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Archive for October, 2016

Patience and Tribulation

luther-a
Luther still has the power to surprise and stun with his insights into human nature.  He has those insights because he was a student of the scriptures.  When we get mad at folks who irritate us, or when we have problems and get impatient, we blame the circumstances.  Luther says the circumstances show us what we are.  He says –
“Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend them or to tribulation. Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient. So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.”
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Scarecrows in the Garden.

crow1

 

Luther spent much of  his time trying to find a gracious God.  Once God opened his heart to sinner being made righteous through Christ and His death, his heart was lightened and lifted.  He recalled the section of the Divine Liturgy when pastor says “lift up you hearts”, and we respond, “we lift them up to the Lord”.  Luther then said that we should always be lifting our hearts.

Therefore, singing, talking, and whistling without this lifting up of your heart to God are as much like prayer as scarecrows in the garden are like people. The name and appearance might be there, but the essence is missing.” ― Martin Luther, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional

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Walther on Welfare/

welfare

Walther was the first President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  He said,  “A Christian congregation cannot simply claim that there are state funds for the poor and homes for them, which they also support . . . Here where Church and State are separated, the church should not allow its sole care for its poor to be taken away.” Walther certainly had in mind the poor within the congregation, but this also extends to the poor and needy outside the congregation. He goes on to say, “Indeed, each individual Christian should demonstrate his kind readiness toward everyone, also toward the stranger (including those of different belief) . . .from ” History Worth Repeating: C.F.W. Walther and Wilhelm Löhe on Mercy and the Church By Samuel P. Schuldheisz

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Reformation Thinking

new-creation

Paul says that we are a new creation in Christ.  We are free to look at things from a perspective outside of ourselves that is in a spacious place and not crouching in the narrow places.  I am no longer confined to what you think or say about me.  Who I am is determined by what God says of me. He created us by speaking, and he recreated by speaking as well. When God reconciles us to himself by forgiving our sins, he is not employing an accounting trick, but he is giving us a new identity. We are a new creation because he says we are.  We show the paucity of our language when as Lutheran preachers we narrow the Gospel down to the forgiveness of sins. The more expansive view is there if we think about and it is spelled out by Luther in the sixth chief part of the Small Catechism: “Where there is forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation”.

Our theology is certain Luther says “And this is the reason why our theology is certain: it snatches us away from ourselves and places us outside ourselves, so that we do not depend on our own strength, conscience, experience, person, or works but depend on that which is outside ourselves, that is, on the promises and truth of God, which cannot deceive.”[1]

[1] .  LW 26:387:

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Project 24 and Julie McManus

Julie tumaiani

I have had the wonderful opportunity to spend the past two weeks in Kisumu, Kenya at the Project 24 site, Tumaini.  This is a site that orphan, partial orphan, or high risk girls come to live.  There are 40 girls ranging from age 9-17 living here; they come from all areas in the Lake Diocese.  The girls attend a nearby school where they are currently finishing their studies for the year.  They had exams last week and this Friday, October 28th the school will be closing for the year.  At that time the girls living at Tumaini will head back to their homes until January.

I have been able to visit the school, as well as other ELCK (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya) sponsored schools during my time here.  I have also been able to visit two of the girls’ homes.
Keep praying for Julie and supporting her and our whole Kenya team as well as the Project 24 sites that exist and are being built.
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Slipping the Moorings and Keeping the Faith.

departure

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4 that the time of his departure was at hand.  The image is of a ship being unmoored and the ropes cast off so that it can set sail.  Paul knows that he is about to die.

At the end of his Christian course he knew of no other name, no other way, than Jesus, who had called him out of darkness to His marvelous light. He had not preached to others and himself become a castaway. He had kept the faith.. In the moment of death not that is the all-important factor that he has carefully preserved the true doctrine and defended it against all error and errorists. Every Christian, every pastor, must do that. That is God’s will and command. Yet the all-important thing in the hour of death is personal faith. This personal faith alone, which united him with Jesus, enabled Paul to fight the good fight, to finish his course. There can be no reasonable doubt that he had this personal faith in mind when he penned these majestic words of triumph and victory. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” Theodore Laetsch

 

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Thank You Bill.

clinton

Bill Clinton might actually have touched on the truth a few times in this election.  Once when he called Obamacare the craziest thing he has ever seen, and now when he went after old, grey haired white folks who are worried about illegal immigration.  Who is going to pay for your Social Security?  Of course some of us asked that question years ago when Democrats pushed through the legal death of millions of children who, had they grown would right now be paying into Social Security.  The idea that we have to illegally transport folks into this country and prey upon their fears and poverty in their own countries to prop our old age, and allow the millennials to live in their parents basements should be rather ghastly to thinking human beings.

