Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part III

What follows are a series of posts regarding the possibilities of taking "Weedon's Wish Dream" and making it reality. Remember (especially my members), that while I am very sympathetic to 99% of what the Wish Dream was, I'm just talkin' right now.

Regarding comments:

  • DO feel free to make suggestions of pros and cons that I may have missed.
  • DO NOT dismiss an option until I have outlined all of them. Remember that I am not finished yet!
  • DO offer suggestions for a different name than "Weedon's Wish Dream," as what he described could well be a generic description of the ideal Evangelical Catholic/Confessional Lutheran congregation.

Option #1 Stay where you are and bring the Wish Dream to your parish.

This honors the divine call and prevents schism. Our theology states that God has called pastors to their congregations, and they are to stay until God calls them elsewhere. This is most apparent when pastors receive another divine call to serve a congregation. However, there are other options, all more subjective, like when "God is calling" to retirement. Staying and working the Wish Dream where you are honors the call and seems most natural.

However, it can be nigh impossible. Most of us don't like change. Most of us think of our congregations as our heritage, our refuge, and to a more sinful extent, our club and bailiwick. Pastors are outsiders to the existing group and the people see them this way for years, if not decades. Insiders sometimes can change things, outsiders have much more work to do.

Second, we have the ghosts of Christmas past haunting our pulpits and classrooms.

Third, the great cry of pedagogy (teach 'em) only works for people willing to learn. Sadly this can be an overwhelming problem. And even for those who wish to learn, who will open themselves to the teaching authority of the pastor, it can years for the lessons to soak in. Complicating this, new members will constantly be joining who have various degrees of catechesis under their belts.

Fourth, it takes so long. Sure, many things can be done quickly, or relatively so. I introduced the chasuble by simply wearing them. I introduced chanting by just doing it from day one, not asking permission. Certainly the chanting has caused some grief, and consequently, I don't chant everything, and sometimes don't chant at all. However, I know that it may take further decades for the practice to be cemented. If then.

Transfiguration Sermon Wordle

I don't post my sermons online, so this is as close as I'll come. This is Transfiguration 2009:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part II

Since I called Pr. Weedon's idea a "wish dream," I thought I should provide a definition of what this is.

In my first term at Concordia Seminary we were required to read Bonhoeffer's Life Together. It's a pretty good book, though I haven't looked at it in 13 years (13!!). The following passage seized the imagination of my friends and I, and ever since we have identified the "what-if's" and "if onlies" of ministry and parish life as the "wish dream."

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusonment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of His grace? Is the divine gift of Christian fellowship anything less than this, any day, even the most difficult and distressing day? Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together - the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship. (Quoted from Downshore Drift)

However, as I hinted in the previous post, I don't think a Wish Dream is always bad. Calls for repentance, for recapturing, for a return to orthodoxy, for reform (not transform) are necessary and real.

The distinction before is: if we desire a change, is it only a wish dream, or are we willing to do something about it?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism

My friend Pr. Weedon has an interesting "wish dream" post at his blog. For the sake of convenience, here it is (my comments below):

IF I Could Start A Mission Congregation...'s what it would look like:

A single Divine Service Sunday a.m., with Matins preceding it (no sermon). Additionally, I'd have Saturday Evening Vespers with opportunity following it for Confession and Absolution each week.

The people would be encouraged in a life of prayer - so we'd offer Matins and Vespers at regular set times during the week, employing material from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Eucharist would be celebrated on every Sunday and every feast and festival in our LSB calendar.

Sunday afternoons from September through Easter would offer the Catechism Service.

We'd get together for the joy of sharing food and friendship no less than once a month.

No individual cups.

Bible Study/Sunday School would follow refreshments and visiting after the Sunday Divine Service.

It's name would, of course!, be St. Mary, Mother of God, Lutheran Church.

We'd make rich use of the artistic traditions of the Christian Church, but especially of our Lutheran forebears in adorning the nave and chancel.

We'd make clear from the get-go that the parish has but one mission: to BE the Church of God in this place, a colony from the future, a haven of rest for an exhausted world.

We'd implement a catechumenate from the start as our normal way of outreach and bringing folks into the parish's life.

