Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"We are approaching the end of another year. Jesus has walked with us during 2008. He has been present together with the Father and the Spirit in the Holy Scriptures and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He has heard our prayers and carried us throughout the year. Now, as the old year ends and a new one nears, we, too, pray, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” The future is unknown, but with Jesus by our side, we are safe and secure." From Portals of Prayer, selection for Dec. 30, 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One more week to see the Blue Shoes Art Show

If you'll be attending the New Year's Eve Jazz Service at Mill Run on December 31, walk up to the second floor gallery area and enjoy the Fairfield Blue Shoes MRDD exhibit, hosted by the Visual Arts Ministry of UALC and promoted by Cheryl Fey, art director with Blue Shoe Arts, who said the self-taught artists receive all the money their art brings in, minus the cost of their supplies. These are some of the most delightful, colorful paintings we've ever exhibited. We fell in love with the first one, Noah's Ark--notice the animals are sea sick. I would have never thought of that! The second photo shows some wonderful butterflies--want to guess what their bodies are made of? Salt shaker caps. The third one has almost perfect perspective and is an orchestra. There are so many things to see in this painting you could look at it for hours. Click to enlarge.

Reminder: The Mill Run Campus is now closed on Friday and Saturday to save energy costs. So if you want to see the show, check it out on Thursday, or on Sunday if you attend services there.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We had several Christmas Eve services last night then one today at 10 a.m. at Lytham Road (traditional worship, 1960s style architecture). I heard the family behind me whispering:
    "This smells like a church. I like it when a church has pews."

For all the pews
who from their labors rest
In oak and walnut we formerly confessed
Your name O Jesus
be forever, blest,
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Monday, December 22, 2008

We are waiting

The following is taken from The Cistercian World: Monastic Writings of the Twelfth Century, Penguin Classics, 1993. It is written by Guerric of Igny.
    We are waiting now for the anniversary day of Christ's birth, which we shall shortly see, God willing, Scripture requires, it seems to me, that our spirit should be so lifted up and transported with joy that it longs to run towards the approaching Christ; and, projecting itself into the future, it chafes at delays as it strains to see what is yet to come. I think myself that the many passages in Scripture exhorting us to hasten towards him refer not only to the second coming but also to the first. How so? Because just as, at his second coming, we shall run towards him with physical energy and joy, so do we hasten to Bethlehem with jubilant heart and spirit. You know that at the resurrection, having put on new bodies, according to the Apostle's teaching we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in the air, and so we shall be with the Lord for ever. But even here there is no lack of clouds that will carry our spirits to high things, and then we shall be with the Lord if only for half an hour. . . this coming of the Lord to the individual soul is frequent in this middle time between his first and final comings, conforming us to the first and preparing us for the last. (from "The second sermon for Advent," p. 129-133 of Penguin edition)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Key of David

O key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and none can shut; you shut and none can open: come and free the captives from prison, and break down the walls of death. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

O Lord of Light, Who Made the Stars

Final verse, which I jotted down in church Sunday

To God the Father and the Son
And Holy Spirit, Three in One.
Praise, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

Latin hymn c. 9th century

In Latin, from Godzdogz

Conditor alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Christe, redemptor omnium,
exaudi preces supplicum.

Qui condolens interitu
mortis perire saeculum,
salvasti mundum languidum,
donans reis remedium.

Vergente mundi vespere,
uti sponsus de thalamo,
egressus honestissima
Virginis matris clausula.

Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
caelestia, terrestria
nutu fatentur subdita.

Te, deprecamur hagie,
venture iudex saeculi,
conserva nos in tempore
hostis a telo perfidi.

Laus, honor, virtus, gloria,
Deo Patri et Filio
Sancto simul Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

This is a difficult quiz!

But try it anyway. If you are LCMS you'll probably do better than I did.

You are 80% Lutheran! This is most certainly true.

Not a perfect score. What does this mean? You have room for growth in understanding Lutheran terminology and culture. Good thing Salvation is by Grace and not by merit. We can add nothing to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. But it never hurts to learn a little more about the church on earth. Thanks for taking the quiz!

How Lutheran Are You?
Take More Quizzes

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cutting costs at church

At "Dear Lucy" a blog at the Financial Times, a manager writes that he's been getting grief for cutting coffee and biscuits, or was it tea. Some of the comments weren't sympathetic, saying it would make little difference. Our church earlier this year stopped offering donut holes at the coffee urn on Sunday morning. Maybe it's a rumor, but I heard the savings was $17,000 a year (we have 3 locations, 9 services, and lots of children whose parents don't keep an eye on the cups they fill up with donut holes). There was always a little collection plate for suggested donations, but apparently some didn't use it. Then I heard they also changed coffee brands, and saved another bundle. Then the huge shock came that affected our ministry (visual arts), but probably not a lot of others: they decided to go to a four day week, 10 hour day, and close the buildings on Friday and Saturday. Again--rumors, but I heard that's a savings of $50,000 just on utilities. These cuts have probably saved some jobs and/or programs. Maybe those Brits at FT just hadn't looked at food costs recently.

The real problem for church budgets, not only at our church, but your church, is the 80/20 problem--20% are giving 86.4% of the total donations to the church. Church Ethos, a blog, debates whether a tithe is commanded for NT Christians, but notes
    "if only the “committed” Christians (as defined in the research) would give 10% of their income there would be an extra $46 billion dollars a year for kingdom work in the American church alone. Again, regardless of whether or not you think people should tithe or that the church will actually be faithful to spend that money wisely…just think what that kind of money could do. A few examples given in the research reveals what that much more money could provide: food, clothing and shelter for ALL 6.5 million current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East or enough resources to sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide."
Or enough for donut holes and coffee at UALC, to keep the buildings open and enough to run our human service programs without government grants.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gift suggestion for an artistic friend

Lilias Trotter was a student and friend of John Ruskin in the 19th century, but she gave up fame and a sure career as an artist among his circle of disciples to become a missionary among Arabs in north Africa. But she never forgot the pull of her art, and continued to draw and sketch along with writing devotionals and travel diaries. Her small, hand size books beautifully illustrated were quite popular for over 30 years, then as missionaries and vision statements changed, she sort of dropped out of view. I discovered her this year in a recently issued book "A blossom in the desert," compiled and edited by Miriam Huffman Rockness (Discovery House Publishers, 2007). The author's preface of how she first became the recipient of Trotter's little devotionals and then tracked down her paintings and original manuscripts is a story worth a book in itself--at least a librarian might think so.

Fortunately for those of us with limited funds--or attention spans--the Gutenberg project has scanned one (or maybe more, I haven't looked much farther) so you can see her beautiful, delicate watercolors and read her words, Parables of the Cross.

Look at the beauty and message she finds in a humble dandelion:
    "This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying--the delicate seed-globe must break up now--it gives and gives till it has nothing left.

    What a revolution would come over the world--the world of starving bodies at home--the world of starving souls abroad, if something like this were the standard of giving; if God's people ventured on "making themselves poor" as Jesus did, for the sake of the need around; if the "I"--"me"--"mine" were practically delivered up, no longer to be recognised when they clash with those needs.

