Wednesday, April 28, 2004

TA Strike at UW-Madison, and all that

I have been inspired the past few days by the union negotations process and the TA strike here at the UW. Each day as I go through campus, dropping my wife off to study (but not work), I honk my horn in support of the strikers, and get that little worker's of the world unite tingle down my back. Then the following poem (link to it above) came across the Writer's Almanac for the Tuesday reading. Good stuff.

It's become increasingly clear to me that the church is called to support unions in their proper protests for worker rights. But I believe the church should start with itself, and I should start with me. Why do I accept higher pay than our janitor? On what grounds?

I've asked myself this question before, and have asked others as well, have gotten a variety of answers, but still remain dissatisfied. Anyway, here's the beginning of a thought, including sizzling steak...

Poem: "Calling him back from layoff," by Bob Hicock, from Insomnia Diary. © University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with permission.

Calling him back from layoff

I called a man today. After he said
hello and I said hello came a pause
during which it would have been

confusing to say hello again so I said
how are you doing and guess what, he said
fine and wondered aloud how I was

and it turns out I'm OK. He
was on the couch watching cars
painted with ads for Budweiser follow cars

painted with ads for Tide around an oval
that's a metaphor for life because
most of us run out of gas and settle

for getting drunk in the stands
and shouting at someone in a t-shirt
we want kraut on our dog. I said

he could have his job back and during
the pause that followed his whiskers
scrubbed the mouthpiece clean

and his breath passed in and out
in the tidal fashion popular
with mammals until he broke through

with the words how soon thank you
ohmyGod which crossed his lips and drove
through the wires on the backs of ions

as one long word as one hard prayer
of relief meant to be heard
by the sky. When he began to cry I tried

with the shape of my silence to say
I understood but each confession
of fear and poverty was more awkward

than what you learn in the shower.
After he hung up I went outside and sat
with one hand in the bower of the other

and thought if I turn my head to the left
it changes the song of the oriole
and if I give a job to one stomach other

forks are naked and if tonight a steak
sizzles in his kitchen do the seven
other people staring at their phones


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Doug Giles: Where Are God's Warriors and Wild Men?

A Lutheran in a Tipi provides a link to this article on why men cannot be found in as large of #s as women in our churches. He especially picks on those preachers (like myself) who like fancy cheeses. I have found arguments by Robert Bly and others compelling re: the different situations of men and women in the world AND in the church. On the other hand, I have found many male/female theological distinctions sickening or wrong-headed (the list of long, from Kierkegaard to von Balthasar, etc.).

What is it about men and women that we should pay attention to as church? In terms of our preaching and life together?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Ship of Fools: the Magazine of Christian Unrest

Oh the wacked out things people with computers and too much time on their hands can accomplish...

"WITH PEWS MADE from pixels, the congregation logging in from their home computers and the collection sent in by mobile phone, the world's first 3D online church is going to be church like never before. The House of God is set to become the Mouse of God.

This May 11th, Ship of Fools will open Church of Fools as a three-month online experiment in interactive worship. Built by interactive media pioneers Specialmoves, the initiative aims to make Christian worship accessible to web surfers who may never darken the doors of their local church.

The first service from the online sanctuary will take place on the opening day of the UK's Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE).

"While there are excellent websites which help people meditate and pray, no one has built an interactive 3D church environment before - complete with gothic arches and hard wooden pews," says Simon Jenkins, editor of Ship of Fools.

HOW WILL IT WORK? The service will be led by real priests or pastors who will appear on the screen in cartoon form. Using their keyboards and connected via the internet, they will move around the church, welcome the congregation, lead the service from a lectern, introduce hymns and preach from a pulpit to people sitting in rows of pews.

Ship of Fools plans to invite guest speakers to occupy the pulpit each Sunday, including some celebrated preachers, and are looking for suggestions for Church of Fools pulpiteers. Click here to post your suggestion.

"The congregation, too, will log on in different parts of the world – and see each other on screen," says Jenkins. "They'll choose a pew to sit in, introduce themselves to other worshippers through speech bubbles, sing a hymn, listen to the sermon, chat to each other afterwards, and perhaps pray together.

"They'll even be invited to put something on the collection plate – via SMS on mobile phones."

Hundreds of invisible "lurkers" will be able to watch the service as well, and participate in a chat room discussion afterwards.

CHURCH OF FOOLS has been developed in the wake of Ship of Fools' internet game show, The Ark, which ran last year. During the six-week show, 12 Bible heroes and villains were successively voted off Noah's famous floating zoo – Big Brother-style. More sailings of The Ark are planned.

"When Future Church was chosen as the main focus for this year's National CRE (11-14 May, Sandown Park Exhibition Centre, Esher), we considered it an ideal setting to unveil our online church project," says Steve Goddard, co-editor of Ship of Fools. "It picks up the challenge of Archbishop Rowan Williams' Mission-shaped Church initiative – to create new expressions for Generation X-Box."

The online church will run as a pilot project from May to July 2004.

"The full costs of creating the environment have still to be met," says Simon Jenkins. "So the project's future depends on finding enthusiastic sponsors. Long term, we hope to work with the established church in creating a structure that reflects the type of person attracted to the environment.""

Thoughts of Faith

I didn't know it, but there's a Lutheran mission society in the very town in which I work as pastor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

10 Commandments, Psalms, and Scripture

For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures, so that, in all affairs and cases, he can advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal matters, and is qualified to sit in judgment upon all doctrines, estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world. And what, indeed, is the entire Psalter but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment?

A confession: Luther often says this, that in understanding the 10 commandments perfectly, one knows all the Scriptures. I find this saying as enigmatic as many I read in the works of Eberhard Jüngel. I mean, on the one hand, I "get" it. On the other hand, it seems counter-intuitive, from the Christian understanding of Scripture, to see the 10 Commandments at the center.

I get his 2nd point more clearly- the psalms are indeed thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment. It is a fruitful exercise to read any given psalm, and think of it in this way. It forces a much more creative and relational approach to God and our relationship to this God. God is a jealous God. But the psalmist is also a jealous crooner, singing out songs to God that demand as much as God demands in His righteous commands. In fact, this parallel is profound- the jealousy of God parallels the prayed frustration of the psalmist when he/she cries out, "Why are you so far from me, O Lord."

But how is it that we should understand the 10 Commandments as comprehending all of Scripture. Don't we need to say more than this? If Christ is in the 10 Commandments, does this demand a category shift, a new way of knowing Christ, or at least reading the relationship between Christ and the "old" testament as summarized in the commandments.

Which leaves me further asking (a question I seldom ask myself, even in my best moments), why is it that we are so involved in the salvific work of Christ in our theology, but only marginally involved with this teaching of Christ, "love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself." It occurs to me that as a theologian I need to spend time writing a theology of the law. Or, better yet, reviewing this section of the catechism daily.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Latvia Debacle

I am following this now with some interest and have a few observations:

1. Disparaging (Arch?)Bishop Vanags's academic qualifications seems a bit disingenuous to me seeing that he was educated in an era and place of unmitigated hostility to Christianity. He indeed has a seminary degree (as the text references his “seminary cronies”) so this seems moot to me in any respect.

