Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
"Spread it around," at
"There's such a thing as a smart deficit", at
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I guess these are some of the quotes which made me ask, "Say What?" the most.
"For the majority leader of the United States Senate, in the time of war, with soldiers dying on the ground, announcing that we have lost the war, is very close to treasonous. I looked it up while we were driving over here, what the definition of 'treason' is. It's the betrayal of trust."
-- Tom DeLay, 2007
"I cannot support a failed foreign policy....President Clinton has never explained to the American people why he was involving the US military in a civil war in a sovereign nation, other than to say it is for humanitarian reasons, a new military-foreign policy precedent. Was it worth it to stay in Vietnam to save face? What good has been accomplished so far? Absolutely nothing."
-- then-House Majority Whip Tom Delay, 1999, a month into the US mission in Kosovo
"There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat."
-- former CIA director George Tenet, in his forthcoming book At the Center of the Storm
"How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? The answer: not very damn many."
-- Dick Cheney, 1992
"How many additional dead Americans was Saddam worth? Our judgment was not very many, and I think we got that right."
-- Dick Cheney, 1994
"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place?....It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."
-- Dick Cheney, 1994
"I thought the decision was sound at the time, and I do today."
-- Dick Cheney, 2000
"I think it's almost beyond dispute that we were right to overthrow Saddam and the threat his regime posed."
- John Bolton, 11/4/07
"I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen or ever read about. They have failed the country."
-- Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel
"It was definitely the Bush administration that set it in motion and determined the timing, not the Congress. I think Karl in this instance just has his facts wrong."
-- former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, on Karl Rove's insistence that Congress rushed the country to war in Iraq
"Does the [Iraq war] make America safer?"
--Senator John Warner
"I don't know, actually."
-- General David Petraeus, in his testimony before the Senate Tuesday, September 11, 2007
"The US once had the capability to engineer the clandestine overthrow of governments. I wish we could get it back."
-- former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, on Iran
"All International Consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process. Congratulations to the new Iraq!"
-- Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, protecting U.S. security contractors, June 27, 2004
"Well, we've always known that Democrats seem to revert to type, and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything."
-- WH Press Secretary Dana Perino, asked if Americans should be asked to make financial sacrifice to help pay for the war
"Sometimes people acted like cowboys in WWII, and I wouldn't want the Nazis lecturing us on how to run Germany after we kicked them out."
-- Joe Scarborough, on Iraqi criticism of Blackwater
"Well, I'm not sure it is either. I'm not sure it is either. It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."
-- Rudy Giuliani, on waterboarding not being torture
"There are different ways of doing it. It's like swimming -- freestyle, backstroke."
-- Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), asked if waterboarding is torture
"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself."
-- Republican Party platform, 2008
"I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people."
-- Sarah Palin
"I just have to rely on the good judgment of the voters not to buy into these negative attack ads. Sooner or later, people are going to figure out if all you run is negative attack ads you don't have much of a vision for the future or you're not ready to articulate it."
-- John McCain, 2000
"I just don't see how he can win...He has lost his brand as a maverick; he did not live up to his pledge to fight a clean campaign."
-- Rep. Chris Shays, CT co-chair of McCain campaign, on McCain
Friday, October 31, 2008
What I am struck by in so much of this election season is how what is forgivable about one's own candidate is unforgivable about the other candidate. For example, if Barack Obama was an adulterer like John McCain (who apparently left the mother of his children for a younger, richer woman), it would undoubtedly be lifted up by McCain supporters as a clue to his character. But since it is their own candidate, McCain's past personal life is ignored - except, of course, for his tour of duty and years of imprisonment in Vietnam.
Similarly, if Obama had been an active member of the U.S. Council for World Freedom, an organization linked to right-wing death squads in Central America, as McCain was for years, surely McCain's supporters would make a big deal about it. If Obama had been one of the Keating 5, as McCain is, you can bet that his opponents would raise questions about his judgement and character.
Of course, it goes both ways. Undoubtedly, supporters of Obama tend to see McCain in the worst possible light. We tend to cut our own candidate some slack, while nitpicking every failure or inconsistency of the other candidate. It is a lot like the bias we have for our own team in sports - it is irrational and often unfair to the other side, and it blinds us to both the good in our neighbors on the other side of the aisle, and to the limitations of those on our side.