    The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe: it is marked by detachment. There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest, turning the "readiness to will" into the "performance." (2 Cor. 8. 11.) And to a soul that through "deaths oft" has been brought to this point, even acts that look as if they must involve an effort, become something natural, spontaneous, full of a "heavenly involuntariness," so simply are they the outcome of the indwelling love of Christ."
Trotter certainly offered up her own life for God, leaving family, friends and fortune to settle in Algiers not knowing a word of Arabic, and the next forty years established 13 missions, called the Algiers Mission Band. According to her biographer, "she pioneered means, methods and materials to reach the Arab people [now] considered to have been a hundred years ahead of her time."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A sermon on preparing to die

Martin Luther wrote some very practical material. This might be a good one to read while listening to Henry Paulson and other government officials try to explain all the bailouts that will ruin us while watching the stock market struggle. Luther actually makes 20 distinct points, but only the first three matter, because 4-20 really expands on three.

Unlike a lot of his material where he begins with the Gospel, then moves to every day life and relationships, in this advice he reverses the order. He first suggests you get all your worldly affairs in order so that in the event of your death, "there won't be occasion for squabbles, quarrels or other misunderstanding" among the survivors. "Second, we must cheerfully and sincerely forgive, for God's sake, all men who have offended us" and seek the forgiveness of others we have offended. Then the third thing is "we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads and directs us." Here he makes the interesting comparison between the passage "from the small abode of the mother's womb into this immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world." So when we depart this life, which seemed so big after the womb, we pass through another narrow gate into a large mansion and joy will follow.

Points four through twenty expand on grace and the believers relationship with Christ, particularly in the sacraments.

Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, ed. by Timothy F. Lull, (Fortress, 1989), Ch. 28, p. 638

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The coming threat to religious liberties

". . . in a society that redefines marriage to include same–sex unions, those who continue to believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman can expect to face three types of burdens.

First, institutions that support the traditional understanding of marriage may be denied access to several types of government benefits, and individ­uals who work in the public sector may face cen­sorship, disciplinary action, and even loss of employment.

Second, those who support the traditional understanding of marriage will be subject to even greater civil liability under nondiscrimination laws that prohibit private discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and gender.

Third, the existence of nondiscrimination laws, combined with state administrative policies, can invite private forms of discrimination against religious individuals who believe that marriage involves a man and a woman and foster a climate of contempt for the public expression of their views."

Same–Sex Marriage and the Threat to Religious Liberty by Thomas M. Messner

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Speaking of clarity, what does this say?

“Over the years, from many struggles, triumphs, and mistakes we began to articulate how that vision of love gets fleshed out, and the things that hold us together. A statement of faith (“our commitments”) and a statement of practice (“Foundation”) and a list of house rules (“Functionality”) were created to put words to the things we share in common, and to make room to celebrate the things we don’t. These documents are sort of the DNA or charism of the community. Community structures such as “the Onion”, defining the various layers of commitment and responsibility within the community life, were created to help people grow into the intentional community and reproduce the spirit of its founders.“

I spent a lot of time at this web site and its links, and was still mystified after about 45 minutes, so I gave up trying to guess what they were and why. It looked to me about the same as what we do at Hilltop, the food pantry, the Clothes Closet, mentoring, etc., but I wasn't sure.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Where is Martin Luther when you need him?

Pastor Eric Waters mentioned Thursday night that it was 491 years since Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door (October 31, 1517). No modern Christian has the clarity and common sense of Martin Luther--there doesn't seem to be anyone close in the ELCA. I've been reading through the Sept. 30 Council Minutes of our church and see that IF the ELCA decides to ordain gay and lesbian pastors and bless unions of gay and lesbian couples when it meets August 2009, our pastor will lead us away from the ELCA. That sounds pretty vague, especially since everyone knows if it isn't August 2009 it will be 2010 or 2012, but they aren't going to quit, give up or go away. I analyzed the last document at this blog and the language was just bizarre. Imagine writing about biblical sexuality and never mentioning "husband and wife" or "mother and father" with only one reference to a married man and woman. Where in the world do they find writers like that? Obfuscation. Reinvention. Goobledegook. Nonsense.

There are enough of these movements in Christendom among the Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc., that they could all pull out of their respective denominations and form their own church based on their sexual orientation first, their own concept of family second, and the word of God a distant third. Why, they could form a denomination of at least several thousand and leave the other millions of Christians to obey God! Why are we even messing around with this? If they aren't going to leave the Christian church, then we should leave them. I think UALC has been fiddling with this issue at least eight years. Come on guys, LEAD US OUT!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Honoring the poor

Anchoress has a story on her blog,
    I have a cousin who is a priest. He has worked in some absolute hellholes and he’s also rubbed elbows with the very privileged. He notes that it’s only the very rich who want to strip down churches into bare halls, or who want to serve Communion in wicker baskets because “that honors the poor.” The poor don’t really appreciate the wealthier folks deciding what “honors” them, he tells me. Condescension, for example, doesn’t do it.
I wondered about that the Sundays we visited and worshiped at our Hilltop campus. Our UA members and song leaders would wear jeans and try to imitate their culture in the songs. The locals would wear the best they had and were such a mix I think our folks might have seemed a bit condescending in music choices. Were we honoring them with some sort of false identification with what we thought they should look like? Is there anything wrong with being just us for justice?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Papists, coxcombs, conspirators, thieves, blockheads and fanatics

The political season is a good time to read Martin Luther. The Reformer had a lot of enemies, both within the Roman Church and among the other Reformers who thought he hadn't gone far enough. No one can smear an enemy with the delicious detail and snarky cleverness of Martin Luther. However, you really need to note carefully the dates of his writing (preaching), because his thoughts evolved. Like from 1519 to 1520! My goodness, what a change.

Luther from the beginning of his understanding of the work of Jesus Christ determined that only baptism, the Lord's Supper and preaching of the Word were forms of the gospel, means for a personal, powerful encounter with Christ. Other reformers ran on ahead proclaiming that the bread and cup were only memorials and that baptism depended on human understanding and decision, not on grace. This led to some nasty fights and name calling. The Roman teaching was seven sacraments not two, so although Luther was respectful and even humble in his early disagreements and writings, thinking he just needed to jettison the extras that had been added the last two or three hundred years, he soon learned what we all do in politics and religion, follow the money. No one accepts loss of power, prestige and wealth gracefully.

As a librarian, I particularly enjoyed his recommendation that the papists burn his books and pamphlets--the early ones in which he treated the Pope with respect and love--saying that he had learned so much from the Grand Inquisitor and the censors, that now selling those books would be robbing men of money!
    "Some 2 years ago I wrote on indulgences, but in such a way that I now deeply regret having published that little book (an explanation of the 95 theses). At that time I still clung with a mighty superstition to the tyranny of Rome, and so I held that indulgences should not be altogether rejected, seeing that they were approved by the common consent of so many. . . thanks to Sylvester (became Grand Inquisitor and wrote against Luther), and aided by those friars who so strenuously defended indulgences, I saw that they were nothing but impostures of the Roman flatterers, by which they rob men of their money and their faith in God.

    Would that I could prevail upon the booksellers and persuade all who have read them to burn the whole of my booklets on indulgences, and instead of all that I have written on this subject adopt this proposition: INDULGENCES ARE WICKED DEVICES OF THE FLATTERERS OF ROME.

