quod pro nobis traditum est

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

house cleaning and ancient languages

We are back to the blog's original title, "on church and liturgy" and its subtitle, "de ecclesia et liturgia", which is the title in Latin.

Speaking of Latin, it is assumed by some that one cannot believe that God has saved us through His Son, Jesus Christ, if one knows or supports Latin. While I am not proficient in Latin, I took three years of the language in high school and appreciate its value. Learning Latin has helped me, among other things, learn English vocabulary and grammar. If knowing some Latin makes me a bad Lutheran, "C'est la vie."

At seminary, I learned some Greek and Hebrew. Sharing this may be controversial. Then again, there is a positive side. In the liturgy we find all three ancient languages and more. For example, the Introit (Latin) is from the Psalms (Hebrew) and one of the oldest, if not the oldest, parts of the liturgy is the Kyrie (Greek). The faith is never old.

As I am not a linguist, nor overly proficient in these languages, there is nothing more to add, except that learning ancient languages does not make one out-of-date. Rather, it may be surprising how learning such things may help one to live in the present. While the faith is never old, there is also nothing new under the sun.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

thinking and praying

As I have written in the past, the central act of Christians together is the receiving of the Lord's Body and Blood following the hearing of the Scripture and preaching. This, I have usually addressed in the past in response to the change of some Protestant and Catholic forms of worship into entertainment ("contemporary", etc.) In recent years there is an equally dangerous devaluation of the central act of Christians together in a societal emphasis on dividing people according to class or social status, thus changing the liturgy into some form of advance of a particular understanding of justice. Both an entertainment model and a justice model are ultimately materialistic and man-centered. Both emphases lead away from the divine nature of the sacrament which is to benefit of both body and soul. In other words, both the conservative and liberal approaches, in their extremes, work against the uniting of believers at the altar. The Holy Supper is instituted by the Lord for us and is a Holy Communion with God and with those at the altar (i.e., baptized believers).

Moving away from this observation for a while, and paying more attention to such an undue creeping of "conservative" and "liberal" notions into the faith it becomes difficult to discern at times what is happening in both the society and the church. Different trends, emphases, forces, may be at work simultaneously pulling people in society and people within the church in varying directions. This is no less confusing to pastors. As a pastor I have struggled with these things and their effect on the church. Rather than approach this from a "conservative" or "liberal" dichotomy I have thought how one might be affected personally by all this. Here is a model that might help explain different and possibly simultaneously occurring influences using very simple categories of thinking and praying:

I. Encourages Thinking and Praying

II. Encourages Thinking and discourages Praying

III. Discourages Thinking and encourages Praying

IV. Discourages both Thinking and Praying

Obviously, the first is preferred and the last, while seemingly not a possibility, does occur from time to time. However, all of these seem to be part of the experiences of the believer in this day and age. For example, the academic might experience more occurrences of II while the pious might experience more occurrences of III. IV is to be avoided although circumstances might place one there from time to time. All four possible scenarios are understood in a greater context of the faith.

Hoping especially that the first scenario is more common and preferred we return to the altar where maybe prayer is more dominant although thinking is indeed part and both are connected to the divine mysteries of grace and salvation.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Read on

Dear Readers,

Although I may not know some or many of you, thank you very much for reading this blog. This blog is a general collection of comments, quotations, etc., on various issues facing Christianity and the church's faith. Earlier this blog was ambitiously titled, "On Church and Liturgy" and reflected a time when my experiences as a pastor took me beyond the local congregation into questions facing my church body and Christianity in general. This blog has over the years unashamedly upheld a connection between "church" and the liturgy (or "historic liturgy") as a work of God in and through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Ghost. As such, much of what was shared here is not anything new. However, in this time and age, with the forgetting of the past, revisionism, and any other number of other reasons what is old "is" new because many simply have not heard these things before.

