Friday, November 30, 2007


Exodus is arguably the most important book of the Bible. The man who leads the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses, is the author of Genesis, or at least the named narrator, which means he tells or writes down the Genesis account after the exodus happens and the wilderness wanderings. So, although Genesis is first in order, it is second in importance.

It is probably also important draw some distinctions here. Right now we are reading what has traditionally been called the Pentateuch- the first five books of the Bible. They are sometimes referred to as the Law, or Torah. These are the five books that most synagogues have read publicly on Sabbath. They take them out and read them, week after week, straight through. They are considered that important in the life of the synagogue and the people of Israel.

The rest of the books of the Old Testament are also considered canonical and inspired by God, but somehow or other, they all exist and shine best in the light of these first five books. Maybe the only exception to this is the Psalms, which are a collection of Israel’s prayers. Luther considered the Psalms to be the “whole Bible in miniature.” Of course, there are lots of books of the Old Testament that are also wonderful and important—the prophets, wisdom literature, the historical books—but the first five books will always stand as a kind of foundation and first testament, and the book within these five that has pride of place is Exodus.

Why? Well, first of all because it is the story of Moses and the Exodus. Moses is not only the historian—he is also the lawgiver, the one who saw the face of God and lived. Exodus is also a book of three different but incredibly important stories. Chapters 1-13 record the exodus event itself, God’s liberation of the Israelites from slavery and bondage to Egypt. This story is an historical event that many can compare to the redemption or rescue we have experienced in Jesus Christ. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, so Jesus leads US out of sin and death and into the promised land of new life with God.

Chapter 13-18 record the wilderness wanderings. It’s important for us to remember that the Israelites, even when they were liberated from Egypt, still immediately fell into doubt and sin while in the wilderness. Yet God remained faithful and led the way. We might compare this part of their journey to the life we live as the baptized people of God. In baptism we are washed and redeemed, but in this life we still life as people on the way, in the wilderness, sinners in daily need of repentance.

Finally, chapters 19-40 record the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai. Here God gives the law through Moses (19-24), gives instructions for worship (25-31), and then it is shown, to us seemingly in a very redundant fashion, that everything God commanded is carried out (34-40). Here in these last chapters we witness the power of God’s word and command. Everything God says, Israel does. Clearly this was important to Moses, and so there is the repetition.

Some themes you can reflect on as you read this book include the following:

What might slavery in Egypt look like today in our own culture or lives? How is God working for liberation? Who is our Moses?
The Israelites made a covenant with God. What was their covenant? What is our covenant with God? How do we fail in our covenant? How is God faithful even when we fail?
How do we worship? What does God desire in our worship?
How do we think about “the law”, especially the 10 commandments? What can we learn, for example, by reviewing the Small Catechism and Luther’s explanation of the 10 commandments?

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 - Bio-bibliography

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 - Bio-bibliography

Isn't it awesome that one of the great sci fi writers won the Nobel Prize this year?!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Google Music: The National

Google Music: The National

Paste Magazine rated this the best album of 2007. I hadn't heard of it. On the other hand, some of my favorite albums were in the top 20. I've asterisked the ones I own and love, and put a ^ behind the ones I've heard on loan from the library but didn't fall for, and a ~ behind the ones that are on my Christmas list:

1. The National, Boxer
2. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible*
3. Bruce Springsteen, Magic
4. The White Stripes, Icky Thump^
5. Feist, Reminder
6. M.I.A., Kala^
7. Wilco, Sky Blue Sky* (my personal best album of the year)
8. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank^
9. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin~
10. Iron and Wine, The Shepherd's Dog~
11. Radiohead, In Rainbows* (got it through that cool deal on their web site, this is in my own estimation the 3rd best album of the year)
12. Avett Brothers, Emotionalism
13. Amy Winehouse, Back in Black
14. Loney, Dear Loney, Noir
15. Kanye West, Graduation
16. Ryan Adams, Easy Tiger
17. Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
18. Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
19. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Living with the Living
20. Blonde Redhead

And my favorites that were in the top 50 but I thought should be higher:

Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (this should have been #2 overall)
Over the Rhine, Trumpet Child~
Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell*
The Shins, Wincing the Night Away* (should have been #4)

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any albums that should have made it into the Paste Top 50 that didn't...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Theological Analysis of Books of the Bible ranking

I suspect that the voting results on the books of the bible ranking on the blog indicates at least the following:

1) Large Lutheran readership for whom the influence of Romans on Luther remains important.

