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!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

When sin is left out of the message

Scott has noticed something missing in the lectionary:
    "At the church where you worshiped April 20, was the second lesson I Peter 2:2-10? Did you wonder why the text started with verse 2, rather than at the beginning of the chapter? Was the text read from a Bible or off a Scripture insert in the bulletin?

    I ask those questions, because, over the years, I have begun to analyze the lectionary more carefully, noting especially what is *not* included. I have learned to pay particular attention whenever the appointed readings skip an odd verse or two, because very often the verses that are left out are those that declare judgment against sin--the voice of the Law. The bad news of our sinful nature and condemnation before God is too often carefully removed, so that only the good news of salvation remains. When those lessons are read from Scripture inserts, it is easy not even to notice the actual citation and so not realize that the readings have been abridged in that way."
It's not just missing from the lectionary. It's also missing from the Sunday School take-homes at my church. Last Sunday's Hands-On Bible Curriculum (see April 21 entry) Bible verse was James 4:8a, "Come close to God, and God will come close to you." No, this isn't the Thomas Jefferson Bible. The writers just left out some very telling details that put this into perspective. Verse 7 says, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." The other half of verse 8 says, "Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Religious instruction and curriculum

I don't recall what I was looking for yesterday but I came across a 41 page Roman Catholic outline for religious instruction of children produced by the Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. There's no information on the document about who uses it--the schools, the parents, or the churches. Also no information if this is a document in general use or if that archdiocese created it. It's simply an outline, but it is amazing in its depth. If anyone, child or adult, systematically used this guide, she would have a seminary education (although I don't actually know what's offered in seminary) without all the psychology and sociology extras.

The general outline for 5th grade is, I. Creed--students will demonstrate understanding of the core of Catholic beliefs; II. Sacraments--students will learn the importance of sacraments in their life (Lutherans only have 2, so we're unfamiliar with some of these like penance and holy orders); III. Christian living (discipleship, human dignity, human interaction/sexuality). See pages 18-19.

I couldn't help but compare that to a curriculum our church uses from Group Publishing, called Hands On Bible. I don't teach Sunday School so I don't know what additional material the teachers receive from the education department to use with the material given to the children. Yesterday's handout sheet "Dealing with Family Crises, Week 8" for take home for Grades 5 & 6 included "Discussion Starters" and "Family Building projects" for kids only, for parents only, and for the family to use together. There is one snippet of a Bible verse on the page, a very short 3 paragraph story, and some genderless cartoon people who have huge saucer shaped heads, bodies and hair, but the rest is obscure. The story, as told by a 15 year old, was about an alcoholic father, a marriage that was a mess, and the dad becoming a Christian after the mother dragged him to church.
    "But after my dad became a Christian, he stopped drinking. He stopped yelling and started smiling! He has a bunch of friends in our church now. He hasn't had a drink in over 5 years! My parents still have their problems, but they are really working together to make our family better. My dad is a different person, and I know it is because God is real and has healed him. As a result, I have become a Christian, too, and I am so thankful that God has brought the same happiness in me that he has given my parents."
I have no idea what the teachers had to work with or if the class discussion dealt with family crises. But I can see a few holes in the story, things that might raise more problems than it solves. I hope they didn't have to deal with 20 eleven year olds sharing about their family problems. I don't know if the students received any Bible stories in class for content. I'll ask. You can't judge a whole program on one handout--even one that is as disappointing as this one.

Friday, April 18, 2008


We prayed over every aspect of this building, but forgot to ask, "Lord please save it from clutter." It's been open about eight years. I just hate to see it get filled with clutter everywhere you turn. If a display (not a piece of art) is up longer than 2 or 3 months, it becomes wallpaper, and loses its message. Our missions display has an important message, but has been up over 2 years.

This is what it looked like in 2006.

This is what it looked like last week.

It must have been extremely difficult to attach these since there is no hanging system in the Narthex, so I suspect they will stay until the building falls down. I was in one of the classrooms behind this wall last week (after I'd taken the photograph) and said to another woman that I thought the wall in the Narthex was too cluttered with flags and posters (there are also flags representing the local schools). She had no idea what I was talking about. She had forgotten what was there and she attends church there every week. As I said, 2 to 3 months, and then it's wallpaper. I don't attend church at MR so I notice it when I come in, but not in a positive way.