Current trends are working strongly against me and my work on this blog. There are the obvious secular forces opposed to anything of a religious nature which we all face on a daily basis. Then there are the "contemporary" movements which this blog has continually attempted to address. Understandably, within the greater Christian sphere, those who are not of the same religious background might find any number of things troubling about issues discussed here. Admittedly, there are also things written here that would be even controversial to my fellow Lutherans. I believe that much of Lutheranism has collapsed into a generic protestantism that has, in short, gutted the faith. This is reflected publicly and primarily in what goes on in worship (the liturgy) on Sunday mornings. My own lack of understanding might also make this blog troublesome to those of historic church background. This blog may also be a target for some of its moral stands, especially in the America of today. Although issues addressed here may be controversial to some, or even some positions I have taken over the years may be controversial they are written for the purpose of collecting my own insights and as an attempt to help the reader question the zeitgeist. Sort of a combination of growing and sharing.

These trends and factors all seems to be coming to a head and affecting my personal and professional life in unforeseen, yet likely, predictable ways. I do not know and understand all that is going on and how much more I will be able to contribute to this blog but I do hope to say here that I do not regret anything I have written here so far. Since much of what I have written here addresses matters that go beyond my own tradition, I fear that most of the opposition I face these days is likely from within the very tradition that nurtured me in the faith. In large part too I am ignorant of forces that might use my words against me. On the other hand, this is the risk one takes in having the freedom to share and write what is on one's mind. It is impossible to take this personally since there have always been and always will be forces working against church, liturgy, faith, etc. Whether intentionally or not, personal and professional factors may coincide to silence this blog or limit greatly what I have to share in the future.

Thank you very much for reading. In short, do not be surprised by any silence in the future. Keep on reading for reading's sake!

Best Regards,

Timothy D. May

Thursday, September 19, 2013

the chicken and the egg

. . .

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

"The family built upon marriage, and not upon the individual, is the basic unit of society. In fact, each family is a miniature society — analogous to a miniature state — out of which the larger political community is constructed. This is more than a theory; it is an historical fact: A country like Scotland is built upon the MacDonalds, the MacIntyres, the Robertsons, and so on.

"As G.K. Chesterton pointed out in The Superstition of Divorce, it is no coincidence that totalitarian regimes typically seek to weaken both the Church and marriage. The reason is precisely because both of these institutions claim to be independent societies with their own constitutions. Since they exist within the same territory as the state, from the perspective of a tyrant, they obstruct the extension of his own absolute authority.

"Now, if the family built upon marriage is the building block out of which the state is formed, the family is antecedent to the state . . ." [source: William Newton, newoxfordreview . org]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

the Spirit's work

Although not surprising, in many ways the origin of the ministry has been lost among Lutherans. This may be due to emphasis on auxiliary offices and ministries, doubt in the pastoral ministry, or surprise expressed when it is discovered that the confessional writings grant that ordination may be called a sacrament. In short it may simply be the adoption of a general culturally influenced view which sees the ministry merely in functional terms. Hence, the related erroneous supposition that the ministry arises from a vote of a local assembly, that is the authority of ministry is man-made.

For pastors who are put on the defensive because of the confusion caused by these views and/or by those who clearly hold these types of views in a dogmatic fashion against their pastors, there is encouragement that the pastoral ministry is neither man-made nor apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. First, it may be added that the pastor still has the Holy Spirit given him in Holy Baptism. However, in terms of the peculiarity of the ministry, among the many God-given vocations, there is the peace which the risen Lord gave to the Apostles and the gift of the Holy Spirit he gave them for the retention and the forgiveness of sins (John 20). Also, there are Paul's words of encouragement to Timothy where the young pastor is reminded of the "gift of God" he received when the Apostle put his hands upon him (2 Timothy 1; i.e., ordination). The Holy Spirit of the risen Lord is passed on through the laying on of the Apostle's hands. Indeed, this is a Scriptural phenomenon that may not be easily discounted.

Although Lutheranism is weakened by the loss of the knowledge of the origin of the ministry among us it is encouraging for pastors to know that we need not look to others for assurance when the origin is from the Lord himself and the ministry itself is the Spirit's work. Considering that this gift involves the retention and forgiveness of sins then it is no wonder the reformers said it may also be called a sacrament.

