  (A couple in Huston will pay for an orphanage.  $40 K will  do it.)  He asks the children's names, inquires about their circumstances,  discusses their church and church attendance.  He makes plans with them together and with their pastor.

When he returns he meets the children again, now older and taller.  "It's really you.  Show me your new home."  They survey the new home.

Our miles simultaneously broke into tears of joy, and we stood together weeping silently.  Finally, with tears streaming down my face, I broke the silence, "This gift has been given to you because this, the Othoro Lutheran community, loves you, and our Christians in America know about you and love you.  All of this is because of Jesus' love.  In this new home, we share His love with you."  Eric, a twelve-year-old boy whose life has been forged through years of deepest tribulation in the midst of a Christian community, was standing next to me.  I asked him "What do you think?"  Speaking with wisdom and faith well beyond his age, he offered these profound words, "I thank God and Jesus Christ that someone has regarded us as human beings.

Wow.  This is how it is done.  Via the church, via individuals, for individuals because of Christ's love for all of them, because of God's love for human beings.

How simple the dialogue can be.  Not that much biblical knowledge needed.  We know enough.

We have opportunities for such exchanges every day.  We don't have to build orphanages in Kenya.  We can start in our own families.  Where there are people, there is such work.

After this example, we get some more theology under the heading "Who God is and how we will be".  Among other quotes, we get one from Wilhem Loehe:

Out of mercy the Son of God became man;  he lived, died, rose, ascended into heaven, and lives forever to practice great mercy.  The motive and purpose of all His works is mercy, and mercy is what He desires for those who are His.  Because His love and His Father's and the Spirit's love can only be mercy, so our love for the brothers and all men should include nothing but mercy.  The great basic command for our life is:  "Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful." (Luke 6:36)

It really is quite something.  Lots to think about.  Certainly, I have received much mercy and don't extend enough of it. 

The chapter ends very beautifully pulling together some more words of Jesus, the lives of orphans, the nature of the trinity and the word and sacrament ministry of the local church. 

This chapter also reminds me of the lecture series "The Truth Project" which I attended in my town.  One of the last lectures dealt with mercy.  "You have never met a mere mortal", was the slogan and .  There were many examples given, including dancing with the wall flower at high school grad, etc.  It was quite moving to me and the phrase has stuck in my head.  The young man from the orphanage says something similar when he says:  "You have regarded us as human beings."

I just googled the phrase.  It is so easy to find.  It is from a lovely passage from C.S. Lewis.

quotes from The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis... There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.


Lewis is pretty good.  This quote works, too.

I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because, by it, I see everything else. 


God loves each one.  That changes things.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christ have Mercy, 2

Chapter One"Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy".

Or as we sang in Germany in the service in Greek:  "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison". And in German:  "Herr erbarm dich ueber uns".  My father liked the word "erbarmen", "to have mercy".  This is how he felt towards his children, he would say.  He could relate to God that way, being a father.

We have, in the book, the story of the car accident to help us understand our need.  It is everybody's nightmare to lose a child.  The whole community is driven to its knees, as in the story.  As you know I've been there and the whole community was with me.  "How could this happen?  How could this happen to you?  Why did it happen?"  600 people at the funeral. 

Several times I told people "Why not?",  "Why should this not happen to us?"  Do you not know we are all up for this one time or another.  Lately, I've heard of several very odd and sudden deaths, dropped over at home at 42.  Weird but not uncommon.  As someone has told me and I keep telling others:  "You only have today."  And as Jesus said to those who wondered why the tower fell on some:  "Repent!".

What people meant was that we were well known and well respected and known to be more "religious" than most and it should not happen to someone like us.  Which is a bit of a compliment, but as we see false.  We are nothing more than anyone else.  And our sack is as empty as anyone else's.  And nothing changed about getting it filled.  You keep going the same place for relief that you have been going all along and in the same manner.  The Word is the only thing/One who keeps you from going to pieces.   Your daily and hourly portion of it.

I cannot overemphasize this.  You must stick with the external word (as mentioned yesterday).  Your spouse and your friends are on their own path of suffering.  They have nothing they can give you that they have not also received from the same source.  Your relationships may also go to pieces if you don't share from this source.

Often you hear the footprints poem or people says "Jesus is with you."  This is too fuzzy.  It leaves me to imagine that Jesus is with me and carrying me.  Better to be involved in real worship with the congregation as described in this chapter.  Which is going with your "empty sack", your litany, your prayer to where it can be filled for you.

"'Dear God, I've got an empty sack!'  That is what the Kyrie confesses.  The place to begin a book on mercy is at the Kyrie, which is an essential element of the Divine Service.  Most people are convinced that the church service is about the Law.  It is about what we give to God.  All week long we give our labor to our employer.  We give time to our children.  We give  charitably ...  Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee with a similar view of worship.  (Luke 18:10-12).  Notice the subject of the verbs in the statements made by the Pharisee--each subject is the word 'I'". (p.21)

Luther sided with the tax collector on the question of what the church service is.  "The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'"

Yes, a sinner.  Not so special that death should not come to him or her or worse, to one or more of his or her children.  God was no sinner and knew this very same suffering.  He had the right to demand it from Abraham and from Job, even though this so goes against the grain and we scream.  We cannot fit this into our brains and designs.