We'd only form committees as needed on an ad hoc basis and evaluate each year if they should continue or if we can do the work better another way.

Above all else, we'd try to foster a community at prayer, in the Word, and feasting sumptuously on the Eucharist and so empowered to love and serve the unbelievers around us, bringing them into our joyful communion.
It's a beautiful dream. I think it captures the spirit of Lutheranism quite least what the spirit was. (Ihre Geist ist heute ganz anders...)

In a sense it is a "wish dream," a fantasy, idealistic. Escapist. One can sit in the chancel and dream about the ideal. Problem is, this world is not ideal. We have what is, what we have been given, and dreaming about the Other can be hopeless, if not sinful.

On the other hand, "Stop dreaming and get back to work!" can be a faithless command. It can mean "Nothing can change, nothing will change and you (and God) are powerless to do a durn thing."

There is much more to this. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saying of the Day

Keep a careful watch over yourself, and do not allow yourself to be swept away by external obsessions. The tumultuous movements of the soul, in particular, can be rendered quiet by stillness (hesychia). If, however, you keep encouraging and stimulating them, they will start to terrorize you, and can disorder your whole life. Once they are in control, it is as hard to heal them as it is to soothe a sore that we cannot stop scratching.
- Abba Philemon
Directions: Repeat this until you stop obsessing about the president, economy, HDTV and drill presses.

(HT: Mind in the Heart)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Mynah Bird

Something or other brought Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture to mind, and with it, this cartoon:

I hadn't seen this cartoon in probably 25 years. What would have otherwise been gone forever is found with Youtube. Incredible!

My Weekend Wedding

This weekend I performed a wedding at First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa for Marjorie's nephew Curt, who is also Jack's godfather. Working out the details with the pastoral staff was a breeze. They wanted to make sure I was doing something dignified and appropriately Christian. They also didn't want to make it a joint service of some sort. I assured them I didn't want that either, and after looking at the rite of marriage from LSB, they agreed.

The church was impressive, to say the least. I was struck by the traditional Presbyterian architecture. A massive raised oak pulpit dominated the center of the chancel area, with a low, long table in front of it. Behind the pulpit there was a vestige of a rood screen, and ranks for the choir were behind that. All the wood was oak, the floors were slate--very tasteful and beautiful...and very non-sacramental. The architecture made it clear that the place gave greatest honor and place to the sermon. While the stained glass on either end was exquisite, there were no other images or decoration in the sanctuary. It is clearly a place to hear and sing.

The church provided a weeding coordinator for the couple, which proved invaluable to me, being a guest there. She arranged for all the details before, during and after the wedding, allowing me the luxury of concentrating on what would happen from the invocation to the benediction. Since most traditional protestant weddings share similar entrance and exit procedures, I found that everything she had arranged fit in nicely with what I usually do as a Lutheran pastor.

All in all, it was the best experience I could hope for. They even had a kneeler available for the couple--something my church doesn't have. I am grateful for the presbytery at the church to allow me to come and "borrow" their building.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The 100 Songs: Wax on the Slippery Slope

The Commission on Worship of the LCMS has released a list of 100 "contemporary songs" that LCMS congregations can use for "contemporary worship" if they so desire.

This list was created in response to the last Convention's resolution "[t]o Provide Guidance and Direction for Use of Diverse/Contemporary Worship Resources."

Strangely, this caveat is included in the their press release:

The songs listed in the chart have not been subjected to the same in-depth process that selected hymns receive before being included in a synodically approved hymnal. The rapidly changing scene of Christian contemporary music requires constant attention to evaluate emerging songs in a timely manner.
Why not? Making the excuse that the "contemporary scene" moves too fast to evaluate these songs is bogus. They've had a year and half to look at 100 songs. Second, if contemporary worship is just as valid and appropriate for the Divine Service as its practitioners say it is, why wouldn't those songs be evaluated to the same in-depth standard? This paragraph gives the impression that contemporary worship doesn't care about synodical approval, that they are going to do their thing keeping up with the scene (or the Joneses).

The press release also included the following paragraphs:
It is imperative to note that songs are not hymns.

