Friday, 29 September 2006

For users of Secure Digital media, check out your local Staples store. Right now they’re selling 2GB SD cards for around $40/each (after rebates). That’s even competitive with eBay prices, with the added bonus that you get it today and it’s less likely to come from Vinnie “I swear they bounced off the back of a truck” Media Seller. They’re not the Ultra II variety, but unless you’re using them in a digital camera it doesn’t make too much of a difference.


Words are still important

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

I sit here a grammatical, linguistic, literary, and oratorical snob. And God loves me for it.

From the front of a church bulletin (sadly, it was LCMS) I’ve recently read:

We have gathered together to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is our desire in worship to minister to the heart of God. As we do this, expect to meet with God and for him to minister to our hearts with power.

I mean this sincerely: is there anyone out there who can explain to me exactly how one ministers to the heart of God? I don’t find that language in Scripture anywhere. This smacks of one of my gripes with American Evangelical Christianity and the inroads it has made into the Lutheran Church. It’s the pick words that carry theological freight and string them together game. We can all play. Flip through the theological word book, slap your hand down on the page, and pick the word closest to your index finger. Do this two to four times, arrange the results in the most inspiring ways, and do what you can to put it into regular use in a congregation near you.

I’m sure you’ve seen these empty little phrases and kitschy little word plays. I’ve given you one here. Feel free to fill the comment thread with others you’ve seen. Maybe together we can compile a “Chicken Soup for the Evangelical Soul” book and make a pile of money.


Monday, 18 September 2006

So the Pope quotes a 14th Century conversation and Khamenei calls it the “latest link” in “the chain of a conspiracy to set in train a crusade”.

Hello? *tap* *tap* *tap* Is this thing on?

Where is the crusade? Who’s fighting for domination and subjugation of the infidel? Who’s blowing up buildings and cafes and crowds of bystanders? Who’s running terrorist training camps? Who’s issuing fatwas calling for the killing of whole nations? Who? The Pope?

Eventually folks like Karen Armstrong might wake up and realize that Islam isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The advances with which it’s credited were all borrowed from other cultures (even “Arabic numerals” are actually products of the Indian/Hindu culture). It’s the only major religion with a fully-developed doctrine of war and subjugation.

The West continues to project an enlightened attitude toward this “religion of peace.” And Islam is more than willing to allow the West its delusions while it moves toward global jihad.

Go read some Robert Spencer today.


Friday, 08 September 2006

The Rev. David Juhl had a simple yet profound post lately. You can read it here. Given my own proclivity for the Lutheran Confessions, I agree wholeheartedly with that the distinction must be made simply as to whether a pastor is faithful or unfaithful.

Within the Lutheran Church, that distinction must be made solely on the basis of faithfulness to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, as Pastor Juhl indicates.

The challenge is to see that personal preferences don’t begin to trump the true doctrine and practice. At this point these thoughts are rather rough as they’re coming out. Hopefully as I get through them some sense may be made of them. What follow are examples of what I’m trying to get at.

Worship style need not necessarily indicate faithfulness or unfaithfulness. It may indeed be a faithful act to set the liturgy to contemporary arrangements and instrumentations. If these settings direct the worshipers to the things the Lord is giving them and doing to and among them in the divine service, they are indeed the acts of faithful ministry. If, however, such stylistic choices bring with them it’s-all-about-me anthropology rather than actual divine service, then it becomes an unfaithful act.

Accordingly (and please put the pitchforks away until you’ve read the whole point), the liturgy didn’t fall in its current form from the throne of God into our laps. The liturgy focuses us on God’s work among us. Indeed, God does things in the parts of the liturgy. He changes us through his work in the divine service. For example, he reminds us of our identity as his baptized children in the invocation. He drowns us anew and raises us up to new life in the Absolution. He hears and answers our prayers. He feeds us with his Word in the readings and the sermon, and with his Body and Blood. He places his blessing upon us as we leave. All of these are God’s acts upon us. We leave worship as changed persons. Yet demanding that worship be the same at all times and in every place may be an unfaithful act, if it elevates form over substance. Likewise, changing the wording, say, of the confession and Absolution is not necessarily an unfaithful act, provided the confession covers general sin and applies to all sinners, and God’s first-person forgiving of our sins is still there.

The above examples are places where I think “faithful” and “unfaithful” might get prematurely applied to a minister, if you follow. It’s vital that one use sanctified discernment when making such assessments, and that he is never hasty in declaring an observed practice to be unfaithful.

