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Archive for January, 2016

The Religion of Politics and Vice Versa part 2.

caucus

Watching the debates and what is happening in the political area I realized that I am an old fuddy duddy.  In my circles we have been talking about what we see unfolding around us for at least 20 years.  What we saw coming down the pike those many years ago was the possibility of an institutional religion in which we were constantly shuffling back-and-forth between one set of priorities, principles, emphasis, programs, and activities, that would somehow align us altogether in the one holy Christian Apostolic Church. What we saw coming was the gradual push of Christianity out of the central place in American life, if it ever was there in the first place, to a menu driven society in which church was one of many options that people could pick and choose from. In that nightmare scenario preaching better be excellent, liturgy better be involving an enlightening and memorable. In other words preachers had better be the best they can be, and congregations had better follow suit. Or to put it another way, congregations better be the best they can be, and they need to force their called ministers to do the same. What we also foresaw was a coming system whereby politics would become the new religion. Luther had his struggles with a definition of what “is” means, I wonder if he could’ve foreseen having a president of United States standup in public and say something like “it all depends on what the meaning of “is”, is”.

What we saw coming was a world in which language was uncoupled from its  “normal” usage, so that there was no common way of witnessing, proclaiming, or even conversing among different groups of people.  It was a concern that is been around for a long time, this idea of “communicating across huge gaps of identity, huge chasms of difference.”

A year before I was born, Stephen Spender wrote an observation from the 30s – “to divide humanity into irreconcilable groups with it irreconcilable attitudes having no common language of truth and morality, is, ultimately, to rob both groups of their humanity. They will be inhumane first to one another, and lastly to their own followers.[1]   Todd Gitlin wrote about the politics of the world in flux. He predicted the inability of the left and right to talk sanely about any issue because as he said, “identity politics confronts a world in flux and commands it to stop”, while fundamentalists look at identity politics as an instrument of the “elite”.  The most telling statement is that “what frightens both is the flimsy nests of a culture where everything is in motion”.[2]

People who study such things wring their hands over the difficulties we find ourselves in by trying to boil it down to one simple state of affairs. Is the problem individualism? Individualism promotes disaffection and ultimately the conviction that reasoned argument is not possible because each individual is entitled to his or her conception of the good which is not commensurate by definition with everybody else’s”.[3]

If these folks had been paying attention to the curmudgeons, the old fuddy-duddy’s among them, they may have actually come across a little thing called the doctrine of original sin.  They might have heard somewhere that Christ is the answer and His death on the Cross transforms life vocation.  Those who did hear those words and took them seriously understood that sin as a personal affront to a personal God had to be redefined as public sin.  They have succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations.

[1] Steven Spender, “World With in the World, the autobiography of Steven spender. New York St. Martin’s 1994 136

[2] Todd Gitlin, “The Twilight of Common Dreams, Why America is Wracked by the Culture Wars. New York, Holt, 1995 page 223.

[3] Carolyn Miller, Rhetoric and Community; the Problem of the One and the Many” defining the new rhetoric. Ed. Teresa Enos and Stewart see Brown, Newberry Park California: Sage, 1993 pages 79-94.

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The Religion of Politics and Vice Versa.

bernieI liked the sentiment of this sign until I realized it wasn’t about me.  I suffer from the great disease that we have been infested with for generations and that is that “it” whatever “it” is  always about us. We are hearing it again in Iowa.  The people back home want politicians to go to Washington and get things done for them.  The ruling class would be very upset if voters said “please go back to Washington and do nothing”but after listening to what passes for debates and the breathless nonsense uttered by some pundits, I have started to notice a fear that is creeping into the more thoughtful of the political class.  When I say political class I mean the so called establishment on both sides of the aisle.  Both sides have contributed in their own way to the secularization of society to the point where the government has replaced God.  I am getting the sense that both sides are starting to fear what they hath wrought.

Jefferson once said that “any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have”.  The established class has always gotten along with Democrats giving away stuff and the Republicans saying they shouldn’t.  Then the Republicans are accused of hating the old and the infirm and lame and halt and blind.  Then the Republicans capitulate and do the same the Democrats do only slower.  They have survived in an uneasy equilibrium with Republicans getting to the Presidency when the Democrats have screwed up foreign affairs to the point where people, even the ones who are getting all the freebies, start to get scared.  They come into office, get some semblance of order in the world and then the  Dems convince everyone that the military is getting too many of the goodies that they should be getting and the cycle starts  again.