The words of songs frequently convey simple scriptural thoughts that are wedded to stirring rhythmic melodies. Multiple songs can be sequenced in a medley to draw together several ideas and may be connected with scripture readings, liturgical responses, extemporaneous prayer, praise, and witnessing. Recording artists and song writers collaborate with lyricists, musicians, and publishers to hone their craft audibly first, seeking to inspire individuals, assemblies, audiences, and worship communities.

Hymn texts, in their role in Lutheran worship provide sequences of poetic stanzas that expound on the life of Christ and the life of the Church. The life cycle of a hymn potentially spans centuries. The life cycle of a song spans weeks, months, perhaps years.
In other words, they realize these songs are not about teaching the faith, are not focused on transmitting doctrine, about providing a lasting generational foundation to the faith, but are on par with silly pop songs that give you a movement of some kind and then forgotten. Or when they are remembered, they're like listening to Duran Duran when you mentally go back in time remembering your thoughts and feelings of long ago.

I wanted to ask the question: if people realize what these songs are about, then why are they using them? But I know the answer. For them, church is an experience among many experiences. It is something to consume. It is a taste, a style, an affectation. The songs and readings and sermon and so forth are crafted together to provide something for the audience to consume. It may be a spiritualized consumption of the experience, but it is consumerism anyway. It is an experience they are offering.

It is not the eternal truth.

It is not the rock.

It is not the pillar of truth.

It is not the body of Christ.

And this is my denomintion.

Lord have mercy...

Starbucks Makes Me See Dead People

Well, not really. But a 16 oz. cup of Starbucks drip does contain enough caffeine to cause hallucinations in some people:

People who drink at least 330 milligrams of the stimulant a day were three times as likely to have hallucinations as those who consumed less than 10 milligrams a day, Durham University researchers found in a study of 219 college students published today in Personality and Individual Differences.

The amount of caffeine linked to hallucinations in the study would also be equivalent to about seven 8-ounce cups of brewed black tea or about 3 1/2 8-ounce cups of brewed black coffee, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site. One 16-ounce Starbucks Corp. drip coffee also has 330 milligrams of caffeine, according to the Starbucks Web site.

Starbucks spokeswoman Tara Darrow declined to comment in an email, saying the Seattle-based company was aware of the research but hadn’t been able to review how it was conducted.

The U.K. researchers used surveys to assess daily caffeine intake and past experience with hallucinations. Cigarette smokers, known to be more sensitive to caffeine, weren’t allowed to participate, and volunteers’ stress levels and proneness to hallucinatory experiences were taken into account.

Nine of the 22 people in the highest-caffeine group reported hearing disembodied voices, compared with three of the 22 people in the lowest-caffeine group, Jones said. Participants also reported seeing things that weren’t there and sensing the presence of dead people.(From

HT: Christopher Orr

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Superior Scribbler

Christopher Orr (Orrologion) has given me this award. I agree with his feelings about it, but am still humbled that he recommended me along with blogs like Energetic Procession and, well, it also humbles me that the Famous Actor and Incredibly Smart Orthodox Person Mr. Orr reads this blog. Thank you.

Here are the rules I must post upon receiving such an award:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.
And so I nominate some of my favorite blogs:

Confessional Gadfly --a solid Confessional LCMS blog by my neighbor.
Rev. Mason Beecroft: Wayfarer in the Desert -- Evangelical Catholicism in Tulsa. Good guy.
Father Hollywood-- another solid Confessional LCMS blog--with a New Orleans/Canadian agrarian/economic twist.
Ad Orientem -- Orthodox Theology and Conservative agrarianism(?) who doesn't read here, but I nominate him anyway.
rants and ramblings: on life as a literary agent --by Rachelle Gardner. If you're interested in writing and agents, this is a terrific blog!

Totally Insane

And I'm scared of those three things too... (watch until the end!)

HT: Neatorama

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Reprint from 2007

I'm at a blogging lull these days, so here's a reprint from earlier days:

"Imitate Me"

(March 5, 2007)

So says St. Paul in Philippians 3:17. Likewise, he exhorts us the same in 2 Thes. 3:7-9:

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (ESV)

And most pertinently,

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 ESV)

Thus the Church kept the stories of the holy lives of the Saints and Martyrs.