Monday, August 19, 2013

when news is now news

For years Christians have been and are being killed overseas because of their religious beliefs. Since this is not broadcast on the major networks it is not news. In the last week or so, major news networks have drawn attention to the killing of Christians, the burning of churches and the burning of sacred texts. The Coptic Christians, or "Copts," are of one of the oldest church bodies of Christianity. In the last week or so, this has become a news story. We look beyond our coexistent reality and our emphasis on the religion of peace and see what is really going on.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

liturgical caveat

For some involved in liturgical renewal among Lutherans there is held a symbolic interpretation of the Sacrament. I write this as a caveat to those who value the liturgy. If indeed the Sacrament is but a symbol then the liturgy is made a show. On this issue Lutheranism does not fit neatly in a protestant picture of things. Nor does this bode well in terms of the Gospel.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


It is true that there will always be people who misperceive what one says and does. In many ways, this is just a fact of life. Social media does not necessarily clarify things. Sometimes it can make things cloudier. I find that there is nothing one can do when what one says and does is misperceived. One learns to live with contentment, even when that itself may be misperceived.

For example, my last post cannot be taken to mean that I do not drink beer or wine, although it may give that impression. My last post is more a response to an undue focus on sin (usually other people's sin) that excludes the possibility of God doing his work in people, whether seen or unseen or the possibility of God having any power over sin. As I write, maybe too often, there is a natural (or super-natural) follow-up to sin at the altar. Call it God's mercy, forgiveness, life, etc.

Misperceptions are real, whether the topic may be liberalism-conservativism (I am both) or that of legalism-antinomianism (I am both). Misperceptions, whether of external or internal origin, want it to be focused on me. Perception, although with dim sight, seeks the face of God.

There is more to life than being caught up in a world of misperceptions. The good news for us is God does reveal His face.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

God is in His holy place

As there is nothing new under the sun so there are daily attempts to revise or dumb down the faith and lighten the church's presence in the world. These are simply ongoing attempts to undermine the whole.

In recent years these attempts became more apparent to me with efforts to secularize the message and approach of the church on the local level. So it is that I was kindly offered advice that words like "church", "holiness", "reverence", and some other words ought not be mentioned in the church. Surely intentions are good. Though the idea also spurs the somewhat unruly thought of taking the scissors to the Scripture, the liturgy and any theological books or confessional writings where these words occur. There is precedence for this. However, that could take a long time. What's the use?

It is not helpful to dwell on such obvious affronts to the faith so why argue with them? The liturgy continues to speaks for itself, that is, the word of God is there for those who will hear. While normally there is not much thought dedicated to responding to obvious attempts at undermining our daily work, I was reminded once again of these things last Sunday in the words of the Psalmist:

God is in His holy place; God who maketh men of one mind to dwell in a house; He shall give power and strength to His people.

How about the appointed reading where the Apostle mentions the "Church"?

Throughout the year words like "holy" and "Church" will come up when they will and the thought of omitting or revising them might be entertained by some. On the other hand, for those who do not want to bother with so much work, faith comes from hearing.

As the psalmist says . . .

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

a good time for questions

Today's decision deserves many responses. Although it might appear to be about something new it really just publicly confirms another side of human nature.

We are not surprised by the concepts of questioning authority, questioning the Church, questioning Scripture, questioning God, . . . In a secular society we live with these realities everyday, even when we do not agree with them. By its nature and its aims, Christianity is always somewhat on the edge of the world we live in and it is not always welcome. This may be uncomfortable at times. Because of this, Christians have a capacity that many people do not. They have the capacity to question society.

While today's decision may be discouraging it also raises questions about those beautiful things that are given to us from God as part of His creation and why they are given to us. We are still on the edge of the world we live in and are not always welcome but this also gives us perspective. We are able to question society and its decisions and its directions even when we do not agree with them.

Although today's decision may stand out as a setback, it does not make today any different than any other day. Even as we live in it, everyday we question society. After all, society does not and cannot show or give us the way, the truth and the life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

receiving when the answers aren't there

These are exciting days and there is never any lack for surprise in the ministry.