    Next, Eck and Emser (Johann Eck and Jerome Emser, professors, humanists and critics) and their fellow-conspirators undertook to instruct me concerning the primacy of the pope. Here too, not to prove ungrateful to such learned men, I acknowledge that I have profited much from their labors. For while I denied the divine authority of the papacy, I still admitted its human authority. But after hearing and reading the super-subtle subtleties of these coxcombs, with which they so adroitly prop up their idol (for my mind is not altogether unteachable in these matters), I now know for certain that the papacy is the Kindom of Babylon and the power of Nimrod, the mighty hunter.

    Once more, therefore, that all may turn out to my friends' advantage, I beg both the booksellers and my readers that after burning what I have published on this subject they hold to this proposition: THE PAPACY IS THE GRAND HUNTING OF THE BISHOP OF ROME. This is proved by the arguments of Eck, Emser, and the Leipzig lecturer on the Scriptures (Augustinus Alveld, a Franciscan). "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, [1520]" Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings [English], Fortress Press, 1989, p. 267-268. Note: the 2005 ed. has been scanned by Google

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good News, Bad News, Our Views

Martin Luther wrote and taught and preached a theology of the word
    "with the theologian already drawn into the stuggle between God's "good news" in Christ and Satan's "bad news" in the temptation to become God (Gen. 3:5). Luther saw no neutral ground between the gospel and Satan, between God's revelation in Christ and the mysterious opposition to it by hardened hearts. . .The Christian theologian must concentrate on what God has disclosed rather than on what is mysteriously hidden. Luther expressed the most important aspect of his theological method, which is the hallmark of the way Lutherans learn to talk about God." A history of Lutheranism by Eric W. Gritsch, (Augsburg Fortress, 2002), pp. 42-43.
That's about the best explanation I've read on why so many Christian authors don't appeal to me. When I see "mystery" or "secrets of" or "how to" in the title or sub-title of a book or video series, I know it will be a snooze for me. If God kept it so well hidden that it took a Rick Warren or a TV preacher warning about the signs of end times, or a weight loss guru with Bible verses, then perhaps he didn't want me to find it. Actually, I don't meet many Lutherans who read anything Luther wrote. I think they assume that a 16th century writer couldn't speak to today's problems, or that he might be difficult. He isn't; he's delightful, and clear, and writes on every imaginable topic, but always from the middle of the good news/bad news struggle--never off from afar as an observer. He's got every tool to fight the humanist's vision as man at the center of the universe, if we'd just use them.
    We have to argue one way about God or the will of God as preached, revealed, offered and worshipped, and in another way about God as God is not preached, not revealed, not offered, not worshipped. To the extent, therefore, that God hides and wills to be unknown to us, it is no business of ours. . . God must therefore be left to God in divine majesty, for in this regard we have nothing to do with God. But we have something to do with God insofar as God is clothed and set forth in the divine word, through which he offers himself to us. Luther's Works, vol. 33:139

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shine like the stars adorning heaven

When asked whether godly persons already justified should expect some merit on account of their good works that follow justification, Luther observed that the already justified remain sinners and need to pray for forgiveness for their sins in this life.
    "Surely God gives works to individuals, but differently, as one star differs from another. Yet all of these are under the forgiveness of sins. As heaven (that is, justification) is under grace, so much the more are the stars. As the stars don't make heaven but only adorn it, so works don't merit heaven but only adorn justifying faith. This is the only reasoning that solves everything: "I believe in Jesus Christ, who suffered under Pilate for us." Everything is his, nothing is ours. Afterward, when by grace we are sons of God, we differ in our gifts, just as there are different stars in heaven." "Table Talk," no. 4331, January 1539, Luther's Works, v. 54, p. 328-329, (Fortress Press, 1967).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Taking the food stamp challenge

It was a bit off-putting for me that an unmarried couple took the food stamp challenge and was featured in the Feb. 2008 of The Lutheran. But maybe they were just eating together, not sharing a bed. When a guy and gal are listed as engaged, and they're eating a food stamp challenge diet, your imagination takes over.

Anyway, it was only 5 days, and he is a chef making omelets, fresh-baked bread, stir-fry dishes and homemade soups. Yet they were complaining by the end of the week. Seems they do know the beauty of buying 5 lbs of potatoes and 2 lbs of onions, and 3 lbs of carrots but yearned for yogurt, shakes, and bars.
    "Jason Mendoza and his fiancee, Krista Oppie, like many other Lutherans, took the Food Stamp Challenge to learn firsthand about the hardships that millions of low-income Americans face in obtaining a healthy diet under current food stamp benefit levels. At presstime, Congress was in the process of reauthorizing or writing a new U.S. Farm Bill, which includes the Food Stamp Program. The ELCA Washington Office has encouraged Lutherans to call or write their member of Congress to ask that the per-meal benefit for the Food Stamp Program be raised."
Qualifying for food stamps does not mean you have no income or resources, but it is not intended for you to eat high on the hog, as we used to say back in the days when my dad thought crumbled crackers with sugar in a dish of cold stewed tomatoes was "dessert."

The article says they grew tired physically and mentally--you know the routine, stress at work, busy schedules, and sameness in the diet. Oppie says she now has more sympathy for the 35,000,000 who are hungry. No Oppie, they are not hungry on this plan--they may be bored, cranky and ungrateful, but they certainly aren't hungry. They are allowed to have income, and savings and a car and still qualify. They can go to the food pantry and get 3 days of food each month. Also, most people get out of their difficult circumstances quickly, unless someone, or some agency makes it easier to stay put and give up. And if they are married, they have very little chance of being poor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Did God change his mind?

About 15 years ago our congregation used to gather on a grassy, park like spot and worship, dreaming of a new church building. We met in small prayer groups seeking guidance, and the story I was told was that we didn't make a move until there was discernment for the next step. The new church opened New Year's Eve 2000 and filled up. One of the reasons it filled so quickly is that we had 6 or so services at the old building and we were encouraged to worship in the new facility to get some balance. For maybe two years, people sort of worshiped here and there, and eventually settled into one spot (traditional, contemporary, and x-alt). People settled according to 1) music tastes, 2) where friends and family were worshiping, 3) which preacher was where, and 4) time. Then it seems God spoke again because we absorbed yet another facility, Hilltop Lutheran, which was struggling but had an excellent physical plant. Again, prayer, meetings, discernment. Yes, God wanted us to have an urban witness. Another group relocated to help populate that church.

I've sort of lost track--I think in 2006 we had 11 services, in 2007 10, and now maybe it is 9. But our original plan to be one congregation (whisper: mega-church) with three campuses has been difficult to manage. The first split I noticed was the choir, which the first few years served both buildings (bussed across the river). Then the traditional service at Mill Run was so poorly attended it was dropped, so those people had to shift back to Lytham, if they wanted liturgy. But some never returned and just changed to a different worship style. Meanwhile, Lytham started losing people, even those who lived near by, because adult children and grandchildren were worshiping at Mill Run. Then an x-alt service was added and it is always crowded with people who like that loud, thumpy music.

Now it's fall 2008. Someone on the staff, not sure who, has decided instead of one congregation we are now 9 (or 10, not sure) worship communities. Since we were told years ago that we'd been called to be one kind of church, this has left us scratching our heads on how to do this. There weren't any meetings on the grass or big prayer meetings, that I know of. But maybe something was happening when we were at Lakeside during the summer.