As we discussed this Sunday morning in Sunday School, I met with a feeling of a little resistance. It was a feeling and could have been only that, but I sensed thoughts like, “Oh, Pastor’s going all Catholic on us again.” I tried to point out that knowing, honoring and imitating the stories of the “heroes of faith” is the practice of the Church since the beginning; we even have the Protestant Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lifes, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Early Christian and the Protestant Martyrs (Hendrickson Christian Classics)

We have a Lutheran version as well, found in the Feasts & Commemorations Calendar in the new Lutheran Service Book. Brief biographies can be found here and you can sign up for them to be emailed to you here.

It is not difficult to see the reason for such things: the Apostles call us to imitate them and “our leaders,” imitating their faith and life. How can we do this if we do not know who they are or what they did? Now our families and parishes all have stories of the saints who walked among them: Grandma Swanson who prayed for an hour every morning; Pastor Schmidt who worked tirelessly; the Founders of the Synod and so forth. But keeping our Justice League’s membership to such few localized examples impoverishes us to the “cloud of witnesses that surround us” (Heb 12:1). And what a cloud it is!

That many parishioners today know more about the life and works of Brittany Spears or Peyton Manning is argument enough that Satan has been at work. That protestants should not blink twice at knowing the biographies of their favorite athletes and entertainers but believe the stories and biographies of those who gave their life for Christ is somehow “Catholic” and “un-Biblical” is a tragedy worthy of our tears and repentance.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus: 1936-2008

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus reposed just a few minutes ago, as First Things reports. May he rest in peace.

Neuhaus began his vocation in the LCMS, attending my alma mater Concordia Seminary. He eventually left the LCMS and was briefly a pastor in the ELCA before famously converting to Roman Catholicism in 1990. He was the author of numerous influential books, including The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. He was also the founder of the excellent journal First Things.

While some in the LCMS consider him a traitor and pariah (not kidding--LCMSers hate people who leave), he was by all accounts a faithful Christian and a profound thinker. He will be missed.

What Is Worship?

I have been struggling to define "worship" to myself and my congregation for some time now. As usual, someone else has defined this much better than I can: Fr. Stephen Freeman at his blog Glory to God for All Things. Some Lutherans may take umbrage with a few points he makes, especially emphasizing the "exchange" in the Eucharist (of giving our bread), but I don't find anything wrong with this point. Truly the bread and wine are our gifts and, unlike Roman Catholics, the Orthodox teach with us that our "sacrifice" in the Eucharist is not the body of Christ, but more the bread that we offer for God's use. Here's the essay:

It is not uncommon for visitors and members alike to comment on the length of an Orthodox liturgy. Sunday liturgies are often an hour-and-a-half or more (longer still in monastic communities). Many of the services surrounding feast days such as vigils and the like take more than two hours (the version used in local parishes are extremely shortened in comparison to the literal “all-night” vigils for which some of the great monasteries are famous). I tell people that are new to Orthodoxy that they have to get past the internal clock that wants things done in an hour or less.

However, the truth of things reaches far beyond the general experience of liturgical chronology. There is a liturgy that is far longer than any of us imagine. It is not separate from the liturgy of the Church, but is often not seen by those in attendance: it is the liturgy of the heart.

The life of worship among Christians has taken many forms, particularly over the past 500 years. Driven by various factors, both cultural and ideological, the act of worship has morphed into enough disparate manifestations that the word “worship” cannot be used between two Christians unless accompanied by great elaboration.

In an effort of clarity I offer some suggestions of what worship is not.

Worship is not:

- a service of outreach by which we seek the lost…

- a hymn-sing in which we lift our voices with our favorite hymns…

- primarily for the benefit of those who attend…

- designed to make me feel closer to God…

I could make this list much longer, but to little good effect. The point, I think, is sufficiently made. But if worship is none of these things, then what is it? A small quote from Archimandrite Zacharias’ Hidden Man of the Heart:

The Divine Liturgy is worship; there is prayer and a whole life there, the life of Christ. In the Holy Eucharist, we accomplish the exchange of our limited and temporal life for the unlimited and infinite life of God. We offer to God a piece of bread and a little wine, but in that bread and wine, we place all our faith, love, humility, expectation of Him, all our life. And we say to God, ‘Thine own of thine own, we offer unto Thee in all and for all.’ We offer to God all our life, having prepared ourselves to come and stand before Him and do this act. And God does the same: He accepts man’s offering and He puts His life - the Holy Spirit - in the gifts, transmaking them into His Body and Blood, in which all the fullness of Divinity is present, and He says to man, ‘The Holy things unto the holy.’ God accepts our gifts and fills them with His life, and He renders them back to us.