But God is there to fill the bag, as we hear below.  We shall either be furious with him or come to him for bandaging.   This is what happens in worship.  We have nothing but Himself and what he gives us, all of us together.

"The action was all from man to God.  Luther completely changed the trajectory.  In the hymn Luther composed to teach the Ten Commandments, the Reformation Church sang, 'You shall observe the worship day That peace may fill you home, and, pray, And put aside the work you do, So that God may work in you' Have mercy, Lord!'  The movement is from God to man.  It is Gospel!" (p. 21)

"Luther described the divine Service as a man coming with an empty sack.'  In the Invocation, the name of the triune God, they name place on us in our Baptism, is spoken on us again.  That name is grace, mercy, and forgiveness dropped into our 'sack'.  We add an 'Amen', that is, a 'Yes, it is so!  It is in my bag.'  Then we confess our sins--'Dear God, my sack is empty'--and the pastor "in the stead an by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ' forgive us.  'We say again, 'Amen!  It is in the bag.'"


I do not have the same stab in the chest every time I see a picture, see a video, or listen to his songs.  Except once in a while.  Initially, the pain is also truly physical.  I can see how older people die from this. A man or woman dies months or a year after their spouse.  It is also very hard on your body and your functioning.  On top of that people get tired of you and your grief or the reminders of their own grief and you may suffer more isolation.  This is how people grow apart and couples split up.

I have confessed over and over the truth that it is the Word that welds you together even then.  Bandages are only so much good without the Word.  Being welded together is all we have for now, to be one body, a cluster on the vine, but it is so good, we are grateful.

What I see the author also doing in this chapter of the book, is to not just talk in terms of being a sinner and needing forgiveness.  This is expanded by talking about personal and collective tragedies--God's megaphone (Lewis).  Suffering these blows is another way of being a sinner, because it is the result of sin.  Indeed, "Lord have mercy".

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Christ have Mercy 1

The Foreword is by Rev. Ray Wilke.  He is saying that people in the LCMS have been doing all kinds of mercy missions all along, but they need a theological framework.

"Our presentation of the Gospel must be based on good scholarly theology or we cannot function.  We dabble in feelings, but we don't trust them.  We respect authority, but we don't submit to the 'Vicar of Christ'.  We think logically but we are suspect of 'reason'.  What are we to do with all of Jesus' invitations to follow Him into the muddle and misery of people's lives?  If it doesn't fit the formula of Word and Sacrament, we struggle.  Well, perhaps there is more to Word and Sacrament ministry than we thought.  What if the evidence was there all along, lying right there, undiscovered, int eh Word, in the confessions, in the writing of our revered Church Fathers?  What if it could be proven from good sound theology that the urges of our heart to help the ones who have been beaten down sprig from Christ's own heart?  These urges toward acts of human mercy are bound to the cross and to the cup and to the inviolable Word, even to the water poured over to vicariously make us righteous.  The evidence of such things is all there, buried int he writings of Luther, the Confessions, and the church Fathers, waiting to be translated and interpreted and arranged into what has become known as systematic theology."

Nothing new is going to be said, but lets pull some things together to fit into our systematic theology, so it will help us.  These things have always been there, is what is asserted.

Another interesting part of the Foreward is the quote and use of a passage from the Smalcald Articles.

This is what Luther wrote in the Smalcald Articles:  "We will now return to the Gospel, which does not give us counsel and aid against sin in only one way.  God is superabundantly generous in His grace:  First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world (Luke 24).  This is the particular office of the Gospel.  Second, through Baptism.  third,through the holy Sacrament of the Altar.  Fourth, through the Power of the Keys.  Also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.'  How few Lutheran believers recall that Luther identified this consolation as an extension of the gospel and therefore as a means of grace.  How powerful has become this fireside/riverside/ bedside/field and forest conversation among us, even while not being fully aware that it is truly a God-ordained conversation and consolation that we share.

Indeed, the 'mutual conversation and consolation of brethren' might be overheard by a refugee mother and child who are waiting outside a portable LCMS World Relief and Human Care clinic in Malakal, Sudan.  An Islamic tsunami widow in the east of India may hear with gladness the 'mutual conversation and consolation of brethren' when it is served with bandages, food, and shelter for her fatherless children.

Truly, there is nothing new here and we know exactly what Christ said and did.

Personally, I don't see myself anywhere in a foreign country any time soon, but the message applies to each of us individually and as a congregation corporately.  We are all called to say something to help each other and to bring this into a myriad of situations, and not just to say but also do.  Still, let's not forget to say when doing, whenever the time is right.

In terms of the blogging, I think that's why many of us like it.  There is a mutual consolation found, which is a great gift.  Sometimes, when you don't get a response and everyone is busy, or you don't know what someone is thinking, it does not seem very mutual and it feels like upward slogging all by yourself.  So, for those who read, it is really nice if you say something.  :)   So, it's good to have a statcounter, which tells you that someone at least has been reading, and there is grace in that.

This quote makes me think of another thing.  Sometimes you hear people talk of Bible study as a "pooling of ignorance".  I think that is a destructive comment.  It can occasionally be that.  And there are different kinds of Bible studies.  Some are lecture format and they are good.  Other Bible studies are more discussion oriented and these allow people to express something of their own faith.  This is good practice.  If you can learn to say something about the mercy you know in Jesus Christ, you might actually be ready to say it to someone else outside of the church and maybe even in a hostile setting. 