All of that said, however, the ad hominem attacks by the GOP and the McCain campaign have crossed the line of honor and decency. I can only hope that the politics of smear do not succeed on election day.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But here's an email I just wrote. I know it won't do any good. But I am sick of the dishonorable fear mongering and false witness bearing of Barack Obama's opponents. It is really getting ugly.
By the way, I think it is time our spell checkers learn how to spell both 'Barack' and 'Obama.' I have a feeling we'll be writing about him for a long, long time.
Honor, or the lack thereof
From: Eric Lemonholm
Republican Party of Minnesota,
I just received your mailing, trying to link Barack Obama with William Ayers' 1960's radicalism and domestic terrorism.
Do you have no honor? Do you have no shame? The whole campaign that you're running, "Barack Obama. Not who you think he is." is dishonorable fear mongering. Trying to smear Barack Obama's good name by falsely linking him to terrorism is dishonorable. I do not think I need to tell you how false this smear campaign is. You already know. It's another attempt at swift boating a candidate, lying often enough that people begin to believe the lies. The loose connections between Obama and Ayers - which all occurred decades after Ayer's '60's radicalism - are no closer than Ayers' connections with many people in Chicago politics, Republicans and Democrats alike. You know this is true.
If you cannot win an election by sticking to real issues and speaking the truth, you do not deserve to win. If you cannot win an election without resorting to bearing false witness against your neighbor, you do not deserve to win.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
We also celebrated the Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation) of seven great 10th graders this morning. Even with a small snow storm, it was a wonderful morning at Grace.
This year, I am doing both Confirmation and Senior High Youth group with a pastor of a three-point parish, so we have four congregations doing youth ministry together. It is working beautifully, and we have a lot of fun together.
Here are the first 8 sermons of my Acts series. The Sept. 21 sermon is the one I submitted for a class in the D.Min. program. It's not the best sermon, but I did a lot of exegesis work on the passage - and not many people write sermons on the story of Ananias and Sapphira (in case you've forgotten the story, it's a couple whom God strikes dead for lying about their church offering).
Sermons on Acts, Fall 2008:
Walking with you in God's amazing grace!
Sunday, September 07, 2008
2008-9-7 Acts 1
As you can probably tell from my sermon, this is an exciting, and busy fall here at Grace.
I also have finally uploaded a couple other sermons:
So, who is that skinny guy with no fashion sense?
Actually, it's me in my Topicort shirt and fish shorts at Covenant Park Bible Camp during the summer of 1987 (thanks to Stacey Greely for the picture).
Now, you know why I am so thankful to be married to a woman of style who serves as my fashion police:
And there she is, the girl on the right, at the same camp the same year!
God bless you all!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
In the meantime, I am going to share with you my project for this year for the Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching, the course I began in June. What’s cool about the D.Min. is that it is an eminently practical degree, focused on growing the pastor, and the congregation, together. So, my project will not be an abstract theological treatise (as important as such treatises are as secondary reflections on the faith), but a sermon and Bible study series on the book of Acts, along with a reflection by myself and the congregation on what difference it makes to focus Bible study and Sunday worship on an extended biblical narrative. My ultimate question is this: will this process help us see the Biblical narrative as a unified whole, and help us see our place in that narrative? Acts seems like a good place to start.
I also want to expand this project to include you! I also plan to blog this project. I want your input, your feedback. I want you to come along on this journey.
Here is part of my abstract, or summary plan, for the project:
Narrative Background for the Project
As a weekly lectionary preacher for the past two years, and an occasional (1-2 times per month) preacher for several years before that, I have experienced the weekly assigned scripture readings to be both blessing and curse. I resonate with what Dr. Karoline Lewis shared in class: “The Lectionary is a good servant but a bad master,” and what Dr. Rolf Jacobson has said, “Use the Lectionary, but don’t inhale.” I often feel as if we are jumping to different texts each week, without noticeable connection between the texts from week to week, with little sense of where the texts fit into the larger narratives of biblical books and the Bible as a whole. The major exception, for the most part, is the Synoptic Gospels during their respective lectionary years, especially during the season after Pentecost. For the rest of the lectionary readings, it is often difficult for me to step back and see the texts against the horizon of the canon of Scripture; that is likely even more difficult for church members encountering the texts for the first (and last) time during worship.
