Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Jealous God

Good thoughts from Patrick Oden:
God is holy. God is love. These aren’t two sides, these are the same thing, expressed in relational pursuits. He is whole. He wants our wholeness. He’s jealous if we seek that elsewhere. Because there’s no where elsewhere it can be wholly found.

'Honor Your Father and Mother'

A command that applies to adults in relation to their parents.

'Three Angels'

From Dylan's most unique LP, New Morning.

(With a little aural augmentation at end added by the creator of the vidso.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Interesting Thoughts on Bishop Hanson's Letter

Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), of which I am a part, sent a pastoral letter to all leaders of the denomination this past week.

Chris Duckworth reacts here. (The linked post contains a link to Hanson's original letter.) Chris's point about the difference between basic baptismal unity, on the one hand, and confessional unity, on the other, is right on.

I have deep respect for Bishop Hanson. But I think that Chris is right in saying that the bishop's letter misses the point about what's at stake in the August churchwide assembly's scheduled votes on a new sexuality statement and the sexuality task force's recommendations that ELCA congregations be allowed to depart from past practices on the ordination of practicing homosexuals in committed relationships and on the sanctioning of committed homosexual relationships. Basic baptismal unity is not sufficient to bind together a denomination which claims to have a common, specific understanding of the Christian faith.

The proposed changes, in spite of the facile arguments of the sexuality task force that their recommendations deal only with ethics and not theology, would be major and potentially disruptive of our unity.

The option left to individual congregations to decide what they will do in practice seems a shrewd political move, allowing congregations to agree to disagree. It may therefore appeal to our American penchant for individualism.

The sexuality task force seems to be betting that their approach will placate enough people to keep from tearing the ELCA apart. They may be right, at least organizationally.

But with the adoption of these recommendations, will we lack theological and confessional clarity if the assembly adopts the recommended policies? I think so. What good will our unity be then?

I favor, as I think all Christians should, full civil rights for all people. But the recommendations before the assembly have nothing to do with civil rights. They deal with theology, with what we say about what God has revealed to the world, with the exercise of what is known as the "office of the keys," the proclamation of forgiveness or condemnation on behalf of God. Whatever one's position on the recommendations, one must concede, I think, such sanctioned changes cannot be papered over by appeals to baptismal unity. The world will rightly want to know, "What exactly do Lutherans believe about the Sixth Commandment?" These proposed policies, which venture far from 2000 years of Christian belief, won't provide an answer.



Palin's Resignation

Here. Was it impulsive or calculated? I'm betting impulsive.

Fight Pancreatic Cancer

I just saw President Carter's PSA on pancreatic cancer, which has taken so many of his family members. My uncle died from it two years ago. You can donate here to help with research for a cure of this horrible disease.

Good Advice for Pastors and Overextended Laypeople

Leonard Sweet tweeted this quote from an old mentor of his:
Love the church, but don't let the church become your lover.

In all circumstances...

When things are good.

When things are bad.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Just downloaded...

Classic sounds and wise, often fun, lyrics from two of the pioneers of Christian contemporary music, fifty-somethings Phil Keaggy and Randy Stonehill. They've both got it.

Here is a review. These guys are really playing with their musical influences--Beatles, Who, Everly Brothers, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Steve Miller, Johnny Rivers--and it's fun.

A special treat is the pair's remake of a song they performed as the title track of a Keaggy project two decades ago, then along with Russ Taff, Sunday's Child. Now, as then, the song has them in full-Beatles mode.

I'll add this: If Keaggy isn't, as many claim, the greatest rock guitarist in the world, he's certainly one of them.

You can buy it at Amazon or iTunes. The latter is substantially less expensive.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tweets on This Sunday's Bible Lessons

A quick explanation, from Wikipedia:
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read each others' updates, known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to other users - known as followers - who have subscribed to them.
Below are tweets I posted this afternoon regarding this coming Sunday's Bible lessons. I hope they help folks get ready for worship. I may post more substantive stuff later.
Ezekiel 2:5: We're called to be faithful to God, leave the results up to God.

