Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage

from The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal)

Dearly beloved,

We have come together
in the presence of God
to witness and bless
the joining together of
this man and this woman
in Holy Matrimony.
The bond and covenant of marriage
was established by God in creation,
and our Lord Jesus Christ
at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
It signifies to us
the mystery of the union
between Christ and his Church,
and Holy Scripture commends it
to be honored among all people.

The union of husband and wife in
heart, body, and mind
is intended by God
for their mutual joy;
for the help and comfort
given one another
in prosperity and adversity;
and, when it is God's will,
for the procreation of children
and their nurture in the
knowledge and love of the Lord.
marriage is not to be entered into
unadvisedly or lightly,
but reverently, deliberately
and in accordance with the purposes
for which it was instituted by God.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lutherans could learn from these Catholic Nuns

The Sisters of Mercy are aging, shrinking in numbers and reorganizing in order to have enough members to keep the doors open. They wear contemporary dress and seem to be a social justice volunteer organization. On the other hand, The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist who do wear the habit are mainly in their 20s and so many want in there is a wait list. Their focus is their prayer life and the Eucharist. The story at Catholic Pillow Fight.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hymns for Memorial Day

We're at our cottage in Lakeside, Ohio, for the holiday week-end. Although I always load the car with more books and magazines than I'll ever read (because I'm supposed to be cleaning and preparing for the summer), I scan the cottage bookcase for neglected items. My Lakeside shelves are a bit different than those at home, and one book I have here is The Methodist Hymnal (c.1964). I picked it out of a free box at a book sale about 5 years ago. The Methodists of the 18th and 19th centuries had a huge influence through revivals and the Awakenings on all American denominations. At least until the "contemporary" music took over for Sunday worship, the hymnody of the Methodists bound us all together. The early Lutherans in America absorbed many English hymns into their tradition as they lost their European roots, particularly those written by the Wesleys. This hymnal has about 80 hymns by Charles Wesley and 8 by John Wesley.

Most hymnals have special indices and appendices to aid the musical director or pastor in planning themes. This one has a category "Memorial Day," Although nothing for July 4 or even Christmas or baptism. Since this is Memorial Day week-end (the "real" day is May 30 and there was a bill introduced about 9 years ago to restore it to that date since so many Americans have no idea what the holiday is about) I'll list them. I haven't gone through every tune and verse, but these hymns are rousing and unspecific. I think they could be sung in any country for any war dead.

Eternal Father, strong to save

Father eternal, Ruler of creation

For the might of thine arm

God of grace and God of glory

God of our father

God, the Omnipotent

Judge eternal, throned in splendor

Lord, while for all mankind we pray

Mine eyes have seen the glory

My country, 'tis of thee

Not alone for might empire

Now praise we great and famous men

O God of earth and altar

O Lord, our fathers oft have told

These things shall be

This is my song

Turn back, O man

I don't know how many hymns G K Chesterton (1874-1936) composed--he was a British critic, poet and a novelist--but I think I've read that "O God of Earth and Altar" was a response to the terrible carnage of WWI, where 5-10,000 men could be lost in one battle that won nothing. Don't quote me, because I can't find a source. He became a Roman Catholic late in life.

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide;
Take not thy thunder from us,
But Take away our pride.

Hymns that include no theology or Christology, no atonement, no resurrection, no gospel, can easily be sung by almost any group or nation or faith because they focus on the general condition of all mankind--faltering rulers, love of money, general nastiness, and pride.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why Lutherans can't sing

together. These days we're having a musical style problem--our church (UALC) has four--but 200 years ago American Lutherans weren't even speaking the same language. Some Lutheran immigrants didn't have an English hymnal until the late 19th or early 20th century. Here's a very interesting history by Gracia Grindal from the archives of ICM SW Minn. WordAlone Newsletter
    "The first Lutherans in this country, those who would regard the Muhlenberg tradition as their own, what became the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), had been here for several generations when a new wave of immigrants from Germany, Sweden and Norway began landing on American shores. These Lutherans settled in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and later the Dakotas. When they got here, unused to the pluralism of America, they thought the old Lutherans had been theologically corrupted by their American context which they saw, perhaps, most clearly in their English hymnals with hymns by Watts and Wesley, which these immigrants did not recognize as Lutheran.

    The new immigrants did not speak English and needed hymnals in their own languages, not the English versions that members of the Muhlenberg tradition had prepared over the years. So the Germans of the Missouri Synod began producing their own materials in their own languages, as did the Ohio Synod, as did the Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, Icelanders, and Slovakians. Read the whole article.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Upside down prayer

It's a good idea to get your focus on Jesus first; then get out the laundry list. Start with the cross and resurrection. That you can pray in confidence with no doubt or hesitation.

Martin Luther said many times that prayer was hard work, more difficult than preaching. "Satan resists Christ at all points and would love to keep a person from hearing any Gospel anywhere, from believing and living and doing it. Just so he also hinders the work of prayer, keeps on from gladly praying, and makes it very difficult to get at it; for he knows well what the might and influence of prayer are, knows that Christians have no stronger protection and power against his might."

