Thursday, March 23, 2017

Daut's Medical Expense Fund

Dear Readers & Friends:

I have created a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise funds for my brother & sister in law, to help with the massive expenses related to his medical condition. Daut suffers from a specific form of encephalitis. It affects his immune system, and has resulted in many other issues, such as memory problems, muscular pain, nerve pain (neuropathy), and weakened muscles.

If you would like to consider a gift to this fundraiser, you may give through this link:

Thank you for your generosity.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stability as Teacher

The Rev. Larry Beane, in the pages of this web log, once wrote something which bears repeating and reflection. Just what does the liturgical innovation, instability, even chaos, which prevails in so many ways in Christ's Church today, do to our children? Fr. Beane wrote, in part:

"Of course, it does have implications for future generations, as younger people no longer have the image of the hoary-headed patriarchs and matriarchs, fonts of wisdom, and examples of dignified Christian piety...It's no wonder the children and grandchildren of these folks have rejected the faith all together or are so rudderless as to be groping around aimlessly in the 'emerging movement' desperately seeking 'authenticity.'"

His words seized my attention, for they drew my thoughts from the particular problem of bizarre worship forms en vogue among radical feminist Catholics to the more general problem of what liturgical innovation can do to our children, both now and down the road, and conversely, to the benefits of traditional and stable liturgy for our children.

Experts in child development have repeatedly warned of the harm that instability can cause to a child, and of the benefits of that which is stable and reliable in a child's life. Children love to learn; even when they try to deny it, their brains love to learn, and so does their heart, especially after you show them what they can accomplish. This includes challenging things like vocabulary and music, as well as rubrics and good manners. They love stable forms and routines as an environment within which to accomplish this learning. Children think they like a lot of television, video games, and web surfing, yet we now know that their brains do not flourish in an environment in which they are bombarded with a heavy diet of electronic sensory images.

Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, for example, in their book, The Minds of Boys, report the following disturbing data on p. 113.

"The average American child now spends 900 hours a year in school, but 1,023 hours a year watching TV. In the average American home, the TV is on 6.7 hours per day. By the time your son reaches eighteen, he'll have spent 22,000 hours watching TV, more than he spends in any other activity besides sleeping. The number of videos and DVDs families rent every day is twice the number of books read. By the age of sixteen, your son will have seen 200,000 acts of violence on television, 33,000 of them acts of murder. One-fourth of children under two years old now have TVs in their bedrooms. Two-thirds of preschool boys sit in front of screens for two or more hours per day-more than three times the hours they spend looking at books or being read to."

What does this do to children? One statistic that, in a sense, sums it up is given on page 112 of the same book: "In the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics, Dr. Christakis presented research that followed twenty six hundred children from birth to age seven and discovered that 'for every hour of television watched per day, the incidence of ADD and ADHD increased by 10 percent.'"

Conversely, Gurian and Stevens argue that there are great benefits to encouraging the development of vocabulary among children (130).

Yet "church growth" consultants have whole parishes and offices of church bureaucracy convinced that the way to cater to today's young and seeking churchgoer is to devise worship filled with electronic images, and lots of today's music, music of the most modern and irreverent sort, which contain banal and juvenile vocabulary. "Worship" of this sort is not designed to challenge or inspire. It will only serve to insult and ultimately bore perhaps everyone but its creators and their egos.

Let me cite another expert, one of my favorite writers in this area lately, Dr. Meg Meeker. In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Meeker's particular concern is the father-daughter relationship, yet in a sense much of what she argues has application for children in general, and parents and authorities in general. She makes the case that daughters long, even when they don't consciously realize or admit it, for examples and role models, and they want and need a reliable, rock solid, environment in which to grow spiritually and intellectually, to learn modesty and faith, and to be challenged in the most healthy ways. A girl will even learn how to worship from the male role models in her life, especially the most important one, her father. Meeker writes, from a purely clinical perspective, on the benefits (especially in chapter eight) of an ongoing religious example for children. In this regard, she compares religious example with the absence of religion in a child's life. Based on these arguments I would suggest that the type of religious example you give your child will have an enormous impact on his view of God. Our "church growth" experts and "emerging church" gurus would have our children act in church as if God were a fickle MTV watching buddy with his own my space account. If you think we are being really creative in this regard, think again. We are simply resurrecting the ancient Greek phenomenon of fashioning gods who look and act like us.