Personally, I'm very big on these studies.  If there is a conflict and I have to chose between going to divine service and Bible study, I tend to go to the Bible study.  Sadly, I find they are not to be had very many places.  We have let them slide and go by the wayside.  This is a totally destructive trend.  President Bugbee talks a lot about our Biblical illiteracy and he is right. 

So much for today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Christ have mercy. How to put your faith in action."

http://www.cph.org/p-505-christ-have-mercy-how-to-put-your-faith-in-action.aspx?SearchTerm=Harrison

I finished the book on the drive (ten hours round-trip).  Not a difficult read, with study guide.  We have to talk about it.  Everyone should read it.

Pentecost and Confirmation in the Rocky Mountains

Friday, May 21, 2010

Busy time/ weddings, death, children and weather

It's been a busy week with many unusual errands.  We're blessed to attend another confirmation this weekend.

My brother sent this Youtube clip (below) highlighting the weather during May and his house and home, mostly likely produced for the grandparents in Germany.

The wedding dress arrived in the mail, having been ordered on-line.  It has been tried and found to fit perfectly and be wonderful.  Of course, you cannot get a picture of that, sorry to say.   The bride and I are the first and only ones to have laid eyes on it so far.  I was going to tell her what a wonderful girl she has become and how I miss Stefan, but when the thought came to me, I felt I was going to burst into tears, so I did not tell her.  I think this will be the collective thought and feeling through the whole wedding.  Best to think of it ahead of time and maybe work it through the system beforehand, as much as possible.

Still reading the large catechism.  There is a lot there.

Also started Matt Harrison's "Christ have Mercy" (ordered it from Pastor Erickson's Amazon list). [I stand corrected, apparently, this book is not on Pastor Erickson's list.  It must have come up as a "custormers who bought this, also bought this"-- item.  I did buy something off Bror's lists, though.  Will get to that another time. Check out the lists.]

The first chapter on the car accident in a small community claiming a young person around graduation time and ministering in that situation, grabbed me, of course.  Here is a bit from this first chapter titled:  "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy" . On death:  "I had witnessed a foreshadowing of the Last Day.  "Marrying and giving in marriage"... will be going on at the last.  And then Jesus shall come "like a thief in the night".  Every death, in fact, is a harbinger of that great and terrible day of the Lord.  Every death is that thief in the night.  Death stands over our shoulder, ever ready to steal us away.  We avoid looking back, but occasionally we risk a glance into the dark, though we quickly return to the party.  Death's beady eyes remain trained on us as we take our every breath, his steely stare like ice on our bare necks.  When we refuse to acknowledge him, our consciences stir our stomachs with disquiet."

That's just the beginning of the book.  Haven't got much further, only looked at it last night. The chapter title reminds me of my father at my mother's death bed at home.  She had just drawn her last breath and it was just he and we children there.  That's all he said:  "Lord, have mercy".



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Luther Quote from Sermon on the Sum of the Christian Life

Today, I liked this quote.  I am not sure where the sermon might be online.  So I'm typing.  Volume 51, p. 284, Luther's Works.  I like it because Luther makes it very clear in this first sentence that pure doctrine must distinguish between justification before God, versus before men, and how similarly faith and love, and life toward God and toward man should not be mixed up.  He also explains how very difficult this is for our nature and in opposition to false teaching, to have faith in the one Mediator and cling to the mercy seat.  The whole sermon is an excellent exposition of faith and love, based on the verses 1st Timothy 1 (5-7)  "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.  Certain persons by swerving from these have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions."



This, then, is the right, pure doctrine, which should be cultivated and in which the people should be instructed so they can tell how they are to be justified both before God and before men, and so that they will not interchange and mix up faith and love or life toward God and life toward men.  This is what those vainglorious preachers should be doing, since they want to be regarded as masters of the law, in order that it may be well known and observed in Christendom.  For even when it is taught in the best possible way it is difficult enough to learn it well, expecially for us, who have been so habituated and trained in the doctrine of works and pointed only to the law and ourselves.  And besides this add our own nature, which is itself inclined in this direction.  It is thus so rooted and strengthened by habit and the heart so strongly influenced that we cannot get away from it or think anything except that, if I have lived a holy life and done many great works, God will be gracious to me.  Thus we must contend both with our nature and with strong habit.  And it will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and love for the muck still sticks and clings to us, even though we are now in faith, so that the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say:  After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account.  We even want ot haggle with God to make him regard our life and for our sake turn his judgment seat into a mercy seat.  But it cannot be done.  With men you may boast:  I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense.  But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator.  I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness.  And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace;  yet this is what I should and must do.  The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it;  otherwise no man can come before God.