During the New Testament Narrative course with Dr. Matthew Skinner, being immersed in the extended narrative of the birth and growth of the early church in Acts opened my eyes to one specific limitation of the Lectionary: in the three year Lectionary cycle, we hear of Ascension, Pentecost, and a few scattered stories from Acts. The church never hears the full narrative of Acts over a period of time. I plan to craft a sermon series on Acts to preach this fall, and see what difference it makes to our congregation to hear the basic story of Acts over 13 weeks in preaching and Bible study. We will not read every single passage of Acts, but enough of the key stories so that, I hope, we will get a sense of the whole narrative, and begin to be able to see ourselves, our story within that larger story. In the future, I hope to introduce shorter sermon series on smaller narrative units in the Old and New Testaments (for example, the saga of Abraham & Sarah, a prophet such as Amos or Jeremiah, an epistle such as Galatians, an overview of the Revelation of John, etc.).
Acts for Today
September 7: Acts 1:1-14 – “You will be my Witnesses” (Sunday School Rally)
September 14: Acts 2:1-42 – Filled with the Holy Spirit
September 21: Acts 4:32-5:11 – Life (and Death) in Community
September 28: Acts 5:17-42 –“We must obey God rather than men.”
October 5: Acts 6:1-8 – Change for the sake of mission
October 12: Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-8:3 – The scattered church
October 19: Acts 8:26-40 – “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”
October 26: Acts 9:1-25 – Meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road (Reformation)
November 2: Acts 10:1-48 – Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit
November 9: Acts 16:16-34 – “What must I do to be saved?”
November 16: Acts 17:16-34 – Paul and the Athenians
November 23: Acts 20: Paul’s Farewell (Christ the King)
November 30: Acts 28:16-31 – The End is Our Beginning[i] (Advent 1)
Well, that’s it for now. Time for me to get back to our vacation!
[i] NT Wright, quoted by Adam White.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
There is indeed an anemic tendency in the church to minimize hell or do away with it. We often don’t know what to do with it. The roots of hell lie deep in Scripture, so we cannot simply do away with it, much as we’d like to. Hell is also rooted deeply in human experience. If, as Paul Griffiths defines it, hell “is that despairing condition in which separation from God seems to be final and unending,” then hell is real for many people, and real, probably, for all people some of the time. There are many people for whom hell is a daily reality, for whom a lack of faith is unavoidable and excruciatingly painful. Sometimes, major depression is hell, a prison with no apparent exit.
It’s perhaps too easy for comfortable, First World Christians to doubt the existence of hell: it’s not so easy for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the oppressed. As John R. Franke implies in his reflections, Matthew 25:31-46 is a key text in understanding hell: those sent into the eternal fire are those who ignored the plight of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. Since God has taken the side of the oppressed and marginalized, when we do the opposite, are we not in danger of hell?
And, it it true that salvation loses its meaning and urgency if we aren’t saved from anything. If we are saved by the grace of God, through faith, through a trusting relationship with God through Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, then there must be the possibility of rejecting that relationship, of turning away from God instead of to God. That turning away is hell.
There is much to reflect on about hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. At one point at the end of the world of Narnia, the Narnians are all moving toward Aslan (the Christ-figure of Narnia). As I remember it, if they approach Aslan with love and joy, they keep on coming into Paradise. If they turn away from Aslan in fear and loathing, they run off and are seen no more. It seems that we need the possibility of hell if faith is to be a genuine, uncoerced friendship with God.
One of the best reflections was a quote from William Stringfellow (quoted by editor John Buchanan): Jesus “descended into Hell. That is very cheerful news... There is nothing that I have known this side of Hell that is unfamiliar to Him. There is nothing known to me which I am wont to call Hell which He has not already known. Nor is there anything beyond these realms which, even though unknown to me, He does not know.” Jesus has descended into hell. There is no part of God’s creation, including hell, where the Savior has not been. When you are in the depths of despair, know that you are not alone: Christ has been there too, and God is with you there too. As Christ suffered death and hell, God suffered too. You are not alone in the depths. You are not abandoned. Your hope may be restored.
Yet, as theologian Robert Jenson once noted (in a class I attended), there is also a certain logic of Christian theology that tends toward universal salvation – even St. Paul concluded about his fellow Jews, “And so all Israel will be saved...” (Romans 11:26). There is a logic of salvation that is ever expansive. Paul shares the “hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ effects the salvation of not just those human souls who explicitly believe in Christ. God’s salvation is cosmic.