Children need to know they can rest securely in a reliable and predictable environment. Within the safe parameters of that environment, they will then imagine, and grow, and learn, and question, and flourish. Without it, they might be entertained, but they will ultimately find themselves troubled and unable to grow properly. This is illustrated nicely by one of my favorite passages in Proust's Swann's Way:

"At Combray, every day, in the late afternoon, long before the moment when I would have to go to bed and stay there, without sleeping, far away from my mother and grandmother, my bedroom again became the fixed and painful focus of my preoccupations. They had indeed hit upon the idea, to distract me on the evenings when they found me looking too unhappy, of giving me a magic lantern, which, while awaiting the dinner hour, they would set on top of my lamp; and, after the fashion of the first architects and master glaziers of the Gothic age, it replaced the opacity of the walls with impalpable iridescences, supernatural multicolored apparitions, where legends were depicted as in a wavering, momentary stained-glass window. But my sadness was only increased by this since the mere change in lighting destroyed the familiarity which my bedroom had acquired for me and which, except for the torment of going to bed, had made it tolerable to me. Now I no longer recognized it and I was uneasy there, as in a room in some hotel or 'chalet' to which I had come for the first time straight from the railway train."

The Church needs to inculcate in her children good habits, and before I go on, let me emphasize that habit is a good thing; so, one more time, allow me to continue my habit of quoting Proust in his Swann's Way:

"Habit! That skillful but very slow housekeeper who begins by letting our mind suffer for weeks in a temporary arrangement; but whom we are nevertheless truly happy to discover, for without habit our mind, reduced to no more than its own resources, would be powerless to make a lodging habitable."

A home is a place in which we ought to feel most free, most ourselves, most able to find our identity. In this sense the liturgy of the Church is an invaluable setting in which to foster good habits, so that reverent worship becomes our very habit, that is to say, that in which we live and find our being.

For many years now I have done odd things like make the sign of the cross when I worship, or kneel down at the consecration and in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord. Whether in churches where kneeling is the norm or in churches where it is not, I have kept up the practice, determining that the adults can handle the notion that there are Lutherans outside of one’s own parish, and they don't all have precisely the same practices everywhere. One of the things I did not expect to learn along the way, however, is that children notice me, and in the relationships I have been blessed to develop with some of them, certainly as Sunday School teacher at Zion in Fort Wayne, for example, they have shown themselves eager to learn and emulate.  I have found, as a sobering reality, but also as a delight, that it is not only the hoary-headed senior members of Christ's Body that have an influence on the young. We all do. There is much responsibility, and much potential here, for modeling good manners and reverent worship. I pray we will seize it, and with God's help make good use of it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happiness in Worship

Father William Weedon has made the point that God's desire for you to be holy is not the same as a desire for some specific level of happiness. As Weedon blogged about five years ago, "The Lord doesn't want you to be happy; He wants you to be holy...He wants us to be holy so that we may be truly blessed; and blessedness is even better than happiness." I very much agree with his argument; it is a valuable insight.  It got me pondering happiness, and its unfortunately exalted place in the modern Church.  So I would like not merely to make the same argument, but to make it in my own way, and then apply it in certain particular ways.

Before proceeding any further, however, it is worth taking a close look at the word happiness.  On the one hand, happiness as it is most commonly used today has to do with a certain type of sentiment, that is, the feeling of personal pleasure.  It doesn't matter to what degree one feels this sentiment; it could be anywhere from an understated sense of contentment all the way to the sort of giddiness around which one can barely stand to remain for more than about a minute.  Nor does it matter what the cause or the particularities of the occasion might be in any given case; the happiness is no less real, valid, and genuine.       

On the other hand, happiness in its more literal and etymologically true use has to do with a sense of chance, or fortune, or luck.  Now, while some may be tempted to object that this use of the term is obsolete today, it is worth observing that this sense of the word does persist in our language.  It is why we have terms like happenstance (in essence, a chance circumstance) and perhaps (essentially the same as saying, by chance). 

Either way, the difference between worldly happiness and the sure hope we have in Christ, which is not dependent upon fleeting emotions, is unmistakable.  Nevertheless, regarding both of these senses of the term happiness, the emotive and the sense of chance, before we critique the use of these concepts among Christians, I believe it is worth also defending them.  For my view is a balanced one, which sees a place for both happy feelings and talk of good fortune among the faithful. 

If one is saddened, whatever the particular reason (and we all know they can range from the simple and incidental to the profound realities of death or other human tragedy), it is not necessarily inappropriate or out of line both to thank God for the experience and to ask Him to grant finally a reprieve from it, ie., to show the one experiencing it gladness once again.  With the Psalmist the Christian is happy to confess, "I was glad (Laetatus sum) when they said unto me: we will go into the house of the Lord.  Sometimes the insistence I hear from Lutherans about the distinction that must be maintained between happiness and joy strikes me as a bit overstated, absolutist, and overly literalist.  I am not condemning all such instances of this type of argument, just saying that it needs to be tempered with the understanding that our language is capable of nuances, and of terms being used in more than one sense; so that, for example, on the one hand, one might speak of "rejoicing" and have in mind being glad or "happy," even though the relationship between "joy" and "rejoice" is rather obvious, and on the other hand, one may certainly speak of being "happy," and have in mind the deep and abiding sense of contentment we have in Christ; all despite the insistence on fixed (and somewhat arbitrary) definitions of "happiness" and "joy," which I hear from some preachers. 

