Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Difference between Islamists and Christian Extremists

I’ve been teaching an online course in world religions, and we’ve reached the unit on Islam. Some interesting discussions have been going on. In the course of the discussions some students made a comparison between Islamic extremism and Christian extremism, as, for instance, in the Crusades. Here is a digest of some of the comments I have made.

Islamic rejection of the West began well before the Crusades, as they began immediately moving across northern Africa, up through Spain, only to be stopped by Charles Martel. At the other end of the Mediterranean, the Muslims were pressing hard upon Constantinople, which was what ultimately led the patriarch to call upon the Pope for help against their agression. The Crusades began as a reaction against Muslim aggression.

Offhand I cannot think of another religion that used the military to begin the spread of their faith. To the radical Islamists, it is a conviction that the world must be purged of "blasphemous" elements as a way of praising Allah that drives their violent acts. It would seem that the suicide bombers are acting entirely in the name of their religion, or at least in the name of their perception of what their religion teaches.

For them it is about the purity and absolute monarchy of God. The "infidels" (that's us) must be brought to their knees. By this reckoning, terrorizing us becomes a noble thing.

The Islamist radicals do not seek to use religion to justify their acts; rather, they believe that their religion causes them to act. That is, they believe themselves to be true to their religion for acting. Indeed they are sincere about what they believe. So sincere, in fact, that they will resort to mass murder or suicide.

(Incidentally, so much for the notion that, as was popular for awhile in the late 20th century, "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere"!)

There are definite strains of belief contained in the Qur'an which can be reasonably understood to say that terrorism is required of its adherents. Although there is serious debate about whether this is the correct understanding of the Qur'an, one thing is clear: those who resort to Islamist fundamentalism are not simply looking for a justification for it. Rather, they believe that their acts are justified, even required, by their religion.

The Crusades, on the other hand, did not specifically call for violence against innocents; things got out of hand, to be sure, but there was not a call to arms that could be compared to the jihadist violence of the Muslims. The Church's call to the Crusaders was simply to make a pilgrimmage to Jerusalem. It was implied, of course, that Jerusalem would need to be taken. But this would mean fighting against soldiers, not innocents.

The god of Islam is fundamentally a god who demands pure allegience; in the end, any means of achieving this could theoretically be justified. Although he is called "Allah the merciful" there is little evidence that he is actually merciful at all. This may be what leads the Islamists to their extreme position.

Another thing that bears consideration in this discussion is this: I find it remarkable that there are very few Muslim leaders who can be heard in strong opposition to the violence, though there are some. Imagine what leaders of Christian churches would say if there suddenly a slew of "Christian" suicide bombers. Of course, even that would be hard to imagine: Christian extremists of that ilk are very hard to find. One exception would be people who blow up abortion clinics, but even in that case, which is exceedingly rare, they try to do it when no one is in the clinic.

Reason alone tells us that there must be something endemic in a religion that breeds so many violent fundamentalists. A careful examination of the Qur'an tells us the same thing.

“Islam” means "submission." But here is the problem: the god to whom they are to submit is himself not really manifestly merciful and kind, though one can find references to his requiring that of his people. But Allah himself demands submission, and there is an eschatological dimension to this demand. That is to say, terrorists infer that they are carrying out his judgment against those who refuse to submit.

Now contrast this to Christianity: those who refuse to submit to God are warned, called to repentance, and invited to believe in One whose mercy was manifested in the atonement.

Though Christianity also has a strong eschatological element, it is applied in an entirely different way. In the case of Christianity, missionaries go forth to call people to repentance and faith; in the case of Islam, jihadists go forth instead.

In short, I'd have a much easier time believing that Islam is a religion of peace if there weren't so many of them going around killing people all the time. If the majority of Muslims oppose this, then where is the outrage? Frankly I have little use for such a religion of "peace" (do you see my bias showing?).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Grammarian, XI

What's up with all the use of literally on the news?

This is literally driving me crazy. There are literally hundreds of times I hear every week in which newscasters abuse this word. It's literally everywhere. I am literally lying awake nights wondering if they have anyone screening their broadcasts for them, and saying that they use the word literally literally more than any other word. It's literally insane. Go ahead, turn on the news tonight, and I literally guarantee you that if you find some "breaking news" event on the national scene, you'll find some reporters or reporterettes literally breathless from having literally arrived at the scene seconds ago, saying something like "there are literally of people who have lost their homes here in southern California." Somebody tell them. I'm literally about to burst . . .