It has been a great run since the heady days of FDR.  Musical chairs in the White House and nothing really changes.  Reagan came close to making huge changes but even he came to realize that the real establishment is the Government bureaucrat and unionized employees.  I get the sense that the folks that have become the permanent ruling class are afraid that people might actually be ready to lay back and let the government take care of them.  The have forgotten the one thing that they keep touting as so needed and that is public education.  They are finally getting the picture of what several generations of publically funding education has actually produced and they are worried.  In fact I think they are terrified.

Generations that came from a secularized public education live in an era of numbing fear and enfeebled hope, their mood bordering very closely on despair, or on a hubris that defies comprehension.  They have in many ways had their faith secularized out of them. They have come to believe that in the public realm all can be taken care of. They see their Christian faith, if they have any, being worked out by others in the political arena. When those able lights settle over their social hopes the great themes of history are boiled down to stop bullying, take care of women’s health, free higher education, and the right to be “happy”.  When the church tries to remind them of the limits of human effort and the pervasiveness of sin they listen to us the way they listened to their Junior High instructors.  We fade into the music of the smart phones and Candy Crush Sagas.

There is another reality out there and that is that Christ is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  He is the Lord of History and they are a part of it.  The problem is that they have no idea what History is and what it means because it extends as far back as they remember and that is not very far at all.

What is the churches answer?

We will try and figure this out as we go.

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Project 24, Missions, and Catechesis

Rongo

Yesterday I wrote this – Rachel Meyer, a missionary serving in Taiwan, will be coming to our Rongo site and assisting the school for two weeks.  She presently serves as a missionary teacher, so she will be bringing her skills to Rongo;  helping in the classrooms, teaching music, as well as assisting the deaconess in Catechesis  Instruction.

 

Some one asked about catechesis and what that meant.  Missions involves planting churches.  We believe that Lutheran Missions means planting Lutheran churches.  When churches are planted then indigenous churches are formed and eventually become independent and they become partner churches.  The LCMS has always been big on education and catechetical instruction and that means preparing folks for the Lords’ Supper.  Sometimes partner churches ask fro assistance in training for folks who teach the catechism.

Detlev Schulz in his book Mission From the Cross published by CPH explains the formation of catechesis in a mission context.

“Although the Lord’s Supper is not a “missionary” sacrament as Baptism is, it gives a public testimony to the world that something special is taking place amid the believers. There is an exclusivity experienced with the celebration of the Eucharist that cannot permit all newcomers indiscriminately to the table without ascertaining who they are and from what background they come. For the Eucharist is a sacrament
reserved for those who are baptized and instructed. In this sense, being admitted to the Lord’s Supper is a consequence of proper Christian education (didache) and, as such, an application of Matt. 28:19 that they all may be “taught” in what Christ Himself has taught.”

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Project 24 and Meyers

rachel meyer Rachel Meyer, a missionary serving in Taiwan, will be coming to our Rongo site and assisting the school for two weeks.  She presently serves as a missionary teacher, so she will be bringing her skills to Rongo;  helping in the classrooms, teaching music, as well as assisting the deaconess in Catechesis  Instruction.  I don’t know if she is from Minnesota or not,

While the children at the Project 24 sites were away on holiday during the month of December, this was the opportune time for the site managers to continue with their renovations and sustainability projects.  How did they do?  They all did very well!  We were happy to receive great reports from each site, showing us that the monies received were put to good use.  The reports included:  cows producing milk for the children, chicken houses constructed, new computers purchased for their offices, painting and repairs done on furniture and buildings, new stoves purchased, storage facilities built, clean water made available and planting of new crops.  John Kissinger, our Project 24 director, was also able to visit each site and talk with each site manager.  This was a great opportunity for the site managers to showcase their progress and share their future goals for their site. Also, this month, a Catechetical Club Steering Committee was formed and they had their first meeting.  This committee will now be in charge of organizing the annual ELCK P24 Catechetical Club (formerly known as the Bible Club Competition).  They have come up with new and creative ideas for the next Club meeting which will be held in April. We are also pleased with the continued communication between the ELCK leadership, the site managers, and our East Africa Field Office.  Everyone has appreciated the transparency and honesty conducted by everyone.  This has truly strengthened the relationships within the church and for this we are thankful.

