Monday, October 31, 2005

Ste. Em revisits St. Gregory

Yes, so it is. Women can image what it is to be receivers in a way that men cannot. That is not to say that men are not also receivers- and no-one has said such. Of course, only the most ludicrous deconstructionist feminist gymnastics have devised connotations in which women are those who beget. That is an image that males bear before the world. Still, to both is given the ability to receive.

And it is not true that the reason women are not to be ordained is because there is yet a lack in them. Precisely the opposite. It has nothing to do with capability or faithfulness.

However, either we speak the whole counsel of God regarding the ordination of women, or we may be left speaking as the opponents do for it. Again, this is not to say no-one is not doing so. This is only to encourage doing more openly so with regard to the texts that might at first appear to be as so much Law being heaped upon women. That runs a risk. Where the Scriptures are- properly taught in truth and purity- there Christ is. The trouble with Jesus is that when He shows up even run through the Gospel, sin is revealed (Is 45:7). But that is the Good News for Paul's words in 1Timothy 2:14. For, then we run them through Jesus. ”The difference between Christ's kingdom and the kingdom of the world is this, that Christ reduces all men to sinners. Yet Christ does not stop there, for then He absolves them” (Luther, AE vol. 23).

Klemet Preus gives a succinct answer for why women may not be ordained. “God excludes women because He wants to teach original sin. He wants to teach both sexes that original sin still affects us. The argument that women are excluded from the ministry because they are somehow unfit ... undermines God's command. This command is not based on current empirical perceptions, but upon an historical fact recorded in the Bible” (The Fire and the Staff, 299.)

Hardly seems “Gospelly,” does it? This is certainly not to suggest that Preus doesn’t also speak by way of the Gospel, either. This is but one small snippet of what he has to write. His groundwork lays the Gospel foundation well.

So let's run Paul’s command through Jesus. After all, what is given in Christ and is received comes by way of the Gospel- even the Law for the sake of repentance. There is the way of the Gospel that can hardly be absent an application of Law for you!

In 1Timothy 2:14 God places before His people a reminder of fact recorded in history: Eve was deceived, and from that Man fell into sin. Therefore, says Paul, let women remain silent in the worship assembly. Christ has taken Eve's sin into His own flesh upon the cross, and by that her own flesh has been redeemed from sin, death and the devil. Not only hers, but also that of the whole human race- her progeny. That means all of us, too. What Christ has assumed has been redeemed.

No theological position that ordains women can do so without excising or diminishing the permanent effect upon the human race of Eve's deception, original sin. In practice women’s ordination demonstrates this. No woman can be ordained save that Christ’s Bride choose to go her way against His Word, just as Eve did with Adam. Women are too precious to our Lord to leave in their sin. He would deal with it Himself. Eve’s deception ought not be left out our speaking, for that is the particular reason why our God entered a woman’s womb, assumed human flesh, and was nursed at her breasts. In so doing, all women are lifted up by being as God created them to be, women. Thereby all mankind is raised up with them.

So Christ would have it that women have more than mere ordination. He wishes to give them all that He has- His entire Kingdom of Grace. Therefore He holds out to them the reminder of what is reality: Eve was deceived. Yet here is the Greater Reality: in His flesh- that which was born of a woman under the Law- He assumed not only her sin but also the whole world's. It is in this way He loved Eve: It is she for whom He died, Eve the deceived. Women who are grasping for ordination are grabbing for the lesser gifts at the expense of Christ Himself. They, scrambling to choose their own way just as Eve did, would remain a pauper. He would have them be His Queen as He gives them His Kingdom. He died in order that all might be accomplished for their sakes.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wendy's Challenge

OK, I’ll bite.

Here’s my list of the Greatest 100:

  • Animal Farm

  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey

  • Catch-22

  • A Clockwork Orange

  • Death Comes for the Archbishop

  • Deliverance

  • Dog Soldiers

  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman

  • Go Tell It On the Mountain

  • Gone With the Wind

  • Grapes of Wrath

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

  • The Invisible Man

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

  • Lolita

  • Lord of the Flies

  • Lord of the Rings

  • The Man Who Loved Children

  • Native Son

  • 1984

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • Slaughterhouse-Five

  • The Sound and the Fury

  • The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

  • The Sun Also Rises

  • To Kill A Mockingbird

That’s 28. Ask me how many are actually memorable. Or, are there many I’d spend time reading again.

Ste. Em's Class Revealed

Most days take off running. The Troublemint Twins don’t like to let trouble get too far from their grasp. However, T-1 was laid up a good part of the week, and T-2 was concentrating on getting more cattails. Comatose I didn’t expect.

The problem on the board read “7 X 72 =”

The two answers I received were “63.” and “Nu-uh! 144.”

Now these two boys can do mental computation in their sleep. My response was a careful, modulated, gentle, “teacherly” suggestion.

“You two need me to take you out to Pinelake and dunk your heads a couple dozen times to see if we can wake up your remaining video-game fried neurons?”

Pinelake was on our side of the road, at the end of the parking lot. It was really an overgrown pond, and rumor had it that eventually there would be real, live dunking-type baptisms going on there- the symbols and a sign without a substance type.


We’re polite in Mississippi.

“How in tarnation did you boys come up with those numbers?”

“We multiplied.”

And honest.

