Saturday, November 08, 2008

Homecoming!


He's home! All of him, too. The whole company arrived at Ft. Campbell shortly before 7:00am yesterday. Johnny called right away, and I asked if he had seen the girls yet. He said they'd arranged for a babysitter because Emi was anxious about school. She's line leader this week. Her birthday was last Sunday. She's five now, so she was line leader all week. She had a job to do. She needed to do it! She'd see Daddy when she got home at lunch time. That would be about the time he was processed through and all formalities were over anyway, so Johnny understood. Lianna was just getting over a bad cold. She didn't need to be out in the cold, damp morning air.




Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation: praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, heavens, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all the waters above the heavens, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, powers of the Lord, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, sun and moon, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, stars of heaven, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every wind, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, fire and heat, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, cold and warmth, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, dew and snow-storm, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, frost and cold, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, ice and snow, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, nights and days, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, light and darkness, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, lightning and cloud, praise and glorify him for ever!
Let the earth bless the Lord: praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every plant that grows, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, springs of water, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, whales, and everything that moves in the waters, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every kind of bird, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all animals wild and tame, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, O Israel, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, priests, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, his servants, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the upright, praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, faithful, humble-hearted people, praise and glorify him for ever! Daniel 3: 57- 87

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Kindergarten Activism

Here ya go. Now sexual choice is a matter for Kindergarten Activism. Tell me...what of those kindergartners who didn't sign the pledge? Mine certainly would not have. Granted, the school finally said it was inappropriate for students of this age to sign a pledge like this. But that begs the question. Is it even appropriate for children of any age to sign such a pledge?

Since when does sexual choice lifestyle get the privileged consideration for rudeness? I teach school, and I teach my students not to call anyone any name but the one their families call them. It's simple: If you wouldn't like to be called by that name, don't call others by that name. It's a matter of politeness regarding all persons, not singling out one section of society.

But this is the lesson of liberation socio-political ideology, which then dressed up Doc Martins, spiked her hair, and demanded equal rights--especially because she could control the produce of her own body. Well now she or he have that so well under their own power that dads can be moms and the rest is so confusing I can't even begin to untangle it all out. The most important lesson learned from all this is that those who have been oppressed cannot themselves be oppressors; therefore, they can demand such privileges and deal out consequences to those who don't conform.

I first saw glimmers of it when my daughter was in sixth grade. She was asked to design a coat-of-arms representing herself. She was given a piece of paper with the shield already copied onto it. She was to divide the shield into six parts, each one representing a certain aspect of herself. The top right was reserved for her "sign."

"What's my sign?" she asked me.

I pulled out her Baptism certificate and showed it to her. On it was a cross, with a shell and three drops of water. She was happy, and ran off the copy it. Knowing her teacher might have questions about it, I explained to Jane that she was a baptized child of God. Her Baptism into Christ is all she needs to keep her all her days. She doesn't need the Zodiac, and our family won't use the Zodiac to describe its members. We are members of the Body of Christ, so the cross describes us.

Jane's teacher called me regarding the project. She didn't quite understand what Jane was telling her, so she wanted to ask me. I thought that was very kind of her. But by the time we finished our conversation she was furious. No, I would not relent. Jane would not have any sort of Zodiac sign on her coat-of-arms. The cross was her sign, not anything from the Zodiac.

Now, I'm not saying Jane's teacher had ever been oppressed. I don't know if she ever actually was. Liberation socio-political ideology filtered into teaching so that the central idea of the lesson was lost for the sake of the ideology of the teacher. The Coat-of-arms was supposed to be an expression of who each child was. In my child' case, it quickly became an issue of whether or not she subscribed to the Zodiac. She'd best not be truly Christian, because that didn't conform to the teacher's idea of who she ought to be.

That's what really going on with these "pledge cards." The teacher is demanding her students conform to her image of what a polite child should be. Such a child doesn't use certain words at his age. OK, but what about overall name-calling? If the goal is to stop name-calling, then pledge cards aren't needed at all, at any age. Neither would club meeting for certain select groups, or "coming out days." The whole thing is racially bogus.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Fireproof Reprise

In one scene Caleb, the character played by Kirk Cameron, is forced to make a decision between his internet addiction (which is really an addiction to pornography) and his covetous lust for a boat and his responsibilities as a husband. He unplugs the monitor, takes it outside to a table, and smashes it with a baseball bat. He does the same with the CPU. He leaves a nice bouquet of roses for his wife where the computer once sat with a note, “I love you more.” The money he’d saved goes to purchase a hospital bed and wheelchair for his wife’s mother so she can remain at home in comfort following her stroke. Kleenex time, right?

Well, let’s examine this some. It is true that the couple needed to stop this silly game of your money, my money, your bill, my bill. Marriages like that often indicate that the unity of the flesh is understood only to mean sexual partnership, not also human partnership and unity. Marriage isn’t meant to be sexual convenience. That is not the one flesh union God is speaking of. Marriage is the melding of two lives into one, although two persons are not absorbed into each other. Identities are retained. So when “Caleb’s money” paid for Katherine’s parents’ needs, it was actually their money being spent for a greater need than both of their own.

Perhaps Caleb needed to toss out the computer in order to stop his addiction. However, a more potent message was given when he did: It was the computer’s fault, so kill the computer! Where was the killing of the flesh in Caleb? Where was the confession of this sin from Caleb, and to whom? It was nowhere shown. In fact, in the scene of his final breakdown with his father along that lakeside trail, the song heard playing as the two were praying and talking had a refrain with words along this line, “waiting for Jesus...” Waiting for Him where? Like Simon Burch did when he shouted his confession to the sky and waited for an absolution that never came?

So the computer was offensive and had to be thrown out. It caused debauchery. Just like wine causes drunkenness and had to be tossed out of the Holy Supper of our Lord. It wasn’t until after Mr. Welch came along that even Baptists found justification for that, and rationalization for Christ not really serving wine at the marriage in Cana. What’s next? Obesity is the biggest health problem in America today. Bread causes obesity. So now we need to deep six the bread from Christ’s institution? Better yet, let’s find justification for hoodia as the real deal in the wafer served.

When Paul tells his hearers that being drunk with wine is debauchery, he does not also say “Don’t drink it,” for that would be giving a new command–one that his Lord had not given. Jesus tells us to drink wine, at least in His Holy Supper. Paul also says that we are to fill ourselves with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is then he describes the relationship of husband and wife as an icon of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the Church. The relationship of husband and wife originated from the a bloodied side in the First Adam as he lay sleeping just as the relationship of Christ and His Bride arose from His bloodied side as He lay sleeping in the grave. The church is recalled to this each time she communes on Christ's Body and Blood in the bread and wine. Husbands and wives are recalled to this as they submit to each other as unto Christ.

In one remarkable scene in the movie, Caleb goes to his friend after his faith breakthrough and says, “I’m in.” The friend finally understands and responds, “You’re my brother from another Mother, which means we have the same Father.” I wanted to throw that non-existent Kleenex box at the screen and shout, “So why don’t you baptize babies?” St. Cyprian wasn’t speaking of a Mother who gives birth by air and sunshine. He was speaking of a Mother who gives birth by water and the Word. Yet this is denied to infants and its salvific work is denied by any who receive it at all by those who produced the movie Fireproof . “We know baptism doesn’t save,” is a commonly heard refrain. “It’s man’s work.”

It’s in the presupposition. Repeat after me: It’s in the presupposition. It is not what goes into but what comes out of... It is not what goes into but what comes out of... But how can we expect those who deny Baptism to infants to produce anything better? The answer is, we can’t. It hearkens back to the fact that it's because they cannot see that infants need Baptism. Jesus came for sinners, not the righteous. That gets in the way of going to one’s death with “my faith” being the last one good work held tightly in the hand before the throne of grace. The irony of plucking out the right eye that offends is the left one remains to pick up the slack. Gal 3:27; Col 3:9; Ro 13:14, all speak to putting on Christ. All Christ, nothing but. Our weak faith is no match for His one sentence from the cross, “It is finished.”

