Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Want of Integrity

There were halcyon days in my formative years when I used to think that people in positions of leadership could be expected to understand the importance of integrity. And I am sure that there are young people today whose own outlooks are still unencumbered by the harsh reality that there are so many wrong people in positions which require of them what they don't have.

What they too often don't have, and what their positions require, is a spine.

So they search for the easiest short-term solution to a crisis or a threat, without giving a thought to the assault this does to the truth, or to their integrity.

They are the bureaucrats who can't bear to live without the promise of funding by their most important benefactors, so they sacrifice their principles, if only just a little, in order to keep them happy. And then a little more, and more again after that.

They live, essentially, by fear. They are beholden not so much to their sponsors themselves as to the images of their sponsors, images which are really likely more caricatures than realities.

These bureaucrats certainly exist in the halls of government, but they also haunt the Church. In both places they wreak havoc, in proportion to the amount of authority they hold.

These people are worse plagues upon the well being of society or of the Church than the outright scoundrels, being themselves less identifiable.

And yet, we will never be free of them. They have been doing their damage since the beginning, since Adam lost the fortitude to tell off the serpent who was tempting his wife, who was standing, no doubt, right next to him all the while. Who knows, perhaps when the serpent beguiled, Adam simply wanted to avoid confrontation, or loss of favor somehow, so thought he needed to compromise, to come out of this matter looking at least like half the man he didn't have the guts to be.

That, at least, is what seems to drive the gutless these days. There's always a threat, an alarm, a foreboding of dire consequences.

Men must learn not to live by fear, ever. Though we may have our fears, we must not let them guide us. Sometimes we must damn the torpedoes.

And men who don't know how to do this will never be what God intended them to be. And men, or aspiring men, who do understand, even from the start of their formation, can perhaps one day become, deo volente, replacements for the spineless here and there.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dressing Down

So here's a picture of a small group of members of a Lutheran congregation with their pastor. Which one's the pastor? Not sure? Not surprising.

I've noticed that in recent times it's pretty common to see feature stories about pastors with their people, or pastors involved with various church projects, whether in Lutheran publications, or in the newspaper, and the accompanying picture shows the pastor in a simple open collared shirt, or a knit shirt, or something very casual.

To be sure, I might occasionally attend a council meeting dressed like this, and on a Friday I can routinely be seen in such clothes, but what I'm wondering about is whether pastors who are to be photographed as representatives of their churches ought to be so dressed.

Is the dressing down of clergyman a growing phenomenon?

First, they eschewed the clerical garb in favor of neckties and sports jackets; now they're removing those as well. Something tells me this is another little gnawing anticlericalism on the part of the clerics themselves, that is, that they want to affirm their membership in the priesthood of all believers and put off all sense of the office they hold.

While the office they hold is not one in which wielding authority over the people is becoming, that is a far cry from denying that they have authority. One would think that Christian people expect their pastors to be comfortable with this authority; after all, they come hear them on Sundays; they come to be trained, edified, comforted, encouraged, fathered. How can a pastor with no authority do those things? And how can a man who's uncomfortable in the garb which bespeaks the pastor's position be such a pastor?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blinking Contest

If you saw the Charlie Gibson interview of Sarah Palin, you need to see this great little montage Jay Leno put together as an "interview" with Sarah Palin. The blinking contest is the last part.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gottesdienst 2008 Appeal for Help

A letter from Gottesdienst to all our supporters:

September 2008

Dear friend of the Lutheran Liturgy,

Gottesdienst keeps moving forward, but we always seem to be doing it on a shoestring. And we couldn’t do it at all without the continued generosity of people like you. As you have depended on us for sixteen years to provide you with the very best in material promoting dignified, evangelical liturgy and worship, we must also depend on you to help us, as you are able, to keep the mission moving.

As you know, it is within the rich context and setting of dignified liturgical worship that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed with power. That power is in the Gospel itself, of course, but it behooves us to provide for it the best environment we can for its proclamation. For the liturgy itself is really nothing less than the Word of God on our lips.

And yet in our day the liturgy routinely comes under assault, as churches discard it for entertainment and for settings that might as well pass for a pop music concert complete with a star vocalist on stage, with makeup, lighting, and a backup band. People sway to the music and sing along with their favorite lyrics; how well they are entertained! And with it, enough mention of praise for the name of Jesus that they are even (mis)led to think that this is worship and entertainment all in one.

Meanwhile the Gospel in all its fullness, the rich mercy of God in Christ, is shoved aside, and the people no longer even bother to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” as the people in the Gospels did, nor sing “O Christ Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world,” nor plead, “Create in me a clean heart, O God . . .” nor “give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever.” They no longer Simeon’s confident song of willingness to die in peace, “for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation . . .”

We must not abandon, but continue, and redouble our efforts to reach the churches with reasons to rediscover and rejoice in the rich and abiding Holy Liturgy. Your generous support for Gottesdienst will make you our co-workers in this effort. Please help. We need you. The church needs Gottesdienst.


+ Burnell F. Eckardt, Jr., Editor-in-chief

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Gottesdienst Website Design

Having updated the design of Gottesblog, it's only fitting that the Gottesdienst website should be updated too, after sitting virtually idle for two or three years. Yes, we finally did it. Have a look.

And while you're at it, subscribe. Gottesdienst is the insightful, witty, evangelical, liturgical journal of record (if we do say so ourselves).

