Saturday, May 29, 2004

Wu Ming - The Official Website

Dig this site! And make sure and download a copy of the novel "Q" in your native tongue. It's legal, cause of their "copyleft" policies.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Got that spiritual feeling

Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now outpoured
On each believer’s mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.
Lord, by the brightness of Thy light
Thou in the faith dost men unite
Of every land and every tongue;
This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thou holy Light, Guide divine,
Oh, cause the Word of Life to shine!
Teach us to know our God aright
And call Him Father with delight.
From every error keep us free;
Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide,
In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thou holy Fire, Comfort true,
Grant us the will Thy work to do
And in Thy service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy power prepare each heart
And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to Thee, our Lord, ascend.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

In the popular singing of many of our churches, it is assumed that spiritual/spirit-filled singing is the kind that taps into the emotions, that ends up with at least some movement of the body, head tipped back, and tingles down the spine somewhere near the 3rd time through the chorus, especially if it's a Hollywood chorus.

I admit I have had this same tingle, many times, singing camp songs and other praise songs in worship.

But this coming weekend, when I preach the Easter Vigil sermon, I'm praying for the words to put the capitol S back in Spirit-ual, and so talk about the song of the church that actually does in the congregation that which we teach is the work of the Holy Spirit.

First of all, some spiritual songs should not be easy to sing. They should break, and then re-make, the entire congregation around the song being sung. Not all songs need do this. Certainly simplicity and repetition are also valuable traditions of song. But songs like the one quoted above, should be a valued part of our tradition. We should come to worship expecting to sing something challenging, something hard, something that comes out beautiful only after the song itself has re-worked us and sung us into the song.

Second, Holy Spirit songs should do doctrine, and they should use the language of the church over time. They should emphasize the work of God, not the situation of the people. They are to be true prayer, not simply trite statements about what we feel or what is going on right there in the place of worship. "Here in this place" is a bad phrase to use in a hymn. Better say, "Come, Holy Spirit".

Songs should prepare us for the battle. Although I am not opposed to singing some praise choruses as part of worship, I see them as more like sniffing a good leg of lamb, as opposed to biting in to the meat. And we have so pacified the Holy Spirit that our spiritual singing now tastes like weak broth. If we preach the Holy Spirit as the tough guy of the Trinity, the Advocate, then maybe our singing will get some meat on its bones.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Welcome to the Church of Norway

I just discovered this site while trying to learn more about processional offerings. So the post is really just here to raise the question, "What are your thoughts on the liturgical rightness of the rite offering the gifts by having the entire congregation walk forward with their gifts, the sogennante 'processional offering'?"

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Modern Music

So in worship we're likely to hear classic hymns (LBW), hymns in a newer idiom (WOV), worldwide hymnody (WOV, Renewing Worship), and praise music (Worship & Praise), not to mention full ELCA hymnbooks devoted to particular "minority" cultures and languages.

But I wonder, where is the modernist and post-modernist musical idiom in our church music? Is there someone out there doing Philip Glass as church music? Or Ornette Coleman? Andrew Hill? Radiohead? The closest I have come was at a vespers service in Hamburg, where the organist did a very atonal improv while a local poet read poetry of a semi-religious nature. But is anyone trying to write a setting of the liturgy in the musical idioms of the early or late 20th centuries? Rothko did chapels, and Kandinsky did icons? So where's the music of abstract expressionism in our churches?

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Spirit and Confirmation

We're preparing for Confirmation Sunday, May 16th, so I'm reading the Gospel text through a particular lense- the rite of Confirmation. We're using the rite provided by Renewing Worship, which modifies the language slightly that you find in any LBW for the Affirmation of Baptism. The major addition seems to be the (re-) introduction of the trifold rejects before the trifold affirmation of faith through the Apostle's Creed.

We have a funny doubling up of the Holy Spirit in our Lutheran baptismal rites. Chrismation occurs at the baptism in a modified form, including a prayer for the Holy Spirit. Then again at the affirmation of baptism service, we have a prayer for the Holy Spirit. The chrismation is simply an additional action during the baptismal rite, not a sacrament in its own right. The affirmation of baptism, though a major liturgical service/rite, is not considered a sacrament. Well, it's not considered a sacrament by our church. But ask the laity how important it is, and you'll get a different answer. Just notice that it is the only thing in our whole church life where we get 100% participation of a grade level.

There are obvious parallels between the Gospel text and the Confirmation service. Hearing the Word and keeping it. The Holy Spirit will come and teach you everything. All the language in this gospel of perichoresis, in-dwelling, the just-as-ing-ness of the gospel of John (kathos). The Father and the Son and the Spirit share in each other's life. Confirmation can be understood as conformation therefore as well, living ever more deeply into the perichoretic life.

But we also know from experience that confirmation tends to be graduation. Rather than seeing it as an affirmation, the Spirit drawing the believer ever more deeply into the life of the Trinity and the church, we see just the opposite. So I'm trying an experiment this year. It has to do with mentors and lay participation. It has to do with the introduction of what I might call "whole church" liturgy. But I can't tell you now, or it might leak out. More reports later on how it goes. But pray that the Spirit will work it's work with or in spite of liturgical experimentation.