In the Christian Century, Martin Marty was perhaps the clearest about this. Those who relish the reality and everlasting nature of hell perhaps too much (for others, at least) also need to be aware of what they are affirming. Is God a cosmic torturer, punishing non-Christians with never ending water torture (euphemistically called ‘waterboarding,’ as if it were somehow anything other than drowning someone to the point of death over and over again), fire torture, beatings, and flaying alive for ever and ever? Is God the keeper of a cosmic, everlasting Abu Ghraib prison for billions of people? If Christ returned today, would 4 billion + people really get a one way ticket to everlasting torture, as many, more conservative Christians often believe? What does that say about God? I know: God is just as well as loving. But does that penalty actually fit the ‘crime’? Will the screams of torment in hell really make the joys of Heaven more sweet? Could you enjoy Paradise with God knowing that most people created in God’s image are in everlasting agony? Could God? Of course, hell is not understood by any of the theologians in the Christian Century in this tortured and torturing way – as it was described to me as a “Trailblazer Boy” at Bible camp.
A related question arises: Is there a part of God’s creation that will be eternally unredeemed? Does the possibility of reconciliation with God end with death? As Jurgen Moltmann noted, we must believe in hell, but it is not necessary to believe either that anyone is there now, or that anyone will be there forever. Will God ever give up on any of God’s creatures? Was it not 3rd century theologian Origen’s belief (hope?) that in the end even the devil – a fallen angel – will be saved? I think it was the rap singer Agape who once asked, “Would you be disappointed if everyone made it into Heaven?”
At least one of the theologians – Alyssa Pitstick – seems to have a clear “if-then,” conditional theology of salvation; as in, “if you have enough faith, keep God’s commandments, and desire Christ’s return, then you will be saved.” The problem with that perspective is that it does not comfort terrified consciences, and it puts the work of salvation on our shoulders. In her defense, Dr. Pitstick does include a quiet “by his grace” after the “if,” but it is more accurate to have a “because-therefore” theology of salvation: Because God so loves you, and because Jesus died for you, and because God raised him from the death, and because God’s Holy Spirit has been given to you in your baptism, therefore you have the gift of faith, the gift of a relationship with God, the gift of eternal life, even if you feel as if you do not believe, or obey, or desire Christ’s return enough. It is gift, all gift.
The reflections in the Christian Century end with a beautiful piece by Amy Laura Hall, who asks, “What if one of God’s own beloved may be so violated as to vitiate her own capacity to opt for God? What if the grinding prism of violence comes so to bear on a body as to render the mind incapable of receiving grace?” We indeed have a Savior who has suffered everything we have suffered, including being forsaken by God. We have a Lord who understands our struggles, our doubts, our inabilities to trust or believe. We have a God whose grace is bigger than all the evil that has been done to the hearts, minds, and bodies of God’s children. We have a Savior who will one day heal even the deepest pains and comfort all grieving, troubled hearts. Can anything separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord forever? No thing can.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I want to share some concert experiences of the past year, in reverse chronological order.
1. This past Friday, my whole family and I saw Lost and Found in concert in Pelican Rapids, MN. Now, if you do not know Lost and Found, you are missing out. It is a two person band, and they play the Speedwood style of music - think speed metal with an acoustic guitar and piano. It sounds strange, but their music really grows on you. Check out their website - www.speedwood.com
I cannot speak too highly of Lost and Found. Without too much hyperbole, they are perhaps the best theologian/songwriters since J.S. Bach. They distill a Lutheran theology of grace into high energy musical prayers or poems. My kids love them - we got to sit front row center. Their recent major albums - This, Something, Something Different, and Pronto - are destined to be classics. This was the fourth time I've seen them in concert, and they are a lot of fun to see live (at the Lutheran Youth Gathering in Atlanta in 2003, I and some of our church youth went to see them two nights in a row). They played in the Pelican Rapids High School gym, and how they interact with the crowd and improvise songs about their experience in each town and venue is amazing and hilarious. For example, the Pelican Rapids fight song lyrics were posted on the wall, and they worked out a Speedwood version of it.
Lost and Found is a small band in terms of fame - they are not selling out stadiums. They publish their own albums, and you can find them selling cd's and t-shirts with their manager after the show. But that also makes them extremely independent and approachable. Check out their concert schedule and find one near you.