2 Cor. 12:2-10: Only when I'm weak that my delusions of self-sufficiency are laid waste. God's power can worthwhile things in and thru us.

Mark 6:1: Jesus' worlds come together.

Mark 6:2: People attribute "power" and "wisdom" to Jesus, attributes associated with God. But they don't know where [they come] from.

Mark 6:3: "took offense at." Jesus couldn't expect acclamation any more than Ezekiel...or us.

Mark 6:4: An expert is anyone with a pointer from forty miles away.

Mark 6:4: The "who do you think you are?" factor prevents prophets from being accepted. Per 2 Cor. 12, the prophet would say, "I'm nobody."

Mark 6:5: Faithlessness prevents the working of God's power. God never forces faith.

Mark 6:6: Jesus could have sung, "Amazing Doubt." But why was Jesus amazed?

Mark 6:6: Did Jesus' amazement stem from feeling that His past in Nazareth authenticated His present claims?

Mark 6:6, 10: Jesus always refrained from beating His head against walls.

Mark 6:7: No doubt, the disciples' ascribed authority was as limited by faithlessness as Jesus' underived authority.

Mark 6:8: Travel light. What does that say to our materialism?

Mark 6:12-13: The disciples did the same ministries that Jesus did (John 12:12-14).
You can join Twitter, which is free, here. This is where my tweets show up. (I'm going to try to regular do little micro-blogs there on the Bible lessons each week.) If you'd like to follow my tweeting, you can sign up to follow at the latter site.

Fourth of July Thoughts from One Lutheran Pastor

[I just composed this announcement for the Sunday bulletin of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, the congregation I serve as pastor. It seems to me that Christians should never want to impose their beliefs on others. But I also believe that Christians can be Christians in society without in any way threatening the freedoms of others.]

A Fourth of July Weekend Message from Pastor Mark
On this July 4th weekend, we thank God for a country in which, among other things, we are guaranteed the right to worship God (or even not to worship God) as we see fit. We can be thankful for America's other "greatest generation" for establishing the United States on two principles, each embodied in the two most important documents of our nation's history. In the Declaration of Independence we find the principle of liberty or freedom. In the Constitution is the principle of mutual accountability and responsibility. The Founders and Framers knew that liberty without responsibility is chaos and that responsibility without liberty is tyranny.

The Lutheran Confessions have always seen governments as necessities in a world that has fallen into sin. Without governments, Martin Luther said, Christians walk through the world like lambs among ravenous wolves.

But, in fact, the Christian is always free through Jesus Christ, no matter what rules, just or unjust, the world may impose on them. We are freed from sin, death, and futility. Knowing that we belong to God for all eternity, we are freed to be fully human beings who love God and love neighbor, even putting others' interests above our own. But, out of love for God and neighbor and in order to preserve that order without which there can be no justice, the Christian seeks to obey just governments and laws.

Lutheran heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by a Nazi firing squad during World War 2, have shown us that when governments become unjust, as happened in Germany under Hitler, the Christian also has an obligation, out of love for God and neighbor, to stand against tyranny.

On this weekend when we Lutheran Christians express our love for America, we might well embrace a maxim given in the late-1960s by a US admiral, at the height of the Vietnam War: "Not 'My country, wrong or right,' but, 'My country: When right to keep it right; when wrong to make it right."

As Christians, we believe that we can only make America go right when we personally follow Jesus Christ and follow His commands as we participate lovingly and respectfully in a society that, under the wonderful freedom we enjoy in the United States, includes people of many different religious beliefs. For that reason, I hope that your Fourth of July won't only be, "God bless America," but also and more importantly, "America, bless God."

In 2 Chronicles 16:9, we find these words, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him.." As followers of Jesus blessed to live in America, may we be true to the God we know in Jesus Christ. As we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, may we always remember that our highest allegiance is to our God and King, revealed to all the world in Jesus Christ.