On page 282 we also had a nice summary:

I say that, if we are ever to stand before god with a right and uncolored faith, we must come to the point where we learn clearly to distinguish and separate between ourselves, our life, and Christ the mercy seat.  but he who will not do this, but immediately runs headlong to the judgment seat, will find it all right and get a good knock on the head.  I have been there myself and was so burnt that I was glad I was able to come to the mercy seat.  And now i am compelled to say:  Even though I may have lived a good life before men, let everything I have done or failed to do remain there under the judgment seat as God sees fit, but, as for me, I know of no other comfort, help, or counsel for my salvation except that Christ is my mercy seat, who did no sin or evil and both died and rose again for me, and now sits at the right hand of the Father and takes me to himself under his shadow and protection, so that I need have no doubt that through him I am safe before God from all wrath and terror.  Thus faith remains pure and unalloyed, because then it makes no pretensions and seeks no glory or comfort save in the Lord Christ alone.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

North West upgrader

Several hours ago,  North West company which is practically ready to build its upgrader has been guaranteed bitumen supply by the government.  It would seem that little stands in the way of the facility being built, now.

http://www.calgaryherald.com/story_print.html?id=3042636&sponsor=

It will also meet the  US proposed "low carbon fuel" standards.

http://www.northwestupgrading.com/images/pdf/press_releases/brik%20news%20release%20-%20may%2018%202010.pdf

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back in Alberta, flying over the mountains/ Ascension /My old aunt



It is not as if no one has ever flown on an airplane.  It is not as if no one has ever flown over the Rocky Mountains.  It's not as if no one ever had a nice window seat.  But it was an exhilarating flight. 

I like everything about going on a plane ride.  Walking around the airport pulling a little suitcase behind.  Being greeted by the professional staff.  Having a coffee watching the runway.  Maybe talking with a stranger, depends on how I feel and how they feel.  Getting a coffee brought on board, preferable by a young good-looking steward,  whom I may or may not have warmed up with a little talk about the aircraft, pretending I know what I am talking about.   I feel like the queen of England. 

And I enjoy the flight.  My husband is usually having palpitations.  I do say a little prayer and then give myself fully to the experience.

My male cousins fly airplanes in Germany and in British Columbia.  One flies a helicopter.  A female cousin flies airplanes and an uncle flies airplanes.   It is in the blood on my father's side, apparently. 

On the way, my I pod was still charged and I could listen to Norman Nagels talk on Christ's Ascension from Issues, etc.  It was such a beautiful and instructive talk, right over the Rocky Mountains.

In any case, I had a lovely flight to Vancouver.  See also my aunt's head and her neighborhood in Vancouver.  They live in the midst of big, old cedar trees. It is always a special time for me to be with my aunt.  Rarely can I spend time with a female, elder relative.  My mother has been gone for thirty years now. We sang a bit from a hymn book her grandmother gave to her in 1940 for her confirmation.  I did not even know her name was Martha.  My uncle was listening with rapture.  He had learned the same songs in Russia.  He was leaning forward to hear, as his hearing is getting poorer.  He sang a song his relative sang while dying after having been beaten and whipped.  He has such sad stories.  It was a Mennonite song, and I could tell right away from the theology in the first line. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's getting there, almost spring.


I wanted to split some perennial plants the other day, but they are as yet nowhere to be seen.  Garden is still dormant. 

I'm flying to Vancouver for the weekend.  No emergency.  Martin wants me to attend something.

Starting Weight Watchers with a friend.  It's time.   Breakfast today:  yoghurt with All  bran.  Not too bad.

See Mother's Day visit with my nieces.


I'm taking one of those new large catechism with me. I'm meeting someone who needs one;  I'm not sure he agrees yet.  He took theology through the United Church and had all faith killed during his training.

There are so many people I've not seen over the winter or since Christmas.  I can't wait to see everyone for the coming events.  You may pray for God's blessing on all endeavors.  Thanks, yours, signing off for a bit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Luther's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount

Luther's commentary on the sermon on the mount can be found here (for next time I need it; I don't have the book):
http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/37luther1.htm

From the bondage of the will: Nicodemus

This is one of my favorite passages from the bondage of the will.  Page 373, in Henry Coles paperback edition of 1976, Baker Book House.

I think the reason I like this passage, because EVEN Nicodemus,-- sitting across from Christ, of all people-- could not have guessed, known, moved himself, be born again without having the Gospel preached to him.   There is an irony in this.  The Spirit always calls by the Gospel, even if the Son of God is sitting right next to you.  

And Nicodemus was an upright Jew, so to speak, though he was a Pharisee,  perhaps more into business than scripture.  Still he did not know that he was not keeping the law from the heart and from faith, as Jesus went around explaining, and he did not know that he needed a new birth, or what that was, or how it could happen.   Not only can't we not do it by ourselves, we can't know it or guess it, either.

Section CLVIII.--Now let us hear an example of "Free-will."--Nicodemus is a man in whom there is every thing that you can desire, which "Free-will" is able to do.  For what does that man omit either of devoted effort, or endeavor?  He confesses Christ to be true, and to have come from God;  he declares His miracles;  he comes by night to hear Him, and to converse with Him.  Does he not appear to have sought after, by the power of "Free-will,"  those things which pertain unto piety and salvation?  But mark what shipwreck he makes.  When he ears the true way of salvation by a new birth to be taught by Christ, does he acknowledge it, or confess that he had ever sought after it?  Nay, he revolts from it, and is confounded;  so much so, that he does not only say he does not understand it, but heaves against it as impossible--"How (says he) can these things be?"

