Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

or, old long-since. The poem by Robert Burns is of friends past and present and of the goodness and kindness which we hope follows them and the memories we keep.

Here's my favourite version of the song, sung by Eddi Reader.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my jo (or my dear),
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

One of the things that this past season of Advent has pressed upon me is that I do not look enough to Jesus. What I forget is that everything points to him. I don't mean I literally forget, but I get distracted, and oftentimes what or whom is directing my attention to Christ ends up the receiver of my focus. When I read of Adam and Eve, of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac, of Moses and the law, of Deborah and the other Judges, David and the Kingdom of Israel, the Prophets, Luke's Gospel, Paul's letters, they all point to Jesus. Jesus said, "If you've seen me you've seen the Father.", yet I tend to focus everywhere else, even on things which are good, such as family, doctrine, health, service, etc.

I need to remember that Jesus is the source of all that is good and just and loving and life. What better time to than Christmas, when so much of the world is pointing, to really look, not at who is pointing, (or not pointing for that matter), but to whom they point. 

Everything begins and ends in Jesus. Amen.

"Of the Father's Love Begotten"
by Aurelius C. Prudentius, 413, cento
Translated by John. M. Neale, 1818-1866
and Henry W. Baker, 1821-1977

1. Of the Father's love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

2. Oh, that birth forever blessed
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race,
And the Babe, the world's Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face
Evermore and evermore.

3. O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

4. This is He whom Heaven-taught singers
Sang of old with one accord;
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word.
Now He shines, the Long-expected;
Let creation praise its Lord
Evermore and evermore.

5. Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday In Advent 2011

The lectionary readings for today are:

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm: Luke 1:47-55 (Luke 1:46b-55 NRSV)
Psalm (Alt.): Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Second Reading: Romans 16:25-27
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

I love the Gospel according to Luke, and while I have every intention of completing a series on this gospel at some point, I'll take a bit of what a future post may contain to mark this day.

In the society in which Mary lived, she would have been pretty much a nobody: poor, a female and unmarried. To get much lower, one would have had to have been an expendable, basically a beggar or leper. Now, she was not alone, most of society were peasants, but she would have been much more vulnerable than a married man in that class. Yet it is she who  found favor with God. Displayed for us is the thread woven throughout scripture, that God is no respecter of persons. In fact, he seems to always be turning our ideas of status upside down. Here, before Jesus, God incarnate, is conceived, the lessons he will teach on his earthly life are being taught already through a peasant Jewish girl.

When confronted with the message from the angel Gabriel, that she will bear a son, Mary asks for no sign, but for understanding. The angel Gabriel graciously gives her both, understanding in how the God most High will overshadow her and a sign in that her elderly cousin Elizabeth has conceived and will have a son.

Nothing is impossible with God, not for Mary, and not for us.

Mary places her life in God's hands.

Lord give me not a sign, but trust and understanding.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn’t Be Senior Pastors

Borrowed this from Eagle, a frequent commenter over at IMonk.

For those who are familiar with the arguments as to why women shouldn't be pastors or ministers, (despite the fact that women were prophets, deacons apostles and teachers in the early church), this list puts them in a whole new light.

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be an ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday In Advent 2011

The lectionary readings for today are:
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm: Psalm 126
Psalm (Alt.): Luke 1:47-55 (Luke 1:46b-55 NRSV)
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28

This Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. I don't know how much rejoicing we do these days in our culture. It seems to me we mostly anesthetize our emotions, largely by distraction, so as to not feel too much pain, but that also means we do not feel much joy. We seem surprised when either come upon us, but how we are undone when they do! I pray that God diverts me from my diversions, so that I may know the joy and hope that Mary expresses.

The video below is from Sheppard's Magnificat.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saint Nicholas

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas. I've always loved Santa Claus. In fact, when I learned that there was no Santa Claus while in second grade, I simply refused to believe it. Later, I learned that my stubbornness was not without reason. There really had been a Santa Claus, though the name has morphed and he was much more than a jolly old man. He was a Christ follower, a Christian, and all the legends of gift giving and magic were true in the best sense. Nicholas of Myra was a wealthy man whose faith in Christ transformed his life to one of self sacrifice and healing.