Fireproofing is wet work, daily and much.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fireproof


An email this week from a deaconess colleague touted the movie Fireproof as a “must see.” “Bring a box of Kleenex,” it suggested. My husband is with his mother and sister this weekend, so I took a friend along. A good thing to do, too. If I’d taken along that box I might have thrown it at the screen. She’d have stopped me. We probably had the only dry eyes in the place.

Fireproof is the production of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Many of its members appear in the movie.

Kirk Cameron did as fine a job of acting as he can do. He plays a firehouse captain whose marriage is suffering from neglect. Erin Bethea is cast well as Catherine, his wife. There are some good firehouse humorous moments, as well as some well-played drama.

The marriage scenes are typical and can be related to by many who see the film. There is not a stretch-n-leap to fit oneself from the theater seat into the situation on the screen. The language was accurate and comfortable to the ears. The movie drew the watcher into the context of the setting and pulled him along, “Yeah, that’s how it is.” The defining line for divorce was: when you can get respect everywhere except at home, it’s time to call it quits. That’s an all too familiar refrain.

So far, so good. Then dad steps in with a challenge—a forty day challenge. Now why does that start to make the hairs on the back of my neck creep up? What is this? Forty Days of Purpose Marriage? And that’s what it turns out to be.

Fireproof is connected with the book, The Love Dare, which is a forty-day plan for re-igniting marriage. Samples of chapters can be downloaded in PDF files at their website. Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan is presented as a moral tale demonstrating racial tolerance and mercy. If Christ’s essential gift of mercy is absent in His parable, then readers can be assured that He is absent in the larger theme of the book, marriage. And He is.

Marriage is spoken of as a social arrangement established by God, but Paul’s greater point that marriage is an icon of the church, Christ’s own Body, is not mentioned at all. To be fair, I’ve not read the whole book. Still, of what I have read, nothing flows in and out of Christ. Rather, all is centered in and out of decisions one makes for himself to do for another and for God.

And that’s the biggest error of the movie. At the “final breaking point” for the character played by Cameron, his father is leading him to realize that he has not kept God’s Law. The Law is being proclaimed in all its severity. “How can I go on loving someone who keeps rejecting me?” Cameron asks. His father is now standing near a cross, built near a lakeside trail. It is then Cameron realizes there is a connection between Christ and his marriage. His father fills in the gap, and does so beautifully while proclaiming the Gospel in all its sweetness, “God doesn’t love you because you are lovable, but because He loves you. He loves you because His Son died for you.” Then it all comes crashing down as the Gospel is ripped away and everything is left in utter despair, “But son, you’ve got to decide…” followed by a litany of what must be done to be acceptable or to let Jesus in. Shoulda known. Wasn’t it daddy who first told his son, “Well, you haven’t opened the door very much to let Jesus in, either.”

Faith flows in and out of Christ; faith is not a decision made by us.

Marriage is hard work, just like the movie said. Too hard for a quickie fix like the forty day challenge of The Love Dare.

Marriage is precious. So precious, Paul says, that husbands ought to treat their wives as those for whom they would die for, just as Christ died for the church. Fireproof was right on this point. Any “parasite” on your marriage, that which is attached to that sucks the life out of your marriage, needs to be gotten rid of. But sinners that we are, once that parasite is gone, a void is felt. What will replace it? Only living in Christ’s forgiveness, daily drowning the Old Man, and regular sustenance from His altar will provide the means for surviving that.

This is not to say there is no room for books that offer advice on ways to be kind and show mercy to your spouse. The Love Dare says, “If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it.” Wouldn’t it be better to have one’s reason and intellect conformed and informed by Christ so that it is led by Him? Without that, there can be no demonstration of selfless, sacrificial love, for those belong to Him. Apart from the certainty of the Gospel, giving up things for someone else, holiness living, and decision living leads to the despair of uncertainty and hopelessness.

From The Love Dare:

Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and to make it through to the end. Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For myself, I’ll take Psalm 51 over The Love Dare. God took responsibility for my heart in Christ, even before He began creating the world. To say “I love you” is to choose to love beforehand. To learn what love is we look to Christ and His Father. To know what marriage looks like, we first look at Christ and His Bride.

As for Fireproof, the movie, watch it if you wish, but be forewarned of its decision theology. As for Fireproofing a marriage, there truly is a better way. Instead, why not remain wrapped in Christ first by Baptism, and second by marriage. Then daily live in that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Answering the Big Question

St. Ted posted a comment that was a question. "Can I take you off my prayer list now?" In brief, "Yes."

I knocked out better than a couple of miles in less than 30 minutes today while the kids were pre-occupied with Latin. I couldn't have done that pre-cardiac stent, and would have blamed it on the back (scoliosis) and who-knows-what. I didn't know what was keeping me so tired, and it was quite puzzling. I didn't like it, either. Now I know. Now it's fixed. Now I can keep up.

And no, I didn't nearly collapse afterward, either. I was still rarin' to go for it.

It is bedtime now, though. Morning comes early for me.

Thanks for askin'. Night, night.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jumping Ship and Joining In

All this talk of late regarding which societies and organizations I might belong to has gotten me thinking I might as well come clean.

I belong to as few of them as I can get away with. I don’t care for them. They add extra Rules & Time to my life—specifically time required keeping up with the Rules for each organization.

I was a member of the Wittenberg Trail for a while. It’s a good place to meet and talk. But I found I had to leave for the same reason I couldn’t comply with my daughter’s and granddaughter’s wishes to be on Facebook or put up a MySpace. It takes time away from other things I need to be doing. There are still some great books I want to read, and it takes me a long time to read. I still have teaching to do, and I can’t be spending a great deal of my home time on the computer instead of with my husband. There is a good reason why I’ve been able to blog to freely this week, the first week of school. So, I’m no longer a member of the WT.

My father taught me early not to join in with cliques. Looking back now that my son’s in the Army I can see how right he was. Army life is filled with cliques, from the Masons to any tiny sub-social group you can imagine. Johnny was in the Navy before he joined the Army. While on the now-decommissioned Belleau Wood, an LHA-3 “Gator Freighter”, he counted no less than five gangs. He’s not a joiner, either, and it’s done him well.

Of course, cliques and gangs are not organizations and associations. I do belong to a select few. I’m a member of the Concordia Deaconess Conference. The women of the CDC are very precious to me. I haven’t been able to attend the annual meetings in quite a long while, so they probably don’t realize that. Their schedule and mine scarcely seem to coincide. While they do have a set of Rules, it is in the form of a Code of Ethics. It’s still Law, but Law in which every Deaconess should be abiding anyway. It simply covers things like being faithful to the altar of Christ, remaining faithful to one's consecration vows, and wearing the Deaconess garb.

I’m also a rostered member of the LCMS because I am a deaconess commissioned in the LCMS. Ma MO considers me to be a Commissioned Minister. She can think what she wants of me, but I’m just a plain old deaconess/teacher. I’m no minister at all. I certainly wish my own Ma would think better of me than that!

The AAA is another membership I hold—don’t leave home without it. I don’t. They came out to the house to fix a tire last month after my granddaughter clipped a storm drain just around the corner and tore a tire. Nice folks.

The Libraries at CTSFW and CSL were both kind enough to give me cards. I’m hold one of CSL’s books hostage until I finish reading it. It’s a doozy!

I’m a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Brandon, Mississippi. The Rev. J. Richard Sawyer admits me to the altar there.

When the Augustana Ministerium opened up to laity, I became a member there. Their rules were easy.

I am listed as neither Republican nor Democrat, nor even Independent. I vote whichever way I chose. That may sound ridiculous, but these days even Independents are a block unto themselves.

This week I became a card-carrying member of a new group. After being implanted with this doohickey I’ll need to carry the card for it forever, and ever, and ever, amen.

I'm a member of the Body of Christ. Have been since August 3, 1950. That's why all other memberships are just plain skubalon compared to that (Phil 3:8).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tree Hugging, Money Loving

A friend of mine passed on an e-News letter from the LCMS. It had a special “Focus on Workers in the Church.”