2) Just slightly lesser recognition that Exodus is the linchpin of the OT, partially because it is the story of the liberation of Israel from bondage, but also because it is the lense through which we read much of the rest of the Bible.

3) A bias towards the more theological of the gospels- John. I also am biased in this direction.

4) At least some fleeting recognition that the Psalms are the Scriptures in miniature.

Turkey Carved Following the Directions of a Butcher

I watched a great instructional video on the NY Times web site for turkey carving, and this was the result!

ELCA Initial Response for Bangladesh

ELCA Sends Initial Grant to Assist Bangladesh Cyclone Recovery

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Cyclone Sidr left more than 3,000 people
dead and millions homeless after it struck the coast of
Bangladesh in Southern Asia on Nov. 15. The Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA), through its International Disaster
Response, is sending an initial $50,000 to assist disaster
response organizations that have mobilized to provide emergency
food, medical support and temporary shelter.
The cyclone triggered a 15-foot water surge that inundated
the coastal towns of Patuakhali, Barguna and Jhalakathi, with a
combined population of 700,000. Disaster response organizations
worldwide are providing survivors with basic necessities,
including water, rice, medicine and shelter.
ELCA funds are channeled through Action by Churches Together
(ACT). ACT's coordinated response will be implemented by several
faith-based organizations in Bangladesh, including Lutheran
Health Care Bangladesh (LHCB).
"We are sharing our resources and whatever we have with
those who are suffering in the areas that we serve. Please pray
for us at this time," said Benedict Bijoy Baroi, LHCB executive
"The devastation is widespread throughout the country, and
the effects go beyond the dead and the injured. Trees and power
lines are down, blocking roads and causing major electrical
blackouts throughout much of the country," Baroi reported. "Much
of the infrastructure in affected areas has been destroyed.
Drinking water is a major issue, as saline water has gotten into
drinking water in the coastal area, and carcasses -- both human
and animal -- have further polluted drinking water," he said.
In the aftermath of the cyclone, LHCB is giving out seven-
day supplies of food, water purification pills and other supplies
to 300 families. It plans to reach out to 5,000 families in the
Patuakhali and Madaripur districts, areas where LHCB actively
engages in such ongoing programs as digging deep wells.
Other ACT response organizations are Christian Commission
for Development Bangladesh, Social Health and Education
Development Board, the Church of Bangladesh and Christian Aid.
Coordinated by ELCA Global Mission, International Disaster
Response channels its funds through international church
organizations and relief agencies. ACT is a global alliance of
churches and related agencies working to save lives and support
communities in emergency situations worldwide. It is based with
the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF), in Geneva. The ELCA is a member of the WCC and
- - -
The home page of Lutheran Health Care Bangladesh is at on the Web.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Exodus or Romans

Right now Exodus and Romans are neck and neck for "most important book of Scripture" here on Lutheran confessions. Get your vote in soon!

ELCA Domestic and International Disaster Response

ELCA Domestic and International Disaster Response: "Disaster response organizations are mobilizing aid in Bangladesh after Cyclone Sidr left more than a quarter million families homeless and killed more than 2,000 when the storm hit the country''s western coast. The cyclone hit the southern coast of Bangladesh on Nov. 15, 2007, leaving behind a trail of devastation in 22 districts in the south and southwestern coastal areas of the country. The coastal towns of Patuakhali, Barguna and Jhalakathi, with a combined population of 700,000, were inundated by a water surge 15 feet high triggered by the cyclone. The full extent of the destruction and loss of life is not yet know. However, the cyclone was more violent then the one in April 1991. Extensive damage to houses, crops, school buildings, roads, ripping up trees and disrupting electricity and telecommunication systems have been reported. The unofficial death toll stands at more than 2,000 with the numbers rising. Hundreds of thousands of people, especially those living in coastal areas, were evacuated to safer places including near-by cyclone shelters. Many others had taken shelter in school buildings and other available facilities. Others are living under the open sky. "

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Primoz Trubar Featured on 1-euro coin

Primus Trubar was a Lutheran reformer, the first book printed in Slovenian was his Catechism.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oxford University Press: The Bottom Billion: Paul Collier