Instead of rotating the pastors from pulpit to pulpit, we will now all have a traditional arrangement. Everything will have to have a service and pastor behind it. Sort of like a town of 4,000 with 9 churches whose members wave on the corner, or at the store, who have Bible school together, and occasionally cooperate for a project.

We've been in the Visual Arts Ministry for nine years, our 10 members all attend different services and we hang shows at 2 locations; I'm in Women of the Word, which has about 5 meeting times in 2 locations--its the only thing I do regulary at Mill Run although I worship at Lytham; my husband is in the Haiti ministry which draws its volunteers from all services; the food pantry and clothes closet draws from all the services, as does the Highland school volunteers; our SALT (couples Bible study) has 8 couples attending 4 services; the advent and lenten services meeting at both locations, so we don't even see each other for those smaller gatherings; Bible school draws from all services and also other churches; Sunday school times are usually between services, so I'm assuming they draw from both. Frankly, we don't actually know very many people in the service where we worship, now we feel doubly shut out, yet this is supposed to be "our church." When we see people we know in the narthex, they are often going in to the next service and we stop and chat a few minutes.

This feels like an unwanted, unasked for divorce from our congregation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

American Lutheran Church in Norway

At one time, the Lutherans in the United States were heavily ethnic, and the synods reflected that. When we joined UALC in 1976 is was part of the American Lutheran Church which was a meld or merger of various Scandanavian synods. Then in 1988 the ALC merged with the Lutheran Church of America which I think may have been from its early English speaking roots in the USA with some non-Missouri Germans. The new name was Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA. Today I was reading a Norwegian newspaper on-line and discovered there is an American Lutheran Church in Oslo, Norway, founded in 1958. Here's the article, but its website is down for remodeling at the moment. I think the USA probably needs missionaries these days from China and Africa to revitalize our denominations. It looks as though you can hear a sermon in English in Oslo.
    Sunday worship services are held at 11 am.
    The pastor is the Rev. Stephan M. Kienberger.

    The congregation's Mission Statement reads: "The mission of the American Lutheran Congregation is to bring people of different nations and denominations together, and in the English language empower them into becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Trying to explain the Brethren

At Bible study last week I was trying to explain the relationship between Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). A friend of mine has attended classes at Ashland University and insisted that the two were not related and that EUB was in that mix somewhere. EUB was created in 1946 from a merger of the Evangelical Church and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, both home grown American denominations made up of German immigrants (now part of United Methodist Church). The German Baptist Brethren originated in Germany, came to the U.S. and split into three main factions in the 1880s. The members of the progressive group, The Brethren Church (headquarters in Ashland, Ohio), were in disagreement about some theological things in the 1930s, and in 1939 they split into two groups, The Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). Grace Brethren has a huge presence here in Columbus. Other than trine immersion baptism and the Love Feast/Lord's Supper, I'm not sure the two groups have much in common today--maybe a member of either group could explain. Trying to sort through the various "Brethren" names in church denominations is really tricky. It's like the Millers or Yoders if you're doing genealogy.

However, this blog is about another reunion, not a split. After all these years, the Brethren Church and the Church of the Brethren have finally worshipped together! Today I came across an account of the 300th anniversary celebration of the Brethren (formed in 1708). The German Baptist Brethren split three ways in the 1880s. The Progressives became the Brethren Church (Ashland), the moderates changed their name to Church of the Brethren in 1908, and the conservatives are/were called Old German Baptist Brethren. From this outsider's point of view (I'm now a Lutheran but was baptized CoB), I can see no difference in what they believe--they just have a different history since the 1880s. This was reported in the Church of the Brethren Newsline
    Brethren meet in Virginia for historic 300th Anniversary Conference.
    It has been 125 years since the Brethren worshiped together like this at Annual Meeting. The last time this took place was at a field in Indiana in the late 1800s, after which the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church experienced a split.

    On July 13, these two Brethren denominations held Sunday morning worship together at the 300th Anniversary Conference in Richmond, Va. The Conference sang on this historic morning, "Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord, our God!"

    The Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church both stem from the Brethren movement that began in 1708 in the village of Schwarzenau, Germany, where the eight founders of the movement were baptized in the Eder River. At the Anniversary Conference, water was poured into a fountain worship center from the Eder River, from Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia where the first Brethren baptisms in America took place, and from the districts of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    The whole of Sunday was given to anniversary events. After worship, the John Kline Riders greeted worshipers on the plaza outside the coliseum--the group remembers the life of Civil War-era Brethren leader and peacemaker John Kline.

    That afternoon, participants had their choice of workshops under the theme "An Experience of Brethren Faith Journeys." An evening celebration of mission featured music and stories from the international mission work of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    In addition, a Service Blitz and a food drive marked 300 years of Brethren faithfulness by sharing a witness of service and caring with the Richmond community.

    Anniversary committees from the two denominations worked jointly on the celebration. The Church of the Brethren's 300th Anniversary Committee has been planning for this Conference for eight years.

    The 300th Anniversary Committee included Jeff Bach (chair), Dean Garrett, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Leslie Lake, Lorele Yager, and Annual Conference executive director Lerry Fogle. The late Donald Durnbaugh also was a member of the committee.

    Source: 7/16/2008, Church of the Brethren Newsline

Here's a longer account at a Grace Brethren blog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A syllabus for American religion

I'm always complaining about the Jesus-lite books that are available in church libraries, book stores and public libraries (our UAPL is impoverished for anything Christian after the 1980s unless it's been on the best seller list). But, that's what people want to read--fluff, anecdote and feel-good. Today I was bouncing around the internet looking a stuff on Egeria, a 4th century Spanish nun who had gone on a pilgramage and kept a travel diary. Fascinating stuff. However, the problem with Google, and the OSUL catalog is you get far afield, and somehow I ended up in Wheaton, Il in Kathryn Long's course syllabus for Young Scholars on American religion, History 483, an overview of Christianity in North America from the colonial era to the present. Thinking maybe "young scholars" were junior high and therefore I could read it, I discovered they all have PhDs and the program runs for 3 years. The textbook is Mark Noll, History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (1992) plus course readings that are on sale at the college bookstore or on reserve in the Buswell Library. Whew. Well, it's a place to start.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Susie can't spell

Why is this cute? Curriculum?

The most segregated hour of the week

If you're a Christian, you've been hearing this old saw most of your life: "The most segregated hour of the week is on Sunday morning during church services," or some similar paraphrase. Well, praise the Lord, I say. I don't mind at all driving past a thriving, lively black Baptist church, or a Roman Catholic cathedral on my way to my not-so-much-so Lutheran church (although to do that I'd have to be going to our Hilltop location, not the Upper Arlington location. We don't ask Korean Americans or Hungarian Americans to stop singing the hymns they love, but it's just not cool these days to say you really don't enjoy an ear deafening service with worshipers wearing nose studs, muscle shirts and tattoos. But if you look like me, well, all's fair--or not so fair in the sense of skin color, because if your congregation is lily white or all black, well, shame on you!