A year or two ago there was a good old Lutheran in town who visited our church. I had not seen him in many many years so it was good to see him. Two Sundays in a row he visited the service. We have the Lord's Supper at every service so I asked him with some surprise why he did not come to the altar. Oh, it was because he always likes to read the Christian Questions with their Answers from the catechism before he comes up and he forgot to bring his catechism. I was impressed. Here is someone who appears to take the faith seriously.

Then again I was surprised and disappointed. He did not see or hear that the liturgy prepares him to come up to the altar with the same faith - confession of sins and absolution, hearing the Scripture and the preaching of the Gospel, hearing the words of Institution, trusting in Christ, etc. He did not recognize that the faith the catechism teaches is the same faith that is given to us in the liturgy of Word and Sacrament.

Included in the Christian Questions with their Answers is the Words of Institution: "... 'Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"

He was obviously trying to send me another message. However his actions in not coming to the altar speaks volumes about the value of the Lord's Supper to him and this gives much room for pause. If we hope to take seriously the faith, we will not neglect opportunities like weekly Communion to receive God's mercy in Christ. We may think we can live two or three weeks without God's gifts and forgiveness, without nourishment in faith in Christ. Our sins never take such long breaks. The early Christians did not wait too long, they received the Eucharist daily.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

partaking and not partaking

It is not surprising that a secularly minded culture might not grasp the importance of Ascension Day. Matters raised on this Feast are always beyond reason as is the custom. Even the disciples are chided by Jesus for their "unbelief and hardness of heart" because they did not believe those who had seen Jesus when they told them he was risen from the dead.

When, annually, the Feast of the Ascension is downplayed within Christianity something else is at work. Understandably, some have moved the feast to Sunday so that those who do not come on the Feast day itself might still receive its benefits. On the other hand even Sundays might not help with some.

In my own Lutheran faith tradition each year, around Ascension the bureaucracy buzzes with distractions. Whether intentionally or not, the effect or message seems to be the same, don't put too much attention on the Ascension. I am still looking at church history and the different hymnals to try and figure this one out. There is something about Ascension that makes us nervous.

In the Biblical narrative and the life of Jesus the importance of this day is quite obvious. There is actually much going on in this part of God's plan of salvation that tells us about Jesus, the Holy Trinity and the life of the Church after Jesus' departure.

Each year I am surprised by our general (lack of) reaction to the Feast of the Ascension. And each year I try to figure out our reticence. Then I come to the Proper Preface where the chant continues, "...who after his resurrection appeared openly to all his disciples and in their sight was taken up to heaven that he might make us partakers of his divine nature." Here I am surprised again. Surprised that the Lord's work is not hindered by Lutheran reticence as it was not hindered by the unbelief and hardness of heart of his own disciples. Jesus' ascension in the body has something to do with us. This is a great time to partake of the blessed Eucharist. I am not surprised by those with faith in reason. On Ascension Day, I am surprised by non-partaking people of faith.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

May 1 & 2

The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles (May 1) in the Western Church goes back to the 6th century. All three hymnals of MS since the 1940s place this feast on May 1. The 1962 Missal commemorates the feast on May 11. This combined celebration is of Western commemoration, the Eastern Church commemorating the two apostles separately.

Jesus tells Philip, after He institutes the Last Supper, that he who sees Jesus sees the Father. He then speaks of the coming Ascension, "Because I go to the Father." (John 14)

The commemoration on May 2 is that of St. Athanasius, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor. Against Arius, Athanasius defended the divinity of Jesus in the 4th century. "We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus." (2 Cor. 4:5-14)

The medieval church took Paul's reference in Ephesians 2 about the church being "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" as a basis for equating the honor of apostles' days with that of Sundays.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Easter ministry

This is a big "if" but "if" opposition to the pastoral ministry (aka "anti-clericalism") is a sub-theme or in a sub-strata of Lutheranism "then" we have difficulty with the Gospel readings on the Sundays following Easter.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

liberal use of the liturgy

The word "liberal" here is not to make a specific political, social, or economic statement. Nor is the word "liberal" being placed together with the word "liturgy" here to advance lifestyles that are apart from the divine order in creation. Finally, this is not about changing the liturgy or advancing new forms of ministry.