Seriously, boys and girls, let's remember that the proper use of language is a very good thing, because language is a gift from Almighty God. Now, let's always be careful that we don't condemn people for using bad grammar, of course, or even think poorly of them for doing so, as that would be bad manners (and a worse offense than bad grammar). But we ourselves should always strive for excellence in speech.

And I think we can be allowed to expect it of our newscasters too. People listen to them every night. Literally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, III

This is the third part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

III. Thesis: Preaching is a New Testament phenomenon.

It is hard to find references to preaching at all in the Old Testament. One notable exception is Jonah, who is told to “go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2).

This is an interesting exception to the general rule that the Old Testament does not emphasize preaching, in that it is preaching to Gentiles, and that furthermore St. Peter is specifically called the “son of Jonah” when he is given the Keys (St. Matthew 16). Jonah’s preaching is a preview of the preaching of the New Testament, and the preaching of Peter.

It is my contention that the preaching of the Gospel is the primary mark of the age of the coming of the Messiah. Consider the final mark of the coming of God listed in Isaiah 35: "the poor have the Gospel preached unto them." In fact, when Jesus says, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah," I think it entirely admissible that, as some commentators have suggested, He was not referring to Jonah's "burial" in the belly of the fish for three days before being vomited out alive on the shore, but to Jonah's preaching.

Preaching is meant to reveal what has for ages been hidden: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Col. 1:26). As such it serves the same purpose as the New Testament itself.

Indeed the Mass is the New Testament, as the Words of Christ indicate (this is the new testament in my blood), so therefore it belongs with the Mass as a critical ingredient. So the sermon should never be free from what is transpiring in the Mass.

Moreover, when one preaches, he will do well to have in mind this understanding of the phenomenon of preaching itself: he is partaking in a monumental event which was hidden for ages, but is now being carried out as a New Testament event.

Recall how Jesus said, on an occasion when the apostles came back from their preaching, "I saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven."

This knowledge of what preaching is should help dictate how the preacher behaves in the pulpit.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What Is Truth?

This is a reprint from the online Journal The Shire, written on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 2000.

Pilate's rhetorical question was left unanswered by the Evangelist, no doubt as an intentional device on the part of the latter to elicit musing on the question. Christ is Truth, as He said, I am the Truth. There must be a qualitative difference, then, between the revelation of God in the Gospel, and every other written or spoken word. What is it? No one has seen God at any time . The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. What does this mean?

Questions of this nature arise when we consider the various legends associated with martyrs. Martyrologies are generally held to be a mixture of fact and fiction. Who can say whether it is all in the realm of actual historical reality that St. Bartholomew stalwartly maintained his confession while being clubbed by pagan priests, flayed alive, and crucified upside down? Or whether St. Laurence truly mocked his tormenters during his roasting on a gridiron? Or that the flames of the pyre surrounding St. Polycarp refused to touch him, whereupon he was thrust in the side, and blood and water issued forth which quenched the flames? Historians like to pick at such stories and reckon that there is some fantasy there. Yet they must also acknowledge that there is some basis in fact. What is truth?

St. Anselm of Canterbury was said to have made the sign of the cross on a burning building and doused the flame thereby. Some historians have considered this a reference to his success in obtaining peace with the King of England over the question of investiture, after a protracted struggle between the crown and the Church. The reference to the struggle, to Anselm's exiles, and to the resulting peace, is thus all made enigmatically through the depiction of the archbishop's sign of the cross on the flame. Did he actually douse a flame on a true church he was passing by making the sign on it? Probably not. Is this not only, then, a figurative means of expression? What is truth?

Now we consider the Gospels. They too contain many wondrous accounts. Jesus walks on water. Jesus feeds a multitude with a few loaves. Jesus heals the blind. Jesus rises from the dead. One can begin to see where certain scholars have questioned the veracity of these events as well. What if they, too, are embellishments? What if Jesus= stroll on the lake merely indicates His authority over Baptism? What if His multiplication of loaves merely points to His sacramental feeding of all nations? What is truth?