Yet there are decidedly unfaithful practices, and there are men who have chosen to be unfaithful in the ministry to which God has called them. For whatever reason, these men have sold their birthrights for a mess o’ pottage. They have functionally renounced the faith they claim to confess. The general reason seems to be a disposition toward the path of least resistance. It’s laziness, and laziness is easier than faithfulness.

It’s easier to “not rock the boat” of contemporary American Protestant Christianity. If we don’t seem any different, they’ll get off our backs.

It’s easier to win hearts and minds when we don’t preach appropriate Law and Gospel. We’ll “Dr. Phil” them to death and call it relevant or life-related, and they’ll love us!

It’s easier to quantify the effectiveness of ministry by means of numbers and programs.

It’s easier to let let others do the work for us. Point, click, print, preach.

It’s easier to be blown with the winds of change rather than to remain rooted in universal truth. We’d rather be deemed to be hip than thought a curmudgeon.

It’s easier to reach out to people “where they are” and praise their uniqueness, leaving them in the comfort of their sinful selves. We might be thought to be unloving if we challenged the status quo of Old Adam.

It’s easier to do snappy rather than substantial.

I could go on. I won’t right now. It’s not just a personal gripe. Unfaithfulness is an afront to faithful ministry in the church throughout the centuries. It’s reckless endangerment of God’s people. Every minister makes mistakes. Every minister is a sinner. But willful and overt unfaithfulness to Scripture and the Confessions is an unconscionable offense.

Apparently I rock

Wednesday, 06 September 2006

Or at least my knowledge of music trivia is not in question.

Rock Star

You scored 96%!

You damn rock star. You know all the basics, and if you got any wrong, I bet it was that stupid Traveling Wilburys question.

Your friends are probably intimidated by your knowledge of classic rock and envy your impressive collection. When a classic rock song comes on the radio, you can probably identify it before the vocals kick in most of the time. You probably get good scores on the “maiden name of Clapton’s mom” tests, too.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on notes

Edit: Objectionable links removed.


Wednesday, 06 September 2006

Among the “joys” of being a Lutheran pastor are those moments (which happen with greater and greater frequency) when others who share the title of Lutheran pastor try to goad you into repenting of Lutheran doctrine.

After a long and protracted discussion last night, it has become my task to defend my (read: Lutheran) stance on the Office of the Holy Ministry and celebration of the Lord’s Supper with special emphasis on why I (read: Lutherans) do not agree that lay persons, certified as deacons or not, ought not to preside over the celebration of the sacrament. Citing the Lutheran Confessions is not acceptable, and it’s been made clear to me that the applicable Scripture passages are open to debate as well.

I seriously want to take that job at Wal-Mart right about now.

There are days when I simply want to slip out the back door and never return. I will never understand how the thinking works. Pastors in the Lutheran church who denegrate and disagree with Lutheran doctrine, practice, and identity make as much sense as pacifist soldiers, fatalist suicide counselors, or overeating weight-loss specialists. If you don’t believe what you say you’re about, find something else!

It’s not like there aren’t a million and one denominations within the milieu of American Christianity. Do like everyone else does: find the one that lines up with your own personal faith and join it. You’re obviously not willing to be shaped by the external Word of God. You want to keep tweaking it to meet with your approval, to fit your private understanding of God and self. There may be places for that, but the Lutheran Church is not that place.

Understand, I have all kinds of room and tolerance for the asking of appropriate questions and the seeking of their answers. But I have no patience with browbeating and argumentation for the sake of a more enlightened read on Scripture that dismisses the Lutheran Confessions as a nice bit of history, when such browbeating and arguing comes from those who have publicly confessed these as their confession. That simply indicates a lack of honesty, integrity, and class.

Hiatus ended

Saturday, 02 September 2006

Yeah. Been gone for a couple of weeks, with nary an electronic leash. That’s not entirely true, but Wi-Fi hotspots were few and far between, and all I had was my PPC. It was good to be away.

But among the more interesting things that happened to me was this. This is a classic picture from the “a few good men” recruiting campaign that the Marine Corps ran for about 13 years in the 1970s and 80s.

I actually met the guy a couple days ago. I have met few people in life with a more interesting story than his. His was the face of the Marine Corps for over a decade, but he didn’t even mention it. The conversation began with me asking him, “Have we met? You look really familiar.” “I don’t know. Maybe in the coffee shop?” A woman standing nearby was the one who finally said that he was that drill instructor with a famous face.

Anyway, it was an honor to talk with the man. I wish the conversation had lasted longer.