Saturday, June 30, 2007

New Blog Recommended

Fr Chadius, a friend of mine, has a good new blog to get you thinking. It's called Hermeneia, which is , I presume, because it has to do with hermeneutics. That means "how to interpret the Bible." It's a subject dear to my heart, so I expect I'll be looking over there frequently. I've included it on my sidebar. I also love the way Fr Chadius is pictured on the blog (see nearby photo). Very priestly of him. Now that's cool. Check it out here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Grammarian, IV

My previous post could actually have been listed under "The Grammarian," so for the sake of referencing, I'm going to include it under the same by way of cross referencing. Two items have surfaced in that St. Matthew 16 passage. The first is that it is to Peter alone (unto thee) the keys are promised, and the second is that it is future tense, as Fr Curtis has pointed out, meaning that he actually gets the keys when all the apostles are ordained.

If, however, I had first included this under The Grammarian, then I probably wouldn't have posted that cool picture of the first pope with the keys in his hands.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On this rock I will build my church

In preparation for mass tomorrow (SS Peter and Paul), I'm musing on the Gospel which has been the source of much arguing over the years:

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I suppose it might be just a wee bit presumptuous of me to say that I have finally figured this out definitively after all this time. For centuries the Pope says Peter is the rock, and the Protestants say Peter's confession is the rock, blah blah blah. Wearying is the word. And now at long last I have figured it out. Sure.

Well, I did come up with something, actually, which happens to be in sync with the Lutheran Confessions, which somewhere declare that it means "upon this ministry . . ."

The fact is that both sides are right, in a way; and each is wrong about the other. Peter's confession does have to come into play here, since he just got through saying it, and Christ made quite a big deal of it: "Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee, etc." And then, immediately after, he gives him the name Peter, which, of course, means "rock," and then says, "Upon this rock . . ." So the man Peter also comes into play, quite evidently. Jesus here gives the keys to him alone, which is especially clear to those of us who happen to be accustomed to the KJV (pay attention, Petersen). He says, "unto thee" not "unto you" which would be plural. Nobody but Peter got the keys on this day. Not the church, not even the other disciples. Only Peter. And he got them because of his confession.

Then again, it's also true that all the apostles got the same authority after the resurrection, when Jesus breathed on them all. So it is right to see Peter as primus inter pares--first among equals--meaning that Rome is right in seeing him as first, and Rome is wrong in seeing the others as less than equals.

Anyhow, here's what hit me: when Peter confessed, Jesus announced the building of His church (notice, He did not say to Peter, "you will build my church," but I, "I will build my church"). And He made it clear that the building of the church would be by the ministry, i.e., the keys, that He gave to Peter.

And incidentally, the Office of the Keys and the Office of the Ministry are the same thing.

Hence, where Jesus builds His church, He does so by sending ministers: bishops, preachers, priests, pastors (whatever you want to call them) who will know, confess, and preach first of all that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Grammarian, III.

The Epistle appointed for the Third Sunday after Trinity is from 1 Peter 3. It was read in our church just tonight, since the Nativity of St. John the Baptist last Sunday displaced the propers for Trinity III.

Here are some of its words: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (KJV).

Now I admit to being partial to the King James Version, but when it comes to this particular passage, if you're using the KJV it is essential that you understand the grammar. "Whom" is object, not subject. It is a reference to "the devil," not to "whom he may devour." That is, in this particular passage, "whom" does not refer back to "whom"; its prior referent is not "whom" but "he," the devil. One would think this an easy thing for a pastor to understand; for even if he has difficulty with the grammatical construction here, he may consult the Greek. The case of the pronoun is dative, which in the case of the verb "antistemi (resist)" is the object. It says, simply, Resist him.

Yet I do remember a time many years ago when I heard an entire sermon on this verse wrongly parsed, in which the preacher based his whole point on the notion that the devil seeks especially to devour those who resist him firm in the faith. The preacher made his case from these words: he said that on the basis of this reading, the people the devil really seeks to devour are those who resist him, above anyone else he seeks to devour. Well, that may or may not be true, but sorry, you can't say that on the basis of this reading. That isn't what it says. It's "whom," not "who."