Likewise, I do not think it is absolutely wrong or inappropriate for the Christian to engage in language of chance or fortune or luck (the older sense of happy).  The Christian sees all gifts as coming from God, and we want always to be clear on that.  Nevertheless, on the one hand, some Christian uses of such phraseology are indeed meant in the sense of fortune and blessing that we receive from our Lord (such as Miles Coverdale's use of the word "luck" in Psalm 45, or in Psalm 118), and on the other hand, some of the greatest Christians of all time have used this sort of language, often in jest, and when having a bit of fun.  An example that sticks out in my mind is one of those particularly sassy passages in Luther's The Bondage of the Will:
I confess not only that you are far superior to me in powers of eloquence and native genius (which we all must admit, all the more as I am an uncultivated fellow who has always moved in uncultivated circles), but that you have quite damped my spirit and eagerness, and left me exhausted before I could strike a blow. There are two reasons for this: first, your cleverness in treating the subject with such remarkable and consistent moderation as to make it impossible for me to be angry with you; and secondly, the luck or chance or fate by which you say nothing on this important subject that has not been said before. 

Indeed, the literalists, if they were consistent, would surely be happy if we would cease using such terms as chance and even happy.

Now having said all of that, I want to affirm most clearly that Christians should ween themselves of the desire for increased emotional pleasure in life, and instead cultivate the desire for sanctification.  Even as the Christian looks with terror at his sins, he finds all joy and comfort in Christ alone.  This is the true and abiding hope which sustains us through life's trials, both the quotidian ups and downs and the true tragedies in this life.  And so while, as my discussion above shows, I would not condemn the use of the word happiness, or the focus on the concept of the same, in the Christian life per se, I would argue that praying for it, celebrating it, and all efforts to cultivate it should be kept out of our public worship, for much the same reasons outlined in Weedon's discourse. 

We could merely pick on the use of songs like "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."  Indeed, we should pick on it, ridicule it, and roundly condemn it, in all Christian love (and also in Christian hate).  We could also pick on William Beck's dumbed down translation of the scriptures, in which "blessed" in the Beatitudes are replaced with "happy," a translation most unworthy of public worship, though I hardly think the AAT is much of an issue anymore.  I would suggest, however, that even in the Synod's approved worship resources, there are passages the wisdom of which should hardly be taken as axiomatic.  An example that comes to mind immediately is the Litany, which contains this petition:

To grant all women with child, and all mothers with infant children, increasing happiness in their blessings, we implore You to hear us, good Lord.

This language in LSB's version of the Litany is taken over from LW (Lutheran Worship) before it.  And it contrasts rather starkly with traditional Missouri Synod usage, such as Liturgy and Agenda of 1921 (and The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941), which employs what I would argue is much healthier language.  To wit,

To preserve all women in the perils of childbirth, we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.

Has anyone thought to ask, what exactly is it for which we are praying when we ask for increasing happiness for mothers? Are we praying that women be deprived of the full range of their emotional life?  That would be asking that women no longer be women.  Certainly a husband's instinct would be the desire for his wife to be happy, whether out of pure love or partly for self-serving reasons.  Yet, the Church exists in part to be the objective bearer of Truth, for the family, and for the world.  Frankly, sometimes a woman experiences sadness; in some cases this is due to her fallen sinful nature, and in other cases it is because God has decided, for His own reasons, to allow a woman to experience certain sad situations.  He has a purpose and a plan, and it is ours to receive, to accept, to pray and meditate, to work through.  If a woman is experiencing truly debilitating depression, the Church ought to pray for her as she suffers such affliction; in such a case, it is not mere "happiness," however, for which we pray, but healing.  In Christ, the true Man of Sorrows, Who in His bitter passion and death suffered more than we can ever know, and Whose death and resurrection is our victory and life, we who are baptized into His death have ultimate and abiding hope and sanctification.  Let us pray that we may always remain firmly rooted in Christ, and His faithful Word, instead of praying for mere happiness.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Milwaukee Bucks and Life

The outcome of a sports contest, positive or negative, really has little impact on the life of the civilized and emotionally balanced man.  It’s not as though one’s life depended on it, after all.  Nevertheless, it can be fun sometimes to watch such things, and to let this be one small way in which one takes part in the culture of his city.  So obviously I’m a Bucks fan (that’s basketball, for those of you who are even less sports minded as I am).  Two days ago the Bucks had a game for the record books, for they lost in a rather spectacular way.  So it got me thinking, does the ugly loss the Milwaukee Bucks suffered have anything to teach us about life itself?  I think it does.  For if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it big, especially if that something has any value or worth, or if you hope to clarify whatever that value might be.  The Bucks didn’t just lose; they lost big.  In the end, the score was 120 – 66, the biggest loss in the history of Milwaukee Bucks basketball.  Admittedly, there have been other big losses in professional basketball.  Here are some of the more notable ones, which I found after doing a brief search online.  (Note that a couple of them were games where Milwaukee was the winner.)
  • 15 December 1985 - Milwaukee Bucks 140, Sacramento Kings 82
  • 29 December 1992 – Sacramento Kings 139, Dallas Mavericks 81
  • St. Joseph’s Day, 1977 – Golden State Warriors 150, Indiana Pacers 91
  • St. Stephen’s Day, 1978 – Milwaukee Bucks 143, Detroit Pistons 84
  • Christmas, 1960 – Syracuse Nationals 162, New York Knickerbockers 100
  • All Souls’ Day, 1991 – Golden State Warriors 153, Sacramento Kings 91
  • St. Joseph’s Day, 1972, Los Angeles Lakers 162, Golden State Warriors 99
  • Candlemas, 1998 – Indiana Pacers 124, Portland Trail Blazers 59
  • 17 December 1991 – Cleveland Cavaliers 148, Miami Heat 80