The answer to these questions must be found in the Gospels themselves. It is upon hearing them, reading, marking, and inwardly digesting them, that one finds in them a genre like unto itself, one which is unquestionably meant to be completely historical while at the same time being figurative, instructive, and catechetical. St. John insists, for example, that he truly saw blood and water issue forth from Jesus' side: "He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe." Yet this insistence gives the very clear impression that he wishes the hearer to ponder the catechetical meaning latent in the event: The Blood of the Holy Supper and the water of Holy Baptism issue forth from Christ. Indeed it is only St. John who records that rhetorical question of Pilate, What is truth? (St. John 18.38)

Thus we find that in the Gospels there is a unique blending of history and instruction. Maybe the difference between the Gospels and various martyrologies is that inasmuch as the latter do not provide the foundations of faith, and are not in themselves words of God, they have over the years become freer to depart from the historical facts. Not as much depends on them, certainly, and thus their use as catechetical tools begins to outweigh the necessity that they be entirely accurate as to their historicity. This is not the case, however, with the Gospels, which themselves make this very point. It is especially St. John who insists: "This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did . . ." (St. John 21.24-25). We simply do not find this kind of testifying in martyrologies.

The critical scholars' mischievous questions about the veracity of the events of the Gospels do nothing but tend toward shipwreck of the faith, and they must therefore be firmly answered. Of course Jesus actually walked on the water; of course He fed the five thousand; of course He gave sight to the blind, etc. And of course He truly rose from the dead. But that is not all! These events have been turned by the providence of Almighty God into catechetical tools, given meaning by the Gospel, to provide real-life illustrations of what He wishes us to know. Yes indeed, His walk on the sea illustrates his authority in Baptism; surely He feeds multitudes today, in the Holy Supper; and in the Gospel He gives faith, that is, sight to the spiritually blind. And His resurrection not only signifies, but actually provides living evidence to the faithful that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

What is truth? Truth is history and catechesis divinely wrapped into one magnificent Word of God: Christ for us.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, II

This is the second part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

II. Thesis: The Word of God is the power of God. This is not a mere cliché. It is something which, if truly believed, will free the celebrant/ preacher from the temptation to warm things up, or provide some element of his own personality as though to help the hearer. To seek to add your own personality is actually the height of arrogance. If you believe you must “love people to Jesus” by using gestures and carrying yourself in a way which has you coming off more like Uncle Remus than as a herald of Christ, your body language will betray what you really believe.

On the other hand, there is the temptation to think that the divine service is not really the heart of divine activity, and those who fall victim to it will spend less time on the things that pertain to it. There ought to be a sense of awareness that while at worship we are in the presence of the Most High God. The lintels are shaking, smoke fills the room, and the hot coal of God’s Word is on our tongue. It is by the posture that corresponds to this thinking that we come to attention, as it were, and are readied to hear the words of divine mercy in Christ.

The celebrant need not think he has to turn and face the people every time he says something to them. This is probably the most common breach of the rubrics. For instance, at the Thanksgiving, the celebrant’s versicle “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good” is said while facing the altar. This attention to detail gives the impression to the hearers that the celebrant is attending to something other and greater than himself.

St. Paul to Titus (chapter 2):
"In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. . . . For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee."

What does this mean? It is reminiscient, I believe, of what was said about Jesus at the end of the sermon on the mount: Jesus taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes (St. Matthew 7.21).

But again, what does this mean? We know a little about how the scribes taught. The synagogues had as the equivalent of sermons what was called “midrash”; this term was also used for the marginal commentaries running alongside the texts. These midrash ‘sermons’ were likely explanations of the passages. A possible interpretation of Jesus’ teaching “not as the scribes” is that Jesus’ preaching was not like this. That is, He did not simply provide explanations of the Bible. This is a remarkable twist: The scribes taught as ones not having authority, because the authority to which they referred was the Scripture. For Jesus to teach unlike them may then have meant that He was himself the authority. He certainly referred to the authority of Scripture often, and refuted His opponents thereby, as for instance when He referred to Psalm 110 “The Lord said unto my Lord” in referring to Himself, etc. But He did not use the Scriptures primarily to prove His point; rather, to provide support for it, or to illustrate it.

The same may be said of St. Paul. Consider Galatians 4, that enigmatic section about Sarah and Hagar:

"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free."

The last reference is the most remarkable, because if you look at the Scripture being referenced there, it is actually something coming from the mouth of Sarah, who is simply complaining to her husband about Hagar. Wherever does St. Paul get the audacity to say that this is the Scripture saying it? Note: He is not proof-texting; he is referencing the passage, in order to illustrate rather than prove his point.

