quod pro nobis traditum est

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Circumstance

In the liturgy this morning we heard the Gospel from Luke 1, "...because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word." In the Lutheran tradition today is Reformation Day. Although Luke is not the Gospel reading for Reformation this Gospel is certainly appropriate with its emphasis on the word, the humility and faithfulness of Mary and the blessed Incarnation. In these few words is much ecclesiological fodder.

The blessed Incarnation is as historical as the Reformation and its effects, arguably, of greater value and impact on the Church. Being more recent in history, it is easier to wrap ourselves around the Reformation.

Mary's approach to God's word is that of the holy Church's approach before the Incarnation and the ongoing work of the Word, bringing sinners to repentance and giving them forgiveness and salvation ("no word shall be impossible with God"). In a happy circumstance on Reformation Day we hear the word that leads us back to where it all began. With Mary and the one holy Church we pray, "Be it done to me according to thy word."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles

Little is known of Simon the Zealot. Jude's Epistle is included among the catholic epistles of Holy Scripture. Both holy Apostles were martyred in the first century as they preached the Gospel.

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
- Jude 20-21

Friday, October 23, 2009

St. Raphael, Archangel

On September 29 Raphael is included with Michael and Gabriel since 1969, or in the "All Angels" among Lutherans on the same date. The traditional date is October 24. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit (or Tobias), considered "deuterocanonical" or "apocryphal" depending on one's tradition. The book was declared canonical at the Council of Carthage in 397.

If you get the opportunity, read the Book of Tobit. Here Raphael is mentioned as "one of the seven holy angels." The story revolves around Raphael's role in the marriage of Tobias and Sarah and his works of healing.

In conspéctu Angelórum psallam tibi . . . Ps. 137/138:1

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

History or "curiosity kills the cat"

If you are a reader you know of my interest in the historic liturgy. I blog much about this topic, as an amateur, because of ongoing difficulties that affect pastors and congregations. Years of discussing show that these difficulties are not only a question of the liturgy.

As a history undergrad I tend to fall into the trap of thinking historically. As a graduate student of theology I am aware of the limits of history. Nevertheless, sometimes history helps to put things in perspective. This is the case in my ponderings of how synod and Church have worked and work during my short lifetime.

In my study and experience of the last 40 years or more, including some pastoral experience, I have noted extra-congregational conflict over Scripture, then the still ongoing conflict over worship and more recently the conflict over ecclesiology. As we know conflict is nothing new. Also, we know that congregations are not immune to extra-congregational conflict. These forces are always at play. The Christian life is neither 100% joy nor 100% grief but an ongoing fluctuation of both of them.

My interest in this case is historical. Obviously, there is a relation between church conflict and cultural conflict. However, my curiosity does not care to go there. What could tie such conflict together (Scripture, worship, ecclesiology)? There are obvious theological and spiritual connections that could be made.

It is always dangerous to think of bigger questions (hence the title of the post, history or "curiosity kills the cat"). In other words if I assess these conflicts merely as dry historical facts people would understandably nod off (what else is new?). We know that these conflicts are not anything new in the long history of the Church.

But it begs the question why there is a constant need to rewrite or revise the Scripture, a constant need to rewrite or revise worship and a constant need to rewrite or revise the Church. We may say that this is the "American" thing to do (for example, the American obsession with change and what is "new"). I think that it goes beyond this to a reformation gone wrong. It seems that the Reformation has opened a can of worms which is hard to contain (add some other exacerbating features like the Enlightenment, Pietism, etc.)

While bringing some needed reform to the Catholic Church the Reformation has since then taken on a life of its own. This I owe to the multiplications of translations of Scriptures, "styles" of worship, ministries and forms of "church", denominations, sects, cults, etc. I can say that as neither a Reformation scholar nor a professional historian who has no answers or cure to what ails us (outside of divine revelation) that my pondering leads us back to the title, History or "curiosity kills the cat."

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Holy Ministry - Looking Back

The blogpost below is my "first" blog of note. Dating back to October 19, 2005 it is re-issued again here:

the "gift" of pastors - Ephesians 4:11-16

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
(Ephesians 4:11-16)

How do you look at your pastor? Should he be a good motivator, administrator and leader like we find in the business and political worlds? Should he be a good salesman for the church and her activities? Should he avoid theological matters and instead focus on numbers, revenue and success? Should he avoid the church's liturgy and instead focus on entertaining the people? Should he "get out of the way" so we can "do the ministry?" These are questions raised by people both inside and outside the church who, for whatever reason, see the church primarily as an institution or business that deals in or sells spiritural themes and slogans to inspire us or motivate us for the week ahead. These are sincere people who want to see the church succeed.

See how the Apostle teaches that pastors and the church are something quite distinct from these popular notions that we hear about today. The church and her pastors are of a different tradition. They are of the apostolic tradition, that of the Holy Scriptures, which speaks of them as "gifts" of God Himself. Why are they called "gifts"? Because they are sent by the Lord for the benefit of His Church on earth to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to edify the body of Christ. Why? So that people will no longer be tossed here and there by any and all kinds of doctrine that are everywhere in the world but that come from outside of the apostolic tradition of the Scriptures. Also, that they will not be fooled by "new" teachings about who the pastor and church are or ought to be. Instead, God gives the gifts of pastors that people who hear and keep His word will "all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" and " may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ."

The difference then is not in seeing the pastor and the church as merely a voluntary association of like-minded people who love to do good but rather as "gifts" from God Himself. God gave and gives pastors to the church, as He did the apostles, prophets and evangelists, so that people may be drawn out of the popular thinking of this world and come into communion with God Himself in Christ Jesus. Jesus was sent by the Father and gave Himself over to death for the world that we may in and through Him receive forgiveness of sins and life in God. This tradition in the catholic church of communion with God in Christ lives on in the holy liturgy of the Word and Sacraments, rightly preached and administered by pastors for the blessing of God's holy people. So as God is love He gives to His Church on earth the gift of pastors in love and in Christ "the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."