A blessing to come

Friday, 27 October 2006

At the end of next month it looks like the OSC family will be getting its first new car–ever. I used to drive a Dodge Dakota, which I sold when we got married. My wife brought a Chevy Metro (think Geo with Chevy insignia) to the marriage, which we’ve driven for several years. It has, thanks be to God, likely outlived its expected lifespan. How it continues to run with as little maintenance as it requires is nothing short of miraculous. We’ve driven it into [what we thought was] the ground, and it has continued to serve well, never needing any major engine maintenance. But we change the oil faithfully and keep it well tuned. And fuel prices being what they are, it’s high MPG have been a great blessing as well.

But it will not last forever. It sports a Suzuki engine, and not a very good one. I sincerely meant that it is a miracle that we haven’t had problems with it. I can see the hand of God’s providing in keeping it running so well over the years, for which we are extremely thankful.

So at the end of next month we are accepting delivery of a 2007 Toyota Prius. We began the quest a couple of weeks ago (learning a little late, sadly, that the federal tax credit had been cut in half only a couple weeks earlier; yet it did not go away completely). We test drove one the other day. Let me tell you folks, after driving it I see no reason that most passenger cars on the road today ought not to be hybrids.

One of the first things I noticed was that the Prius was roomy. I pushed the driver’s seat all the way back and sat in the back seat. Now I’m a big guy, but I could have gone on an extended roadtrip in that back seat, had I needed to do so. It was quite comfortable. The model we drove had leather seats, an option we would not dream of selecting at this time, but the fabric seats are fine. It’s what we’re used to having.

Aside: One of the things that the sales people didn’t seem to understand was that we’re not an option family. We’ve been driving a 4-banger with fabric seats, AM/FM stereo (not even a tape deck), rack steering, power NOTHING, for the last seven years or so. Absolutely everything we could possibly have out of a base model would be an upgrade. So each time they wanted to tack $1000 on for something new it was very easy for us to say, “No, thanks. We’ll take the stripped-down version.”

Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive is phenomenal. There is an LCD screen on the dash that really doesn’t need to be there, but it’s there. It shows, among other things, what your current MPG is and where the power is going–to the battery, from the battery, from the fuel tank, and to and from the gas and electric motors. Watching it on the test drive was like watching a complicated dance. The LCD also displays maintenance scheduling, radio presets, DVD navigation (if you have that option, which we will not), and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity for a wireless phone (again, an option we did not select).

The LCD also becomes a viewing screen for the backup camera when in reverse, an option we could have lived without, but it’s standard in that bottom package. It’s a “safety feature.” I call it a bell or a whistle, but it was pretty cool, actually.

One of the other cool features was the smart key. This seems like a frill (for us, a family that has not had power anything, doubly so). Yet it’s a nice convenience, and one that might risk spoiling us. The key is actually an RF (I think) transmitter. When the key is within range of the door, you can pull it open and enter the vehicle. The key stays in your pocket. Likewise, with the key still in your pocket or a purse, when you’re in the driver’s seat it enables the engine, and it’s a push button starter. No fumbling with keys. No trying to unlock it while juggling kids and groceries, etc.

Starting it is rather eerie. You start it, and it’s clearly started, but there’s no engine noise. It’s totally electric when it starts. The gas kicks in for a little bit of acceleration, but it’s a very quiet vehicle.

It’s a drive-by-wire transmission. The shifter sends its information to the transmission electronically. There is a transmission brake as well, so that in a gradual deceleration all the energy generated by the slowing is routed to the battery, increasing brake life and efficiency. Add electronic power steering and you’ve got one more fluid you don’t have to mess with.

We’re very excited about this. The fuel savings are phenomenal, the environmental impact (yes, I hug trees in a Christian stewardship way) is fantastic, and the safety features (like side curtain airbags) are a welcome addition to our family’s vehicular life.

So your prayers are appreciated: that God would indeed guide and bless us in the purchase process, and thanksgiving that it seems to be coming together.


In time for the Reformation Service

Thursday, 26 October 2006

The congregational order of LSB hymnals and associated available editions has arrived and is now in the pew. The church secretary, the custodian, and I boxed up the old TLHs and replaced them with the new editions. It was better than new phone book day.