His small definition of worship as exchange says far more about what is essential in worship than any possible outward description. The exchange which takes place within worship is a communion, a participation, the engrafting within us of the life of God and the engrafting of our life within Him.

It is perhaps possible to give an objective description of the service of worship - but to do so will have missed the point. To reduce the liturgy purely to the act of the consecration of bread and wine, the transmaking of bread and wine into the Divine Body and Blood - is an impossibility. Nothing can be reduced into the Body and Blood of Christ. The reduction of worship to a thirty minute collection of certain “necessary” elements, towards the end of which believers are given the sacrament not only misses the point of liturgy but threatens to misrepresent worship in the extreme. “Worship” that has no intention of exchange may be many things - but it fails to rise to the level of true worship.

Bearing these things in mind, I return to the earlier description of the longest liturgy: the liturgy of the heart. There are many outward details that comprise a Divine Liturgy (particularly in its Orthodox form) and yet they all share in common this Divine/human exchange. The exchange takes place not only in the gifts (bread and wine) that are offered and received - but simultaneously in the heart as well.

There is a long series of prayers, generally called the “secret prayers,” that are traditionally offered silently by the priest during the prayers led by the Deacon and Choir, or at other key moments in the Orthodox liturgy. They contain a wealth of theological piety - being directed particularly at the heart of the priest and his effort to rightly serve and pray. Two examples come to mind. The first is the prayer offered silently just before the Great Entrance (the bringing of the bread and wine to the altar). The choir is singing the hymn: “Let us who mystically represent the cherubim and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares.” The priest prays:

None is worthy among those that are bound with carnal desires and pleasures to approach or draw nigh or to minister to thee, O King of glory, for to serve thee is a great and fearful thing even unto the heavenly Powers. Nevertheless, through thine ineffable and immeasurable love of man, without change or alteration, thou didst become man and didst take the name of our High Priest, and deliver unto us the priestly rite of this liturgical and bloodless sacrifice, for thou art Master of all. Thou alone, O Lord our God, art Master over those in heaven and on earth, Who on the throne of the Cherubim art borne, Who art Lord of the Seraphim and King of Israel, Who alone art holy and restest in the Saints. I implore thee, therefore, who alone art good and ready to listen, look down upon me a sinner and thine unprofitable servant, and purify my soul and heart from an evil conscience, and, by the power of thy Holy Spirit, enable me, who am clothed with the grace of the priesthood, to stand before this thy holy table and to perform the sacred rite of thy holy, immaculate Body and precious Blood. For thee do I approach, and bowing my neck I pray thee, turn not away thy face from me, neither cast me out from among thy children, but make me, thy sinful and unworthy servant, worthy to offer unto thee these gifts, for thou thyself art He that offereth and is offered, that accepted and is distributed, O Christ our God, and unto thee do we send up glory, together with thy Father, who is without beginning, and thine all-holy, and good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

And again, after the gifts are placed on the altar, while the Deacon and People pray the Litany of the Offering, the priest prays:

O Lord God Almighty, who alone art holy, who dost accept the sacrifice of praise from those that call upon thee with their whole heart, accept also the prayer of us sinners, and bring it to thy holy Altar, and enable us to offer unto thee both gifts and spiritual sacrifices for our sins and for the ignorance of the people, and vouchsafe that we may find grace before thee, that our sacrifice may be acceptable unto thee, and that the good Spirit of thy grace may abide in us and upon these Gifts set forth, and upon all thy people.

Were I to begin quoting the words of the pre-communion prayers, those prayers that are to be prayed by all Orthodox Christians before a liturgy, this same theme would resound repeatedly. The point of all of these prayers is the “liturgy of the heart.” The exchange which takes place in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, is itself a constant liturgy that should take place at every moment and in every place in the heart of every Christian.