Friday, May 09, 2008

There's room for you

on the cruise to the Holy Land, March 2009. UALC folks are cruising! We are going and so are a lot of our friends--Cairo, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Haifa, Sea of Galilee, Antioch, Tarsus, Antalya, Aspendos, Perga, Ephesus, Athens and Corinth. Wow. I'm worn out already.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Luther and Religious Education

"The emphasis on Christian education is not what it once was in Lutheran circles. Some branches of Lutheranism have practically conceded all education to the state, attempting to fill the void in spiritual training with youth programs, family ministries, and the like. Some Lutheran church bodies no longer support a system for training ministers of the gospel to any great extent. Among others, support for such a system is waning rapidly.

One sometimes hears of Lutheran pastors and teachers that no longer teach the catechism to any great extent, of others that require little, if any, memory work. What would Luther say? Would he say that since times have changed, the Small Catechism is no longer relevant? Would he say that children can no longer be expected to memorize the chief parts of the catechism, or Scripture verses, or
hymn stanzas? Would he say that more important than doctrine is making children feel good about themselves, helping them realize their full potential as human beings, and keeping them entertained and happy all the time?

If Luther could speak today, it is this writer’s opinion that he would have more than a few choice words (maybe even some very colorful and shocking words) to say to our society and possibly even to many of those who bear the name Lutheran."

"If we fail to put forth our best efforts to establish and maintain Lutheran educational institutions, if we are not willing to do whatever it takes and to spend whatever is necessary to give our children and young people a Christian education, if we let our children and young people decide for themselves what to believe or
how to live, then we can be certain that the devil will quickly take over. A smattering of religious knowledge would seem to be hardly enough these days to keep our children strong in the faith. There are too many temptations, too many dangers, too many pitfalls. Add to that the concerted efforts of anti-Christian social engineers who not only seek to remove all evidence of Christianity from our society,
but who strive to portray Christianity as ignorant, repressive, and even offensive. Faced with such opposition and persecution, it is the rare young Christian who can remain steadfast unless he or she is firmly grounded in the faith."

Luther and Religious Education, by Mark Lenz, Lutheran Synod Quarterly, 46:1, 2006. Evangelical Lutheran Synod [this is not ELCA].

Is this the long awaited messiah proof for the Darwinistas?

"Australia's unique duck-billed platypus -- an egg-laying, furry animal with web feet that spends most of its time underwater -- is in fact part bird, part reptile and part mammal according to its gene map." Science News

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Baptism by immersion

I don't remember exactly when I was baptised--it was either 1950 or 1951, at the Church of the Brethren on Seminary Ave. in Mt. Morris, Illinois. But I clearly remember the event, and the six weeks of study with Rev. Statler that preceded it, because we lived in another town and it meant a Sunday afternoon drive. But I didn't know this about immersion baptism:
    "The plunging of an adult or an infant into the baptismal font three times is the most important moment in the baptismal ceremony, and meant to be the most moving one as well. Most of us understand that this action is associated with the Trinity. It is. But the more ancient association is with the three days Jesus lay in the tomb. This is one reason why the Church now encourages candidates for baptism to be fully immersed wherever practicable. The sprinkling of water over a catechumen's head just doesn't capture the drama which the ritual intends. But when we see a person take a breath, plunge under the water, and come up for air three times, we can powerfully see the identification between Jesus' time in the tomb and the person rising to new life in Christ."
This is from a blog at a Roman Catholic site, America, the National Catholic Weekly. There is content from the print issue, and then there is on-line only material, which is where I found the link to the two blogs, one on preaching and one by editorial staff and contributors.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

An assortment of authors

It could scramble one's brain--if they weren't all pointing to Jesus. I'm reading (or dipping into) four Christian authors of totally different traditions and writing centuries apart, yet they all say much the same. Oswald Chambers (late 19th century, Baptist, Holiness), My Utmost for his Highest, particularly those daily readings that focus on intercession and the cross; St. John of the Cross (Carmelite, Roman Catholic Saint, 16th century), The impact of God; Jeremiah Burroughs (Puritan, 17th century), "Christ is all in all" (sermon); and A.C. Wieand (Church of the Brethren, founder of Bethany Seminary, mid-20th century), who drew from many traditions, The Gospel of Prayer (1953). The frayed, second hand Wieand book I've had on my shelves at Lakeside for probably 15-20 years, and yet this week-end I opened it with a fresh eye and it seemed to come alive, reading it in the context of the other writers who direct us beyond on our damaged, sinful lives and troubles to the purity and holiness of Jesus Christ. In the words of Burroughs, Wieand fits perfectly:
    "That which I shall this day endeavor is to show you something of the glory of God shining in this truth: that God communicates Himself through a Mediator, through His Son. It is absolutely necessary for you to know if you would have eternal life. It is possible to be ignorant of many other truths and still be saved, but there must be something of this or there can be no salvation. The mistake in this very thing is the miscarriage and the eternal undoing of thousands upon thousands of souls. Many believe that they have need of, and can never be saved without, God's mercy. The light of nature convinces us of this. But they are ignorant of, and do not see the reality of, this truth: that God communicates His mercy through a Mediator. They miscarry and perish eternally with cries to God for mercy because they come to God, but not through a Mediator."
Oh, that there could be more substance and solid food in contemporary Christian books which seem to be so choked by anecdotal cotton candy and tangential concepts like diets or parenting or church growth or signs from the headlines. But praise God for the classics!