I’m pretty stoked about this update. This congregation skipped over LW but voted to acquire and use the LSB. My critique of the LSB still stands, but as I said before, I am really positive about this edition. (And if CPH would see fit to offer a devotional companion with the propers in it for laymen who don’t really want the altar book, that might just be a cool move. It might not be universally desired, of course, but I could see at least some market for it.) We’ll bless and dedicate the new LSBs just before the service on Sunday, and then the congregation will have a chance to use them for the first time.

IE7, baby

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

The bugs are fixed, the holes are plugged, and Internet Explorer has blatantly repackaged itself to embody (most of) the reasons we went to Firefox in the first place. Unless you’re one who has a moral quandary with using Microsoft products, grab the update today.

Pet issue

Friday, 20 October 2006

I admit to having several. One is my issue with eschatology. To my thinking it has yet to be disproved.

Yet a conversation on the topic (started by the other guy) in the last days, in which I laid out my case through Scripture (briefly, as below, came to a halt with, “Yeah, but we just don’t know.”


What else has God revealed to us in Scripture that we just don’t know?

Studio 60 on South Kirkwood Road

Friday, 20 October 2006

I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I loved “Sports Night.” Aside from the politics, “The West Wing” was a great show, until John Wells got his hands on it and it jumped the shark just like his other productions. So I was excited to see a new Sorkin show on network television. The latest offering is “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” I missed the first episodes, but caught the last one this past Monday. You can still catch the full episode on nbc.com, which is great for folks like me who don’t like TV schedules but don’t have tivo.

Point is, it was a fantastic episode. The network is struggling. They’re in negotiations with the creator of a new show. He’s king of risque reality programming. If they snatch this program up, they’re guaranteed to make money hand over fist. They’ll own the ratings. They’ll be the only show on everyone’s mind and lips. They’ll ruin lives for the sake of entertainment, and it’ll be a raging success. The woman whose call it is to make passes on the show. She doesn’t want it. Why? In her own words,

This show is toxic. It’s bad crack in the school yard….It’s patently disgusting. It appeals to the very worst in our nature and whoever airs it will play a measurable role in subverting our national culture. It doesn’t belong on anyone’s air, certainly not ours at a time when we’re trying to rebrand the network as a place for high end viewers. I swear to God, sir, the better our shows are, the more money we’re going to make.

That’s simply impressive. Sorkin has a gift for dialog and thoughtful subject matter, and this is just one huge example.

There’s a point, gentle reader. It seems that every once in a while someone out there in the business world gets it: let’s be better, and when it comes to be understood that we’re not going to stoop to the level of the rest the world will recognize that there’s something different and better to be had with us.

Anyone want to connect the dots? I sat through a conference of Lutheran pastors the last few days. It turned into a moaning session about what these megachurches are doing and how it’s bringing them all kinds of success. “How did they grow from 127 to 2500 in only 5 years?” “What is it they do to draw people in?” “What principles can we take from them to have success ourselves?” These questions and questions like them are being asked across the LCMS. We’ve got pastors wanting to copy the “programming” of other churches so that we can achieve the same “ratings” and “viewership,” if I may borrow from my original illustration. They tend to bemoan their lot as Lutherans and look out there for what everyone else is doing and copy it out of envy for the results they see them getting. “Why can’t we just be like them?”

This is followed by a tendency to apologize for all things distinctively Lutheran and the subsequent disparaging and disuse of those things in favor of what we see others doing. Of course, those things do not fit with our theology, so to iron out the wrinkles the theology must adapt.

The problem is that much that they would meld with Lutheran theology is toxic. It’s bad crack in the school yard. It’s blatant me-ism. It’s anthropology and adjectives and adverbs. It’s talk about “authentic” and “spirit-led/-filled” (code for emotive) worship (ed: Recall also Ap. IV. 310 (Tappert): “Thus the service and worship of the Gospel is to receive good things from God, while the worship of the law is to offer and present our goods to God. We cannot offer anything to God unless we have first been reconciled and reborn. The greatest possible comfort comes from this doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is the desire to receive forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness.”). It appeals to the very worst consumerism in all of us. It doesn’t belong in any congregation, especially Lutheran churches, which don’t need to pander to the next greatest trend or fad or retrograde evolution in society, but have the mandate to proclaim the fullness of God’s Law and Gospel. If we focus upon the theological wealth (including a radical view of life, both coram deo and coram hominibus) that the Lutheran church possesses and proclaim it instead of apologizing for it or ignoring it, we will see life-changing ministry taking place in our congregations. We might stop using mammonic yardsticks to measure success and humbly serve God in His kingdom, which is radically different from the kingdoms of this age.

