Saturday, December 16, 2006
I called him up to me. “Read this sentence for me.”
“A sheet makes a good present.”
I thought I would lose it right there. I honestly expected an “r.” He’s much better at phonics than that, although I’m not certain what the other options would have been.
He corrected the sentence without much ado, never really noticing what he had actually spelled. There’s a world of difference between a single “i” and those doubled “ee’s”.
The Eighth Commandment protects us and our neighbor from such things. Did he actually use a word he ought not to have? Yes. Did he mean to? No. It was total ignorance on his part. But if it had been pointed out to him, it would have been a cause to celebrate. Then we’d have had all sorts of things to bear with.
Jesus covers us in Baptism. When the Father looks at us, he sees his Son’s forgiveness of us. All our sins, even those of ignorance are covered by Christ. They need not be spoken of, pointed out and paraded around as something to be celebrated. This world feeds on gossip – whether from our own mouths or the lips of others. It is the celebration of sin. Those named “In the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” through Baptism have more than enough to speak of in rejoicing than to speak of the muck and filth from which they have been pulled.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Now here’s news to make one sit and ponder a while. No more St. Nick in the Kindergartens of Austria. He’s too scary for the precious little ones. I have to wonder about that argument. That’s the little corner of the world (if you include Germany) that gave its children Der Struwwelpeter as a means to means to instill good behavior and manners. (I attended a German Kindergarten for a short time. Maybe that’s where things went wrong… I still have a deep appreciation for Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and I don’t mean the Disneyized versions. I’ve introduced them to my students in the translated original. There’s nothing like the stark reality of good versus evil portrayed in a rousing fairly tale told well.)
However, what the memory of St. Nick does is something far different for children. First, it is good to remember the lives of the saints who have gone on before us. They can teach us much of what it means to confess the faith by word and deed. Second, the celebration of St. Nick’s Day makes a distinction between gifts given through the Santa figure and what is given through the Christ Child. To be perfectly clear, though, all Christmas gift-giving would be done on December 6, leaving families free for a proper celebration of Christ’s Birth Mass on Christmas Day. Then the sharpest distinction of the Gifts of the Christ Child, what He gives, and how He comes to us would be made. I’m not certain we’d have any takers on that plan.
At school we celebrate St. Nick’s Day with the children. During the younger students’ nap time he comes and fills their shoes with tangerines and gold coins. We read his story to all the students. We distinguish between Christ’s Gifts of salvation and forgiveness, and His gifts of creation and preservation. Christmas presents are wonderful. God gives parents and even Santa-figures as the means by which He gives gifts to His people. But they are not replacements for the greatest gift of all, His only-begotten Son, who comes only by way of His word, in Baptism, the Absolution and in His Body and Blood of His Holy Supper.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Wilbur, the pig as you might recall, had boasted that he could spin a web. After several attempts and even Templeton’s assistance, he finally had to concede that he was not constructed to spin webs like Charlotte. He didn't have her equipment, and a rope tied to his tail was a poor substitute for spider's silk. “Do you remember when we spoke of vocation?” The children needed a memory jog.
"Can women become daddies?" They rolled their eyes and laughed out loud.
"Can men become mommies?" They laughed even harder.
One of the "cooler" Second Graders replied, "Deaconess! What are you thinking of! You make us laugh!"
"OK. So you tell me what I might be thinking of with these questions. Why is it Wilbur couldn't spin a web like Charlotte?"
The answers were all good: No spinnerets. No web. He wasn't a spider. He was a pig. He was too big. Yet, the answers didn't get to the core. "Why didn't Wilbur have spinnerets?" They were lost in thought.
"Why was he a pig?"
"Because he was born one?" ventured one brave girl.
"How is it he happened to be born a pig and not a spider? Who made sure Wilbur would be a pig?" I was pushing further.
Finally they were getting the drift. Three exploded with "GOD!"
"So if God made sure Wilbur was a pig and not a spider, then did Wilbur have any choice in whether he was a pig or a spider?"
"Of course not!"
"And if it's not a choice, but that God did it, then what is it to be a pig and not a spider or a spider and not a pig?"
Two minds clicked at once. "It's a gift!"
"Right. Did you have a choice in being a boy and not a girl or a girl and not a boy?"
"But who made you and all creatures? Who gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears and all of your members?"
"GOD!" "So who you are and what you are is a...."
"Right. Being boy or girl is a gift. Being boy or girl is also a vocation, because it involves what you can or cannot do - like be a daddy or a mommy. So, vocation is a gift. Wilbur's vocation was to be a pig, not a spider. He was to make good bacon. (The kids giggled.) Charlotte's vocation was to be a spider. She was to make webs, give people the creepy-crawlies, and eat flies. Boys grow up to be husbands and daddies. Girls grow up to be wives and mommies. Being a boy or a girl is a gift. Vocation is a gift."
I let the kids absorb this for a moment or two, then asked, "What to you do with a special gift? Do you exchange it?"
They looked at me like I was nuts. "No! You keep it."
"Well, nowadays there are some men who say they can be mommies. And there are some women who say they can be daddies."
The room was filled with the children denouncing such things. It just couldn't be possible. No way. God made men to be daddies, and women to be mommies. That's the way they are built. Anyone could see that.
All but one student knew that it was ridiculous to even think such thoughts. She looked around and rolled her eyes. "That's how it is where my mom works. Some women come in and exchange their gift so they can be men. Then men exchange their gift so they can be women."
"So what do you think about that," I asked.
"I think it's pretty dumb!" The rest of the class gasped. In this school "dumb" is a verbotten word.
"What do the rest of you think about it?" I questioned the class.
"That's God's gift!"
“You can't exchange God's gift. That's His gift to just you."
"God made you the way He wants you to be."
"God needs daddies AND mommies, not daddies and daddies."
"If Wilbur and Charlotte can figure it out, why can't people?"
To the last reply I responded, "If you all can figure it out, I wish the adults would listen to you!"
One final reminder I couldn't resist. Wilbur wound up in the manure pile after his failed attempts with another's vocation. That was OK for Wilbur, because the manure pile was his home. Not so for the rest of us. In this there is a lesson: Take a foreign vocation and you'll land in manure.
Apostles' Creed, First Article: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
God speaks and we listen. Then we say back to Him what He has first said of Himself. This is catechesis, or teaching. It is the church confessing or “same saying” what is most holy and true.
A child learns what he lives. Suppose a child is brought to church for Baptism and then is taken home where the words of faith are seldom if ever heard from the lips of his parents. It would follow that the catechesis he received would be very shallow. Certainly one hopes he would be brought to church every Sunday, but what is an hour of faith-talk in the ears against the plethora of learning received elsewhere?