To be sure, the Scriptures can and sometimes are adduced to prove something, but the ultimate apostolic authority is Christ Himself, who ordained them to repeat and teach His own words. Consider St. Luke 24:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

The power from on high is not a reference to some new understanding which their ordination gave them; for that came from Jesus Himself in His personal teaching of them. Rather it must be a reference to the accompanying signs that authenticate their authority (dynamin); cf. the last verse of St. Mark (16:20): And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

There is, of course, a difference between an apostle and an ordinary preacher. The apostle has the imprimatur of Jesus, e.g., from His high priestly prayer, that his preaching could not be in error (St. John 17:17-18: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.)

But there is also a common thread of authority between them. The apostolic opening of understanding is also available to us who believe through their word (St. John 17: 20: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word).

Thus we have St. Peter exhorting the preachers thus (I Peter 4.11): “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God,” i.e., as though God Himself were speaking.

When St. Paul speaks of his own preaching, he speaks also of the apostolic preaching by any pastor: “So We Preached, and So Ye Believed.” - I Co 15.11. Preaching is the proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma, from kerysso, preach). It is declarative. It is ultimately Gospel, not law. It is the announcement that Christ has come, and fulfilled the Scriptures, bringing eternal salvation.

The sermon is the Word of God not man. It must be preached as such.

Not only the hearers, but the preachers themselves should not despise preaching. The hearers should gladly hear and learn it, but the preachers should also gladly learn to do it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, I

This is the first part of the seminar I gave at the St. Michael Conference at Redeemer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last month. It is not a finished paper, only lecture notes.

THE USE OF VOICE AND POSTURE IN WORSHIP: An explanation and demonstration of the use of speaking, reading, and chanting, and of body language in the Holy Liturgy.

Thesis: deliberate and conscious efforts in leading worship serve to remove the man from the preaching of the Gospel. There will also be some discussion of sources and rubrics.

The preaching of the Gospel and the conduct of the liturgy are of a piece. The old Scaer adage “preach like a Baptist” was, I think, meant more as a joke than as an actual aphorism. My evidence for this is that David Scaer himself does not preach like a Baptist. Except if he meant preach with authority. But the antics and emoting for which Baptists are known are certainly as out of place in the pulpit as they would be at the altar. Not only do we not share pulpit and altar fellowship with Baptists, but our pulpits and our altars must have fellowship with each other. How you behave at the altar should be essentially the same as how you behave at the pulpit.

The celebrant should be deliberate in his stance and actions. Sometimes I'm led to think there must be a mysterious Missouri Synod book of rubrics floating around somewhere that says that to be truly Synodical one must behave as though the vestments he is wearing are uncomfortable, he ought at all times to rest his weight on one foot more than the other, and he ought never wear a chasuble, so that we can see the casual manner with which he is to bear himself. Too many who conduct the service do so in a way which says, “I’d really rather be somewhere else.” On the contrary, the celebrant must conduct himself in a way which is in keeping with our confession:

Nothing is rushed, but nothing is casual. Everything is deliberate. Indeed even if something accidental or unexpected occurs, the celebrant should, as best he is able, maintain the decorum of the setting, and, as Piepkorn says, “The unforeseen, the accidental, the disturbing must not be permitted to distract us. We are God’s ambassadors and God’s servants. We are speaking for and to God. Our entire lives ought to be, and our public minister must be en Christo – in Christ! So must the calm peace of the changeless Christ in our souls be reflected in our outward demeanor” (The Conduct of the Service, iii.)

There is, of course, a significant difference between the pulpit and the altar. The pulpit is the place for communication, in your own words, of what the liturgy expresses in the words of the Mass. It is the place for your personal application of the Gospel to the present situation. Yet this difference does not permit a difference in demeanor for the one preaching. The gravity of the situation is no less during the sermon.

The pulpit is not the place for personal antics, any more than the altar is. The decorum which ought to attend the celebrant at the altar is the very same as that which ought to attend his preaching. It is a formal event, however personal the application gets.

There is another difference between the pulpit and the altar. The altar has specific attending rubrics to help the celebrant know exactly how he should stand, gesture, and speak. There are, of course, no corresponding rubrics which apply to the pulpit. Nevertheless the gestures and voice that the preacher uses should only be distinct from his gestures and voice at the altar to the extent that the particular purpose of the pulpit differs from that of the altar, namely, in the latitude and extent of the personal nature of the communication that is allowed in the pulpit. It is the fundamental similarity of the pulpit to the altar, and the fundamental difference between them, which dictate the fundamental behavior of the preacher.