I love a liturgical service, some Bach at the organ, repeating the creeds Christians have said together for a thousand years (several for variety depending on the season, not just the Apostles'), listening to the choir, and an inspiring sermon with a good Gospel message. If what matters to you is how high your heart rate can go, or how much your head can throb from the noise, or a sermon on political candidates or a saint's miracles, let's agree to worship separately.

There are plenty of service opportunities for us to work together to build the Kingdom of God on earth the other hours of the week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Morning devotions--a bibliography

Probably only a librarian would read a bibliography for devotions and get all teary! Can't help it. I think I've mentioned this book before, but it continues to amaze me, and it's 65 years old. If you saw a 1944 Peloubet's select notes on the International Sunday School Lessons at a yard sale or book store, it would probably cost fifty cents, if they weren't offering it for kindling. Mine was free, I think, selected from a "not needed, free to a good home" box. [Aside: once when I was the librarian at the vet school at Ohio State, I put a huge bundle of equine magazines that we kept for 2 years only on a table in the hall and put up a sign "free to a good home." Someone put the journals on the floor and took the table!]

This editor (Wilbur M. Smith) includes the most amazing, analytical and critical bibliographies which say more in a sentence or two than most reviewers with all their hedgings and howevers do today. If most of the book was worthless, but one chapter was outstanding, he said so. In this volume there is an extensive bibliography in the introduction for I. Lives of Christ, (25 titles); II. Useful for the study of Mark's Gospel (one list for English and one for Greek), (23 titles); III. Biographies of the Apostle Paul, (23 titles); and IV. Old Testament History (8 titles). Then each lesson (there are quarterly themes) has a section called "The Teacher's Library." These are books the editor recommends in addition to those listed in the introduction, or he selects specific page numbers from titles mentioned in the introduction. For instance, in the longer bibliography:
    ALEXANDER WHYTE, The walk, conversation, and Character of Jesus Christ Our Lord, New York, Chicago, 1905. "A book that stands altogether by itself on the subjects which it treats. A wonderfully suggestive exposition of various texts in the Gospel relating to the person of Christ, which are too frequently overlooked." (p. 5) Then in lesson one, it appears again in The Teacher's Library paragraph as: "On verse 12 see a great chapter by Alexander Whyte in his The walk, conversation, and character of Jesus Christ out Lord, 105-114."
One author in this initial bibliography he sets above all the rest, G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit, which in 1943 he said couldn't be purchased anywhere in the English world because it was out of print, unless at a second hand book store. So I googled that title, read what the reviewers said, and read some excerpts. The first page grabbed me for its clarity and style. I'm putting it on my list. I'm looking over my right shoulder at my stuffed, jammed book shelves, and I see no room. This will require some tough decisions. Christian books that chit chat with anecdotes, or Christian books that teach and inspire.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Living by faith

While checking on the path of Hurricane Ike this morning I came across this quote in USAToday:
    "We're all just laying down looking up at the dark ceiling and talking," Adams, a personal adviser to the island chain's chief minister for tourism issues, said by mobile phone.

    Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos, is home to about 3,000 people, and has little natural protection from the sea and expected storm surge, but Adams said she and her family were not afraid.

    "We live by faith here," she said. "We believe in Jesus Christ so a lot of praying is going forth. There is going to be damage, no doubt, to infrastructure but that we can replace over time."
We need this kind of faith for the storm surges of our lives. There certainly are no protections behind or under the walls and edifices of career, position, relationships, money and power in which we usually wrap ourselves.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's scramble time again

For many years we've attended the early service at UALC (Lytham Road, Upper Arlington). I've lost track. I think it's been as early as 7:45 a.m. when we were squeezing 6 or 7 services in one building, and as late as 8:45 a.m.; it's been informal and it's been traditional. We happen to be early risers and prefer an early service. Now it's all changing again, and tomorrow is the first day. I think it will, by design, kill the liturgical early service, and soon we'll be told that because of poor attendance, it will be offered only at 11 a.m. That's what happened at Mill Run a few years ago--there used to be more choices there.

"Community" may be the most over used and least understood word in today's churches. It's very hard to maintain any sense of community when we play musical chairs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do you suppose this will catch on?

Could change some of that happy clappy music protestants love. I saw this item at Modern Reformation, a conservative Presbyterian publicantion.
    VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholics at worship should neither sing nor pronounce the name of God as "Yahweh," the Vatican has said, citing the authority of both Jewish and Christian practice.

    The instruction came in a June 29 letter to Catholic bishops conferences around the world from the Vatican's top liturgical body, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, by an explicit "directive" of Pope Benedict XVI.

    "In recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name," the letter noted, referring to the four-consonant Hebrew "Tetragrammaton," YHWH. That name is commonly pronounced as "Yahweh," though other versions include "Jaweh" and "Yehovah." But such pronunciation violates long-standing Jewish tradition, the Vatican reminded bishops.

    "As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, (the name) was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred Scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: `Adonai,' which means `Lord,'" the Congregation said.

    That practice continued with Christianity, the letter explained, recalling the "church's tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred Tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated."

    Invoking a Vatican document from 2001, the Congregation reminded bishops that the name "Yahweh" in Catholic worship should be replaced by the Latin "Dominus" (Lord) or a word "equivalent in meaning" in the local language.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sort of makes you miss Rock of Ages, doesn't it?

Many years ago I heard that "Rock of Ages" wasn't in our hymnal because it had a waltz beat, and of course, dancing was a sin [Church of the Brethren]. Now barking and rolling on the floor is part of some Christian sects. I doubt that this one has made it into too many hymnals, but it is evidence that if the political left is afraid of Christians, they should just move along and look for another boogy-man. If this is what is being raised up, we're all going to the funny farm.
    If you feel too serious and kind of blue,
    I've got a suggestion, just the thing for you!
    It's a little unconventional, but so much fun,
    That you won't even mind when people think you're dumb!

    Just come to the party God is throwing right now,
    We can all lighten up and show the pagans how
    Christians have more fun and keep everyone guessing,
    Since the Holy Ghost sent us the Toronto blessing!

    I used to think life was serious stuff;
    I didn't dare cry, so I acted kind of tough
    'Til the Spirit of God put laughter in my soul,
    Now the Holy Ghost's got me, and I'm out of control!

    Now I'm just a party animal grazing at God's trough,
    I'm a Jesus junkie, and I can't get enough!
    I'm an alcoholic for that great New Wine,
    'Cause the Holy Ghost is pouring, and I'm drinking all the time!

    Now I laugh like an idiot and bark like a dog,
    If I don't sober up, I'll likely hop like a frog!
    And I'll crow like a rooster 'til the break of day,
    'Cause the Holy Ghost is moving, and I can't stay away!

    Now I roar like a lioness who's on the prowl,
    I laugh and I shake, maybe hoot like an owl!
    Since God's holy river started bubbling up in me,
    It spills outside, and it's setting me free!