I've never been sure why coat rooms have fallen out of favor in new public buildings, because free standing coat racks just turn the halls into coat storage in cold weather, or storage for empty hangers in warm weather. You can imagine what the halls look like when people are in the building on a cold day.

And it isn't unique to this building (The Church at Mill Run). Today I took some materials over to our Lytham Road campus and on my way out the door I heard some lovely music from the sanctuary. I slipped in and sat down in the back. The bright sunlight was dancing through the stained glass windows. When my eyes adjusted to the dark, I realized someone in the balcony was working with the sound equipment. But it was so lovely and peaceful I just stayed and listened. As my eyes adjusted I could see about 2/3 of the chancel--the other 1/3 was covered by the large screen dangling from the ceiling, as it is every Sunday worship. These ubiquitous screens appear in churches all over the country, blotting out the design, windows, altar or art of the front of the sanctuary or chancel. And for what? So people can clap or raise their hands. What about the eyes?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pro-choice Yalies must be proud

She says she didn't do it for shock value, or to scandalize, and I believe it. Nothing pro-choice people do shocks me anymore. Seen at James Taranto's column, April 17
    Blood and Ivy
    The Yale Daily News reports on what can only be described as a sick joke:

    Art major Aliza Shvarts '08 wants to make a statement. Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process. . . . Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for "shock value."

    "I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," Shvarts said. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone." . . .

    Shvarts emphasized that she is not ashamed of her exhibition, and she has become increasingly comfortable discussing her miscarriage experiences with her peers.
Women abort babies for lots of reasons--they don't like the daddy, it's not a good time, mama told them to, or they're on a power trip. Why not abort for art? Maybe this could be like that shoe exhibit for murdered Jews--sort of a memorial to the 50 million legally aborted babies in the U.S. (I'm not sure of the number--sort of lost track after 30,000,000). Imagine what her parents must be feeling--"We paid over $100,000 for this?" Or her instructors. "Was it something I said?"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How decisions are made

Today I was reading through a conversion story--rather unusual--a twice married, Lutheran pastor (Australian) converting to Roman Catholicism. It's quite interesting in that his struggle and mental gymnastics and reworking of doctrine went back some 20 years. Here's the statement that caught my eye, Two questions were rising in my mind: How were doctrinal decisions made in the church? And what authority enforced them?

Several of us women were sorting through a similar idea--one a member for perhaps 10 years, one a member for almost 50, and me a member for 32 years. Our question was simple: Who is "they" in our church? None of us knew, yet we were all in different circles and spheres of influence.

Everything you belong to or participate in, whether work, service, religious or fraternal, has a "they," as in "they say you can't do that," or "they say we will eventually. . ." or "they say you have to talk to. . ." but no one seems to know who "they" is.

The former senior pastor of UALC (about 15 years) had his finger in every pie and pot; he was a micro-manager. He rewrote our constitution to weaken the influence of the lay people. We had a fat committee/ministry manual that would make any huge corporation proud--right down to an edict not to send a fax to a newspaper without the church official logo, but not until someone on staff had approved the message. He was a charismatic out of Missouri Synod (now there's a combination!), and someone told me once that his sermons were like every LC-MS sermon she'd ever heard growing up. I suppose you can tell that people either adored him and hung on every word, or attended services where he wasn't the preacher. Maybe you didn't like it, but you always knew who "they" was. When the word came down that "staff" was unhappy about something, or desired something to happen, you knew immediately who that was.

Maybe that's how the Lutheran convert to RC felt--he might not like all the decisions, but he knew who was the go-to person.

This entry is just loaded with gossip; I repent.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

How to meet a woman

For as long as I can remember, women and girls have wanted to know how to meet other compatible women and girls for friendship, hanging out, shopping, girl-talk and shared babysitting. Just yesterday, Sue Shellenbarger answered this question in her work column in the Wall Street Journal. A woman wrote to ask how to find a working mothers group in her locale. Sue replies
    1. Do a web search
    2. Look in a book store for a book club group
    3. Check out the library
    4. Call or check the web site of your local Children's Hospital family resource office
    5. Start your own group
    6. Sign up your child for Saturday activities and get to know other mothers.
Apparently, Sue doesn't think churches are a resource for friendship. In my experience, it's a lot easier to meet other women when you have children in the home. However, churches offer many service opportunities and classes, and these tend to be mostly for women, although some attract couples. So, I don't know if Sue just isn't aware of what's happening at her neighborhood churches and synagogues, or if houses of worship are hiding their light under a bushel except when advertising a concert or bake sale. I have a friend who is active in many organizations, more than I would ever want, and yet she recently joined Bible Study Fellowship, an international, non-denominational women's group that meets weekly at the Church at Mill Run, and she told me how much she is enjoying meeting new Christian friends in her small group. We met about 35 years ago in a church women's group and became friends. Friday I saw another woman from that same group at the coffee shop.

