Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lutheran Disaster Response

Lutheran Disaster Response has a number of resources available to publicize how we can help with recent disasters:


You can also donate on-line.

When we got home from vacation last week and saw the Christ Lutheran fire and the tornado damage, we were overwhelmed. Now, I hardly even know what to say. I also feel guilty, because this storm, closer to home, has caused me greater anxiety than other disasters that happened further away. A natural response, but still driven by sin. Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Leonardo Boff

Ecclesiogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvent the Church

For the Pastor-Theologian program this coming year, we're reading representative ecclesiologies from a variety of traditions. I'm tackling Boff's "liberation" theology right now, a work that is kind of dated, but does give interesting insights into theologians past Vatican II, and in the light of Lumen Gentium, worked within the orbit of Roman catholic theology while attempting to radicalize some of the definitions of the church.

This quote, for example:

"The basic church communities, while signifying the communitarian aspect of Christianity, and signifying it within the church, cannot pretend to constitute a global alternative to the church as institution. They can only be its ferment for renewal."

It's interesting to be reminded that liberation theology was not originally (I think this is true) a Protestant, but rather a Catholic, impulse. I imagine Boff's proposals would have seemed radical in his day. Will post more from these books as I move along.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Open-ended questions in preparation for a confession on the church

What is the church? What is it for? Does God need the church? Do we need the church? Does the church need God?

I could continue the questions, but these are sufficient to get the conversation started...

Monday, August 22, 2005

church newsletter articles

At the beginning of each month, I receive approximately 15 or 20 church newsletters, mostly from neighboring churches. It seems to me a universal practice for churches to send out a monthly newsletter. Lots of these newsletters are similarly formatted: a calendar, a list of birthdays, a list of homebound members, a copy of the approved council minutes, publicity for upcoming congregational events, and the ubiquitous pastor's letter/note/column.

Each month, almost every pastor I know sits down and writes one of these puppies. Some take it as their opportunity to write a bit of theology. Others reflect on Scripture. Most write more of a column, either on a pressing topic within the congregation, or some matter of concern. Most columns that I read are not unlike blog entries. Some are long and rambling with little point. Others are concise and minor literary masterpieces (this might be an exageration).

I've often thought it would be wise for me to map out 12 "topics" for the year, so that there is some order to the madness, and my columns are not subject to the whims of fancy. The over-arching question is always this: what is the most important thing to publish in the congregation's life at this time, and a second question is like it: who will read it?

In this particular case, the events of last week will likely push out what I had intended to publish, a short essay on why more adults should be involved in Christian education in our congregation. Instead, I'll write descriptively about our congregational response to the tornado, and a Biblical reflection on the consolation we have from God in that we can pray to the Father, as the psalms often do, not only with thanksgiving and adulation, but also complaint and fear and concern.

I may try to slip an extra little note into the newsletter about Christian education. :)

I really do enjoy writing these columns- I think most pastors do, which is why they write them. It's like having a cottage publishing industry. It may distract some of us from the work of writing for larger publications (as does blogging, I guess). Nevertheless, it is fun to be able to write for a small community in the way pastors can in their monthly column. I pray that I will do it faithfully.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Stoughton Fire and Storm

For those of you who know we live in Stoughton, WI, I'll let you know that we weren't affected by the tornadoes, nor was it our church that burnt down this past week. That said, we extend our sympathies to all those who have been affected, we are praying for them, and hope that we can be of some assistance in clean-up efforts in the days and weeks ahead.

May the Lord be merciful to us, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Baby Products

So, when you are planning for a baby, you start looking at products like the link above, and you have to weigh the ethics of locally produced and quality made versus inexpensive and sold at a large retail outlet. We were very taken with these bags, but not the price. Handmade in Iowa. Fair trade because you actually know who made it. Anyway, it's a whole new world of shopping.

And in the midst of death, and family members who are sick, we are planning for new life in our family. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Friday, August 12, 2005

In Memoriam

It's strange to think back on seminary. The first few years are actually difficult to remember, because I was entering the strange new world of theology. Thinking theologically is not a native condition, and the ways one can think theologically are diverse enough that not only was I exposed to this new way of thinking and speaking, but I had contesting babies birthing inside of me, and I wondered whether there would be synthesis, antithesis, or thesis.

Anyway, 2nd semester of my first year at sem I took my first class with Gerharde Forde. I cannot confess to liking his teaching style, at least at first. He spoke using pre-written lectures, and the general method of sitting through his classes was (at least for me) to try and write down everything that he said. My hand got tired each session.