2. My wife Mindy and I went to see Wilco in Fargo on May 1. They are simply amazing in concert. I was a fan of Uncle Tupelo from about 1992 (at the tail end of their short career), and have followed the music of Uncle Tupelo's children, Jay Farrar/Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy/Wilco, off and on since then. But, from bad timing and the busyness of life, this was the first time I've seen Wilco live. They played for almost three hours - coming back for three encores as the crowd went wild. Good songwriting, good musicianship, and tons of energy. Check them out at www.wilcoworld.net
3. Last summer, my family went on a road trip to Missouri to see my cousin John Schmalzbauer and his family. It was a wonderful trip. John is a sociologist of religion, with an interest (among others) in Ozark religion. He introduced us to his friends from the band Big Smith, a group of cousins who play Ozarks music with a fresh sound. They have some great albums, including a wonderful double album of children's music. We got to see them perform in an outdoor concert in Branson. Check them out at www.bigsmithband.com
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Particularly this past Sunday, Ascension Sunday, the excitement and enthusiasm was palpable in our congregation. Lots of people attended, with some new people in the pews. The music was wonderful, our small but enthusiastic choir sang beautifully. The Spirit is moving in our church. I believe growth in numbers will continue to be slow but steady, as we focus on growing closer to God and one another, as we grow in faith. I encourage you to read the sermon for last Sunday. We are beginning to build on our strengths of hospitality and loving relationships. Our children's and youth ministry is growing. We just held our final Wednesday after-school program yesterday - we flew kites in our church yard as an image of the Holy Spirit breathing/blowing in the world. One kite was passed from child to child for two hours without coming down (it was a challenge for me to bring it down at the end - we get a lot of wind up on the hill on which our church is built - you bet that image will make it into my Pentecost sermon!).
God bless you this day.
Additionally: Last week, I participated in the National Day of Prayer in our community - it was an interesting mix of people of faith with different perspectives, to say the least. But I am glad to have been a part of it. Here is my prayer as written:
Prayer for the Imprisoned and Persecuted
May 1, 2008
God of justice, Lord of mercy,
You care for the poor, the oppressed, the widows, the orphans, the aliens, the hungry, the imprisoned, the persecuted, the tortured.
Jesus was himself a victim of persecution, torture, and execution.
Jesus was himself a victim of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ as he was arrested by his own people and taken to the Roman authorities for interrogation, torture, and crucifixion. Jesus bears the scars of torture.
God, you stand with the imprisoned, persecuted and tortured. You suffer with them. You call us to pray for them and speak out for them.
There are Christians around the world right now who are suffering persecution and imprisonment for their faith in Jesus Christ. We pray for them. We lift them to you, and ask you to comfort and strengthen them in their suffering. We ask for freedom and release for them. Work through your people throughout the world to help free those imprisoned for your sake. Restore our nation’s tarnished record of the treatment of prisoners, so we can have the moral standing to call for just treatment of the imprisoned and persecuted around the world. Where we have tortured individuals, or exported individuals to be tortured by rogue nations, forgive our sin, and restore our moral sense to treat people how Jesus would treat people.
Lord God, the nation of Iraq is being rapidly de-Christianized, after a nearly 2000 year history of Christians living there. Their leaders are being murdered in the streets; many Christians have either been killed or fled the country. We ask your forgiveness for the actions of our nation that have led to this tragedy. We ask for justice for those who are persecuting and killing innocent people there.
Creator of all people, wherever anyone is persecuted or imprisoned unjustly, you are there with them. You suffer with them, as Jesus suffered for them. Bring peace, justice, and reconciliation to all people of any faith who are persecuted. Bring freedom to all who are imprisoned.
God, one out of very 100 adults in America is in prison – over 2 million Americans, 1 million of whom are in prison for non-violent crimes, about 400,00 of whom are incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes. Our rate of incarceration matches China’s, and is many times more than any other democratic country; we spend $60 billion per year on corrections. 21% of U.S. inmates have been sexually abused while incarcerated. Over 50% of released convicts return to prison within 3 years.i And yet, the incarcerated remain largely outside of our consciousness. Forgive us, O Lord, for our neglect and disregard for the prisoners in our midst. Remind us of Jesus’ command to visit and care for those in prison. Help us change our failing corrections system. Change the hearts of both prisoners and our society, so that lives can be changed, addictions overcome, the scars of abuse healed, destructive behavior patterns broken.