And no wonder:  for who ever heard, that man must be born again unto salvation "of water and of the Spirit?"  Who ever thought, that the son of God must be exalted, "that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish, bu have everlasting life?"  Did the greatest and most acute philosophers ever make mention of this?  Did the princes of this world ever possess this knowledge?  Did the "Free-will" of any man ever attain unto this, by endeavours?  Does not Paul confess it to be "wisdom hidden  in a  mystery,"  foretold indeed by the Prophets, but revealed by the Gospel?  So that, it was secret and hidden from the world.

In a word:  As experience:  and the whole world, human reason itself, and in, consequence, "Free-will" itself is compelled to confess, that it never knew Christ, nor heard of Him, before the Gospel came into the word.  and if it did not know Him, much less could it seek after Him, search for Him, or endeavour to come unto Him.  But Christ is "the way" of truth, life, and salvation.  It must confess, therefore, whether it will or no, that, of its own powers, it neither knew nor could seek after those things which pertain unto the way of truth and salvation.  And yet, contrary to this our own very confession and experience, like madmen we dispute in empty words, that there is in us that power remaining, which can both know and apply itself unto those things which pertain unto salvation!  This is nothing more or less than saying, that Christ the Son of God was exalted for us, when no one could ever have known it or thought of it;  but that, nevertheless, this very ignorance is not an ignorance, but a knowledge of Christ;  that is, of those things which pertain unto salvation.

Do you not yet then see and palpably feel out, that the assertors of "Free-will"  are plainly mad, while they call that knowledge, which they themselves confess to be ignorance?  Is this no to "put darkness for light?"  But so it is, though God so powerfully stop the mouth of "Free-will"  by its own confession and experience, yet even then, it cannot keep silence and give God the glory.

Video on Wright.

Something I keep referring to:  a discussion of Wright's ideas at a Baptist college.   About one hour long.

http://www.sbts.edu/resources/chapel/chapel-fall-2009/panel-nt-wright-and-the-doctrine-of-justification-2/


I left a comment on Wright on Internet monk, yesterday.  I think I will leave another.
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/recommended

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Uniformity in worship/Preus

I went to the Wittenberg trail today because of a friend invitation of someone whom I did not know and decided that was a ruse.  The picture was of a lovely young female without terribly much clothing wishing to learn about the Lutheran faith.  O-K.

I did end up printing off a document from a link and read it already while my young bride in the house was sewing pillows under my minimal supervision.

Below is the document on "Uniformity in worship" is by Klement Preus, which I just read,  whose book we read not too long ago.  He is explaining why he support the move that mission congregations be required to use the LSB.

http://www.gloryofchrist.org/Documents/Pastor%20Preus%20-%20Uniformity%20Of%20Worship%20Reasons.htm

Here you find pasted some highlights.

...Recently the Board of Directors of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod passed a resolution which requires new mission starts of the district to use the liturgical forms of the Lutheran Service Book. Since I helped author that resolution and since I strongly supported it some of the arguments in the second half of this paper will respond to objections to that specific resolution as well.  

Today we are not being asked to be patient with congregations as they learn the liturgy. Today we have the phenomena of many of the new congregations in the district being founded with little intention of ever using the historic liturgy. There is no desire to be instructed. Further, these new congregations are asking for large amounts of financial support from the rest of the congregations with no assurances that the most obvious manifestation of our unity will ever be apparent in these new congregations – the use of a uniform liturgy. It might be coercive to deny the hand of fellowship while congregations are trying to change through teaching the word. It is certainly not coercive to insist that congregations, before they even exist, live up to certain standards. And it is not coercive to tell our district what type of congregation will receive district funds and what will not.

We insist that subsidized congregations practice faithful stewardship, work hard in the community, preach the gospel faithfully, subscribe to the confessions, follow the bylaws of the synod, have services and Bible classes etc. before we give them money. We even insist that subsidized congregation limit their financial need to three years and $150,000. No one calls these expectations “legalistic” “an imposition” or “coercive.”  Do we not have the right to insist that they teach the liturgy and use it as well? Such expectations are not coercive. They are prudent.

I have four children who went away to college. I helped pay for their education. It was understood that they would perform in a certain way. They would go to class, study, hand in their assignments, abstain from drugs, refrain from moving in with their girl friends or boy friends and be relatively transparent with their lives as far as I was concerned. If they did not do these things they would jeopardize my financial support. Never did they call me coercive because I actually had expectations of them that they behave like I expected.  And my expectations were not unreasonable. I had a friend whose father paid for a year’s study in Germany provided the young man would quite smoking. Never did he call his father coercive. He thanked him for both the financial support and for the incentive to quite smoking. To place standards upon subsidized congregations which reflect the common heritage of the congregations which support them is not coercive. It is good stewardship. 

...              
But shouldn’t we reach out to culturally diverse situations
In culturally relevant ways?

Probably the most significant argument for the use of diverse worship forms is that these forms are more effective in reaching people who do not know Jesus. It is argued that the historic Liturgy is culturally irrelevant to the many peoples who we are commissioned to reach with the Gospel and Sacraments. When people bring their unchurched or dechurched friends to Sunday services these people simply do not understand and do not relate to chanting, vestments, traditional hymns, the standard ordinaries and many other accoutrements of historic worship.