This was not like a lot of the other teaching I had been exposed to. Very little discussion, few random digressions, monological rather than dialogical. Forde didn't have something to discuss, he had something to teach. It was the straight-up oral presentation of a theological worldview, theology that preached Christ and was thoughtfully constructed to prepare preachers to preach.

For my final paper, I basically parroted back what I had heard Forde say during the semester. I got an A. This kind of teaching also puzzled me at the time.

Now, looking back, I realize that there was method behind the madness. I can think of no other teacher who has had so much formative influence on my thought. This is not to say that I have taken the road many trod, of trying to talk and write and think like Forde ad nauseum until the eschaton. Forde did create a school, of sorts, I think not intentionally, for his is a gentle soul not prone to control. The school arose from the power of the Gospel he so carefully taught. I find it frustrating and almost ill-making how some of those who follow Forde have rigidized and formalized his thought as if you should go only so far as Forde and then stop there.

IMHO, Forde is like Wittgenstein, at least in this way- he takes you along the way, and then invites you to keep going. This is what Forde taught me, that from the basis he provides in his writing and teaching, I can and should become a theologian. The gospel of Christ does this- it makes those of us who have heard it, theologians for the sake of proclamation.

The enigma of Forde is that his style of teaching, although it seems to invite just the opposite (you first have to think like Forde in order to then keep going after Forde) actually establishes an independence of thinking. I believe I owe my being a theologian, in large part, to his method.

I still read everything he writes or has written. I no longer try to take passages of his books and translate them directly into the next sermon I am preaching (although this was a danger for me, and remains one for others). I am reminded by Forde that theology is not itself proclamation- it is for proclamation.

So, in memory of Professor Gerharde Forde, I write and publish these words, both as challenge and celebration. May the faculty of our seminaries maintain, as Forde did, the gentleness of soul and passion of mind that led to a teacher who was not afraid to speak clearly and forcefully the doctrine of the faith, but then did not break faith with those with whom he disagreed out of sheer arrogance.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Dr. Gerharde Forde

There are many eu-logies that could be spoken of this gentle professor, but for now, I simply pray:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetuam luceat eis.
Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.

My condolences to all who mourn.

In Christ,


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Preaching a Bad Sermon

I didn't preach well today. Most of the time, I feel satisfied that I have done justice to my calling as preacher. After marriage, preaching is my greatest joy in life. I am blessed to engage deeply with Scripture each week, and wrestle enough with it to distinguish law & gospel and discern how to preach the Word of God in the congregation.

But what do you do when you feel you've failed at preaching the Word of God clearly? Of course, I still trust that the Spirit can and does make use of faulty speech and disorganized thoughts. You can't and shouldn't make this a presupposition of preaching. We are still called to do our best and most faithful preaching each week even though it is the Spirit that enlivens faith in those who hear, and not the prowess of our preaching.

But I never know what to do after a sermon is over and I believe I've preached poorly. My gut reaction- I want to make a simple announcement, prior to the dismissal, where I simply acknowledge that the sermon wasn't my best work, but come back next week and it will be better. Funny.

Even more humorous, maybe, is that the sermon was on the ways we fail to have faith, but the Word of God makes something new out of us- in the case of Elijah, takes a scared weak man huddling in a cave and makes him into a powerful prophet, in the case of Peter takes a stumbling and sinking foolhard and makes him the rock on which the church is built. May the Lord do thus and so with even my poor words.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We're expecting

To those of you who read my blog, I thought I'd simply post the news that we are expecting our first child on or around November 8th. The journey toward fatherhood is quite a ride. There are more miracles in this process than the miracle of new life, which is miracle enough. There is also the miracle of the transformation that occurs in your thoughts and in your relationship as you plan to make the change from being two to being three. We've been surprised by joy so far- and have also been sufficiently warned to "sleep now, watch movies now, go out to eat now, cause once the baby arrives..."

On other fronts:

The ELCA and its condition seems to be a constant center of conversation. There's gloom and doom on all sides. I'll be honest. I'm not worried. We know, because of the witness of Christ and the Spirit, that God is faithful. The church will weather this churchwide assembly, because the center always holds, it is the center that is the Trinity.

I'll be even more honest. I'm an evangelical catholic, or one could say orthodox Lutheran, I don't know, titles are funny... anyway, I believe we can be faithful to the full witness of Scripture and tradition and admit we've been wrong about faithful same-sex relationships. The church can bless them, because I believe and hope that God blesses them. Until the time when our church officially recognizes this, I will continue to uphold and practice the public teachings of my denomination and church. I hold a public office. But as a public witness in the world, I say it is time for us to admit that we've been wrong. The church begins with confession, yes?