LSB under the magnifying glass

Friday, 13 October 2006

I have recently completed my own study of the LSB. I realize I may be a bit behind the rest of the Lutheran blogsphere in doing this, but I’d rather do my own research than simply take from the opinions of others.

First, two somewhat light-hearted observations:

1. Hymn 666 is appropriately “O little flock, fear not the foe.” I imagine this was intentional, and it was a good move.
2. “On eagles’ wings”: people either love it or hate it, but ironically, it’s hymn 727. I’m guessing that was done with a wink and a smile by the good folks on the Commission on Worship.

Second, welcome additions and innovations:

1. While some have lamented the inclusion of five settings of the Divine Service, I appreciate the variety that these present. When used in an appropriate rotation (perhaps not changing every Sunday, but monthly, or perhaps reserving an order for special Sundays, or something along this order) they could be used to highlight different parts of the liturgy (“Today our gloria in excelsis is set to a different tune with a slightly different wording. I invite you to consider these words particularly…”).

2. The continuous page numbering is a definite plus. No more “page 15” and “hymn 15.” Simply go to 372 and we’re all there.

3. The Creeds and the Lord’s Prayer are printed inside the back cover: easy access.

4. Prayers for worship are printed inside the front cover.

5. The wedding and funeral services are in the pew edition. Whether these will help to mitigate some of the “I want clowns at my funeral” or “Can we write our own vows?” issues remains to be seen, but putting these in the hands of the people may prove to be educational and edifying.

6. The order of individual confession and absolution seems a bit less intimidating to the first-time penitent. To me it seems a bit more straightforward than the order in LW.

7. We have faced our fear of archaic (not obsolete) language. Thee’s, thy’s, and thou’s have surfaced once again, so that my faith may look up to Thee, not trustingly. DS3 (TLH 5/15) retains them in the sung parts while updating the spoken parts (and in the Magnificat in Evening Prayer, “He has helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy,” rather than “He hath holpen…” in TLH Vespers.).

Third, some disappointments. These are fewer than my positive observations, but they remain significant.

1. The pew edition does not contain the propers for the day. The lectionary references are printed as a list. The introits, graduals, verses, and collects can be tremendously devotional, but these have been omitted.

2. The Psalter omits some of the Psalms. I struggle to see the wisdom in that.

3. The lectionary still has seen fit to splice and dice some pericopal readings, omitting some two- and three-verse sections within larger readings.

4. On a personal note, the second tune to “Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior” didn’t make the cut (the tune for the even-numbered verses, LW 237). This text is one of the best in the hymnal, and that tune is marvelous.

5. Some of the hymn/song selection has me confused. I’ve made a comparative study (yes, I’m a hymnal nerd) of the hymns/songs in TLH, LW, HS98, and LSB to trace the history of hymnal inclusion. Fifteen hymns that were cut from TLH to LW reappear in LSB, two of them via HS98. These I find to be welcome inclusions. Yet, there are some which have no place in a Lutheran hymnal which have appeared uninterrupted since the 1912 Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (yes, the hymnal nerd has a copy). And there are some fantastic hymns that have been omitted. Absent from LSB is “I trust, O Christ, in you alone” (TLH 319/LW 357), an absolutely beautiful hymn. Yet “I’m but a stranger here” is retained (ELH 563/TLH 660/LW 515/LSB 748). For my issues with this hymn, see below.

On the whole I’m happy with the hymnal, even as I would have made different choices regarding the hymnody. Time will tell whether it enjoys universal acceptance and use within our fractured Synod (“Holy oxymorons, Batman!”). Lord, have mercy.

I just got my

Thursday, 05 October 2006

LSB! I’ve been pretty impressed with it so far. I really like the DS Setting Four and the Service of Prayer and Preaching. I look forward to putting it into use here in the next months.