Saturday, January 31, 2004

32 A famous Christian novel

My husband and I each got rebate checks in the mail last week (a first I think) for purchasing a product. We're like the TV ad where the customer is mad because the delivery company arrived on time and he'd expected a long wait. I was figuring 6 to 10 weeks for the rebate, enough time for Dell to know we'd sent back my Christmas laptop and didn't deserve a check. 1) We have no idea why we each got a rebate, and 2) of course, we won't cash them.

But for some reason, the phrase WWJD crawled across my eye lids as I lovingly fingered those checks. That would be 3 hair appointments (at my age, this is expensive), or 10 Friday night dates (at my age, I'm a cheap). Then I went to the shelf and pulled off "In his steps" by Charles M. Sheldon. That's where the phrase "What would Jesus do" came from--from a novel written by a rural Kansas preacher for a sermon series over 100 years ago. It is probably one of the most widely published Christian books, outside of the Bible, but don't quote me because I haven't done the research. 45 million or something like that. It was in my grandparents’ library 80 years ago as part of a tent Chautauqua offering. I saw it in serialized form in farm magazines of the 1930s.

The reason it is so widely published in so many languages, distributed world wide, on web pages all over the internet, serialized in hundreds of magazines, and even walking around on the t-shirts and jewelry of teen-agers is that the original publisher, a small religious publication that serialized it, never bothered with copyright. And of course, it tells a story people want to believe. Sheldon probably received very little for this famous book which began as a sermon series. My guess is, he probably didn't care much--he had definitely gotten his message out, even if by default.

Friday, January 30, 2004

31 What's in a Name? Religiously Ignorant Journalists

"Today I received a phone message from a journalist from a major Dallas newspaper who wanted to talk to me about a story he was writing about "Episcopals," about how the controversy over the 2003 General Convention's approval of the homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, would affect "Episcopals." What an embarrassment. How do I break the news to him that there are no "Episcopals"? Actually, they are called Episcopalians. Of greater concern, I wonder how this journalist is going to write an informed and informing story in a few days about such an important and complex matter when he doesn't even know enough in starting to call his subjects by their right name."

Read the rest of this essay at The Revealer

Thursday, January 29, 2004

30 Who knows your name?

There is a pleasant young man who takes my order at the coffee shop. He usually has the cup ready when he sees me approaching the counter, and we exchange chit-chat. I know that he is married, his wife's family lives locally, he is a student at Ohio State, and he is ethnically mixed (I guessed Hispanic, but was wrong).

Today his name tag says "Jon," yesterday it was "Kyle," and last week it was "Barry." If he can't find his name tag, he says, he borrows one.

There is One who knows our name.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

29 "Bless you" is OK to say

James Lord, a senior at Dupo High School in Dupo, Illinois was suspended for a month from his daily news broadcast after signing off his December 17th broadcast with: "Have a safe and happy holiday, and God Bless." Apparently, the school administration hasn’t suggested he change his name.

According to the web log at Christianity Today, the issue has been resolved without a law suit, but only after the story made the national media and Lord hired some legal help. The school administration was ridiculed on hundreds of blogs on the internet. Before this, probably very few people had ever heard of Dupo, Illinois, or knew that the casual “Bless you,” could be construed as religious. Why hasn’t anyone suggested that swearing in public is a religious act of calling God’s damnation or speaking the name of Jesus aloud in cursing? Wouldn’t upset me a bit to hear less of that “religious” talk.

Just where did public education come from anyway? From the churches. Before the 18th century, only the wealthier families educated children with private tutors and governesses and private academies. Poor children worked. Christians, beginning in England, gathered up the urchins from the deplorable factories and slums on Sundays and began teaching them basic skills, values such as self discipline and thrift and literacy so they could read the Bible. Yes, Sunday School was our original “public education.”

For more on this fascinating part of the history of public education, see the web site about Robert Raikes, considered the founder of the Sunday School movement.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

28 Where is the good news?

About 10 years ago I visited a Methodist church. I was surprised and saddened--not by the congregation, they were lovely people, but by the deplorable state that the Methodists had fallen into. It was such a magnificent denomination, and very important in our country’s history.

Counting the choir, the minister, the organist, the guest (me) and the congregation, there were 18 people. Their income comes from renting out the building to a pre-school and an Episcopal congregation. The youngest member of the church is 65. There is no Sunday School, so choir is the church’s only activity.

The sad fact is, and it is happening in all main-line Protestant churches including the Brethren and Lutheran and American Baptist, there is no message--no gospel. I couldn’t even say the confession and creed (used that Sunday)--couldn’t believe a word of it. I’m not going to ask God for “more doubts so I can search more,” which is what was in the confession, nor will I pray to “Jesus, my example,” which was in the creed.