    So, I'll crunch and I'll dip and I'll dance round and round,
    'Cause the pew was fine, but it's more fun on the ground!
    So I'll jump like a pogo stick, then fall on the floor,
    'Cause the Holy Ghost is moving, and I just want MORE!
    Kathryn Riss [who seems to have God-given permission to repost this]
And so many Lutherans don't like the new hymnal. We should be grateful we didn't get this gal on the committee!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Compounding the problem

I receive a monthly prayer list on problem pregnancies. Sometimes I delete it without reading; sometimes I pick one or two and do pray. I don't claim to understand prayer. Some Christians I know report being clear in their answers (yes, no, tomorrow, next year, etc.) All I know is we are told to do it. My prayer job jar seems to fill up just with the people I know or our relatives. Sunday at church I was sitting next to a woman who during "joys and concerns" for prayer, said she was back at Lakeside after a 2 year absense, and was healed of her brain tumor.

Often the request on the pregnancy list is about someone who is going to have an ultrasound. This often influences decisions. This month included situations like 4 children, single mom wants abortion; doesn't know who the father is; and victim of domestic violence. Occasionally, the woman is ill or has been raped or is actually a child herself, but that's rare. Decisions were made that resulted in a baby and now there's a problem. This is the one that really puzzles me, and shows some confusion about values.
    college couple (not married); 5 wks; both come from Christian homes; want abortion because they don't want their families to know they have been sexually active; refused ultrasound
It's like the guy who has an affair but doesn't use a condom because it's against his religion. Duh! If you think your parents don't want you having pre-marital sex, what will they say when they find out you aborted their grandchild?

In the 10 Commandments we are told to love God and our neighbor, but then instructed to HONOR our parents. That goes beyond love, and is a requirement even if we got parents who don't deserve any honor, who are mean, or stingy, or who will stop paying tuition. This is such an important commandment that it is the only one with a promise attached.

So this young couple are the ones I'll pray for on this list.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Musings of a Medical Missionary

Some at UALC have been on medical mission trips. I was really touched by this story of the need for a current oncology textbook in the Ukraine told by a medical missionary. The book arrived too late for the child with HIV, but it opened the door for the Good News.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Hope and Change theme

Barack Obama certainly isn't the first politician to take a biblical theme and run on/with it, and he won't be the last. The Bible is full of great truths, ideas, stories, parables, miracles and romances which have been used by capitalists and kings, socialists and school teachers, writers, artists, poets, and musicians, slaves and slavers, and even Marxists and fascists over the centuries. But there is one basic truth from Genesis to the Revelation, and it's all about the HOPE.

Christianity is an Easter religion. Easter celebrates HOPE, and in order to participate in this HOPE, the individual needs to change. In the New Testament, the word HOPE refers to the future, not only the HOPE of everlasting life, but the HOPE of resurrection from the dead, the HOPE of a new body like the body of Jesus, the HOPE of being in heaven forever with the Lord. Lots of religions have references to an afterlife, but in the Christian faith, the human body is so important to God because of his intentions at the Creation, He continues to use it even after death on this planet and realm. After all political boundaries and even the earth itself have passed away, we still have this HOPE. This HOPE written about in the New Testament doesn't depend on a nebulous, vague speech of a Chicago pol scrolling across a teleprompter, but a real solid foundation of fact. Our HOPE of a heaven where we dwell with God in a physical body rests upon what happened here on earth in the person of the Lord Jesus. His resurrection is the assurance of our resurrection. Obama can't take that away from us and refashion it into a social justice, namby-pamby temporary band-aid, the hope of a different job, or a housing project that will be torn down in 25 years. It's not the change in a McCain or Gore carbon cap or exchange running after green votes which is going to diminish your life style. No, this is real change--the change that the Holy Spirit will make in the believer, grounded in the HOPE.

Cross posted from Collecting My Thoughts

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Catholic left flees its roots

A former Kerry worker cheers the rush to Obama, after all there's more to Christianity than saving the unborn, not experimenting on embryos and respecting God's plan for marriage, right?
    One of the groups to emerge from the welter of concern after the ’04 election was Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. Executive director Alexia Kelley, a veteran of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, who was exposed to the Catholic social justice tradition while studying at Harvard Divinity School, thinks organizations like hers resulted from “a common desire among Catholics to have a united voice and message.”

    She and others believed “the notion of the common good is absent or eclipsed in the public square. We have something to offer our politics, which is so divided and based on the ‘you’re-on-your-own-mentality.’ ”

    Catholics in Alliance is one of the broadest coalitions to materialize, and it strives to be one of the most bipartisan of the new breed. Kelley insists that the church’s social tradition arcs over party lines and that the common good should provide common ground for discussion. It, along with Network, organized of the Convention for the Common Good.
And some of us Christians think there's more to the faith than 1960s retread social justice.

Blogger dot com problem

I haven't been able to get into my regular blog, Collecting my thoughts, so I looked at the help page at and saw this message
    Some blogs have been mistakenly marked as spam. Affected users are not able to post to their blog and received an email indicating Blogger classified their blog as spam. We are actively working to correct the issue.
Next they should check out whether the blogs being blocked have political content and if so, who is doing the mischief.

Then I checked a few other sites and they say the problem is and if you have that on a blogspot url, they aren't working together. The suggestion is to remove SiteMeter. I can try that, but hate to, since I like that feature.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Word Alone Newsletter

A Lakeside friend noticed my "Digging for the pony. . ." blog essay on the ELCA sexuality statement in the printed Word Alone Newsletter. Look through the archives--it's an interesting publication even if you aren't a Lutheran. All mainline protestants are going through the same battles.

My final paragraph where I urge UALC to leave ELCA was deleted from the reprint.
    I don't know what our congregation (UALC) is waiting for--it took this sexuality task force seven years to write a mish-mash and hodge podge and submit it to the people of God as a serious work. Every paragraph looks like the sentences were drawn from a hat of former reports and pasted to a page. It is an insult to our common sense and a travesty of our faith. It's time to go. It really is. These people will not back down; they'll just wear us out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Update on Monica Durban

Last winter at church we were told about a family who had been visiting our church, the Durbans. Their 20 year old daughter Monica was near death after being hit by a drag racer on her way home from work. I put her name in my prayer job jar and sent several cards and notes to her parents. Today I came across an update of her situation in the Columbus Dispatch. She is slowly recovering from massive head injuries.
    Durban's once fast-paced life has slowed to baby steps. She is undergoing physical rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. A rod props up her crushed left leg while hunks of metal hold together her shattered right heel.

    The traumatic brain injury she suffered apparently still plays tricks. "My hand hurts so bad, daddy. Love it," she says, asking her father to rub her hand. There's nothing wrong with her left hand or wrist. Her brain, though, tells her it hurts.

    Monica's strength is amazing, her father Lee Durban says. The neurosurgeon gave her a 200-to-1 shot of survival.

    "For six-weeks plus, you think you have an absolute vegetable. It's a hell you can't describe. But we're past the miracle and piling miracles on top of miracles," he said of his daughter's ongoing recovery.
I will continue to pray for Monica and her family. This is a very long road.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Now that's preaching!

The Brethren genealogy listserv provides some entertaining reading from "the old days." Here's an item from 1914 recalling how things were 40 years before in Iowa--
    "The winter of 1873 and 1874 was not severely cold,
    with very little snow. IRA CHASE, a Brethren minister
    from South Dakota, came to our neighborhood and
    opened a revival meeting in the school house. The
    elder was one of the 'hollering' kind. No person could
    go from the meeting and say that they did not hear
    what the preacher said, for he usually could be heard
    for one-half mile. Elder Chase was a good man as well
    as a good speaker. His sermons began to take effect.
    People came for miles from every direction. The school
    house could not hold one-half of the crowd. A collection
    was taken up, teams were dispatched for lumber, one
    end of the school house was moved out and the sides
    were built in to double its former size. All of this was
    done and not a meeting missed. Something over 80
    people were converted or went to the mourner's bench.
    During one of the elder's sermons he designated the
    locality as Pleasant Valley, which name it carries to
    the present time.