During this Advent season, how wonderful it is to remember this faithful man who came before us. This is what I love about the communion of saints. He is as real today as he was over 1500 years ago. Sometimes a child's stubborn faithfulness is a good thing.

Here's a video clip of the real story of this beloved man.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday In Advent

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
   he gently leads those that have young.
Today's lessons are:

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (13)
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

These are incredibly beautiful and hopeful passages reflecting God's goodness, mercy and love, and ones that I need to hear. When so often my thoughts about God reflect more a hard taskmaster or a distant lawmaker, I need to be reminded that we have a Father who is patient, merciful and makes everything right, whether from Isaiah's words that rough places will be made smooth and our sins have been paid for, or Peter describing the destruction of the heavens and earth when all will be exposed and making way for the new heavens and new earth.

Mark tells us it is John, son of Elizabeth and Zachariah who is the voice from Isaiah. Having waited hundreds of years, Israel finally hears what they have longed for; the Messiah is near, so be prepared. Peter repeats this theme. Wait patiently and be prepared. He will come and all will be made right.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, C.S. Lewis

Today is C.S. Lewis's birthday. Born 113 years ago, the impact he has had on the Christian world is immeasurable. From his ability to speak across denominational lines, to his facility to communicate to both the specialist and the commoner, and to his prolific writing across many genres, including fantasy, theology, scholarly criticism and poetry, his is a singular achievement.

Below are two recordings of his voice when giving his broadcast talks over the BBC during World War II. It is said that his voice was one of the most recognized voices in England at the time, second only to Winston Churchill.

There are very few recording of his voice remaining. There are a couple more, besides the following, one of a lecture he gave and another a modified version of his book, The Four Loves.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent In Two Minutes

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. I especially like the line,
If you're sick of Christmas by December 25 then you're not doing Advent correctly.

Thanks, Tresa.

Another good one.

Advent Conspiracy 2011 Promo
- Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

H/T Barb

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday In Advent 2011

The lectionary readings for the first Sunday in Advent are as follows:

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (7)
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

The predominate focus of these scriptures is on the Parousia. What strikes me about the passage in Mark is Christ's analogy of a man leaving his servants with an assigned task. In all of Jesus' instructions about the final judgment, the criteria is not how correct are one's beliefs, but how one served. We in the church place a good amount of time concerning ourselves with correct doctrine, and that is important because how we believe informs how we live, spend our time and understand reality, but it is Christ who transforms. Truth that arrives not just in doctrines or statements or creeds, but truth in the flesh, God incarnate.

Today is the first Sunday in the church year. I gathered together with other Christians to be the Church in receiving Christ's body and blood in order to be transformed so that I may reflect Christ's light to the world. In this season of Advent, when we remember the prophets and their telling of the one who would come to save, even as we look for his return, I want to take more seriously how Christ is transforming me and be about the task he has given.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Here's a lovely series of photos by photographer Jim Crotty set to the Shaker song, Simple Gifts, performed by Alison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma.

As the church year is ending, it is a good time to remember just how many blessings we have received. May the Lord continue to bless us with grace and goodness.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Saw this wonderful quote attributed to Archbishop Rowan Williams over on Ian Morgan Cron's blog in the comments:
The Church is what happens when a group of believers come under the pressure of Jesus.
Feeling pressured? I am. Perhaps it is the weight of glory, being conformed to Christ.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Saints' Day

How it thrills me when I hear the words of the Liturgy, "Therefore with the angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven," for I know that she is there with the company of Heaven, the Communion of Saints, with the Lord. The nearer I come to my Lord in Holy Communion, the nearer I come to the saints, to my own loved ones.....