I felt so sorry for the pastor and her people. She didn’t speak to their needs, and it must be agonizing not to know what to do to give them something they can use in their lives as one by one, they say good-bye to their fellow members who die or go into nursing homes.

That was years ago. I wish I could say things have changed, that pastors in main-line churches are preaching the good news every Sunday to the people in the pews, but they are probably rallying them against the war, or cautioning them that pro-choice legislation is at risk, or urging them to be considerate of the Islamic faith.

What’s a poor sinner to do?

Monday, January 26, 2004

27 The Marriage Penalty

Believe it or not, some Christians didn’t want the Marriage Penalty Tax removed because it might hurt poor people. I wonder if by taxing families, many of them poor, at a higher rate than a couple living together in sin, children in all groups were benefiting?

This article appeared about a year ago: “Bush’s plan is nonetheless pro-family, said the Acton Institute’s De Vous. “The marriage penalty, which hits low-income workers hardest and serves as a financial obstacle discouraging marriage, will be reduced now, instead of waiting until 2009,” he said. “This reduction, combined with an increase in the child tax credit, from $600 to $1,000 this year, makes clear that this administration understands that stable marriages and family life serve as a foundational principle in wealth creation, and as such, ought not to be disincentivized by the tax code.”

However, perhaps Christian married couples could put the tax penalty break into the collection plate. It could still do Jesus’ work.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

26 Here come the want ads

You probably saw the big news item this past week--Joan Kroc left a lump sum of $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army, one half toward construction of 30-35 new community centers, and one half for an endowment for upkeep. Gifts for buildings with no corresponding assistance for upkeep is a serious problem. But each location needs to supply matching funds. Apparently, they won't be ringing bells or asking you and me for our dollars and coins. They'll be after the big guys.

Here's a want ad from the Columbus Dispatch Sunday Help Wanted, January 25, 2004:
Salvation Army of Springfield, Ohio, needs to fill a newly created position for a Resource Director. Develop and implement program of major gift solicitations, corporation solicitations, endowment funds, planned giving. Aggressive compensation package.
No mention of a faith requirement. Come to think about it, gifts with assistance for upkeep reminds me of Grace. Jesus died on the cross for our sins--salvation is a gift and we couldn't earn it if we tried. But for upkeep, He sends the Holy Spirit. And you can't beat our compensation package--especially that heaven part.

Friday, January 23, 2004

25 P.S.A.L.M.

PSALM is the acronym for a mythical ministry at my Church of the Acronym. It stands for Potty Signage And Light Ministry. (We don't have committees anymore; we have ministries.) I am the only one in this ministry, so far. And it's very lonely being a one person ministry. Some people, particularly church staff, might suspect I'm just a nag.

But recently I was reading an interview with Virginia Postrel (I link to her on my other blog, Collecting My Thoughts) about her new book, The Substance of Style. She says:
Public places, public commercial places, restaurants, stores like Starbucks, and public noncommercial places like libraries, churches, airports, etc., are paying much more attention to that, to the aesthetic, to the lighting, to the floor coverings, the textures of the furniture-to creating an aesthetic environment in which people want to spend time.

In a sense the organization brings the pleasure, that value of aesthetics, and the customers bring the meaning, the other value. They spend time in a successful place. Again, Starbucks is the touchstone, but not the only example. Customers have experiences there, and it becomes meaningful to them as a social pace.
How aesthetically inviting are cracked and soiled toilet seats, or dark, dim stalls, or paper towel rolls attached so high no small child could reach them. How do bright fuscia construction paper signs stuck haphazardly on the walls, or directional signs taped to expensive front doors or entrances so dark you fear for the safety of the elderly evangelize?

Think about it. What message is the light fixture or the toilet stall sending to the visitor to your church?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

24 Cop says Don't read this book

Daryl Wingerd is a former LA county Deputy Sheriff and a Christian pastor. He reviewed a wildly popular Christian title, Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, which is enthusiastically recommended by well-known, influential Christians, and found it inadequate.
"Eldredge mishandles Scripture badly. Second, the central theme of the book is not consistent with the teaching of the Bible. Third, Eldredge conveys a low, humanistic, and even heretical view of God."
As I understand the concept, the author of Wild at Heart wants Christian men to reclaim their wimpy souls from our feminized culture. The reviewer is an avid outdoorsman and the father of four.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

23 A Stone of Hope

I noticed a mention in the Wall Street Journal of "A stone of hope; prophetic religion and the death of Jim Crow" by David Chappell about a week ago.
"In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. said that he was going back to the South with faith that his people could hew "a stone of hope" from "a mountain of despair." That image captures the philosophy of the civil rights movement. The faith that drove black southern protesters to their extraordinary victories in the mid-1960s, this book argues, grew out of a realistic understanding of the typically dim prospects for social justice in this world. Despair was the mountain. Hope was by comparison small, hard to come by. "Freedom isn't free," one of the movement's songs observed: "You gotta pay a price, you gotta sacrifice, for your liberty." In another one of his 1963 speeches King said that the jailed black children of Birmingham were "carving a tunnel of hope through the mountain of despair." "
Introduction to Stone of Hope
The author explains why white liberals were completely ineffective in overthrowing Jim Crow--they had no sustaining religious faith that the black activists had in abundance.