    LeMars, Iowa Sentinel, Jan 9 1914
Expanded the building, renamed the town and 80 souls saved, too!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Top 10 Christian sites in Italy

Zondervan Publishing House publishes general travel guides called, "The Christian Travelers Guides" series. For Italy it suggests the top ten of many
    1. St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City
    2. Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
    3. Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan
    4. Holy Shroud in Turin
    5. Dome of the Florence Cathedral
    6. Piccolomini Library in Siena
    7. San Clement in Rome
    8. Santa Maria Dei Frari in Venice
    9. San Brizio Chapel in The Cathedral of Orvieto
    10. Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna
Blogging will be light while we enjoy our tour.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Save the Children

needs to get back to the business of well, saving children. I'm really disappointed to learn that it has jumped on the childhood obesity bandwagon. We absolutely do not need one more bloated government program for food that feeds farmers and bureaucrats! Read Junk Food Science. My husband and I sponsored and corresponded with a boy from Ecquador for many years. We hope we made a difference in his life (although one time I was watching a TV program on volcanoes and a man with that same name was killed).

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Are we watching the end?

I caught a few minutes of the Obama celebrations last night, as he is the presumed candidate of the Democrats. John McCain, the unconservative interloper candidate of the Republicans looks mighty weak and frail, both in thought, word and deed against a young man with no history of doing anything except smoozing with the Chicago machine and various "social justice" think tanks. He's propped up by Move on dot org, George Soros and ACORN, to say nothing of the tenured radicals of the 60s, at least those whose brains have survived the haze of drugs of their youth. I've never cared for Hillary Clinton, but over these past few months I found myself wishing that Thompson or Huckabee or Romney had shown even a fraction of her determination and drive. She out campaigned and out talked Obama at every point, but his machine was stronger than hers, although I don't see a spider's web width difference in their policies and plans.

So I turned to the book of Acts, because none of this is new, it's all there. Nations and leaders rise and fall in God's plan. I am not a dispensationalist; the fascination that some Christians have with the Left Behind series and picking a verse here and there to match up with the newspaper headlines leaves me--well, left out. But the one question I always have, since it only seems to be Americans who get into this, just where is the United States in all the prophecy of end times? Paul probably has the answer, Acts 17:26-31.

He's in Athens and he proclaims the Gospel to a group that might be compared to a lunch bunch sitting around in the Faculty Club at OSU philosophizing over politics, history and biology--most likely they've even bought into man-made global warming and chuckle over Bushisms (the stammering of Obama doesn't bother them). By their own behavior and publications they are admitting they haven't found God, just like the guys Paul encountered that day. Most won't listen to Paul who begins with the announcement that God created the universe, that he is Lord of heaven and earth that they have descended from Adam and they won't find him or serve him with their man made efforts.
    "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being."(NIV)
If that's not clear enough, here it is in the New Living Translation, a paraphrase which reads like a sermon on the text:
    "From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him--though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist." (NLT)
In short, God is in control; we aren't. And it appears we have frittered away our inheritance and are settling for a false messiah.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Where cross the crowded ways of life

is an urban, gritty hymn, with a "social justice" theme. We sang it this morning in our traditional service, but it didn't seem to fit the sermon theme--Acts 24:10-27, Paul's encounter with his enemies and his imprisonment for the Gospel. You've all heard the tune, I'm sure. If not, sit back and enjoy this--it will come back to you.

There's a long list of humanity's problems in this hymn,
    cries of race and clan

    noisy selfish crowds

    wretchedness and need

    dark spaces of fear

    paths that lead to greed

    helpless children

    grieving women

    toiling men

    famished souls

    deep sorrow

    multitudes longing

    restless throngs
but no solution, no mention of Jesus by name, his miracles, his sermons, the cross, his death for our sin, the resurrection. No gospel. It's Jesus of the tender heart and compassionate face, with tears on our behalf. The writer, Frank Mason North, 1850-1935, offers the familiar "follow the Master" solution, "Till glorious from thy heaven above, Shall come the city of our God."

Except for the music this hymn wouldn't rouse a wild eyed poverty pimping Father Pfleger or a mild mannered conservative Lutheran.

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!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sometimes Luther didn't recognize his own pirated works

When I see Luther paraphrased for this or that cause within the church--global warming, illegal sanctuary, marriage for gays, radical feminism--in such a way and useage we can't even understand the quote or source, it's good to remember it isn't new--it happened in the 16th century, too.
    Greed goes to work and plays this mean trick on the publishers of my books: Others quickly reprint the productions soon after their appearance and in this way use the labor and cost of our men for their own profit. . . they pay little attention to the accuracy or the inaccuracy of their reprints. And so it has often happened to me that, reading the text of the reprinters, I have in many places not recognized my own work and have had to revise it anew. They do things in a hit-and-miss manner; their object is money." What Luther Says, vol II, Concordia (1959) p. 848

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lutherans assisting unlawful behavior

LIRS is another liberal Lutheran group--Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service stretching at the seams and borders (literally) of the faith to find someone in trouble. They don't have to look far. Among the illegals pouring into the country from central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico are violent criminals. Unfortunately, the police in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Diego and other cities can't do much about drug traffickers, gang violence, murders and assaults (usually against other immigrants)--because these are "sanctuary cities." LIRS has one advantage over the Sexuality/ Gendered task force group--they are better writers and their English is so clear and precise it's scary!

LIRS has one thing right in its letter and memo of 2007--the immigration system is broken (primarily because it isn't enforced, not because it is). The mess we're in now was in part created by an ungodly coalition of business, unions, civil rights activists, and churches who thwarted the call to fix the 1965 immigration law with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized the status some 2.7 million illegals already here. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

However, plan of LIRS is to promote a "new sanctuary movement" by taking a "public, moral stand," not for law enforcement at our borders, not for demanding Mexico stop using its poor as a wind tunnel to blow funds back home, not for assisting Mexico in developing its own infrastructure to help its underemployed or unemployed, not for restoring the villages that have been decimated by evil people luring workers north, not for requiring businesses obey employment laws, and not for demanding that our federal government commit to protecting our border.

The four criteria suggested in the letter, of course, refer to "families," because that's always a good hook for little old lady Bible studies--and LIRS essentially encourages Lutheran churches to harbor illegals, because they won't be prosecuted. It does provide some useful clarification to misinformation at the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law web site. As I noted--LIRS does not fall into the pit of pious, erotic, and squishy, cut and paste god-words like the sexuality task force--they actually have good research, even if I disagree with their intent. Well, I could do without the hokey phrase "prophetic hospitality," but that's as bad as they get.

I truly believe that Lutherans who want to encourage other Lutherans in illegal behavior should raise their own funding from their own pockets--reduce their tithe to their own churches (if they put their money where their mouths are)--and not ask the rest of us to pay their salaries, hire their legal consultants, and pick up the tab for their plane tickets, workshops, websites, and publications.

