Saturday, January 28, 2012

James study by Beth Moore

Some in our Beth Moore class [James] have sighed, "Ah, vintage Beth Moore." Not in my opinion. It is Beth Moore mixed with higher criticism. Her daughter Melissa, who now has a divinity degree is helping her with the writing. See pp. 80-81 of the workbook where she says the Jewish Christians didn't have the canon and therefore use of "Word" in James was referring to Mosaic Law. Huh? They had eye witnesses (including James, the brother of Jesus), they had the Holy Spirit. God's Word travelled a missionary journal all the way to the British Isles without an official canon--I think it's probable that James knew which Word he was talking about. God's revealed Word of Scripture doesn't depend on writing it down any more than the revealed Word in Creation or the revealed Word in the Incarnation did. She's so close to teaching that our pitiful good works added to Jesus' perfect work is what transforms us, I can hardly keep my coffee from spilling on the page!

Here's where the Lutheran liturgy is a helpful reminder. After confessing we haven't loved God with our whole heart or our neighbors as ourselves, the pastor reminds us that in his mercy, God gave his son, AND FOR HIS SAKE, forgives us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Damping down the appetites

Recently I was looking at a "commitment" leaders in public ministry were to sign at an Illinois church. It covered everything from eating/shopping addictions to illegal drugs to abuse and lying. 8 of the 10 were concerned with physical appetite. Although it was to be used for scheduling "counseling," I can't even imagine how it could be used against a volunteer or employee. What would the pastor do if someone actually signed the statement that he used illegal drugs, or had fondled a child? The pastor obviously felt a duty to open someone else's eyes and conscience. Shoddy workmanship, falsifying time sheets, bank robbery, embezzlement, copyright violation, etc. weren't listed, but could be included I hope under "other sins that compromise your Christian walk." I wonder if they had a lawyer look it over.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Hymn singing

On hymns: "The birth of Jesus was announced in song, and the last act of worship of our Lord and his disciples was the singing of a hymn. Sacred song, rooted in the Hebrew tradition, occupied from the first a preeminent position in Christian worship. The earliest hymns were psalms and canticles. Initially the people sang them, though by the fourth century in the East, and by the seventh in the West, they had become part of the liturgy and a matter for the clergy and the choirs. Not again until the time of the Reformation was the hymn restored to the people as their rightful heritage in worship." From Service Book and Hymnal (Lutheran), music edition, 1958, p. 285

Work on this hymnal began almost 70 years ago--Lutherans were from many traditions, languages and ethnicities, but they managed to include nearly 80 American authors. Explanations and history in old hymnals are very interesting. It's a tremendous loss to just use words cast on a screen. You miss so much information.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Advent Meditations from the writings of Henri Nouwen

I can't imagine a Roman Catholic congregation, say St. Agatha's or St. Andrew's located near-by in Upper Arlington, selecting an advent devotional booklet prepared from the writings of Martin Luther or John Calvin, but Upper Arlington Lutheran Church distributed "Advent Meditations from the writings of Henri Nouwen," a prominent Roman Catholic priest who died in 1996. Even if he weren't Catholic, when his writings are sliced and diced and packaged like this, they make no sense. For example:

"Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there." What does that say? What does it mean? Could you rephrase it? Could you apply it?

"Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us." I don't know where your hope is, but mine isn't in the Christian community. My Christian community isn't why I can "live with courage" or "live without surrendering to powerful forces seducing me toward despair." Huh?

After observing that Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah were all waiting, Nouwen says, "We too can wait only if what we are waiting for has already begun for us." I think I understand all the components of this essay on waiting, seed, growing, nurture, promise, but why does the actual Bible make more sense than the meditation on it?

The problem here, is the problem I have with most writing by Catholics. It's very pretty; it's devotional; it's awe inspiring; some is even powerful. But there's no gospel. That's where the power is; that's our hope.

The clarity of Luther's voice is surely apparent in his Advent and Christmas preaching - the Lord's Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, the preaching of John the Baptist, the annunciation, and the nativity. Showing remarkable theological insight and pastoral warmth, Luther crafts vivid and graphic pictures of the meanness and misery of the biblical stories of the Lord's birth. All the great themes of Luther's theology - incarnation, justification, the "happy exchange," sacraments, the theology of the cross - are present in these sermons. Advent and Christmas evoke the best in Luther's preaching as he proclaims Bethlehem's crib in light of the cross. Ulrich Asendorf rightly notes that "Luther's Advent sermons are a microcosm of his spiritual world."
Ulrich Asendorf, "Luther's Sermons on Advent as a Summary of His Theology," in A Lively Legacy: Essays in Honor of Robert Preus, edited by Kurt Marquart, John Stephenson, and Bjarne W. Teigen (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary, 1985), 13.

Monday, January 02, 2012

St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen

St Basil the Great (330 - 379)
Basil was born in 330 at Caesarea in Cappadocia, of a Christian family. A brilliant scholar and a virtuous man, he started by becoming a hermit but was made bishop of Caesarea in 370. He fought against the Arians and wrote many notable works, in particular the monastic rule that bears his name and which many monks in the East follow to this day. He was also generous to the poor. He died on 1 January 379.

"The Longer Rules and The Shorter Rules," pp 99-103 of Masterpieces of Christian Literature

St Gregory Nazianzen (330 - 389)
He was born in 330, near Nazianzus. He travelled widely in search of knowledge. He followed his friend Basil into the wilderness, but he too was ordained and later made a bishop. He was elected Bishop of Constantinople in 381 but because of the factional fighting within the Church he retired to Nazianzus, where he died on 25 January 389 or 390. He is known as “Gregory the Theologian” in honour of his learning and eloquence.

"Five Theological Orations," pp 113-117 Masterpieces of Christian Literature

See also "The Cappadocian fathers" in The Story of Christian Spirituality, pp 130-