Monday, October 30, 2006

2006 Elections

I haven't had the urge to write anything about the upcoming elections because, to be honest, most of our political process has become painful to me. I did get out and do literature drop for some of my candidates this past week, but somehow, with all the negative campaigning and advertisements, I just feel disenchanted.

Maybe I'm also sometimes disenchanted because both parties, in fact most of those who campaign, seem to wish to present themselves as the answer and solution, as almost salvific, in the midst of various quagmires, moral imperatives, etc. I tend not to wish to buy into such nonsense.

If you'd like to do something practical and worthwhile, though, do this: Visit the Bread of the World web site this next week, and write advocacy letters to your members of congress encouraging high levels of poverty-focused development assistance. It'll be good if, after the elections, the first thing they hear is that their constituents care about hunger and poverty worldwide.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Listening to the Samples Again for the First Time

Today I got out an old album I hadn't put in the CD player for years, The Sample's Underwater People. I fell in love with The Samples the summer I worked out at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Bible Camp in Colorado. One Saturday (we only ever had 24 hours off on weekends between weeks of camp) we drove up to Vail, CO, to see them live. It was the first time I ever bought a McDonalds value meal that cost over $8 (Vail was and still is exorbinantly expensive).

They're a great band in concert, and there was something dreamy about rolling through the mountains on that day, then hearing the concert, then ghosting back across the mountains at night so as to be back for camp the next day.

I played the CD because it is very reggae-like and fun, and I thought my son would like dancing to it with me. He did. We hugged our way through the last song, "Feel Us Shakin", which includes this great line, sung pitch perfect, "It's beautiful to be here and alive."

If you can check the album out from a library or buy it, do so. It's not just my memories that make the album come alive. It's really just plain fun.

Starting a Pastorate in Idaho

After I wrote a brief blog post about our new kitchen table, the wife of a retired pastor in our congregation, wrote me the following, reprinted with her permission:

Your kitchen table and chairs brought back some memories. When we went to Idaho for Stan’s first call we had a card table, a coffee table, and a dressing table. No bed. We had to spend the first night in a hotel.

It was right after the WWII so there were few appliances available. Every Monday, before making calls (on foot since we had no car the first 3 years we were married) Stan would visit all the hardware stores trying to find a stove and refrigerator. We had a tiny ice box. When we put the ice in there was only room for the baby’s formula. He, also, visited the garages looking for a new car. Oh, that wonderful day when we had got our little Nash 600. When Stan said, “Let’s run up to Boise” it was like a new world had opened up for us. SO I can appreciate your pleasure in your table and chairs. M.E

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Heidelberg Disputation

Heidelberg Disputation- I'm making use of this in relation to my sermon tomorrow, and thought readers of the blog might benefit from a first or re-read of this profound text.

May 1518

Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside and Brother Leonhard Beier, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place. In the month of May, 1518.

Theological Theses

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, "Do not rely on your own insight" [Prov. 3.5], we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him. [Proof 1]

2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end. [Proof 2]

3. Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins. [Proof 3]

4. Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits. [Proof 4]

5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.

6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.

7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.

8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.

10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.

11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.

14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can do evil in an evil capacity.

15. Nor could the free will endure in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in a passive capacity.

16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.

19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1.20]. **

20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is.

22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded and hardened.

23. The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ [Rom. 4.15].

24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.

25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.

26. The law says "Do this", and it is never done. Grace says, "believe in this" and everything is already done.

27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work and our work an accomplished work, and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.

28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

Philosophical Theses

29. He who wishes to philosophize by using Aristotle without danger to his soul must first become thoroughly foolish in Christ.

30. Just as a person does not use the evil of passion well unless he is a married man, so no person philosophizes well unless he is a fool, that is, a Christian.

31. It was easy for Aristotle to believe that the world was eternal since he believed that the human soul was mortal.

32. After the proposition that there are as many material forms as there are created things has been accepted, it was necessary to accept that they are all material.

33. Nothing in the world becomes something of necessity; nevertheless, that which comes forth from matter, again by necessity, comes into being according to nature.