What is said by using these words together, "liberal use of the liturgy"? The liberal use of the liturgy is another way of saying liturgical renewal, that is renewal in learning, using and advancing the liturgy. This is of interest to those who know that a service in the hymnal is not the liturgy and a given hymnal is not the liturgy but the use of the hymnal among Lutherans, for example, is the preferred and expected tool of those who are in liturgical renewal. Another example of liturgical renewal is a church building where the altar has a central and visible role as the place where the sacrament is offered and distributed. There are many other aspects of liturgical renewal among us. In short, liturgical renewal is clearly distinct and separate from efforts to provide and/or produce religious forms of entertainment.

In addition to liturgical renewal, "liberal use of the liturgy" may refer to "liberal" use of time to advance the gathering of people in prayer. For example, this may mean additional weekday services in Advent and Lent. Outside of the celebration of Christmas, another example of this are the services of Holy Week. Using time to hear the Word of God and receive the Sacrament, from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, including the opportunities of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, are of spiritual discipline and benefit. There is another opportunity with the Feast of the Ascension. These are all opportunities for renewal in Christ. Renewal in Christ is the best understanding of liturgical renewal and the liberal use of the liturgy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Seeing more than what's in our heart

I am not sure if it is a cultural thing or not to focus continuously on matters of personal anfechtung or angst. The faith gets reduced to a matter of an individual personal struggle within (with stress on "individual", "personal", "struggle", "within"). Those who can manifest such struggles have the truest faith while others are left to wonder why they do not have enough faith. In recent years, de-pression seems to be a popular topic in the media outlets and elsewhere, usually though without any spiritual answers offered.

Theologically, this tension or contrast is often described in terms of sin and forgiveness or grace, or in the training I received, "Law and Gospel." In short, we are sinners, unable to save ourselves. God in His mercy freely saves us for Jesus' sake (the cross). Pastors are called on to preach sin and salvation in Christ.

Generally speaking, who can criticise a principle such as this? It seems simple, clear and straight forward enough. I am the sinner and Jesus is the Savior. All of Christianity embraces this truth in one degree or another. There is certainly not anything unbiblical about these basic teachings.

What then is the difficulty? Laetare is probably as good an example as any. "Laetare" means rejoice. In this age of de-pression, austerity, etc., one is almost made to feel guilty for reading or hearing the psalmist say, "I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord." We know there are many forces at work here. Even those of us who go into the house of the Lord do not always do so with gladness. Still, we ought not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty if attending church brings us spiritual benefit. With all of the emphasis on sin I hear lately, maybe it's a good thing that Laetare sneaks into Lent as Gaudete had done with Advent.

We get the point - Jesus is the Savior from sin. This is no small thing. The Cross is no small event. But neither is the Incarnation. Here is where the Creed is helpful. The Creed does not pit the Cross and the Incarnation against each other as I have often heard discussed in recent years. The Creed confesses all of the merciful and saving works of God in Christ from the Incarnation to the Ascension. All of what Christ does for us is central to the work of our salvation. The Creed helps saves us from ourselves and our own notions.

Back to Law / Gospel. There is no way any paradigm can be forced onto a given text. For example, in the healing of the blind man (John 9) the blind man says, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." We can relate to the first part about being sinners, no problem there. What about the second part, isn't the blind man commending doing good things to ensure God's hearing? If we look at the text via a principle the blind man is certainly advancing a theological error. On the other hand, if God can heal a blind man and create faith through hearing of the Word, certainly He can lead sinners to worship Him and do His will, albeit imperfectly. So we hear the blind man charged with being "completely born in sins" and cast out. What does Jesus have to say about this? He finds the blind man and asks him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" How does it all turn out in the end? The blind man says, "Lord, I believe!" The Evangelist records, "And he worshiped Him."

A couple of observations, not every text is going to say to me that I am a sinner and Jesus is my Savior. Nor is it always easy for the preacher to make that connection with every text or put a principle onto a text. The text also shows us other things about God and man that are not always necessarily interior or based in angst and anfechtung. For example, Jesus is more concerned that the once blind man (and we) "believe in the Son of God." The man now seeing, sees a man externally and sees Him as the Son of God and worships Him. There are both external and internal aspects of the faith. This is indeed what we confess in the Creed, "I believe . . . all things visible and invisible . . . and in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . God of God, Light of Light . . ."

