Sunday, December 25, 2005

314 The Barbara Walters Special on Heaven

So far, I haven't come across anyone who watched her special on December 20, nor did I see any comments in the paper last week. Did it bomb? I mean, if someone wanted to know about heaven, would she ask Barbara?

"“Although Barbara Walters’s intent should be commended, her content should not. She confused rather than clarified the issue by giving equal weight to popular authors, near-death experiences, movie stars, religious teachers and pastors. She merely surveyed various opinions in a show that should have been titled, ‘Heaven: Have It Your Way.’" BP News

Last March I took one of those Internet "A quiz of cat lovers" and learned I was going to cat lady heaven. So I wrote this.

"I'm going to "cat lady heaven" because I treat a small mammal with fur and whiskers and a crooked tail well. It's a cute quiz, and fortunately I already know I'm going to heaven, but not because of my cat, and not because of anything I've done right.

Actually, I'm not sure of the preposition to use, whether heaven is up, over, in, around or through. Scripture is rather vague about that. In an odd turn of events, the earth, the country, the towns that we know so well are what is transitory, and the Christian's real citizenship is in heaven. (Keep that in mind flag-wavers.) Space and time is something we only need on earth, so I suppose the preposition really doesn't matter--heaven is where God dwells and "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." (Rev. 21:3,4) In order for heaven to have no tears and sorrow, maybe you'll need to have your cat or dog--I'm sure it can be arranged."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

313 Today at the library

Check my other, other blog for this story on Christian magazines at the public library, then take a look at yours.

"I'd sort of gotten out of the library habit because the internet is so easy, and recently have gone back to checking out about 4 or 5 journals a week--not always the same titles, but maybe JAMA, or NEJM or Kiplinger's or Forbes. But I'm a shelf reader, and although I'd been aware that the public library isn't the place to find Christian material, I was a bit taken aback when I realized there was only one evangelical Christian magazine (Christianity Today), but there were 15 or 20 serial titles on films, entertainment, jazz and rock. Films were particularly overly represented in the collection."

Monday, December 19, 2005

312 Thus sayeth the Lord

Two years ago my bookclub was reading "In the Beginning," which is about the King James transation of the Bible. I wrote the comment in my other blog, which was my only one then:

"But most interesting was learning that the verb forms ending in “-eth” were most likely pronounced as “s” in the early 17th century. English isn’t phonetic in many words (through, tough, plough), and although the people were pronouncing “sayeth“ as “says” and “giveth” as “gives,” a hundred years later when the 1611 version really became almost universally used, no one corrected the pronunciation while reading. There are no recordings of how people spoke. The closest we have to English as spoken in the 17th and 18th century is our own Appalachian people in the U.S., since it is no longer spoken in England."

Friday, December 16, 2005

311 Turn Your Radio On

I'm finishing up some Christmas cards that I missed earlier in the month. I've got my Bill Gaither video tapes in the living room vcr and the volume cranked--"Turn Your Radio On" and "Old Friends." I love these old Gospel, swing and sway, emotional songs for listening, just not for worship. I think these were made in 1993 and 1995--many of these performers who were up in years then, have since died. I think his purpose was to capture some of them while they could perform, but the series became so popular now it's sort of become an institution. "Turn your radio on" is the one I have on now. I particularly like Cynthia Clawson, but it is very difficult to find her on CD since she's not the "current" contemporary Christian music anymore. (And I refer to impulse buying at stores, not going on-line.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

310 A Jew speaks out about Christmas

“Hanukkah menorahs are never referred to as ''holiday lamps" -- not even the giant menorahs erected in Boston Common and many other public venues each year by Chabad, the Hasidic Jewish outreach movement. No one worries that calling the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by its name -- or even celebrating it officially, as the White House does with an annual ''iftaar" dinner -- might be insensitive to non-Muslims. In this tolerant and open-hearted nation, religious minorities are not expected to keep their beliefs out of sight or to squelch their traditions lest someone, somewhere, take offense. Surely the religious majority shouldn't be expected to either.