Cute expressions designed to impress the hearers come at the expense of impressing upon them the Word itself. People may say they like to have something to take home with them, which is mostly bogus. What they end up taking home is some trite slogan, in place of the Gospel. The pulpit is also not the place for telling jokes. Preaching is not stand-up comedy, or something you learn to do in speech class to get and hold people’s attention. Gags and gimmicks are out of place, because they belie the power of the Gospel; they presuppose that the preacher is giving nothing better than midrash, and probably something worse. Indeed this also means the telling of endless vignettes and stories is most assuredly not preaching. Some preachers can be found who only do such things, from beginning to end of the sermon. This is not preaching. This is boredom incarnate.


Liturgical worship recognizes that the posture and behavior of the participants is a reflection of what they profess. To cite the extreme case, if someone enters the church with a pink spike hairdo, rings of one kind or another piercing his body in various places, a swagger in his gait, a smirk on his face, and perhaps a chortle at every reference to Jesus that he hears, it becomes apparent that he does not really wish to be present, or associated with the Christian Church. Therefore, on the contrary we find it fitting to dress properly for church, to carry ourselves with decency, to make the sign of the cross, to fold the hands, to stand erect, to bow the head, or—notwithstanding its increasing unpopularity—to bend the knee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Grammarian, X

The heart of Chaplain Jonathan Shaw's presentation at our Octoberfest seminar on Monday was the suggestion of a radical realignment of thinking regarding the meaning of "This do in remembrance of me." His research has shown that the common sense of the meaning as "do this in order to remember me" is fundamentally not sufficient. Rather, remembering in this grammatical construction is something which is primarily seen in the Scriptures as having to do with God. God remembers His covenant, His promise, His people, etc. Hence, "This do in remembrance of me," may also properly be translated "this do in my remembrance" or "this do for my remembrance" may be understood therefore as meaning something like "this do so that I will remember you," or "this do so that God will remember you," or (here's my vote) "this do so that God will remember me."

During the discussion, I found myself thinking primarily of the Passover, and of the link to it provided in the Words of Institution, "this is the New Testament in my blood. The term "my," as Chaplain Shaw pointed out convincingly, is emphatic here. That is, therefore, to paraphrase, "this is no longer the [Passover meal] of the Old Testament; rather it is the Meal of the New Testament; it is not in the blood of the Passover lamb, but it is in my own blood. In essence, He is saying here, "I am the Passover's fullfillment. The Passover blood is my own. It marks your door. The angel of death will pass over your house in the eschaton, the Last Day.

Hence, my own take on "this do in remembrance of me" is something like this: "This do so that in the Final Judgment the Avenging Angel will see my blood marking your door (the door of your lips, cf. Psalm 141), remember my sacrifice, and pass over your house."

Do not celebrate seder meals at your church. Celebrate the Mass instead. The seder is done. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Octoberfest expecting a high turnout

OK folks, Octoberfest is tomorrow, and the reservations are coming in at a record rate. Just thought you might want to know, if you're having a hard time deciding if you want to come. The brats are ready, the hardrolls are here, the place is all decorated, and we're ready. Are you ready? We're expecting a good crowd, and our Octoberfest crowds have never been disappointed.

(I know there are some folks want me to start spelling it Oktoberfest, but then Petersen will accuse me of being anti-American.)

Anyhow, sign up by posting a comment right here; just tell us you're coming. For details, click here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Waning of Patriotism

There was a fine opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal by Robert D. Kaplan ("Modern Heroes") decrying the gradual devaluation of nationalism in our country. He says that the events of 9/11 did not fundamentally change our nation, but "merely interrupted an ongoing trend toward the decay of nationalism and the devaluation of heroism" in our country.

It got me thinking that this might similar to the events preceding the fall of Rome.

It also got me thinking about the most prominent remnant of patriotism in our culture, the national anthem. But even that, sadly, has been twisted into a quaint and virtually meaningless ceremony whenever time is taken for it. They still play the national anthem before sporting events, of course, but when the band plays at our high school football games I think sometimes my wife and I are the only people singing. A few other faint voices can sometimes be heard. The crowd would generally prefer some soloist crooning it out with enough embellishments to make it more of a personal performance than an anthem, in which case they could more comfortably reply to the act with delirious cheers. When there's just a band playing, they aren't encouraged to sing, and they probably don't even know all the words.