Catechesis happens. Little ears are open and receptive. This sort of ditty, and this one, filling the ears of the baptized are also catechesis. What does he hear most often? What then is the fountain and source of his catechesis? Where that is, there his worldview will take shape. And there his certainty will be.
Luther’s Small Catechism was written to be a prayer book for daily use by everyone. Each of the Six Chief Parts begins, “As the head of the family should teach … in a simple way to his household.” In plain, simple words the Catechism teaches and feeds hungry souls the Living Bread of Life. It is primary theology. Luther viewed it not as his Catechism, but as God’s, and so it is. For, it is a correct explanation and confession of what God has first spoken to us in His word. Therefore, writes Luther, “God himself is not ashamed to teach it daily, for he knows of nothing better to teach, and he always keeps on teaching this one thing without proposing anything new or different.” He continues, “We think we can learn in an hour what God himself cannot finish teaching, though He were to teach it from the beginning of the world until the end! All the prophets and all the saints have had to learn it, but they have always remained its pupils, and they must continue to be so” (Large Catechism, Preface, 16.) Therefore, to be a student of the Catechism is to be nothing other than a Christian; for, it is the practice of Christ’s command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Mt 28: 29-20).
Court battles are waged whether images of the Ten Commandments can be placed outside public buildings, as if paying homage to God’s Law in this way makes of us a Christian nation. This is the deadness of the Law. Simply paying homage to a symbol while not knowing their application keeps us dead in the Law.
We confess in the Third Article that we believe in the forgiveness of sins. Without knowing specifically how we are sinners, without confessing our specific sins, we become smug in our self-righteousness. Knowing the Ten Commandments and applying them daily to specific acts teaches children (and adults) to confess sins, and to confess them immediately. A litany of apology followed by forgiveness in Jesus name reinforces the fact that there can be no forgiveness except through the Savior who died on the cross. The daily invocation of God’s Triune Name is a remembrance of Baptism. Encouragement to keep the Commandments is a reminder that the devil is lurking about like a roaring lion (1Pe 5:8). It is also a reminder of Baptism. For, to be in the Law is to be in Christ, the one who kept it for us. This is to be in Baptism, which is how His righteousness is delivered to us. The only way any of us keeps the Law perfectly is to be in Christ, so the repentance of the Law is always a return to the Gospel.
The Catechism is wet with Baptism, dripping with Gospel. Why would any parent want to keep it from his child? To memorize this precious jewel from infancy is to be armed with the best defense against the greatest enemy the parents have set loose against the child when he was baptized, Satan himself.
If that's not enough, the explanation of the Fourth Commandment in the Large Catechism states
For if we want capable and qualified people for both the civil and the spiritual realms, we really must spare no effort, time, and expense in teaching and educating our children to serve God and the world. We must not think only of amassing money and property for them. God can provide for them and make them rich without our help, as indeed he does daily. But he has given us children and entrusted them to us precisely so that we may raise and govern them according to his will; otherwise, God would have no need of fathers and mothers. Therefore let all people know that it is their chief duty—at the risk of losing divine grace—first to bring up their children in the fear and knowledge of God, and, then, if they are so gifted, also to have them engage in formal study and learn so that they may be of service wherever they are needed. (Large Catechism: 1, 170)
In another place Luther writes,
Now we must devote far more care to educating the children in order that we may find people who are capable of serving a country in its secular government and the cities in spiritual government as preachers and lectors. You see what murderous harm you do to the sovereign prince and the fatherland when you keep gifted boys away from study. The same applies to you, the mother of a family, if you train your daughter or your maid badly. It is a commandment which is laid upon you, not something which is merely given to you. For if you are able to rear your daughter well and do not do so, you are the one who has ruined her. AE 51, 151.
Christian parental catechesis involves training children to speak the words of the apostolic faith so that they are lived in their daily lives. This is training children to be good citizens not merely of the church, but also of the nation. In this way every hour is a sacred hour and church work is not the only or most sacred of all vocations.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Byrne, one of the Troublemint Twins, likes to be first – at EVERYTHING. Now, a healthy sense of competition is just fine with me. I like to encourage that. However, his situation was rapidly deteriorating from outright rudeness to downright danger.
First it was racing his buddy to see who would be first in line after I called out “Line ‘em up at recess.” Then it was pushing and shoving and arguing over who was ahead of whom in line. Then it was knock ‘em out of the way to get a paper towel in the boys’ room so he could be first to line up for lunch. Mixed in all this was the ever-looming race to the finished work basket in the room if he saw anyone else headed toward it. Finally he rushed to the toilet yesterday (“I was walking fast, which was technically running…”) and fell straight onto it. Not into it, mind you. He didn’t get wet. Too bad. The bruised shin will probably heal faster than a bit of wet embarrassment would have. And gratefully he didn’t crack open his head on the porcelain!
His official position in the class has been “Mr. Polite” for some time. That means he is not the line leader, rather the one who lets all others go first. This also means he’s last in the bathroom. He keeps asking, “How long to I hafta be ‘Mr. Polite?’” What he doesn’t get is that the more he asks, the longer he stays. It means he’s not getting it yet.
His buddy, the other Troublemint Twin, was Mr. Polite first this year. It took him about a week to be broken in. Slowly but surely he got it. We called him Mr. Polite at every opportunity and he started to act the part. He began to believe it of himself. He would step aside and let others pass in front of him. He took pride in himself for doing it, too. He does it still. Being polite is permanent, although being Mr. Polite is not a permanent position.
I was hoping for the same learning curve from Byrne, but so far it isn’t happening. There is no lack of support from the parents. Byrne’s dad doesn’t appreciate him putting his hands on other children rudely. But Byrne gets a thought in his head and bends himself to it, and no one can stop him.
Today Byrne impulsively reached out for a trading card the students were looking at during snack time, bumped Sean’s cup, knocked it into his face, and sent orange juice flying. Sean had juice all over his clothes and in his eyes. Must have stung! When I asked Byrne why he reached and grabbed in like that he said he was afraid he would miss his turn.
It was time to get the crew outside for recess, so we went on out. I had a special task for Byrne. “See that tree over there… the big oak? Go push it until I tell you to stop.” Byrne commenced to pushing that big tree for five minutes or so. He shoved. He shoulder butted. He ran at it and rammed it. He gave it every last bit a seven-year-old could. That tree never once shuddered, swayed, or winced under Byrne’s mighty work. Didn’t even know the kid was there.
When I asked Byrne how things went he admitted he didn’t accomplish much. “But,” he allowed, “if I had an axe I could chop it down. Then I could move that tree.”