Another reviewer at LA Times, Jim Sleeper is also worth looking at.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

22 When a paraphrase doesn't work

Our congregation is reading "The Purpose Driven Life" which has been on the best seller list. In a women's group I'm reading Max Lucado's "Experiencing the heart of Jesus." Both authors seem to lean rather heavily on "The Message," a Bible paraphrase translation. The Living Bible and The Message are sort of fun to read at a stretch--like for a whole story or book--especially for a fresh view. But for snippets or explanatory verses, give me a straight forward decent translation any day. It's a little like reading someone's "I think it said approximately this. . ."

Lucado himself has an interesting writing style. It has a rhythm and pace, not unlike a really good Bible translation. The Message doesn't have that. And I'm just guessing that the passages that fall flat for me are from The Message. His book doesn't tell you which of 6 versions of the Bible he is quoting--he only supplies book chapter and verse.

Monday, January 19, 2004

21 A kindler, gentler Las Vegas

In Frank Gabrenya's review [Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 16, 2004, D7] of the new William Macy/Alec Baldwin movie, "The Cooler," he seems to ask why movies can't show the kindler, gentler Las Vegas of the 21st century. Why the ugly past draining all the romance and fun and family-friendly atmosphere away?

So I'm left to wonder was he writing tongue-in-cheek? Old style mobster sleaze, broken dreams and knee caps just can't be given a pretty face. The world of gambling still destroys lives, careers, families and bank accounts, whether or not a knee cap is busted.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

20 Sin is so boring

Sin can sometimes be so boring. So unimaginative. I read two articles in the past 24 hours that illustrate again that all sin goes back to Genesis 2 where First Man and Woman decide they know better than God, and that surely he didn’t REALLY mean they should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And Satan seductively whispers, “You surely shall not die!” And they believed Satan and not God. Next stop, death.

One recent account of sin is the New Jersey “fetal farming” bill, which not only legalizes the cloning of human embryos, it allows those embryos to be implanted into a woman’s uterus, grown nearly to term, and then destroyed before birth, in order that their various body tissues and organs might be used for “therapeutic” ends. And 30 years ago we were told there was no “slippery slope” to legalized abortion, and now we’ll just grow babies and kill them for body parts. (Life in Christ series, Orthodox Christian Church, Jan. 2004)

Another is about “Open Theology,” and how some well known evangelical theologians are being allowed to remain in the safe harbor of orthodoxy, even though they teach that God gave humankind complete free will, taking a big risk in that He can’t know the outcome. This pretty much wipes out Christian teaching of the last 2,000 years, and discounts any Old Testament prophecy about Christ. The Board of the Evangelical Theological Society just didn’t have the heart (or some other body part) to kick their dear brothers out of the fold. (Christianity Today, Jan. 2004 p. 22)

I don’t think you even have to be a Christian to see that creating a human being to cannabilize its body parts or putting your will ahead of God’s knowledge are really bizarre thinking and behavior. But it might be an illustration of why the Christian church has so little impact on the morality of most people, including its own.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

19 Christian book review source

“People who read books about reading share an obsession so compelling that they can't help but judge another person's "favorite books" list against their own. Or in this case, "faith-shaping books," which I assume also qualifies them for favorite status. In any event, INDELIBLE INK provides enough fodder to keep compulsive readers engaged in arguments in their heads for some time to come.”

Well isn’t that the truth! This quote is from a review by Marcia Ford on the web page Faithful Reader, which I‘m bookmarking as a great website for reviews of Christian books and inspiring interviews with authors.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

18 Faith hopping

“President George W. Bush was born into an Episcopal family and raised as a Presbyterian, but he is now a Methodist. Howard Dean was baptized Catholic, and raised as an Episcopalian. He left the church after it opposed a bike trail he was championing, and now he is a Congregationalist, though his kids consider themselves Jewish.

Wesley Clark's father was Jewish. As a boy he was Methodist, then decided to become a Baptist. In adulthood he converted to Catholicism, but as he recently told, "I'm a Catholic, but I go to a Presbyterian church."“ David Brooks, Faith hopping in America. Link to the full story

Monday, January 12, 2004

17 Singing Bible verses, singing prayers

Our church has started a reading program for the whole congregation, The purpose driven life by Rick Warren (Zondervan, 2002). Friday I noticed it was number four on the Wall Street Journal list of best sellers. It is designed to be read in forty days, forty being an important Biblical number--rained for forty days, Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, and Pentecost came forty days after the resurrection. However, our congregation will parse it out and finish the week of May 30, 2004.