Do learn to love the Altar as the meeting place with your beloved who have passed within the veil. Here again the Sacrament is the heart of our religion. The Blessed sacrament links us not merely to Bethlehem and Calvary, but to the whole world beyond the grave as well, for at the Altar, the infinite is shrined in the finite; Heaven stoops down to earth; and the seen and unseen meet.
Berthold Von Schenk

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lauren Winner

is coming to Roanoke! I read her first book, Girl Meets God, about ten years ago. It was raw and real and I loved reading every bit of it.

She will be speaking at Hollins University, November 9, at 7:00 PM.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dissatisfied And Not Loving It

I hope Dallas Willard it right. Over at IMonk on Monday, Chaplain Mike posted a quote of his:
It is spiritually formative to be dissatisfied and unable to resolve it.
If this is true, I think I'll should be pretty beautifully spiritually formed when this current funk ends. As of now I feel like a prepubescent with hands and feet too large as I clumsily try to move through life. Overall, the feeling is of being out of sync or off balance. A certain amount of this is normal for me. I've never fit any conventions very well, though after all the insecurities of adolescent and young adulthood, I've managed to deal with my oddities pretty well and am blessed to have a husband who actually loves them, well, most of the time anyway. This, however is not a matter of just being a little against the grain.

There have been outside forces which have contributed to this of course, but trying to figure out where that ends and my part begins seems pretty impossible. So, here I am, with a loving husband, family, friends yet a continued sense that something is off. In part, this is why I haven't written much these last few months, and as many of you will know, once something is put off, it becomes larger and insecurities grow. I want to be able to share hopefulness, goodness and beauty, but all I have is spiritual, unresolvable dissatisfaction.

So, I've decided to just go ahead and write, spiritually unresolved and all. Thanks for sticking with me, and perhaps after this season is over, I can right something more encouraging, maybe even a little bit beautiful and good, Lord willing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday, Emma!

Olivia and Emma
Wow! It is hard to believe that a full year has already passed since I posted this. Emma's life is much as one would expect a 15 year old's to be. She's been practicing driving off road with her dad and doing quite well, loves hanging out with her friends, clothes shopping, participating in church youth events and was confirmed on Pentecost Sunday this year. Some things, gratefully haven't changed. She still hangs with her little sister, Olivia, and her grandparents, has had the same best friends for years, dances and is wonderful with younger children. She is a blessing.

Happy birthday, lovely Emma! Here's to another wonderful year.

Monday, May 16, 2011


I came across this cartoon years ago in an NPR catalog and thought it hilarious. I saw it again today and thought I'd share. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Morning Has Broken

Most likely you're thinking of the song Cat Stevens recorded about now. It wasn't until I had children that I learned the song was originally a poem written by Eleanor Fargeon. She was a prolific writer of verse, and I remember reading in one of her compilations her lighthearted lament at not being a true poet, but simply a writer of children's verse. She viewed herself as not quite having the talent for which she yearned.

It is a common lament, to regret not reaching one's potential or experiencing one's dreams.  It is the way of the world. We go about life knowing we will not do or be all that we wanted or hoped.  In the middle of such ordinariness, Easter comes upon us, and I'm so appreciative of Jesus and how he revealed himself after the resurrection amidst the ordinariness of life. He met Mary in the garden, as she went about a task which was common in that society, the anointing of the dead. He met two disciples returning home from Jerusalem after Passover. Another ordinary time and ordinary task, along with a lot of confusion about what had happened to Jesus. They were walking and talking and Jesus walked and talked with them. He stood on the shore as a group fishermen, his friends, were trying to catch some fish and failing. In fact they had given up. He give instructions as to how to catch a boatload of fish and proceeded to make them breakfast. Every time, it was a chance for a new beginning, a new life. Morning had broken. The eighth day.