Oxford University Press: The Bottom Billion: Paul Collier

Theolog: Blogging toward Sunday

Theolog: Blogging toward Sunday

Brian Stoffrogen writes commenting on the lectionary for Sunday


I recently read When Better Isn't Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st-Century Church, by Jill Hudson. In the forward, Roy Oswald writes:

... Jill Hudson explodes two myths we find in many congregations. The first is that we can grow without changing. ...
The second myth congregations hold on to for dear life is that we can change without conflict. [p. xi]

Hudson writes:

Everything has a cost. We know this in our heart, and yet we try to avoid it. We want the "old" church just as it was, with comforting hymns, informally claimed pews, and familiar liturgies. We also want the benefits of the "new church," full of young families and hope for the future. We want new believes who mature in Christ and share the responsibilities of church membership. We don't want anyone mad -- ever! We want it both ways. We want the comfort of the past and the promise of the future without alienating anyone. [p. 20]


Change has a cost, and it often includes the unfortunately loss of families unable to embrace the congregation's new direction. [p. 57]

If *the* "sign" is Jesus having come, and part of "these things" that will happen are great conflicts, should we expect anything less in our congregation? Is trying to avoid conflicts to make everyone happy, also avoiding our call to follow Jesus? to be on the right path of mission and witnessing to Jesus?

Perhaps similar to Jesus' speech, pastors need to tell congregations, "We are going to emphasize mission and witnessing to the unbelievers, and it will cause conflicts. Members will be fighting members. Families will be fighting families. Some of your friends will leave the congregation. We will wonder if all the turmoil will destroy this church as earthquakes destroy buildings. However, if we continue on the mission path, unafraid of the conflicts, and hold on to our conviction to share Jesus' story with the world, we will gain new life -- both for the congregation, and for the people who come to believe the gospel we have shared with them."

The Christian faith does not remove us from conflict, but, we might say, it gives us a purpose and a use for the conflict -- times and places and opportunities to witness to the grace of God revealed in Jesus.

The Little Lutheran - Welcome

The Little Lutheran - Welcome

We love this magazine for devotional and reading use with our son. Check it out!

Friday, November 09, 2007

LIRS Advocacy Supporting Trafficking Victims

ELCA Bishops Join LIRS in Supporting Trafficking Victims Protection Act

WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- Ten synod bishops of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) signed a letter Nov. 6 with
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) urging the U.S.
House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary to quickly
pass the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act of 2007 (TVPRA), which contains provisions
to help identify and protect child victims of trafficking.
The TVPRA bill, if signed into law, would help to identify
child trafficking victims, prevent children in federal custody
from being released to traffickers, ensure that children in federal
custody are placed in settings suitable for addressing their needs,
and provide services to child trafficking survivors in federal
As many as 5,000 children are being brought into the United
States for purposes of sexual exploitation each year, according to
the letter, which was signed by Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, LIRS
president. LIRS, based in Baltimore, is a cooperative ministry of
the ELCA, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Latvian Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America. It has provided services to trafficked
youth since 2000, through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM)
"All Christians are called to act on behalf vulnerable people,
especially children," said Andrew Genszler, ELCA director for
advocacy. "In the ELCA's message on commercial sexual exploitation,
our church calls for legal protection for victims of sex trafficking,
which is what the TVPRA will provide."
The bishops who joined Deffenbaugh in signing the letter were:
+ The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod
+ The Rev. Claire S. Burkat, ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod,
+ The Rev. David A. Donges, ELCA South Carolina Synod, Columbia
+ The Rev. H. Julian Gordy, ELCA Southeastern Synod, Atlanta
+ The Rev. Richard H. Graham, ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C.,
+ The Rev. H. Gerard Knoche, ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod, Baltimore
+ The Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt, ELCA Central States Synod, Kansas
City, Mo.
+ The Rev. Dean W. Nelson, ELCA Southwest California Synod, Glendale
+ The Rev. E. Roy Riley, Jr., ELCA New Jersey Synod, Hamilton Square
+ The Rev. Paul W. Stumme-Diers, ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod
The full text of the letter is available at
on the ELCA Web site. Cowboy and Octopus: Books: Jon Scieszka,Lane Smith Cowboy and Octopus: Jon Scieszka,Lane Smith

This is genius surrealist children's lit, surreal and totally readable at the same time!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Joseph and His Brothers

At this point, if you are reading Genesis 31-50 every day, or even reading ahead, you know that you are deeply immersed in a family drama of the first order. Novels with plots like this sell well, and movies do well at the box office. Starting with chapter 31 of Genesis, you realize that Jacob is in a family sandwich. He has a father-in-law who lies and continually tries to cheat him, but since he loves the daughters, he’s not sure how to escape. He also knows that if he goes home as God commands him to, he faces a potentially angry and vengeful brother when he gets there.