Indeed, Thursday's game wasn’t even the worst loss in playoff history.  That distinction goes to a game played on Saint Joseph’s Day, 1956, in which the Minneapolis Lakers beat the St. Louis Hawks by a score of 133 – 75.  I think the Bucks loss yesterday was second only to the St. Louis loss in 1956 in terms of playoff games.

But there can be no dispute that what the Bucks accomplished was a failure of historic proportions. And when one considers their record of the past couple years, including much of the second half of this season, it may not seem all that surprising.  Indeed, Chicago fans might also say that it is not surprising considering that the Bucks were playing the Bulls.  Personally, I buy neither of those arguments.  In this very playoff series, the Bucks showed that they can compete with, and beat, the Bulls.  One of their losses in this series came only after going into double overtime.  Then, they win in Milwaukee on a last second shot. Then, they win in Chicago rather handily.  The Bucks were not expected to advance far in the playoffs, or even win this series.  At the start of the season they were not even really expected to get into the playoffs.  Nevertheless, it seems to me that to lose in this way, where a team gets into such a hole and then spends the rest of the night just increasing the depth of the hole, cannot be explained by a difference in ability.  It can only be explained psychologically. 

We have all seen teams on a losing streak which included games they “should have” won, or batters going too long without a hit, or field goal kickers who seem to have lost their confidence. One gets into a losing situation, and then finds it hard to climb out of it.  It’s called defeatism.  And it’s easy to chalk it up to having “given up,” but I suggest that it is not quite that simple.  Experiencing the defeatist mentality, the mindset by which one really defeats himself, and learning to overcome it, these are valuable lessons for a young team with much potential.  But none of this is, in fact, about sports.  Nor is it even about “motivation” or vile notions of “success.”  It is merely to say that on the road one travels in life, while there are many obstacles and challenges on that path, often the biggest are those which are self-made, and internal.

Where would I be if I would have played the game that the seminary asked me to play?  I don’t know.  But although one could make the case that there was a certain injustice involved, ultimately, the failure to play the game was mine.  That’s my problem.  But it’s going on “ten years burning down the road.”  And I can’t refight any of that.  My calling is to walk the path which is before me.  Sometimes, indeed, in the midst of life’s journey, the path may seem more like a dark wood, in which the way has been lost.  And so, at least when we are wise, we keep with us the best companions we know, as Dante was able to bring with him (in life as well as in art) the wisdom of the ages as personified in the spirits of Virgil, St. Bernard, and Beatrice.  But the question must continually be asked whether an obstacle on the path, as monstrous as it may be, is external, or merely self-made.  If it is self-manufactured, then it should and can be destroyed just as surely as the sinful self can be conquered.  He, that is, the Old Adam or our sinful nature, cannot be tamed or transformed or converted, but must be drowned, killed, and destroyed, along with all the obstacles he conjures to beset one’s path. 

I do believe that of the Christian’s chief enemies (the devil, the world, and the flesh) the most underrated, and in a certain sense most dangerous, is the self.  One naturally wants to escape that which afflicts and torments him.  With David we confess:

“O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I get me away far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would make haste to escape, because of the stormy wind and tempest.” (Ps 55)

Yet in our fleeing we still never really seem to escape. I am reminded of St. Jerome, who even after leaving the immoral culture of Rome and seeking to live ascetically in the desert, found to his chagrin that he was plagued perhaps more than ever by temptations of the flesh.  The problem is that the enemy David laments in the psalm we quote above is not merely the wickedness of the world.

“For I have spied unrighteousness and strife in the city. Day and night they go about within the walls thereof; mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it. Wickedness is therein; deceit and guile go not out of her streets.”

There is, in fact, something more insidious going on.

“For it is not an open enemy that hath done me this dishonour; for then I could have borne it. Neither was it mine adversary that did magnify himself against me; for then peradventure I would have hid myself from him. But it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine own familiar friend.”

