Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Much Does the Gospel Cost?

Well at least according to one sale, fourteen million dollars. The British Library just bought Europe's oldest book, which happens to be a copy of the gospel according to St. John. The book itself, a smart little volume, written on vellum and bound in a red cover, is known as St. Cuthbert's Gospel because it was buried with Cuthbert 1300 years ago.

TheWorld did a nice piece about it on today's show. What was remarkable to me was the journey of Cuthbert's coffin after his death. You can listen to the piece here.

And the Library has digitized the book and you can view the images here.

I am struck by the importance this book has, and that it is a biblical book. The images are really stunning. The print is phenomenal. But it is at its heart this book is rooted to the arrival of the gospel in Europe.  This book is a testimony to the missional character of Christianity. Will there be anything a millennia from now that tells of our missional impulse?

Monday, April 16, 2012

2nd Sunday of Easter -- Sin is Big, And Jesus is Bigger Yet

We have been convinced that sin is something small and insignificant, making the words from1 John ring hollow. But they remain true because sin is much bigger than we are led to believe. Sin is cosmic and we participate in it even without knowing. But Jesus is bigger even than it for he has conquered it in the resurrection. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How Many Women Does a Man Have to Bed To Be Considered a Real Man?

The question seems to be one many men look to answer thinking quantity matters most. Stumbling upon an interview on another blog, Joffre the Giant, the poet Remy Williams gives another answer. He writes:

We have bought into certain lies that’s are flimsy as our pick-up lines. One of the most absurd is thinking that the more women you sleep with means more sexual skills, that more women equals more experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the  man who declares his love of cities, all cities and talks about his vast knowledge of cities. He spends the night in a different city one day after the next. He gets off the bus, buys a t-shirt, notches his belt and hops back on the bus. He is suppose to be a grand lover of cities? Rather his is the most worthless of tourists, he’s the doofus in the fannypack mugging in front of every giftshop across the nation. He knows nothing of the city, does not love any city at all, but rather he loves to see his greasy unshaven mug in different settings each  night. The man that says he knows New York City because he was once laid-over there one rainy insignificant night is a great fool. 
So too the lothario, who beds women with tricks and well worn moves. He’s never had to please a woman night after night. He can only pick up women at the watering hole looking to be watered, the lowhanging fruit. A real man knows how to please the woman who’s dealt with screaming kids all day, who went through the day with peanutbutter in her hair, wearing sweatpants and grannypanties because the laundry is stacked to highheaven. A real man can’t rely on a couple of cheap sex tricks to please a woman, running the same two plays on an unsuspecting defense, a real man has to play the same team night after night and the things that worked last night aren’t good enough for today. Real men bed the same woman every night keeping it new and fresh and exciting. Lotharios, in the extremity of their lameness, have so little game they have to move from woman to woman with their smoke, mirrors and hand dancing.

 I like his answer, but is definitely written from a male perspective. Underlying the answer is the assumption that men are men by the sexual conquest even of the one woman with whom he lives.  Here men are men still by being able to have sex with women. Maybe men are real men by realizing that sex is not what defines their existence. I realize that the author of the post was writing specifically about sex, but I think there needs to be more than that. For instance, maybe a real man is the man who realizes that his wife really would rather not have sex at all and he can let it go because his identity is not wrapped up in whether he or not he gets some. His wife is not just there to gratify him. A real man knows that.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Maundy Thursday and Easter Sermons

I am still getting back into recording my sermons and putting them on my podcast. I thought I was already there, but then forgot to check the batteries in my recorder on Good Friday. So I lost that sermon. I did get Maundy Thursday and Easter though...

On Maundy Thursday I looked at our world's desire for certainty and the ambiguity in the word that Paul uses in the words of institution, paradidomi.

On Easter, I touched upon the abundance of hope that the resurrection lets loose in the world.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Narrative Lectionary.. an alternative lectionary experiment

I was just alerted to a new lectionary that was begun by some professors up at Luther Seminary. Rolf Jacobsen and Craig Koester started this four-year alternative lectionary, the so-called Narrative Lectionary, that lead to a proclamation of what God is doing. This lectionary also seems to help recount the grand scope of salvation history. 

I am intrigued. Intrigued enough to consider moving to this lectionary next fall. Of course, I have never done anything really apart from the Revised Common Lectionary. I do wonder, if reading only one lesson, two at most, each week is worth it. I suppose if you attend a congregation that only reads one lesson each week, then a lectionary that tried to cover the scope of salvation history might be worthwhile. If you attend a congregation that reads all four texts appointed for the day, I wonder if it is worth it to give up four years of a broader sampling of biblical readings. If the preacher in those churches would routinely only preach on the gospel lesson anyway, then maybe it doesn't matter.  