Of course, Jacob has contributed to the situation, at least in part. He has been encouraged by God to do some practices around animal husbandry that have worked out in his favor. And his mother had helped him steal his brother’s birth rite. He is as wily as anybody else in the story, and we see this wiliness front and center when he sets out on the journey away from Laban towards Esau, away from Paddan Aram, across the Jabbok, back to Canaan.

Chapters 31-33 are set up in a really interesting parallel. First, Jacob has to sneak away from Laban, but then is pursued by him. When he finally gets away from Laban, he has to “sneak” up on Esau, presenting gifts and sending his group ahead in appeasement. At the very center of this parallel is Jacob’s wrestling match with God. Jacob received a blessing, but also receives a limp. He survives his departure, and we will learn he survives his arrival, but it is the very dangerous in-between that God confronts him and wrestles with him.

This would be a fruitful topic for conversation and reflection. Have you ever been in a situation like this, a kind of Scylla and Charybdis, caught between a rock and hard place? What happened there? What did it feel like to be wrestling with God? What blessing did you receive? How do you still limp?


The children of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, are the twelve tribes of Israel. So it is impossible to overestimate the importance of the genealogy that is listed in these chapters. The descendants of Jacob are the Israelites (remember that Jacob is re-named Israel by God when they wrestle). The descendants of Esau are the Edomites, a people group that neighbors Israel. The rest of the story is going to be a drama of the relationship between these brothers, with a special focus on Joseph exiled by betrayal to Egypt.

This story is important for two reasons. First, because it helps establish our understanding of the twelve tribes of Israel. But also, because we learn it is through the brother’s betrayal that Israel ends up as slaves in Egypt to begin with. It is interesting that they go to Egypt initially of their own choice. Jacob (Israel) himself goes to Egypt at the end of the story, at the invitation of Joseph. The first chapter of Exodus indicates that as soon as the kings of Egypt forget about Joseph (who was beloved and embalmed), then they enslave the Israelites.

So, in this story, family history is also national history, and it leads to the most important and central story in the whole Old Testament—the Exodus!

As you finish reading Genesis over the next two weeks, read the story as a profound family drama. Read it also watching for clues as to how God is at work in and through this family narrative. But read it also as a national story, the beginning of the story of the people of God, Israel, a nation that will be led out of Egypt by the same man who tells the Genesis story in the first place—Moses.

Ezra & Nehemiah

Matthew Levering's new book on Ezra & Nehemiah is out. I'm reading the introduction, and so far it is outstanding. I have long though that these books warrant more attention in theology and commentary series than they have gotten, and so this commentary fills a gap.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children

Paying the Price: The Impact of Immigration Raids on America's Children

The Donological Remains Ontological

John Milbank writes in Being Reconciled:

Forgiveness is not, as for Kierkegaard, a decreation, but rather the uninterrupted flow of the one initial creation through and despite, as he puts it, the 'jolt' of the fault Here the donological remains ontological.

Good stuff.

Farm Bill Advocacy | Bread for the World

MESSAGE: Please call your Senators by Monday, November 5, at 1-800-826-3688. Ask him/her to support the following amendments to the farm bill as they come up on the floor:

· Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment
· Grassley/Dorgan Amendment
· Other amendments that strengthen nutrition programs

[Note: This toll-free number will connect you to the Capitol switchboard, where you will ask to be connected to your senator’s office in order to leave your message.]

The full Senate will begin debating the farm bill on Monday, November 5. Votes on specific amendments will likely begin on Tuesday, November 6. Your senator has a critical voice in deciding whether our farm bill will be changed in ways that benefit poor and hungry people here at home and around the world, make programs fairer for U.S. farm and rural families and enable poor farmers in poor countries to earn their way out of poverty.


The farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee made modest changes, but did little to reform unfair commodity programs. The full Senate now has its turn to reform the farm bill. Senators have a chance to strengthen the nutrition program (especially the Food Stamp Program) and conservation and rural development programs and make the commodity programs fairer to all our nations’ farmers. It is their turn to seize the opportunity to create a more just farm bill.

*Lugar/Lautenberg Amendment: The Lugar-Lautenberg amendment would broaden the agricultural safety net by making a free revenue insurance program available to all farmers. This would save billions dollars that would be used to invest in nutrition programs, specialty crop programs (improving research and marketing opportunities for the majority of farmers, who currently do not benefit at all from farm programs); critical conservation programs and the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program.

*Grassley/Dorgan Amendment: The Grassley-Dorgan amendment would establish a hard cap for commodity payments at $250,000 per household, helping ensure payments are targeted where they are needed. The amendment would also make sure that payments flow to working farmers rather than their landlords. The money saved from capping payments to the largest producers and landowners would be redirected into nutrition and conservation programs.

*Other amendments that add funding to nutrition; At stake are additional investments in the Food Stamp Program—especially the standard deduction level. There will be several amendments offered to increase funding for nutrition programs. Senators should support amendments that build on the improvements made in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Your vote on the farm bill can help make great strides against hunger and poverty here at home and around the world. Support amendments like Lugar/Lautenberg, Grassley/Dorgan, and other amendments that put additional funding into nutrition programs. These amendments would provide a safety net for all farmers—not just those who grow program crops, make our commodity system fairer for smaller family farmers and adequately fund other vital needs in nutrition.

Key points:
- Over 35 million Americans- including more that 12 million children- struggle to put food on the table. Please strengthen and commit new resources to the Food Stamp Program.
- Current farm and rural development programs are not serving the urgent needs of rural America, where rates of hunger and poverty are higher. Please prioritize the needs of poor rural Americans as you write the 2007 farm bill.
- Current commodity programs concentrate payments at the upper end of the income scale for farmers who grow program crops, like cotton, corn, wheat, soybeans and rice. This trend has accelerated in recent years. By 2003, one quarter went to households earning more than $160,142. This must change.
- A fair and balanced farm bill for the U.S. also requires consideration of its impact on poor farmers overseas. Please ensure that our farm support programs do not make it more difficult for poor farm families in low-income countries to earn their way out of poverty.
- Make the primary focus of U.S. food aid programs the feeding of hungry people by the most effective and efficient means available and building long-term food security.

Calls completed by: C.O.B. Monday, November 5.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Going to see this for Amanda's birthday! Yeah!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hamann: Writings on Philosophy and Language - Cambridge University Press

Hamann: Writings on Philosophy and Language - Cambridge University Press

Bonhoeffer | Pastors and Zealous Parishioners Should Never Complain about their Congregations

The following is one of the great passages from Bonhoeffer's Life Together:

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian community in which we have been placed, even when there are no great experiences, no noticeable riches, but much weakness, difficulty, and little faith--and if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so miserable and insignificant and does not at all live up to our expectations--then we hinder God from letting our community grow according to the measure and riches that are there for us all in Jesus Christ. That also applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous parishioners about their congregations. Pastors [and zealous parishioners] should not complain about their congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. Congregations have not been entrusted to them in order that they should become accusers of their congregations before God and their fellow human beings. When pastors [and parishioners] lose faith in a Christian community in which they have been placed and begin to make accusations against it, they had better examine themselves first to see whether the underlying problem is not their own idealized image, which should be shattered by God. And if they find that to be true, let them thank God for leading them into this predicament. But if they find that it is not true, let them nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of those whom God has gathered together. Instead, let them accuse themselves of their unbelief, let them ask for an understanding of their own failure and their particular sin, and pray that they may not wrong other Christians. Let such pastors, recognizing their own guilt, make intercession for those charged to their care. Let them do what they have been instructed to do and thank God.

Like the Christian's sanctification, Christian community is a gift of God to which we have no claim. Only God knows the real condition of either our community or our sanctification. What may appear weak and insignificant to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as Christians should not be constantly feeling the pulse of their spiritual life, so too the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be continually taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more assuredly and consistently will community increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.

Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it." (pages 37-38 of the Bloesch/Burtness translation)

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson - Messages

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson - Message on Racial Injustice