The one most familiar, the one who is your constant companion, the one closest to you, this one can be your worst and most treacherous enemy.  And for the Christian, we know that this is exactly what the Old Adam in us is.  What is closer than one’s own fallen (deathly) flesh?  And who, therefore, shall save me from the body of this death?  I for one thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  For by the paschal mystery the incarnate God has become even closer to me than my own flesh.  For I have been plunged into the paschal mystery of His death, and therefore also raised up with Him into the new life of His resurrection. 

But let us note well that new life in Christ means more than that heaven will be my home after this life is complete.  It means that I have the ability to trample Satan under my feet right here and now. Of course it is really Christ Himself who accomplishes this (Romans 16), for His conquering of Satan in His death (foretold already in Genesis 3) is a conquering that extends into my own life, and gives this little life great significance.  So I now have the ability, in Christ, to curse and destroy the most essential and dire enemies which come before me, and say of them, as David does: 

“Let death come hastily upon them, and let them go down quick into hell; for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.”

Or as we declare with David in another psalm (118):

“They kept me in on every side, they kept me in, I say, on every side: But in the Name of the Lord will I destroy them. They came about me like bees, and are extinct even as the fire among the thorns: For in the Name of the Lord I will destroy them.”

Believe it or not, dear reader, there are all too many Christians today who are embarrassed and scandalized by the fighting words in the psalms, like these.  How sorry I am for them!  For the enemies are real, and we are completely and perfectly fitted in Christ to take them on.  What matters in this conflict, in fact, is life and death, and as the Christian confesses in the midst of his afflictions with this same psalm, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” That death defying victory includes victory over the phantoms of our own making.  The same obstacles we raise, we can raze.  They include the defeatist mindset. They include the power we grant to our past. They include the low opinion we give to the dignity of our own personhood. 

So while none of this is to say that success or wealth or secular prosperity are to be expected, it is to say that the devils which haunt us, as frightening as they are, do not get the final say, or the final victory, and in fact many of them will rather handily be blown away even in the here and now by the breath of God, as we exercise our right to invoke the live-giving Spirit, Whom Christ breaths upon His people from the cross. And that’s what the final Bucks game means to me.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Paschal Vigil Mass in the Traditional Latin Form

No LCMS Vigil Mass around here tonight (ours at Luther Memorial is tomorrow morning), so I took the opportunity to hear and experience (a good portion of) the Paschal Vigil in Latin at St. Stanislaus, a church which is under the pastoral care of priests of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  (The Institute of Christ the King is a society within the RCC that is devoted to the traditional use in their Rite.)  The Latin Mass is hardly favored in the modern RC Church.   There is no aping after things Romanist in telling you what I loved about what I witnessed tonight.  For those things could rightly happen among more Lutherans as well.

Here are some of the things I witnessed.

Thinking I was too early, and wondering if the doors were even open yet, upon entering I saw several people already in their pews, on their knees in prayer.

I heard no talking, no chit chatting, no greetings, no laughter, no joking.  The quiet prayer and worship happening in the church before the liturgy began was deafening in its stunning confession of what the people there believe to be the purpose of that space.

I saw whole families, including the very young, enter in silence, all dressed respectfully and modestly, each one genuflecting before entering the pew.  That includes boys who looked like they were no more than about a year old.  They probably see their father do the same every Sunday at Mass, and want to imitate him, and perhaps have also been actively trained by Mom or Dad.

I saw dozens of women's heads covered, same for the little girls.

I heard the triple Lumen Christi, and the Latin Exsultet, beautifully chanted as it should be, by a deacon.

And I saw a wonderful crew of male acolytes, some quite young, very well trained, and all reverently doing their part.

I also heard some beautiful Latin.

I didn't stay very long after the exsultet, since I had to get back home to work on the Latif's Death By Chocolate Cake for tomorrow's dinner.  But, even though this was hardly my first time at a Latin Mass, I walked out so awed by the experience that I forgot to leave the little hand-held candle there.  St. Stan's (as it is routinely called in Milwaukee) is a diverse urban parish that takes pride in its church and takes its liturgical tradition seriously.  And I am grateful for the witness given by these things tonight.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

a bad resolution

Ministerial and sacramental fraud, by which I mean the public teaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments on the part of those not called to do so, is a great cause for concern in today's church.  If there were only one known case of it, it would be a scandal, and would merit immediate action on the part of the greater church.  The fact is, however, that it has slithered its way into the bloodstream of modern American Missouri Synod Lutheranism. It is rampant. Everyone knows it. Opinions merely differ on the degree to which it is a bad thing, and what to do about it.

I applaud those who are striving to combat the problem.  However, not every effort to that end is worthy of the Church.  One effort I would highlight is a resolution which the Northern Illinois District of the LC-MS passed a few weeks ago.