There is a memory verse in Chapter 1, Colossians 1:16, our first assignment.
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”
These words were set to music, and the congregation sang them several times to help the memory [I still sing the alphabet]. That’s really what liturgy is--portions of scripture set to music. And it’s a wonderful way to hide scripture in your heart and mind.

The November December 2003 issue of Pray! has the theme “Sing to the Lord, a fresh expression of intercession” and it is about singing prayers. I’d never heard of that before, but it certainly is Biblical. There are many examples of expressions of joy, praise, thanksgiving, love and lament in Scripture. Here is an index to scripture songs in two Lutheran hymnals.

Dennis Jernigan, a song writer and recording artist, tells of being released from homosexuality at a concert by Second Chapter of Acts in 1981. He writes, “Sing your prayers to Him. And then take time to listen. God will break through! He is singing over us and into our circumstances.”

Sunday, January 11, 2004

16 The old rugged hymnbook

Our congregation offers on Sunday morning eight services at three locations; five informal, two traditional and one blended. The hymns at two locations are projected on screens in front of the congregation. That leaves our arms free to be lifted in praise, discreetly of course as we are Lutherans descended in thought, word and deed, and often ethnically, from uptight Germans and Scandinavians. When the former governor of Minnesota was here he said it is hard for Lutherans to get their hands above their wallets.

When we attended two services with visitors in August 2002, one traditional (the solo transported us to heaven for a preview) and one informal (sway and swing, clap and tap), our guest noticed something I've never paid attention to. All the hymns for the traditional service were "public domain" and all for the informal were CCLI (Church Copyright License International). I'm certainly no expert, but there is a web site that explains it:

If on the screen you see the final verse followed by CCLI #nnnnnn, then your church is being legal and the musicians are getting their fair share. If not, you could be violating copyright law and sinning while you're singing. For a fee, a church receives a license to use a certain group of popular hymns. Every 2 years or so they vote on what to include based on usage by the paying participants. The sliding scale fee is based on attendance. If we drop the count for our two traditional services, our fee would be reduced, I think, because we're not using our CCLI license number privileges.

Isn't that good stewardship? Boring for the traditional folks, but maybe we deserve it for not being "with it." Of course, we could always use the pew hymnal if we really want innovation and good singing. I for one miss the opportunity to read music and sing harmony.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

15 Shall not parish

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son (Jesus), that whosoever believeth in Him shall not parish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16
Usually I don’t pay much attention to misspelling typos on the ‘net because they are easy to do in a hurry--especially homophones. But this one got my attention. There’s a big difference between “perish” and “parish” and this was on a very nice web site that had no name that I could find.

Friday, January 09, 2004

14 Conference on Christian Sexuality

A Conference on Christian Sexuality will be held April 23-25, 2004 at First English Evangelical Lutheran Church, 53 Park Avenue West, Mansfield, OH 44902

The advanced registration cost is $25 for individuals until March 22nd, 2004
and $35 thereafter. There is a congregational discount of $250 per congregation until March 22nd and thereafter $350 per registered congregation. TEL: 419-522-0662 FAX: 419-522-0075.

All the speakers are Biblical and will support the historic, Biblical stand on sexuality. They include:
Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, author of The Bible and homosexual practice. He will give the address, “The Biblical Textual Questions.”

Dr. Merton P. Strommen, Research Psychologist, Founder of the Search Institute, and author of The Church & Homosexuality. His address is, “Scientific and Sociological Questions.”

The Rev. Amy C. Schifrin, Pastor, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, St. Cloud, MN will provide her perspective in “Marriage & Ordination of Gays - The Power of the Rite.”

The Rev. Russell E. Saltzman, Editor of The Forum Letter, will address “Clergy & Divorce - The Larger Implications.”

Dr. James A. Nestingen, Professor of Church History, Luther Theological Seminary and author of many books and articles, including Martin Luther, A Life, will present “Sola Scripture - The Authority of the Word.”
Additional speakers and information to be announced. Coming from a distance? The Mansfield Holiday Inn (419-525-6000), only $57 per room per night. Reserve by March 22, 2004.

Upper Arlington Lutheran Church is co-sponsoring this conference with First English. Andy Jones, son of UALC, is the Associate Pastor at First English.

13 How do visitors see your church?

The Mystery Worshipper visits church services in the USA and internationally and then answers a series of standard questions, which are actually pretty useful for all of us who welcome (I hope) visitors every Sunday:

What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Was your pew comfortable?
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
What were the exact opening words of the service?
What books did the congregation use during the service?
What musical instruments were played?
Did anything distract you?
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?

The responses are presumably accurate, but written in a lively style with humor in mind.
“Did anything distract you?” “Yes, when the clown’s nose fell off.” “Yes, overly well-groomed minister--should have spent as much time on the sermon.” “Yes, a younger couple kissed deeply and passionately about every three minutes.”