34. If Aristotle would have recognized the absolute power of God, he would accordingly have maintained that it was impossible for matter to exist of itself alone.

35. According to Aristotle, nothing is infinite with respect to action, yet with respect to power and matter, as many things as have been created are infinite.

36. Aristotle wrongly finds fault with and derides the ideas of Plato, which actually are better than his own.

37. The mathematical order of material things is ingeniously maintained by Pythagoras, but more ingenious is the interaction of ideas maintained by Plato.

38. The disputation of Aristotle lashes out at Parmenides’ idea of oneness (if a Christian will pardon this) in a battle of air.

39. If Anaxagoras posited infinity as to form, as it seems he did, he was the best of the philosophers, even if Aristotle was unwilling to acknowledge this.

40. To Aristotle, privation, matter, form, movable, immovable, impulse, power, etc. seem to be the same.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Danielson: A Family Movie

There's actually going to be a movie! The Danielson Familie is a band that has given birth to some of the offspring that I listen to quite a bit lately- including Sufjan Stevens and Half-Handed Cloud. They're what you might call avant garde Christian.

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month. I'm officially announcing here on this blog that I'm going to give it a shot. 2000 words a day for 30 days.


We probably all know by now that YouTube was purchased by google for an insane amount of money. Yesterday NPR ran a program on this, and they included a reference to this program, a speech by Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central. It is really something.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I'm in Duluth these last three days for the fall meeting of our Pastor-theologian group. Fun to have driven across Wisconsin as the fall leaves turn, even more fun to hang out on Lake Superior as the fog rolls in. I've taken a sauna every day since I've been here.

Topic? Well, ostensibly we're discussion the relationship between Christ, soteriology, and the world. Topics that come up in relation to this include the concept of the cosmic Christ, the question of the doctrine of all things being created in, through, and for Christ, the nature of public theology, and how the gospel is FOR the world, not simply for the individual believer or for the church.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lectio Divina

I think I've experienced the term lectio divina variously used in books, lectures, and events in a wide variety of ways. At root, they've been the same. Read the passage more than once. Do something different with it each time you read it.

Since it is an "art" rather than a science, it's not surprising that there are different descriptions or methodologies. Nevertheless, the dissimilarity of some portions of what gets called "lectio divina" has left me puzzled.

Historically, the term was described first by Guigo II in the 12th century:

Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one's powers on it. Meditation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one's own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart's devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good. Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.

This outlines what can be briefly stated with four terms:

Lectio- reading
Meditatio- application of mind
Oratio- prayer
Contemplatio- the cream of the crop, joyous contemplation

My Advent discipline will be to read the Bible regularly in this way, reducing my normal reading schedule substantially. I have heard, and will heed, the words of Bonhoeffer, a warning against using lectio as stealth study time. It is a constant danger for all pastors. We read the Bible in order to prepare for a sermon or class, but do not read it as it addresses us. Bonhoefer writes, "Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Orhan Pamuk

I read Snow last year, and it affected me deeply. I recently snagged a copy of it at the local library sale. I imagine now after winning the Nobel prize his books will be a bit harder to snag at used book sales- at least for a time.

I'm glad he has won this award, and hope more folks will read his work. He might also have the coolest name of anyone I know.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Writing book reviews

William Kennedy is quoted in the most recent NY Times Book Review, saying:

Any book by Cormac McCarthy is worth buying and, when invited to do so, worth reviewing... I don't review much any more. I did it as a way of life for a while and almost made a living at it, but it was painful to read bad or disappointing books, and worse to write negatively about them. But reviewing a substantial novel like 'The Road is an exercise in personal discipline, and the spirit is elevated; for a close reading is itself a creative act, an immersion in the style and value of this gifted author; and it is, as well, a reassurance that literary complexity and high seriousness are not as endangered as some say they are.

I write a lot of reviews, and read even more, but have never read such a true "review of the craft of book reviews." Thank you, William Kennedy.