2. On doing a bit of research, I dug up that he converted to Christianity as an adult, began a ministry as a lay preacher and consequently lost a professorship (you're right about the chemist part). This indicates a degree of authenticity that, IMHO, his rivals are unwilling to grant him. They also likely don’t count the time he spent as a lay preacher as “time in the parish” (as opposed to time in a state-sanctioned parish?).

3. His underground preaching before the fall of the Communist regime earned him popular approval, thus I doubt that his election was contrary to the will of the general laity. Also, another article (FT Jan 95, p.84) citing the NYT said that the Latvian Synod of Bishops elected him. This leads me to wonder about the legitimacy question raised above.

4. Is the Western Latvian Church actually in Latvia? If not, then whence do they derive their authority?

5. Are doctrinal directions influenced (perhaps governed) by the policies of the chief financier? I don’t suggest that this point is argued above, but it seems to be in the background.

6. Once again, I might ask: who are the sectarians? The Latvian Lutherans and the majority of their bishops under Vanags, or the “western (German?) Latvians” who called foul and effectively went in to schism by electing their own bishop.

7. Es gibt ein gutes aber oberflächliches Interview mit Erzbischof Vanags an

8. I'm just being devil's advocate here, so feel free to rip me to shreds. I sense a ELCA vs. LCMS subtext. If so, I'll stay out of the fray.

9. I must say, valid or no, orthodox or just plain conservative, I admire that man's moxie.

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and Lutherans in Eastern Europe. Part 2

I wish to quote this in full so that other aspects of this situation may be made known.


Thursday Theology #147
April 5, 2001
Topic: The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and Lutherans in Eastern Europe. Part 2

Our posting of two weeks ago, ThTh145, offered documentation and comment on the work of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (primarily its Ft. Wayne, Indiana, seminary) in Eastern Europe these days. That prompted some response from seminary profs in the Baltics and in St. Petersburg, Russia. The item below comes from Russia. It is actually a year old, but still newsworthy at this late date, I think. Its author is Stefan Reder, president of the Luth. Seminary in St. Petersburg. Reder is also one of the bishops of ELCROS [ = Evang. Luth. Church of Russia and Other States]. Our correspondent noted that the English name ELCROS does not correspond exactly to the official Russian name which is, "Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia." Reder's report was included in the seminary's newsletter of June/August 2000.

Peace & Joy!
Ed Schroeder


In a conversation with Rev. Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, and Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of their Russian Seminary Project, I put forth the following points of discussion on the instruction of and in agreement with ELCROS Archbishop Dr. Georg Kretzschmar:

1. The lack of any conversation whatsoever between Concordia Theological Seminary and the ELCROS concerning the following questions:

1. There are problems with those people from the ELCROS who received a theological education at Concordia Seminary and upon return to the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States = all States of the former Soviet Union not including the Baltic States) wanted to work as pastors in our church. The church administration of the ELCROS did not even know that these people were studying in Fort Wayne, but they suddenly appeared "on our doorstep." The ELCROS was not prepared for them and there have been considerable difficulties in several congregations.

2. There are problems of ELCROS students in Fort Wayne who after finishing the second year are sent to the CIS to work there in a one-year internship. Since the Church administration of the ELCROS in most cases did not know of these students, it could not supply internship sites or coordinate internship programs.

3. There are problems caused by the fact that Concordia Seminary offers seminars in Russia and the CIS without notifying the ELCROS administration, even though members of ELCROS congregations are invited to attend these seminars. In some cases such seminars were held against the will of the local ELCROS leaders or without notifying them.

4. Problems are also caused by the fact that during such seminars the Novosibirsk Seminary has been publicized among the participants and consequently ELCROS church leaders have been asked to give recommendations to study at the Novosibirsk Seminary or students have simply enrolled without notifying their ELCROS leaders. In Saratov, the situation arose that two people who had not received the congregation's endorsement, because they were evaluated as being unsuitable for the ordained ministry, have nevertheless been enrolled at the Novosibirsk Seminary without any reservation. In another case (Bishkek [in Kyrgyzstan]) the congregation lost its pastor and almost perished.

2. There is the impression that Concordia Seminary more or less ignores the existence of the ELCROS and considers Russia and the CIS as its broad field for mission work. The ELCROS feels as if Fort Wayne does not take the ELCROS seriously as a church and is not recognized as a worthy partner for dialog.

3. The activities of Concordia Seminary import American inter-Lutheran differences to Russia and the CIS and in consequence it tries to create a third church in Russia and the CIS (apart from the existing ELCIR [i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia] and ELCROS). This third church should conform to the teaching of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In the end, this will lead to a division of the Lutheran minority in Russia, which is a bad witness for Lutheranism.

In his statement, President Wenthe suggested that Concordia Seminary is interested in and ready for communication and cooperation with the ELCROS, but he also pointed out that communication and cooperation go only so far as the doctrines of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are upheld.

During the talks it was agreed that Rev. Timothy Quill and a representative of the ELCROS administration should meet twice a year so that Concordia Seminary can report on the planned activities for Russia and the CIS in the following six months. The first meeting will take place in St. Petersburg on May 11, 2000.

Furthermore it was agreed that Rev. Quill will give me a list of those students who are at present working for one year in Russia/CIS and who will finish their studies next year at Concordia Seminary and afterwards will return to Russia/CIS. I received this list during my visit in Fort Wayne. Other graduates from Concordia Seminary cannot be expected, as their Russian Seminary project will be continued only until the middle of 2001.

Concerning the ELCROS graduates of the Fort Wayne Seminary, it was suggested that we, together with the Novosibirsk Seminary administration, negotiate the conditions for acceptance of these ELCROS students. President Wenthe and Rev. Quill told me that Fort Wayne Seminary started their activities in Novosibirsk only at the request of Vsevolod Lutkin [Our correspondent comments: Lutkin is now the front-man for the activities of Fort Wayne Seminary in Russia and the CIS. This gets complicated, because officially Lutkin has been sent to Russia by the Lutheran bishop of Estonia.] and that within Russia/CIS Fort Wayne Seminary would not carry out a church-planting policy.

President Wenthe and Rev. Quill expressed their support of the Novosibirsk Seminary so that the group around Vsevolod Lutkin could build up an indigenous Lutheran Church in Russia. While the ELCIR gets massive support from Finland and the ELCROS from Germany and the United States, the group around Vsevolod Lutkin is driven by the desire to be Russian Lutherans. Concordia Seminary wants to support this goal. However, in further talks it became clear that the intention of Concordia Seminary is to embody "true historical Lutheran theology." And it became clear that in the view of Concordia Seminary and the Seminary in Novosibirsk, the ELCROS on several points does not stand on the ground of this "true historical Lutheran theology."

I would like to conclude my report with a personal remark. On one hand I was glad that we were able to open avenues for communication in my talks in Fort Wayne. On the other hand, I recognized with dismay that in the long run the postulated "historically true Lutheran theology" will separate the Lutherans in Russia and the CIS into two camps divided by a deep unbridgeable chasm. I am afraid that the convictions of those Russian Lutherans who are theologically determined by Fort Wayne, that is, they think they are the only representatives of "historically true Lutheran theology," will make that inter-Lutheran dialog and the approach toward Lutheran unity impossible. This prospect causes much pain because the Lutherans in Russia and the CIS thus will not be good witnesses to the Gospel and the Lutheran confessions.