“Not by my teaching you didn’t. Whose class you two been sneaking into? I’m fixin’ to take both of you out and dunk you.”

These two are on their third year with me, poor souls. One started in the Second, the other the First Grade. They are now taking Fourth Grade Math and Grammar together. The younger one is a wiz at Latin, the older seems to have a talent for descriptive writing.

Eventually we settled the Math issue with the two rolling their eyes at each other and offering to go dunk themselves.

We are also gracious in our humility.

By now the First Graders were in a state of expectant giddiness with me poking such fun at the older boys and them being caught in a rare situation of demonstrated ignorance.
It has been a glorious Fall, although rough on the azaleas because they favor more moisture than we’ve had. We’ve had no rain since Katrina. The boys gully-leaped and discovered gopher holes, raccoon and deer tracks. The younger of the older boys found a mussel shell- both halves. The biggest prize was finding a stand of horsetails. They each wanted one, and it was proudly carried up high back inside the school.

Not for long.

The oldest one suddenly connected horsetail with his tail. He pulled his grey sweatshirt up to his head, letting the sleeves fall down as long ears. Getting down on all fours with the herbaceous specimen between his hindquarters, he began kick and bray back to class. The others followed suit.

Yup. In Mississippi we know what’s what.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

T-2 Makes It

The other half of the Troublemint Twins finally made it out to the field for a full-fledged exploring trip, but then just as quickly fell from grace. He had such a glorious day, too.

To be sure, he’s been to the field before. He’s dipped his toes onto the grass to see that it was real turf, so to speak. On that day all he kicked a ball and chased after it. But we didn’t go exploring. Monday was finally his day, so I made sure it was a long, eventful time. With his track record there was no telling when he’d make it back.

My oldest student is bright and perceptive. This is his third year with me. I’m not sure who reads who better- him or me. Sometimes he’s a step ahead of me, and it works just fine. Sometimes it crowds me and I need to remind him to back off and let me be the teacher. He has a natural good nature that takes things in stride. Most importantly, he enjoys kids younger than himself.

When he realized T-2 (so named because he’s the second of the Troublemint Twins to make it to the field) was going along, one look at me told him all he needed to know. He was going to make it special for him, too. He took his nearest-grade compadre and headed off across the expanse.

“Wait here while we go hide behind yonder trees,” they told T-1 and -2 (the other two First Graders were absent.)

They did as they were told.

Thereon began a game of hide and pounce, scramble and climb. T-2 was in ecstasy being treated like one of the “big boys.”

Now, taking on T-1 is no easy task, nor safe, either. The kid is young, but built like a tank. He loves to wrestle and to be thrown to the ground. He doesn’t particularly like to be piled on, but he’ll take a hit, roll, and bounce right back up. He likes to be the “monster” and catch the others. Thing is, he’s slow so he can’t catch the other boys. Once they had him pretty well hornswoggled- or so they thought. All five of them hid under thed bridge on the playground equipment. If he tried to grab one, they were too fast getting out from under. He tried several times to get them, then finally sat down on the ground to think things out. (This kid is sharp! He’s a First Grader reading Little House in the Big Woods all by himself.) Eventually he got up, climbed up on the bridge, and lay down on top. Next thing I knew, all five boys were screaming and running out from underneath. He was raining spit down on them from between the cracks in the planks. Monsters do what monsters do.

Out on the exploring trip we detoured a bit and wandered further into the Pinelake holdings, just to see what was over the hill. Not much, at first. We scampered down the hill and through the woods, past some huge spider webs and an abandoned wheelbarrow. At each turn my oldest student was certain that T-2 didn’t miss a sight, didn’t get left out of any of the fun.

Finally along the road going back to the school we chanced upon a clump of cattails. T-2 was entranced. “I never had a cattail before. Never.” I managed to break off one for each of them. T-2 was lit. All he could talk about that afternoon was his cattail.

Next day T-1 took ill and was sent home. T-2 managed to mind his ways and make it to another trip exploring. At the end his composure blew. A classmate asked him to “stop” wrestling. A moment passed, then a silly smirk formed on T-2’s mouth and a glint shined in his eyes. Ooops! The number of times I’ve seen that just before… yup! There he went! He pushed the boy down.

I asked T-2 if he knew what the word “Stop” meant.

“No, I don’t.”

There ensued a conversation of several minutes, with me trying to elicit from the child some indication that he recognized what “stop” meant. Eventually I used the example of the stoplight, and green for “go.” “Do you know what ‘go’ is?” He denied even that.

Flabbergasted at this kid’s insistence that he be found innocent by reason of ignorance I finally tossed my hands in the air and declared, “Well, that settles it. Any kid who doesn’t know ‘stop’ or ‘go’ can’t be in the First Grade. He needs to go back to Kindergarten. It’s a rule. You have to know these things. I’ll talk to Mrs. Sawyer right away.”

T-2 took a quick look around himself at the field. His eyes grew wide. He paled. He wailed. “Noooo! I can’t do that. Don’t make me do that. Please don’t make me do that. Now I remember. Stop means don’t do it.”

That’s when I knew I had him. Going back to Kindergarten meant a year away from being a kid big enough to go back to the field.

T-2 came back the next day and had four tests. Aced every one of them. A week ago he played through two of the same sort and dived them. Got in trouble after chapel while I was talking to pastor and had my back turned. I thought it was the whole class, but he said “No, it was just me.” I was right proud of him for owning up to the truth, and told him so, even though he still had to suffer consequences for his actions. He said, “OK. I’ll go the field tomorrow.”

