Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nothing new in Christian debates of today

In my previous entry I noted how much I'm enjoying reading "The story of Christian Spirituality." So many discussions and arguments I read in the various faith traditions go way back--most can be found in Paul's letters to the young churches. That's what I love about this book--the background on how people of different eras struggle, and excerpts from the writings of martyrs, theologians, academics, pastors and monks. Even those most caught up in contemplative non-thought or mysteries of the faith, took time to write it down and tell others to do it their way. This advice from Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 A.D.), an aristocrat who entered a monastery in Constantinople, for those seeking experience and those saying it is wrong sounds so contemporary:

Do not say: It is impossible to receive the Holy Spirit;
Do not say: It is possible to be saved without Him.
Do not say that one can possess the Spirit without being aware of it.
Do not: But God does not appear to men.
Do not say: But men do not see the divine light--
Or at least it is impossible in this current generation.

This is a thing, my friends, which is never impossible, at any time.
On the contrary it is entirely possible for those who long for it." [Hymns of Divine Love, #27]

Excellent summary by John A. McGuckin, who wrote Chapter 4 of this book.

Audio about Symeon by McGuckin.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas potluck at Lytham Road tonight

plus music of the Worthington Civic Band Concert at 7:30. At first I thought I'd use up one of those carrot cake mixes in the pantry, but thought better of it and opted for a bowl of fresh fruit mixed with a little mayo and whipped cream.

I'm reading the most wonderful book from the UALC library and I want to recommend it to every Christian of any sect or group: "The Story of Christian Spirituality." [You can Google the title to get a look inside.] When I read a "Christian" book I want the author to at least give Jesus a nod and the Gospel a line or two. This book ties all faith traditions in Christianity together the rational, theological, meditative, contemplative and still manages to lift high the cross. The art work is fabulous and the paper quality is wonderful. The first chapter, rightfully so, begins with Judaism, then the birth of Christ. It ends with the end of the 20th century. In the past I have dipped into some of the more contemplative and meditative writers, but have found little that pulls it all together like this title. This book, with its outstanding bibliography, could be a college course and a worship experience rolled into one.

I'll be returning this to the church library because I so fell in love with it that I have ordered a copy. Although it is a Fortress Press (2001), to get a new copy I had it sent from UK (Lion), and it was $22 + $7 shipping. And considering that many used copies were much higher, I thought it a fair price. It has beautiful art work and meaningful selections of text.

Another find was discovering I had a few books in my own collection that supported many of the writings in this book.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

What the early church taught about the value of life

The Didache (Διδαχὴ, Koine Greek for "Teaching" was the earliest Christian rule book and was used in the first century church by pastors and missionaries who needed to explain to converts the teachings of the church. It would not be popular in the 21st century church because there are so many negatives--don't do this, don't do that. There was no official canon (Bible), but there are passages from Matthew, Luke, Acts Peter and other early writers. There are rules for loving God and rules for loving your neighbor. Included under loving your neighbor is a prohibition for violating or corrupting boys (i.e., sodomy or homosexuality) and murdering a child through abortion, or killing an infant when born. Both practices were acceptable in Greek and pagan society, but forbidden to Christians.

"You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill one that has been born" (Didache 2:2 [A.D. 70])."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Two Lutheran Tribes

There are two Lutheran churches in America, writes Peter Berger. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), aka Aunt Elka. There are two kinds of Lutheran fundamentalism. "There is a theological fundamentalism very visible in the LCMS. A political fundamentalism (aka “political correctness”) is very evident in the “airport culture” of the ELCA—it shares it with the mainline Protestantism into which it is morphing."

The article has some good background on the current woes of ELCA and the financial struggles of those congregations who are leaving it. Since 1988, when the ELCA was formed, contributions have declined by 50%, on the other hand, the newly formed NALC (which our congregation has joined) doesn't yet have enough financial clout to support many of the struggling smaller congregations that have left ELCA. So, staying or leaving, these "Lutheran" congregations are facing tough times. I didn't know that ELCA's headquarters were at O'Hare Airport. So, how nice that the new NALC headquarters will be at our own Mill Run Church.

I commented a few entries ago at my regular blog that ethnicity trumps everything. ELCA is no longer ethnically identifiable and has become a blob of its former selves--Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns-- merged into one big mushy protestantly bland and policially liberal church. LCMS for now anyway, still has the glue of ethnicity to hold together its theological structure.

Two Lutheran Tribes | Religion and Other Curiosities

Please note, there are other Lutheran synods and groups, but I think Berger's point is that LCMS and ELCA are the biggies.