Possibly the most formidable defense of this position in our circles was produced in 2006 by a synodical task force called the “Church Planting Task Force,” appointed by Bob Scudieri, executive director of North American Ministries for the LCMS. That task force issued a report entitled, “Toward Planting Large Churches: The Summary Report of the Church Planting Task Force.” This report concluded that an effective new mission start needed three ingredients; the right person, the right place and the right plan. The right person, predictably, is a strong preacher and a good communicator with good people skills. He is a good systematic thinker and “has a certain amount of magnetism that compels quality leaders to follow and contribute to the cause.” [40] The right place is “growing communities with a high percentage of unchurched people that can fuel the fast growth of a new church start.” [41] In its discussion of “the right plan” the report relied heavily upon the work of Edward Stetzer [42] who reported on “A landmark study conducted by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist church of over 600 church plants.” [43] The Southern Baptists and the LCMS task force agreed that:

An effective plan for planting large churches must readily engage the culture it is aiming to reach—specifically by offering culturally oriented programming from the earliest stages, through launch and into the life of the church. Indeed, allowing ministry programming to be shaped and stylized by the findings of the planter’s cultural exegesis needs to be a prominent piece of any strategic plan as well as a core value in the ongoing life of the new community of faith. [44]

Given its “culturally oriented programming,” (and that includes worship) shaped by the “cultural exegesis” of the “planter,” the congregation’s “style” of worship will reflect neither the church’s catholicity nor the theological unity which a group of congregations may have historically enjoyed. Rather, effective starts must involve a consideration of “the unique cultural needs, values and lifestyle of the right place.” [45] So, Stetzer also concluded, among other things, that, “Contemporary or ‘seeker’ worship styles led to significantly larger church starts. Contemporary worship style led to a mean attendance four times larger than those with a liturgical worship style by year four.” [46] With the use of this kind of data, it is understandable that many congregations and particularly mission starts are encouraged by synodical or district leaders not to use the hymnal in their worship, but to favor rather strongly a “contemporary worship style.” The sentiment is articulated nicely by Michael Ruhl, Director for the Center of United State Missions of the LCMS,

Worship is the response we make to God within the relationship that God initiates with us in Christ…People yearn for a worship experience that is pure and simple worship…worship that is focused on God and is expressed in the heart-language of their culture. Such biblical, authentic worship in Spirit and in truth, rich in diverse expression, will then “fuel” the church in its mission of making disciples in the mission field. [47]

Elsewhere in our synod it is argued that that there are two kinds of congregations and two kinds of pastors in our church. Traditional or “village churches” are fine for established traditional Lutherans but a “camp church” approach is more appropriate for new missions since these “camp churches” will be more open to the cultural desires of a given “place.” [48] Similarly pastors are often divided into the categories of “guardians” and “missionaries.” [49] The former are fine for the task of pastoring “village churches.” The latter, admittedly a “very small subset” [50] of all pastors, are needed for new mission starts.

How are we to respond to this argument?

The implications of this view 

We need to consider the implications of this view. First, those who advocate this view are sincerely motivated to bring people into the kingdom of God. I can’t imagine anyone criticizing the desire that many, new, large, Lutheran congregations be established nationwide. So commendations are in order to those who are thinking and strategizing about how such a desire might be realized. As I offer some criticism below I trust that no one will conclude that I am any less ardent in my desire that new congregations be formed and that the church at large reflects a mission zeal with all her life and breath:

That we his saving health may know,
His gracious will and pleasure,
And also to the nations show
Christ’s riches without measure,
And unto God convert them. [51]

Second, how extensive is the use of hymnals in this paradigm? The rejection or disuse of the historic liturgy or the LSB, in this paradigm, is not the idiosyncratic choice of a couple of cutting edge congregations. Rather, most if not all of the congregations begun with this paradigm will not use the hymnal at all unless its use is deemed culturally relevant to the unchurched in a given place. And since the purpose of starting a new mission is to reach the unchurched - people who have no disposition toward or understanding of hymnals or the historic liturgy - few if any mission starts will use the hymnal.    

Third, how often will hymnals be used by those who employ this paradigm? The answer appears to be, “not at all.” The cultural liabilities of the hymnal, in this view, do not change from week to week. Once the historic liturgy is deemed culturally irrelevant to a new mission its use will be precluded altogether. Perhaps certain hymns or songs from the hymnal may be used in such a context but the LSB as a book and the historic liturgy will go unused.

Fourth, of late, quite a bit of discussion has surrounded the word “consistently” in our discussion of liturgical usage. This discussion has occurred because the December 2006 motion of the BoD of the Minnesota South district of the LCMS regarding use of the LSB in mission starts stated, “Resolved that all new congregations be asked to assure the district that the LSB is being used consistently in the services of the congregation.” While the word may be open to various nuances it seems to me that the discussion misses the point. When the liturgy is never used, it matters little whether “consistently” means “all the time,”  “frequently,” “time after time,” “most of the time” or “a certain percentage of the time.” New mission starts are frequently begun with the intention of not using the LSB or any hymnal at all. The discussion should not be about the nuances of a single term. The BoD could have said “frequently,” “regularly,” “faithfully,” or “often” and we could have had the discussion as to the precise nuances of these words. What we need is a discussion about the issue of the relationship between starting new missions and the use of the historic liturgy as contained in the LSB. That discussion follows.