This year as we celebrate Easter, I want to remember this especially, that God calls us to be faithful, not fantastic. He accepts our everyday faithfulness, walks with us and will one day clothe us in splendor as we see him in glory. I want to remember a simple song which praises God our creator and gives us a glimpse of the new heavens and new earth, written by a woman who loved God enough to express it in a children's verse.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Will Follow

Not only is this the title to an early U2 song, but what Jesus calls us to do. It is not easy. To follow requires listening, watching, trusting and obeying. In a very real sense there are no leaders in the church, only followers. There are those who want to be leaders, but the problem with taking on the label and position of leader, is that one receives the focus and the faith of those who should be looking to and putting their faith in Jesus. For those called to be teachers, evangelists, apostles, etc., the call is not to lead, but to point, to say, "Come and see", not, "Follow me and we'll do great things."

David Horn writes how taking on big visions, big schemes from "leaders" in the church is just the opposite of what Jesus called us to do. He uses a quote from Bonhoeffer's book, Life Together to illustrate the pitfalls of taking on the role of leader.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.
I titled this post, I Will Follow, not because I do it well, or even want it well, but because Jesus has called. He has instructed his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom, to feed, to heal, to instruct, to serve, to become like children, to die to self, to love. This idea of leading is our own invention and desire, and one which I am prone to buy into. I think we in the church have done this because what Jesus calls us to do is just so hard. How much we must rely on his grace.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lorica Of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Sea

Atlantis rediscovered
A legend; perhaps not
Tsunamis wreaking havoc
Eternal we are not

The sea it will take over
Envelop all we see
Waves wash all and carry all
Nevermore to be

The longing in me pulses
As though in labour pains
Creation seeks its freedom
Heaven to regain

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some Thoughts For Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which is a movable forty day fast which correlates to the preeminent season of Easter, the fifty day feast.

So, why the ashes and why the fasting? The ashes are a sign of mourning and repentance. We humans are destined to death. Everything in our short life here on earth is leading to the inevitable time when our bodies give out. No matter how well we eat, how much we exercise or meditate, we are dying. Our 21st century western society would have us deny this fact. Simply observing various health campaigns, the emphasis on youth culture, the prevalence of plastic surgery and anti aging creams and lotions,  and the relegation of the elderly into institutions, it becomes clear that ours is a society in deep denial and avoidance of this very fact.

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, or our finiteness and of what has lead us to this inevitable destination. It places in the forefront, that it is sin which leads to death and is a call to repentance and in fact to new life. As the ashes are placed on our foreheads, we will be reminded that from dust we have come and to dust we will return. It is to shake us out of our daydream into reality. We wear the ashes as a reminder of our complicity with death and a sign of our repentance for that complicity. Job 42:3-6, Jeremiah 6:26, Daniel 9:3

The fasting during Lent reminds us of where our true desire lies and reorients our thoughts to where our true hunger is fulfilled, in God. To reorient is to repent, to accept God's forgiveness and to accept the Christ life that now lives within us.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble - because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.
We all are dying. The voluntary death to self leads to life. The grasping of life leads to death. Ash Wednesday and Lent makes us more aware of this choice and aids in orienting our lives to the only one who can give life.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy 10th Birthday, Olivia!

Today, my youngest enters into double digits. What a lovely and thoughtful person she is becoming. She loves animals, particularly horses and has now completed her first horse tournament, placing second in Walk and Trot Equitation in her age group. She dreams of running a farm and is becoming quite the pianist. Kindness, loyalty and diligence are qualities which immediately come to mind when describing her.

Happy birthday, dear, sweet daughter!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saint Valentine's Day

Happy Saint Valentine's day.

While it would be easy to be cynical about the commercialism or possible legendary origins of the holiday, I want to focus on what good may come out of celebrating a day such as this. Though most of the stories revolving around Saint Valentine cannot be verified beyond a doubt, some stories ring true.  One story goes that Claudius II outlawed marriage in order to fill the ranks of his army for his unpopular military campaigns.  Just from viewing the coins from his reign, one can see that security was a top priority for the emperor. It is told that Valentine, or Valentinus, defied the order and married young couples anyway. Another story that rings true is that the emperor actually liked Valentinus, but ordered the priest executed after he tried to convert him. Still, one story that seems more legendary, but that I would not dismiss out of hand is how Valentinus performed the miracle of healing the daughter of one of his jailers.  There is a lovely children's book which tells a story around this act, titled, Saint Valentine.