Let the preacher beware: consider the case, always. And you don't even need the Greek to do that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Thrill Is Gone?

The Tridentine Mass has been in the news in recent years and months. Back on 11th October 2006 The Times of London reported that: "Pope Benedict XVI is understood to have signed a universal indult - or permission - for priests to celebrate again the Mass used throughout the Church for nearly 1,500 years. The indult could be published in the next few weeks, sources told The Times" (Ruth Gledhill, The Times, 11 October 2006). Well, the indult didn't come, at least, not yet. The Pope is evidently taking his time, but sources are still saying the indult could come any minute. The lastest, from the AP, came on June 2nd: "Pope Benedict is poised to revive the 16th-century Tridentine mass." Our breath remains bated. And all this, over ten years after your humble columnist noticed the rather spontaneous resurgence of the Tridentine Mass . . .

Reprinted from Gottesdienst 1996:2 (Trinity 1996)

The resurgence of the Tridentine mass in various corners of the Roman Catholic Church ought to produce at least a raised eyebrow among the liturgically aware. What? They want the priest to go back to the Latin chant? They want to hear intoned, “Agnus Dei qui tollis peccatta mundi . . .”? We had thought there was such relief among the people when Vatican II swept away the necessity for that old Latin straitjacket, and opened the floodgates to all manner of new, avant-garde settings for the mass, whose metamorphosis was hailed and glamourized a few years ago in Sister Act. It would now seem that some are tiring of Whoopi Goldberg’s style.

One wonders what nineteenth-century England might have to suggest in the way of predictions of things to come. In the days when the “broad church” with its attendant pietistical distaste for liturgical correctness gave way to a style of worship whose novelty soon wore thin and empty, the populace became ripe for the onset of the Oxford Movement and its champions of the liturgy in all the beauty of its high ritual. Could it be that we now are seeing a similar stage set, as the twentieth century’s tryst with freedom from liturgy likewise comes to the point of finding the thrill of it gone? Could it be that people are discovering they’d rather have the real thing than what they are beginning at last to see as cheap imitations? The comeback of high ritual in Catholicism strongly suggests so.

The Lutherans ought to be paying attention. The value of ritual will surely not be lost on the people who are likely to be tiring of the tomfoolery of church-growth gimmicks before long; some would say the signs of malaise are already beginning to show.

But the challenge is great, for the matter of ritual’s resurgence has to do with a particular frame of mind, an orientation which is strongly at odds with the misoliturgic mind-set so prevalent among those preferring user-friendly worship settings. The Church Growth Institute of Pasadena, California is most prominent among those promulgating a preference for user-friendliness over liturgy.

The mental state which attends those performing the priestly duties of the liturgy is one which is manifestly not user-friendly. Rather, it is one which carries a profound sense of the divine presence in the liturgy. The God who made heaven and earth is here, it says; let us conduct ourselves accordingly. But such conduct will be sure to get one into trouble in a hurry, since the notion carries with it the call to fear Him.

For too long, this sense of the Presence has been missing in places where it ought to be most expected. One would think that churches with a Lutheran heritage would be quite familiar with the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, and correlatively, in the Divine Service as a whole. Instead, we are finding routinely a strong notion of the Real Presence of Visitors, with the result that sensitivity becomes the operative word. The focal point among those intent on being user-friendly at worship is, quite unquestionably, the users. People who visit the church--newcomers, that is--are the ones targeted by the user-friendliness which has led to the demise of ritual and liturgy. Liturgy, they say, is too foreign, too odd. How much better we would do at welcoming and thereby keeping the visitors if we were to seek to make them comfortable with our setting.