As a practicing Jew, I don't celebrate Christmas. There is no Christmas tree in my home, my kids don't write letters to Santa Claus, and I don't attend church on Dec. 25 (or any other date). Does the knowledge that scores of millions of my fellow Americans do all those things make me feel excluded or offended? On the contrary: It makes me feel grateful -- to live in a land where freedom of religion shelters the Hanukkah menorah in my window no less than the Christmas tree in my neighbor's. That freedom is a reflection of America's Judeo-Christian culture, and a principal reason why, in this overwhelmingly Christian country, it isn't only Christians for whom Christmas is a season of joy. And why it isn't only Christians who should make a point of saying so.” Jeff Jacoby, “De-Christmasing Christmas

Monday, December 12, 2005

Visually challenged or just inconsiderate?

Our Visual Arts Ministry hung a show Saturday morning at our newest campus. We'd decided a few months ago to do a rerun of our inaugural show of 2001. For that we gathered as much of our home made art as we could find. Our recollection was that much of it had colorful Advent and Christmas themes. We'd photographed and cataloged it five years ago, so we had a record. Most of the art is in banner form--some felt, some burlap, some elaborate paintings on a coated fabric (looks like window shades), some metal sculpture, and one 3-dimensional mobile of the nativity. We didn't use any quilts because next month we're having a quilt ministry show. Six of us spent about three hours lugging ladders, sorting through musty storage in the basement, using a warm iron to smooth wrinkles, debating aesthetics and hanging the art. We have an Arakawa Hanging System.

The storage area was a disaster. People have just been stuffing things in there, tying stuff with string, or laying heavy things on top of fragile. Some of the banners we used in 2001 were just missing. Yesterday my husband and I went to the old campus and found some of the missing pieces stored behind the stage of fellowship hall, folded, wrinkled and with furniture laying on top even though we have specially design hanging space in the other building. We dusted them off and lugged them over to the gallery space today where we had to rehang a number of pieces to get the show to work right. There we discovered that whoever was in the building over the week-end (that could be many hundreds) had pushed tables up against the banners all up and down the halls--I suppose they were serving coffee or food, or maybe having a book sale. Who knows. Fortunately, I had brought an iron along to smooth out the ones we'd found, so I could use it to press out the creases left by the tables pushed up against the art.

In the catalog of sins for which Jesus died, this is not a big one. But we continue to be amazed that in a large, talented congregation of well educated people who are filled with empathy and sensitivity to many areas of Christian endeavor and service, particularly music and drama, we six seem to be the only members out of several thousand who give a fig about art. We care about ugly coat racks, and messy bulletin boards, and posters taped to mirrors in the rest rooms. Our teeth are on edge at flags and posters left up for years to advertise missions.

We aren't in this ministry to pretty up the building, as some people think. (We get a lot of thank yous from members who enjoy the shows.) We do it to draw people to the church who might never enter the building otherwise. I believe we have the finest gallery space in the entire Columbus metropolitan area.

Well, it's done now, and it looks nice, especially the missing pieces which have all been reunited (it was a series). Sort of like we'll all be in heaven.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Femspeak and Gay Marriages in the ELCA

The November 2005 issue of First Things is on-line and has an article by Robert Benne reporting on the 2005 Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in August. The status quo was confirmed, so both the traditionalists (i.e., those who trust God's word) and the revisionists are staying put and not bolting the synod. But you know who's going to get their way eventually, don't you? The revisionists. Progressive Protestantism is taking over all the main line denominations and it's gutting the churches of believers. Read the whole article here.

What they couldn't stop is damage to the language. The historical creeds, hymns and some psalms are getting the feminist hatchet job. Perhaps it will be the final death blow for real hymns--remove any words that have a male pronoun. Father and Son are on the ropes. Then we can all sing praise choruses and forget any theology that might hint at the Trinity.

"For instance, the leadership proposed—and the assembly affirmed—a process that will lead to a new hymnal, which will alter the words of the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds so that hypersensitive feminists will not be offended by masculine language. In the Nicene Creed we will avoid confessing that Christ was “made man.” Rather, he “became human.” In the Apostles’ Creed we will evade a masculine pronoun for God in the second article. Instead of “We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son,” we will now confess that “We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.” The ELCA is now willing to risk a heretical formulation of the Creed in favor of femspeak. (In a Trinitarian formula the Son is Son of the Father, not of the Triune God. The Son of the Triune God would be another God.)