It was so special. It included a Bible verse, of course. “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:8 (ESV)

Too bad the rest of the letter didn’t stay in context with Christ’s parable. Instead we were treated to a piece from Psyche and Spirit titled “The Thing About Trees.”

The short essay invited us to commune with trees and receive the benefits of being in their presence.

Summer is a great time to be outdoors and commune with nature. In the past few years, Japanese researchers have verified what most of us know with certainty - that there are significant psychological benefits to being in the woods. Bless them. But rather than sit at my computer and read their research, I'll try to get outside and find some trees to hang out with so I can experience it myself. Whether being in the forest feels creepy and strange or majestic and inspiring, it is the community of trees, the composite, which helps us feel that we are in the midst of what is greater than ourselves. A community of living things so thick and vast that we fear we could even get lost in it, entering farther and farther into our own and the collective unconscious - the thing of fairytales and great adventures. In our part of the country, many men and women, find greatest peace sitting for hours in tree stands, ostensibly waiting for animals to pass.

Now, this Miss’ippi (Colorado born, Germany raised, Arkansas/Texas livin’, Utah toted, Memphis hailin’) gal don’t need any Japanese researcher to tell her that being outdoors is the best cure for whatever ails her. That’s what God created gardening for—especially azaleas.

And there isn’t anything like a vast Rocky Mountain forest— or a German one like pictured above—to make one aware of what C. S. Lewis called the Numinous Other. He’s the one who is Greater Than Ourselves, who makes the forest feel creepy and strange. We know He’s watching. We can feel Him. But when you get right down to the bare bones of it, the Numinous Other is just more Law. Feeling Him doesn’t bring comfort. He causes the hairs on our neck to rise. We are in awe of Him. We know we don’t want to see Him face-to-face, at least not without a mediator. He isn’t the Savior.

The rest of the LCMS eNews letter had info about financial matters, managing debt and so forth. I can’t fathom that verse Mt 13:8 has anything to do with taking a walk in the woods and financial management, unless it is this way: “Take a walk in the woods, clear your head, and then go clear up your financial management.” Now that's just plain eisegetical silliness.

Jesus' parable and its context and its use in this letter have lost any relationship to each other entirely. Perhaps it’s that 2,000 year gap we’ve got to span. I reckon nowadays that parable refers to sowing money wisely? Maybe this is the new LCMS parable for financial investment:

A church worker took a walk in the woods and examined the beauty of her surroundings. She marveled at how the roots tangled over rocks and broke up the soil before the lofty trees finally took flight to the heavens above. Sitting among the glories of the trees, and the beauties of the flowers, she could feel the soft breeze of the wind. It was almost creepy. Besides, break time was over, so she beat it back to her desk before she got fired.

Duly refreshed, she took another look at her finances. She invested some of her finances in savings accounts where it earned less than prime rate. She invested other money in poorly held stock accounts where they soon failed. Other money she invested in a rising artist who ran off with his homosexual lover and all her investments. Other moneys she invested wisely in secure bonds, some producing at 6.2 over prime, others at 7.9 over prime, and still others at 8.5 over prime. (Gimme a break if I get this wrong. I don’t know financial terminology.)

OK, so is that how we are to read this verse in context with this letter? Otherwise I don’t know how it even fits!

A walk in the forest is a tremendous way to find temporal respite for the body and mind, but it does nothing for the eternal soul. For that, take along a small Bible, too. Meditate on God’s Word while among those things He created. The earth can inform you that there is a Creator; only God’s Word can inform you of your status before Him, and of His intentions toward you in Christ. Then do not separate yourself from the community of saints in worship gathered around the altar of Christ receiving His Gifts in Holy Absolution, Baptism, His Body and Blood through the bread and wine, and in the Word spoken in your ears by the pastor.

Financial matters are managed after one has been first fed from the Tree that gives eternal Life, forgiveness and salvation. Just as our First Parents ate from the fruit of a Tree and died, so now we eat of the Fruit another Tree and live, that of the Cross. Those who are first in Christ make better decisions as Christians. I think this is what the LCMS wanted to say. They just somehow couldn’t find the words for it. They got tangled up in Japanese researchers instead of going to the Source Himself. Whenever Jesus went off by Himself for refreshment by communing with (praying to) Someome, He communed with His Father, not trees. His prayers always began with His Father's Word. There's the lesson to learn from.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reading Wisely

We’re going to do this one more time. Folks, it’s been a week which God has called me to repentance in more ways than one, and I’m a bit tired tonight. And it is also a week in which it takes me much time to sift things through. Bear with me. So let’s get this straight finally.

Does it matter at all whether the New American is the voice of JBS as long as it publishes the facts correctly and without bias? As for the friend I mentioned who reads the New American, she did know it was from the JBS, contrary to what I presumed. But did it really matter whether the story came from a JBS source or the AP as long as the facts were reported correctly?

I don’t think so. In fact, while that’s important to this particular issue, it’s not so important in all issues. Another dear friend of mine cautioned me years ago, “Learn to argue their case as well as your own.” That simple Aristotelian logic. That can’t be accomplished without reading widely, and from the other person’s own perspective. But beware! It might get you called out as something you aren’t. Don’t take offence, though. It’s simply a misunderstanding on the other person’s part.

I have a whole section on my bookshelves dedicated to feminist literature. When my husband is looking for something to read he knows not to search there. He questions why I purchase “that stuff.” He knows it often makes me angry when I read it. Still, it constantly leads me back to the Gospel because the errors are so glaring. To read those femmies doesn’t make me one, even though folks coming into the house would certainly have cause to suspect it of me by looking at the bookshelves.

I have Gnostic literature, and I’ve read Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I have another section of my library filled with Eastern Orthodox materials. I read the Ancient Fathers, preferring them over more recent offerings. Still, I’m not turning East (despite my icons!), nor am I an atheist.

I found agreement in my position on temporary restraining orders from a feminist author. She had a different presupposition, of course.

Why should we limit ourselves by what we read? Rather, should we not remain “un-parochial” in our minds by reading as wide a variety of materials as we can? I say this within certain limits, of course. I don’t mean to fill my mind with overtly pornographic or vile materials. But what I do mean to say is that just because a magazine is associated with a certain (politically objectionable) organization does not mean it should not be read. And reading the materials doesn’t mean one will necessarily be tainted with the philosophy of that organization. The ministerial use of one’s reason says that the Holy Spirit first informs what is received according to God’s Word. Therefore, what is read even from secular sources is filtered through the lens of Christ.

So I plan to read widely, and read wisely. And I’ll reference whomever I doggone well want to as long as they have something worthwhile to say, something ridiculous to comment on, or. . . well, you get the point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mea Maxima culpa!

Mea Maxima culpa! That’s Latin for “My GREATEST fault.”

In my last post I referenced an article from the New American without researching any further into the background of the New American or any further developments of the case being discussed. On the first point, it turns out that the New American is the voice of the John Birch Society. That’s not an organization I consider to be either reliable or to which I’d have my name attached. I received the article via email from a valued friend and considered it trustworthy on that basis alone. I doubt she even realized the connection with JBS. My failure was in looking any further beyond that.

On the second point, Colleen Nestler’s restraining order against David Letterman was eventually vacated as frivolous. That, too, should have been reported.

However much I failed in these two points, though, they do not detract from the overall message of what I had to convey. Consider these statements:

From ifeminists .com, written by Wendy McElroy,

In Oregon, DivorceNet provides advice on TROs. As in most states, an applicant need only assert a “fear” of violence even if none has occurred. Some applications can be made by telephone.

Wikipedia notes:

Volokh's colleague, David Kopel, used the case as an opportunity to condemn the restrictions Federal Temporary Restraining Orders place on their targets in terms of self-defense, and the “feminist community” that supports such restrictions and encourages “the authorities always to ‘believe the victim’ who complains of intimate partner abuse.’ Kopel believes that the case shows that such restraining orders are issued too readily and are too restrictive.

McElroy strikes at the issue with clarity and acute insight:

The seeming ease with which TROs are issued constitutes a problem for those who wish all restraining orders to be taken seriously. Any court order that can be obtained over the phone by stating a fear, or picked up at Window 3 in a little over an hour, trivializes the process.