But must we not assume that these visitors we are so eager to keep with us are unbelievers, or at least that their faith is not of the sort that leads to regular church attendance? Since this is so, therefore what we are truly dealing with is unbelief, or at least with people under the influence of the world’s basic rejection of Sunday morning worship. Now how would we make such people comfortable? One would think an unbeliever ought to be uncomfortable in our midst, for what company does faith have with unbelief? Someone whose convictions do not include the need to hear and learn the Word of God can only be made comfortable in our midst if we too conduct ourselves in such a way as to suggest that it really isn’t the word of God which brings us here; no, it’s really the hope of making another visitor happy.

That is the real trouble with liturgical worship. The conduct of the pastor is surely going to be a reflection on what he thinks about the place where he stands. Is it holy ground? Or would we rather hide and cover all suggestions of holiness of the place, lest the visitor be offended? User-friendliness and the ritual of liturgy are in essence enemies. One or the other will have to suffer where attempts are made to combine them.

The Lord as seen in Isaiah’s vision was not user-friendly, as He sat on His throne, high and lifted up, and smoke filled the temple while angels called to one another acknowledging His thrice-holiness with such power that the lintels shook. Not really much of a concern to make the uninitiated comfortable there. If ever there was an insensitivity toward visitors, surely it was in Isaiah’s vision. Such visions are surely not frequent topics of conversation in Pasadena’s Church Growth Insititute.

The root question is whether we believe that God is present here, or whether we are giving mere lip service to His presence. And if God were not present, then it would remain for us to go about doing the work of bringing in the people, all the while thinking the Great Commission was given to the disciples because He was passing on to them something He would no longer Himself be doing.

But this thought is not consistent with the Divine Service. There Christ Himself is present in a way that He is not present anywhere else. He is not only present, but active. The Sower of the Seed is Christ Himself, who also said, I will build my Church, even as He was giving the keys of the kingdom to Peter. And for that matter, the Great Commission itself, given to the disciples, was not without this promise: I am with you always, clearly an indication that their ministry was in no way to be understood as something they would do in His absence. Indeed Christ is present and is the active One in our midst in the Divine Service, whether or not we believe that He is.

Yet our refusal to acknowledge it will do us great harm. The challenge of teaching and behaving according to the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Place is that the contrary spirit is at root a spirit which hates to acknowledge these truths. That contrary spirit has been in its heyday for decades now, and has made many converts, resulting in great abuse and neglect of the historic liturgy.

But now, behold! The Tridentine mass is making a comeback. In spite of all our Lutheran difficulties with the Council of Trent with its manifest hatred for what Martin Luther believed and taught, there never was among the Lutherans of the sixteenth century a dislike for liturgical propriety. Lutherans ought to rejoice in seeing this token of a desire among people to return to a respect for the holiness of the Holy Place from which salvation is given and distributed to unworthy sinners.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why Know Law from Gospel?

Reprinted from The Shire, 26 June 1999

At the risk of being charged with capitulating to the excesses of a parochial mentality, I must confess to my partiality for a particularly Lutheran theme, viz., the proper distinction between the law and the Gospel. Although, to be sure, this distinction certainly shows up in other places from time to time, it is pretty safe to say that the distinction between law and Gospel is an especially heavy Lutheran theme, and always has been; a hallmark of traditional Lutheranism. So call me parochial, or peculiarly Lutheran, or even Waltherian, if you wish; nonetheless I confess: I do believe that the proper distinction between law and Gospel is always a necessary and proper one to make; I will even venture to say that this distinction is always on or very near to the cutting edge of all theological debate.

I take this risk because, first, I am convinced that this distinction is actually quite catholic, and secondly, I am also not very convinced that this distinction is as clearly understood as it needs to be among us, from the parish level right on up to the seminaries. I am not a parish visitor (do such creatures still exist?), but I have heard and witnessed enough in some of the places I have been of late to lead me to make my concern public.

Martin Luther once said that if anyone can consistently distinguish law from Gospel he should be given a doctorate in theology, which indicates both that he thought the discernment did not come as easily as might be supposed, and that the discernment is critical for someone who desires to be a Christian theologian. C. F. W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, is known among other things for his book whose theme is this very thing: The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel. It's also a key ingredient in our Lutheran hymns. It's really a benchmark theme among Lutherans.