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Minnesota Missionaries at Project 24 Sites

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We love touting the Minnesota North and North Dakota connections on this site The Meyers grew up on farms in west central Minnesota. Linda graduated from Concordia College in St. Paul, MN, with a degree in elementary education. Delano graduated from North Dakota State School of Science with an associate degree in civil engineering. The Meyers farmed in Minnesota from 1973-1993. From 1994-2000 the Meyers served as agricultural missionaries and missionary counselors in Ghana, West Africa. During 2000-2003 Delano was the LCMS area director for the English-speaking countries of West and southern Africa.

Here is a report from the Project 24 managers.

Collaboration is Key This year marks the beginning of our collaboration with short term missionaries serving at our Project 24 sites.  A few weeks ago, we were happy to receive Delano and Linda Meyer, former career missionaries who now come to Kenya once a year to teach agricultural practices to local farmers.  In their most recent visit, they were able to come to three of our sites:  Rongo, Othoro and Tumaini.  These two sites are now growing  their own crops to help feed the children as well as create sustainability for their programs.  Delano and Linda gave instruction to not only the board of management, Southwest Diocese leadership, site managers and caregivers but also to the children and congregants of the local church.  This helps the children and local community be responsible and learn how to grow their own food, which is very common for people who live in this area.   Next month, Rachel Meyer, a missionary serving in Taiwan, will be coming to our Rongo site and assisting the school for two weeks.  She presently serves as a missionary teacher, so she will be bringing her skills to Rongo;  helping in the classrooms, teaching music, as well as assisting the deaconess in Catechesis  Instruction. We are truly blessed to have these short term visitors come and be a part of the development and training at our Project 24 sites.

 

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Sticklers for Propriety

Luke 13 a

There is a strange story in Luke 13 –

10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.

15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

 

There are plenty of people like this stickler for propriety and form (the ruler of
the synagogue), and if you want to find men blind as bats to the manifest tokens of a
divine hand and hard as millstones towards misery, and utterly incapable of glowing
with enthusiasm or of recognizing it, you will find them among ecclesiastical
martinets, who are all for having ‘things done decently and in order,’ and would
rather that a hundred poor sufferers should continue bowed down than that one of
their regulations should be broken in lifting them up. The more men are filled with
the spirit of worship, the less importance will they attach to the pedantic
adherence to its forms, which is the most part of some people’s religion.”
(Alexander Maclaren.)

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Project 24 and “Self Help”.

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Concordia Publishing House has once again done us all a great service with the publication of Detlev Schulz “Mission from the Cross”. in a lay readers edition.  Great stuff.  Now that Project 24 is back on track we get some of the same old questions as to whether of not our efforts are “worth it”. Here is a quote from the full edition of “.Mission from the Cross”.

“The Church’s mission and that of every Christian is unselfish in nature; it focuses
on the neighbor’s welfare, regardless of his need and situation and without strings
attached. Christians might not always be prepared to assist others unconditionally.
Unfortunately, the Church and Christians often offer their assistance as a form of
“self-help,” to the end that those receiving assistance demonstrate a willingness to
improve their own condition! If they fail to gain control over their own lives, they
do not deserve to be helped any longer. Moreover, preachers often offer Christians
the Gospel as a self-help tool so that if they truly believe and follow its
principles, they will learn to be “rich, healthy, and trouble free.” Those who do
not show such improvement are blamed for their lack of faith. Alternatives to the
unconditional help of one’s neighbor stem from the secular and political sphere and
have little to do with the cross of Christ. Whereas business ventures and other
worldly expectations confidently base their strategies on self-attainable goals and
make prognoses of future success, Christian spirituality cannot entertain such
expectations. It alone can appreciate thankfully the rewards of earthly and
spiritual life as a gift from God.”

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Project 24 Moves Forward – Christ Cares for Children Kenya

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Here are pictures of Tumaini –

Project 24 as we have explained is the construction piece for Boarding schools.  1001 Orphans used to be the child care portion.  The new child care piece is called Christ Cares for Children Kenya –

this from Britt Odemba

We are well here in Kenya.  The sun is shining and we are beginning our
warm season here in Kenya.  I know that some of you in “cold country” will
be envious.  As we always say, you are most welcome to come to Kenya and
visit :).