The Missouri Synod's Presence in Eastern European Lutheranism

The previous news releases are quoted from this article.

Two Pertinent 2001 LWF News Releases

Caption: LWF General Secretary Comments on Establishment of Belarusian
Church: "Separation in ELCROS will have Negative Consequences in Central Eastern Europe"

GENEVA, 19 March 2001 (LWI) - Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), has described as "very unfortunate," the circumstances surrounding the recent establishment of the Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church. [Ed: Belarus (or Belarusia) is one of the now independent states of the former Soviet Union. Its borders touch Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine. Minsk is the capital.]

In a statement on March 17, Noko said the formation of an independent Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church would have a negative effect on the search for Lutheran unity in the Central Eastern Europe region of the LWF.

On 2 December 2000, representatives of Belarusian Lutheran congregations founded an independent, "confessional" Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Prior to this move, the Belarusian congregations belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS). The ELCROS strongly criticized the creation of the independent church.

Rev. Leonid Zwicki was on 11 March 2001 installed as bishop of the newly created Belarusian church. Bishop Jonas Kalvanas Jr. of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania presided over the inauguration ceremony in Viciebsk, Belarus. Archbishop Janis Vanags (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia), Bishop Aarre Kougappi (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia) and Bishop Dr. Diethard Roth from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany, participated in the installation as assisting bishops.

Zwicki started bringing Evangelical Lutheran congregations in Belarus together five years ago. In summer 1999, the ELCROS appointed him as visiting bishop to Belarus, and consequently a member of the ELCROS Bishop's Council.

At its meeting last December, the Constituent Synod of the Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church adopted a declaration on its main beliefs, which in addition to the scriptures and a list of the Lutheran Confessions includes a rejection of women's ordination, homosexuality, and compromises concerning the Doctrine of Justification. The newly founded church also rejects fellowship with all churches that do not share these principles.

The text of the statement by Dr. Ishmael Noko follows:

A Statement by Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), about the newly founded Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church

The separation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) can be described as very unfortunate because of the way it was done and the reasons given. There was no mutual consultation between Archbishop D. Georg Kretschmar and Rev. Leonid Zwicki, now the leader of the newly founded Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I have no doubt that the impact of this split will be felt in the Lutheran communion, particularly in the European region. It will certainly have negative effects on the search for Lutheran unity in the Central Eastern Europe region of the LWF.

I hope, nevertheless, that a way can be found to overcome this split so that Lutherans can be united in proclamation and ecumenical engagement.

Geneva, 17 March 2001

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 131 member churches in 72 countries representing over 60.2 million of the nearly 64 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)


Statement by the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) on the Installation of Bishop Leonid Zwicki, Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church

On Reminiscere Sunday, 11 March 2001, the Rev. Leonid Zwicki was installed as bishop of the newly established Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church during a worship service in Vitebsk [or Viciebsk], Belarus. He was elected on 2 December 2000 at a synod meeting in Vitebsk. The older Lutheran congregations in Belarus originally joined ELCROS under Archbishop D. Georg Kretschmar. Some of these, including a number of newly founded congregations, founded on December 2 a " confessional" Lutheran church, signifying that they had consciously left the community of ELCROS and instead joined the community of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Bishop Leonid Zwicki's introduction into office is a further step in the establishment of this separate church. The consecration was led by Bishop Jonas Kalvanas Jr. from Lithuania, who had already ordained a number of deacons in this church. He was assisted by Bishop Dr. Diethard Roth from the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, Germany, and Bishop Aarre Kougappi from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia.

Other Lutheran churches that are close to the Missouri Synod were also represented at the worship service, among them Archbishop Janis Vanags from Riga, Latvia. Most of the older congregations in Belarus have not joined the new church. They requested that they continue to be served by ELCROS. Preparations are being made to create a structure that could be registered and legally recognized. A first step to support these congregations was taken from March 12 to 16, when Rev. Godeke von Bremen (Novosaratovka) organized a seminar in Minsk. There are plans to regularly hold similar seminars.

The split of the Lutheran congregations in Belarus that occurred at the December 2 synod meeting will weaken the work of the Lutheran church in the republic. ELCROS will strive not to disappoint the congregations who have placed much hope in it.

This development impedes the creation of a joint Protestant church in Belarus, which had been prepared for years and which would have included the only Reformed congregation in the country. Archbishop Kretschmar had entrusted Rev. Leonid Zwicki with the preparation of this synod. For ELCROS, the decisive problem is not that there are congregations in Belarus that do not want to organize as a Lutheran church within the overall framework of ELCROS, but that the synod clearly condemned ELCROS and declared that it rejected fellowship with churches that ordain women, that do not adhere to "real presence"-meaning, most likely, membership in the Leuenberg Agreement-and who make compromises on the Doctrine of Justification--referring, probably, to the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

All these are issues that were never discussed among the Belarusian congregations, and probably no representative of any congregation really understood at the December 2 synod what this formula of exclusion actually means. For this reason, ELCROS cannot welcome the establishment of this separate church.

St. Petersburg, 17 March 2001

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Latvia Continued (with a disclaimer)

I've assembled from a few informal sources a description of the Latvia situation as regards womens ordination in that country and the current bishop. The people who I've spoken with admittedly have a bias, and so the description probably reflects that. Anyway, here's my attempt at a summary, borrowing the words of others much of the time.

The scandal is that the Latvian Lutheran Church has the dubious distinction of being the only church in the world that has rescinded women's ordination.  In 1990, the seminary had just gotten started again in a very small building, with only two classrooms.  (The Finnish church gave a substantial amount to finish the attic for a chapel and added classrooms, and the Lutheran World Federation gave $8000 for a new roof.)  Dr. Akmentins was the Dean ("rector," "president, "headmaster" ....take your pick).  Already half the students were women, and planned to be ordained. 

In 1994, the seminary was housed in a new location, on church property that had been reappropriated from the Russians (who for 50 years used it as a private bar/club for transit workers).  Again, half the students were women, but now they were uncertain about their future.  The new Archbishop, Janis Vanags, had just been elected and had stated that he would not ordain women.  Since then he has made it official church policy.  Concurrent with that (and maybe, in part, because of it) the Missouri Synod gave a great deal of money and support to the fledgling church.  The ELCA had the opportunity, but they pretty much ignored Latvia. 

According to those with whom I've spoken (much of the following is quotations), Archbishop Vanags was elected illegally.  When the Lutheran Church had its constituting convention in 1991 (or 1992?), it was the first national assembly since 1944.  Since they had nothing else to go on, they agreed to abide by the last constitution (of 1922?) for starters.  This defined the qualifications for Bishop and Archbishop.  Vanags did not meet any of the requirements.  (His college degree was in chemistry, I believe.  And he had nearly no parish experience.)  It also defined who were legal delegates.  But Vanags had a bunch of his cronies there who voted, even though they did not represent any congregation or district of the church.  They were just a bunch of his seminary friends.  The Western delegates tried to put a stop to this, but they were voted and shouted down. 