LIRS, with probably good intentions and a Christian heart, is nonetheless part of a huge problem--of smuggling criminals along with honest workers into the country, of winking at employers and hiring practices, of flooding our social services like schools, police and hospitals with people who don't pay taxes, of splitting up families, of a massive phony document industry, crooked politicians and union leaders hoping for more votes and members, and the list goes on and on.

Right now with the economy struggling, we're already seeing illegals going home, and not as many coming across the border. The same thing happened during the Depression with some 60% of the immigrants who came in the 1920s returning home. New Deal social programs were not accessible to them. Think about it, LIRS. What if there were no carrots to lure them here in the first place?

Martin Luther's message to the ELCA

Different time, different church structure and level of authority, but the message is the same, whether it's to the powerful papacy of the 16th century or the weak Chicago branch of Lutheranism in the 21st century.
    "The focal point of Luther's conflict with the papcy--whether it was his condemnation of the sale of idulgences or other evils, the publication of his 95 theses and the explosion it created, his debate with Eck at Leipzig, his immortal defense at the Diet of Worms, his subsequent excommunication from the fold--revolved around one problem: what was to be the supreme and final authority in spiritual matters, the Church or the Word of God?" David Otis Fuller, "Valiant for the Truth," (1961) p. 99-100

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lutherans spout hot air on sexuality

but reduce their carbon footprint and accept money from George Soros. ECLA Lutherans apparently take seriously the directive by God to care for the earth (while ignoring the crown of the Creation story of one man and one woman), but have fallen for the carbon footprint scam.
    "Our social statement, 'Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice,' commits us as individuals, as a worship community, and as a public church, to address the threat of global warming. I encourage all Lutherans to calculate their carbon footprints, reduce their energy consumption, and purchase carbon offset credits where appropriate," [Mary] Minette said.
The carbon footprint market was created by the Kyoto Protocol, and the developers of the schemes are all European (the biggest in England) and the auditors of the scheme are mainly Norwegians (who are sitting on their own oil cache). It's paying for the right to pollute. Of all the environmental wacko nonsense, this one has the most questionable value to the planet. Why would people who probably wouldn't fall for the e-mail story of a Nigerian royal family bank scheme fall for something as bizarre as a purchasing a permission slip to spew carbon dixide?

Meanwhile, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service partners with George Soros / Open Society Institute, a far left, anti-American organization to assist immigrants in various stages of illegal behavior.

But I commend ELCA: They have come up with at least one social statement that doesn't use the word "poverty."

Lutherans within the ELCA synod

who are concerned about the direction are saying"
    "ELCA churches and members are turning to authorities other than the authority of God’s Word, revealed in his risen Son, Jesus Christ, and in his inspired Word in the Holy Scriptures. The other authorities – human experience, wisdom and tradition – are used to turn aside the authority of God’s Word. The weaknesses within the ELCA – ecumenical agreements that compromise on significant biblical and confessional truths, the teaching and preaching of universalism, a decline in the proper mission of the church (global missions and new mission starts) and the push for approval of sexual relationships outside of marriage to name just a few – are symptoms of the deeper problem within the ELCA, the crisis over the authority of God’s Word." Word Alone

    "In the past 16 years the ELCA lost approximately 466,000 baptized members from the 5,240,739 members reported in 1990, Almen said. More than two-thirds of the decline occurred between 2002 and 2006, (97,559 members from 1988 - 1995, 90,612 from 1996-2001, and 325,674 members from 2002 - 2007) . . ." [The ELCA committed to the Sexuality study in 2001 under the leadership of Bishop Hanson] Fred Seling (member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Smithville, Ohio)

    "After careful and prayerful consideration, the members of Lutheran CORE have concluded that those seeking changes in the Church’s understanding of human sexuality have not met, and almost certainly cannot meet, their burden of showing that those changes are consistent with the foundational tenets of the Christian faith." Lutheran Core

    "I don't know what our congregation (UALC) is waiting for--it took this sexuality task force seven years to write a mish-mash and hodge podge and submit it to the people of God as a serious work. Every paragraph looks like the sentences were drawn from a hat of former reports and pasted to a page. It is an insult to our common sense and a travesty of our faith. It's time to go. It really is. These people will not back down; they'll just wear us out." Norma

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Children's Ministry

My intention was to ask some questions, but instead I just picked up the April 1 Council Meeting Minutes and found that the Children's Ministry had been the subject of a report, so I'll just mention here what was reported.

Russ Nagy* directs the Discipleship Ministries of UALC, and the Children and Student Ministries are under him. Russ is a layman, not a pastor, but is paid staff. He has been teaching youth and adult Bible studies for as long as I've been attending the church. He says the vision for these ministries is "Grow up strong in God's Word and Truth." UALC's Children's Ministry involves 6 paid staff, hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of kids, according to Russ. It has the traditional things like Confirmation classes, VBS, Sunday School and Youth groups--but today's kids are much more interested in experience than knowledge. Regular attendance isn't particularly valued by children or parents, and they might float between different churches with only nominal influence from UALC (I'm paraphrasing.) Numbers are down in the traditional offerings, but up in over all contacts (called "touches"). Some kids the staff see only once; others, hundreds of times. The staff believes "'touches' educate, comfort, inspire, encourage, and proclaim Christ's forgiveness."

The 1970s were the "glory years" of UALC's Luther League, according to Russ (we began attending in 1975 when our children were little, but I had my eye on that youth program which was really terrific). The current program, Genesis, is well attended but not like it was 35 years ago--but he thinks the newer programs to involve more parents are a positive change. He is always looking for more "touches" and more volunteers.

Other members of the staff reported that there are home groups, luncheon meetings with high school kids, and small groups for girls. Joy Peterson is in charge of the below middle-school children, and she noted that the programming differs between Lytham Road Campus (original location of UALC) and Mill Run (opened in 2000), but doesn't give specifics. I attend Lytham which has two traditional services (also one contemporary and one high-energy called x-alt), so perhaps the Lytham Sunday School reflects the families who attend there. 4th and 5th graders have "Funky Fridays." 6th graders have their own small groups. The two locations have separate children's choirs. A layman, Mike Mills (don't know if he is staff or volunteer), is in charge of pre-confirmation classes, for 7th graders. Some of the notes in the minutes were so cryptic, I'm not sure what they mean, but it looks like there is an after school Bible club at Windermere Elementary School, and if it's in this report, I'm assuming it is sponsored by UALC. The VBS theme this year (which draws between 2500-3000) is "Hope--Above and Beyond." It is a Narnia type theme and is being written by Tony Auseon.

I don't think I'm reading between the lines if I see some hint that the staff--paid and volunteer--are swamped with casual, not particularly deep contacts, with kids who don't return or only come around occasionally. Could it be the "business model" they use from Purpose Driven Church doesn't meet our needs at UALC? Perhaps that's not be best model for equipping young people to meet today's challenges.

*Russ is also a well-known musician. His band played for our daughter's wedding, and my husband hired him to come to the house on my 50th birthday to serenade me with his trombone (my instrument). He and his brother Joel composed and published Christian music. My son-in-law's mother was his choir director when he was a little boy!