“Did anyone welcome you personally?” “Not one parishioner said a word to us.” “An elderly woman with an oxygen tank chased us to give us a glossy red folder crammed with brochures describing all the ministries of the church.” “The man who handed me the bulletin greeted me, and several people in the sanctuary introduced themselves during the dreaded "greet the person next to you" time.”

“Which part of the service was like being in heaven?” “The people in the congregation all really seemed to love each other.” “The narrow Gothic arches go up forever and the massed voices, remarkably soft and clear, seemed to rise up with them. Shivers ran up and down my spine.” “None. The service lacked any transcendent moments.”

Thursday, January 08, 2004

11 Zeal

My cousin Gayle just sent me this quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:
Probably some of my hearers remember the old Madison Square Presbyterian Church in New York when it was under the ministry of Dr. Adams, and those of you who remember the Doctor will, I think, agree with me that he was the adjective "saintly." I attended his church when I was a little boy. The good Doctor had a small grandson, and it was accidentally discovered that the little fellow felt a great terror of entering the church when it was vacant. After vain attempts to find out exactly what his reasons were, it happened late one afternoon that the Doctor went to the church with him on some errand. They walked down the aisle together, their steps echoing in the vacant building, the little boy clasping the Doctor's hand and gazing anxiously about. When they reached the pulpit he said, "Grandpa, where is the zeal?" "The what?" asked Dr. Adams. "The zeal," repeated the little boy; "why, don't you know, `the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?"' You can imagine the Doctor's astonishment when he found that this sentence had sunk deep into his little grandson's mind as a description of some terrific monster which haunted the inside of churches.
—President Theodore Roosevelt

10 Grow for it

Our church library has a box of freebies--donations to the library that don't fit the collection policy (all libraries worth their salt have such a policy). Although my husband hates it, I usually can find something I really need in the box. Sunday it was "Grow for it Journal" by David Lynn and Mike Yaconelli, published by Campus Life Books in 1985.

Why would I want a book intended for my kids (graduated from high school in 1986 and 1987)? Actually a whim. On November 1, 2003, our Saturday morning women's group finished up a Beth Moore study. Just about the last thing on the video to scroll by was a quote by Mike Yaconelli from his book "Messy Spirituality." I'd never heard of him, but was impressed with the thought. That night I read about his death on October 30 on the internet. I think he had been helping his parents move and was in an auto accident.

So when I saw that 18 year old journal for teen agers to write in about their parents, friends, church, worries, and ideas for growth, I just decided to pick it up and see who Mike was.

He was the founder and general editor of the first Christian satire/humor magazine The Door (formerly the Wittenberg Door*). The Door website says:
Mike's life and work have inspired thousands of people, most notably youth workers, through his writing and speaking. Mike exuded a passion for following Christ and living out that faith in everyday life. Perhaps Mike's greatest contribution was his ability to encourage and inspire youth workers for almost 30 years at the National Youth Workers Convention.
"Though critics derided the magazine as divisive, humiliating, profane, liberal, judgmental, slanderous, offensive, and even satanic, the humor almost always reflected a strong commitment to, and thorough knowledge of, the evangelical world." Christianity Today, Ted Olsen, 4/22/02

The senior editor writes about his death:
The world is significantly less raw and revealing now.
The world is significantly less funny now.
But heaven must be rockin' tonight

*There is also a blog by a seminary student called The Wittenberg Door.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

9 Blogging for Jesus

Recently I’ve been reading “Wide as the Waters; the story of the English Bible and the revolution it inspired,” after earlier reading in November “In the beginning; the story of the King James Bible and how it changed a nation, a language, and a culture.” Both books clearly show that having the Bible in English dramatically resulted in questioning the authority of the church and the king. Eventually it led to a constitutional government. Also, increased Bible reading then led to the production of other books and a huge increase in literacy among the English.

Fast forward several centuries, and look what amateur “journalists” are doing on the internet that affects the churches. Sounds very similar to the revolution that the Bible in the vernacular English and German languages started. Bloggers in all denominations are debating and discussing church issues without the filter of their church’s hierarchy.

"Nothing's a secret anymore," he says. "Bishops in the church can no longer do things quietly. Anything that's put out quickly goes around the globe. The Internet has allowed people to challenge assumptions, critique them and given ordinary people a chance to raise questions that would not ordinarily be raised." Washington Times article about Episcopal bloggers.

“Of course, we're told that we need contemporary worship since this will be what we listen to the other six days. Of course, we've been listening the other six days, so it might have never occurred that, umm, we don't want to have the same crap shoved down our throats six days a week by corporate radio shoved down our throat again on the seventh! There is always the whole mystery thing.” Random Thoughts of a Young, Confessional Lutheran writing about “boomer music” in the Lutheran church.