In response to the “Effective Mission” argument

I believe that the argument that the mission of the church is more effectively carried out by discarding or minimizing the use of the liturgy in certain cultural contexts fails.

The Divine Service and American Evangelicalism

First, the argument is based on the presuppositions of American Evangelicalism. One has to question wisdom of relying upon the research of Southern Baptists in drawing conclusions about the relative wisdom of using historical liturgical worship to start Lutheran congregations. Southern Baptists are non-creedal and typically non-liturgical. Baptists believe neither that the Body and Blood of Jesus are truly present in the bread and wine of the sacrament nor that forgiveness of sins is imparted to people through the sacrament. Further, Baptists do not believe in the inherent power of the Gospel – that the word of God has power apart from its speaker, the hearer or the cultural context in which it is spoken. Finally, Baptists typically have themselves been deeply entrenched within the broad confines of American Evangelicalism discussed above. Recall that the purpose of worship within American evangelicals is to be “moved physically, emotionally or intellectually by the worship experience.” [52] By Baptist/American Evangelical standards the use of the liturgical divine service would be completely ineffective. If the purpose of worship is to move people emotionally and to provide a culturally relevant experience then the historic liturgy probably is not the best choice. Unfortunately it is precisely this Baptistic theology which drives the argument against the use of the liturgy even when Lutherans do the talking. Notice that in the argument above Lutherans have misdefined worship as, “the response we make to God.”

Of course, that is not the purpose of worship among Confessional Lutherans. To Lutherans “The service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God.” [53] These “good things” are precisely the things Baptists disparage or deny – body and blood, a powerful gospel, and the forgiveness of sins. The question becomes one of theology and not merely of culture. Should we give that type of service which Baptists and American Evangelicals would like or should we use a service more consistent with our Lutheran theology? And remember that the historic liturgy is precisely that unifying agent which distinguishes Lutheranism from American Evangelicalism.

The Divine Service in the life of the congregation

Finally, the “mission argument” misunderstands the use of the Divine service in the life of the congregation. The people of the Christian congregation are a royal priesthood. As such, among other things, they proclaim the glories of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9) This proclamation takes place in a thousand contexts. Christians confess their Lord to family and friend, to their children and to strangers, to co-workers and even to each other. This royal priesthood needs both the encouragement and the knowledge of the faith to speak God’s word as their various vocations, circumstances and opportunities warrant. This constant and endless confession of the faith takes place in coffee houses and at workplaces, at block parties, on airplanes and at family gatherings. It happens everywhere. Pastors provide opportunities for the royal priesthood to bring their friends to learn more about Christ at the various Bible classes which congregations offer. These Christians speak God’s word in jargon and vernacular which is laced with expressions unique to specific and unique cultural settings. That’s the way we communicate. And, typically, these conversations take place everywhere – except the divine service.

All Christians should invite their friends to learn about Jesus. Invite them to Bible class. Invite them to your homes for dinner and have devotions. Just talk to them. These conversational confessions of the faith occur 24 hours a day 6 days a week and 23 hours a day one day a week. For a single hour of a single day each week all the Christians in a given place stop the work of making a confession out in the world – the world with its various languages, cultures, heart languages, felt needs, sorrows, false hopes, and diverse antagonisms against God. Christians take this brief time each week to celebrate what they and only thy have – the gospel and the sacraments. These gifts from God are bestowed through the divine service. Its language is not the language of the world or the culture. It’s language is not intended to be understood by “seekers” or the uninitiated. Its language is understood and shared by all Christians. They speak from God and to each other for that brief and blissful hour the language of the liturgy.

The Liturgical divine service should not be altered to appeal to the world. When Paul claimed to be all things to all men he was not speaking about worship. He was speaking about the manner in which he as an individual confessed the faith outside of the worship context. And we should do the same. In all contexts and all cultures be all things to all men – except that context where all people are united by that which transcends culture – the Divine Service. The Divine service is not primarily an evangelistic “outreach” tool. It is the time and place where God feeds his people. 

Conclusion

The reasons which commend a consistent and uniform use of a common divine service are compelling. The reasons which have been marshaled against a uniform divine service are not. They may be offered by sincere people who have a sincere conviction and they may appear to be winsome and even Lutheran. Upon examination these arguments are simply not strong enough to overturn a pattern and custom which, until recently, has been held by our churches for more than a millennium.

Rather than argue about ways in which we can somehow not use the divine service we should heed the words of Charles Porterfield Krauth the great nineteenth century Lutheran theologian of America. He lived at a time in which the historic liturgical services of the Lutheran church were being discarded by many American Lutherans in favor of “New Measures.” The “New Measures” were considered cutting edge practices which would renew the church and appeal to the unique American culture in which the Lutherans found themselves. Krauth pleaded, “Let us not, with our rich coffers, play the part of beggars, and ask favors where we have every ability to impart them.” [59] So today, let us not seek to devise ways in which we can look less like Lutherans. Rather, having the wealth of the Liturgy and having been blessed by God with such rich coffers, let us seek to impart these favors to our friends, our progeny and our mission congregations.