This is the longest liturgy - for it is the liturgy of our whole life. If the heart is rightly occupied in this “inward” liturgy, the length of a service will be of little consequence - other than those that are forced upon us by our physical existence (and not even always then). Responsibilities as parents can also offer interruptions of the outward liturgy, but need not interrupt the liturgy of the heart. Serving Christ in the least of His brethren is not an interruption of the liturgy, but part of its proper offering.

The great barriers to the liturgy of the heart are those that are familiar to anyone who seeks to have communion with God (true prayer). Distractions of the mind and emotions, temptations of the flesh and a host of other things seek to carry our mind away from the heart and center it outside of Christ and the exchange to which we are invited.

It is deeply important to note that the liturgy of the heart is constantly being offered and received (or not). In every action and word the liturgy is either a part of us, and we a part of it, or we are standing outside the life of God. It is indeed the longest liturgy - whose “Amen” will resound at the appearing of our Lord. Then everything will be “Amen.”

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Epiphany House Blessings

It is an ancient custom for pastors to bless the homes of his parishioners during the Epiphany season. Lutherans didn't do that for many years, but the tradition is coming back into vogue of late.

How Is it Done?
Call your pastor and make an appointment. He will come to your house and begin blessing every room with the word of God and with prayer. If he and you are more "high church," you may ask him to use incense during the blessing.

Since every room should be blessed, make sure each is ready for him. Do not think that it has to be perfectly clean!!! I promise you, your pastor has seen sights that would make you faint. Pick up what you can and must, and leave the rest. His vow is never to reveal sins, nor anything that would hurt your reputation. You are not hosting an open house, but a house that needs blessing.

The Lutheran version of this rite doesn't take very long...unless your house looks like this:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tradition as Submission's Teacher

Christianity is a religion of submission. The Blessed Virgin Mary said to the Angel, "Let it be," and Christians recognize this as the essence of faith. Faith is submission to the will and word of God, the casting aside of our sinful selves. It is submitting to believe "God's truth" rather than what seems apparent or obvious to us.

Christianity is also about the submission to fellow believers. "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ," (Eph. 5:21) and countless other passages urge the same. Our faith is not the exercise of our own will, but is the following of God's; our life is not the exercise of our will, but the emptying of ourselves to others.

This kind of submission is nearly impossible when you are dealing with idiots, the wicked, and your enemies. We can agree with this submission stuff in abstract until it actually gets to submitting to someone who makes you miserable, or threatens to make you miserable.

And it is especially hard when you are a congregationalist. When you have no authorities who are actually trying to help you, all you can do is submit to each other: almost impossible. When you have no tradition to submit to, all you have is each other. When all of you are free and equal and say "By God no one is going to tell me what to do" submission is impossible.

The advantage of having tradition is that it teaches submission. It allows you to begin to submit to fellow human beings without the personal stake, without an idiot breathing down your neck. It's just a step below that abstract submission that sounds good but is hell in practice. It's a step below because there is no one person making stupid claims and commands that you have to say "yes" to. It's generations of people that you can't pin down.

Tradition is more than this, but it has this pedagogical element as well. It teaches us to submit. It teaches us that we are not autonomous--laws unto ourselves. It teaches us that there are others to whom we should listen, and that their wisdom, their practice is better than my own.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Platonic Forms in the Kitchen

Olivia was holding a table knife the other day and said, “Dad, isn’t this just a ‘knife’? I mean, it's got knife, like written on it.” I looked closely at the knife and all I saw was “Made in China.” I told her, and she said, “No, I mean the word ‘knife’ is not written on it, but it’s like it is. You just look at it and all you see is knife.”

I was floored. What she meant was that is exhibited the essential nature of a table knife. The Platonic form of knife.

Here's something from Wikipedia:

But what were the forms? In Plato as well as in general speech there is a form for every object or quality in reality: forms of dogs, human beings, mountains, colors, courage, love, and goodness. Form answers the question "what is that?" Plato was going a step further and asking what Form itself is. He supposed that the object was essentially or "really" the Form and that the phenomena were mere shadows mimicking the Form; that is, momentary portrayals of the Form under different circumstances. The problem of universals - how can one thing in general be many things in particular - was solved by presuming that Form was a distinct singular thing but caused plural representations of itself in particular objects.[9] Matter was considered particular in itself.