But why? So it's just a Lutheran theme! What difference does that really make? And if other traditions don't follow that theme, is it really such a bad thing? After all, Luther didn't write the Bible! How do we defend our insistence on knowing the proper distinction between the law and the Gospel?

First of all, because it is a Biblical and therefore catholic distinction. St. Paul enjoins Timothy the pastor: "Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2.15). Again, he says in Romans, on the one hand, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes" (1.17), but on the other hand, "by the law is the knowledge of sin" (3.20) and "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (3.28). To illustrate this truth, we will do well to refer to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and sat on each of the apostles' heads appearing as "divided tongues, like as of fire" (Acts 2.3). Jesus warned his disciples, "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven" (St. Matthew 5.20), and again, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (6.33). In short, the distinction between law and Gospel comes from Christ Himself. It is a hallmark of our faith because it is central to understanding the Gospel.

For what happens if we fail to make this distinction? This is evidently just what the church at Galatia was doing, when St. Paul chided them, saying , "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" (Gal. 3.2) If we fail rightly to distinguish law from Gospel, then we become easy prey for the wiles of the devil who disguises himself as an angel of light. That is, the false preacher enters in, giving us the corrupt notion that by doing this or that deed we become righteous and gain the favor of God. In short, Jesus Christ (and Him crucified) is snatched away, and we are robbed of our Hope.

When the law masquerades as the Gospel, then works masquerade as faith, my personal conduct masquerades as holiness, "living the Christian faith" masquerades as Christ's own life, and death masquerades as life. For my deeds and conduct, however holy I may become convinced that they are, are always in truth unprofitable to me. Even though I may say that because of the Holy Spirit I do good works (which is certainly true), yet I dare never say that these good works which I do are the essence of my life in Christ. For, as St. Paul declares, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain" (Gal. 2.20-21). Therefore what shall happen if I turn this around, and say that the life I live in the flesh I live by works?

O God! Save us from such a life! For if I must live my life in the flesh by my works, then it truly shall result in nothing but my death, for my works are full of sin! Yes, even as Christians, our works are full of sin.

What if I fail to see the great chasm between law and Gospel, then? Then, when I hear that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1.17), I will trot away thinking that I have some work to do to be saved, for I hear "love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself" (which is law, but which I will think to be Gospel), and I will think, Anow I must do so, for this is the power of God unto my salvation. And then what? Then one of two things will happen: either I will learn well how to delude myself into thinking that I am indeed sufficiently loving God and my neighbor, and I will become a great Pharisee and hypocrite who has no need whatever for Christ as savior, or else I will be driven to despair, convinced (as I must be if I am honest with myself) that I will never be able to attain the life I need, and all is lost.

Rather, let us find our righteousness, life, and salvation in Christ alone, and in His holy wounds. And let us live by faith in Him, so that whatever we do in this life, we do not as though we needed thereby to gain anything from God; rather, let us do all joyfully, being already firm in the knowledge that all good things have been gained for us through our precious Lamb of God. See, my life is lived in Him from start to finish (for He is the Author and Finisher of our faith), and my confidence rests not in myself but in Him; not in my life but in His; not in my deeds but in His; and not in the law but in the Gospel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Can Say It Better than God Did, VI

I hadn't seen this kind of thing for so long that I forgot that it existed. Then I saw it again, recently. Bad practices just never seem to go away. The minister about to read from the Scriptures first pauses, and then takes a few moments to explain to the people what the Scriptures are about to say to them. No doubt this device is supposed to help the listeners tune in, as it were, and pay closer attention; then they will retain what they have heard all the more. So what's wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, really, if what you are about to read is on the same level of significance. But if what you are about to read happens to be the Word of the Living God, then an introduction gains for itself the unsavory effect, however unintended, of reducing the significance and power of what follows. Imagine, if you will, having someone introduce a speaker at a conference, or the President of the United States, or any dignitary, by not only telling us the person's credentials, but also by telling us what he is about to say. It does not highlight, but denigrates, the importance of the speech itself. How much more is this the case when it comes to Sacred Scripture. What you subliminally but very clearly say when you preface the words of God with your own explanation of them is that your words and His words are on the same level; or worse, that your words are on a higher level, necessary to explain His. When on the contrary the explanation comes in the sermon, as it should, then you are leaving the Scriptures alone as the authority on which you preach.