A final observation - in an age of de-pression and austerity, when sin and law are overemphasized, it is better to see things like the blind man did. Then Laetare is not as difficult a thing as it may first appear. Lent may seem to be a more somber time. There is some truth to that. Still, the Scripture for our hearing is here as it is throughout the year, and sometimes it manifests itself more richly, or He manifests Himself more clearly, to us than we may at first expect. If Lent is all about our feelings, then there is no reason to receive the gifts of God. Rather Lent is all about the one of whom the once blind man said, "If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing."


Saturday, March 02, 2013

a fun look at dates of the calendar

The date for Oculi, tomorrow, is 3/3/13. We are well into Lent now and looking ahead to Easter, which falls this year on 3/31/13. Many 3s, and some 1s. We know what it means when 3 and 1 are together. Tomorrow, Oculi mei semper ad Dóminum - Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord. Easter Sunday, Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum - I arose, and am still with Thee. 3 and 1 together, also a good numerical reminder of the togetherness of Lent and Easter.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

a theology of distraction

Secularism is defined as "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis." This word comes from the Latin saeculum meaning "generation," or "age." In a Christian context it connotes "the world." I wonder if it may also be called a "theology of distraction." Distractions seem to come around more often when something that has a religious or spiritual basis may be of benefit to us. Lent is like the opposite of secularism.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI to resign

I am sorry to read that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. He has faithfully led the Catholic Church, advanced the Christian faith and theology and is an inspiration to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His many writings will continue to inspire those who read and study theology and his liturgical legacy is of great benefit for the life of the Catholic Church and Christians world-wide.

May God be with the pope and the Catholic Church at this time and lead the Catholic Church in the process of choosing his successor.

Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. - Pope Benedict XVI, from his homily at the Inaugural Mass of his pontificate, April 24, 2005

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Nunc Dimittis - then and now

Haec dicit Dóminus Deus: Ecce ego mitto Angelum meum, et praeparábit viam ante fáciem meam. Et statim véniet ad templum suum Dominátor, quem vos quaeritis, et Angelus testaménti, quem vos vultis . . .

These words of the Lord by the prophet Malachi (3:1ff) speak of the Lord's sending of His Angel to His Temple. When it was time for Mary's purification, Jesus' parents brought Jesus to the Temple and presented Him there (Luke 2:22-32).

Jesus would be the sacrifice pleasing to the Lord. On this day the Nunc Dimíttis is emphasized, it is found in the Gospel, Antiphon, etc.:

Now Thou dost dismiss Thy Servant, O Lord,
according to Thy word in peace;
because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples . . .

Among those receiving the blessed Eucharist these words are a fitting echo for we have seen and received the Lord's salvation. He, born of the Blessed Virgin, purifies us of our sins.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

a few more

... false dichotomies that come to mind while they are on my mind (see previous post for explanation):

- Church as visible or invisible. Both/and if she is connected to Christ the Head. I am not sure I understood the debate since Christ has two natures and it is only natural that His Church be of two natures. (That is I do not understand a purely invisible nor a purely visible Church, this is the mystery of Eph 5.)

- Fasting or not. Ironically, Jesus nor Scripture prohibit fasting, although some look on the practice today almost as if to do it is a sin. Interesting juxtaposition of a practice Scripture permits that is opposed by some Scripture believers. Jesus says, "When you fast ..."

- Old and New Testaments. While a dissection of the two might make sense in the view of others, Christians hold to a unity, including the correlation of the same one God in both.

I do not know how long some of these have been moving around in my mind's hard drive (or cloud?) but now they are taking up less space.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

false dichotomies

Over the last few years I have heard what I consider false dichotomies. These tests(?) may signal deeper issues within the church and or its schools/seminaries. However, the theological questions are of greater import than partisanship. In other words, there is an underlying unity which seems to be under attack. This can be seen in a closer look at these false dichotomies, that is, when two truths, or two parts of one truth, are pitted against each other. Here are some that come to mind:

Cross and Incarnation - One view sees the Incarnation as a threat to the Cross while another view emphasizes the Incarnation and the Resurrection over the Cross.