Originally it was hoped that there would be one Archbishop (or Presiding Bishop) over the entire Latvian Lutheran Church in the world.  But the Western delegates were not about to let this young upstart who had never been outside of the country, and had no knowledge of the West, have control over its hundreds of churches and millions of dollars of property!  So they elected their own Bishop, Elmars Rozitis, who is still Archbishop of the Western Latvian Church (and lives in Germany).  This church DOES ordain women.  So there are quite a number of young Latvian women pastors, but they can only serve in the West.  So there has been a schism in the Latvian Lutheran Church for over ten years now.  It seems like everyone has accommodated themselves to it, and have joint assemblies from time to time.  The Western church follows a constitution similar to the ELCA.  But the Latvian Lutheran Church is forced to abide by a constitution Vanags put together, giving him autocratic rule.  The Western Church will eventually die out, so the church in Latvia will win in the end.  Vanags is just over 40 years old, and has put himself in office for life. 

It is a situation that has made many sad. So we can include this Lutheran church in Latvia, and the expat church of Latvia, in our prayers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

John 21:1-19: A Quixotic Text

There are a lot of peculiarities to this text for April 25. First is the fact that chapter 21 comes after John has seemingly already ended the book at chapter 20, v 31.

The 2nd is that, like in Luke, there's this thing about fish and the resurrected Jesus. I know we splace the word ichthos around, and understand the disciples as fisher's of humanity, but why is it that in actual church practice fish plays such a small role, whereas the other foods of Jesus have found a central place in the liturgy? Clearly, the Lord's meal is a meal in anticipation of his death, therefore, "As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." But why not also, at some place in the churches life, "As often as we eat this bread and roast this fish, we proclaim the Lord's resurrection until he comes." There is even a direct instruction from Jesus, "Come and have breakfast" (v. 12).

Then there's the whole thing with Peter's clothes. He puts on clothes before jumping in the water, because he was naked in the boat. This is one of the finest descriptive scenes in all of John's gospel, Peter stumbling and splashing out of the boat while pulling his clothes on rather than taking them off in order to swim. Certainly this is instructive for our understanding of the Petrine office. :)

Later, Jesus' words, "when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go."

I believe this word of Christ is related to the child/adult distinction already found in the text. Jesus calls the disciples his children. But by the time Peter is crucified, he is no longer child, but adult. And adult in a way much different from what we normally imagine, adult as free and in command. No, adult means going the way of Christ, growing up in the faith.

I've been reading Robert Bly's The Sibling Society of late, one of the most prophetic, earnest, and winsome texts I've ever read, and I commend it to anyone trying to figure out this relationship between Peter and Jesus, among other things- especially how it might be preached today. Jesus takes Peter through a profound process, the trifold questions making him into a shepherd, the description of Peter "dressing" Peter up into something different altogether. Shepherd and slave simultaneous. Both of these simultaneities united in the simple instruction, "Follow me."

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Society of the Holy Trinity and the Ordination of Women

Since some of you know that I am a subscriber to the Society of the Holy Trinity, and since some of you read The Lutheran Forum, I here go on record with the following letter, sent to Pastor Smith, The Lutheran Forum, my dean and the senior of the society:

I wanted to express my disappointment that the vicar of the society has published an article in the most recent issue of the Lutheran Forum arguing against the continued ordination of women. I understand that in his teaching capacity as well as his own place of confession as a Christian he is free to make such statements. I understand also that from an ecumenical perspective (our relationship with the LCMS, RC, and Orthodox) the ordination of women is problematic. Nevertheless, since the Society has since its founding been open to and encouraging of the full participation of ordained female clergy, I think he may need to provide some clarification on how his statement in the Lutheran Forum (edited, I might add, as it is by another member of the Society) relates to the direction the Society itself may take in the future.

I joined the Society because of its focus on pastoral and liturgical renewal. I do not believe articles such as Pastor Smith's contribute to this renewal. In fact, a focus on these issues decenters us from the very issues that had been of primary concern for the Society.

As an aside, I have also observed first-hand the harmful consequences of such a suggested reversal in Latvia (and to a certain degree, Slovakia). Latvia's approach has been especially anti-ecumenical and sectarian. The approach in Slovakia, simply to stop accepting so many female students into the seminaries because the rural parishes did not want women, was also disingenuous. Although I value the Lutheran witness in both of these countries, these particular moves have not contributed to the proclamation of the church nor to an ecumenical and confessional witness in Eastern Europe.

If we are going to be open to women's participation in our Society, we need to make a concerted and public effort to confess why we recognize their ordination and accept them into the society. And why we would welcome future ordinations of women and their future participation in the Society as well.

In Christ,

Pastor Clint Schnekloth
St. John's Lutheran Church
Oregon, Wisconsin

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-)

A good resource page.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Women and Luke (the Magnificat and the Resurrection)

Elizabeth Johnson in Truly Our Sister observes that Mary, in singing the Magnificat, becomes a member of that great list of women singers and preachers, first peppering the OT and making its final and greatest appearance in her song. Of course, the preaching of women continues in the NT as well, in Acts, those women gathered together with the disciples. For profound and stunning reflections on these texts in-depth, I commend Johnson's exegetical commentary in the center of her book, as well as the final synthesis chapter on the communion of saints. I also recommend that her entire work be savored, for it is worthy of close attention.

But here I post a simple observation. Structurally, if you look at Luke from a literary perspective, the Magnificat parallels in a chiastic fashion the announcement of the resurrection by the women. The proclamation of women book ends Luke, if you will. It opens with the wild prophetic proclamation of Mary on the Incarnation. It ends with the (presumed crazy until verified by sight by the male disciples) testimony of the women to the resurrection. The ordination of women may continue to be a sticky wicket from an ecumenical perspective (see Louis Smith's to my mind annoying essay in the most recent Lutheran Forum, for example), but from my reading of Luke, at least, women as preachers and prophets and speakers of the Word is a no brainer. Silence on Saturday, yes. But when the time comes to announce the Resurrected one, women are first in line.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Begin the Beguine

"In the night in which he was betrayed... ." There are so many options for the lessons on Maunday Thursday. Footwashing, new commandments, and so on. It's all good. It ends though in betrayal.

So much writing on the Lord's Supper makes strong connections between the death of Jesus on Friday and the Supper given to form the community of God's Reign. Other right connections are made to the feast of the Lamb. Some speak strongly of how the taking part in the Supper puts us there with Jesus on Friday or Thursday or with the disciples on the beach or on the road to Emmaus. If it does do that or any of these things, it should note the basic matter: Jesus gives in the midst of betrayal.

So put away the idea of approaching the Supper in purity of thought and heart. Put away some idea of holiness when you administer the sacrament. Gift in the midst of betrayal indicates no one, no community can handle this Supper. Paul was wrong and right: no one can discern the body of Christ.

Tonight, begin the beguine.

Another Look at Gibson's Film "The Passion of the Christ" by a Lutheran Pastor

This is from Thursday Theology#304 and will eventually be available at The Crossings Community web page.