When we say that the Word of God is like a double-edged sword, that it has the power of salvation, that it is full of the Holy Ghost, we belie what we say if we feel constrained by a need to engage in personal ad-lib introductions.

Consider the introduction John the Baptist gave for Jesus: He introduced Him with the words of the prophet: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. So also, when we introduce the Holy Gospel, we do so by the words of Moses and the Prophets (Old Testament reading) and the words of the Apostles (Epistle reading). In this case we use God's words to introduce God's words, and then, as everyone rises from his seat for the Gospel, we acknowledge that the most significant and powerful words of all are the words of Christ.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Scooter Libby to Stay in Jail

The more Scooter Libby flaps in the wind, the more I am inclined to think the President deserves his low approval ratings. I'm already inclined to be outraged that President Bush refuses to pardon Mr. Libby (click here to see my previous post on the matter). And I was one of the last holdouts, thinking, how can so many people be unhappy with the President? Well, this takes the cake for me. Unless, of course, somebody can convince him to act. Now we hear that the judge has insisted that he remain in jail during the appeals process. My own sentiments on this matter are exactly in agreement with this article from William Kristol. Come on, Mr. President. Just do the right thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wanting Reagan Back: Does Fred Thompson Elicit Hope?

The following article was published last week in German, in Berlin's conservative newspaper Jünge Freiheit.

Some of us have no trouble remembering the halcyon days when we lived under the governance of Ronald the Great, and we’ve been yearning for a suitable heir ever since. George H. W. Bush was turned out of office after one term, because he wasn’t Reaganesque at all, as his renege on his “no new taxes” pledge demonstrated. Then the Clintons subjected America to eight years of siege by the pot-smoking, establishment-hating, free sex Woodstock generation. Reaganostalgia consumed conservatives, but in 2000 they opted for another round of Bush only because he was better than the alternative. But he never vetoed anything his spend-happy Republican friends sent him, and we were still disappointed. Though strong on national defense, especially post 9-11, he only sparingly used the bully pulpit for which Mr. Reagan had been so well known, and he has suffered for it.

So as the next campaign season looms, we find ourselves hoping, yearning, wondering if we will ever see another Reagan. Oh if only! Especially now, with the liberal Democrats making such strides toward renewed occupation of the White House. But as each week, month, and year passed in the second Bush term, the prospects ebbed of any real challenge coming from any real conservative. Even Rush Limbaugh uttered the horrific prognostication that as things stand now, there’s an 80% chance that Hillary Clinton will be the next president.

Who can come to the rescue? Rudy Guiliani and John McCain are leading the pack, but they are no conservatives; Mitt Romney is more conservative, but he’s far from the lead. Newt Gingrich might run, but he capitulated to the Democrats once before, when he was Speaker of the House. And none of these seems to provide the charisma and conviction we all took for granted in the Great Communicator.

But suddenly and unexpectedly, one bright hope has emerged.

Out of nowhere, Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee, has people doing double takes. He’s not in the race yet either, but he’s laid down some pretty strong hints, and the odds are that when the day comes, he’ll have little trouble raising the needed funds. Conservatives everywhere are earnestly hoping he will run, and even beginning to get goose bumps at the thought of it.