So from one grey haired white guy to another thank you Bill for actually being honest for a change.  Of course you don’t have to worry about your Social Security, you have the Clinton Foundation.  Maybe someday you can slip up and tell us the truth about that operation.

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The Bane of Systematic Thought.

banquet

The Alfred E. Smith banquet was hilarious.  It showed the deep divide and really personal hatred that exists in this election.  I don’t know which is worse, the feeling that the candidates over the last few years attacked each other on the stage and played golf together the next morning, or the feeling that it was a good thing they took the cutlery away before the speeches last night or the candidates might have stabbed each other.

The line that every one moaned at was the one in which hatred of Catholics was brought up at a Catholic fund raiser.  It came from  a leaked email that said that conservative Catholics exhibited an “amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy”.  Pretty wild stuff.  So I guess the Clinton team likes unsystematic thought.  Backward gender relations are an amazing descriptor for a man and a women getting married that was a “natural” standard for thousands of years.  It goes to show what several generations of public education has wrought.  These pseudo intellectuals have indeed a different reality.  They make fun of Thomism and ideas like subsidiarity and they show themselves to be the children of Hegel and Hobbes.  G.K. Chesterton got them just right.  This again from Wikipedia, not to be confused with WikiLeaks…..

“Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody’s system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody’s sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense. Each started with a paradox; a peculiar point of view demanding the sacrifice of what they would call a sane point of view. That is the one thing common to Hobbes and Hegel, to Kant and Bergson, to Berkeley and William James. A man had to believe something that no normal man would believe, if it were suddenly propounded to his simplicity; as that law is above right, or right is outside reason, or things are only as we think them, or everything is relative to a reality that is not there. The modern philosopher claims, like a sort of confidence man, that if we will grant him this, the rest will be easy; he will straighten out the world, if he is allowed to give this one twist to the mind…”

As an unabashed Lutheran I have no truck with Thomism either.  Lutherans revel in paradox but not the type mentioned by Chesterton.  We are content to let God be God as He reveals Himself in the first commandment, and from there we recognize the radical nature of sin and grace.

There is not time or space to explain the theology of Thomas Aquinas.  People have spent their whole lives studying and teaching Thomism and never get to all of it, but to perhaps oversimplify it, Aquinas wants to “save” God’s justice and so brings in the idea of merits, which became the raison d’tre of the Reformation.  The great Reformation principle of “grace alone” ruins Thomism as a system.  Aquinas, like Einstein, wants to develop a theory of everything that explains everything.  Luther rejoices in paradox and never tries to resolve them.  He is content to let God be God and wait for the explanation in Heaven.  Aquinas wants to combine philosophy and theology and Luther is desperate to keep them separate.

So as a Lutheran let me leave you with a paradox from the Alfred E. Smith banquet.  The Catholic politicians seated in front and those that may have been in the audience have figured out a way to be members in good standing in the Catholic Church while at the same time ignoring some of the most important of the churches teachings, and to listen to nothing their priest says.

 

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“You could do worse, you always have!”

This presidential campaign from one perspective is absolutely hilarious.  If you have any sense of humor you have to sit back and laugh.  The so called press is truly apoplectic about Trump and have proven what many of us believe and that is that they are incapable of telling the truth about one of the parties.  The party that said there was no way that the Russians could have hacked emails are now convinced that the Russians are behind their nasty and embarrassing statements made public through WikiLeaks.  No one will admit there is voter fraud or voter intimidation even though there are folks out there on video admitting that they have committed fraud and will continue to do so again.  The comedy gets better when it is revealed that comedian Al Franken was probably elected by voter fraud and he was the deciding vote that made Obamacare the law of the land and now poor Minnesota is trying to make the best of a horrible situation.  Funny stuff coming from a state that is usually so busy trying to tell grocery stores they can’t use plastic bags and drivers bored to death in gridlock that they need to be nice to bicyclists, that the cost of heath care going through the roof because of something called the “Affordable Care Act” is last on a long list of issues.   All this stuff is of course considered off limits because we don’t want to besmirch the “sanctity of the electoral process”.  Now that should make peals of laughter ring through the land, but it gets better.  The hilarity really ensues when the stupid party lectures all of us on the fact that there can’t be voter fraud because Governors are in charge of elections.  Let’s see who are some famous governors?  Bill Clinton, George Wallace, Huey Long, Orville Faubus; right, there can’t be any shinanigans when governors are in charge.  But it gets even better!  A campaign bus dumped it’s full load of toilet contents on the street in a park somewhere and when people complained about it the campaign said that it was an “honest mistake”.  Besides the obvious reaction that this is what the campaigns have been doing to the whole country for a year, there is the less than obvious question of how many “dishonest mistakes” have they made?  But it gets even better.  This from Wikipedia – not WikiLeaks…………………….

