Friday, December 31, 2010
Well, had a nice few days to relax with family. Yes, we did drive into the snow on Sunday. Everything was fine until we hit NJ, then the interstate was snow covered and dicey. What usually takes us an hour in NJ took two and a half! But we made it safe and sound, then the next day helped my father-in-law dig out. Now we're back home and getting ready for church tonight and Sunday. I'll post more later. A great New Year to you all.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I like Christmas night . . . after the services are over, thinking back over the past two days, the words, the music, the meaning . . . relaxing and enjoying the day. I tried to stay up for the Vatican's midnight mass last night, but couldn't make it.
This year the day is not quite so peaceful, however. For tomorrow is Sunday and there is the Divine Service to be ready for. I was not quite done, so still some work to do. Then also traveling to see family right after the service, and so getting the kids packed and ready to go, organizing, loading. Oh, and did I mention my wife is working tonight? Oh, and did I mention it's supposed to snow tomorrow, starting at daybreak, and that we'll be driving into it as both our van and the storm travel north? It's gonna be a looong day tomorrow . . . so even though the "5-hour energy" drink is one of the vilest tasting things on earth, I'll chug one after the Divine Service to keep me going as I drive, as my wife sleeps in the back seat, as the kids bounce off the walls of the van with excitement, and as the snow blankets the road!
See ya' Friday when we get back!
But I must say, despite all that awaits tomorrow, it's still Christmas, and Christ is born! Our services were small (my folks mostly go away for the holidays) but good, as we rejoiced in the birth of the Lord.
I leave you, then, with one of my favorite Christmas hymns, by Paul Gerhardt:
O Jesus Christ, Thy manger is
My paradise at which my soul reclineth.
For there, O Lord, Doth lie the Word
Made flesh for us; here in Thy grace forth shineth.
He whom the sea And wind obey
Doth come to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Thou, God's own Son, With us art one,
Dost join us and our children in our weakness.
Thy light and grace Our guilt efface,
Thy heav'nly riches all our loss retrieving.
Immanuel, Thy birth doth quell
The pow'r of hell and Satan's bold deceiving.
Thou Christian heart, Whoe'er thou art,
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move thee!
For God's own Child, In mercy mild,
Joins thee to Him; how greatly God must love thee!
Remember thou What glory now
The Lord prepared thee for all earthly sadness.
The angel host Can never boast
Of greater glory, great bliss or gladness.
The world may hold Her wealth and gold;
But thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure.
To Him hold fast Until at last
A crown be thine and honor in full measure.
[LSB #372 (c) 1941 Concordia Publishing House]
Friday, December 24, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
5:30 pm yesterday! Final over. Didn't need the full two hours. Either it was way easier than the mid-term, or I just studied the right stuff. Been sick most of the week, so was coffee-energydrink-pill-andthroatlozenged up pretty good yesterday. Very much looking forward to a few weeks off of school and just writing sermons and enjoying Christmas. One thing I know: if I can survive this semester, I can survive any!
Oh, and what were the essays I answered yesterday, you ask?
1. How did the four popes leading up to the Council of Trent deal with Luther and why did their efforts fail?
2. What were the internal and external factors that effected the Catholic Church to 1540 and what were their prospects (for success and failure) after that?
3. Why were the Catholic Controversialists ineffective against Luther?
And then we had to identify 15 (out of 30 or so) people, events, bulls, etc.
Cliff Lee? Really? Merry Christmas, Phillies fans! (Of which, yes, I am one!) In high school and college I used to sell food at Veteran's Stadium. Those were good days, too. Even got in to see Game 2 of the 1980 World Series (confession time: Got in with my employee ID even though I wasn't working!).
The new moniker: R2C2. (Roy, Roy, Cliff, and Cole)
So to the rest of the National League: Thank you for coming. Your participation is no longer needed. (How's that for obnoxious?)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Looking around the internet and my fellow bloggers, there have been the usual posts that pop up this time of year - the hand-wringing over how the season of Advent has been neutered and is really no longer Advent at all; how the agenda of the world has taken over the church and Advent is now just preparation for Christmas, as all December is in the world, and the emphases on repentance and the coming of Christ in glory and judgment have been lost.