“Methodist pastors often seem as uneasy with this world-view dissonance as laity. . . Sermons emphasizing the Bible's ethical teachings are much more numerous than those resonating classical theistic themes. Even at Easter, the day of all days to affirm God's power, the resurrection seems to have less to do with the power of God than the moral obligations Christ places on us. I agree with John Hick's observation that usually, "statements about God, instead of referring to a transcendent divine Being, are expressions of ethical policies" of Christian living.” One Hand Clapping, a Methodist minister, former career military. [Note: Rev. Donald Sensing increasingly comments on political events.]

Sacra doctrina by Joel Garver is beautiful to look at and to read. Michael Phals writes Bishop’s Blog. Both are Presbyterian. There are also websites that track Christian blogs and several lists of “10 best” that I haven’t taken the time to work through. Religion News Blog provides a lot of articles (from the secular press mostly) for Christians to write about.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

8 Missions

When the missionaries are visiting or on furlough raising support, I like to attend their programs. I am always stunned and humbled by their commitment to Christ. Here's what we at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church will be enjoying in the month of January. This is the Lytham Road schedule, which I received in an e-mail, but the same people will be speaking at the Mill Run campus too.

Lytham (Founders Hall)
Jan 4, 9:45 Lower Lights Christian Health Center, Dr. Dana Vallangeon
Jan 11, 9:45 Alaska Mission Team, Karen Kemp and team
Jan 18, 9:45 Anna Gruntz, OSU ministry through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Jan 25, 9:45 Chad & Laurie Brennan, OSU ministry through Campus Crusade

Alaska Mission Trip - Karen Kemp and a team of 18 went to Quinhagak, Alaska in July 2003 to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through Vacation Bible School and basketball. Come, hear the report of their mission trip and why we sense the call to return in 2004.

Lower Lights Christian Health Center -- Dr. Dana Vallangeon leads a Christian medical health center on West Broad Street, which serves both Franklinton and the Hilltop. Come, hear how her ministry is making a difference in the lives of many, both physically and spiritually.

Anna Gruntz and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at OSU -- Anna Gruntz (UALC member) reaches out to commuter students on the Ohio State campus. Come, hear how pizza and the gospel of Jesus Christ can change lives of college students.

Chad & Laurie Brennan and Campus Crusade for Christ at OSU - Chad and Laurie Brennan originally served with Campus Crusade in New York City. Recently they have returned to Columbus to join the Crusade staff at OSU. Laurie (née Stanek) grew up in UALC and was supported by UALC doing short-term mission in Turkey. Come, hear about the outreach to students at OSU.

On Sunday January 4, the team members of our congregational medical mission to Honduras were prayed for as the congregation laid hands on them. The local organizer is one of our neighbors from Abington Road, although we didn't know her then. My friend Adrienne's son Craig, an RN, participates in this as does our family doctor and his teen-age daughter, and one of our neighbors in the condo complex.

Another couple from the church, Judy and Bill Gibeaut, participate in a Medical Ministry International team that will go to a remote town in northern Haiti, February 28-March 13. Judy is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and her husband goes along as a general helper. SALT groups from the church are collecting vitamins to send with them.

Monday, January 05, 2004

7 Girl meets God

Book club meets tonight to share our views and experiences reading "Girl meets God" by Lauren F. Winner (Algonquin Books of chapel Hill, 2002). I'm not sure I know any modern writer who has so carefully chronicled her faith walk--surely she was keeping a diary knowing someday she would tell all.

The author was raised a Reform Jew, converted to Orthodox Judaism in college, and then later converted to Christianity and worships in the Episcopal tradition. She is also bright, well-educated and an avid and eclectic reader. Unlike many Christians who read the Old Testament for signposts to Jesus, she is very familiar with the rabbinic commentaries and centuries of traditions that build on those stories. She is able to see wonderful parallels between Christian and Jewish holy days that the rest of us might miss.

She weaves into her own story, stories of her family and friendships, including some of the men she wanted to marry as a Jew and then as a Christian. She is painfully honest about her sins, particularly those where she might put herself above others who are not as knowledgeable or as educated as she is.

I loved the chapter on Lent (p. 123) where her priest asks her if she plans to give up anything for Lent. Being a new Christian, and somewhat smug, she is prepared to fast one day. But her priest knows her weak areas and suggests she give up reading! She is an idolatrous reader--reading isn't a fallback activity, it is her life. She had 3,000 books in her tiny grad student apartment.