So, how can we best celebrate the life of this saint?  I think we can celebrate this day by truly showing our love for one another. There is the idea of romantic love which is wonderful and exciting, but even this is but a shadow if it is not built upon acts of sacrifice and giving of oneself. In fact, if one were to go back to the roots of romantic love, and not just the shadow we see perpetuated in our culture today, it is built on placing the other above the self, or as Aristotle said of love, it is "to will the good to another for the other's sake". Is this not the very thing that makes a good marriage, or any good relationship? Of the characteristics I have found in common with good, strong marriages, that each spouse thinks the other is the self-giving partner in the relationship, seems to me the very best.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Songless Sect

Patrick Mitchell, an Irish blogger, attended a lecture given by Daniel Dennett, well know anti-theist. He was struck by how the lecture was couched in religious terms, even to the point of introducing atheistic hymns.  It would appear that all humans are creatures of faith and worship, or as Bob Dylan sang, you're gonna have to serve somebody. Here's what Mitchell writes about that portion of the lecture. 
He even played a couple of secular gospel hymns, complete with lyrics like “Bowing to reason we stand together” and “We’ve turned the page, don’t be afraid of the world we’re creating, come on in …” [He said he played these in the States and the crowd was up singing and partying - not a person even twitched in Dublin. An atheist questioner afterwards pleaded with him to drop the 'brutal' music and try comedy as a route to joy].
I guess Dennett hasn't heard yet that atheists don't have no songs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Not Ranting And Raving, But Convicted

Over at IMonk, Jeff Dunn is doing a bit of ranting and raving, and really, I don't blame him.  As I have been studying the Gospel of Luke, I have become more and more convicted that I don't really follow Christ as he calls me to, and more than that, I for the most part do not see the church, at least here in America following him as he calls us either.

One of the things that I see relates to what Dunn is preaching against is the substitute of technique for obedience to our Lord.  It is the easy road and one that suits our society perfectly.  We are a technique oriented people. It is how we live.  It is how we control.  It is also the opposite of faith.

Have issues with money?  Well, my goodness, don't give it away and be overly generous out of love for God and man.  Disregard the widow and her two mites.  What a fool she was to not put at least 10% away in savings.  Jesus only meant for the rich, young ruler to give everything away, not anyone else.  He wouldn't ask that of you or me.  Look at all the Old Testament writings that encourage savings and thrift.  Just don't bother reading the prophets and of God's judgement because of not helping the poor and widows.  We're not greedy like those Israelites.  And don't get all excited about how the earliest church shared everything they had with one another.  That would be too radical and was only for that time and place anyway.  God wouldn't ask that of us.  Instead, follow this formula and watch your money grow!

Having marriage problems?  It has nothing to do with dying to self and submitting to one another out of love for Christ.  Nooooo.  It is really because the husband isn't being respected or the woman isn't being loved, or you just aren't having enough date nights, or you haven't set up the right boundaries, or you don't speak the other's love language, or, well you get the idea.

What if we really died to self and lived to Christ?  What if we gave so generously that none of our brothers and sisters in Christ were in need?  What if we sacrificed our comfort that the poorest in our community knew they didn't have to worry about their daily needs, because Christ's representatives lived near them and wouldn't let them be in want?  What if instead of worrying about being taken advantage of, we simply said, "Come."?

What would our marriages and families look like if we consistently put the other first?  What if we stopped worrying about our needs being met and instead sought out ways to serve the other?

What if we stopped searching for a magic formula and simply said, "I surrender.  I am a slave.  I have no rights.  My trust and my hope are entirely in the Lord."?