These Forms are the essences of various objects: they are that without which a thing would not be the kind of thing it is. For example, there are countless microwaves in the world but the Form of microwaveness is at the core; it is the essence of all of them.[10] Plato held that the world of Forms is separate from our own world (the world of substances) and also is the true basis of reality. Removed from matter, Forms are the most pure of all things. Furthermore, Plato believed that true knowledge/intelligence is the ability to grasp the world of Forms with one's mind.[11]

I've got a little platonist at home.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Bushisms" Over the Years

From Yahoo News

President George W. Bush will leave behind a legacy of Bushisms, the label stamped on the commander in chief's original speaking style. Some of the president's more notable malaprops and mangled statements:
• "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." — September 2000, explaining his energy policies at an event in Michigan.
• "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" — January 2000, during a campaign event in South Carolina.
• "They misunderestimated the compassion of our country. I think they misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander in chief, too." — Sept. 26, 2001, in Langley, Va. Bush was referring to the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
• "There's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail." — Oct. 4, 2001, in Washington. Bush was remarking on a back-to-work plan after the terrorist attacks.
• "It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber." — April 10, 2002, at the White House, as Bush urged Senate passage of a broad ban on cloning.
• "I want to thank the dozens of welfare-to-work stories, the actual examples of people who made the firm and solemn commitment to work hard to embetter themselves." — April 18, 2002, at the White House.
• "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." — Sept. 17, 2002, in Nashville, Tenn.
• "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." — Aug. 5, 2004, at the signing ceremony for a defense spending bill.
• "Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." — Sept. 6, 2004, at a rally in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
• "Our most abundant energy source is coal. We have enough coal to last for 250 years, yet coal also prevents an environmental challenge." — April 20, 2005, in Washington.
• "We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job." — Sept. 20, 2005, in Gulfport, Miss.
• "I can't wait to join you in the joy of welcoming neighbors back into neighborhoods, and small businesses up and running, and cutting those ribbons that somebody is creating new jobs." — Sept. 5, 2005, when Bush met with residents of Poplarville, Miss., in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
• "It was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship. After all, 60 years we were at war 60 years ago we were at war." — June 29, 2006, at the White House, where Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
• "Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die." — Dec. 7, 2006, in a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
• "These are big achievements for this country, and the people of Bulgaria ought to be proud of the achievements that they have achieved." — June 11, 2007, in Sofia, Bulgaria.
• "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." — September 2007, in Sydney, Australia, where Bush was attending an APEC summit.
• "Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech." April 16, 2008, at a ceremony welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the White House.
• "The fact that they purchased the machine meant somebody had to make the machine. And when somebody makes a machine, it means there's jobs at the machine-making place." — May 27, 2008, in Mesa, Ariz.
• "And they have no disregard for human life." — July 15, 2008, at the White House. Bush was referring to enemy fighters in Afghanistan.
• "I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office." — June 26, 2008, during a Rose Garden news briefing.
• "Throughout our history, the words of the Declaration have inspired immigrants from around the world to set sail to our shores. These immigrants have helped transform 13 small colonies into a great and growing nation of more than 300 people." — July 4, 2008 in Virginia.
• "The people in Louisiana must know that all across our country there's a lot of prayer — prayer for those whose lives have been turned upside down. And I'm one of them. It's good to come down here." — Sept. 3, 2008, at an emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, La., after Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast.
• "This thaw — took a while to thaw, it's going to take a while to unthaw." Oct. 20, 2008, in Alexandria, La., as he discussed the economy and frozen credit markets.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year Resolutions

I'm not sure I made any resolutions this year. At least I didn't make any explicitly, making vows as Dick Clark counted down. I didn't even watch Dick Clark, anyway.

I do have goals for this year. Some tentative, others a bit more than tentative. Last year I posted a quotation from someone else who recommended writing down your goals somewhere and looking at them everyday. The thinking is that there is "power" in writing down your goals. I don't know about that, but it does help to have them in front of you.

Any of you make resolutions this year? Did you keep yours from last year?