He will. And this time we’ll show him how to gully-leap.


The most amusing part of letting liberals talk long enough is gathering tidbits to play connect-the-dots with. Mary Todd left another:
On this point I could find no better words than those of Sr. Joan Chittister:

I have simply argued for years that if a woman is not half a person, if she is really a full person, if her baptism is really as authentic as anyone else’s baptism, and her call to discipleship is as deep as anyone else’s, then don't we have to discuss the theological implications of this as a church?

I don't see any reason at this stage to deny women ordination. But the real question is, I fear that if we don’t study this as a church, to the point where the next step is obvious to everyone, no matter how painful, it will affect the church deeply. (Todd is quoting Mark Roth, “The Thinkers: A life dedicated to her faith, and to questioning its policies,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 27, 2005.)

By questioning the authenticity of both women’s Baptisms and their humanity, Chittister is questioning the authenticity of women’s standing in the Kingdom of God. That is, are they citizens of equal worth alongside men even though they are not priests? She thinks not because they have been denied ordination. Todd agrees.

Now here’s the other dot to connect to:

Another Feminist Theologian, Beverly Wildung Harrison argues, “Those who proclaim that a zygote at the moment of conception is a person worthy of citizenship continue to deny full social and political rights to women.” (Harrison, B. W. (1985a). Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics. Boston: Beacon Press. P. 127.)

My, my! Amazing what is stripped of sanctity for the sake of the humanity of women!

Therefore, according to Feminist Theology, Baptism “rights” are to women’s ordination as civil rights are to procreative rights, and both result in abortion.

Spare me my own humanity, please… save that it be drowned dead and resurrected in Christ’s!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Doubtful Certainty

Well, the swinging doors have slapped her from behind. Any remotest thought of sweet sorrow was lost in her own parting shot: “Paul Tillich earlier offered a similar caveat when he wrote that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.”

That sure sends the tip of Thomas’s finger right into in the face of Hebrews 11:1, rather into the side of Christ where it belongs!  

     Three-quarters through my first year of teaching I had a Math lesson on probability for the Second Graders. That year I was teaching only First and Second Grade. If the goal of catechesis were only to reveal the Law, then it would leave us ever in constant starvation, that is, doubt. Yet that is not what God does with His children. God afflicts His children with starvation in order to feed them on the Bread of Life. How is this so? The Good News of Christ is the Word by which we receive the Bread of Life, that is, forgiveness of sins and salvation. Where the Gospel reigns, there is certainty. The catechized children at Good Shepherd can teach a lesson in certainty – and do.

     The objective for the Math lesson one day was to learn the distinctions between likely, impossible, and certain. The definitions given for likely and impossible were acceptable, but I quickly discarded the one for certain. No, I am not certain the sun will rise tomorrow. In fact, I still pray, “Come, Lord Jesus... quickly!

     After discussing what likely and impossible meant (it is likely to rain; it is impossible for dogs to drive), I asked the class about certain. “What does certain mean? Of what are you most sure? What can you count on happening so that you have no doubts whatsoever? Of what are you certain?”

     The children thought.

     They thought for a long time.

     Still longer.

     The silence in my classroom was not only rare, it was palpable.

     Minutes went by...

     It was becoming uncomfortable.


     Then... from one corner of the room a voice broke out...

     “...when he breaks and hinders every...,” by now the rest joined in, “...evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.”

     With that they shouted an ad lib: “THIS IS MOST CERTAINLY TRUE, AMEN!”

     How is it that the students should think of the Third Petition so that they would answer with that when I asked about certainty? The Third Petition doesn’t even mention certainty. They had to supply a cognate of the word, certainly.

     These children have learned by hard example in their own daily living that they cannot keep God’s Commandments. They have written pages of disciplinary sentences, repeated countless apologies proving that fact. Whenever they err they are asked, “What Commandment is that?” When they fail grievously, they find themselves confessing their sin to Pr. Sawyer in order to hear Holy Absolution as from Christ Himself. They vow to do better, only to fail the test. Still, over and over, they begin and end each day with “into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” They have been taught that Jesus prayed a similar prayer every day, and dying from the cross. They know that to not be able to keep the First Commandment, to not “fear, love and trust in God above all things,” means that they hate God. That’s what sin is, the acts of people who hate God. But, they will tell you, Jesus didn’t come for anyone but sinners. They have plenty of sins, so He came for them. The students are certain of two things. One: They are sinners, and cannot free themselves from that condition. Two: The promises of the Third Petition are sure, and God will not free Himself from the conditions He imposed upon Himself when He made them. Still, that doesn’t answer how the children knew the Third Petition deals with certainty when it doesn’t even mention it, does it?
     It is this: The Lord’s Prayer is Christ’s words, put into our mouths to speak. What God gives us to speak are His words, not our own. The children know that what Christ says is so, is so. Therefore, what we are given to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer is not a request in the form of “if it pleases God then He will give these things;” rather, the Lord’s Prayer is given to us to repeat to God what He most certainly has given us in Christ. Certainty begins in the First Commandment, with what it means to have a God, and continues the First Article when we confess that

He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

The Catechism informs us repeatedly of that which is most certain and true: God’s Fatherhood to us because of Christ.