Many of the Psalms are to be rewritten to circumvent masculine pronouns. A hymn, paraphrasing the twenty-third psalm, changed “The Lord is my shepherd” to “God is my shepherd.” The “Renewing Worship” materials used at the assembly shunned “Father,” “Lord,” and “Master,” all replaced by “God.” Not one ELCA official allowed a “his” or “he” to creep into a speech. The presiding bishop even used the horrific neologism “Godself” a number of times."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Are you in an orange barrel church?

Navigating the programs offered by our church reminds me of a construction zone with orange barrels. Just when I get comfortable with a program or a direction, someone puts up a detour sign and puts those orange barrels in the road. I was reading a document yesterday--4 pages that could have been written in one--that mentioned we are replacing "Network" with something else--what I don't know.

Network was supposed to direct all our current and new members to the right area of service for Jesus to match their passion, gifts and personal style. I was (am) a member of the Visual Arts Ministry, and because the Bible says almost nothing about the arts, and because our congregation seems to be artistically impaired, we got no referrals from all their efforts of screening probably a thousand people.

I resisted even participating for a long time, because I don't like being put in little boxes. But once I was a "table facilitator" for a new members class and everyone, including the leaders (old term), had to jump in and complete it. Here's how it played out: My passion was "purposeful, intellectual activity; my spiritual gifts were wisdom, administration and prophecy; my personal style was unstructured task. (I'd never heard of blogging at that time, but I think this describes a Christian blogger.)

If you've been active in a church, no matter the size or denomination, you'll know that no pastor or lay leader wants a member who tests high on "wisdom and prophecy." Especially not a woman! Administration is OK because then you can be put in charge of the book sale, or the collation of the annual report.

Prophecy is described in Network as "challenging listeners simply and practically with the truths of scripture, giving attention to detail and accuracy." Wisdom is "proclaiming truth in a timely and relevant manner for understanding, correction, repentance or edification." These are not spiritual gifts to be envied or coveted.

Maybe it's being dropped because members started taking it seriously?

Hungering and Thirsting like the rest

After listening to me vent yesterday my husband's eyes got big, and he said, "You need to find a different church." Not we, but you, I noticed. So that's not going to happen. We went through this in 1976 and it was traumatic. Just awful. It was like getting a divorce from all our friends. And now we're 30 years older. You don't throw that away for a temper tantrum.

So in the afternoon I took myself to a coffee shop with my little notebook, and with an extra jolt of caffiene, I made notes on what I wanted in a church. What would I be looking for if I moved to a different community?

The big one for me: Worship.
1) A sermon for believers that includes the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Our hope. Something to keep us from navel gazing for a week. Something that says this isn't about you. It doesn't have to be the whole topic, it doesn't have to have an altar call, but the pastor has to let me know why we have gathered for worship.
2) Music--not rock 'n roll, happy clappy, or praise choruses. Not song leaders hugging microphones with closed eyes and thrusting pelvis. Not "me, me, me" songs. Something from a hymnbook so I don't lose my skills for reading music.
3) Liturgy--it would be nice to have the liturgy every Sunday, not just occasionally. I wouldn't look for this in a Methodist or Presbyterian church, but yes, I would if I were visiting a Lutheran church.

The next big item: Teaching, Solid and Biblical.
1) Can be Sunday school or small group. Would really be nice if led by a pastor, but a good lay leader will do. Mid-week opportunities.
2) Strong women's fellowship. Or is that women's strong fellowship?

And to put faith to work: Service opportunities beyond the church walls.
1) Schools.
2) Prisons.
3) Food pantry/clothing sites.
4) Hospitals/nursing homes.

Sadly it is worship, my first priority, that often fails me here. Teaching and Service are top notch. The gospel from our pulpits (10 services) is so hidden or buried, that I make a check mark on the bulletin if I hear it! It has made me the most attentive person in the pew! How hard can it be to remind us each and every week why we have gathered? What would it take? Two or three sentences? That still leaves time for the personal anecdotes and theological word studies and the challenges to go out and do, do, do.

I'm afraid to bring a seeker to our services--what if she liked the building, or the music or the location or the friendly faces, and didn't notice Jesus hadn't been invited too? I'd hesitate to invite new neighbors who were believers and seeking a church home. What if they listened as carefully as I do and moved on?

"I love to tell the story,
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'Twill be the old, old story,
That I have loved so long."
Katherine Hankey