quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Civil Religion

The following quote from Theodore Roosevelt was received in an e-mail. While it does not speak about liturgy or church, in a way it does. (Below I share a response to the quote.):

Theodore Roosevelt's ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.
"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

As one who majored in history in college it is a joy to read quotes from historical figures. Still this quote raises some questions. How does this quote fit, or does it fit, with the church’s confession? I ask this because, as a pastor among Hispanics, I often get asked 2 questions: 1) Aren’t Hispanics Catholics? (is this a question about Hispanics or Catholics or both?) and 2) Are they learning English? (yes, quite faster than we Germans did.)

Anyway, this quote raises bigger questions about religion in AMERICA and the church and her confession. For some it appears that my role as a pastor is to Americanize the Hispanics. (When I preach the Gospel I can get in trouble.) Actually, the schools are doing the job of assimilating the immigrants quite well. The church has another role for the pastor or priest – ministry, to people of all nations (look at Revelation’s picture of the church in heaven). Another question raised by this quote is that the total loyalty demanded to America seems to imply an AMERICAN religion or creed. What does a church do then if her Scripture or confession demands loyalty to a God beyond the state? Should the church assimilate herself into the state religion or remain true to her confession? I would argue that for the church, her pastors or priests, and people, there is another loyalty that may at times not be consistent with that of the state’s religion.

If Theodore Roosevelt is correct about having “no divided allegiance here” then we need to re-think religious freedom so that we are on the same page with the AMERICAN religion. Having served among anglos and Hispanics for almost 15 years I can assure you that Hispanics ARE learning English and being “Americanized.” Not all left their jobs recently to march against immigration legislation. Not all who marched did so to bring down the American dream.

More importantly, we can draw comfort from the fact that Jesus’ kingdom is in this world but not of it. This means that His Church may not always preach an undivided allegiance to the state. On the other hand, this opens the possibility that people who come into the Church`s doors from other nations may also be saved. For some, this is a higher priority.

We do not need to fear. There is another kingdom beyond AMERICA and there is hope for those who belong to this kingdom, no matter their nationality or background. As Americans, we all need to follow, support and uphold the laws of the state. Hopefully, the immigration questions will be worked out legislatively in due time and in a fair and just way. Still, there is another allegiance beyond that of our beloved native land and sometimes this allegiance raises questions about the AMERICAN creed and how it is lived out.

Note that this is written in English.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Annunciation of Our Lord

". . . 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!' . . . Then Mary said, 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her."
- Luke 1:26-38

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Law and . . .?

The historic liturgy is its own apology. Still, it
seems that those who follow the historic forms of
the Church's worship are increasingly subject to the
critique of "legalism".

Here then is a brief apology. The liturgy is both
external and internal. Invocation. Confession and
Absolution. Preaching of the Gospel. Sacrament of
the Altar. Benediction. For purposes here
this abbreviated picture of the liturgy reveals
something beyond the rite. Here is Holy Trinity.
Here is Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
Here is the people of God gathered in God's name and
blessed by Him. Communion with Christ and in
His presence - body and blood. The faith
of Christ's Bride, the Church. Christ.

The daily office - another opportunity for the
body of Christ to be in His Word. Communion with
Christ. (Advent and Lent?)

If one who is labeled a "legalist" can find Christ
amidst the ritual then is the historic liturgy
the problem or is something else afloat?
The life of the Church is internal and external - the
law of prayer and the law of belief. They are one
in Christ. The historic liturgy draws us to see
the transcendence of the Church and her faith.
They are one in Christ. The Church is one in Christ.

You see then that there is a tradition to the historic
liturgy and that there are those among you who are "legalists".
You have found the Law.

Now, where is the . . . Gospel?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

an ecclesial sense of worship

". . . the fate of liturgics is not only similar to that of ecclesiology in dogmatic theology, but is also directly bound up with it. In order to sense worship as something more than a 'public cult' it is necessary to see and sense the Church as something more than a 'society of believers.'"

(Source: Introduction to Liturgical Theology, p. 13)

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick, Missionary to Ireland

Some history and a prayer:

Patrick (387-493*) brought Christianity to Ireland.
(*some say he died 460 or 461)

This prayer, attributed to Patrick, is commonly called "St. Patrick's Breastplate":

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ash Wednesday 2006

St. Matthew 6:16-21 Doing Good on Earth with Eyes Toward Heaven

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Easter is considered a feast day for it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord. This evening, we hear the Lord speak words not of feast but of fast. Fasting was a practice that originated before the Lord's Incarnation as recorded in the New Testament. In the Old Testament God's people fasted when facing hardship. The prophets fasted in anticipation of the coming Messiah. Fasting was also a common practice in the New Testament, in the early church and throughout the church's history. We are reminded that our Lord Himself fasted. Fasting helped one to sense his or her weakness and helplessness before God. Believers have also fasted in preparation for receiving the Eucharist. By fasting they anticipated the feast of Christ's Body and Blood at the altar. In this way fasting is beneficial for it reminds us of our mortality before God and then we take on immortality or participate in the divine nature in the feast at the Sacrament of the Altar. During Lent we are called upon by the word of God to recognize our mortality and put to death sin and sinful desires and rather find our life in God's great mercy in Christ. In Him we are raised again to new life, as the cleansing water of Holy Baptism reminds us. So Lent is more than following certain rules of living. Rather Lent calls us to ponder Christ Himself, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Fasting is but one freedom that is ours in Christ. It is a discipline to help us to forget ourselves and instead see Christ. So fasting anticipates the forgiveness, life and salvation in the Holy Supper as the fasting of Lent anticipates the feast of Jesus' victory over death at the empty tomb. In the Risen Lord there is forgiveness for sin, life for death and salvation for eternal punishment. So if there is a fast by the people of God during Lent or at any other time of the year this is only because we know that following the fast comes the feast of faith.

The Lord said, when you fast . . . So the question is not "if" but "when." And the problem is not fasting but fasting in order to be seen by others. Why? Because fasting is not meant to draw one to look at others or to look to others for their approval and praise, it is, rather, a means of drawing one to see our Lord Himself. The same is true for prayer and almsgiving, or giving to the church and helping the needy, which are also part of the church's worship. Jesus says, "When you do a charitable deed …[and] when you pray." With His words the Lord helps us to see what is most important about our life of faith and Who is the focus of our worship and praise. He further shows this in teaching His Church the priority of not building up our treasure here on earth where such treasure does not last. The true treasure is found in Christ Himself for through His suffering and death on the cross, His shedding of precious blood, we are cleansed and prepared to be received with Him into heavenly glory. As the Son has prepared our treasure in heaven by His merits so we come to know through Him the love of our heavenly Father and the life that is ours in the Holy Spirit.

Ash Wednesday reminds us particularly of our mortality but also of divine life given to us for the forgiveness of sins at the Holy Supper. God's people are then also called upon by God's word to "add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." The repentance of Ash Wednesday does not end this evening. Lent keeps us in the discipline of knowing the Lord and living in His love. His love leads us out of ourselves and instead toward Him and our neighbor in need. Then at Easter we will celebrate the Feast of our Lord's Resurrection. But we need not wait for Easter to taste of the feast. For His life is poured out even unto death and His risen Body and Blood are here at the altar for His baptized people even tonight. Lent reminds and teaches us of Christ's own discipline of suffering and death that the world may know and participate in His life and salvation. Christ is made known in His fasting and His cross and then at the eternal feast. As we enter into Lent may the Lord lead His people in His faithfulness from fast to feast and the rich treasure of His love and mercy.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.