But a TRO is not trivial. It is a legal constraint upon another human being’s freedom. It should be issued only in the presence of a real threat. False or frivolous applications should be viewed in the same manner as are false police reports.

False police reports—much like Potiphar’s wife’s report to the palace guards against Joseph—still result in the restraint of a person’s freedoms when they are received as though they are the truth. This is why this issue is one of the Eighth Commandment.

It is sad that we Lutherans no longer read the Apocrypha as often or as eagerly as we once did in Luther’s day. The books serve well as devotional material, to teach the soul and train it well for spiritual warfare. Luther found the story of Susanna a good illustration of the Eighth Commandment, and used it as such in his Catechism.

So while I do not stand by my previous source, I do stand by what I wrote. The facts of Colleen Nestler’s TRO against David Letterman can be verified through several resources. The New American need not be one. I should have also included the conclusion to the story. My apologies for not doing so. But unless convinced I’m wrong on other points, I’ll not apologize for anything else I wrote. There are two sides to every story, no matter who’s telling the tale.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Restraining Original Sin


An article from the New American barely gave me pause. It should have, but it didn’t. In various and sundry ways I was prepared for it.

Along the pathway here and there I was told, “If a woman comes to you and says she has been abused, take it as the truth.” The first time I heard it I took a deep breath, pondered it for a moment, considered my station in life, and let the situation stew for the while. (Don’t let the floor hurt some of you on the way down in your laughter.)

It would be twice more that the same phrase would hit my ears before I was in a position I could respond. “Excuse me. Are we saying that original sin has been suspended in women?”

Ah, the fury that was unleashed by that! Women receive abuse, and that’s the truth. Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

Now, it is a fact that when a woman is abused and finally cries out for help she is in a dire predicament. If she is not believed, more abuse is heaped upon her. Those who would be her helpers now join her abuser as being an offender against her. This is especially painful for women who have suffered familial sexual abuse. Family members who do not believe her instead become her accusers—of tearing apart the family needlessly.

It is also a fact that when a wife has suffered the abuses of her husband she too often requires much courage to escape from him. The circumstances may not be dramatic. They may not always involve children. Yet they always require the courage to confront one’s abuser and demand to be treated better.

So when a woman come forward and says she has been abused, she must be treated as if she is telling the truth. All care and caution must be exercised for her safety, and that of her children. Listen to her, counsel her, provide for her. However, the ear must be an open one, not a closed one.

There is always another person involved, the one she has accused. According to the Eighth Commandment, he deserves a hearing also. I didn’t ask if original sin had been suspended in women just to be a thorn in some folks’ side. The answer I received didn’t settle me. There was an insistence on listening to the women, because “In this case [abuse] no, women never lie.”

I beg to differ, and did. I cited precedence, and the discussion ended. Potiphar’s wife made use of the same deceit (Gen 39:7-15) the New American article warns us against. One of the lies of liberalism is that those who have been abused cannot themselves be abusers. It is also one of the great lies of feminism: Women cannot be abusers, or sexual harassers; they’ve suffered too much of the same from men. In fact, they are the arbiters of the abuse and sexual harassment through its definition, "whenever you feel threatened by another person's authority." I reckon a TV signal is enough of a threat to effect a restraining order.

So the question is still asked: Has original sin been suspended? If so, then Jesus is not needed, for He only came for sinners (Mt 9:13).

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mama Mia!



Yesterday we went out to see Mama Mia! and have dinner out. We’d already seen the latest Batman release—if you’ve not seen it, it’s a good one!

In a word, Mama Mia! was fun. A friend of mine had warned that it was “estrogen-based” and “overflowing with feminist sensibilities.” That wasn’t a surprise. The commercials pretty much gave that one away.

What was a surprise is, given that estrogen-feminist foundation, that Mama Mia! is a classic fairy tale with a bit of a twist. The Grimm Brothers liked to convey truth in their stories. So be cautious when the sisterhood spins a tale for you. It has the classic elements:

Girl is oppressed by evils

Girl is rescued by rich prince who returns to her side

Then a twist:

When the springs poke through the mattress, anything goes.

So let me get this straight… (Oops, gotta watch the use of dot, dot, dot. No double entendres intended here.) The message of feminism now this: The Autonomous Wonder Woman icon (career, babies, big house, husband and all the candy that supports this lifestyle) of feminism is by and large a failure. Does it break apart by middle age, or is it not achieved at all? Sophie rejects not only her mother’s choice of single motherhood, but also reveals the emptiness of one of her “father’s” own marriage because he didn’t enter into it with one to whom he was whole-heartedly committed. Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) own capitulation to feminist ideology is revealed later, of course, but that was increasingly expected.

Granted there is an ironic inconsistency in the title “Autonomous Wonder Woman” for someone who has both a husband and children. But if we grant that even among those who consider marriage to be a 50%-50% proposition rather than a 100%-100% vocation, then from the get-go neither is either giving nor receiving the best from the other. Something is always held back, much like Cain with his sacrifice rather than Abel’s with his. Feminism advocates the former, Christianity teaches the latter.

The point that nearly slid by in Mama Mia! was the undercurrent running like a riptide. Donna (Meryl Streep) wants rescue. A proper one is suggested by her friends—from a wealthy male which would put Donna back into the position of every classic attribute of male dominance that traditional feminism openly abhorred (although insidously appreciated). The fact that Donna’s rescuer shares her dream, and has from its beginning, enhances his willingness to rescue her. But that doesn’t answer the essential feminist dilemma. Is autonomy worth sacrificing for the sake of security? Is autonomy only for the young woman?

Apparently when her back is against a mattress with springs poking through it, feminism has two answers. What’s up with that? Same old, same old.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Additional Comment

Ain't it great we have a pastor who requires the daddies to be present for their child's catechesis prior to admittance to the altar, wherever possible?

He's not alone. It's a growing trend among faithful pastors.

Anonymous Fatherhood



A friend sent me the above photo. It was titled “Terror Strikes Harlem.” While there are a variety of socio-political facts that led to this obviously photo-shopped social commentary (the rise in absentee father hood among African-American males in the last decades), there was also a deeper theological commentary hidden within. While perhaps not immediately noticeable in the size of the icon on this blog site, the sign on church in the background identifies it as Lutheran. An alternate title might be, “Terror Strikes Lutheran Catechesis.”

My own children are giggling behind their hands right about now. Their father worked shift work in order to put clothes on their backs, bread in their mouths, and keep a roof over their heads. He was often at work when they came home from school, asleep when they awoke in preparation for an evening shift, and worked days on Sundays. So where was he when it came time to their catechesis? In fact, he often argued that he liked the Navajo way: Children, particularly the males, were best kept under the care of the mother for seven years, and then were sent to their fathers. He changed their diapers and fed them bottles, but right now they can’t remember it. Ain’t that the way of it?

There is a certain wisdom in that Navajo way. For, it perceives that moms stayed near the home and hearth, teaching the littlest ones from the very cradle the ways of the faith while men defended the home and put meat on the table. This is not to say the fathers are absent from or are free to absent themselves from the responsibility of the catechesis of the home. When mothers catechize their children, they are speaking in the stead of their husband and the father of the home—and at his behest and with his blessing. This assumes that father and mother are of one mind with regards to matters of the Faith, and in truth whenever possible, it is the father who leads the catechesis in the home no matter how old the children. Luther gets it right when he heads each Chief Part, “As the head of the family should teach them to his household…” By that he didn’t mean that 1Cor 11:4 is undone as a matter of “quaint Pauline tradition.” Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother, and Paul commends this (2Ti 1:5). That doesn’t mean that God’s order for households is undone. The Fourth and Sixth Commandments still hold for Christians.

Women’s Lib undid all that, donchaknow. The Pill and abortion and we can control our own bodies because they are ours and not anyone else’s and that entire socio-political machination to sustain it. Set women free to be as depraved as men could be in their lowest instead of being the ones who lifted men up civilizing them. (What an icon of the Church that is! Whoever does not have the Church as his Mother cannot have God as his Father. With the feminization of society and the church, daddies are mommies, mommies are daddies, and God has breasts! That’s not a new Christianity; that’s idolatry.) Now men can wear high heels as well as women and women can show off their bare fannies on the streets as well as men—and their bare breasts—and still cry and weep because the streets are simply NOT SAFE any longer for man, woman, child, nor beast. Modesty is as quaint as that antiquarian Pauline tradition, and as practical as that Germanic monk’s Catechism.