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner is an annual white tie fundraiser for Catholic charities supporting needy children, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on the third Thursday of October. It is organized by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation in honor of former New York Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic presidential candidate; the dinner is hosted by the Archbishop of New York (currently Cardinal Timothy Dolan.)

 Alfred E. Smith in 1928.

The first dinner was in 1945, the year after Al Smith’s death. It is generally the last event at which the two U.S. presidential candidates share a stage before the election.[1] Apart from presidential candidates, keynote speakers have included Clare Boothe Luce, Bob Hope, Henry Kissinger, Tom Brokaw, Tony Blair, and many other prominent figures in government, business, the media, and entertainment.[2]

Ok you ask, why is this funny?  Because tonight is the dinner.  The candidate whose campaign has been shown to have nothing but contempt for Catholics will be there along with the guy that called her a “nasty women” last night, to which of course there was the collective gasp from the permanently disgruntled.  They are supposed to engage in “good natured sparring” and be funny.  By now we should all be rolling on the floor laughing so hard we can’t breath.  Just imagine this women who has no discernable sense of humor engaged in “good natured sparring” with a man who makes fun of everyone.  This could be the most classic “bit” yet.  Donna Brazile has remarked that the Russians probably doctored or wrote those leaked emails as she exhibited a hilarious mixture of righteous indignation and pure stupidity when she was asked why she leaked a debate question to a debate participant.  So maybe the Russians, well known for their sense of humor can leak a few jokes to Hilary so that she can engage in cute banter.

But it gets even better for me because for whatever kind of synapse overlap, I have been calling the Alfred E. Smith dinner the Alfred E. Neuman dinner (sometimes I just crack myself up.)  I spent valuable time this morning looking up why I might have made this mistake.  What kind of strange thing was going on in my brain that made me get this in my head?  My humor goes to the comedic styling of Dan Cole, the Common Man on KFAN radio out of Minneapolis, (my guess is that he doesn’t find Al Franken funny either although I could be wrong since he is a Minnesotan) and the high brow sophisticated humor of Mad Magazine.  That is where it came from.  Buried deep in my subconscious was the magazines mascot, Alfred E. Neuman running for president with an election placard that read — “You could do worse, you always have!”

Priceless.  Remember that when you cogitate the “sanctity of the electoral process”.

alfred e neumanYou could do worse – you always have.

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Set Your Hearts on Things Above.

colossians 3

It is getting harder today to remember what the Apostle Paul said about us if we are believers.  He says in Colossians 3 that we died with Christ and the life we live we live in Christ who is seated at the right hand of God.  We should set our hearts and minds on things above where Christ rules.  It is getting harder and harder to do that because the world and our own flesh tend to want to navel gaze and focus on stuff that really is pretty silly.  When Paul says that we should “set our hearts” on things above it is truly an interesting concept.  The word Paul uses comes from two words put together.  The first comes from the description of areas around the heart and it gives us the concept of “insight”.  We look inward and our visceral reactions to something work out in action.   So the idea is that because we know in our hearts that Christ died and rose again and that we will appear with him in Glory our actions in this world are such that we live and act as folks who live in eternal life now.

My Greek grammar says that this word combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.  When we speak from the heart, our words should show that God who is greater than our hearts helps us focus.  When we viscerally react to what people say or do and want to react in anger we should “lift up our hearts” to where Christ is and let Him control the “words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts”.

This is heard to do today and it is especially hard in the politically charged atmosphere right now.  One of the reasons is that politicians are using the “insight” and the visceral reaction of Christians to injustice and need and corrupting it in service to a political philosophy that is un Christian.  They are using Christian values and Christian vocabulary to achieve their ends while behind the scenes mocking Christians.  When I set my mind on these things I am infuriated.  Applying Paul’s words I should look at Christ victory and interpret what I see in the light of His glory and grace and the belief that He controls all things for the church.  The clown show that is our politics is penultimate.

 

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