     God’s Son taught us to pray to His Father, “Our Father, which is to say, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children.” The meaning of each petition of the prayer our Lord put into our mouths to pray begins

God's name is certainly holy in itself...
The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer...
The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer...
God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people...
We pray that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them...
God tempts no one.
We pray that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil...

     The answer the students gave was the Third Article of the Creed put into in action. The Holy Spirit had worked through the means of the word to create and sustain faith in Christ in them. It was only a matter of time before the words of the faith that had informed the hearts, minds, and souls of faith, opened lips to declare what is most certain and true: It is God who directs, controls, and effects what He wills with regard to His kingdom. We have no part in the action. God desires His kingdom to come; therefore it will come of a certainty. What God Himself puts into our mouths to pray happens, for His word is certain. What He wills to be done is accomplished. It’s a done deal. His word has been upon it from before He said, “Let there be light,” and it is sealed as accomplished since He said, “It is finished.”  God’s kingdom – His will – is delivered to us through the means He has provided as our physical needs are met, but also more importantly when His word is preached, prayed and meditated upon, and His Sacraments of Baptism, the Supper and Absolution are administered to His children. Through these God feeds His starving children bread for their bodies, and the Bread of Life for their souls. (From the author’s unpublished essay, Let the Children Come to Me)      

     But this isn’t the sort of certainty the aficionados of women’s ordination will be content with. Their certainty comes by what they say and do, not what has been received from God. Thus, for them, certainty that the Gospel is actually alive- that Christ is active among His people- comes when they see women ordained, not where Christ Himself says He will be.  

Monday, October 24, 2005

Potential Certainties

This guy has me hooked. I’d like to toss in another perspective- certainly nothing to speak to the contrary (as if!), rather in support of what has been already written.

In his most recent post, Crossteste, the author connects William Blake’s philosophy with Rick Warren’s. Of interest is the view that this life is incomplete, merely a preparation for what is to come in the next.

What would transpire if Warren’s substance met with Lutheran style?

“Larry Christenson, one of the most influential Lutheran charismatic pastors of the last century, claims that ‘in Baptism one is given all things that he will ever receive in Christ- potentially.’ He goes on to say that if a person does not live up to one’s Baptism, ‘God’s purpose in Baptism has failed of achievement,’ and it would have been better if the person had not been baptized at all’” (Fire and the Staff, Klemet Preus, p. 98-99).  

That’s what. God has a purpose for Baptism that must be lived up to. It is not efficacious because of what He does, but what the baptized do. It is completed by their acts- or not according to their failure to act. Baptism is only that which is potential, not actual. Therefore, Baptism is not a certainty. Moreover, salvation is likewise only potential, not a certainty.

Here’s a certain actuality for you: one sin you can’t ignore or sweep between the folds of your grey matter and you have living-in-your-own-flesh proof that you are outside of the Kingdom.

Now what do you cling to?

Rather, to Whom do you cling?

Since Baptism is a divine act in which God Himself participates and since it is attended by the three exalted Persons of the Godhead, it must be prized and honored. One must agree that Baptism was not invented by any man but was instituted by God. It is not plain water but has God’s Word in it and with it; and this transforms such water into a soul bath and into a bath of rejuvenation. Furthermore, we must maintain that a Baptism is a proper and valid Baptism even if the person baptized is unbelieving and ungodly. For is it conceivable that God would be faithless because of my faithlessness? (Rom. 3:3). M. Luther. (LW, AE, vol. 22)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

False Momma's Boys

Yesterday’s discussion regarding fathers at Cyberstones was intriguing. Last evening I was tempted to formulate a reply. Swinging the pendulum too far in the spiritual (vs. genetics) direction based on abusive/rotten fathers is what granted feminist permission for Heather’s two daddies/mommies in the first place. However, the correction having been made and received, why bother? So I dropped it.

Then with today’s recitation of the Catechism the baptismal tide turned. False fathers are not all that is addressed in the Introduction (by the antithesis) to the Lord’s Prayer, but also false children:

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

That is, if God is our true Father and we are His true children, who are His false children? We are certainly His true children by Baptism. It is then He writes His name upon us. Where His name is, there He dwells. He owns us, just as a Father possesses His children.  

Jesus wasn’t shy about saying who was or wasn’t one of God’s children. In John 8 He tells the Pharisees that if they are Abraham’s children they will do as Abraham. Instead they seek to kill Him, a man who has told them nothing but the truth. Therefore, those who do not believe Jesus are not God’s children.

Those who counted their hope in the One whom God promised believed Abraham and would know the Messiah when He came. Abraham saw His day and rejoiced in it. Even Sarah delighted to call her master “Lord,” indicating that she had first of all submitted in hope to the promise of salvation from sin, the sign of which was circumcision in Abraham and a son to be born to them both. Those who are as she is are her children- and if they are hers, then Abraham’s also. Yet when the Messiah came, not all who claimed to be Abraham’s children received Him. Jesus pointed out that if they knew Abraham they would know Him. Yet, they were false children of Abraham; therefore they proved themselves to be the children of another father- Satan.

Those who are false fathers (and mothers!) are those who are false children. For, if one will not be possessed by his heavenly Father in His Word and Sacraments, then he cannot live according to the manner by which his Father desires him to. Following the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer is the First Petition, which are both the heart of the First Commandment and the essence of Christian ethics. Ethics, of course, is what the Pharisees were all about. Jesus revealed they were really a bunch of slaves bound to their own illegitimacy.    