On infant baptism "[a Baptist friend] often says that a baby can't promise to do everything one promises in baptism. I have never found this a very persuasive argument. . . The very point is that no baptismal candidate, even an adult, can promise to do those things all by himself. The community is promising for you, with you, on your behalf. It is for that reason that I love to see a baby baptized. . . we cannot labor under the atomizing illusion that individuals in Christ can or should go this road alone. . . we are struck unavoidably with the fact that this is a community covenent, a community relationship, that these are communal promises." p.80

On Mary's Magnificat "To read Mary's inversion of Naomi's words as a statement that what's empty and incomplete in the Hebrew Scriptures is fulfilled only in the coming of Christ is to miss the meaning of the Book of Ruth. Mary reverses Naomi's lament, but she is not the first to do so. . . The whole point of the Book of Ruth is, in fact, reversing Naomi's lament. . . Mary's proclamation . . reiterates the fulfillment that the Book of Ruth already offers. . .she is repeating a reversal that is already there in the text." p. 251

Her new book, which I haven't read, is Mudhouse Sabbath, written after seven years in the Christian tradition about things that she misses in the spiritual traditions of Judaism.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

6 A $13 box of memories

If they hadn’t been waxing the floors at the Meijer store, I would have missed this bargain. I had to detour through the retail clothing and house wares to get to the groceries. And there it was: a package of four choral CDs, “100 Hymns & Praise Classics.” So, for $13.00 I bought a box of memories.

Years ago we were in a Bible study group with a couple who recently sang a duet during the offertory at their church--one of these old wonderful hymns, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” She has sung for many years in the choir, but no one knew her husband could sing. She is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and has given up public performances, but the words learned as a child and sung many times allowed her to bless the misty-eyed congregation with her gift.

Every Protestant and many Catholics would recognize most of these hymns. Collectively these four disks may represent what many of us think of as “traditional” as we look back to communion and prayer services, revivals, hymn sings, religious holidays, and funerals, or even a softly playing religious radio station in Grandma‘s living room. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “To God be the Glory,” “Oh Worship the King,” “Amazing Grace,” “Trust and Obey,” “In the Garden,” and so forth. All public domain.

Some ye’s, thee’s and thou’s, lots of omniscience, adoration, worship and the Cross; yes, much about the cross and the blood. There are very few tunes I don’t know, and others with which I am familiar but are not a part of my hymn-memory, like “There is Power in the Blood” and “There is a Fountain” (I don’t recall these ever being sung in our tradition). Some are hand clapping, body swaying and toe tapping tunes, more likely to be sung by my southern family than my northern family. The more militant songs with “marching” “armor,” “battles” and “soldiers” were downplayed or ignored in our Anabaptist denomination.

Box of Memories, pt.2

I notice a lot of the tunes in this collection are danceable--the fox trot or the waltz--like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Trust and Obey,” and I’m sure they raised some eyebrows when first introduced to the more conservative churches. Perhaps the older generation will always resist the “new songs” as too secular, or the devil’s music, just as my husband and I don’t enjoy today’s ear splitting Christian rock or hip hop.

As I listen to these hymns, I am briefly transported back to little Faith Lutheran in Forreston, Illinois with Pastor T.B. Hirsh and his wife, and to the old Church of the Brethren on Seminary Avenue in Mt. Morris. I can see my Sunday school teachers, Mrs. Green, Mrs. Bechtold and Mr. Kinsey, and Rev. Foster Statler who baptized me, all faithful servants of the Lord. I can see my Aunt and Uncle reading scriptures by candlelight at the Brethren Love Feast (communion service) and hear the a cappella four part harmony of “Just as I am.”

I can see my elderly father rise up out of his rocker, stand tall and strong and march around the living room to “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which he requested for his funeral. I can hear my sister Joanne and my friend Sylvia playing these hymns on the church organ. I can see Mrs. Jasper singing “In the Garden” at Grandma W's funeral in 1963. I see my friends singing them in the dark around the fire at Camp Emmaus. Today I am able to sing along in the car or in the kitchen because as children we sang these hymns again and again, while learning to read music, squirming in church beside our parents, or performing in the junior choir.

Caution! Some freshly waxed floors may result in a flood of memories and a few tears.

5 Too much stuff

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recognizes that communication is its linchpin, so it had an audit of its print and web materials to see how it was doing. The conclusion was that ELCA generates “too much stuff,” all of which is considered top priority, but the producers aren’t sure of the purpose or the outcomes, and the audience seems to have information overload. Executive summary.

4 A Different View of the Grand Canyon

We loved our trip to the Grand Canyon in August 2003--particularly the raft trip down the Colorado River. Nothing in nature has ever made me feel so close to God.

But why are evolutionists so fearful that a point view other than their own about Earth's origins might work its way out to the public? Surely, one little book that goes against the tide can’t be that scary. They remind me of the church and state teams of the 16th century who tried to keep the Bible in vernacular languages away from the people for fear they might lose some power and wealth.

Here’s a rather hostile account (in full context it includes snide remarks about religion) of a book at a park service book store at the Grand Canyon.