The text of the resolution can be found here, and reads as follows:

The 58th Convention of The Northern Illinois District of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod 40 March 6-7, 2015
Resolution 2-12B To Address Licensed Lay Administration of Word and Sacrament

WHEREAS Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession says, “Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the church or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly orderedcall” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord);” and
WHEREAS in 1989 our Synod at Wichita adopted Resolution 3-05B, regularizing under particular circumstances that the following be done by men who do not hold the Office of the Public Ministry: composing and delivering sermons, leading public worship services, and administering Holy Baptism and Holy Communion (1989 Convention Proceedings, 111- 2 113); and
WHEREAS there has been tension over this issue for the past 25 years; and
WHEREAS in 2007 the Synod established the “Specific Ministry Pastor Program” in which men are trained, examined, certified, called, and ordained in order to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments (Res. 5-01B, 2007 Convention Proceedings, 133 ff.); and
WHEREAS this program was designed to meet the objective, among others, of providing pastoral ministry where full-time ministry cannot be maintained and does so without conflicting  with Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession; therefore be it
RESOLVED that the Northern Illinois District respectfully request the Synod to discontinue the new licensing of laymen to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments (1989 Res. 3- 16 05B); and be it further
RESOLVED that those who are currently licensed be encouraged to enroll in the regular or SMP track leading to ordination; and be it further
RESOLVED that those who are currently licensed but not enrolled in the regular (i.e., residential seminary) or SMP track discontinue publically preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments within three years of the adoption of this resolution by the Synod in convention; and be it further
RESOLVED that an extension of the above deadline for those currently licensed can be granted by the appropriate District President in extreme circumstance, and that upon consultation with and the agreement of the President of the Synod; and be it finally
RESOLVED that the Northern Illinois District in convention submit this resolution as an overture to the Synod for consideration at the 2016 convention of Synod.
The following part is good, worthy, and right:

 "RESOLVED that the Northern Illinois District respectfully request the Synod to discontinue the new licensing of laymen to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments (1989 Res. 3- 16 05B)"

However, it is immediately followed by this:

 "and be it further
RESOLVED that those who are currently licensed be encouraged to enroll in the regular or SMP track leading to ordination"

This second "resolved" statement would have the church approve and reward violators of our Confession by welcoming them into seminary, and eventually granting them holy ordination.

Next, we have this:

"and be it further
RESOLVED that those who are currently licensed but not enrolled in the regular (i.e., residential seminary) or SMP track discontinue publically preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments within three years of the adoption of this resolution by the Synod in convention"

This officially permits, allows, and by implication endorses these men continuing in their improper activity for three additional years. Not merely three years from now, but three years from the resolution's adoption by the Synod convention.

Next we have this:

"and be it further
RESOLVED that an extension of the above deadline for those currently licensed can be granted by the appropriate District President in extreme circumstance, and that upon consultation with and the agreement of the President of the Synod"

This one grants a bureaucratic loophole to the above three year deadline. Are there "extreme circumstances" which make lay administration of the Eucharist acceptable?  How about lay preaching?  Do we glean that from the Augustana or the Book of Concord?

Such efforts might or might not be politically and bureaucratically wise.  This resolution, however, does not square with a church that takes seriously its Confession (eg., CA XIV), and cannot be defended on Confessional grounds. It should not have passed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Franz Ferdinand of Austria, RIP

I wasn't online yesterday, & hence didn't comment on the importance of the 28th of June for the history of the First World War.  It was the day, of course, on which, in 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was murdered, setting in motion the events which tragically led the world, a month later, into the great and awful war of 1914-1918. This year being the centennial of the start of that war, I encourage any and all to take time to study the First World War anew.  Regarding the Archduke, I am fascinated by his life and his place in Austro-Hungarian history, but also by his insistence on marrying the woman with whom he was in love, despite the fact that, by royal custom, since Sophie was not a member of one of the reigning families, they had to endure the humiliating social consequences of a morganatic marriage. Their marriage was loving, and produced four children, Sophie, Ernst, Maximilian, and a stillborn. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

house blessing

Our home, which we share with one of our bright young undergrad nephews, was blessed tonight by our pastor, Reverend Kenneth Wieting, who brought his lovely wife, Barbara.  Also in attendance was our niece Rachel, and our nephew David.

We thank God for His blessing upon this household and this dwelling, and we thank Dr. Wieting for pastorally caring for us in this special way.

An important aspect of the evening, I hasten to add, was the bacon cheddar puffs and the chocolate chip bars, which Ruth made.  Also on hand were some Lakefront Brewery products, and a tasty pinot noir.

Here are some pictures from the post-blessing conversation.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Catholic Faith Confessed in the Athanasian Creed

We are in the broad season of the liturgical year in which the Athanasian Creed has a home in our life of prayer.  And so I would take a moment and share one preliminary thought.  Namely, as clever as the famous Latin diagram of the connection of the persons of the Trinity may be, I would urge that it is deeply problematic to say or imply, by words or example, that this diagram is the catholic faith.  The Quicumque Vult would remind us, rather, that the catholic faith is identified with our worship of the Triune God, and faithfulness to the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Milwaukee Notebook

Recently my wife informed me that our friend and fellow parishioner, Carl Swanson, has started a blog with Milwaukee as its main theme.  I thought, could this really be, a well written blog which focuses on the uniqueness of our great city?  No. It can't be.  Surely it's too good to be true.  It turns out she wasn't joking.  So I'm happy to recommend Carl Swanson's Milwaukee Notebook.

