Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Look what I found

We joined UALC in 1976, but were attending in 1974, so I think this LP was made before then. William Halverson was the choir director, Marolyn Halverson was director of The Twelve, and Mary Pinkerton the Organist. Luther Strommen and Paul Ulring, pastors. Steve Puffenberger was the engineer. I see lots of choir names that I recognize--still at the church--and some who've gone home, and some to Minnesota, which for Lut'rans, would be the next best thing, I suppose.

I believe the photo is taken below the dam on the Scioto River along Rt. 33.

Our current choir director is Michael Martin. It's worth getting into the service early (Lytham) just to hear him pray with the choir. Our senior pastor is Paul Ulring, assisted by Pastors John Stolzenbach and Eric Waters. Eric's been on board about two weeks, and wow! are people excited about this guy. I hear he speaks Russian. Maybe I can practice. Pastor Dave Mann is on the payroll, but serving in Haiti.

I found it while looking for this. They both smell pretty musty.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Using a hymnbook for devotions

We do not use the 1995 "With One Voice" hymnbook in our Sunday worship at UALC. In fact, we rarely use a hymnbook at all since the words of the hymns are cast on a screen (I don't like this, but someone thought Lutherans needed to have their hands free of books--smile). I'll address the Confession at a later time after I've done a little research. I checked out a copy from the church library. A few of the hymns are . . . underwhelming. Others fresh, even if the range looks a bit challenging for us older folk. I did notice the awkward detours around male pronouns--then you see Father and Son are also scarce. (Diety in many modern hymns and prayers if mentioned is gender neutral and described by function.) The exceptions are Spirituals, or something very old and unsingable from the Didache or possibly a Latin chant. This removal of the male pronouns puts a heavy burden on the overworked first person pronoun--I, me, my, we, us, etc. Then the gender and diversity themes start to rise.

Oh, Praise the Gracious Power (Text by Thomas H. Troeger, b. 1945)

vs. 3
Oh, praise inclusive love,
encircling ev'ry race,
oblivious to gender, wealth,
to social rank or place.

This one will probably not make the next cut (after all, this hymnbook is already 13 years old and missed the gay marriage battle).

As Man and Woman We Were Made (Text by Brian Wren, b. 1936)

As man and woman we were made
that love be found and life begun
so praise the Lord who made us two,
and praise the Lord when two are one:
praise for the love that comes to life
through child or parent, husband, wife.

This one is quite scriptural, but I haven't tried to sing it.

"I Am the Bread of Life" (text: John 6, adpt. S. Suzanne Toolan, SM, b. 1927)

"I am the Bread of life.
You who come to me shall not hunger,
and who believes in me shall not thirst.
No one can come to me
unless the Father beckons."
"And I will raise you up,
and I will raise you up,
and I will raise you up
on the last day."

I say Amen to that!

Some familiar gospel hymns appear too, always a joy to read through, such as "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling," or the wonderful sending hymn (Welsh tune) we often use at UALC, "Go, My Children, with My Blessing," or the great Fanny Crosby's "Blessed Assurance." She was blind and wrote 8,000 hymns, so it would be difficult to leave her out of a hymnbook that wants greater representation by women. I also hummed through a few toe tapping Catholic hymns we sing in Cursillo.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Are you up for the challenge?

There are many reading challenges on the Internet. Here's an interesting one. Only John Bunyun is a familiar name.

One Puritan book a month.
"Here is the line-up of books we are reading this year:

January: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (128 pp)
    Martyn Lloyd-Jones says of this book: "I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as "The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes" was an unfailing remedy. The Bruised Reed quietened, soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed me".
February: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (221 pp)
March: The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson (252 pp)
April: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (253 pp)
May: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (225 pp)
June: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (130 pp)
July: A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge (287 pp)
August: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (228 pp)
September: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (224 pp)
October: The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (207 pp)
November: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (256 pp)
December: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine (148 pp)

The twelve Puritan Paperbacks together in one bundle, saving you 36% off the retail price can be purchased here. The 12 books retail for $101.00, and Reformation Heritage Books is selling them for only $65.00. And of course, you can always try the library.

The idea comes from Provocations and Pantings, and he will be providing some biographical and historical information at his blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fifty years and beyond

Today I came across a good story in a religious journal over 100 years old (Evangelical Visitor, Brethren in Christ, 1887), so I googled its source to see if it was on-line (so I wouldn't have to retype it). Google has scanned many old books, so I did find "Fifty years and beyond; or gathered gems for the aged," by S.G. Lathrop, 1881 (has been reprinted in 2007--the boomers are entering old age!). The story reminds me very much of one I've heard Pastor John Stolzenbach (UALC) tell of his ministry to some of our older members, who although they may have dementia and don't remember their own family members, remember the words to hymns, liturgy and Bible verses they learned long ago.