“But starting this summer the Park's bookstore began offering a volume titled The Grand Canyon: a Different View. The view is indeed different. This book of lavish photographs and essays presents the creationist account of the origins of the great canyon of the Colorado River. The book is edited by Tom Vail, a river guide, who offers Christian float trips through the canyon.

"For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years," Vail writes in the introduction to the book. "Then I met the Lord. Now, I have "a different view" of the Canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than about a few thousand years old."

One of the contributors is creation "scientist" Dr. Gary Parker who observes: "Where did the Grand Canyon itself come from? The Flood may have stacked the rock like a giant layer cake, but what cut the cake? One thing is sure: the Colorado River did not do it." Jeffrey St. Clair

Update: Jan. 7, 2004: Noticed this on Religion News Blog.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

3 Wandering in Egypt

Holidays are not easy times for those who have experienced loss, especially if it is a loss involving a family member. The images on TV, the cards, the symbols and the greetings are usually filled with the mythology of many traditions, mostly of Consumerism and European Paganism, mingled with a few Christian rites.

December 28 is called "Feast of the Holy Innocents" and remembers the first martyrs of Christendom, the 50-100 babies under the age of two that Herod killed trying to eliminate the new "king" he'd heard about. Even Herod's own relatives weren't safe from his evil nature--he killed many of them. Martin Luther said "better to be Herod's sow than his sons."

The New Testament story in Matthew 2 refers us back to Jeremiah 31:15-17, "This is what the Lord says: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.' " Mary and Joseph did what good parents everywhere do--they heeded the warnings and did what was necessary to protect their baby. The irony is they fled to Egypt, from which Moses, the most famous adopted child in history, had led his people to freedom centuries before this baby's birth and where Pharaoh had also killed innocent babies.

When our oldest children died in the early 1960s, I didn't know about this beautiful passage from Jeremiah; but when our two teen-agers in the 1980s left us and went their own ways I was a Christian. I posted this wonderful story on my refrigerator door for two years. I certainly wasn't patient while they wandered around "in Egypt" ignoring our love, teachings and traditions, but the rest of Jeremiah promises, "They will return from the land of the enemy. . . Your children will return to their own land." And they did.

If the holidays are hard because you've had a miscarriage, or placed a child for adoption, or lost a custody battle, or your adult child is wandering in Egypt, tuck Jeremiah 31:15-17 in your wallet, purse or heart; stick it on the bulletin board, refrigerator or your computer screen. Relax and wait on the promise.

(Based on a sermon by Paul Ulring, preached many years ago)

Friday, January 02, 2004

2 The Covering

I see that Muslim school girls won't be able to wear the veil to school in France. No Amish or Mennonites to harass in France? Their covering means the same thing--submission to male leadership. What about nuns or other religious orders? Or Pentecostals who won't cut their hair and consider it a covering? What if they teach in a French school?

I think the French didn't like the fashion statement the Muslim women were making. I'm sure France will be much safer from terrorism and rowdyism with these school girls under control and out of the veil. Are North African Muslim immigrants living in France allowed to vote?

Is it OK for the Statue of Liberty, our French import, to keep her head covered with that crown? It is a symbol. It could be divisive.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

#1 Happy New Year

The jazz concert and worship service at church last night was a huge success. No one knew what to expect since this was a first, but about 800 people came. Pastor Paul asked members of the congregation, "who brought visitors," and many hands went up. Paul admitted he doesn't know much about jazz, but in the sermon he drew a large rectangle in the air and said that although the musicians had great freedom, they were working within a framework. Our life with God can be that way he promised. Great freedom, but within God's laws.

The six piece group, which included Tom Battenburg on trumpet and Vaughn Wiester on trombone, started with some secular music at 5:30 with video of New Orleans, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, as well as a lovely rural film clip for "Autumn Leaves." Then we had a rousing hymn sing using old hymns in the public domain, arranged I assume by staff member Russ Nagy, the pianist. We got up and moving with "Standup, standup for Jesus," which was probably too danceable for my grandparents' generation in the original, but works nicely as jazz, "Crown him with many crowns" (I didn't think this one could pass muster as jazz), "Amazing Grace," and "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun." We closed with a familiar but probably unsingable hymn (for the visitors) to the familiar tune of Auld Lang Syne with great gusto.

One new freedom last night was carrying coffee cups into the sanctuary. Previously (one year ago our senior pastor of 18 years retired), no food or drink was allowed in there. I don�t worship often at Mill Run campus (this one opened four years ago, but we have three locations) because the slope of the stadium seating in the sanctuary is uncomfortable when standing and when sitting I slide off the seat. I think the drink restriction was a wise one. If coffee is spilled in row 20, someone in row 10 who has put her purse and Bible on the floor, is going to really be unhappy. Fortunately, by the time I kicked mine over returning from communion, it was empty.

Originally posted at Collecting My Thoughts