Unless we use it, that is. Daily and much, for we sin daily and much. I cannot encourage it enough. The beauty of it can only be known through its continued use. We break it down into simple “chunks” every day:

M Commandments & Apostles’ Creed

T Commandments & Lord’s Prayer

W Commandments & Baptism

Tr Commandments & Confession

F Commandments & Lord’s Supper

I don’t know the circumstances of the original photograph before it was photo-shopped. I don’t know why those folks were running as they were on the lawn of that Lutheran Church. Perhaps the Ablaze! ™ promoter was coming ‘round? Who knows? Photo-shopped as it is, it’s an icon for us to learn from.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Liturgy, Fatherhood, and Secularism

Pr. Sawyer is leading us through a study of the liturgy on Sunday mornings. It is a Power Point presentation with video. Sunday morning we watched a Shabbat in a Jewish home. The most striking fact of it was how it was the *head* of the household, the *father*, who lead the prayers, and conducted the catechetical meal. It was all quite mindful of Luther's instructions regarding the use of the Catechism, "As the head of the family teach his household..." Liturgy begins in the Divine Service where the Holy Spirit has called and gathered the household of God the Father, the ecclesia, to be taught by the Living Voice of His Son, Christ. But it doesn't remain there. The Liturgy of the Divine Service becomes the service of vocation, Christ in service to neighbor. This is the ecclesia sent out by the Holy Spirit in their daily lives.

With all the hoopla of "Batman" lately, here is a perspective worth noting. It describes well what has become of the sacred office of fatherhood when it is taken outside of God's sacramental use of marriage and the home, and thus in Christ. Alexander Schmemann wrote, “Just as Christianity can– and must–be considered the end of religion, so the Christian liturgy in general, and the Eucharist in particular are indeed the end of a cult, of the ‘sacred’ religious act isolated from, and opposed to, the ‘profane’ life of the community.” Secularism, then, is the end of Christianity.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Teaching the Apochrypa

Do any of you pastors catechize your congregation on the Apochrypha? It would seem to me that if not, once again this is a bit of "lost Confession." By that I mean, what is good and right is lost to the dustpile of history. When attempts to recover it are made, it is done so only with great pain and effort, much like with the recovery of the practice of Private Confession among us.

The Apochrypha is often labeled as "books that don't belong in the canon," when quite properly they *do* belong there, but properly used and understood--just as the antilegomena are. In fact, the antilegomena are called the apochryphal books of the New Testament by some resources (Chemnitz). Other books clearly do not belong in the canon; their heretic influences are so strong inclusion precludes inclusion. Still, the Apochypha *may* be included with caution, and has been. They are considered good books, albeit not entirely reliable. So they may be used devotionally.

So why teach the Apochrypha? First, for the reason stated above. Hebrews 11:35 makes a reference that seems to be resolved only by turning to the story of the seven martyrs in 2Maccabees 7. While a doctrine wouldn't be built from that text (nor would one go to James to begin arguing justification!), it still teaches the Christian what it means to suffer to the point of blood for the sake of one's confession of Christ.

Second, we teach the Apochrypha for liturgical reasons. We have hymns written from its text: Now Thank We All Our God (LSB 895), Sirach 50:24; It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (LSB 366), Wisdom 18:14-15. At the Easter Vigil we sing LSB 931, All You Works of the Lord (Benedicte, omnia opera). The text is from the song of the three young men, which can be found only in the Apochrypha, The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Three Young Men, 35-68. The hymn is listed under "Biblical Canticles." The antiphon for last Sunday and the gradual for tomorrow are both taken from the Apochrypha. We use other words in our worship life which are extra-biblical: the ending to the Lord's Prayer and the Creeds being chief among them. While the words themselves can be found in Scripture, their specific form is not.

I recognize that introducing the Apochrypha in the congregation must be done with patience and delicacy. Still, It is worth the doing for the sake of a greater depth of worship and devotional life in the congregation.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Garden Time at GSLS

This time of year my students are more rowdy than ever. They have Spring fever; they have test (ITBS) fever; and they have end-of-year fishing trip fever. This year I found a project to keep them occupied after the ITBS in the April 2008 issue of Mississippi Gardener (I know all of you get that one!) Hopefully the pictures here will demonstrate enough of what we did so if you want to do it, too, you can.



Here's my happy crew. You will need one of those with what they have in their hands. Also, you will need supplies. We had:

8 curved scalloped-topped cement garden edgers (red)
2 straight scalloped-topped cement garden edgers (red)
3 bags garden and bedding soil
weed fabric
1 flat bedding flowers (we had 36 begonias and one amaryllis)
root stimulator

First we set up our design, which was a fish, an ICHTHUS. The boys knew that we are all little fishes attached to our One Fish, Christ--or, as my oldest student said, "branches living from the larger Branch." After that I scribed the soil with a knife. You don't have to use a knife. Just use something to mark the outside of the dimensions. Then we dug into the soil.


This was so we could set the landscapers into the soil, not merely upon it. That way they'd be solid.

After that, we lined the area with weed fabric.


Here you can clearly see the outline of the ICHTHUS shape. We used the soil dug out from the middle to backfill around the pavers. That way they were stable from the outside. The garden soil we added kept them stable from the inside. We used only three bags of garden and bedding soil to fill our planter. It was even a bit too full!

Here is the final "product" and the proud crew. The amaryllis planted at the center was a gift one of the boys gave me two Christmases ago. It finally bloomed this year. It needed a larger space to grow properly, so we moved it to a new home. They did a great job, and not one dirt fight in all of it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Office, Baby, Office


Get Office straight, and everything else falls into place: from Office follows all other offices or vocations, and from that station. Office is, first of all, located in Christ. It is the keeping and living in the First Commandment, the First Article, and the First Petition. What do these have to do with Christ? No one comes to the Father except through Christ (Jn 14:6). When Christ is one’s Head, then living as one in the Body of Christ means that love toward neighbor is the habitus of daily living in one’s Baptism (1Co 11:4; Eph 5:23;). This is the lesson Jesus taught the young lawyer with the parable of the Good Samaritan when He turned his question around. It is not “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “To whom am I a neighbor?” (Luke 10: 25-36).

Last night John and I watched Gone Baby Gone. Ben Affleck both co-wrote the screenplay and directed this film. His younger brother, Casey, was cast in the starring role. Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Amy Madigan, and Morgan Freeman also star in this film of a little girl who was reported missing, and the young man who was hired to search for her. I will try not to reveal too much of the movie’s details for the sake of those who have not yet seen it.

The movie is a fascinating study of office and vocation. There are those who have God-given vocations, yet abandon them. Some take up vocations that are not properly theirs to have. Others are given offices into which they have been place with trust, yet through which they have been abusive. Another is like the last of the Old Testament faithful women, Anna, praying and fasting, faithful in her vocation. She lashes out in righteous anger, “You are an abomination!” Her pain stings the greatest, for she sacrifices all she has, and loses all in the end.

There is, too, a Christ-figure—one who sacrifices his own life so that another might live. Fascinatingly, there is also a hireling. The twist-ending allowing for “What would you have done?” questioning reveals who the hireling is, who the Christ-figure is. Christ said, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:17). Certainly the primary meaning of this is directed to the Office and the administration of the Mysteries, the Sacraments. Still, in Gone Baby Gone, we have the distinction between doing right because it feels right, and doing right because it is right.

“If you do this thing, I will hate you forever,” said the tempter in the movie. How many prayers have ascended to God in this way? And yet Joseph declared, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Ge 50:20). A religion centered in the heart; a religion that does not rely solely on what God has done and gives for us; a religion that cannot be satisfied with Christ’s declaration, “It is finished!”; is a religion that can lead one to hating God when He does not give one the desires of one’s own heart. This is why we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” When we pray these words, we literally ask God that He carry us away, even if it means into an early death rather than into even greater evil than we currently face.