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean?
God's name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.

How is God's name kept holy?
God's name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God's Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!

George MacDonald wrote a tale of a young man who was abandoned by his grandmother after his mother died in childbirth. Raised by a kindly old man and thinking he had no natural kin, he grew up thinking poorly of a wretch of a woman in the town, and not without cause. One day he discovers she is actually his grandmother. He wants nothing more than to spit her from his life. The old man will have none of it. Would he so treat the one God used as the instrument of his own mother’s birth? And by her his own birth? And from that gift of life his own knowledge of Christ and His salvation? Dare he spit Christ from His life?

Certainly repentance is a thing to be sought for those who have become fathers and mothers and then abused the vocation. (I am not here advocating a willy-nilly “Welcome home, Daddy,” Day for errant fathers!) Clement speaks of those who fall into public sin in a manner similar to our Confessions, Apology Article XII (VI), Confession and Satisfaction, 112:

1Clem 57:1-7 Ye therefore that laid the foundation of the sedition, submit yourselves unto the presbyters and receive chastisement unto repentance, bending the knees of your heart. Learn to submit yourselves, laying aside the arrogant and proud stubbornness of your tongue. For it is better for you to be found little in the flock of Christ and to have your name on God's roll, than to be had in exceeding honor and yet be cast out from the hope of Him. For thus saith the All virtuous Wisdom; Behold I will pour out for you a saying of My breath, and I will teach you My word. Because I called and ye obeyed not, and I held out words and ye heeded not, but made My councils of none effect, and were disobedient unto My reproofs; therefore I also will laugh at your destruction, and will rejoice over you when ruin cometh upon you, and when confusion overtaketh you suddenly, and your overthrow is at hand like a whirlwind, or when ye call upon Me, yet will I not hear you. Evil men shall seek me and not find me: for they hated wisdom, and chose not the fear of the Lord, neither would they give head unto My councils, but mocked at My reproofs. Therefore they shall eat the fruits of their own way, and shall be filled with their own ungodliness. For because they wronged babes, they shall be slain, and inquisition shall destroy the ungodly. But he that heareth Me shall dwell safely, trusting in hope, and shall be quiet from all fear of all evil.

It seems that the problem lies firstly with those who would be fathers (and mothers!) before being God’s children. We reject the fathers and mothers we have because we neither can nor do we wish to receive what God gives us. We want only what seems to be good in our eyes; God gives what is good for our sakes. He gives us Christ, and Him bloodied and beaten and dead on a cross. Or He comes by way of men who hardly give any appearance of being anyone’s father, least of all our own. Yet, because He is the image and likeness of the Father and they speak for Him and only say what He would say, then a father they are when they say what He does for His Son’s sake, “Go you are free.”            

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Of Those Who Are Left Behind

One of the “Troublemint Twins” finally made it. Graduated, so to speak.

Our church and school are enclosed by the woods from which their building sites were excavated. The playground is heavily wooded, providing wonderful shade from the Mississippi heat and cooling the breeze while the students are playing. The equipment is more than adequate for the K-4 and K-5 classes, even a class of all six-year-olds.

But I don’t teach the fours and fives. My students are hunks of rumbling, tumbling, pre-testosterone-infested, BIG BOYS.

Across the street from our little compound is the behemoth known as Pinelake, a mega-church “community.” It is immediately accessible to us with its luscious field often used for soccer in the Spring. This field is bound by the not-too-busy state highway on one side, a gentle slope on another, and the rain runoff creek and trees on the other. It is a child’s paradise- and mine, seein’s how I’ve not quite reached that magical age of grown up, either.

Now that the weather has dried off some and begun to cool, I have extended recess and we spend it in the field two or three days a week. Most of the time I let the boys just kick balls a short distance or wrestle each other. They also like to roll down the slopes. These fellas enjoy tussling with each other like a pack of bear cubs, but it’s not their favorite thing to do at Pinelake, and I know it. Pinelake has treasures. They want to find them.

Last year I took my class farther up the Pinelake property along a creek. It was especially fun after rainfalls looking for animal tracks. Still, I didn’t have First Graders then. I also didn’t have the Troublemint Twins. They don’t listen very well. Exploring has not been an option so far this year.

There is a world of maturity between the First and Second Grades. However, when the incentive is right, it can be helped along. Going to the field is a privilege, not an expectation. If a student proves he cannot listen to me, he becomes what is known as a “Left Behind.” As one of the older students told my incoming students, “You don’t ever want to be a Left Behind! You never know what the Deaconess is going to do. We might go make animal prints and you’d miss out.” Two of the First Graders listened to the warning; the Troublemint Twins listen to their own pipes and tunes.

For several weeks the Troublemint Twins have been the Left Behind on the days when we go to Pinelake. They’ve been busy writing sentences during recess because they’ve turned learning time into their personal playtime.

Today, though, one of the Twins finally made it. It was a gorgeous, sun-bursty day. First the boys rolled down the slope. Then they ran across the length of the field. Next they scrambled down the gully by the rain culvert and hid from me. Then we walked by the trees and looked out for copperheads and moccasins. Next we climbed up the other rain drain and went back to school in time for lunch.

So what was the big excitement for this six-year-old to tell his father when he was picked up? “I got to go with the big kids! I found a tire rim, and Joey found a fence post, and Deaconess found half a marble.”

Yup. Treasures. Last year we even found us a dog skeleton. That was really cool.

That was the day one of my boys looked up at me and said, “This is a really neat place to go find things, but they don’t have Jesus on the altar, and they don’t baptize babies here. So we go back home for the real treasures.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ste. Em is Not Nice

At lunch I sit at the head of the table. Seating arrangements rotate at my whim. Yesterday two boys sitting closest to me and opposite each other had finished their lunch before I had. The limitations of my range of vision meant I couldn’t see the one on the right, but I could the one on the left when he began to lean back in his chair, swish his mouth around oddly, and then suddenly jerk forward at his table mate. Next, his partner’s head would suddenly come into my line of vision as the first one would fall back in glee into his seat.

Playing is not permitted at table. We try to instill manners in the students while they are with us. So, I told the one his lunch was over, clean up his place, and go sit against one wall of the lunchroom. I instructed the other to do the same on the opposite wall. They could wait there while the class completed lunch.

They did as they were told. Then the odd movements of the students finally pieced themselves together in my brain. I walked over to one.

“You were spitting at my table?”

“No ma’am. Only pretending.”

I crossed the room to the other. “”You were spitting?”

“I was playing like it.”

I walked to the middle of the room, looked from one to the other, then turned and walked to the classroom. They knew what they’d find when they returned for the next class: their names on the board indicating that they would have disciplinary sentences to write.

It would have been so easy to slide on “just pretending.” It wasn’t the real thing, after all. Why bother? I could even find an excuse in me: a whole pile of sentences will not turn little boys away from being little boys and doing little boy things. So why no participate in the dumbing down of discipline? Why not give ‘em a break and be a “nice guy?”

‘Cuz the Law ain’t nice, but it is always good, that’s why.

It wasn’t what they needed.

No little boy needs to practice spitting on anyone in order to perfect the art- most assuredly at table.

God grant me the intestinal fortitude to be not nice according to the need of my neighbor! For, in this there is true love for the sake of his repentance. And may my neighbor be granted the same for my sake.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Ste. Em and the Idiom

My students are active, normal boys. Their desks and chairs make attractive and irresistible equipment for activities other than the purposes for which they were designed. No matter how often they hear, “Four on the floor or you’ll write some more,” at least once a week one “forgets.” Sometimes the absence of memory is coupled by a spectacular display of clumsiness. To date no one has been seriously injured.

Because I have a multi-grade classroom the older students enjoy the benefits of the younger students’ incentives. First Graders who complete all their week’s Daily Work assignments, turn in their homework every day, and receive no disciplinary sentences on Friday are treated their choice of small delight from the “Treasure Box.” I keep it stuffed with such things as high-bouncing balls, balsa wood gliders, fancy erasers, and tornado tubes. A chart and stars help to keep track of who is on-track with his work and will be taking a trip to the Treasure Box.  

By the Third and Fourth Grade, completing school work has become an expectation without these rewards. Still, they are a part of the classroom, so it seems good that they should be included, too. So an extra expectation was added for their sakes. That is, the week starts with the assumption that each of the older students will set a good example and that by the end of the week the chart will show he has a star in the area marked for “Responsibility.” Thus, each week the two older students must work to maintain not only their good study habits as do the younger students; they must also set a good example. They must not lose their Responsibility Star by having demonstrated something to the younger class members they would have been better served by not learning.

It can be a daunting task. They are even learning that they can be held ultimately responsible for the actions of others through what they say and what it instigates.

Today one of the older boys rocked his chair, immediately received sentences, and within five minutes swung himself between a table and chair. Uh, oh… “Ooops…sorry, Buddy, you just lost it.” He turned quietly, and said, “Uh, yeah, Deaconess. I guess I did.” Nothing more needed to be said.

After the sentences were written (“Tipping my chair is dangerous to my body”; First Commandment; Fifth Commandment), the youngster read them through- one for each year of age, then recited the Commandments. We talked for a moment, and he said, “I guess I just lost my head.”

That’s when it struck me how true the idiom really is. By not keeping the First Commandment we have no Head. We are of the generation that hates God because we cannot fear, love, and trust Him above all things. A headless body is and does according to the ways of those who have lost their head- like Granny’s chicken in the barnyard after she’s set the ax to its neck. Sin follows upon sin.

“But He promises grace and every blessing to those who love and trust in Him.” This has been fulfilled for us in Christ and given to us in Baptism. It is there the headless ones receive a Head once more, and are now those who can gladly do what He commands.

Will the kid tip his chair again? I’m not holding my breath. I do know he knows the idiom differently- and rightly- now.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Open Triangle

Pr. Petersen recently touched off a discussion regarding women’s ordination at Cyberstones. Not surprisingly the issue of scriptural infallibility and inerrancy arose, within the context of its authority. Noticeably absent was any direct mention of scriptural efficacy, which is directly related to Scripture’s inerrancy and infallibility. Reading the discussion was then like trying to find the triangle among only two-sided figures. Something was missing that ought to have been there.

Why is it necessary to mention Scripture’s efficacy at the same time as mentioning its inerrancy and infallibility?