Gottesdienst is for you if

· You want to know more about the liturgy

· Or if you want some great seasonal sermons and Biblical insights

· Or if you want liturgical observations that are truthful, insightful, and unafraid

· Or if you want encouragement to stand firm in the faith

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Three, Yes Three Cheers for Sarah

Which is to say, here's the third of three blog posts in praise of Sarah Palin, almost in a row.

Why? You ask? Why am I so pumped?

Because I remember Ronald Reagan--Ronald the Great--so well, and here he is all over again, as his own son Michael Reagan so glowingly exulted the other day.

Because the conservative movement is suddenly reborn and we have reason to hope that America might not, after all, continue to be dismantled and demoralized by the relentlessly atheistic Left. Not just yet, anyhow.

Because the groundswell was instant. The sleeping majority has awakened, and it is huge. I know I am not the only one who is pumped.

Hey, all you Ron Paul folks, get off it, will you? Listen, John McCain will probably not be that great a President (though I have to admit he could surprise me and yet turn out to be, so I'll reserve my own judgment right now, only because he so surprised me with his VP pick).

But Sarah Palin has drastically changed the scenery, and the Alaskan panorama is breathtaking in more ways than one. I'm not merely thinking of a McCain presidency here, but of a Palin one to come. Deborah the Prophetess lives.

So I'm going to make a bold prediction, just for fun. I predict this election will go to McCain, and that it won't even be close. He will win in a landslide, I think. Here's why I think this.

First, he's already ahead in the polls. The Palin bombshell has shaken American politics to the roots, and it's already showing.

Secondly, Obama lost the blue collar states to Hillary already. They don't really like him that much to begin with, and he still has to sell himself even among Democrats.

Third, the presidential debates will quite possibly be a rout. I saw the Saddleback interviews, and although I've never been a real big McCain supporter, what I saw in those interviews is a stark difference in how he comes off, as opposed to Obama. That tells me that he will impress and surprise people when he matches up against Obama's stuttering aimlessness on national TV. People like it when a man gives a straight answer. They don't like "uh, uh, that's above my pay grade . . ." When Obama was asked what to do about evil, he said, something like, "We need to confront it." When McCain was asked, he said, without batting an eye, "Defeat it." And McCain does this sort of thin all the time, even if you disagree with him (which I sometimes do). So that will serve him well in the debates, I think. His confidence is born of an utter grasp of who he is and what he wants to do.

Fourth, the media will continue to hammer away at Palin, and the more they do, the more the backlash will help the ticket. The media folks probably know this, but they can't help themselves. They probably know already that Obama's best hope of winning will be the uncovering of some Palin scandal. I heard they're looking into whether she cheated in the Miss Wasilla contest. Now that is rich. The media barrage has become the gift that keeps on giving.

Fifth, there will be an unprecedented number of people watching the vice-presidential debate this time, and, well, need I say more?

I believe the Left knows this as well as I do, and that they're probably in a state of panic already. I hope Mrs. Palin's security is on high alert. Seriously.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Still Ecstatic

I told you so . . .

Count me as one not surprised by the home run I saw last night in Gov. Palin's speech, though it has the even likes of conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Peggy Noonan likely rethinking their initial dislike of Sen. McCain's VP choice. I'm telling you, this is the start of something really big . . .

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Liturgy Seminar October 14: tentative topic

The Second Annual Liturgical Seminar at
St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church
Kewanee, Illinois
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On the day following our annual Oktoberfest on Sunday and Monday, October 12-13, 2008, we are holding our second annual liturgy seminar, with an aim toward finding some uniformity among Lutheran liturgical practices. Last year we discussed a liturgical calendar. This year’s topic deals with Canon Law, or the question of the use and proper extent of regulations governing liturgical practice.

A roundtable discussion is scheduled for today, in search of uniformity. Informed Lutheran clergy are particularly invited to provide input and exchange of ideas, although all are invited to stay for the day. Here following is a schedule with tentative proposals for discussion.

9:00 a.m. Low (spoken) Mass

9:45 – noon: Seminar, first topic.

On Canon Law.

The existence of specific canon law dates to the seven ecumenical councils of the early church. Indeed the bulk of activity in which the assembled bishops engaged was the preparation of these canons, i.e., regulations pertaining to what is proper for the churches. In twenty-first century Lutheranism, by contrast, any talk of regulations is likely to elicit a response of legalism, and untold mischief has resulted, all under the banner of adiaphora.

Among the questions worthy of discussion among us are these:

What is canon law for Lutherans? How far should it go? How far can it go? What are the true adiaphora? What are not adiaphora? How might a Lutheran jurisdiction be set in place whose aim is to produce evangelical canons to which we voluntarily assent?

12 noon – lunch

1 pm -- 3:15 pm: Seminar, second topic:

Toward a Canon of the Mass.

Recently a recommended Eucharistic Prayer was posted at the new blog Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which among other things raises the question of whether the Words of Institution ought be embedded in such a prayer. A strong Lutheran tradition, led by Luther Reed (The Lutheran Liturgy) would forbid it, but a long and catholic tradition does not. Meanwhile a centuries-long debate has continued between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy over the question of the epiclesis, a specific prayer calling upon the Holy Ghost to make the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Among the questions worthy of discussion among us are these:

How might confessional Lutherans arrive at an acceptable canon? Is it even desirable to seek to do so? What is the significance of praying or not praying the Verba? Is the Lord’s Prayer consecratory?

3:15 Office of None. Itinerarium

For details of Oktoberfest or to register, please visit www.liturgyseminar.blogspot.com.

The entire schedule is tentative and itself open to discussion.