Since I retired I've expanded into my no-comfort zone, occasionally visiting the shut-ins and nursing home and helping in the church kitchen. But everyone new I've met is too busy with grandchildren or care taking relatives to be a friend. I joined a book club when I retired, but only see the participants (except the ones I already knew) when we meet to discuss our book selections. For a few years I painted with some women and we occasionally went to lunch and art shows.

The worst suggestion on Sue's list is to sign your kid up for one more activity so you, the mother, can have friends. If you're employed, your child is either in day care or school and doesn't need one more reason to be away from home! I think one of the reasons mothers love homeschooling is that it gives them a close knit group of friends all working toward the same goal, all with children about the same age, and living in the same area. People not familiar with homeschooling seem to think those children are isolated, but I see them doing many things together involving all the children in the family.

For many years before the 70s, and in many denominations, women were excluded from the traditional boards and political hierarchies in the church, so they just formed a parallel structure with boards, committees, service projects, separate fund raising, and a lot of chat and fellowship. Some of these structures are disappearing now and the ones that still exist have mostly older women. The mixed gender programming of today's churches may be more equitable and make more efficient use of talent, but women's friendships have suffered.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Big Me

Tonight we're having a congregational meeting with our senior Pastor to discuss (and pray about) the latest, ongoing and interminable draft of the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality from the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality. Can you believe it takes 64 pages when God made it pretty clear in just a few scattered verses and chapters beginning with Genesis in the OT and pronouncing in the book of Hebrews in the NT that only the marriage bed is undefiled? No matter what denomination you belong to, you're going through the same thing--Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, even some denominations considered more evangelical than those called mainline protestants. The liberals have been tinkering, very patiently for 30-40 years--longer in some churches than others--and homosexuality isn't the only issue. Gosh, no.

I remember back in the 1970s when I worked in the Agriculture Library leafing through a book of the budget of the World Council of Churches. They were funding Communist guerrillas in the Philippines! God only knows what terrorist groups under the name of "expanding the boundaries" and "inclusiveness" it's funding today. Your apostasy radar ought to go off if you ever hear your church or denomination is going to attack the "root causes" of something be it poverty, hunger, bad housing, obesity, drug use, or poor schools because they sure aren't talking about sin!

Progressive Christians aren't progressing--they are marching backwards lock step to the Garden of Eden for a do-over, and declaring they are in charge and know better than God how to run the world. Mainline denominations, ELCA included, are losing members. Liberals offer "Christ" as a philosophical construct, a flabby, limp role model for social and political action. They left that moldy old Jesus in the tomb years ago along with the atonement, because aren't we all born good with just a need to clean up a bit in order to flourish? It's not sin, you know, it's poverty and oppression that are the problem.

And Evangelicals with their seeker friendly, mega-churches are close behind. Yes, they are still drawing crowds, which the liberals are not, but when you become a me-centered, come to Jesus, social service agency, you won't be able to keep your people just because you offer an altar call and loud music. If you offer people a Jesus-free, agenda driven, one-more-project church, eventually they'll leave you for a real Christian church or just go golfing or fishing on Sunday morning.

UALC is a congregation that is faithful to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and it's certainly not the only Lutheran church within ELCA that is faithful and concerned. Some congregations have already left and formed other associations. But I fear for the synod to which we are linked. That appears to be the only solution when the liberals have taken over your seminaries, colleges, publishing company and church offices.

Update: It was a good meeting. I love it when the pastor plays the piano and sings with us. He provided background on the 20 year history of this and said he was actually encouraged with this document because it seemed to recognize the conservative view point which other drafts haven't. He encouraged us to write to the Task Force and make our points without being cranky and argumentative. Like in the style of Paul or Luther, perhaps?

What will society tolerate?