Klemet Preus
Easter 2008


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The wedding is less than 10 weeks away!

We are getting more and more geared up for a largish wedding.  Everything is looking great. Bride and I have spent time going through a variety of things.  All fun.  Her exams were excellent and she is in a fabulous mood. Mother-in-law will be back from Afghanistan soon.

Mother's day was good.  My brother's family came over with a cake my brother supposedly baked, but... (my sister-in-law is a very gracious woman...)  Lots of fun with little nieces and nephew.  I made some Hefestueckchen (yeast pieces, with quark and streussel) and we read my kid's children's books.

The grass is green.  The leaves are late.  The neighbor is putting her thin horse on our empty pasture.  I dug over my garden.  I guess I should seed it soon, while the soil is so nice, not too wet and not too dry.  However, the danger of frost is not past.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On faith and the necessity of it.

On Extra Nos, the discussion continues, if one can call it that (the minds do not seem open), whether Walther and Pieper's descriptions of justification are properly "confessional" and if the liturgical people are tending towards Roman Catholicism.   I think that's what it is about.  I'm not sure; I can't make it out properly.

I've left several comments there lately.  I'm thinking even M. H.  is referring to it obliquely. The discussion there, in my opinion is so bad, I'm wondering it is proper to even refer to it or contribute to it.

I would just like to say that faith is important in that it is in the right OBJECT.  Everybody has faith.  But to have faith in the God who revealed himself the merciful God in Christ, is what matters. Still faith and its God (god) can't really be separated.  Faith in the right God makes all the difference.  (Read the large catechism on the first commandment.)

I'm reading "Luther's Large Catechism with Study Questions", 2010, right now.  Martin said go ahead and by the box of ten at the discount.  So I have ten, in case anybody wants one.

http://www.cph.org/p-17539-luthers-large-catechism-with-study-questions.aspx?SearchTerm=large%20catechism




Now, I'm going to go dig over my garden in between snowfalls.  There has been precipitation and our farmers are grateful, though delayed in the seeding. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Toronto from a different perspective and dimension


On one of the days in Toronto, I decided to go up on the CN tower, which was at some point in time the highest free-standing structure in the world, a veritable tower of Babel in the city boasting the most languages spoken in the world (over 100 different languages and communities in Toronto.) 

It was a very auspicious day for going up, as Martin was in session at the conference, and he would have never agreed to join me.

When I got to the tower, I noticed that you could just go up or go up and also eat lunch in the revolving restaurant.  In 70 min. you can go all the way around, enjoy the view and have an excellent meal, with the "elevation" included.  I thought it was a good deal, especially since I was alone and it was lunch time,  so I was a total glutton and had a marvelous meal at 600 m above the metropolis.


See the municipal airport and islands across from the harbor front.  Someone at the conference landed at this airport and reported to have a rather scary landing, seeing nothing but water until the last moment.  Boats are not permitted to come close to the runway under severe threats of punishment.

You can see we are really pretty high up.  I tried not to eat too much though with the "elevation" you were required to have three courses.  For starters a Caesar's salad with the dressing on the side.  Interestingly, the romaine lettuce leaves were not even ripped into bits and the Parmesan  was in big sheets.  Thankfully, I know how the wield a knife together with my fork.  Then there was meat from the grill, which I did not all eat, and a rum pudding for desert.  The rum pudding was something new to me and most delicious and I have to confess I ate it all.  See below:


This was all pretty indulgent, but at least I can share the pictures with you.  Overall not a bad value for "elevation", "rotation", "relaxation", "meditation" and "edification".

I definitely recommend it.  Don't take anyone with you who does not like tall towers.  It should be said that the tower did NOT sway, though it can sway up to 3 m from the center.  The Calgary and Vancouver towers definitely sway. 

In terms of "meditation", being suspended between earth and sky for 70 min. with no conversation partner, was a different place to be in.  It made me think about the  space above and the universe and made me think about the microcosmic world, that is now the city below.  Everything that is the everyday world is now so small and hardly visible, like an atom with its electrons.   It made me wonder how God sees the world, hears the world, perceives the world.

The other day we talked about the "invisible", which God has also created.  We are so out of this loop.  We know next to nothing about it, this other world of the "invisible".  It seems unreal to us.  But why should it actually be unreal or unbelievable?  We now have dark matter and dark energy and all kinds of things in Physics that must exists according to mathematics, but that has not yet been detected.  Actually, everyday gravity is also pretty hard to describe other than mathematically.  Incredible, also, but proved.  From these towers we send signals all over the place, we receive them, hear them see them, we can explain the Physics of it, but it is still marvelous and unseen to us.  Some said the other day, it won't be long now and we will have devices to read people's thoughts.  Somehow, I don't think so;  but if we think technology might be able to do it, should God not be omniscient?

On the other hand, sometimes in life, the unseen seems palpable;  sometimes even evil seems palpable.  We think this life is it, what we know is all there is, but at the same time we know it's not. 

There is something else. 
We understand so little. 
We hardly know any why's and wherefore's, the past or the future. 
We only know what's given to us and what is given to us to explore.  But there is more.
There, that was the CN tower experience. After that I walked to the Queen's Quay and grabbed the double decker bus;  the ticket is good for 7 days;  also good value.