Do we take Jesus words seriously?  Do we really believe them?  I must not, because I do not follow them.  I cannot, because I do not daily take up my cross.  This is what Peter Kreeft calls moral insanity.  It is what Jesus says leads to death.  It is sin.

I am morally insane.  Jesus, come heal me.  I do not take up my cross.  Jesus, help me bear the burden.  I do not trust the one who gives life.  Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Gospel Of Luke: Introduction and Preface

Luke is widely held as the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Both tradition and internal evidence upholds this view. Though neither book names its author, the author places himself in the story in Acts as a companion to Paul, and three of Paul’s letters, Colossians, Philemon and II Timothy refer to him as his companion.

There is a wide range of thought as to when the Gospel of Luke was written, most within the range of 60 – 90 AD. I hold to a date around the early to mid 60’s for two reasons: Neither the death of Paul nor his letters, (they were more widely distributed in the latter years), are mentioned in Luke’s account. Luke also sees the need to give a defense of the gentiles place in God’s plan, which there would be little need for if it had been written at a later date.

Lucas, or Luke, is probably an abbreviation of the name Lucanus. From this name and the fact that he was a physician, it is thought by some that he may have been a slave.  Slaves at this time in the Roman Empire were sometimes given a shortened or nickname of their master, and in wealthy families, a slave was often chosen to be educated in medicine to be the family doctor.

That Luke was educated is obvious from his writings.  Both the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles are written in a higher literary style than the other New Testament books. The allusions to the Septuagint in his gospel and the Hellenistic narrative form both of his books take testify to his intelligence and education.

His grasp of the Septuagint is so great, that it is assumed that he was either a Gentile proselyte or a God-fearer like Cornelius or the Centurion from Luke 7. He was not likely born a Jew, as Paul lists him among the uncircumcised in his letter to the Colossians.

Tradition holds that Luke was from Antioch in Syria. He enters the story in Acts when Paul, Silas and Timothy reach Troas, 50. From there he goes with them to Philippi, 50-57, and remains there. He then journeys with Paul to Jerusalem, 57-61, and then onto Rome, 61.

He is referred to in Acts 16:11-18, 17:1, 20:5-21:18, 27:1, 28:1, 12-16, and by Paul in Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11, and Philemon vs.23&24.

History – Luke’s gospel is often viewed as historic narrative. His style, particularly in the preface of the gospel follows Hellenistic form for the historic narrative in this general time period, similar to Josephus.

Theology – Luke tells the story not only to be accurate and to convey facts, but to place them in an order to comprehend their meaning better. There are major strands woven throughout this gospel: God’s sovereignty and faithfulness, mission of Jesus as he comes against cosmic forces which are opposed to God, Christ as messiah, servant, prophet, king, son of man, and Lord, Holy Spirit, cross, etc.

Narrative theology - This is a term used by Michael Travers to describe the genre Luke uses.It is truth told. The reason to use the narrative, to tell the stories, is to bridge the head and the heart using the imagination. Luke’s writing style weaves history, prophecy, teachings, drama and parables in order to cause the reader to understand their meaning, not just to know the facts.

The purpose in understanding the genre is because it tells us what to expect.If we see Luke as simply a history book, we will look for facts, places, dates, etc. If we look at it as simply theology, we will likely look for doctrinal propositions and categories. If we look at it as a story, a true story, but a story none the less, we can then become part of it. A reader is always a part of the story. We can identify with characters, we can imagine the settings, we can be there, and in doing so, we can meet Jesus and let his words and actions change us.

The Uniqueness of Luke
Luke is considered one of the synoptic gospels because of its similarity to both Matthew and Mark, but it is also quite unique.  It is the longest gospel, with twenty four chapters. Along with Acts, Luke’s writings are a full ¼ of the New Testament. There are at least nine parables, five teachings, and seventeen narrative accounts which are in Luke alone. He also emphasizes feasts/food, women, the poor, the outcast, children, gentiles, the Temple /Jerusalem, prayer and God’s sovereignty.