Last night's book club selection was Steve Turner's "Amazing grace; the story of America's most beloved song," with a lively discussion led by Marcy and hosted by Adrienne, follwed up with tape and CD recordings of the hymn by Judy Collins, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and B. J. Thomas and others. The first half of the book is about the life of John Newton, and the second about the life of the hymn as it made its way through, hymnals, camp meetings, revivals, recording studios and parodies. The book dispells myths about both. John Newton didn't come to Christ and then recognize that slavery was nasty. He became a part in the lucrative slave trade after his conversion. And the most familiar tune setting doesn't have African roots--it's mostly likely Scottish, but no one really knows. Newton would have his morning devotions and Bible reading on board the slave ship with the stench and cries of helpless people wafting from below. So the question in our "enlightened" generation is always, How could he not know what he was doing was wrong? Turner replies to the reader on p. 61
    "Slavery was as acceptable as abortion is today--it was legal, it had immediate and tangible benefits, and people predicted wide spread calamity should it ever be banned. There was no social pressure for him to feel shame."
Or, what about the millions of Africans who have died from malaria with the banning of DDT the last 30 years? More deaths than the transatlantic slave trade ever caused. Why wasn't it left on the market until another product could be developed to destroy mosquitoes? In the economy of environmentalism, birds were more important than children. Or closer to home. Thousands of lives could be saved each year if the legal driving age were raised just a year or two. Who or what has a vested interest in this? Who decided 16 year olds could be trusted with the family car? It's a mystery for Christians and non-Christians both, isn't it?

There are some things that just cause no societal shame in every era.

Monday, April 07, 2008


"Funny thing about orthodoxy. It is especially abrasive for the those who need a good scrubbing - and we all do. But, orthodoxy has an extreme comfort for those who are aware that their own righteousness is filth." From a Lutheran commenter at Augsburg1530, concerning the cancellation of a radio show, Issues, etc.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sermon Take-aways

We had a good reminder this morning from the pulpit about building the core muscles of our bodies, and the core of our faith. Usually by this time (2 hours later) I remember little of the sermon, but I recalled this from some medical literature--"Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. Aside from the occasional sit-up or crunch, however, core exercises are often neglected." It reminded me I'd forgotten to pay attention to the core in my exercise program.

The other take-away was to use the gift of prophecy--um, well, we weren't told when to use it (it's the least popular of all the gifts listed in the OT or NT), only not to use it in a critical, harsh way, always keeping before us Paul's letter to the Corinthians and his admonition about love. Immediately before that wonderful chapter 13, come chapters 11 & 12, when Paul tells them (I don't know if this was prophesying or just being cranky Paul) they are doing everything wrong when they assembled for worship. The women weren't covering their heads, the men had long hair, which he considered disgraceful, they were getting drunk when they gathered for fellowship rather than observing worshipfully the Lord's Supper, they were squabbling about who had better gifts and whether the gift of tongues was more important than that of miracles, etc. He says it's OK for women to prophesy and pray--just not with short hair or uncovered heads.

Then in chapter 14, he says to desire especially the gift of prophecy because it edifies the church and is for believers, not unbelievers. He says that if an unbeliever happens across a service where there is prophesying, "he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"(NIV)

Then Paul closes (as he opens with in Chapter 2 and inserts in Chapter 11) with a reminder for all churches (not part of today's sermon). I consider chapter 15 the core of our faith, not Chapter 13, which is a both a description on how to end disputes on gifts and a picture of what perfection will remain when all else passes away: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and (he lists all the people to whom he appeared). . . If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

It may not be the gift of prophecy, but like Paul I nag about this a lot. . . my SALT group, my Women of the Word group, my pastors, my Christian friends, my husband's friends, the Visual Arts Ministry, food pantry ministry, churches I visit, conference speakers I meet, people I encounter on the Internet, Christian writers, books I review--anyone who will listen . The death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a good starting point--it is the point. When you wander away from that, the core muscles of your faith will soon be flabby, your witness will weaken and your service opportunities will dry up.