“Sure. But then the tree would be dead. Are you admitting to me that the only way you can shove that tree out of your way is if you kill it?”
“Well, yes ma'am.”
“So tell me which commandment is involved when you push or shove your way around through people?”
Byrne knew that one easily enough. He’d been repeating it enough lately. He added another. “The First and the Fifth. ‘You shall have no other gods’ and ‘You shall not murder.’”
Then he got it… “Oh… so if the only way I can move the tree is to kill it, that’s like the only way I can push people around is to kill them. Even if I hurt someone accidentally, it’s my fault if I’m thinking of me first.”
Well if the porcelain barking your shins doesn’t wake you up, maybe the bark on your skin will.
Byrne has shown an aptitude for studious work this year, though he still has his old bag of tricks. I know his routine. He comes to me with a question before he even attempts the answer himself. I point him straight back to his desk before he can even get the question out. Without fail brief minutes later I hear him groan and say, “Ohhh… of course!” I like for him to at least try before he comes to me. He still wants to try to work me for an easy answer. If I make him work, he shows he is capable, he has learned more, and he gains confidence. He has the mind and ability to be a first-rate student. His father knows it, too. Byrne likes good grades, so he works hard to get them.
What Byrne is also becoming is secure in knowing that he is forgiven. He has been confessing that he believes this since the first day he began at our school. Now he is certain of it. Why? Because Jesus says so. Any sin talk will find Byrne among the first, if not the first to say, “But Jesus died for that. He took all our sins on the cross.” That kind of being first is always encouraged. Always push the Gospel, just as Christ always pushes it so eagerly on us.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
And now a cure for the stained-glass ceiling is on its way, it appears.
When quotas fail, what to do? Spend money and then why, make more and better quotas…
It's really quite simple: If the fundamental guiding principle is "Let's agree to disagree," it's simply Pilate asking the same question, "What is truth?" To to say that there is no one truth that can be known and proclaimed to all people is also to consign oneself to the error each one's own personal version of "truth" must be regarded as a valid and salvific path to God despite what Christ says of Himself. This is as much as to say, "No, thank you Jesus. You can just take your cross and bloody sacrifice and go away. I don't need it. I have Moses and Abraham. You are so very kind, but please do go away. God is our Father, but you we will not have as His Son." Jesus called people who spoke like this "liars" (John 8:55).
"Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham" (Gal 3:7). Abraham's son was released from sacrifice when God provided a ram in his place. Jesus said Abraham saw His day and rejoiced in it (John 8:56). "Of faith" means to be "in Christ." Thus it is by Baptism we are made sons of Abraham by faith, male and female alike. As Paul says, "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham" (Gal 3:9). To believe Abraham is to receive Christ as the Son of God. To have Christ is to have the Father (John 10:30).
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Whether they come from theologically liberal denominations or conservative ones, black churches or white, women in the clergy still bump against what many call the stained-glass ceiling — longstanding limits, preferences and prejudices within their denominations that keep them from leading bigger congregations and having the opportunity to shape the faith of more people.
Women pastors are complaining. According to a NY Time article, their upward rise is being impeded by a glass-stained ceiling. “When a senior pastor is consulted about whom he would like to succeed him, there aren’t any women on those lists,” the [unidentified] minister said. “The good-old-boy network starts there.”
1. The authority of a pastor is defined as and measured by the ability to govern.
2. Success is measured by the size of a congregation.
3. Pewsitters are still uncertain about whether women should be pastors.
What does this mean?
The authority of a pastor is defined as and measured by the ability to govern.
The ability to do something is not the same as having the authority to do it. Women have been being ordained since the 19th Century. In 1970 this practice became vogue and wide scale. From out of this practice a theological discipline grew and received a name, Feminist Theology. And yet, not one apologia has been written for the ordination of women. Why? It can’t be done. There is no scriptural basis for it. This is not to say that women may not speak the Good News to men. It was women who first proclaimed the risen Lord to men on Easter morning. However, despite artful attempts to interpret 1Ti to their feminist liking, Paul’s bare words based on against the practice remain. Invariably Bereans reveal themselves, and must be outfoxed by feminists.
One small but important step male pastors can take, these experts said, is to get congregations to hear women preach. . . “I speak differently than a man does,” Ms. Escobedo-Frank said. “To hear the fullness of God’s voice, you need to hear both men and women.”
Ah . . . so that’s it! Accordingly, the Scriptures are merely dead letters, sitting as printed words on a page. To come alive, they must be spoken, given living voice. Until that happens, the Bible is merely a book, just as any other piece of literature. That God presents Himself as male in the Scriptures is of no merit. What is important, they say, is that the book be re-cast so that the female voice can be listened to.
What is being promoted is the feminization of God. Feminizing Scripture means feminizing God; that is, reconstructing Scripture to reflect women’s experience in order to re-create God’s character. Different voices have the same visions, it has been said. Experience has proven otherwise with the newest incantations for the Trinity.Success is measured by the size of a congregation.
If this were true, then Pastor Jesus then was the greatest failure of all. He lost 5,000 followers after one sermon (John 6). He was just a little too tough to swallow, and so the crowds walked out on Him.
If Jesus had said that His Body and Blood were given in gold and silver, PSPs and the latest video games, we’d have no shortage of the demand for every-Sunday Communion, and the pews would be cracking-down full every Sunday. But He didn’t, so we don’t.
Jesus comes to us impossibly. He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (Jn ) The Word of Life comes spoken by an ordinary man, and in bread, water, and wine. The crowds in His time didn’t believe Him when He spoke of it; the crowds now don’t fill the pews demanding more of it. So even though Christ gave Baptism to wash His Bride and make her His own; even though He gave His very Body and Blood to His church in order to feed and sustain her; and, even though He said that His own were to be taught to observe/guard all that He taught, still the point is missed by too many that if He’s doing the giving, coming from His Body and Blood, and He is the very Word of God from the beginning to whom all authority has been given, then it is He who is effecting all that happens by way of growth in the church. The authority for growth in the church lies in the efficacy of the word itself, and the efficacy of the word is Christ, the Word. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
That’s authority! And it’s the sort of authority we simply don’t understand, and often don’t take sitting down. We want to count numbers and see numbers counted. We like our stewardship programs, with their fancy slogans, goals and achieved outcomes. We like our busyness, like a bunch of swarming bees.