Those words are lost on the young, no doubt. They likely have never heard the story of Francis Scott Key peering out the window of a ship some eight miles away from a British shelling of Fort McHenry during the war of 1812, and how, each time a bomb went off, it "gave proof, through the night, that our flag was still there," and how, in the morning, when Key saw that the U.S. flag was still flying at the fort, he was inspired to scribble down a few poetic lines, "Oh say, can you see by the dawn's early light . . . ," which he would later finish into a poem.

I think of that when I sing the National Anthem, and I think of how my father instilled this in me, how countless men have fought and died defending the republic for which that flag stands. So who cares if a few people turn their heads in our direction at a football game?

Kaplan says it will take another event on the order of 9/11 or greater to change the direction we are headed. There are still glimmers of hope here and there that patriotism could somehow revive itself among us. Hopefully it won't take a nuclear holocaust, and hopefully the end of us is not in sight as we slouch toward the way of old Rome. We must pray for our nation.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Liturgy Seminar getting started

I note that a few comment have finally been posted over at my Liturgy Seminar, which is just in time for our Tuesday event which is tacked on to this year's Octoberfest. The Tuesday seminar will be a wide-open, roundtable discussion of the kinds of things that are on that blog.

In particular, there's already some discussion of

1 - the Greater Gloria (the Gloria in Excelsis), and when it should be used or when omitted

2 - what to do with This Is the Feast (answer: treat it as you would a hymn)

3 - the practice of introducing the Gospel reading with "the continuation of the Holy Gospel . . ." except for Christmas Day, which has "the beginning of the Holy Gospel" and Easter, when it is introduced by "the conclusion of the Holy Gospel."

4 - when the Creed is said

There was some trouble with the "feed" (whatever that is) for awhile, which kept some from commenting. Hopefully that's fixed now. If not, please let me know. To check out the site, click here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Octoberfest Just Around the Corner

Tell you what: I'm going to make it really easy for you to register for Octoberfest. Really easy. Just post a comment right here on this blog with your name, etc., and we'll do the rest. You can pay when you arrive. We just need to know who's coming.

It's $25 per person (students $15) $40 per couple--includes Sunday banquet and Monday continental and luncheon; no charge for children with parents. The Tuesday seminar alone is free (but a donation would be nice).

Seminarians, if you need a place to stay let me know, and we'll even try to find a place to put you up. If you have to miss a class or two, it's OK. I hereby give you permission. Just tell your prof (with a smile on your face and an apple in your hand). Tell him afterwards.

And, incidentally, in response to the recent hullabaloo about confession over at Fr Petersen's blog (click here to check it out), I've decided to schedule in an hour Monday morning between 8 and 9 for private confession.

Here's a repeat of all you need to know about Octoberfest:

Announcing the Twelfth Annual Octoberfest Seminar and Liturgical Conference at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Kewanee, Illinois, beginning Sunday, October 7th at 5 pm until midafternoon on Monday. The Conference theme is “In Remembrance of Me: Who's Doing the Remembering?” This year we are pleased to welcome as our guest the Reverend Chaplain Jonathan E. Shaw, S.T.M., a highly decorated Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army, having served in theaters and posts around the world; including Korea, Nicaragua, Iraq, Germany, and other places. He is currently stationed at the Chief of Chaplains’ office in Washington, D.C. He has also served as chairman of the Board for Congregational Services of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Chaplain Shaw has been an associate editor of Gottesdienst since its inception in 1992. His popular Sabre of Boldness column is featured in every issue.

Chaplain Shaw will examine the words of Institution, looking especially at the background of the Hebrew Scriptures and the concept of remembrance.

New this year: on the following day (Tuesday), a liturgical seminar is planned for anyone interested in participating in a roundtable discussion seeking uniformity in our worship practices. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas.

For more information or to register for either or both events, log on at or send us a note in the enclosed envelope.

Schedule of events

Sunday, October 7

5 pm Autumn Choral vespers, anticipating the Festival of Harvest

6 pm Annual bratwurst banquet

Monday, October 8 (Octoberfest Seminar)

8:00-9:00 a.m. Private Confession available at the church, in the vestry.

9:00-9:30 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m. Holy Mass: Festival of Harvest

11:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Seminar

Tuesday, October 9 (Liturgical Seminar)

9:00-9:30 a.m. Registration

9:30 a.m. Holy Mass

11:00 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Seminar