J.I. Packer grows up

I've complained about the fluff 'n stuff, cotton candy diet of "Christian Living" books and sermons, where "it's all about me" seems to be the center of the faith. So I was surprised (or maybe not) to read this account of the early Christian walk and faith of 20th century giant, J.I. Packer.
    "Having come to faith in my first term at Oxford, in 1944, I was nurtured in a fellowship where zeal for Christ and evangelism, and fortitude in face of criticism, were magnificently present, but where the operative theology was limited to a few Bible-based, surface-level ideas about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and personal faith and faithfulness. The accepted view of theological inquiry was that it was an unspiritual and dangerous distraction from the real demands of discipleship, unfruitfully muddling the mind and hardening the heart. In my foreword to Bruce Milne's fine little handbook of theology, Know the Truth, I recounted what a fool I made of myself by explaining to my college chaplain that theology (not bad theology, but theology as such) is poison to the soul. I was at that time a very young convert, naively regurgitating what those teaching me to love and serve my Lord had told me. Though I soon saw the stupidity of thus rubbishing theology and started profiting from the Puritans, who were theologians to their fingertips, I never realized how theologizing can sanctify the mind and heart and deepen one's doctrine, devotion, and doxology all together till I read the Institutes [Calvin] and found it happening to me as I followed Calvin's argumentation."
From Packer's account of the importance of Calvin's Institutes in his faith walk found in Indelible Ink; 22 prominent Christian leaders discuss the books that shape their faith, Scott Larsen, ed., Waterbrook Press, 2003, p. 81. This title is in the UALC library of The Church at Mill Run (although not at the moment, since I have it checked out).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Real sin needs real gospel

Someone get this man a real pastor, please! A refresher for counselors. (Dying man talks to a pastor who wants to reflect and parrot his feelings)

Can churches end poverty?

Maybe--if they toughen their message on chastity and marriage instead of having conferences and meetings about it. In 1970, 71% of all U.S. households were 2 parent families compared to 51% in 2007. Larry Elder says the 38 most important words about poverty are: “Finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after the age of twenty." Only 8 percent of families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.

If liberal pastors in Columbus would gang up and make as much noise about chastity and fathers not being responsible for their children as they did about Rod Parsley's church, we might see some long term improvement! Parsley preaches that message; the liberal preachers don't.

The editorial last week in our SNP Upper Arlington News by Lyndsey Teter was titled "Can Columbus churches unite to end poverty?" Churches might make a dent in poverty if they would stop focusing on the gap. The Clintons have earned $109 million since leaving the White House and my husband and I have been living on Social Security and STRS pension since they left the White House. We give almost double in percentage of income that the Clintons do, and vastly more than the Obamas, and Al and Tipper Gore's contributions were just a joke (something like $400 a year when he was VP). What portion of Bill and Hillary's wealth would Ms. Teeter suggest we take to even things up a bit? Isn't that what liberals usually suggest? Taking from the wealthy will not solve the hard core problems of poverty. Nor will aborting babies of poor women, or taking canvas bags to the supermarket, or protecting the air in Berkeley with hybrid cars burning Midwestern corn, just to name a few programs that are favorites for assuaging guilt for rich, liberal Christians. The government programs, particularly those funded through the USDA for getting rid of food surpluses by giving them to low income families, have outstripped the churches ability to even make a difference. And they've compromised their message. Millions of federal, state and local workers are dependent on grant money "to end poverty,"--housing, jobs, food, retraining, internships, social workers, researchers, legislative staffers, counselors--to the point that if poverty were to miraculously end next week, we'd put government employees out of work at such a rate that we'd have to start all over! Evidence from the Great Awakenings that took place in this country about two hundred years ago shows it takes a spiritual renewal in the listener which then moves to the community. But if the preachers are silent about the Good News, where do the people have to go except to the government?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

This is a joke

not a call to violence. I've not followed this story, but apparently a Lutheran program was taken down from the Missouri Synod radio line up
    It takes a lot to get Lutherans to shift into activist mode. We pretty much believe if you’re agitated about something, you’re probably a Baptist. And any kind of ventilation (like breathing) is frowned upon for fear of a charismatic renewal. So believe me, Issues, Etc. is going to come back in some form, somewhere. It’s just not a good idea to get Lutherans angry. Last time this happened, historians ended up calling it the Thirty Years War.
Full story.

An interview with Molly Ziegler Hemingway on Issues, Etc. If you've been concerned with pop Christian faith, church growth movement and emergent church in your denomination, you might want to listen.

Church politics

Occasionally I chat with a church musician at the coffee shop. She's younger than I with college age children. She's moved her family around to different denominations (3 or 4 conservative, evangelical groups near as I could determine) as she has changed jobs. She told me that at some churches she has become very involved, especially when her children were young--taught Sunday School, helped with Bible School, and participated with her husband in couples' Bible study.

In her present job, she participates in nothing--shows up to do the music, then goes home. "It was the politics," she sighed. "I could find no peace and respite for my own spiritual life if I became embroiled in all their squabbles."