The absent books raise an interesting question. No Psalms? No New Testament texts outside of the gospel and some of Paul's letters? Nothing from Revelation. Nothing from Hebrews, the Johannine epistles or the Petrine epistles. The details of the four-year lectionary, that is the appointed texts for each Sunday, can be seen here

While I am still considering this lectionary, particularly for a campus ministry setting where there is a possibility that students are not well acquainted with the biblical narrative, I do wonder if preachers cannot proclaim an active God through the stories appointed in the Revised Common Lectionary, will changing minor details really change the proclamation? 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Am I a good Lutheran pastor if...

Our house went on the market a couple of weeks ago and almost as soon as I posted a notice on Facebook about it, I began receiving advice about selling. Well... sort of advice. People of various sorts  began telling me to bury St. Joseph in my front yard to help speed the sale of our house. Some simply said to bury him, but others said that Joseph's orientation mattered. Feet toward the house and head toward the street, or the other way around... I don't remember.

The stress of selling a house in a slow economy is somewhat hard to bear, especially when we need this house to sell before we can solidify a bid on a new house. To say my wife and I are anxious is an understatement. With this stress upon us, such house selling advice is tempting. Anything that promises a quick sell without lowering the price has to be good right? We have lost out on one house bid because someone else made another offer that was accepted knocking our contingent offer out from under us. We have another similar offer on another house. Knowing that you need to move but cannot until you sell your house can lead to sleepless nights.

To be honest though, as an aside, the other voices that rise up when something falls through are equally anxiety-invoking. The voices that say "Well it just wasn't meant to be..." as if God has just one perfect house in mind for me and my family and all the others are just pointless. I know they are trying to make me feel better, but just like I am certain that people do not have just one person they are meant to marry, there is not just one house that God wills me to have. This notion that is rather popular with many Christian voices wants to maintain the supremacy of God's will, but I think it misses the point. God wills many things, but what house I buy is not on that list I think. God certainly wants me to be a good steward of the things that are given to me and my family. But there is an inherent freedom in that mix. My faith will indeed help my wife and I decide which house to choose, but if the offer falls through, my faith was not likely insufficient, nor was it necessarily God putting the kibosh on the deal. There will be a place for my family and I to dwell in peace and safety. That I trust.

Now back to the original point, which is still connected to the one I trust. Burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard, seems to be exactly the sort of thing Luther and the reformers railed against with the cult of the saints. I have a very high view of saints. I routinely commemorate saints, both biblical and extra-biblical, for the particular witness their lives have provided for living out one's faith in Christ. I have routinely responded to the advice on burying St.. Joseph with the phrase, "I have the witness of scripture and the confessions behind me. I will simply trust Jesus." And of course I get puzzled looks. But in the twenty-first article of the Augsburg Confessions, the one dealing with the cult of saints, it reads quite appropriately:
However, it cannot be proved from the Scriptures that we are to invoke saints or seek help from them. "For there is one mediator between God and humans, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5), who is the only savior, the only high priest, advocate and intercessor before God (Rom. 8:34). He alone has promised to hear our prayers.
It is hard enough selling a house. I don't need to wrestle with this stuff as well. I trust that God will provide a place for us to live. I have to. If not I would obsess and fret and worry. I will simply let God do whatever God is going to do. God will provide. I don't need to use any saint, even one as important as St. Joseph. So I will save the time, money, and effort of burying Joseph.

But just to make sure... check with me in a couple of weeks.

Or if you know someone who is looking for a charming house in a nice neighborhood of Morgantown, WV...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Christ's Death, the end of brokenness

The Lutheran University Center sits on a well-trafficked street, and I pondered how I might engage passers-by during Holy week. After prayer and conversation with trusted friends and colleagues, I decided to build a cross with nails sticking out with a sign upon the top that read:
Christ's death on the cross promises an end to the brokenness of the world. What brokenness do you want to see put to death?

Then I mounted a box with some paper and a marker so people could put down their thoughts and prayers... jabs and snarky jokes as well...

I had no idea how people would respond. I sat and observed people's reactions. Some glance at it as they walk by. I noticed two people stop and discuss it.  Some people in cell phone conversations slow their walk as they pass, clearly pondering it in the midst of their discussion. Some never lift their eyes from the sidewalk. But I hoped that leaving people free to comment or not would free some people to do so. As I pulled into the center this morning, I was not disappointed. Several pieces of paper clung to each nail. Some are meant to be funny... some are serious... one has some drawing on it that I can only guess at what it means.

The one that had me most intrigued was the one that read "People who flaunt their religion in my face." Is that me? Or is it someone else this person knows? I had hoped that with this cross, I would give people freedom to respond or not and if this person meant me, I wonder what compelled him or her to attach this comment. I cannot tell. I do know that in God's Reign, the flaunting of religion will end. I pray for the day when our faith and display of it will be genuinely lived out, and in the meantime I pray that Christians are more aware of the witness they provide to the Crucified one.

I am interested to see how the comments will continue over this week. They will form much of my prayer life as we enter into the days of God's saving mystery that promises to end the brokenness of the world?

What brokenness do you want to see put to death?