The reason for the excitement? They say Mr. Thompson is a down-to-earth, grass-roots kind of guy. He’s also bona fide conservative: strong defense, smaller government, less taxes, pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-right-to-bear-arms. And he has something the others haven’t got: he can walk the walk and talk the talk. Those who have interviewed him come away impressed that he has no canned answers, and that whatever he says springs not from any spin machine, but from heartfelt conviction. He’s also a self-deprecating sort, having nothing to prove, at ease with questioners, and quite good at making his case. Perhaps it’s because of all the practice he gets, playing conservative prosecutor Arthur Branch on Law & Order. That’s right, he’s also an actor. In so many ways, so eerily like our bygone hero. Just where has he been hiding? Perhaps it’s too good to be true, but until anyone finds out otherwise, people are daring to wonder if Fred Thompson could be our next Reagan. And if so, the next American president.

Monday, June 11, 2007

LCMS committee recommendations propose lawlessness

I don't usually read all the mounds of stuff that come pouring in to delegates who have been elected to synodical conventions. So today I got Today's Business, which is the first load of information synodical delegates will need to use at the upcoming LCMS (Missouri Synod) convention in Houston (14-21 July 2007), and, as usual, I paged rather nonchalantly through it, and happened to come upon what I think may be a key issue at this convention: the relation of the LCMS constitution to the civil courts.

For the uninformed, one issue which has been hotly debated over the past several years has been the question of compatibility of LCMS rulings and bylaws with the laws of the state of Missouri, in which the LCMS is registered as a church body. There have been concerns raised by members of the Synod's Board of Directors that the Synodical President and the Commission on Constitutional Matter have overstepped their legal bounds in the application of their authority with respect to the Synod. This has resulted in the filing of a lawsuit which dragged on for a few years until it was finally settled out of court. But it was not really resolved. New allegations have arisen, and the issue still burns hotly.

Well, now comes this proposal by the ad hoc Resolution 7-02A Committee to change the constitution so that the controversy should be resolved internally, without recourse to the civil courts.

All this sounds well and good, in a sense. St. Paul's well-known warnings against lawsuits come to mind (the fact that Jesus First is constantly reminding us of them is probably the reason they come to mind so readily), and the case can easily be made that the recommendations of this committee should all be followed, to resolve this in a God-pleasing way.

I hate to rain on their parade, but could someone explain to me how lawlessness is God-pleasing? Embedded in the midst of tons of verbiage (honestly, I just happened to see this, without more than a five-minute skimming of this sleep-inducing document) is this little proposed addition: "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod."

Holy cow, just think about that, folks. Let me translate, if you need it: The Constitution of the Missouri Synod has legal precedence over the law of the land, in all things. And that's the definition of lawlessness. It says this: we get to say how we shall behave, and no government can say otherwise.

They'll argue, no doubt (as they already have), that the state cannot interfere with the church's affairs, and that, as St. Peter, we ought to obey God rather than men. But let's remember that St. Peter was not advocating anarchy.

This suggested constitutional change has me stunned. Do they really mean to say "any issues"? --Any issues at all?--"relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod"? OK, just for the sake of argument, let's say the Constitution of the Synod should enact a provision permitting the confiscation of the property of a minister who is voted out of office by his congregation. What then? State law doesn't apply? Or let's say that a parish which votes to leave the Synod has to give its property to the Synod. Can't do that, you say? Our polity doesn't allow that? No, it doesn't. Not now. But what if that changed? What if some convention just voted the change in? Heaven knows, conventions have been known to do some pretty goofy things. So let's just go even further. Say the Missouri Synod became a weird, outlandish cult (I know what you're thinking, but let's be charitable here), and decided, like the Jim Jones group, to administer poisoned Kool-Aid to its people on retreat in Guyana, or even Perry County. And say they put that provision into a bylaw, by simple majority vote, in a simply goofy convention. Hey, "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod," so, I'm sorry, officer, you're just going to have to turn around and go home. Yeah, I know there are a bunch of dead people here, and you may think there's been a mass murder, but we have this bylaw, see, and it says, "Any issues relative to the applicability of the laws of the State of Missouri shall be resolved in accord with the provisions in the Constitution and Bylaws of the Synod."