Here is Carl's profile:

And here is his blog:

You will also now see it linked in the blog list on the right side of this blog.

Thanks, Carl, for putting the effort into this endeavor, and I look forward to much more of it.

complicating matters of worship

Those in the Church who think the liturgy is theirs to manipulate or tweak, who think the liturgy is their personal (or parish or bureaucratic) possession with which to tinker, have come to surround their position with notions now treated as axiomatic.  We can pass over the irony that a movement which sees its ideas as axiomatic also tends to be seen as courageous and brave.  More important is the fact that the very foundations of an idea are in question when its advocates treat them as beyond question.  I am here to challenge just such axioms.

For example, liturgical traditionalists are often thought (even by some liturgical traditionalists) to be advocating a complicated liturgical practice, while, conversely, the liturgical innovators are often thought to be advocates of simplifying the liturgy.  This becomes the template, the assumption, upon which all participants in the conversation agree, forcing the one side to come up with arguments for their complications and enabling the other side to assert that theirs is the side that is truly caring, pastoral, and user friendly.  Yet at its core there is something misleading about this line of thought.  Sure, a liturgical style freed from detailed rubrics may in one sense be described as simplified, but this dichotomy is well worth a deeper look.

Consider something as small as the salutation, "The Lord be with you."  The traditional response to this in Latin is always and everywhere "Et cum spiritu tuo," the traditional rendition of which in classic English is always "And with thy spirit."  Such language is at once precise and poetic, familiar and dignified, rich and simple.  And in that classic simplicity it is deeply memorable.  It becomes part of the comforting ritual of our common life together, a life which unites the family of baptized brethren in the worship of Christ our Immanuel, a family in all its intellectual, physical, emotional, cultural, linguistic, and generational diversity, a family which includes those who lack sight to see the printed page, those too young to know how to read, those who never learned, those without the mental capacity to follow along with frequent changes in liturgical settings, those with short attention spans, those whose hearing is waning, and whose liturgical response might be set on a sort of auto pilot set decades earlier, and those from sister parishes in other states, and other continents. 

By contrast, the situation which often prevails today is one in which there is no certainty about what one's response should be until he has had the chance to study which of the five masses in LSB will be used that day.  If it happens that Divine Service 1, 2, or 4 is being used, then he must know to say "And also with you."  If he is supposed to be turned to Divine Service 3, then he should say, "And with thy spirit."  If his church is using Divine Service 5, he is directed by the book to say, "And also with you" (despite the fact that this mass is often described as being based on Luther's German Mass, wherein the phrase "and also with you" will not be found in any language).  At Vespers, before the collect the response is not "and with thy spirit," as it is in Divine Service 3, but rather "and with your spirit," thus throwing everyone off.  In the Funeral Service, a rite which often brings together generations of family and friends, many of whom have fond memories of the liturgy of their youth, they are now called upon to say "and also with you."  Finally, with all of this diversity of forms in the book, what is a congregation to say when, outside of a printed service, the pastor opens a bible study or some other such meeting with the words, "The Lord be with you"?  Unfortunately, the result in our age will often be a slightly confused combination of responses. 

Which way is simpler and which has complicated matters, the traditional consistency of form or the modern service book's diversity of form?  It's really the people's fault, for they ought not be going into worship with expectations.  They should learn that those who have put such hard work into all of this material have done so out of love and care for them.  They should meet these planners halfway.  Seriously, though, sometimes the consistency is broken down even further.  I attended a Holy Week liturgy recently where two different responses were used within the same liturgy.  Consistency from place to place may be long gone, but now so is consistency within a parish, and even within the same hour of worship, necessitating the constant reading of the printed material in our hands, and thus stultifying our sense of worship.

Consider just one more small element of our liturgical life, the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father, etc.).  This is not a mere extra word of doxology we tack onto our psalms and introits, a little something we do for the sake of liturgical flourish.  In other words, it is not a mere formality.  It is, rather, a beautiful and immensely rich prayer.  And once it becomes part of the very heart of a man, once it is woven into the very fiber of his life of prayer, then, as with all of the greatest prayers, it may begin to elevate him to contemplation and true prayer.  Saint Francis said, "Study well the Gloria Patri.  In it you will find the whole substance of the Scriptures."  But the first step toward such prayer and contemplation is knowing the text by heart, just as before we can begin to appreciate how the Small Catechism can serve as a rich form of prayer, Luther would first have us settle on a form of it, and learn it.  Learn it to the degree that it soaks into the heart, mind, and soul.  Then one is properly fit to begin learning to use such forms as the vehicle for what Luther in his open letter on prayer calls true prayer