Luke also serves as a bridge, between Jews and Gentiles and Jesus ministry and the church.
It is the only gospel written by a gentile and the only gospel with a sequel. 

Luke 1:1-4

Luke’s preface follows closely the form of a Hellenistic historic narrative.Accuracy was important in such endevours, but so was good writing and storytelling to keep the reader engaged and aid in understanding.The preface set the tone.

Luke begins with acknowledging that others have attempted writing narratives of the things that have happened, perhaps Mark or Matthew. He mentions eyewitnesses who have delivered the accounts to them. This need not be limited to written accounts. Luke spent a few years in Jerusalem, where there must have been many who had been with Jesus. It would make sense that he gained much from female witnesses since his later accounts of the Nativity and details of Herod’s household would likely have been informed by Mary and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza. Most New Testament scholars have attempted to explain the differences between the synoptic gospels by suggesting a possible earlier source, Q (for quelle, or source), or for Matthew, another source called M, or for Luke, another source called L. These sources have often been thought of as written documents, but could very well have been the eyewitnesses or stories and traditions that had been relayed.

Luke sees it fitting that he should also make the attempt, perhaps one more orderly or for a wider audience.He addresses the letter to, most excellent Theophilus, a common name in that time, meaning God adorer or lover of God, who must have been of high rank or status by the way he is addressed and perhaps was Luke’s patron, commissioning this work. Luke states that his purpose in writing is to give an orderly, accurate account. This does not necessarily mean chronological order, but one that conveys the meaning and importance of the events which took place. He wants Theophilus and others who would hear or read what he has written to understand and be assured of the accuracy of what they have already been taught, so Theophilus must already be a believer.

References are:  Luke by Darrel Bock, The Gospel of Luke,Sacra Pagina by Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Joel B. Green, and of course, the Gospel of Luke.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back And Looking Forward

It can be a disappointing thing to begin a new year.  For me the promise of a new start is idealized while the living it out is not much different from the year before in most ways.  This past year was a bit of a lost one for me.  Not that it wasn't worthwhile, but I have been a bit directionless, dabbling a bit here, trying a bit there.  I tend to be a Jill of all trades and master of none anyway, but even more so this past year.

I'm trying to do better this time around.  A few weeks ago I sat down and wrote out both my activities and my goals.  I use the word goals very loosely.  Except for my daughters' educations, there are no firm plans to get from point A to point B.

What I have been participating in this past year is:
Teaching my daughters
Participated in a small homeschool coop
Daily household upkeep
Learning Koine Greek
Teaching a class on the Liturgy
Participated in an Thomas Aquinas study group
Church choir member
Chairman of the Adult Education team at church
Substitute teach for the Adult Sunday School
Communion bread baker
Communion assistant
This list looks and sounds more impressive than it is.  Many of these things are sporadic and don't really take up much time, but others are pretty time consuming.

My goal and/or hopes are:
Prepare daughters for college (This is the one that is a goal.)
Prepare myself for seminary  (This is more of a hope.)
Grow deeper in my understanding of God's word.
Develop artistic abilities.
In planning, this next year looks similar, the exceptions being, I'll now be teaching a class on the Gospel of Luke instead of the Liturgy and I have resigned from the choir.  The study of the Gospel of Luke has already been a real blessing and I hope to draw closer to Christ as I work through this.  Deciding to leave the choir surprised me in a way, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

There are some things that happened this year that were outside of the norm.  I continued to heal both physically and emotionally after losing our baby.  David fell from a ladder, breaking four ribs, a vertebrae and puncturing a lung.  Some friendships grew more distant and others grew closer.  My father suffered his fourth stroke.  This seems to be the stuff of life, but the past year packed in a bit more stuff than I'd have preferred.   Through it all though, I've found that while some people can be incredibly callous, most are kind, and some extraordinarily so, it makes a world of difference to have a good doctor who also has a nice personality and that even when it feels as though God is A.W.AO.L., he is there, walking alongside.