Schönes Deutschland! - V

Here's just one of the many pulpits we saw in the gorgeous churches in Heidelberg, Rothenburg, Neuendettelsau, and Bavaria. This one actually is at the Ettal monastery. I'm thinking, this would be a nice pulpit to preach from. Maybe someday, leading a tour, where we'd stop here and there along the way and hear some preaching in the pristine medieval style. By me, of course. . . .

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Schönes Deutschland! - IV

Here's a shot of us at lunch, the day of our Symposium on Liturgy at Heidelberg. At left is Chaplain Michael Frese, who was in charge of the whole affair, as well as being the celebrant for Mass on Trinity, at which I preached, Fr. Wade Seaver (not pictured here) served as deacon, and Dr. Daniel Reuning, pictured at the right with his wife Barbara, played organ. My beloved, Carol, is to my left in the center of the photo. We went through a bit of downtown Heidelberg for lunch, and so saw a bit more of what I'll never tire of seeing, those narrow, colorful streets, sometimes cobblestoned, for which most of Europe is known.

Schönes Deutschland! - III

Here's a real Corpus Christi parade. Over at Father Petersen's blog there's an interesting discussion going on, under "Luther's Blindspots," about whether it's acceptable for Lutherans to observe the Corpus Christi festival, which the Western Church has traditionally held the Thursday after Trinity. I may have more to say about it later, but for now, I'll just say that while they were arguing about whether or not Corpus Christi is an acceptable thing to have, we happened onto a real Corpus Christi parade in Bavaria, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It sure seems to me that in spite of whatever arguments Lutherans could raise against this parade, one thing is clear: the peasant class, as well as those who get into these parades, in spite of all their misguided catechesis, at least seem devoted to the Body of Christ, i.e., to Corpus Christi, which is far more than any drum-banging, pelvic-thrusting rockin’-out Church-Growther can say about his devotion. In addition, this video we took makes it crystal clear (at least to you charismatics out there) that God shined down with His divine favor on this parade. Watch carefully and see what happens as the parade passes. First come the altar boys with candles, then the thurifers, then some nuns carrying a float featuring the B.V.M., then the Burgermeisters all decked out in their Sunday best--all the while with the bells ringing--and then, just as the camera pans toward where the bishop is walking carrying the monstrance under a canopy, well, it seems to me that there's a bit of, shall we say, divine intervention . . .

Schönes Deutschland! - II

OK, I'm going to try something here. I have this video on YouTube of Bavarian Dinnertime, showing two young teenagers at the Frauendorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, down at the southern tip of Germany, almost in Austria, where we were last Wednesday night. The accordian is playing, and they're dancing a little dance (don't know what this is called) in which they slap their Lederhosen as they dance. It's a hoot. Here's my first attempt at YouTube. Try clicking here to see the video.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Schönes Deutschland!

There is much about Germany that is breathtakingly beautiful, both inside and outdoors, and every time I go back I find myself thinking how I have forgotten this all over again. It is good to have returned home after our ten day excursion, but the memories will be with me a very long time. A thousand thanks go to Rev. Wade Seaver, pictured here with me and Dr. Daniel Reuning (he's the one handily designated by the little heart in the photo :)). By the way, this photo was supposed to be authentically German, so I chose not to smile. Some people just can't follow directions . . .

Anyhow, Wade lives in Neuendettelsau, and put us up there at his home; Neuendettelsau is the place where Rev. Wilhelm Löhe lived and worked, where he established his diaconness home (which is quite unlike anything the Ft. Wayne seminary is promoting--more on that later) and from which he sent missionaries to America in the mid-nineteenth century. Those missionaries wound up in Frankenmuth, Michigan, where, ironically, my wife and I also found ourselves just two days prior to our German excursion. I kept commenting, when we were down in southern Germany, at how curious it was that they seemed to have a Bavarian theme everywhere; and Wade agreed, saying it was a good imitation of Frankenmuth . . .