Now, it is a mistake to lump all things that look similar into one pile and toss a label on top of it. My students often do that with pattern blocks. Hexagons and octagons look very similar, and help us all if a septagon gets tossed into the lot! We can do that here with feminism. Much of what goes on where feminism is active – such as this attention to numbers – occurs in other places, too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that feminism is at fault there. What it means is that feminism, because it is a religion of the Old Adam, shares symptoms with so many other “Adamist” religions. These are religions that rely more on what the Old Adam has to say of God and on what the Old Adam has to bring to God as a bargaining chip for his own redemption than on what God says of Himself or of what God says to the Old Adam in Christ. Counting numbers is one of these symptoms. What is similar is the misbegotten notion that numbers themselves are a mark of a healthy church or a good pastor at all. What is different is the female pastors’ complaint that it is a lack of promotions to congregations of size which demonstrates the prejudice against their sex. That's what makes this feminist. Oh, deary me. Kindly refer to the prior statement regarding numbers and misbegotten notions. Then go on to the next section.
Pewsitters are still uncertain about whether women should be pastors, i.e., given authority.
At a large church where she was an associate pastor, a colleague told her that when she was in the pulpit, he could not focus on what she was saying because she is a woman. A man in the congregation covered his eyes whenever she preached.
He can see the logical fallacy, why does he still listen to it? Because, God bless the man, he is still so hungry for the word of God that he would even follow Balaam’s ass to the barnyard hoping to still hear it, that's why! What a dear soul he is.
People in the pews often do not accept women in the pulpit, clergy members said. “It’s still difficult for many in this culture to see women as figures of religious authority,” said the Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in
Many Protestant clergy, it must be remembered, are assigned to their congregations. So when a pastor is repeatedly placed as an assistant in small, struggling churches rather than “promoted” to large, growing congregations, she might question if she is incompetent. This is how Ms. Puckett of
After all, parishioners can go home and read the Bible for that little slice of “me-n-Jesus,” and absolution – as is all too often found – can continue to be received silently in the mind of the beholder. So all we need is someone who can dole out little bits of the “Jesus presence” at the comers to the rail, and he’d best be someone who is mum to what they believe, and blind to what they do. A well-trained monkey would certainly do just fine. The worship committee can handle the services, the finance committee the dough, etc. Enough fun.
Or was Jesus just funnin’ when He said to keep to everything He taught and that His disciples were those who remained in His word?
Now that ought to be a cure for getting over one's self. If even a monkey could do the job, then what's to complain about when the promotion doesn't come through?
So if there must be something going on here that is qualitatively different between animals and humans and if that difference was established at creation, then the same differences and distinctions established at creation by the God who ordered what He created still apply. That difference is vocation. And vocation is incarnate. By that I mean that living human beings are not physically and spiritually dysfunctional sexual beings who are born physically with the general condition of humanity but then have to be taught spiritually to be either male or female. Sexual distinction is creation by design. The gift of sexuality is given at conception. Gift given, gift received. So when these women complain about the numbers their own sex really is smacking them in their faces. And because the gift given was not received as gift, but as a burden to be borne, sexuality has become an issue of authority, and the Office itself is wrapped up in the politics of sexual agenda and fair marketing. That’s authority wrapped in the Law.
“It’s a combination of age-old customs and democratic myopia: that in the marketplace of ideas and values, men matter most and that by definition, women have to take a back seat,” said Dr. Alton B. Pollard III, director of black church studies and associate professor of religion and culture at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Authority wrapped in Jesus is Gospel. It is water that is a Baptism because Jesus says so, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It saves now (1Pe ). It is scraps of bread and wine too tiny to satisfy hunger and thirst, yet enough for eternity. “Take eat, this is My Body… My Blood…” It is the gates of heaven flung open, against which the tides of hell cannot prevail. “I, by virtue of my Office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, forgive you your sins…”
No numbers can measure this authority. We confess in the Third Article of the Creed that it is the Holy Ghost who calls, gathers, and enlightens the church to Christ through His chosen means. That still brings us all right smack dab back to doing it all His way, doesn’t it? Not Law at all. Just Gospel on top of Gospel no matter how you stack it.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
“No! It got burned out in a fire.”
“Nuh-uh! A horse knocked it out.”
Jacob rolled his eyes in amusement and looked at me. We both had to stifle our laughter. The Troublemint Twins were trying their best to explain to the newest students that their teacher was not all “there.” I was busy pretending to mind my own business while listening to this myth in the making.
“She really does have a false eye, and I’ve seen it. She took it out one day and I nearly fainted. Don’t ever scratch your face with a pencil,” cautioned Byrne.
David and Erika glanced over at me. Did they dare believe the stories they were hearing? I wasn’t giving any clues, and Jacob wasn’t much help. He was taking his clues from me.
I lost my right eye to cancer, or rather to the effects of the radiation treatment. This fact is a fascination of no end of delight to the students because their parents rarely know this. I don't announce the fact to the kids. I let them in on it by little quips and fits.
When I miss-mark a paper I have a ready excuse: It takes me twice as long to see half as much and make twice as many mistakes. So what do you expect?
If they come up to me on the right side, I warn them that’s my dodging side. They soon figure out what I mean.
To date not one student has taken advantage of my good graces because of my generous blind spot. They are too kind to me in the first place, and I can sense their presence too well for that in the second place.
As for the stories, well, they are discombobulated. The burn occurred during while we were burning debris from Katrina last August. As for the horse…
One of my required credit hours was a phys ed. course. Now, I wasn’t about to have things come a-flying at me with my depth perception, so tennis was out. Besides, I’d already been through one ACL repair, and I wasn’t going to do another. The other options were just as lovely, except for one in particular, horseback riding in an indoor arena. It was English saddle, and I reckoned, “What could happen?” I mean, easy lopin’, right?
I got paired with this horse named Dakota. No lie, this horse was one-eyed. That’s right, this one-eyed lady got sat on top of a one-eyed horse. Now what sense does THAT make? It might have made some if it was opposite eyes, but it wasn’t. We were both blind on the same sides, going around this arena.
Things went well for a few weeks. Then one night Dakota went a bit out of direction. That would have been OK had he gone into the ring, but he didn’t. He went into the wall. The wall was on our blind side, of course. Neither of us saw it coming. Which is why he went there in the first place, and why I got dislocated from his back in the second place.
I got back on.
Thankfully it was the last class.
I made an A+ on the course.
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas
Oil on canvas, 107 x 146 cm
An inopportune glance at a watch during busy traffic meant that my husband and I were out shopping for a new car for me. I was at a dead stop. The driver behind me looked at his watch, and then didn’t have enough time to stop. That mistake “totaled” my car. At least no one was injured. My granddaughter was jostled a bit and shook up, but otherwise just fine.
After the salesman and I climbed into the car and I drove off he began the chit-chat. He asked where I worked and I told him I taught at the Lutheran school not far from the dealership. John and I had gone car shopping straight from my day at school. I still had on my deaconess garb, so I supposed he was curious about the insignia on my shoulder and pin on my shirt. He said, “Oh! I should have known you were Lutheran from the cross you wear.” Funny, that was the first time I ever heard of anyone identifying “Lutheran” from a style of cross… I let him continue…
“My brother’s favorite person in the whole world is Martin Luther. He’d be a Lutheran, too, except for one thing. He can’t get past that Communion thing. He just can’t do it.”
“Yeah,” I said. “When Jesus says what He says, it’s hard to take Him at His word, isn’t it?”
He got to the business of selling me the car after that.
The “Communion Thing” – that’s the crux of the whole matter, isn’t it? Just as all roads once led to Rome in the known civilized world, all heresies lead to what is believed, taught, and confessed about Christ, especially of His incarnation. And in that is the Communion Thing.
That is because typically we want to run with things according to our sinful inclinations. We either divide the Spirit from God’s word, or Christ from the elements He has chosen to unite Himself with. Then we still want to say, “Yippee! I’m full of the Spirit! I have Jesus.” Luther called such nonsensical people those who had “bees buzzing in their heads.” They were full of ideas, but of the wrong sort because they come from within themselves, not from God.
Luther compared Arius, who denied Christ’s divinity, to Satan when writing his lectures on Genesis. He also connected Arius’ error to the Lord’s Supper.
All the fanatical spirits follow this procedure of Satan. Thus Arius raises the question: “Do you believe that Christ is God, inasmuch as He clearly states (John 14:28): The Father is greater than I’?” Likewise the Sacramentarians: “Do you believe that the bread is the body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ? Surely Christ did not even think of such silly ideas!” When men give room to these thoughts, they gradually depart from the Word and fall into error. (Luther, M. 1999, c1958. Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis)
As Luther clearly saw, theological error eventually relate to the Incarnation. So they are also an error in Trinitarian theology.
For an example Christ’s own incarnation can serve no better. Mary conceived through her ear; that is, by way of the spoken word as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. Yet Christ’s incarnation was not merely spiritual. He was no ghostly spirit, but is God become human. That means Christ’s incarnation in Mary involved an actual human zygote that attached Himself to her uterine wall, growing into a human baby with flesh and blood organs that fed off her body until such time that He was born. The Holy Spirit and created physical matter united together in Mary’s body at the incarnation of Jesus. Wherever the Holy Spirit is with the Son, there the Father is, also.
Therefore, it is a mistake thinking that one can have the Holy Spirit without also having Jesus In fact, those who speak much of the Holy Spirit have far too little of Christ, for it is the business of the Spirit to reveal and deliver Christ. It’s really quite simple: God’s word delivers the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit who delivers Christ, the Word of God, through earthly elements He has chosen – Word and Sacrament. Wherever the Holy Spirit delivers Christ, there also is the Father.
The Communion Thing is a stumbling block – but no more so than the Baptism Thing or the Absolution Thing when you get right down to it. We want our Jesus, but not when He is in our faces, up close and personal – such as clothed in the likes of a pastor. We want Him on our own terms. We want to determine how He comes to us. Sappy songs are much nicer. “On the wings of a snow white dove…” But for certain when Jesus says, “This is My body… This is My blood…” we don’t want any of that business. He just can’t be serious. So we’d just rather call Him a liar on that account, and take Him out of where He said He’d be, put Him just about anywhere He never promised to be, and call that “Christian.” Yup, fer sure. “And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.” Coffee never tasted so good than in a cup with an ICHTHUS on it.
I spend a lot of time looking at Feminist Theology. It too denies the incarnation, for it is an error about Christ in the first place. That’s because feminism itself is a variation on a theme begun by our First Parents. It seeks after the things of God apart from His word, and delights in what it finds. When that happens, what is received is He-who-is-not-god. Luther writes of it this way in the Smalcald Articles:
All this is the old devil and the old serpent who made enthusiasts of Adam and Eve. He led them from the external Word of God to spiritualizing and to their own imaginations, and he did this through other external words. (SA: 3, VIII, 7)Feminist Theology “does” spiritualizing with great flair and dexterity. It is here where not only the Scriptures are mere metaphors, but so also is created physical matter. Accordingly words do not mean things, God did not mean what He says, and physical matter is malleable – especially and most importantly human flesh. All life is as plastic, a chimera of whatever ideology is in the imagination of the beholder.
How far apart is this really from those who call Christ a liar when He speaks as He does concerning bread and wine, His Body and His Blood? That Baptism now saves, and it is for all nations? That sin is forgiven by the words of Absolution spoken from the lips of the pastor? That He, Christ, is the only source of salvation?
Not so far, really. Still the same old Stumbling Block.
Friday, August 18, 2006
My students gave me a present yesterday.
The previous evening the two older boys were playing ping pong. We have a table set up in an extra classroom. The ball they were using rolled under some stored folding chairs. While trying to scurry it out with their paddles they discovered my gift, a desiccated chameleon.
I told them, “Thank you,” and put it in a small plastic zippy bag. The first rule of successful teaching is knowing how to not flinch- EVER.
Friday, August 11, 2006
| You scored as Luther. You are Martin Luther. You'll stick with the words of Scripture, and defend this with earthy expressions. You believe in an orthodox Christology. You believe that the bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Christ, but aren't too sure about where he goes after the meal, and so you don't accept reservation of the Blessed Sacrament or Eucharistic devotions.|
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Thursday, August 10, 2006
In fact, I hadn’t. Yes, I was.
School started midweek this year. I planned to use that time to ease the class into the schedule and out of their summer lollygags. Three days seemed reasonable to remind students of proper manners in hallways and outside other classroom doors.
Still, the Troublemint Twins wouldn’t have it. Nope, Byrne decided “cold turkey” was the only way to go, and Jeremiah agreed. The bathroom is close to the K-4/5 classroom. Noise in line from my class means a disruption to that classroom. On the first day of school, yesterday, the entire class needed a gentle reminder that while in line they should remain silent. Well, that didn’t work for the Twins, so they had to be removed from the area. That means they were sent back to the classroom for a few minutes so they could settle down a bit. The first time happened at snack time, just before recess. The process repeated itself just before lunch, which means the boys were both late for lunch.
When I went back to the classroom to get the pair I said, “Now gentlemen, we don’t want to do this again tomorrow, do we? You’re Second Graders this year…”
Byrne cut me off. He was going to do the talking. He reckoned he knew my mind better than I knew it myself.
“Yup. And if we do it tomorrow we’ll get sentences.”
“Yeah,” said Jeremiah with a knowing look.
Hmmm… I thought. This ought to be interesting. Works for me.
Mind you now, there are two new ones to my crew, and Sean and Jacob both have returned. Sean’s taking full advantage of three days of grace breaking into the school routine, but he’ll stop talking when reminded. David is in Third Grade, very quiet and watchful. When he grins I know he’s really pleased with something. It’s coming more often than not. Erika, also Third Grade, bubbles over with enthusiasm and wonders “how anyone puts up with so many boys.” I look at her and say, “You do it, too, don’t you?” These three days are a learning curve for her, too. Jacob, the oldest of the bunch, doesn’t need three days to break in. He knows the ropes and shows them by example.
Snack time rolled around today and the Twins just couldn’t help being themselves. That was all fine and dandy until I was again giving the crew their gentle reminder. Right on cue, Byrne leaned over to Jeremiah as I was speaking and began talking.
I looked at him, he looked at me, and I pointed toward our classroom. He walked the long walk back.
I will listen while my teacher is speaking. Seven times.
“I promised,” he said later through sobs. “I promised my dad I wouldn’t get into trouble.”
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Chief Justice John Roberts, although a strong opponent of abortion “rights,” has stated that he doesn’t foresee a time when Roe v. Wade will be overturned. It’s the “settled law of the land.”
This year a proposed constitutional amendment which would ban flag burning as a means of public expression fell just one vote short of passing. Considered by some as a means of free speech, flag burning is regarded by others as especially heinous during time of war.
These two issues, flag burning and abortion, when placed in juxtaposition reveal how convoluted our values truly are. Normally the trails of flag burning (free speech) and a woman’s right to abortion (by way of right to privacy) have little to do with each other. They are perhaps parallel within the Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments, but they don’t necessarily intersect. That is, until Country Music steps into the foray.
When Natalie Maines exercised her right to public speech and spoke against the Iraq War and President Bush, the marketplace reacted. Her group, the Dixie Chicks, lost millions in bookings, air play, and record sales. Now, I can’t and I won’t defend what
When Tim McGraw sang, “Red Rag Top”, a song about a “young and wild” couple who “did what they did” because they “decided not to have a child,” the marketplace barely hiccupped. The lyrics do not schwaffle. The young girl is as a “mother-to-be,” and she carries a child, not unidentified nebulous tissue. This reflects the dichotomy of thought found among many who consider abortion a permissible option. Even though they believe what is being carried inside the woman is a human infant, they will still proceed to terminate his life. The law of the land allows them this right. Although the song does express some remorse over the decision, abortion is still upheld. In fact, the song’s success may well be precisely because it allows the listener to take from it what he will, either a pro-choice or a regret-for-an-abortion message. How postmodern is that? So, McGraw's raking in the dough.
The dynamic message is this: It is less patriotic to burn a flag on a public street than to burn babies out of a mother’s womb.
Or maybe it’s this way: It’s more patriotic to a burn baby out of a mother’s womb than to burn a flag on a public street.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like burning flags as a means of public expression, especially during times of war. That is the time when our troops need a public display of support for them, and flag burning sends exactly the opposite. It is, if you will, a message of aid and comfort to the enemy. Specifically it says that the ideals for which Americans have stood and fought for are going up in smoke and dying with the embers and ashes of that burning flag. It is a cremation by effigy of the democratic dream for which this nation has fought and is fighting for. But what does it say of us as Americans when we defend the flag with great fervor on the one hand, only to applaud destroying our future on the other?
Women are the bearers of the future physically in a way no man can either be or portray. They give birth to future generations. Motherhood is the iconic symbol of a rich and vital future. It is not for idle whimsy that
Women who abort are mothers who kill their own young. These are women who by that very act state that the future has room for only a select few. These women are the arbiters of those who will be culled out for death. That is not the face of
Motherhood has its foundation in a God who gives gifts to men. After the first sin God told the first woman that pain would be increased in childbirth (Ge ). This was a blessing. She had been told to be fruitful and multiply (Ge ). Yet she sinned, and could expect all that to be taken from her. However, God mercifully told her that children would still come from her and her husband. For his part Adam showed how he received God’s words in what he named her. Eve means “mother of all living” (Ge ). Not only would all future generations of human life come from this one woman, but also one woman from out of all those future generations would be chosen to bear God’s Son. He would crush the head of their enemy, the serpent (Ge ). The future promised to Eve was met in Mary of Nazareth, the Blessed Virgin Mother. Because of Christ’s incarnation in Mary, a woman’s vocation is sanctified. The fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus, was sent to die for the sake of all the world in order that they would live eternally. Now every pregnancy ever since then is an icon of that one pregnancy still – a reminder to Satan of the One who overcame him on the cross. Abortion must be that much sweeter to him on that account.
Both flag burning and willful abortion intersect at one vital point: There is despair for the future. Flag burning says that the nation is headed in a direction that will lead to its destruction. When the future appears too bleak for either parents or the infant, abortion becomes the “logical” choice. In “Red Rag Top,” the couple chose abortion because “I was out of a job and she was in school/Life was fast and the world was cruel.” So, the infant paid the price of the parents' lousy choice of premature sex. That was an expensive lay. And the tote board just keeps on rackin' up each time the song plays, teaching its values to more and more listeners as it does.
Wherever for some there is no immediately self-gratified hope of a future, apparently the only option is to destroy any hope of a future for others – either burn a flag to symbolize the destruction of democracy or have an abortion, or both. Right now both represent the full-fledged “
But if you’re a Country singer, be sure which way you sing. God has His icons and foundations, and that’s all just fine and dandy, but we just won’t nevermind about Him anymore, will we, now? For good ole American Country singers and their fans the truly American way is that abortion is “in,” but you had best watch your mouth when it comes to walkin’ the patriotic line.
It just seems to be a bit hypocritical to me, that’s all.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Take Eat, Take Drink
The Lord’s Supper Through the Centuries
286 pages, including answer key
How has it happened that four little words, “This is My body,” have been so variously interpreted, resulting in such a myriad of applications and beliefs?
What is the doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper? From the Upper Room to its present-day setting on various altars, Ernest Bartels unravels the history behind this Sacrament, the various practices now in evidence and the doctrines which have resulted. Bartels presents a historical roadmap any novice can follow with ease, yet he is unflinchingly faithful to his own confession along the route. His markers are clear and obvious. Along the way the reader is able to understand where the various actors in history that shape the modern worship wars “fit.” Who was Luther? Zwingli? Bucer? Calvin? Did they affect any current denominations? How? Bartels makes the issue clear. Digging deeper, Bartels opens the history of terms like “closed” versus “close” communion. He also looks behind the issue of using individual cups over the common cup not only among Lutherans, but also among other denominations.
This book is written in a deceptively simple style. By that I mean this: The depth of Bartels’ insights and weight of his knowledge are revealed precisely by the fact that he could write in a manner that is accessible to a wide audience, much like Luther’s Small Catechism. This is a book that could be the source of much study and catechetical discussion in a congregation, especially one interested in the history of the early councils of the church. Bartels brings the reader full circle, uniting the present with the past as una sancta:
We have only the words of our Lord for our Christian life for our salvation. They are enough. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Christ’s words endure forever. That was certain for the early church and it is certain today.
Bartels, a native of Tecumseh, Nebraska, graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. He served congregations in Wisconsin and North Dakota. He held several advanced degrees and wrote numerous articles for publication.
Also posted at Luther Library.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Love Story, the 1970 tearjerker starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal left me cold. Its famous tagline, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” has irritated and confounded me to no end for these thirty-six years. If there is no “I’m sorry” spoken, then when will the “I forgive you be heard”?
Here’s a new movie to set things straight, Little Manhattan. There are no big time stars, and no illicit romances to draw fawning fans to ask for this little film. It has nothing more to offer than a simple tale of a young boy’s first-time love.
I won’t spoil the rest, but Little Manhattan is truly love put into practice. Gather the family and a bowl of popcorn – and look for those catechetical moments. Here is a wholesome movie done well.
Also posted at Luther Library.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Recent x-rays of my spine look like a zipper on LSD. God has such a sense of humor. After years of chiding others to “get a backbone,” mine is crumbling because of arthritis. Ascending stairs has become a fuggedaboudit activity. Descending is easier, but how does one descend without having first ascended? Rather than the pain being the worst part of it all, it is the fatigue. I am simply not accustomed to being bone-weary until I have put in a 12-hour day. Now it takes considerably less than that. The future holds major surgery, and not a pleasant one at that. But that’s down the road a bit.
Now John has been benefiting from this business. I can’t do as much shopping as I once did. My limit is three stores. Getting in and out of the car pays its toll on me, so by then it’s time to get on home.
Yesterday I spent time encased in an MRI tube. I under-rated my claustrophobic tendencies at first, but eventually stilled them by reciting the catechism. There is nothing like a bit of familiar litany to calm nerves.
It was the afternoon that brought relief and good news by way of the physical therapist. He hooked me up to a T.E.N.S. machine and let it do its thing. What a wonder! It was better than drugs. He assured me that there is a portable unit I can wear to use daily. This might increase endurance through the elimination of pain. What a wonder that would be. Watch out, world! I’m on my way back!
I didn’t ask if the TENS would fix me up enough to go sky diving. Of course, I’d probably drift off course a lot seein’s how I’m listin’ to the right as it is these days.
The Lord teaches us always to die so that He might live in us (2Cor 4:11).
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Now here’s a quote worth noting:
“The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country… I don't see why people care about patriotism.” Natalie Maines, Dixie Chicks
Read more at Michelle Malkin’s blog.
A cogent point is made at The Coalition of the Swilling.
Yes, it always comes back to McCarthy and Vietnam, that one-two combination of leftist martyrdom. Oh, I am called to task for a stupid comment! I'm being repressed! McCarthy! How dare people not buy my music because they think I'm an ass...Really, ladies, there is a difference between being a victim, and claiming the status of victimhood for oneself. The Dixie Chicks have chosen the course of the latter. What the Dixie Chicks are engaging in is consumer blackmail.
They have no more of a right to expect anyone to purchase their product for any reason than this country has a right to expect them to pick up a flag and wave it at every concert. And they better get used to it without recourse to martyrdom cheap shots.
Grow up and quit your whining, tootsies!
Monday, June 12, 2006
Emi had also seen the Roman Basilica, which was Constantine's throne room (on the left here). It is now a Lutheran church. That's her daddy walking down the right aisle.
At the local Dom, or cathedral, she also stood within feet of the seamless tunic of Christ, and inches of one of the nails from His cross (so they say.) However, she was most impressed with the dancing cat toy her grammy bought her for two euro, fifty- the type of toy we used to pick up for a few pfennig years ago. The cat "dances" when you press your thumb under the base of the thing. Don't ask for a better description. I'm at a total loss at present to provide one.
At any rate, how would any of you pastors like to preach with this as your view? It's a bit exaggerated, as the actual altar is that stone box sitting near the pews. This is taken from high above it near the shrine of the tunic. Keep in mind that tunic is enshrined behind you to give you strength in all you say and do. If that doesn't do it, then that nail is in the cathedral treasury off to your left. Failing that, one supposes thoughts of the remains of the Roman amphitheater just down the street would suffice. It could still be put back into use just in case you don't "get it right." How's that for a bit of encouragement?
As long as trust is placed where Christ has not given His Word, faith is not where He is. Then all one has is the Law. Pity that His Flesh and Blood are left uneaten and often eaten so capriciously, yet shreds of cloth and rusty chips of iron gather hushed and reverent crowds.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
One of the most sublime bits of humor yet to come along is Burger King’s newest commercial for its Texas Double Beef Burger.
Not only is the whole pitch a piece of Madison Avenue genius, it is also a slap in the jaw at feminist ideology. If you don’t recognize it, the tune is the anthem of women’s liberation, “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” recorded by Helen Reddy in 1972.
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
You can bend but never break me
'cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul
I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand
Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman
Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman
Here are real men finally dropping their “chic-food” patience while at the same time they are not putting it over on the women. Women, graze on greeneries and teensy portions if you want to, but give the guys something solid and enough to eat now and again! Men and women have different appetites and different appetite needs. In min
Thursday, May 25, 2006
My husband and I finally watched “Memoirs of a Geisha” one evening. It was a beautiful film. The costumes were rich, the acting was graceful. I couldn’t help but think it was a re-make of “Gigi,”. The only connection was that both movies concerned the training of young girls to be courtesans. In “Geisha” the young girl moved up from apprentice to full-fledged geisha when her virginity was sold to the highest bidder. The goal for both a Parisian courtesan and the geisha was to secure a benefactor, a patron who would provide for her. Marriage was not the intended outcome for these women. Geisha sure sounds prettier than shack-up-honey or kept woman, doesn’t it? But that’s what she is.
Chiyo/Sayuri was sold by her fisherman father to become a geisha. Her life was miserable, filled with little kindness. Treated as a slave, she was beaten for wrongs she had not committed. She had no future of her own, no hope for any better life. “Geisha” ends on a very pretty note. Sayuri not only attains her dream of becoming a celebrated geisha with a sponsor, he is also the one with whom she has been in love since she was a very young girl. This is a love story. Still, there will be no marriage.
As for Gigi, she hardly knew any better than to become a courtesan. Her mother and grandmother were both Parisian courtesans. It was the family business. Both her mother and grandmother were famous courtesans. Eventually the free-spirited Gigi also succeeds in becoming a real head-turning lady’s man. She is the envy of gay Paris club society when long-time friend Gaston debuts her at his side.
Yet Gigi breaks with family tradition when she refuses Gaston’s first offer, that of being simply her sponsor without the privileges of marriage. She will have none of it. Is that love, she asks him, to have her made a laughingstock by his eventual infidelity and to be then tossed out into the streets? To have their private life made public knowledge? To be treated as less than a wife?
Gigi’s grandmother and mother are devastated by Gigi’s refusal of Gaston’s proposition, only to be elated when he returns and proposes marriage. Gaston’s love for Gigi has flowered into repentance. There can be no illicit relationship with this one- or another now that he is to be a husband. The household shattered by grief and despair is resurrected in jubilation by the return of bridegroom for his bride.
Things are not the same for “Geisha.” She becomes the “half-wife” to the Chairman, his “wife of the night.” Sayuri offers us a disclaimer of sorts. She says that hers was not the tale of an empress or a queen, but of a geisha. So we should not be disappointed, she says.
OK, so what are we to make of “Geisha”? If it her story was not offered as a tale to elicit disappointment for her sake from us, what was the tale supposed to do? First, “Geisha” was based upon actual events. Second, empathy ought to at least allow us to consider the fact that Chiyo/Sayuri had no real choice in her fate; nine-year-olds who are sold off by their fathers to be geishas generally do not have a say in the matter. Likewise, Gigi had little to say in the course of her training as a Parisian courtesan.
So what is the big deal with this film, “Geisha”? Is it even fair to compare it to “Gigi,” which is fictional and culturally disassociated to it, as well?
Here’s the Big Deal: Did you put a price on your virginity?
I ask that seriously, but I honestly don’t want any real answers.
Virginity goes cheap these days. Usually goes for as low as a movie, burger, coke and fries. Maybe a shake. Or a pizza. Certainly not as high as the bid for Sayuri’s virginity. No sireee! The Baron paid enough for that piece to pay off all her debts, plus sock away a tidy sum. Let’s get real: A prostitute by any price is still a hooker even if she’s not a streetwalker. And what does that make the guy involved? So what does that make any gal who trades off for a burger and coke? Oh, I forgot. Youngsters in love? Not always. It is simply called “hooking up” on today’s campuses. That’s the terminology for quick, non-involved sex. Huh?
The irony of the term is priceless. It originates in Nena and George O’Neill’s book, Open Marriage, popular in 1972. (Sometimes it pays to be so ancient! I was there when this was all the craze!) Open Marriage was a feminist, liberal (redundant, I know) proposal for rescuing tired, boring marriages by- guess what- promiscuity. The idea was for each partner to seek out other partners, discover as many different “hook up” points about the others, and, well… relate. “Hooking up” has now devolved simply to mean one particular point of reference at which even dogs in heat casually passing each other on the street and never expecting to or even caring about seeing each other again will join themselves for a few brief moments. In other words, he’s got an “outie,” she’s got an “innie.” So they can hook up. That’s as far as the relationship goes. “Hooking,” and “hooker” also refer to that which some women are paid for with about the same emotional depth as the dogs in heat have encountered. How deliciously ironic!
Sayuri’s caveat that her tale was not that of wife or an empress tagged onto “Geisha” may have been correct insofar as the facts of the situation. However, in an arena that promotes the promiscuity of women and men, her words are hollow and her tale resounds as a promotion of more of the same. The most important line in the film was “Every step I have taken in my life has been to bring myself closer to you.” Yup. Love makes it all OK. So in the end of it all, “Geisha” is about choice. We are not all wives. We are not all empresses. But we all may choose. Choose your own path, women, and achieve your dream. Along the way, sell whatever commodity you have to the highest bidder.
What is the price of chastity? Gigi’s “No” still rings clearly nearly half a century later as witness against drivel like “Geisha.” It turned a courtesan into a wife, a gigolo into a husband, grief into jubilation. Quoting Roger Scruton, F. Carolyn Graglia (Domestic Tranquility; Spence Publishing, 1998. p. 344.) uses a marvelous term, “individualizing intentionality.” One who regards another in this light recognizes that one is an irreplaceable individual, not merely an instrument of sexual release. That one is to be known from the inside out, as a “creature who is part of oneself.” This is the Hebraic sense of knowing, as when a husband knew ([dy) his wife. “Individualizing intensity” aptly describes how God both set apart and pursued His wife, Israel (Ho 2:2; Ze 8:8). This is not the choice of the Bride, but of the Groom Himself. He chased and sought his intended until He made her His own.
Paul’s description of the Bridegroom, Christ, and His Bride flows from the gift of Baptism.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Eph 5:25-27
Virginity might last until marriage vows are spoken, but chastity goes before and remains after. The price for chastity is marked by Christ’s own. He remained the unspotted Lamb for our sakes in order to take our sin upon Himself at the cross and then gives His righteousness to us in Baptism (Ro 6:3-4). Not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death He redeemed us poor condemned persons by His flesh hung and blood poured out upon the cross. Christ takes a woman who has been soiled with sin- in Hosea God likens the church to a prostitute- washes her clean, and makes her His own chaste Bride. Not just as if she were sinless, but actually proclaims her to be sinless. What Jesus says is so is so. What He declares to be righteous is righteous. The Bride of Christ- men and women alike- are His baptized. She is His Queen, made so by His Father’s will.
“Geisha’s” value lies in its catechetical opportunity. In Women Who Make the World Worse, Kate O’Beirne exposes Rebecca Walker, the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker. She was recognized by Time magazine as one of the nation’s top 50 future leaders. Walker is routinely sought for speaking engagements on campuses as a guest lecturer. She and her lesbian partner are raising a son. She has edited an anthology, What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future. In her autobiography, Black, White & Jewish, she recounts her own first sexual encounter at eleven, and her abortion at fourteen. She frequently lectures at events like San Jose’s 2004 Girls for a Change Summit. Against this tide of moral influence, who is teaching our children? What is teaching our children? How are they being catechized? “Little Blue” – CPH now features it in red leather – hardly gets equal opportunity, especially if parents remain silent.