I agree with much of their analysis of what has happened. This post is not to argue about that, but to ask: what are we to do about it? And how?
Some say: ignore the world! Keep Advent, Advent! Blue paraments are evil (yes, I am overstating here), they must remain purple! Join the resistance! I sympathize with this view, and am even partial to it. But I don't think it does much good. I remember when I was little, having a pastor that did this. I asked him one day why we didn't sing Christmas carols in church before Christmas. He told me: Because it's not Christmas! It's Advent. You know what? That didn't help. I had an answer, but was still confused.
Others have given in to the world and do not see the point in fighting for Advent. Times have changed, they say, and people don't understand. People want Christmas, so give 'em Christmas. I do not agree with this approach, and believe the church year is good, right, and salutary in teaching our people.
So what to do? And how? How do you take a culture heading full steam for Christmas and put the breaks on it? How do you preach to people who are inundated with the cultural Christmas since Thanksgiving (if not before!) and preach Advent to them? And preach it without sounding like a grumpy, old, puritanical man that doesn't want them to have any fun?
That's the challenge I, and all preachers, face every year. I don't think it does any good to ignore Christmas and just preach Advent - that just leaves your people confused and a bit schizophrenic. The challenge is to help them see the reason for Advent. And not just tell them that there is one, but preach it so they realize it. It's the same difference between talking about the Gospel and preaching the Gospel. The first is easy; the second more challenging. For to preach is to penetrate not just the ears, but the heart. Yes, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, and for that I am most grateful, because if it were up to me, no one would ever believe! And yet it has been given to me - with whatever talents and abilities God has given me - to preach the Word.
And so I often agonize - how do you preach John the Baptist to people at this time of year? How do you help them understand not just Christmas joy but, as our liturgy says, repentant joy? How do you teach them to love our Advent hymns as much as our Christmas carols? As much as I love Advent, for me, it is one of the most challenging times of the year.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I posted a bunch of things today . . . finally getting around to it!
My post on "Virgins Again!" was picked as a "Blog of the Week" by Issues, etc. Thanks Jeff! Very cool.
Also wanted to point out a new blog for your consideration, from our Synodical President and his staff. Click here to check it out.
Cards and presents and gifts are nice, but here's what your pastor really wants for Christmas:
He wants you to come to church. He wants you to come to private absolution. He wants you to come to midweek services and Bible studies. He wants to teach your children. He wants to give you the Lord's Supper. He wants you to receive all God's gifts in abundance, spend time in the Word, and grow in your faith.
Your attendance says that these things are valuable and important to you, and that your pastor and his work is important and valuable. When you're absent . . .
Give it some thought.
Some of you wanted me to report on my discussion of Luther with my class of "Catholics" (i.e., Romanists, Papists) in Grad School. Sorry it has taken me a while to get to it.
First, many of them were surprised to find that, in actually reading Luther, he wasn't as bad as they thought. They found themselves agreeing with him at times, and one woman said that if she had lived back then, she would probably be a Lutheran! This, even though the author we read (a Catholic giving snippets and summaries of Luther's main points) I think didn't do a very good job. I thought his presentation was a bit confusing, and (as you all know) presenting Luther in snippets often doesn't do justice to his teaching.
One of the books we were discussing was about the Catholic Controversialists and how they responded to Luther and wrote against him. It was an interesting book, and showed very starkly the main issue at that time and which my fellow students also had: authority. The Scriptures cannot be the authority. They need the Church (i.e., Councils, Popes, Scholastic Theology) to interpret and explain them. My classmates simply could not understand how it could be any other way. Yet I think they were surprised at the weakness of some of the Controversialist positions and arguments.
The other thing they could not quite understand was simul justus et peccator. It is a concept completely foreign to them and their way of thinking. And interestingly, in our discussion of this, as I was pointing out the differences between Lutheran and Romanist thinking on justification, my professor kept trying to minimize the differences and portray us as not so far apart. That made for an interesting dynamic!
All in all, it was a good discussion. I got some questions outside of class as well. On the whole, they feel more sympathetic toward Luther and realize he was not quite "the evil leader of the revolt" as so many portray him to be.