The author tells of singing the song of salvation with a 98 year old man--"quick [modern] music loses its charm" (even in 1881)--and then goes on to tell this story. From the chapter, "The Lord is my strength and my song." p. 140

"Do you know me?" said the wife to her aged husband who was dying. He said, "No."

And the son said, "Father, do you know me?" He said, "No."

The daughter said, "Father, do you know me?" He said, "No."

The minister of the Gospel standing by, said, "Do you know Jesus?" "Oh yes," he said, "I know him, 'chief among ten thousand, and one altogether lovely'."

Blessed be the Bible in which spectacled old age reads the promise. "I will never leave you, never forsake you." Blessed the staff on which the worn out pilgrim totters on toward the welcome of his Redeemer. Blessed the hymn-book in which the faltering tongue and the failing eyes find Jesus, the old man's song."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The message of the Bible

is not "The Lord helps those who help themselves," but "the Lord helps those who are helpless." Christianity has to do not with man reaching up to God, but with God reaching down to man and offering him salvation as a free, undeserved gift; not with man attempting to justify himself, but with God invading history and making forgiveness possible by taking the sins of the world upon Himself. According to the Bible, we live in a fallen, sinful world, a world populated by men and women who are in rebellion against God and who are thus separated from His loving presence. We all are guilty of sin; we all possess what the church calls "original sin," but which the Bible more accurately calls a "sinful nature." . . . Christians do not gain salvation by their own merit (trying to do so would be like mopping a floor with dirty water), but because the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was the only human to live and not sin, took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. . ." From "Culture, religion, philosophy, and myth: what Christianity is not," by Louis Markos, Christian Research Journal, Vol. 29, no. 2, 2006, pp. 32-39

Salvation isn't earned; it is a gift. Good deeds follow salvation; works are not a means but an outpouring of love. But every Sunday, in thousands of churches in our land, preachers will stand before their congregations and turn this message upside down, offering an endless "to-do list" instead of the gospel.

The "purpose" in Rick Warren's best seller, The purpose driven life, is all about you and me, not Jesus. In fact, I'm not sure he gets to salvation until the end of the book, where he says he can provide a list of books on how to share the Good News (the gospel). He bounces around the NT at such speed, that if I hadn't already known the gospel when I read this book, I'd get to the end with another "to-do list" about the local church and global mission.

The final entry in volume one of the Brethren Encyclopedia (3 vol) says: "Saving faith can be known only by a life of piety and obedience to Christ. Justification (declared righteous) is assured only in those whose faith manifested itself in obedience." What a message of works! For the last 30 years I believed I didn't hear the gospel because my ears were closed and I was rebellious, thinking I didn't need to be saved. Now I think I didn't hear it because it wasn't preached where I attended church (Church of the Brethren and United Church of Christ, one of the parent denominations of First Community Church in Marble Cliff, OH). [This doesn't excuse me--there was enough sin in my life it should have been obvious.] And although I'm in a believing church now with godly pastors, they too often slip into the theme of the day without first announcing why we have gathered to worship the Creator and Redeemer of the universe. [You have a better chance of NOT missing the point if you attend a liturgical service, but most don't because they like happy clappy music.] The gospel settles us down and reminds us of who we are--people precious in God's sight for whom Christ died. Then we can get down to the business of worshiping and serving a mighty God.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And we well deserve it

The closing paragraph of a powerful presentation on the Book of Acts by Frederick W. Baltz at the Word Alone November, 2007, Theological Conference. Word Alone is a renewal movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America:

“Stanley Hauerwas, distinguished theologian of the Methodist tradition, has said: God is killing the mainline churches, and we goddamn well deserve it. Can we expect God to bless denominations or congregations that depart from the biblical paradigm for the Spirit-led? The faithful ministry of the Word still reaches people’s hearts and changes their lives. If we can do nothing else for a denomination whose leaders are not ready to listen, let us demonstrate the blessings that flow from following the biblical paradigms we find in the Acts of the Apostles.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rahab's Thread

I found a lovely Christian blog this morning called Rahab's Thread. You might remember Rahab--she's in Jesus' genealogy--a fallen woman. But she's obedient and saves God's people. She's a reminder that God's mercy extends far beyond our past sins.

This morning I read an amazing story on Rahab's Thread about Dana's son who was born with a cataract. It's a beautiful story with a wonderful spiritual message you won't forget.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Quilt Show at Mill Run

Yesterday we hung a new quilt show at The Church at Mill Run (Upper Arlington Lutheran Church), which will run through Thursday, February 7 (comes down on Friday). These ladies work very hard and have great fellowship and workshops, too. The OSU Buckeyes play LSU this week, so here's to them:

Steve on the green ladder, VAM member, is heading up UALC's 168 Hours Film project. This involves making a film in one week! If you'd like to help--either with your dramatic skills or money or being part of the prayer team, check out the special web site, runofthemillproductions.org.