Many who support women’s ordination will also agree to Scripture’s authority. However, scratch the surface and one discovers that the authority granted is nominal at best, but the actual authority pertaining to the issue at hand arises from the governing body of those who decide whether women ought to be ordained. Thus, whether Scripture is inerrant or infallible is a moot point- as the discussion demonstrates. For far too many, Scriptural truth is not timeless. What was true for Paul, Jesus, and the early Christian church is no longer applicable for the church today. For the supporters of women’s ordination, revelation and inspiration originate from within the body of believers, not from what has been received through God’s chosen messengers for His purposes.

What the supporters of women’s ordination cannot agree to is that because the Scriptures are written and spoken by a God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, they continue to be not only inerrant and infallible, but also efficacious as they have been received from Moses, the Prophets, and the Apostles. As St. Jerome rightly says, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Church is built on nothing less than Christ. The Scriptures everywhere testify of Christ; it is He who speaks forth from every page. It is Christ who makes a Sacrament as He incarnates water, bread and wine through His word for our sakes. Further, it is Christ who inhabits the Office by His Word and His institution of it.

The antithesis to the certitude based on Christ’s efficacy through His inerrancy and infallibility is a religion that is left to its own devices and the collective voice of the people that makes what is “true” to be “certain.” From the heart of this religion arises a savior of their own invention. This is what eventually Feminist Theology leads to through the ordination of women. This is nothing new to mankind. Aaron had his golden calf built to image the true God- the first contemporary worship service at the foot of the mountain.

Paul’s injunction regarding the ordination of women is grounded in an order more ancient than the foundations of the earth itself. For, what the Father set forth in, through, and for the Son’s name at creation has its beginnings in what would be achieved for the sake of Man’s redemption and sanctification in Him. Paul does not upset this order. Neither ought we.

It is as Luther once wrote: “Thus God, the Lord of all the world, must let Himself become all the world’s pupil. No sermon, no proclamation in the world, has ever found as many critics as the Word of God. Every fool makes bold to tangle with it and tries to win his spurs in the encounter. There is no one who does not think he can correct God’s Word, who does not feel it incumbent upon him to oppose it, who does not presume to be smarter than our Lord God. Nowadays when anyone dreams a little, he is quick to cry: “Spirit! Spirit!” There is none so lowly as not to claim to know it all. Everyone poses as God’s teacher, and He must be everybody’s pupil. ... This illustrates how the Gospel must be an object of offense. Our nearest kinfolk– sisters, brothers, and others, – must be hostile to us and regard us as sheer knaves, casting caustic aspersions on us and reviling us to the utmost. For those who claim to be most closely related to the Gospel and to be rendering it the best service will, in fact, hold it in derision...” (Luther, M. (1999, c1959). Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8 (CD-ROM ed. Vol. 23). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.)

Mundane Catastrophes

Pundits are right in claiming that God sends cataclysmic events in order to grab our attention. Of this fact there can be no doubt. It is akin to the teacher in the classroom clapping her hands or slapping a ruler on her desk in order to make a loud noise. “Well, do I have your attention now?”

While it may be the catastrophe that drives a nation to its knees, it is the mundane that more likely crumbles the individual’s will to despair. It is there when Satan pulls out his most evil arsenal. As the routine becomes the expected, it is absorbed as though this the way things are going to be forever and ever amen. Moreover, the routine becomes the habitus of life: If one gives himself over to grumbling in his vocation, then that is his catechesis.

Cancer never had me praying nearly as much as one more dirty dish to wash, one more diaper to change, one more bit of adolescent insolence, one more toilet to scrub. It hasn’t changed any even with the kids grown and gone and me now teaching school. Add long hours of work reaping what appears to be little more than criticism and the deaf ears and stubborn wills of students, and the field is fertile for only a bitter harvest.

Like Elijah crying to God, Satan convinces that “I, I alone am left!”

To this Jesus answers, “I came for the sinners, not the righteous.”

When God divided Israel, He reserved Jerusalem for Himself. God caused His name to dwell there, in the temple Solomon built. Yet, that temple was destroyed, and the nation was sent into Babylon for the sake of their repentance. Eventually the temple was rebuilt in order that God’s name could once more dwell in it. The Temple of God who is the likeness of God’s image bearing His Name returned to that newly built temple in Jerusalem. Yet, He was tossed out and killed. In His death is the death of all sin; in His resurrection the Temple is once more raised, and death, the last enemy, is overcome.

In that, too, the mundane is redeemed. For, what is the ordinary task but service to neighbor? And what is the defeat of Satan but the confession of our own sin (not the neighbor’s!) in repentance?

The Baptized in Christ are the New Jerusalem, His Temple. These are they upon whom He has put His name- and a collective is never alone. Though storms and floods are His, too, here also is where He dwells and calls His own to repentance: in the mundane banality of His people until He returns forever and ever amen.

Ste. Em and Just Retribution

Saturday week ago found me working well past dark in my classroom preparing for the next week’s lessons. I had started around noon. Lesson prep for three grades sometimes takes that long, especially when it involves making up booklets, running off materials, etc. Knowing I’d be around for a long spell, I tossed out some corncobs hoping to see what would come around the bird feeder.

It had been a cool, dry day. The windows were open. Just after darkness fell I heard the bird feeder rattle. Something was having himself a good snack, and if I was quick I could see what it was.

When I looked out the window all I could see was a tail swishing against the white of the pvc pipe. That was curious, as it didn’t seem possible that an animal could climb up the slickness of the pvc surface.

