Monday, November 19, 2007

Santa Claus Discrimination

You may have heard the recent attacks on Santa Claus. Some in Europe have been ragging on him because they think he needs to lose some weight, since, the reasoning goes, he could be an enabler to those among them who have tendencies toward becoming obese. They say his own weight problem is setting a bad example. Meanwhile Australia has gone and banned the trademark “Ho Ho Ho,” saying this could be offensive to women. Since some people hear the word “ho” and hear that as ghetto slang for “whore,” therefore they are proposing that Santa start saying “Ha Ha Ha” instead.

All because they want Santa to be helpful and not offend.

Well hold on just a minute. I mean, I think we need to get a little political correctness involved here! This whole thing is being raised in the name of being politically correct, after all, so my question is, what about those who are overweight? I think this is clearly discriminating against them! What, now none of them can apply to be Santa in a shopping mall, because of being a little chubby? “Sorry, fella, you can’t be a Santa in our store. You’re too fat!” Wow, if ever there was a case against discrimination! Why does everyone have to look like a Ken doll, hmmm? We’re told that 66% of all Americans are overweight. Well, then, this is discrimination against most Americans!

And as for this Ha Ha Ha thing, that’s offensive too! Like, just who are you laughing at, Santa? The last thing I want to hear when I go Christmas shopping is some emaciated Santa Claus laughing at me! Why is he laughing? Does he think I’m too fat, like he himself used to be? (The hypocrite!) Or maybe he’s laughing at my kids because they’re too fat! How dare he! I smell a lawsuit, I can tell you.

To all those 66% of Americans and all those who love them (which pretty much ought to make up the whole country) I say, Rise up! Defend your Santa Claus! He has every right not to be jeered just because he’s fat! Ha ha ha indeed! I’ll give them ha ha ha . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Grammarian, XII

By the way, the priesthood of all believers is not in the Bible.

The passage everyone loves to quote is this, from I Peter 2.9:

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

Now it's evident that the "ye" here refers to the faithful of God, and that therefore they are "a royal priesthood." But the term "priesthood" here is collective, and it goes together with "royal" and also with "holy nation."

What you Synodical types have gone and done is to try to tap into this in such a way as to give a divine imprimatur to everything a congregational voters' assembly does. I think you need a lesson in grammar, to say nothing of your theology.

The Apostle is clearly exalting the status of the Church, as opposed to "them which stumble at the word, being disobedient," listed just prior to this verse. Contextually, he pours on these descriptions of the Church, to indicate thereby just what a great gift the grace of God has made her: a chosen generation, that is elect in Christ; royalty, that is, bound to the King of Kings; and a priesthood, that is, bound to Him who is our High Priest before God. This is why the Church is also an holy nation: holy in Christ; a peculiar people, separate from all people on earth, again, in Christ.

The entire context here is that of magnifying the grace of God which makes the Church the royal, priestly Queen of all Creation. And each descriptor is collective, that is, in the singular.

So, boys and girls, don't go blathering on about the priesthood of all believers as a license to make divine decrees by reason of your voters' assemblies, as though the majority in them somehow constituted the living voice of God. (In case you're wondering, the living voice of God is what comes out of Jesus' mouth, and out of the mouths of "holy men of God moved by the Holy Ghost," etc.)

The phrase you love to use, "all believers," is not there. The term "believers" would be plural, and would divide and individualize the Church; but it isn't there. Although the plural pronoun "ye" is used, it is at once related to a long string of collective terms. It is abundantly evident that this is a reference to a unified whole, the body of Christ; and Christ is also one.

There's no counting going on here, no rule by majority. The Church is one, because Christ is one. He rules His Church, by His grace.

So don't go misusing the Bible, and remember your grammar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No Fan of Improv

Why is it, I wonder, that we have so many well meaning people who think that prayer is about having a casual conversation with God? As though He were your Big Buddy in the sky. I used to pray this way when I was a child, and I didn't know any better. I distinctly remember the kind of opening line I used to have in my bedtime prayer. It would go something like this: "Well, God, here I am again . . ."

When I was a child, I thought as a child . . .

But we have grownups praying this way. I can understand it if some layman has never been instructed, but a pastor? Yet we find clergy types all over the globe who pray in just this way: "Dear God, we just want to thank you for the beautiful day you have given us, and for our time together, and, just, really, for being there for us. Bless our time together . . ."

I'm not saying there's anything specifically false or heretical about such a prayer, mind you. Yet there is a problem here.

Too many people think prayer is mainly about feeling comfortable talking with the invisible God. It is not. If it were, then why would the disciples have asked Jesus to teach them to pray? Did He tell them that they should just converse with God on an impromptu level? He did not. Did He encourage them to learn some improv with God? No.

To be sure, He bid them to call God "Father," but that was not as an invitation to think of Him as a heavenly pal. (Actually, it was an implicit invitation to regard themselves as having access through Jesus the Only Son, but that's another matter.)

I submit that it is not helpful to think that you have a healthy spirituality (whatever that is) if you have learned to think of God in such informal and ordinary terms.

Listen: God is Father indeed, and Almighty; He is also Son, and Incarnate; and He is Spirit, who has breathed into our nostrils the breath of eternal life through the Word of the Gospel.

Should we not, therefore, learn to speak to Him by the breath and words He has given us?

Something, I say, is very wrong with the loose informality that has come to be the norm for prayer. We are beggars before Royalty, paupers before a Judge. To be sure, He is a gracious one, but that is all the more reason for us to address Him with the gravity and respect that acknowledges who He is.

Behave yourself when you talk to Him. And learn some better prayers, you who mutter bland banalities before the Lord of Hosts.

Consider the Psalms: they are never informal and chummy improvisations! The Psalmist would not dream of making prayer a matter of simply remembering that, after all, God is always in the room. Rather, he said this: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, o Lord."

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Here's the latest nonsense from the LCMS. First VP Bill Diekelman sent us all an email describing the progress of the Ablaze! initiative. Much has been written about the theological weaknesses of the program. But here's something which caught my eye in the latest missive. He says this:

"Ablaze! was endorsed by the 2004 Synod convention in two parts. One part, the witnessing part, is a movement. It is messy, it is un-programmed, it is Spirit driven. The other part is programmatic. While we pray it may also be Spirit led and blessed, it is much more structured."

And I said to my self, "Messy?" Something driven by the Spirit is messy? I don't know what spirit this man is talking about, but there's one thing I know the Holy Spirit is not, and that's messy. Has he not read that our God is a God of order?

We've always known that the Synodical leadership has charismatic tendencies. Well, here's what we might call the root problem. The Spirit preaches Christ, as Christ Himself said, "He shall testify of me." And the Spirit is not messy about it. In fact His way of doing it is in the context of the structured liturgy of the church.

You might call this a slip of pen, but I think it's a little insight into the fallacies at the heart of the whole movement.

You show me a movement that is messy and I'll show you a place where the Holy Spirit is not.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Climate of Fear

I have not read Michael Crichton's new book, but I've looked into the debate a bit over global warming. On the one side we have Al Gore and his IPCC scientists taking the view that there is irrefutable evidence of global warming, and that human activity is causing it, necessitating possibly draconian measures to scale back some of that human activity. A reputable advocate for this position is David Sandalow of the Brookings Institute, whose opinion may be found here. On the other side is the view of Mr. Crichton and others who say either that there is global warming all right, but that it is dubious at best to say that human activity is causing it, or that there is really not significant global warming going on at all. A reasonable endorsement of Mr. Crichton's point of view has been provided by Joseph L. Bast of the Heartland Institute (read it here). The Heartland Institute also has a little video rebuttal of Al Gore himself (watch it here).

I tend to side with Mr. Crichton, but I think it's more because of my skepticism of humanity than because of anyone's science. Ironically, the global-warming-ists would have us believe that it's their skepticism of humanity that takes them to their position: we must initiate protocols to shackle the excessive industrializaton of our world, etc.

But should we not be skeptical of them too? Certainly if we entertain skepticism of mankind, it ought to include them. Mr. Sandalow's own observation on this score is most worthy of note: "There are indeed fewer people who have sorted through the minutiae of climate change science than have opinions on the topic. In this regard, global warming is like Social Security reform, health care finance, the military budget and many other complex public policy issues. As Nelson Polsby and Aaron Wildavsky once wrote, 'Most people don’t think about most issues most of the time.' When forming opinions on such matters, we all apply certain predispositions or instincts and rely on others whose judgment or expertise we trust."

Precisely. We all do this. Even panelists at the IPCC.

Together, however, with my skepticism of humanity comes a dose of faith. Not faith in anyone's duelling analyses or graphs, but faith in the Providence of God.

And speaking of God, this may come as a surprise to some, but there was never a divine commandment forbidding the overuse of fossil fuels. The divine commandments are actually harder to follow than that: "Love thy neighbor as thyself" prescribes no protocols or UN resolutions.

Some would argue that "love thy neighbor" requires good stewardship of the planet. I remain for the most part unconvinced of that logic; and I think a far more regrettable inference is drawn when people who think they are being "green" have done their part. Hardly. The law of God says, If thy neighbor is hungry, feed him. And that just may require the burning of some fossil fuels.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gottesdienst Returns to the Marriott for Fort Wayne Symposia; Sabre of Boldness Nominees Sought

To reserve a room with the Gottesdienst gang at the Marriott for the Symposia at the discounted rate of $94 per room per night, call the Marriott at 1-800-228-9290 and be sure to tell them that you are with Gottesdienst, because this will help us get the meeting room without cost to us. It would also help if you let us know if you're planning to do this, so we can keep a tally (just comment on this blog, or reply here)

The high point of this January’s Symposium week at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne (judging from the unbiased perspective of the editors of Gottesdienst) will undoubtedly be something that is to happen not at the seminary, but at the Marriott, to wit, the announcement of this year’s recipient of the Sabre of Boldness award. This prestigious award has come to be awaited in our circles with as much anticipation as, in other circles, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, or the Oscars (though someone might be inclined quip, in Clint Eastwood fashion, that we are legends in our own minds).

The ceremony is now in its thirteenth year, and has returned to the Marriott Hotel because of its superior accommodations in close proximity to the seminary. The event is set for Thursday, January 17th, at 8:30 p.m.

Nominations for the 2008 Sabre Bearer are again invited. Please submit a nomination to Fr. Eckardt by just commenting on this blog (no anonymous nominations please), or by sending an email to Simply state the name, address, and telephone number of the nominee and the reasons why he or she is a fitting choice for Sabre Bearer. The words engraved on the plaque upon which the Sabre is mounted give the selection criteria: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ while engaged in the confession of His pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces and at the greatest personal risk.” The degree of the adversity, a demonstration of steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise the truth, heedlessness of threatened personal consequences, and a clear confession of the truth at stake are considered. The slate of nominees will close on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008. Then the editors of Gottesdienst will meet privately to make their selection.

The editors of Gottesdienst invite all seminary guests to come on over to the Marriott, right after the Symposium banquet, for this gala event.

Sabre of Boldness Recipients:

2007 The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2006 Bishop Walter Obare
2005 The Reverend Edward Balfour
2004 The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2003 The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2002 The Reverend Erich Fickel
2001 The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2000 The Reverend Peter M. Berg
1999 The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
1998 The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1997 The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1996 The Reverend Peter C. Bender

Friday, November 02, 2007

All the Company of Heaven

Today (November 2) is All Souls Day (for those of you who prefer parochial designations, that would be "The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed"), and I note with some disappointment that the LCMS has chosen not to include this Feast in LSB, the new hymnal, reverting to the unfortunate omission in TLH which was for a time finally corrected, when LW restored it to its place. But alas now it's gone again.

Evidently the committee made the mistake which is so often made, of thinking that All Saints Day is the day to remember all the faithful departed. But historically All Saints Day is for commemorating those saints of old who made the good confession even unto death, especially those who do not have particular days for their commemoration. That is why we follow the rubric of employing red (the color of blood), not white, for All Saints.

That's the first thing wrong with not observing All Souls Day: generally it means you forgot about All Saints in the historic sense.

The second thing wrong with it is that when we fail to distinguish between the heroic "extraordinary" saints of the Church's history and the more "ordinary" faithful departed we do justice to neither. All Souls Day is the day for remembering all the "ordinary" among the faithful departed: your departed relatives and friends, as well as simple, humble Christians who died in the faith without having done anything that really stands out. But their works (works of faith all) stand out to God, and He vindicates their ordinary lives with crowns of glory, and they shall rise to everlasting life.

They are even now among "all the company of heaven," yes, as it were right beside, and counted together with the more heroic of the saints. They all rejoice with us at Mass, even when there are only a few of us observing the day in any particular location. In fact, the altar is always a very crowded place.

Both All Saints and All Souls are and remain Feasts of the First Class, notwithstanding LSB's dropping of the second altogether. Next year, incidentally, All Souls falls on a Sunday. Mark your calendars: it takes precedence over that Second Class Sunday and is observed instead. But All Saints is still the day before.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Use of Voice and Posture in Worship, IV

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

IV. Practical Consideratons

When conducting the service,

stand Erect
don’t sway or slouch
fold hands properly
whenever possible, do not hold your own book.
do not get personal
be iconic (think of yourself as an icon)
avoid giving directions, page numbers, etc.
do not smile (ever seen a smiling icon?)
do not seek to endear yourself to the people; seek, rather, to emulate Christ. That is to say, get out of His way.

When preaching,

do not be bound to the page, but do not look people in the eye
avoid rocking
do not emote
do not shout
do not whisper
do not mumble
do not stammer
avoid “ah,” “um,” etc. Cf. Ronald Reagan, who was a master at this
do not be afraid to use pause
speak slowly
be iconic (be Christ for the people)

+ BF Eckardt Jr.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
24 September 2007