Finding Common Ground as God-fearers:
Reflections on "The Passion of the Christ"
By Steven Kuhl

A Presentation given at Congregation Shalom, Fox Point, WI as part of a
Jewish-Christian Dialogue panel discussion on the Gibson Movie, "The Passion of the

Dear friends,

I'm inclined to call you "Theophilos," "God-lover," as St. Luke addressed the
audience of his famous gospel, because that is precisely what I assume we
gathered here are: God-Lovers. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, clergy
or lay, young or old, black or white, we are all God-lovers--and nothing can
take that away. But just because we love God doesn't mean we understand God --
at least, not in the same way. Indeed, it's obvious we don't -- and that, on
first glance, would seem to be the problem. But while that is a problem, I
suggest to you that that is not the biggest problem. (I remember a reference to
a time, whether historical or imaginative, I'm not sure, when there was
unanimous, world-wide human consensus about God, and God declared them wrong. The
story of the Tower of Babel, remember?) The biggest problem that faces us,
then, is not whether we all understand God the same way, but whether we
understand God the way God wants to be understood. Do we love God for who God is or
do we love God for who we want God to be? To ask the question that way unites
us, I believe, but it unites us not as God-lovers but as God-fearers, indeed,
as potential blasphemers: for nothing is more dangerous -- and worthy of true
fear -- than to feign the love of God. But isn't that, namely, the "fear of
God," precisely the beginning of wisdom, as both the Jewish and the Christian
traditions tell us, in both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures? Indeed, I
propose that the only place for us to find common ground is in the "fear of God"
lived out as repentance, because true wisdom and love is borne only out of

In light of that, what has been most puzzling to me about the public reaction
to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is the lack of wisdom borne out
of repentance. Rather, the reaction has been triumphalistic and defensive,
especially on the part of many Christians, but not only Christians, though it is
to my fellow Christians that I wish to speak. Why is that? My own impression
is that the film has become such a powerful symbol of the "culture wars"
between (what I will call for lack of better terminology) "secular liberalism" and
"Christian conservatism" that all sides read into the film what they want,
see in it what they want, and ignore in it what they want. Defenders of the
film do not see its success at the box office as simply another (though perhaps
surprising) commercial success, but as a sign of a hunger for traditional
"Christian" values in the culture. Defenders of the film don't just see Jesus
getting beaten, but their values agenda for the nation being beaten; they don't
just see Pilate capitulating to Jews but our government capitulating to
liberalism; they don't just see Judaism plotting against Jesus, but liberalism
plotting against them. By the same token, critics of the film also react with the
same allegorical interpretation, as though the villains on the screen are really
meant to represent them. Now maybe my mind has been clouded by watching too
many of those cable TV news programs to really understand the phenomenon of
the movie. (You know, the ones that pit Conservative Protestants and Catholics
against Hollywood critics and Jewish and Catholic liberals.) Nevertheless, so
it seems to me, there is much of the "culture wars" at work here and that, I
think, interferes with approaching the film and its subject matter in the
"fear of God" borne out as repentance.

What I'm going to ask you to try to do now is bracket out the "culture wars"
symbolism that the film has taken on and look at it critically, objectively,
as simply a film about the Passion. What might we see if we look at it from
the perspective of the "fear of God" borne out as repentance? Since my
assignment is to share something of the Lutheran perspective on the topic, to do this
I'm going to draw on the documents which the Consultative Panel on
Lutheran-Jewish Relations has put out in recent years: not only the document called
"Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations," but especially the document called
"'The Passion of Christ': Concerns and Recommendations in Anticipation of the
Forthcoming Film," which was issued in January of this year while the movie was
still in production. The document reads, and I here synthesize the text:

The portrayal of the Passion of Jesus is one of the most difficult
subjects in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. Whenever and however it is
told, the Passion sets the Jew Jesus, his Jewish disciples, other Jewish
leaders, a large Jewish community of considerable diversity, a Roman governor, Roman
soldiers, and God in a complex web of relationships.

Tragically, portrayals of the Passion over many generations have led to
the virulent condemnation of Jewish communities, with Christians lashing out
to punish those they had learned to call "Christ-killers." This doleful
history demands a special vigilance from any who portray the Passion today. The
Passion has the power of the gospel, God's power to bring life from death. We
must not allow the libels of former ages to compromise it in our time.

"[T]he New Testament must not be used as justification for hostility
towards present-day Jews," and "blame for the death of Jesus should not be
attributed to Judaism or the Jewish people."

Recognizing [Mel Gibson's] stature and influence as a film producer and
celebrity, we can expect that Mr. Gibson's project will share and reshape
understandings of this central Christian story for millions of viewers. It is i
mperative that such influence be exercised with due regard for the powerful
heritage of the Passion as gospel truth for Christians and as human tragedy for
many Jews.

We urge members of the [ELCA] to renew their familiarity with the Passion
story by reading and studying the gospel portrayals [and] to become informed
about the issues that surround the challenging task of portraying the Passion
in dramatic or cinematic form.

We urge Mr. Gibson to give due regard . . . to its historical accuracy
and to its portrayal of Jewish characters [which] requires that he give credence
to the critique of historical scholars and [which] neither stirs antisemitism
nor lends itself to antisemitic exploitation.

How well does "The Passion of the Christ" do relative to these Passion Play
guidelines for depicting Jews and bringing understanding to the complex web of
relationships that formed first-century Palestine? In general, I'd say not
well. In Gibson's redaction of the story (where he draws on the canonical Gosp
els, his own imagination, as well as other extra-biblical and speculative
material) the Jews and the Romans both are presented very one-dimensionally. His
account reflects nothing of the complexity that is variously reflected in each
of the four gospels, let alone the way modern scholarship has been able to
illuminate the cultural context.

For example, Gibson uses his imagination to create an extra-biblical scene
between Pilate and his wife (extrapolated and redacted from parts of Matthew and
John, as well as Anne Catherine Emmerich) to give us a picture of a Pilate,
not as the ruthless ruler known to scholarship, but as a man who languishes
under the weight of imperial responsibility. How is he to rule in "truth" this
manipulating Jewish populace? Indeed, the Roman authorities cannot even
control their own soldiers, who beat Jesus beyond the symbolic scourging the rulers
intended him to get. Why couldn't Gibson have done something similar for
Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders by drawing, for example, on the fears of the
Jewish leaders as expressed in John 11? There, in response to Jesus' raising of
Lazarus from the dead, the leaders fear that Jesus' increased popularity will
create the perception of insurrection and incite the Romans to destroy both the
"holy place and our nation." In that light, Caiaphas proclaims a central
element in the gospel, namely, that "it is better for one man to die for the
people than to have the whole nation destroyed," showing how richly ironic and
inclusive the symphony of grace is. In addition, the massive, mindless,
arbitrary, bloodthirsty tenor of the crowd looks all too much like the caricatures of
the Jews as presented in the ancient passion plays that at times led to violent
actions against Jews. [On this observation I am heavily indebted to Matthew
Meyer Boulton, "The Problem with The Passion," The Christian Century, vol.
121, No. 6 (March 23, 2004), p. 19.] This is precisely the kind of depiction of
the Jews that the Lutheran and Roman Catholic documents on Passion Plays are
saying needs to be avoided. Even more, theologically, these one- dimensional
depictions overlook the deep irony that permeates the Biblical accounts of the
passion to the point of obscuring, if not obliterating, the reason why the
Christ (as Jesus explains over and over again in his teachings) must be
rejected, suffer, die and on the third day rise. Unless we can sympathize with the
complex dilemma of all the people who are caught up in the events of that
tragic, but good Friday (as Christians want to call it), the Jews as well as the
Romans, then the account obscures the mind-boggling reason for Christ's passion:
that Christ died for all, as Christians are wont to confess it. Anti-Jewish
and anti-semitic portrayals obscure the gospel because they portray the event
as a Medieval morality play, indeed, as a classical Manichean struggle of good
guys and bad guys, we against them, and not as Christ's solemn plea and
wrestling with God that God relent of his judgment and offer mercy (for no other r
eason than for Christ's sake) to the whole, complex, sinful world.