We pray this all in the name of the imprisoned, tortured, crucified, and risen One, Jesus the carpenter of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Easter 4A - 2005 (an old sermon)
This past Sunday, my family and I went on a dream vacation in the Dells (Gear is Good) with Mindy's mom, sisters, and families. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of water up the nose as we plunged down gigantic water slides.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
For the hundredth time at least, I have received the ad on Yahoo mail:
"You are the 999,999th Visitor!
Congratulations YOU WON!"
One of these days, I may even click on the ad...
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Friday, February 29, 2008
THE SAGA OF CHRISTINE AND ANDREW KINDALL
This is the story of my paternal grandmother’s (Bea Holm) maternal grandparents and their family, as pieced together and written down by my Grandma in 1984. Continue here...
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
This news led me to a website that has some of his recent writings: The Augustine Institute. I have not had time to read much, but it seems worth a look.
My latest sermon is here:
Lent 3A, February 24, 2008
Where do we encounter God?
When does God come and find us?
Friday, February 22, 2008
2008-2-17 Lent 2A
Friday, February 15, 2008
With the blessing of our church council, I am applying to Doctor of Ministry programs. The D. Min. is basically a three year program, with a few weeks per year of intensive courses on site, and online course work throughout the rest of the year. It is a degree program that does not take one out of the context of ministry; in fact, the whole focus is practical, and the course work and projects will relate directly to my call at Grace.
The following is a slightly edited (I took out some names) version of application essays for one of the programs. Pray for me, my family, and my church, for this is a major commitment of time and energy (especially for my family).
Assessment of Vocation and Ministry
Describe and reflect upon your practice of preaching, making explicit the theological themes, principles, and values that inform it.
I have been called and ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, to make disciples, to baptize them in the name of the Triune God, and to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” through sharing the Lord’s Supper. My practice of preaching flows from this call. It is the specific form that the priesthood of all believers takes in my life, to “proclaim the praise of God and bear God’s creative and redeeming Word to all the world.” In the Augsburg Confession, the ministry of Word and Sacrament is explained as a means through which God gives the Holy Spirit, “who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel” (CA V). The Gospel is the message that we are justified, made right with God, not through our own efforts or merit but solely by God’s grace, through faith in Christ (CA IV). In my preaching, I strive to keep the Gospel at the center, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, by grace to be a means through which the Holy Spirit will effect faith in those gathered for Word and Sacrament.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
With the Golden Compass movie in theatres to fairly poor reviews (I’ll wait for Netflix, if ever) and attacks from Christendom, here is a paragraph I wrote in November of 2006 about
I often listen to recorded books while I drive or occasionally exercise. Over the past years, I have listened to history, classics, children’s literature, horror, and more. The limited selection at the library actually encourages me to read (listen) to books I’d otherwise not read. Once, I listened to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy for children. It is well written and interesting fantasy, but marred by an arrogant, naïve, anti-Christian polemic. For example, one of the characters shares how she was a Catholic nun until the first time she became attracted to a man. She decided that, if her faith told her that sexual attraction was bad, then to hell with her faith – and she became a happy, promiscuous atheist. Throughout the trilogy, the church – always the RC church, it seems – is the arch-villain (a la Da Vinci Code), spreading lies, violence, and repression; while the forces of atheism are enlightened, kind, and pro-personal fulfillment. I read a lot of good children’s fantasy literature to my children: this is one fantasy series that I won’t be reading to them!
Now, though I haven’t revisited the books since then, I do recognize that the series can be read as a critique of bad theology and oppressive governing structures, whether religious or non-religious, as some have written. I certainly would not support any sort of ban or boycott of the movies or books. But I cannot shake the feeling of prejudice I got from listening to the books, much the same feeling I have from listening to fundamentalist Christians dismiss other world religions as demonic. There is a common ground among all people of goodwill, no matter what their faith tradition – even atheism. We can be united around values and goals, such as justice and peace. I did not find that in these books, but perhaps I missed it.
The books also (from my impressions) set up a false dichotomy between unhealthy repression of sexuality and promiscuity, without clearly showing the healthy third alternative of faithful, committed, lifelong adult relationships – i.e., marriage. The two main characters seem to engage in a very adult relationship at a very young age, which is really not a good message to send in these times of teen pregnancy and broken relationships. I’m no prude, but I certainly will steer my children away from these books and movies, especially when there are so many other superb fantasy series – from C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula LeGuin, and others (all of which we have read or will read with our children). What do you think?
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Sorry for the lack of online sermonizing. Here are links to my final sermons of 2007: