Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Out of the Barn

Easter came early this year, as we all know.

So also Pentecost is coming early.

And Trinity.

And therefore, the Trinity issue of Gottesdienst too.

Which, as of today, is out of the barn . . .

Did you subscribe yet? To do that, click here, right away, and you'll be one of the first to get the just-mailed issue!

Incidentally, there's an interesting little discussion about Gottesdienst which I entered into at another blog, which you can check out here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More on the Pope, and on the Papacy

We've been discussing, below, the matter of whether it's worthwhile to spend time commending the Pope when there's something commendable about him, or whether on the other hand one ought to take every opportunity to remind the world of his errors.

I believe the former is the proper tack; to review the discussion, click here.

The Papacy, according to the Lutheran Confessions, is the Antichrist, because it exalts itself and claims priority over the word of God; the passage in Thessalonions describes "the man of sin" as "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (II Thess 2:3-4).

Here's the thing: I haven't heard this Pope insist on any of those things.

Oh, you may say, but his office does.

True, it still does. But I think there's a big difference in the case of someone whose office has historical baggage, yet who personally shows some integrity.

Incidentally, the Pope was Julius II when Luther first penned his declaration that the Papacy was the Antichrist. Julius was coronated during a great, garish parade in Rome during which it was clearly and loudly proclaimed, quite literally, that he was God.

There is a world of difference between a Papacy bent the corruption rampant then and a Papacy now that takes steps toward reform. Of course there's a long way to go, but we ought not make matters more difficult than they already are, in my opinion.

And I believe that my take is akin to that of St. Paul, who wrote that as much as it depends on us, we should live at peace with all men.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Cellphone Etiquette

The matter of etiquette is Biblical, of course, as we may be reminded by the Apostle Paul: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:10). This matter must apply also, in the 21st century, to the use of cellphones.

An interestting article in today's Wall Street Journal got me thinking about the phenomenon of everyone on his cellphone in the midst of daily commerce. It's not necessarily a bad thing; and in some ways it serves to connect people, which is a good thing. It's simply important to remember that as various societal customs and interactions evolve, the question of basic decency and courtesy should not.

People who use cellphones (that would be most of us) should remember, for instance, not to break off one conversation to engage another in midstream. This has always been true, of course; now it must be applied to cellphones. When in a crowd, if you are in the midst of conversation with one person and another approaches you, that person should wait his turn at a discreet distance, of course; but if he should forget to do so, the appropriate etiquette you is somehow politely to ignore him for the moment or, if necessary, subtly bid him to wait a moment. The same should apply to cellphones.

Thus if you are in conversation with someone and your cellphone goes off, it is appropriate to ignore it, or better, to act quickly to silence it (if it frequently goes off, perhaps it should be on vibrate at all times).

Simply put, it is rude to break off a live conversation to answer a cell call or text.

And of course, cell phone conversations, or texting, should be right out, during dinnertime.

We should be teaching this to our children, along with all the basic rules of etiquette, when we can.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spot the Idiot

Doesn't President Carter know that he already has the Worst President Ever Award sewn up? Just what must run through this man's mind? I'm simply going to walk over and talk to these Hamas people and convince them to stop their rocket attacks into Israel. So he sits down with them, cameras flashing, blabs awhile, and goes on his way. That should do it. Yup.


Yo, Mr. President. Pope Leo the Great pulled off a miraculous conversation with Attila the Hun, and, by just walking out to where he was and talking things over, convinced him to turn around and not pillage Rome.

But, um, I knew Leo the Great. Leo the Great was a friend of mine. And Mr. President, you're no Leo the Great.

In your case, Hamas must be beside themselves with side-splitting laughter. Sure, they'll talk to you. And then they can splash the photos all over the world to make the case for how reasonable they are, all the while planning their next terror attack.

I mean, just how naive can you be? Maybe you have some memory of having pulled off a tidy compromise over commerce with neighboring peanut farmers, Hamas is not into peanut farming. Here's the difference, to put it delicately: they're murderers.

Before undertaking this mission of yours, maybe you should have practiced a bit, stateside. You know, go find some gang of thugs in downtown New York late at night and see if you can't talk them into being nice.

Well, what's the difference?

You keep on embarrassing yourself and your country, just when we thought you couldn't get any worse.

The best thing you ever did, sir, was hand the reins to Ronald Reagan.

Now here's an ironic contrast for you: President Reagan announced it to the world when he learned that he had Alzheimer's, and he rode off gracefully into the sunset. You, by contrast, announce to no one that you're diseased, and you turn and rush headstrong into the fray.

Ah, well. It's America, and, as Mother used to say, It takes all kinds . . .

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Initial Thoughts on the Pope's Visit and Homily

I watched the Pope's homily this morning, and several things came to mind. There is much to be pleased about. I think that his sense of who he is, and of the gravity of all that he does as Pope, is a good thing for people to behold, even for us who are not of the Roman Catholic communion. Would that more men who preach the Gospel would have such a sense of who they are, and of the gravity of what they are doing. Did you notice? No jokes, no levity, no feeling the need to 'yuk it up'; now that was a refreshing thing indeed.

Second, he doesn't seem to be taken with the need to be 'correct' according to the sensitivities of this or that interest group. He addressed head-on the horrid matter of pedophilia in the priesthood and the need to help the children affected by it. Good for him. Brave man.

I noticed something else too, which is that this didn't really seem to be a real sermon, at least not in the sense I understand what a sermon ought to be. It was more of a speech. To be sure, I'm not meaning to criticize what he said here (see above); and in fact I believe it was better than what I hear in altogether too many churches, whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran or other. Really, it was quite good, I thought.

But I'm always looking for more of a sermon in the basic sense of what a sermon ought to be, in my opinion. What I mean is that I am accustomed to preaching on some Gospel, the Gospel just read prior to the time of preaching. I don't think he really did this. I realize that most preachers don't do it; but I think it would be better if more preachers did it. What happens when the preacher explicates the reading just heard is that he implicitly shows that he is dependent on the Scriptures in his preaching. He is not simply addressing the people with his own ideas, nor, really, is it his business to do so.

Preachers need to address their people according to what the people face, certainly, but I think they need to be careful to be addressing those things from the Gospel. Generally the sermon should contain clear and frequent references to what was heard in the Gospel reading.

Of course this was a special occasion, so there's room for a bit of an exception here. It just got me thinking more generally about the need for expository preaching.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Government 101

Upon hearing the news this morning that the Senate is passing a resolution to declare that John McCain does indeed have the legitimate prerequisite of native American citizenship to run for President, I was briefly inclined to wonder whether these Senators were sleeping during their high school government class.

The issue arose because Mr. McCain was born at an American military base in the Panama Canal, and the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution requires that American Presidents must be native born. So is Mr. McCain disqualified or not? The matter isn't really a serious one in his case, because nobody will be able to raise any serious doubts about his legitimacy as a candidate. But now, lest anyone should even try, and as if to lay the matter legally to rest once and for all, the Senate, led by the Democrats, has passed a bill declaring that the Constitution does not preclude his candidacy.

But here's what has me scratching my head. Isn't it the business of the judicial branch to interpret the Constitution? How often we hear (rightly) of the impropriety of activist judges who seek to make laws rather than interpret them. Well, isn't it equally improper of Members of Congress to interpret laws rather than make them? It may be a small point, but maybe not. To be sure, this is likely some sort of publicity stunt on their part--some ostensible demonstration to the American people of how gregarious Democrats (who sponsored this bit of "legislation") toward the presumptive Republican nominee--but possibly there's a more serious matter to be pondered here.

To put it simply, it's a bit troubling to see our nation's most prominent politicians failing to understand the most basic principles of American politics.

But I digress . . .

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Sneak Preview of the Coming Issue

One of our favorite features in Gottesdienst is the parody page. Some boardroom prompting has encouraged this posting of the one which will appear in our next issue. To subscribe, log on at right away, and the next issue will be in your hands before you know it.

On Holy Tuesday, 2008, the Missouri Synod’s popular and unabashedly confessional Issues, Etc. radio program was suddenly cancelled without explanation. We have no idea what might have brought that on . . .

FADE FROM BLACK: Int. of Don Kieschneone’s home office. Daytime. Pull back from Daily Bible Passages for Success or Manipulation open at Monday, March 17, 2008. The word Holy of Holy Monday has been crossed out and Roman tendency scrawled in with an explanation point.

BONHOWERASERA (seated in front of the Don’s desk, facing the camera): I believe in the Missouri Synod. The Missouri Synod has made my fortune. And I raised my little congregation in the Missouri Synod fashion. I gave her Ablaze! but –I taught her never to dishonor her Synod. She started listening to Issues, Etc., the most popular program on the Synod’s KFUO Radio Station. She listened often. I didn’t protest. But they started telling her things that were not of the same spirit as Ablaze! and they made her drink confessional Lutheranism. And then they tried to take advantage of her, told her what was wrong with Willow Creek, Lakewood Church, and Saddleback Church. They castigated the Purpose Driven Church movement. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal, with doctrine and liturgy. When I went to the hospital, her nose was a’broken. Her jaw was a’shattered, held together by wire. She couldn’t even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life – beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again. [Bonhowerasera breaks down. The Don gestures to Meierson to give Bonhowerasera a drink] Sorry... [Bonhowerasera, taking the drink, sips from the shot glass] I – I went directly to the radio station, like a good a Missouri Synod Lutheran. They told me they would handle it. Nothing was done. Nothing! Issues, Etc. continues to this very day! I look like a fool. And they smile at me. So I say to my wife, “for justice, we must go to Don Kieschnieone.”

VITO KIESCHNEONE (sitting behind his desk, petting a gerbil): Why did you go to KFUO? Why didn’t you come to me first?

BONHOWERASERA: What do you want of me? Tell me anything. But do what I beg you to do.

VITO KIESCHNEONE: What is that? [Bonhowerasera gets up to whisper his request into Don Kieschneone’s ear] That I cannot do.

BONHOWERASERA: I’ll give you anything you ask.

VITO KIESCHNEONE: We’ve known each other many years, but this is the first time you came to me for counsel, for help. I can’t remember the last time that you invited me to give a testimony at your coffee shop evangelpalooza, even though my wife preached at the youth gathering with your only child in attendance and taught her to make a decision for Jesus. But let’s be frank here: you never wanted my friendship. And uh, you were afraid to be in my debt.

BONHOWERASERA: I didn’t want to get into trouble.

VITO KIESCHNEONE: I understand. You found paradise in The Missouri Synod, had a good trade, made a good living. The Synodical structure protected you; and there are proper avenues to follow, Matthew 18, the By-Laws, and so forth. And you didn’t need a friend of me. But uh, now you come to me and you say – “Don Kieschneone give me justice.” – But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me President, Ecclesiastical Supervisor. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you uh ask me to destroy the radio station, for money.

BONHOWERASERA: I ask you for justice.

VITO KIESCHNEONE: That is not justice; your congregation is still alive. Issues, Etc. didn’t wake that many up.

BONHOWERASERA: Then they can suffer, as she suffers. (then) How much shall I pay you?

VITO KIESCHNEONE (stands, turning his back toward Bonhowerasera): Bonhowerasera... Bonhowerasera... What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? Had you come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your congregation would be suffering this very day. And that by chance if an honest man such as yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.

BONHOWERASERA: Be my friend – (then, after bowing and the Don shrugs) – Mr. President, Grand Poobah, Visonary Extradorinaire, Our Beloved Leader?

VITO KIESCHNEONE (after Bonhowerasera kisses his hand): Good. (then) Some day, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day –accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.

BONHOWERASERA (as he leaves the room): Grazie, Mr. President, Chief Executive Officer, Supervisor of Supevisors, Chairman Par Excellance, the Vicar of . . .

VITO KIESCHNEONE: Enough. Prego. (then, to Bill Diekelmione, after Bonhowerasera leaves the room) Ah, give this to ah, Strandza. I want reliable people; people that aren’t gonna be carried away. I’m mean, we’re not murderers, despite of what this Church Growth fanatic says.