But what is the situation today with our use of the Gloria Patri?  In Divine Service 1 and 2, the following form is used at the Nunc Dimitis after Communion, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen."  The same will be used for introits.  In Divine Service 4 the Gloria Patri is not to be found at all, unless a church chooses to opt for the introit or psalm instead of a hymn before the Kyrie.  The hymnic paraphrase of the Gloria Patri found on page 211 of that service is not the Gloria Patri, but, as I say, a paraphrase.  A church could quite conceivably use Divine Service 4 and never have the Gloria Patri.  If a church uses Divine Service 5, the Gloria Patri might be heard once if the planners of the liturgy there opt for an introit, possibly twice if they opt for a psalm instead of a gradual (is the Gloria Patri used where a psalm replaces a gradual?), and quite conceivably not at all.  For the sake of throwing a bone to the traditional element, the makers of the LSB included a rendition of the Common Service, Divine Service 3.  And so one might expect to hear the classic wording, "Glory be the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."  Don't be so quick with your expectations, though, dear reader.  Yes, the classic form is found at the Nunc Dimitis.  But how about the introit?  There it gets a bit tricky.  The book tells the reader (you see that we are now first and foremost readers in church, rather than worshipers) that the classic form of the Gloria Patri may be used.  And what happens if they use the introit as it is printed in the normal LCMS material?  They get the modern version.  So the traditional service in LSB affords occasion for the most inconsistency of all.  That's hardly a bone that satisfies traditional notions of consistency of form.

Many more aspects of the liturgy could be discussed in their relation to the question at hand.  But the two we have explored here, the response to the salutation and the Gloria Patri, suffice to show just how deceiving some of our accepted notions can be.  The way toward a worship life that is spiritually edifying in its essential simplicity is the way of consistency.  That way is blocked by the current accepted worship forms.

Monday, December 30, 2013

An Extra-Mild Post

For a good while now, I suppose at least six months, I've been away from not only this blog, but also Facebook, and even personal email.  It is not that I decided to cut down or draw back from Internet usage, though I respect those who have made such decisions.  On the whole, Americans have become too disconnected from the real world.  This, however, was not a decision of that sort.  The reason I have been away is simpler and less philosophical, though it will be hard for some to understand.  Namely, I have been kept from it by lack of time & energy.  Beginning, I suppose, around the start of the summer busy season at the brewery this year, my days have been dedicated to long hours at work, which is not to complain about my work, just to share with you what's been going on with me, ie., not much besides shipping and invoicing beer.

I'm trying, finally, to get back to interaction with my friends on the Internet and my activity here, etc., which is helped by the fact that my boss convinced me to take some vacation time.  It feels weird to be away from my job.  Suddenly, about half of Springsteen's oeuvre doesn't apply to me.  You know, all those songs about a guy who's been working all week, or who's late for work, or who's getting off work, etc.  The first few days of my vacation were consumed with Christmas activities and so forth.  Now, I seem to have come down with a cold-almost of a type bad enough that I would not want to be at work if I were not on vacation.  So I suppose it's a good thing I'm on vacation.  So, while I'm in no condition for social interaction, these next few days of my vacation should enable me to spend some overdue time in my study, getting some good reading, maybe a bit of writing, and hopefully even making an appearance on Facebook.  I was actually thinking of getting back onto Facebook first, then posting something here, but I couldn't think of my password, so I created a new one, and updated some other information, and as a consequence, Facebook is requiring me to wait 24 hrs to log in. 

So for now, I'll let this serve as my notice that I am back online, and my request that you forgive any failure to respond to anyone in any Internet format: Facebook, blog comment, email, whatever.  I was not consciously ignoring you.  Rather, I was literally ignorant of all activity in this realm, and so was not here to respond, let alone correspond.  It's certainly not that I didn't have anything to say.  Perhaps I'll finally get back to sharing some of those things here.

And now, I wish to give you a little treat on this the Sixth Day of Christmas.  And I dedicate it in particular to my sister, Fatime.  (Please note that Fatime's name is spelled in the Albanian manner, but is pronounced the same as in the following Youtube video.)  On Sunday mornings, as I drive out to the edge of town to pick up my nephew for Mass, sometimes I say a psalm to myself, other times I have a CD playing, sometimes I have NPR on the radio (WUWM 89.7 FM), sometimes I listen to the Catholics (Relevant Radio 100.1 FM), sometimes I check Radio Milwaukee (88.9 FM), and sometimes I turn the dial to WMSE (91.7 FM).  One of the things you will hear on MSE on Sunday morning is Frontier Radio Theatre, which plays old radio shows, and once in a while the show played in that time slot is an episode of the old Dragnet radio show.  Yes, you guessed it, when WMSE broadcasts the old Dragnet shows, the listener also gets to hear the commercials that were made for that show back in the day (circa 1951).  I confess that I find these commercial ads most amusing (so does my nephew), for they cannot help remind us of the Fatime that he and I both know (my sister and my nephew's mother).