Gone Baby Gone is not merely a fascinating movie; it is also a genuinely Lutheran movie. It gets Office straight, even if by demonstrating by way of the negative, and through instances of the positive through vocation. It’s a movie worth watching for the sake of its theme. This must be said with a great caveat: the language is very strong. Some might find that offensive due to the volume.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are We There Yet?



With Missouri's pragmatism and idolatrous self-assured congregational autonomy, we are nearly so, if not there already.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Infant Baptism in Baptist Country

We live in Baptist Country. That's rightly capitalized in these parts. Then again, with the way things are going with regard to the general protestanization of the Lutheran Church, Baptist Country is in every pew in every local congregation--despite the efforts of faithful pastors.

Rev. Rick Sawyer of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Brandon, MS, has written an excellent website responding to the favorite retort of the Baptist Country's refutation for Infant Baptism. You can access it here.

In fact, while you're there, take a look at his piece on Historic Faith. and then at his one titled He is Risen.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What Grows Up, Must Blow Down

Before the storm.... April, 2004




After the storm finished its destruction in Little Rock on last Thursday, it headed on over to Jackson, Mississippi, where it unleashed five more tornadoes on Friday afternoon. In fifteen minutes, Jackson and its environs endured more damage than Katrina did to it in a day and a half.

I was at school. The sirens had gone off, and the weather radio alerts were advising a severe storm. We had the students hunkered down in the hallway. They weren't frightened until the electricity went down. That hallway gets mighty dark! So we sang our chapel songs and the Matins liturgy. That puts eyes and minds on Jesus and off fear.

I learned later that John was on the back porch having a cigar. Typical. On the way to the hospital to have bypass he had one more cigarette. I do love that man! In his favor, he'd watched the tv channels and they'd been saying the storm was well away from us. Rankin County is very large. When the order to sound the alert comes down, it doesn't matter what corner is being pinpointed, the whole county sounds alarm. The actual tornado might well be several miles away and never come near us.

John said he knew we were in for it when it suddenly began to hail. Then he saw one of our trees begin to lean. He thought, "Awwww, now don't do that." But it did, taking the one beside it with it. We lost two oaks, both 65-70 ft. tall. At least they fell East, not South. Falling South would have been through the middle of the house. Neighbors weren't so fortunate. They had trees severely damage their house.


Wind noise was so strong no sound was heard of falling treed or breaking fence. Immediately after the wind left our place it began to twist. Neighbors across the street received the twister effect. Their trees were broken from the middle, as were trees on the golf course. A large dead tree was stripped of its bark, bit it's still standing. Probably a red oak, not a white. Reds dig deep roots. Whites, like the two of ours that fell, have shallow roots like pines. We have a large red, about 80 ft tall, that didn't even shudder in this wind. Of course, if it had received the twisting wind, it might have been another story.


We now have the start of two fish ponds in the azalea bed. They quickly filled with water, which hasn't yet drained. This is Mississippi, of course! The root balls on these fells are enormous. Some of my azaleas are now growing horizontally. Squirrels are running across their favorite nesting places instead of up them. We don't know if they had any babies up in the branches. There is nothing that can be done about them now.



So now we are looking to replacing the fence and planting some crepe myrtle. Natchez whites. They'll grow the tallest. Large elegant and shapely. The kind that won't fall on a house. Oh, they get blown over, but they don't crush anything.




And by the way, the trees missed the bluebird's house by a few feet. They had just finished laying their first nest of the season, too.

Sarah Comes of Age


The tornado ripped through about 1/4 mile from her home near Little Rock, Arkansas, last Thursday night. The most memorable damage was to her high school, Sylvan Hills. So on Saturday Sarah went over to a friend's house to commiserate their mutual loss. 

Eventually he told her he had to dress for the prom that evening, and "Oh, aren't you going, too?" No, she wasn't. A string of boys had asked her, but she'd declined. She wasn't much interested in them and where things generally headed with them. 

Now, Kit's a nice young man, but a bit on the shy side. He didn't have a date for the prom, either. His mom and dad began to meddle. "Sarah, you really ought to go. Why not go with Kit?"Well, that was impossible. She had no gown, no shoes. 

Pshaw! Kit's mom put all that aside. She'd been a bride's maid at more than a half-dozen weddings. Still had the dresses and shoes. She and Sarah were the same size. Sarah could go into her closet and pick out something to wear. As for flowers, she could quickly arrange that, too. With a florist in the family, an orchid for Sarah's hair and a matching boutonniere and wrist corsage appeared in no time. A silver ribbon wrapped her hair, matching Kit's tuxedo vest. 

Sarah called her mom and dad, said, "I'm going to the prom with Kit. Is that OK?" It was all arranged in two hours. She had a grand time. Kit was so proud.

The picture says it all. 

     

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Feminism That Leads to Christ

Mary writes a beautiful post at the Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition titled Why pregnancy is good for me. It is a gripping confession of a young Christian woman rejoicing in her pregnancy.

 

Æons ago when my own babies were very young, I picked up C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. Apart from whatever else it is, it is the finest treatise on feminism that I’ve read—especially That Hideous Strength. I’d not suggest reading this last volume without having read the first two, but it is in this final work that the previous two come together.

 

In That Hideous Strength, Jane considers herself locked in the opposite of what she regards marriage to be. Marriage ought to be a source of mutual comfort, but she finds hers to Mark to be a source of solitude. They have mutually consented not to have children. They are a mutual source of small unspoken irritations to each other. The silence between them is the greatest of solitudes.

 

Jane is confronted, at last, by her decision not to have children. The Director, a sort of Father-figure, reminds her that she is not a Christian wife. And since she chooses not to have children from this married union, she is living as though she were a virgin. She is a neither-nor.

 

“You mean,” said Jane slowly, “I’ve been repressing something?”

 

The Director laughed; just that loud assured bachelor laughter which had infuriated her on other lips.

 

“Yes,” but don’t think I’m talking of Freudian repressions. He knew only half the facts. It isn’t a question of inhibitions—inculcated shame—against natural desire. I’m afraid there’s no place in the world for people who won’t be either Pagan or Christian. Just imagine a man who was too dainty to eat with his fingers and yet wouldn’t use forks!”

 

Reading this Trilogy was when I began to really understand the insidious grip of feminism on myself. Ask me truly and I will tell you sincerely: the greatest feminist alive today is me. I do not say that for bragging rights. I tell you this because in all my years of trying to combat the feminism within me, I am unable to do so.

 

There is a simple reason for this that is not so very simple. Although feminism and original sin are not the same, because feminism mocks original sin, it is nearly impossible for anyone now living today to escape the influences of this all-pervasive worldview. First, feminism is a deception. It deceives the hearer to thinking that is an authoritative voice for woman and her needs, as well as society in general.  Second, because feminism considers itself to be authoritative, it presents itself as a movement for empowerment. The individual is her own authority. This is the key to the wrongful use of individualism. This is the same thing that the serpent promised our First Mother when he said she would be “like God.”

 

Eve was deceived into thinking she had to do something in order to be like God, when she was already made in His image. We spend much energy trying to do anything but our vocation—that which God has placed in our hands to do—and trying to take credit for it as if that is what will grant us salvation. This is the core of feminism, and its root is original sin. Mary speaks eloquently of how God has reclaimed her through the repentance of pregnancy.  

 

I can no more free myself of my feminism than I can free myself of my sin. Still my pastor frees me of it, often and much with his word of Absolution in my ear and his hand upon my head. And daily and much my Baptism keeps me free of it, daily and much. In this there is much to rejoice about feminism, as Mary has found—for it brings women back to Christ.

  

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Azaleas

Spring has been a bit topsy-turvy this year, much like a wash cycle: warm, cold, warm, cold. The azaleas have shown the effects. Instead of blooming all at once like in past years, they've been blooming in spurts. The earliest bloomers even suffered some frostbite. Still, they are beautiful. here is a picture to prove it.



Friday, March 28, 2008

Excellent Easter Sermons

For some excellent Easter sermons, take a wander over here

While you're there, you might take a look at the material on this page, too. 

Pr. Sawyer knows how to keep us all well-fed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Convocation of Sacred Ghosts










Friday nights are for decompressing. Don’t get me wrong—this year’s class has been a “dream” class for any teacher. They are wonderful students. But that doesn’t mean that after a full week of teaching I still don’t need an evening home with my husband doing the mindless nothingness of eating pizza and watching bad tv. Ghost Whisperer is a fine example of this. It has an implausible premise with an untenable ending. It’s utterly hopeless, for it is lacking in the one thing needful for hope: Jesus Christ. If He is not the source of the light to whom the living have been drawn, then there is no hope for those who have now sleep in death.

 

On a recent show Melinda, the Whisperer herself, took a picture of herself. What it revealed was that she is surrounded by specters. From the tone and setting of the show, viewers were led to believe these were unhealthy ghosts. Either that or that Melinda was being haunted by dead ones who had unresolved issues only she could solve. Oh, dear; oh, my.

 


And yet, what a wonderful picture that was to see for such doubting Thomsases as we! A dear and blessed friend of mine once told me (and I won’t give his name for fear I’ll get this wrong and thereby shame him!) that when we confess that a particular piece of sacred bread given by the hands of the pastor is the Body of Christ, and likewise the wine is Christ’s Blood given the same way, then we must also confess Christ’s Body in those who are receiving these Holy Things into themselves around us.

 

Yet it goes even further. The blessed hand that feeds is Christ’s hand feeding, just as in Baptism it is not the pastor, but Christ Himself who does the work of it.

 

Thus God is present in Baptism, in the Lords Supper, and in the use of the Keys because His own Word is present there. Therefore even though we do not see or hear Him but see and hear the minister, God Himself is nevertheless truly present, baptizes, and absolves. And in the Lord’s Supper He is present in such an extraordinary way that the Son of God Himself gives us HIS body with the bread and His blood with the wine. (LW 3:220).

 

And still deeper and more wonderfully, when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, we are put to the question: Where is the Father and His right hand? God is everywhere, and His right hand is where He is. So Christ is where His Father is, everywhere. That means heaven isn’t “up there.” We are surrounded by heaven. How this can be is a mystery, something too unfathomable for my mind to comprehend.

 

Still, it means that the angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts surround us daily. We can’t see them, but the armies of heaven surround God’s baptized. How can it be otherwise? Didn’t Christ say there is but one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism (Eph 4:5)? Therefore, the Church only has one Body (Eph 4:25). The narrow door (Lk 13:24) has room for only one body: Christ’s.  Yet that body has many members (Ro 12:5; 1Co 12:20). Those who sleep in the Lord cannot be excluded, for we confess the resurrection of the dead. 

  

Some members of Christ’s body can be seen; some cannot be seen. Those which can be seen pray and work for the Body of Christ. In their various vocations as “little Christs” each member of the church touches the life of the other, serving the other. In this way Christ is served, while Christ is serving others. The heavenly hosts still serve the church in heaven, “We also grant that the saints in heaven pray for the church in general, as they prayed for the church universal while they were on earth” (Ap. I; 9, 2).

 

Surrounded by unsettled ghosts haunting the living and causing their lives to be a wretch? Does not the parable of the rich man and Lazarus teach us this is impossible (Lk 16)? There is a vast gulf between heaven and hell. Moreover, why would Satan allow any to have a vacation from hell, which is what haunting on earth would allow. And heavenly angels always enter with God’s message of peace.

 

So let Hollywood have its silliness, but from that teach us a thing or two. We—the baptized—are surrounded by those whom we cannot see as well as those whom we can see. The baptized are never alone, for to be baptized is to be one of a unity; it is to be a member of a body of many members, the Church who is the Body of Christ—who is her Head.

 

A true picture of one of the baptized would reveal him surrounded by angels, archangels, Adam, Eve, Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah and all the heavenly hosts. Jesus was counseled by Moses and Elijah before His crucifixion, and comforted by angels in His passion. Dare any of us who have been clothed in Christ, those who are full inheritors of His Father’s kingdom, deny that we receive the same in our hour of need? Indeed we are taught to pray for such daily: “Let Your holy angel be with me that the evil for have no power over me. Amen.”

 

 

 

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shepherds and Daddies


Wednesday afternoon I called to see how Emi was doing. Last time her daddy went to Iraq she entered a two-week depression. She was barely a year old then. Now she is four-years-old and has a baby sister who’s nearly five-months-old. Emi understands more than she did the last time he left, so she hasn’t slipped into a deep, silent depression like the last time. But that doesn’t mean she likes it any better. The first thing Emi told me was “I’m at my house. Daddy’s not here. He’s on a long bye-bye.” In her own way she complained about the long distance between her house and mine. “You’re in Mississippi. I’m in Tennessee. That’s far, far away.”

Emi’s very articulate on the phone. That because every time her dad goes to Iraq he takes his cell phone with him. As soon as he can, he converts to an overseas account. If he cannot, he buys phone cards. Every chance he is able he calls home. He likes to call when he can speak to all three of his “women.” Even when all he could do is barely understand Emi’s babblings, that was enough for him. She recognized his voice and clung to the phone as if to a lifeline. Now he speaks to Lianna in the same way.

It was John’s privilege to rise and feed Lianna in the early mornings. That was their time together. It became such an ingrained ritual that if Cindy tried to take over, Lianna rebelled. She wanted her daddy at that time. When he calls on the phone, Cindy holds it to her tiny ear so that she can hear his voice and remember who her father is. He speaks to her some of the same loving worlds he spoke while they were together in her bedroom.

Does the tough-guy Sergeant care if any of his men over hear him? Not one bit. Let them take a lesson, he says. When he returned home the last time, Emi was fearful of anyone save her own mom. She was in her two-year-old Mommy’s-girl stage. There was rightful concern she would be unduly afraid of her own father when he returned from Iraq because she might not recognize him on sight. She was so young when he left. Yet as he approached the car in Frankfort, Germany, Emi let out a squeal of delight. That was her daddy! She’d know him anywhere, and time was no factor in that.

Lianna may not so easily recognize her own father’s face when he returns home again, but she will remember his voice. She continues to hear it often. She knows her father by his voice. It is the same way Emi’s memory of her father was kept alive. She spoke to him often and in the manner that only those two could speak with each other. His voice and words in her ears kept alive her memory of his face.


I’ve never seen Jesus’ own face in the flesh, but I know where He is to be found, nevertheless. Christ’s promises are attached to His Word in water, bread and wine and delivered by men for life, forgiveness of sins and salvation. Wherever Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preaching, and the Absolution are going on, there is Jesus. Wherever Jesus is, there His voice may be heard in the words that are spoken.

Daddy calls his girls to the phone, and they come to him. Emi clings to the phone when he calls; Lianna will know him by his voice when he returns. The faithful are gathered by Christ’s voice, His Word. He says, “My sheep hear My voice and follow Me” (John 10:27). Yet how can any follow who have not heard the voice of the Shepherd? That is ultimately what Paul asks in Romans 10:

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Faith–that is, Christ–comes by hearing, yes. And just as Emi’s and Lianna’s daddy has taught them, hearing once (as if to ignite the eardrums and set them ablaze, and then let the fire smolder out) does not make for the familiarity of recognition of the Good Shepherd. Nor are all who call upon the name of the Lord of Him (Mt 7:22-23).

Wherever Jesus is present in His Word purely spoken and rightly administered in His Sacraments is where the Heavenly Father’s children have been called to gather. It is there God’s children are rightly fed by the Good Shepherd Himself. Emi runs to the phone whenever it rings, hoping it's her daddy. She reminds her mommy on Saturday night that church is the next morning, so they’d best be ready early. She knows where she needs to be to hear her daddy’s voice, and her Father’s voice. Two of my students are begging to be baptized. One longs to have the Lord’s Supper, and quotes the Catechism to support his reasons why. “Jesus said do it for the forgiveness of sins. I want it.” They have heard their Shepherd’s voice. Were it up to them, they would spend a great deal more time in church hearing it, responding to it.

I once had a professor who asked me if I would ever be certain that I’d heard my Shepherd’s voice. As certain as I know where to look for my Shepherd by the Marks of His Church. For wherever those Marks are found, there also is the faithful flock gathered around the undershepherd administering the Mysteries of our Good Shepherd. Why would anyone want to miss out on any bit of it?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Generic Jesus, Generic Christianity

In the newest mailing of CTQ (April 2007), Larry Rast explores America's many Jesuses in an essay titled American Christianity and its Jesuses. He quotes Richard Wightman Fox (Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession):

Benjamin Franklin understood Jesus as a wise man worthy of imitation. Thomas Jefferson regarded him as a moral teacher. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which occurred on Good Friday, was popularly interpreted as paralleling the crucifixion of Jesus... as one preacher put it: “Jesus died for the world, Abraham Lincoln died for his country.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton appropriated Jesus’ message to champion women’s rights. George W. Bush named Jesus as his favorite political philosopher.... As we have seen in recent presidential elections, the name of Jesus is often thrust into the center of political debates, and many Americans regularly enlist Jesus, their ultimate arbiter of value, as the standard bearer for their views and causes.


Rast demonstrates that the present Americanized icon of Jesus-as-moralist had its foundation in nineteenth century religiosity. He does this through the Unitarianism/Arianism of Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844), the American Lutheran rationalism of Frederick Henry Quitman (1760-1832) (who defined the Gospel as the “free response of the willful subject to the divine government revealed in and through Christ), and the work of Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875). In Rast’s words, Finney “articulated a perfectionist vision of moral government theology that explicitly and purposefully denied forensic justification and the idea of imputation.” Accordingly, each man had a different view of Jesus, crafted a different Jesus through their theologies, and the effects of each man remain within America’s culture today.

Recently during an interview, Joel Osteen called Mitt Romney, a Mormon, a Christian. Now, don’t get me wrong in this. I’m with Luther on this issue. I’d rather be ruled by a competent heretic than by an incompetent Christian. So this isn’t a statement about voting for a Christian or none other. What I’m getting at is I’m not certain that a man who doesn’t hang a cross where he preaches and doesn’t preach repentance that leads to the forgiveness of sins could recognize the difference between a true Christian or a box of rice puffs anyway.

We like to bat the name Christian around as if it were Kleenex. Kleenex is a brand name for tissues, not the name of the thing itself. However, Kleenex has been applied to every sort of tissue manufactured so that when someone asks for one we don’t even pause to ask, “Do you really mean to be brand specific, or will a Puffs do?” It is becoming so that Christian is just such a generic term. Slap a cross on a mug and the coffee inside is just that much better. Drape a cross around the neck, and whoopsie-doodle, there goes another Christian walking down the street. Is he baptized? Has attended church in the last decade? What does that matter? He has a cross on. Joel Osteen is considered to be Christian pastor, and yet he doesn’t even need to mention Jesus at all. Talk about Deus absconditus!

We Lutherans are in such a privileged position. We know what the Gospel is. And yet, here is another term that is so quickly becoming generic simply because too many have taken it upon themselves to redefine the term. It simply isn’t enough for hungry ears to hear words like “unity in the Gospel,” “I’m a Christian,” or “I believe in Jesus” to know what those words mean any more. Too many others will be able to counter back, “Oh! Then we agree. We are one in the Faith.” While it is good to find those with whom we do agree, it is not this outward agreement that makes us one. It is unity in Christ’s Body and Blood that makes us one, then we are united with each other. So terminology, even the identity of Jesus Christ Himself, must be spelled out so there is no doubt what we mean by by Gospel in the first place. This unity is based on no mere generic proclamation, “Jesus is Lord,” but Christ’s very Body and Blood delivered in the bread and wine for us to eat and drink at His Table for the forgiveness of sins. It is that which unites us to each other as Christians. This Meal is already anticipated in Baptism in which Christ unites Himself to His people–even little babies–through the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

To be Christian is to be Lutheran. The Lutheran confession of the Faith is not ambiguous. It is real meat, full of gristle and grit. This doesn’t mean the toughest bits to chew are handed out to those who are ready only for gnawing on the bones. However, Luther advised that the Small Catechism be taught in the home by the head of the household even to the youngest, but then went on to say he could not go without it himself. There is a model to be followed then. There are no uncertain terms to be found in the Catechism. It is simple enough for a child, yet has the depth and wisdom for a skilled doctor of theology. The most effective theologians are trained by knowing it well–which includes young children.

Pr. Sawyer wrote this clear outline to explain the Faith based on the Small Catechism. It is easily learned, and even more readily available to those who make praying the Catechism a part of their daily lives.

1. We are all born sinful and in need of salvation. The Ten Commandments teach this.

2. God, in His Mercy, has given His Son into death for us. Jesus rose from the dead and now, seated at the right hand of the Father, He pours out His blessings of life, forgiveness and salvation through His Means of Grace.

3. By these Means, He works faith, by which we look to God for all good things, praying as dear children talk to their dear Father.

4. He began such child-like trust and confidence in us when we were Baptized. He does this even in infants!

5. Since we forget what it means to be His children, He never ceases to hear our confession and speak His word of Holy Absolution over us.

6. By that kind of Fatherly and tender mercy, He leads us constantly toward His Supper, by which we eat and drink Christ's Flesh and Blood in bread and wine until we die; and even then, these will raise us up to live forever!


We Lutherans are privileged, but not arrogantly so. We have been given a great gift through the reformation of the church begun by Martin Luther. He didn’t speak in uncertain terms. His Jesus was not one who floated in the æther. Rather, the Jesus of Luther was the Jesus of the Bible and of history. As Creator of the heaven and the earth, of all that is seen and unseen, He alone could enter this world as both God and Man and rescue mankind. Christ alone could continue to enter this world in water, bread, wine, and word to deliver His salvation to mortals. He does not deal with us by generalities, but in specifics and in certain locations in time and place. When we make this clear to our (backyard, next door, water cooler, overseas) neighbors, then we are being true Christians, speaking of the Jesus who was sent by the Father to be incarnated as a human for our sakes, who bled and died on a cross, suffering the wrath of the Father for our sins so that we would not. This is the Jesus who only came for sinners, not the righteous who need no Savior. It is this Jesus who willingly takes to Himself all our sins, and imputes to us all of His righteousness. All means all just as when He said "It is finished" He meant most assuredly nothing was left to be done that was left undone. This is a very specific Jesus, not one whom anyone can confess with a blithe, "Jesus is Lord," call that "The Gospel" by which they desire unity, and mean an entirely different Jesus than the one whom the Father sent and the Holy Spirit calls and gathers His church to.

The world is hungry to know the one true Jesus. Their ears are itching to hear of Him. They hear story after sweet story that speak nothing of sin and salvation, only of pretty sunsets, green meadows, and cool waters, and earthly treasures and then pronounce "Oh! What a sweet Jesus we have. Isn't the Gospel so nice?" Yet nothing has been spoken of sin by which any would wish to long for the forgiveness only Jesus brings wherever He comes! Much may even be said of what one is to do next in order to perpetuate the good peace and unity of the gospel (which is no gospel!) just now experienced (Pass on the email to five more people and continue the peace and joy! Hmmm... maybe here we have a new koinonia with a virtual Presence Jesus. He's as present in this as He is at certain altars where His very Body and Blood are denied in the Sacrament because His words are disbelieved. So can't it be argued that the koinonia achieved is virtually the same?)

Jesus didn't tell stories to wrap things up in nice pretty patty-pat answers to make us all feel all cozy and warm inside. Jesus told stories to draw us near to Him. His parables caused His disciples, those who were paying attention, to have more questions. What does this mean? They didn't get it most of the time, so they begged Him to explain more fully the way of Jesus, the way of the Gospel.

This is the way of the Christian, too. What does this mean? should be on the lips of us all as we listen to our pastors as well as to our neighbors. With the former, we find mutual conversation and consolation with a brother. With the latter, we find opportunity to give a good confession of the hope that is within us. Our mission fields are not as far away as we suppose they were.