Lest you think this is unique to smaller, conservative churches: about 40 years ago I was talking to a neighbor when we lived on Abington Rd. She was finishing up her term on the governing board of what was then the largest, richest and most influential liberal Protestant congregation in Columbus. "It's the most unchristian group I've ever participated in," she said.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Where's the Good News?

My husband was listening to me complain, for the umpteenth time, that so many Christian Life (a subject category) books are about 80% fluff and cotton candy. I showed him "God's Gift for Mothers" a Thomas Nelson (2008) inspirational paperback. It has about 100 meditations on marriage, parenting, friendships, careers, children, etc. arranged by subject, beginning with ABIDE and ending with WITNESS. Very little about Jesus except in the most generic, general way, not even in the Preface, where the Good News might have been a foundation for building on other topics. I read to him the LOVE passage--it's not untrue, it's just not the TRUTH about love as revealed in Jesus:
    "Poets have tried for centuries to capture the essence of love. The Bible tells us quite simply that real love is caring more about others than we care about ourselves and our own needs. Be a model of selfless love in your relationships. It will be contagious." p. 75 (John 13:34)
My husband said no daily meditation book could include the Gospel in every selection. But there is one that hits the mark about 99%. Concordia Publishing (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) manages to produce 4 times a year a daily meditation pocket or purse size booklet, Portals of Prayer, where the authors of most entries begin with a scripture, then 1) introduce the day's topic with an anecdote, 2) move to application in your life, then close with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in some form--usually in two sentences. Sometimes the (3) authors will switch the template around a bit, but usually this is the pattern. I mean, how hard can it be to say, You are a sinner unable to please God, but Jesus has died on the cross for your sins and risen from the grave, and you will too as a believer? Yet, that powerful message, the theme of the Bible from the fall to the 2nd coming, seems to be the toughest for Christian writers and publishers to either quote directly or paraphrase!

Here are some examples: April 2 (which begins with the role of an architect in construction)
    "Regardless of our diligence, we cannot earn favor with God. But Jesus earned God’s favor on our behalf. Christ accomplished the work of our salvation when He carried our sins on the cross. His resurrection was God’s mark of approval that proclaims Christ’s victory over our sin. We cannot add to His gift, but daily work, done in faith, can be a grateful response that honors our Master Architect."
May 26: Here's the concluding paragraph for the Memorial Day selection which began with an explanation of the holiday, then an opinion on war, then the Good News about how our works are judged:
    Those who die in Jesus do not appear before Him empty-handed. "Their deeds follow them." A soldier returning to headquarters is followed by a report stating what he has done. All believers report to God because their names are written in the Book of Life, and all that they have done by faith in the Son of God follows them. In that day, we will rejoice as all that God has done in us will be remembered to His glory and our blessing."
The June 25 selection includes background on the Augsburg Confession, in which Lutherans call the Roman church away from abuses in the church and concludes with:
    Without clear proclamation of Jesus as Savior, the Church would fail. No matter what things disturb the Church, Jesus must remain the center of preaching and teaching. This was the concern . . . of the reformers. . .and it remains the concern of the Church until Christ returns in glory. Jesus, the Center, will sustain us, forgive us, and grant us life until that final day."
Amen, Christian writers and publishers.

Why does it matter if you already know the Gospel and walk by faith? Why can't you start or end the day with something fluffy, pink or sweet? The number one reason to remind believers of the Good News is so they will keep their eyes on Jesus and not slip back into a works mentality, believing it all depends on them, or it is pay back time, or they need to run ahead to see what needs to be done.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

How to botch an altar call

#32 the best way to botch up an altar call is not to preach the gospel. Just get people to lift up a hand and pray a prayer with you. Resist the urge to speak of the only One who could save them.

There are 31 other possibilities at The Way of the Master. My cousin recommended this site--you'll see Kirk Cameron who used to play the older son in a family sit com. He's a committed Christian and I've seen him in other Christian productions.

Visually challenged, artistically stunted Christians

Perhaps God doesn't care if we choose to worship in ugly surroundings, in sloppy clothes and bedheads. Scripture and the nature we see around us would seem to suggest that he does. If so, his Father's heart must be breaking. I wonder what it is in the soul of men and women that makes poor people living in despotic conditions produce a St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg under cruel Czars, closed by the Communists and now reopened almost two hundred years later for worshipers. . .

and the freedom, wealth, lifestyle, sun and fun of California produce this--a plywood lectern, plastic plants, second hand end table, and accouterments for loud music