Besides the concern about latent anti-Jewish features in the film, concern
has also been raised about the level of violence portrayed. It is in this
regard, especially, that Gibson claims for himself the prize for historical
accuracy and cinematic realism. Whether or not the flaying that Jesus gets at the
hands of the sadistic, out-of-control Roman soldiers is historically accurate
(and I have my doubts), the greater question is this: Does that historical
detail and plot-line emphasis add to or diminish the meaning of the Passion of
Christ? That depends on what you think the canonical Scriptures are saying the
meaning of the Passion is. I don't think so, but Gibson does, and here is why
he does, or so it seems to me. It has to do with his theory of atonement, the
rationality of why God forgives.

It must be remembered that Gibson is avowedly not a Vatican II Catholic but a
Tridentine Catholic and, accordingly, his film, so it seems to me, serves as
an apologetic, though subtly, for that conviction. (Not only did he invest
$25 million to make this film, but he also built a $1 million church so the
Latin, Tridentine Mass could be celebrated.) Accordingly, Gibson interprets the
Passion as predominantly a cultic sacrifice, using a kind of Satisfaction or
Penal Model of the atonement (which has roots reaching back to the High Middle
Ages), a model that seeks to link systematically, if not mathematically, the
measure of Christ's suffering with the measure of our forgiveness. Moreover,
an important part of his agenda is to show an explicit connection between that
concept of the atonement and the Tridentine concept of the Sacrifice of the

Gibson's view of the atonement (how Jesus pays the price for our sins) is a
quantitative and retributive view: that is, the greater the quantity of
punishment Jesus receives, the greater the portion of sin's burden he carries. This
idea is also very closely related to the substitutionary view of the
atonement that is definitive of Fundamentalism. Therefore, it is important for
Gibson that Jesus be portrayed as an extraordinary sufferer, a heroic sufferer.
Jesus has to be able to shoulder more suffering than any ordinary man because
his very purpose is to take onto himself the punishments that belong to the
whole sinful world. Unless he is the heroic sufferer, he cannot succeed in
carrying out the atonement, and Gibson makes Jesus' heroism in suffering so profound
that even his sadistic torturers become exhausted in their efforts to
overwhelm Jesus with suffering. However, for Gibson, as badly as Jesus has suffered
in the ordeal of the Passion, the quantity of satisfaction for sin is not
accomplished once and for all on Calvary, but is continued through the celebration
of the Tridentine Sacrifice of the Mass. That celebration is understood as
the ongoing unbloody sacrifice for sin that has been established by the bloody
sacrifice of Christ.

Gibson explicitly connects this atonement theory to the notion of the
Tridentine sacrifice of the mass (an idea that would repel Fundamentalists if they
could see it in the film) through a series of flashbacks. The scenes that I
remember as making this connection are these: 1) While Jesus is before Pilate,
Gibson has a flashback to Jesus washing his hands at the last supper, then
returns to Pilate washing his hands to justify the offering of this victim -- all
an allusion to the action of the priest washing his hands at the Mass. 2)

When Jesus gets to Calvary we have a flashback, again, to Jesus at the supper,
where he rips the cloth off the basket exposing the bread for the meal, then a
return to the soldier ripping off Jesus' sackcloth robe -- all an allusion to
the priest preparing the victim for the sacrifice. 3) After Jesus is nailed
to the cross we have a flashback to Jesus at the supper lifting up the bread,
only to return to see Jesus' cross lifted up --an allusion to the priest
raising up the consecrated host, now the body of Christ, as the ongoing work of
atonement through the unbloody sacrifice of the mass. My point here is not to
disparage the Eucharist or the real presence, which I too see as central to the
Christian's relation to Christ crucified and raised, but to show why Gibson
focuses so graphically on the suffering, or more specifically the scourging, of
Christ. He suffers the punishment we deserve, thus satisfying the demands of
God's judgment on sin. It also explains why Gibson gives scant attention to
the resurrection. It plays no direct role in this view of atonement, except to
establish the ground for the ongoing offering of the sacrifice of the mass.

This, in my judgment, is clearly Gibson's theory of the atonement and his
lens for interpreting in a simple straightforward manner the complex story of the
Passion. While that concept of the atonement has roots in medieval theology,
it is not, in my judgment, the dominant paradigm for understanding the
suffering, death, and resurrection in the New Testament Gospels, nor is it the kind o
f view that figured prominently in the Patristic Age, which Gustaf Aulen
called the Christus Victor Model. While I cannot go into depth here on the New
Testament "meaning" of the Passion (maybe we can do that more in our discussion)
I'd like to close by making two points about the meaning of the "sufferings
of Christ" that, I think, dominate the New Testament perspective and that
contradict the major thrust of Gibson's presentation.

First, in the New Testament, "Christ crucified" is not the Hero, not the
strongest man, but the weakest man. He is not "Braveheart" but the "broken
heart," he is not exemplary in the way he confronts suffering, but ordinary,
displaying a radical solidarity with every sufferer. [Boulton, p. 20. In addition,
classical Christology saw in the suffering of Christ -- including that he got
hungry, thirsty, scared, ached, bled, died, etc. -- the humanity of Jesus, not
his divinity. Gibson wants to use Christ's sufferings to show Christ's
distance, his divinity, how much he is not like ordinary human beings.]

Thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans. Jesus was simply one among
the many, from the perspective of the camera lens at least. What is surprising
about the gospel (such that the New Testament writers cannot ignore it) is
this: how can a man with such an unremarkable end to his life (dying as a common
criminal) become the key to our relationship with God? That unremarkable
ending, that mind-boggling mystery, "scandal" and "foolishness" of the cross, as
Paul puts it, is central to the gospel. And here is essentially how the New
Testament addressed it. Jesus as the Messiah of God, in his cross, identifies
with those who are weak and lowly, obscure and forgettable -- indeed, those
defined as God-foresaken -- so that in his resurrection he can gather them and
present them to God as those who are most precious, that is, set apart for
mercy. Most people I know came away from the movie awed at the level of suffering
Jesus endured. It was superhuman, and the fact that people came away with
that reaction reveals, I believe, one of the major theological problems with
Gibson's presentation. No one I know came away from the theater identifying with
the sufferings of Christ, as the New Testament bids us to do. To the
contrary, they were so awed at the level of heroic suffering that Gibson presented on
the screen, that they were distanced from the Christ. For many, Gibson's
presentation of the sufferings of Christ simply put their small sufferings to
shame. That is not what the cross of Christ is intended to do in the New
Testament Gospels' presentation -- at least, not "simply" that, as I read those

Second, Gibson presents the Passion as though the great nemesis that Jesus
had to deal with was the devil, that spooky androgynous figure who floats
throughout the film. In this regard, Gibson frames the Passion in a classical
Manichean framework of good versus evil with the "good" and the "evil" easily
identified on the screen. Jesus and a few others in the film, especially Mary, are
easily identified as the good, while the bulk of the people, especially the
Jews (amongst whom the evil one floats) are easily identified as the evil.
While it is true that the struggle between good and evil is a common subtheme in
the New Testament (God's judgment and death sentence upon sin and evil is well
attested) the dominant theme in the Passion (and the gospels generally, as
they interpret the passion) is not a good -versus-evil struggle. Rather, it is
God's mercy versus God's judgment, the redemption of sinners, the plea
"Father, forgive them [for my sake] for they know not what they do." In the Passion,
Jesus, the Son of God, takes the side of sinners before God the judge,
pleading for mercy. One can easily see here the Abrahamic tradition being carried
forward: just as Abraham pleads mercy, not judgment, for Sodom and Gomorrah,
now Jesus pleads mercy, not judgment, for the whole world. Here is a voice
calling for the end of, not the exacerbation of, the culture wars by inviting eve
ryone to die to self through him: in a word, to repent. Of course, the
paradox and intrigue of this confrontation is mind-boggling and there is no way to
depict it with the lens of a camera. It needs commentary! Something that
Gibson doesn't do much of. As pure historical event, so it seems to me, as Jesus
breathes his last dying breath, we have no way of knowing what the outcome
will be. Has God abandoned him along with his cause? Or will the Father receive
his spirit? That is, will the spirit of Christ's mercy (marked by forgiveness
and life) trump the spirit of judgment, of retribution (marked by judgment
and death)? For the New Testament the answer to this question is the
resurrection and the proclamation of forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Moreover, the
"truth" of Jesus' Passion, the way of mercy over judgment, can be presented to
the world only as believers live humbly and repentantly in the world: not as
crusaders of the culture wars, even though they find themselves in that war, but
as cross-bearing servants, willing to be ordinary people, suffering quietly,
obscurely, unimpressively, unheroically, for the sake of their neighbors and
their world, regardless of who they are.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Another Way of Preaching Church

"I believe that in this congregation, or Church, all things are in common, that everyone's possessions belong to the others and that no one has anything of his [or her] own; therefore, all the prayers and good works of the whole congregation must help, assist and strengthen me and every believer at all times, in life and death, and thus each bear the other's burden, as St. Paul teaches ( A Brief Explanation of the Creed Luther, 1520)

In this case, church has also to do with possessions, the sharing of the whole congregation of everything, so that all things belong to all, in order to bear each other's burdens. This is a dramatic re-ordering of church, not along hierarchical lines, or by way of ecclesiology, but through an eschatological and perichoretic here-and-now-ness. Try preaching this one on Easter. The liturgy might look like this:

Presiding Minister: Alleluia! Christ is risen.
Congregation: He is risen indeed. Here, have my last month's pay check.
Presiding Minister: Easter is here, and I've decided to share my pension with Bob, the janitor.
Congregation: Christ is alive! Indeed, your sins have been rolled away.
Presiding Minister: Like the empty tomb, so is my wallet.
Congregation: Christ is alive! We'll pray for you.
Presiding Minister: You have nothing of your own, but all have the assurance of salvation.
Congregation: Christ is alive! But what about my XBox? Can I keep that?
Presiding Minister: The grave is now open, and I see no XBox.
Congregation: Christ is alive! The disciples run with joy to see for themselves that there is indeed no XBox.
Presiding Minister: The glorious news of Easter is spreading fast.
C: Christ is alive. Let's start a commune together.
Presiding Minister: Alleluia! Who's cooking supper. I'll come over.
Congregation: He is risen indeed! All together now.

Over the intercom system, the repeated but fading sound of the Beatles singing "All together now... all together now" can be heard.

Monday, April 05, 2004

On the Relationship Between Liturgy and Preaching (especially during Holy Week)

In the latest issue of Word & World, David Ratke and Walter Sundberg make differing assertions on whether Wilhelm Löhe can be classified as a neo-Lutheran. Their differing appraisals rest, at least partially, on Löhe's "renewal" of the liturgy and re-integration of the service of the Word and the service of the Meal.

The practice in the time of Löhe was actually quite similar to the Lutheran liturgy in Slovakia that we experienced while living there as missionaries. The normal service is a service of hymns, prayers, and sermon, lasting about 1.5 hours. During "high" seasons of the year, like Advent and Lent, a Communion service is offered after the benediction in the first service. Everyone leaves the church, and then those who desire communion come back in (or arrive for the first time) for the service of Communion. This de-tached rite was quite foreign to me, given the liturgical renewals that had happened in the ELCA and other denoms in America in the latter half of the 20th century.

Apparently, Löhe in his context simply got rid of the benediction (or post-poned it to the end of the combined services), attached the two services, and thus re-constituted the divided synaxis. He did this carefully, and over time led a # of liturgical changes based on his study of historic Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox hymnals.

But returning to the relation between liturgy and preaching, although Löhe himself was a great and faithful preacher, his liturgical renewals (according to liturgists) had a greater impact, so that today in many churches influenced by Löhe and other neo-Lutherans, the meal is back, but great preaching is not necessarily. At least so Sundberg says.

As is well known, Luther himself said services should not be held if there is no preaching. This makes problematic such liturgical renewal movements as those recommended by the Society of the Holy Trinity (of which I am a member), because they recommend a return to the praying of the daily hours, and these prayer orders do not always recommend a sermon (Compline, Mittagsgebet, etc.) The liturgical renewal movement has also recommended other services, especially during the Easter season, that can be done with or without preaching. It has, in this context, become the habit of some churches, for example, to do the entire lectionary reading for Passion Sunday, together with the liturgy of the Palms, and then let these liturgies stand in for a sermon or replace it.

Certainly, one gift of the liturgical rites for Holy Week is their profound attention to the salvation drama attested by the gospel writers, Christ's death and resurrection. And the more faithfully and creatively we pray these texts, chant these liturgies, repent and celebrate, the better. But it is my contention (and here I agree with Sundberg), that it is the preached Word that still holds a central place. We cannot simply read Scripture out loud and be done with it. This is a practice lacking in pneumatological depth, for the simple reading of the Scripture does not do what it is the Spirit seeks to do, which is to proclaim a Word that is true to that original Scriptural word. The Spirit will not preach anything that has not been taught before- but the Spirit will indeed preach Christ in this new place, at this new time, and will do so through means, through the preaching of those who are called to this divine office.

In this sense, liturgy cannot be a replacement for good preaching. True liturgy will structure the worship of the congregation in such a way that there is true leitourgia- and part of this leitourgia is the work of the preacher, each and every time the church gathers together.