My grandmother died this morning. Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kitchen Table

Self-congratulations are in order. After 10 years of married life, our household purchased it's first kitchen table, with two leaves and six chairs. Up to this point, we'd been using a folding table and chairs purchased at Target.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

College Mix CD

Recently, we sent care packages to our students who went off to college this past year. I made a college mix CD for them using songs for free off artist web sites. I hope this was kosher. If not, I am willing to pay for the individual songs that were copied. Anyway, here are the tracks with notes.

Tracks (with notes)

1. Librarian, by Jonathan Rundman: Rundman played at Rally Day this year in church. This song is about vocation, about our callings. I imagine some of you are pondering what God is calling you to be. God called my wife to be a librarian. So of course, she likes this song. So do I.

2. Something of an End, by My Brightest Diamond: I just love this woman's voice, and the record company she records with, Asthmatic Kitty, is quirky but very original and fun, and many of the artists are secular Christians (kind of like U2).

3. Theologians, by Wilco: This song is humbling. It's the first song I ever heard about theologians by a famous rock musicians, and the first line is, "Theologians don't know nothing about my soul."

4. Prayer of Good Courage, by Kent Gustafson: Kent wrote music for vespers in a kind of bluegrass style, and this is one song from that.

5. Feed Your Sheep a Burning Lamp, by Half-Handed Cloud: This band is just plain weird, and I love it.

6. Levee, by Rachel Kurtz: This singer/songwriter from Minneapolis played at the National Youth Convention this summer, and just has a wonderful sound.

7. Carol of the Bells, by Jonathan Rundman: Another song by Rundman, this one about meeting the love of your life in church choir.

8. My Apology, by Jonathan Rundman

9. Lucy, by Over the Rhine: This Ohio ensemble was recommended to me on my blog by people who listen to music like I do.

10. My Love is a Fever, by Over the Rhine

11. State of Grace, Pierce Pettis: Pierce is a more mainstream Christian musician, but I like his sound. Some of his albums are guitar only.

12. Sister Winter, by Sufjan Stevens: Sufjan has been getting a lot of attention lately, he plans to write one album for each state in the U.S., and has currently covered Michigan and Illinois. He was also on the soundtrack for a movie we really liked, Little Miss Sunshine.

13. Magnificat, by Kent Gustavson: Everybody should have at least one sung version of the Magnificat. This is one from the vespers service I mentioned earlier.

14. Now the Day is Over, by Innocence Mission: Everybody should also have at least one lullaby, and this one is so beautiful. I used to sing it a lot for Samuel to help him go to sleep.

15. Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle for Departure, by Jonathan Rundman: This is a song originally sung by the old man who greets Jesus in the temple, but is also the last song in Rundman's Heartland Liturgy. A good way to end an album.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Discovering 37Signals

These are truly cool web based organizing options. Thanks again to the tech list from the library.

Living the Questions

I have sympathies with the liberal cause, so forgive me, but I can't quite know what to make of "an unapologetically liberal alternative to Alpha." Is this necessary? Is it an attempt at making commensurable the incommensurable?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Technology Speed Dial

My wife at a recent in-service day at work attended a presentation called "Technology Speed Dial". She came home with a fabo list of web sites, and I'm going to feature a few of them here on the blog.

So, on "43 Things" there are 26 people who have it as their goal to study theology. Who knew?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pray Without Ceasing

Just picked up Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger's new book Pray Without Ceasing: Revitalizing Pastoral Care , and am finding it compelling and attractive. For some time now, I've been realizing the need to pay attention to the mode of cure of souls (seelsorge) that is sometimes lacking in our training as clergy, replaced as it is by psychotherapeutic methods and mechanistic "leadership" models.

Not that these things are bad... just the opposite, I value my psychological and leadership training. Nevertheless, there is something unique in the pastoral office that cannot or is not normally done in therapy offices or by leaders- it could be called variously "cure of souls" or the "office of the keys", the ministry of law & gospel. Prayer ministry. I don't know for sure, but the fact that we don't have a good name for it, and have to convince ourselves of its value (how hard is it for most of us, including pastors, to be regular in our prayer life?), is an example of how distant we've come from it, especially our cultivation of it as an art.

I believer Hunsinger sees it as an art, and treats it as such.