As my eyes adjusted to the dark outside I finally made out who the bandits were: four large raccoons. Evidently their claws can grip the pvc.  

When I told him the next day Howie suggested I spread axle grease on the pvc. That was good, but petroleum jelly was easier to find, so I used that instead. The seed cake has been replaced at the top of the pole, and remains unmolested. It has attracted Carolina wrens and a good many chickadees, jays, and cardinals (the only good kind there are). Yesterday I tossed out some more corncobs for the ‘coons. This morning they were eaten clean, but the seed cake is still intact- as are the feeders.

What I would give for the video of those varmints trying to climb that pole!  

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Troublemint Twins

Whoever decided that kids didn’t need Baptism because they aren’t accountable for sin never taught First Graders.

Two of mine understand the Law well enough that they can demonstrate their expertise in Creative Tattletelling 101 under the guise of practicing the Eight Commandment.

“You need to tell Deaconess what you did to me because I can’t tell on you!” This is spoken loudly enough to catch my attention, of course. The intention of the speaker, obvious by the fact that he is also shoving his compadre in my direction, is to force a confession of some wrongdoing and also to extract some form of just retribution from me for the crime inflicted upon his wounded person by the other fella.  

“Nobody should ever tell someone else’s sins, only his own. So I’m not telling on you.” (Ditto above.)

“HEY! DIDN’T DEACONESS SAY NOT TO DO THAT? I’M GLAD I’M NOT THE ONE DOING IT!” This is the one that’s finely tuned. There’s no bodily injury involved. Usually it’s splashing water in the bathroom, running in the hallway, throwing erasers, tipping a desk, saying inappropriate words, or flicking juice at snack time. There’s no direct accusation, just a means to grab my attention. It’s enough for me ask, “OK, boys, what’s going on? Who did what?” Only by now I’ve learned better. With these two, if there’s no blood showing and no one is screaming in pain, I gently inform the speaker that he needs to use his “indoor voice,” and ask him if he remembers what tattletelling is. He does, and repeats the Eighth Commandment with meaning. That settled, peace resumes in the classroom.  

If children are not accountable for their sins, then they are righteous for that reason alone.

Jesus came for sinners, not the righteous, Matt 9:13.

Yet, the wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23), and children do die. So, children are under the curse of sin, death and the devil. Thus, children need the forgiveness of sins, too.  

Therefore, on what is the certainty of their own forgiveness to be grasped? Baptism saves us now, through the resurrection of Christ (1Pe 3:21; Ro 6:3-4).

Denying the Kingdom of God to little ones such as these is a damnable practice wherever it is carried out.

When these youngsters sin, we speak of it openly to them. They name their sin. We name their Savior. One of “Troublemint Twins” said today, “Jesus takes my sins and He scoops them up with Him on the cross. One day my body will rise up from the dead. That’s resurrection. That’s Baptism.”

Friday, October 07, 2005

Figs 'n Jigs

For the purposes of an object lesson, the timing could not have been better. Fall was just creeping upon us, so enough sap had stopped running in the trees to begin drying the leaves out. Still, they had not yet begun to turn color, so the leaves were a deep, rich green.

Three of my boys had been caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, to be sure. However, I was getting a bit tired of them thinking they were going to outfox me every time they pulled a prank or hi-jink, then tried to cover it up.

Maybe three fig leaves would serve to demonstrate how long their lies lasted.

At first they were in awe at the size of the leaves. Then there was a bit of embarrassed dismay at how little could actually be covered. Even as young as these boys are (8-9 years), male pride has its precedence.

“How did Adam and Eve do it?”

“Maybe they were a lot smaller or the leaves were a lot tougher back then.”

“Not me! I’m not going to wear nothing but fig leaves!”

At this point the class thought the leaves were only being displayed for the sake of historical significance. No connection to the lie recently revealed was made.

“Let’s hang them on the wall,” I offered. “Well see how long clothes made of fig leaves would have lasted.”

Two hours, seventeen agonizing minutes. That’s how long it took for the last leaf to shrivel to a tight curl. The boys squirmed and wriggled in their seats all afternoon, eyes transfixed on those leaves. They didn’t need the clock. The passing curriculum told them how little time it took for the shriveling. One of the three even sat with his hands covering his crotch muttering, “Oh, man...”

Finally I dropped the reason for the leaves. “How well did Adam’s lie cover him?”

Crotch-coverer moaned, “I knew it… I could feel it coming as those leaves were curling. It has to do with that lie we told.”

All our lies are as fig leaves: They cover as much and last as long. When the lie is exposed, we are left naked and ashamed. Christ washes us in Baptism, then clothes us in Himself. He is our righteousness. In Christ, even the liar is never naked. For, to confess “I am a liar” is to admit what God says about us is true. The Ten Commandments do not speak rightly about our character according to thought, word, and deed. In fact, we are like Adam who could not say, “I am the sinner.” Yet, Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous (Mat 9:13) in order to clothe them eternally.

I left the leaves hanging on the wall with a little sign, “How long can you hide?” Alongside them was a larger sign:

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 2Co 5:1-3

Did the students “get” it? By now the leaves are rather dry and crumbled. The boys have asked to have them replaced. They want them hanging in the classroom as a reminder of that which does not last- and especially of what does.