Prayer and Academics (Faith and Reason?) - One view sees learning as a threat to the prayer life of the church while the other sees the liturgical life of the church as an obstacle to learning.

Ministry and Liturgy - One view sees a connection between the Holy Ministry and the liturgy while another view separates the two, thus separating the Holy Ministry from the sacraments.

God of promise and God of, and in, history - One view appears to support a distant God who watches from afar and except for sending His Son to save the world does not involve Himself with the world but gives it a promise for the future. God is a watchmaker with a promise. Another view sees God as participating in human nature and man participating in divine nature through the union in Word and Sacrament.

Sin and Grace - A behaviorist inclined view tends to emphasize the former at the expense of the latter while an antinomian inclined view tends to emphasize the latter at the expense of the former. This type of dichotomy seems to offer little hope of balance or unity.

These are only a few that I have heard in recent years. They are obviously over-simplified in summary fashion here for the sake of brevity. Hopefully, one can see the false dichotomies here.

Although I am aware of these debates and more I do not always get involved in them. One thing I have discovered is there is an answer to all of them and more in the liturgy. The liturgy shows unity in matters both vertical and horizontal, the reading of Scripture, the preaching, the confession of the Creed, the distribution of the Sacrament, etc.

For example, take the Creed. The Creed confesses both Incarnation and Cross. Throughout the church year these matters, and more, are addressed. There is a unity between God and man which He has created. Here is the source of the unity that is present even when our eyes are focused on false dichotomies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

an ongoing testament to life

Certain ironies and paradoxes in life continue. In a land that purports to celebrate religious freedom we also support abortion which costs the lives of millions.

At the wedding at Cana we see Jesus' celebration of the marriage between a man and woman and his celebration of the life of children coming from such a union. In addition, there is the creation of wine for festal celebrations such as the wedding at Cana and the union between Christ and His Bride at the altar. Jesus' first sign points to this union which is seen in his giving of the Last Supper, his appearance to the disciples after his resurrection, and the eternal banquet described in Scripture.

The wedding at Cana is a good picture of what is truly worth celebrating, especially at a time like this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

just too religious

Today, we hear a bunch of stuff against religion, tradition, rituals, etc. Everything has to be spontaneous or new or emotional or exciting to be truly spiritual. It is better to have church in the house than the family in the church, etc. Some churches no longer even have Christmas services so families can celebrate at home.

In last Sunday's Gospel reading we heard, "When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast." In the homily the point was made that Joseph and Mary were good parents even though they lost him on their way home.

Some might also say they were being good Jews but Jesus changed all that ritual stuff. Ironically, later on, after his Baptism, when Jesus was involved in his ministry as an adult Scripture records,

"So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me . . ." (Luke 4:16ff)

Jesus was just too religious. He, like his parents before him, followed the religious customs. He would not have fit in our contemporary scene. Scripture adds the part that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


This blog might be on the blogroll or on some blogs' list of blogs even though I do not agree with or endorse all or part of the theology espoused on these other blogs. It is even possible I might oppose altogether what they endorse although it may appear that I support what they support because my blog is included on theirs. Often this is done without my knowing or support.

As an undergrad history major I learned to recognize historical revisionism. One downfall of social media is that anyone and everyone is subject to revisionism in real time. This is not all bad. Still, this is one reason why I am not as active online as I once was. It is not that what one writes might be misunderstood, distorted and maligned by others. It is that one does not care to chase the bait or respond to everything that happens online. There is simply not enough time. In short, there may be links on other blogs to this one. The thoughtful reader will know to distinguish each blog from the other and not draw conclusions based on associations that may or may not exist.

On another note, although I am not protestant, I appreciated a church sign I saw recently that said something about not worshipping the donkey or the elephant but worshipping the Lamb. Not a bad Christmas message and one that goes well all year round, especially for Christians who might have forgotten or let slide their priorities in matters of faith.