A practical aside: Often our churches are committed to completing a worship service in one hour. With the re-introduction of sung portions of the liturgy like the Psalms, the Kyrie and Hymn of Praise, plus Communion at every Sunday service, this one hour of worship has seriously curtailed the historic Protestant practice of substantive and lengthier preaching. It may be the case that liturgists and homileticians, pastors and lay leaders will need to advocate for longer services, so that the liturgy and proclamation can be given their rightful time.

Frankenmuth & Löhe

The latest issue of Word & World is devoted to the legacy of Wilhelm Löhe- there are a # of excellent historical pieces on his theology of worship & mission. You can also link to this site to learn more about Michigan's #1 tourist destination! Who knew?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

the collected works of fr georges florovsky

This is the kind of project one dreams about. They've got the first full volume of his collected works available on-line, and more forthcoming.

Death, the Trinity and the Holy Spirit

What is death? Is it a gaping maw of nothingness? Is it the opposite of being and existence? If so, is life the same thing as being? When I die, will I cease to live and cease to be, or will I in some sense continue to be?

Death is, foremost, an absence. But it is an absence that can only be felt in light of a persistent presence. I miss those loved ones who are not with me, and their absence is like a presence – an empty coat hook or one less plate at the table. That void is, in a sense, filled in by my own memory of that person. Even in their non-presence I am reaching out to them, relating to them. It is because they have become part of me.

Friendship, according to Aristotle (Nichomachean Ethics), culminates in a mutual indwelling – even to the point of participating in the same nature – what he terms connaturality. It follows then, in light of friendship, that connaturality and relationality are correlative concepts. The former arises out of the latter, consequently enlivening it in a circular fashion – unity and alterity. This cycle is ruptured in the face of absence, but not destroyed. On the contrary, it sharpens the desire for the other that draws one back to union. The power of this attraction is none other than love.

Death as a perichoretic mystery of the Trinity should be considered in this light; while the person of the Logos, fully united to humanity suffered death and separation, the tri-unity was never destroyed. This is because the Divine Love, which is God Himself, was not destroyed. For it was the Person of Love, the Father’s love for his Son perfectly returned by the Son to the Father, who reaches beyond and destroys the grave. Death, in the dead Christ, is impregnated and exploded with Life – a life invigorated by the Father’s love in the Holy Spirit. This love, beyond death and separation, retains and embraces his Son in an essential way. In some distant and analogous way, I experience this in holding on to, despite and because of the pain of separation, that image of the loved one that dwells deep within me. It is that image that drives me, with the power of love, to reunion.

Thus the person of the Holy Spirit, in penetrating death, transfiguring it, reunites the Father and the Son in a vital unity that, because of the ineffable power of God’s Love, never perished. It is a unity beyond death that is offered to us all by grace. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6) it is, in unison with Jesus, a cry that flies to God the Father beyond our mortality. And when he responds with the Spirit of life, (Ezekiel 37:5) he unites us to him with a love that never forgot us, that always held us as a seal on his Divine heart - a love that is indeed stronger than death. (Song of Songs 8:6)

Himmelskönig, sei willkommen

Himmelskönig, sei willkommen,
Lass auch uns dein Zion sein!
Komm herein,
Du hast uns das Herz genommen.

King of Heaven, welcome,
Allow us to be your Zion!
Enter in
You have won over our hearts.

Starkes Lieben,
Das dich, grosser Gottessohn
Von dem Thron
Deiner Herrlichkeit getrieben,
Dass du dich zum Heil der Welt
Als ein Opfer fürgestellt,
Dass du dich mit Blut verschrieben.

Powerful love,
which drove you, great Son of God
from the throne
of your majesty,
That you, for the salvation of the world,
would present yourself as a sacrifice,
and would write in your blood.

So lasset uns gehen in Salem der Freuden
Begleitet den König in Lieben und Leiden
Er gehet voran
Und öffnet die Bahn.

Let us therefore enter the Salem of Joys
and accompany the King in compassion and suffering
He goes ahead
and opens the way.

(Bach, Cantata for Palm Sunday, 1714 [BWV 182])
(Choral, Paul Stockmann (1602-1636), "Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod")

Friday, April 02, 2004

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Special Exhibitions: Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261%u20131557)


Textweek has been gracious enough to host a link to Lutheran Confessions from their new blog page. This is a stellar resource for tthose of us who usually preach from the lectionary.

Holy Saturday reflections continued

Regarding the persons involved in Christ's death, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we may say that death is part of the Trinity because in Holy Saturday Jesus is dead. Death is taken into the Trinity's life. And the experience of the death of another and memory of that dead one is also part of God in that the Father endures the death of his Son. And vice versa, since these two persons share fully in each other's lives, death is now a part of God, and the knowledge of absence of another in death is a part of Jesus resurrected life. And furthermore, we participate in this death and life because through the gospel we participate in the life of the Trinity. It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me. It is no longer I who die, but Christ who dies.

But I am incapable of thinking through clearly the Spirit's role in all of this. It is a lacuna for me.

The Kaddish

An English Translation

Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will. May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen


P. It is indeed right and salutary that we should with full devotion of heart and mind and voice praise the invisible God, the Father Almighty, and his only Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ; who paid for us the debt of Adam to the eternal Father, and who by his precious blood redeemed us from the bondage to ancient sin.

For this indeed is the Paschal Feast in which the true Lamb is slain, by whose blood the doorposts of the faithful are made holy. This is the night in which, in ancient times, you delivered our forebears, the children of Israel, from the land of Egypt; and led them, dry-shod, through the Red Sea. This, indeed, is the night in which the darkness of sin has been purged away by the rising brightness. This is the night in which all who believe in Christ are rescued from evil and the gloom of sin, are renewed in grace, and are restored to holiness. This is the night in which, breaking the chains of death, Christ arises from hell in triumph. For it would have profited us nothing to be born had we not also been redeemed.

Oh, how wonderful the condescension of your loving kindness! Oh, how inestimable the goodness of your love, that to redeem a slave you delivered up your Son! O necessary sin of Adam that is wiped away by the death of Christ! O happy fault that was worthy to have so great a Redeemer! O night truly blessed which alone was worthy to know the time and the hour wherein Christ arose again from hell!

This is the night of which it is written: "and the night is as clear as the day"; and, "then shall my night be turned into day." The holiness of this night puts to flight the deeds of wickedness; washes away sin; restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn; casts out hate; brings peace; and humbles earthly pride.

Therefore, in this night of grace, receive, O holy Father, this evening sacrifice of praise, which the Church lays before you in the solemn offering of the candle. We sing the glories of this pillar of fire, the brightness of which is not diminished even when its light is divided and borrowed. For it is fed by the melting wax which the bees, your servants, have made for the substance of this candle. O night truly blessed in which heaven and earth are joined -- things human and things divine.

We, therefore, pray to you, O Lord, that this candle, burning to the honor of your name, will continue to vanquish the darkness of this night and be mingled with the lights of heaven. May he who is the Morning Star find it burning -- that Morning Star which never sets, that Morning Star which, rising again from the grave, faithfully sheds light on all the human race.

And we pray, O Lord, rule, govern, and preserve with your continual protection your whole Church, giving us peace in this time of our Paschal rejoicing; through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C. Amen