With it being a new year, the Kenyan schools have also started a brand new
school year.  The children of Project 24 have moved up to the next class.
For those who finished grade 8, they are either continuing on into high
school or looking into vocational schools.  The Project 24 sites are also
welcoming new students as some of the ones from last year have graduated
out of the program.  This is an exciting time for our students as well as
for the site managers who continue to care for them.

We will be launching our child sponsorship program, Christ’s Care for
Children;  Kenya this year.  We are starting to gather the information
needed for the program as well as training the Project 24 site managers as
to how this program will be run.  More information will be given to you as
we finalize all of the details.

A newsletter will be sent at the end of this month, sharing current
information of each site.  In the mean time, we wanted to remind you of
some upcoming events:

The State of Project 24 Forum will be held on Feb. 17th and 20th at Othoro.
The Bible Competition will be held on March 31st to April 3rd at Rongo.

May God continue to bless you and keep you!  We look forward to a new and
productive year!

In Christ,
Britt Odemba

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Project 24 Moves Forward – Lutherans Engage.

Lutherans engage

This from Erik M. Lunsford writing in “Lutherans Engage the World”,  January – February 2016

“Under the shadow of a chiseled cross built in a church on a quiet compound near Kisumu, Kenya, boys in matching navy-blue tracksuits stand in line, bow their heads, clasp their hands and sing, their liturgical-sounding voices defying their lanky bodies.

These are the boys of the Othoro boarding-school facility, one of four primary school boarding facilities in Kenya operated with assistance from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Now the Synod’s new initiative “Christ’s Care for Children: Kenya” provides the opportunity to sponsor children like the boys from the Othoro school.

“The project has as its primary focus the clear proclamation of the Gospel into the ears of our children such that they can become the ambassadors of the Gospel to their families, clans and communities,” said the Rev. Shauen Trump, LCMS area director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The boarding-school sites were built as part of Project 24, a partnership between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), the LCMS Office of International Mission and various LCMS individuals and organizations.

The schools provide a Christ-centered, loving, caring and safe environment for vulnerable children who might otherwise not be able to attend school or who might be at risk for dropping out of school. Children also receive free tuition, medical care and meals.”

Thank you to Erik for this great article.  You can get it on line.  Just google Lutherans Engage the World and it will pop up.  I will talk about the partnership of Christ Care for Children in Kenya and Project 24 later.

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The Victories of Diplomats.

So the Iranians wanted more money and we are proud that we only gave them over a billion.  They wanted more prisoners and we are proud that we only had to give them a few criminals in exchange for innocents.  Our Sailors were made to kneel and were captured on the sea and on film, and we are proud that the Iranians let them go because of diplomacy.

I told an acquaintance to batten down the hatches because there is going to be a bunch of kidnappings coming down the pike and lo and behold we wake up to find that folks were kidnapped in Baghdad yesterday.

Kidnapping is an ancient way of life in the near East.  One of the great stories of God’s promises is in Genesis 15 when God reiterates the promise that He made to Abraham.  It comes at a time when Abraham (Abram) has rescued his nephew who had been kidnapped and should have been elated and instead is depressed and frightened.  I am sure that he was afraid that the kidnappers who were fairly powerful Kings would come back for revenge.  God speaks to him the first time in the Bible words that will be said over and over – “Don’t be afraid”.  God says that He is Abrahams shield and great reward.  He reestablished the covenant that He had made before.  Abraham in a sense had redeemed his nephew and returned him safely but he did it by destroying the kidnappers.

Josephs brothers were conspirators in a kidnapping and they were “evil”, yet God turned it to good (Genesis 50).

In Exodus the Law concerning kidnapping was death.

Of course we might want to dismiss any offense if we read 1 Timothy 1:8-12.  Everybody gets pretty much wrapped up in the condemnation.

So that is what we do – dismiss any kind of judgment except on those who would make a judgement.

I am happy for the released captives that will be going home.

I am happy for their families and I grieve for their years of grief and pain.

I hope I am wrong but my guess is that we are going to see a lot of kidnapping going on.

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