Catholics, Politics, and Public Policy: Beyond Left and Right

My friend Matt often laments that there's not a political party he can fit into as a Catholic. He may be comforted by the fact that a new book out from Orbis Books emphasizes this exact point. Clark E. Cochran and David Carroll Cochran itemize the distinctly Catholic position on all the major political points in their new book, quite ably I might add, and they provide a list of useful web links at the end of each chapter, some of which will likely make it onto our blog roll.

Just remember, Matt, Peter Maurin had trouble fitting into the American political ideal of melting towards the middle. Give thanks for the unique Catholic political voice in America, I say.

Morning Mowing & Better Bloggin

Don't know if I can handle all these Monday morning modifications. I've awaken to the sound of our apartment complex being mowed. Which means my nose is already stuffed and draining, allergies and the attendant sniffling.

To add insult to injury, Blogger seems to have completely revamped their format. They're now calling this space I'm typing in the "dashboard", and a bunch of stuff on the front page looks more like AOL than the old Blogger I knew. Spring cleaning I guess.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Journeying Together Faithfully

Here are some of the most recent reports on the ELCA study process called Journeying Together Faithfully.

The Catechumenate Through Pop Culture?

I read a book a # of years ago, and reviewed it last night in preparation for a sermon this weekend, entitled Welcoming the Stranger by Patrick Kiefert. Kiefert argues that the liturgical renewal in the church is compatible with the modern mission mandate of the church, especially through the liturgy's creation of what we might term public space where a community of strangers can gather around the sacraments.

The issue is how to introduce the catechumenate in a local congregation, especially in my context a Lutheran one. I agree with Frank Senn that the catechumenate cannot be simply one more program that a church adds. The catechumenate, if done well, means a change in the life of the church, for it affects liturgy, evangelism, educational ministries, everything. It also needs a ton of lay support to be done well.

A couple of weeks ago I offered a class discussing The Da Vinci Code. I found that those in attendance were quite open to learning about the "catholic tradition" because the book had left them somewhat shaken, and they were looking for the clear teaching of the church. If I had offered a catechumenal process during Lent, or offered a class on the catechism for adults, I don't know if we would have had the same "point of contact."

Which leaves me of two minds. I don't really want to teach from pop culture. But pop culture seems to be the water in which our folks are swimming, and my wanting to stay dry doesn't seem to be an option either....


Karl has a good discussion of phyletism and orthodoxy going on over at St. Stephen's Musings. I wonder, to what degree does the phyletic heresy still infiltrate Lutheranism? For example, at our synod assembly last week, there were still plenty of jokes about ethnic diversity because a guy wore a kilt, which made him diverse from the Swedes. We aren't quite as centered on a nation-state, but we are indeed northern european. In our church, our biggest sign in the narthex is in Danish, for example.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: its structures and ministries

Released today and available on the US Catholic bishops web page. This is the final statement of the tenth round of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in th United States. This is the longest common statement yet.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Try the Instructions Below (or click here if you're lazy)

go to

type "weapons of mass destruction" but do not hit return.

instead hit the "i'm feeling lucky" button

someone has a smart and farsighted sense of humor!

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Dying and the First Commandment

Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. 14] But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. 15] But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say; Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things.

Lately, I have been with a lot of sick and dying people. More than usual. And it continues to occur to me that the dying process, as difficult as it is, is that aspect of the law (or that which is in the world because of the violation of the law) which drives us to God through despair of our own works and possessions. For example, I now know someone dying of cancer who is in extreme pain, and will continue in this condition until their death. Words of consolation in this situation can take a number of forms. 1) I'm so sorry, I wish he didn't have to go through this. 2) I pray that you will be able to put your trust in the Lord even in the midst of this suffering, for Christ participates in your suffering. 3) This suffering is simply the birth pangs of what is to come, for the pain drives us from hope and trust in our own lives and health, and towards complete trust in God. All good things come from God. Do not despair, but use these trials to build up your most holy faith.

There are many other trite comments I have heard made in these situations, the most painful of which is, "Well, at least he isn't as bad as so-and-so. There are people who have it even worse, you know." But as the psalmist laments, there is no sorrow like our sorrow. Sorrow and pain are personal in the extreme, and the sorrow and pain of others are not ultimately any kind of consolation for our own.

But the therapeutic form of faith in which we have been trained (at least, I have been trained) discourages option 3 above. We are supposed to sympathize/emphathize, and then remind those with whom we speak that Christ suffers with us too. But I find #3 increasingly consoling, and truer to the gospel and the witness of Paul. I thank God for my suffering, for it drives me from looking for good in anything else other than God.

There is a fourth option. Damn the devil for bringing this kind of illness on one of God's elect. In my prayers, that is what I pray. For faith for those in the midst of pain, and on the verge of despair, faith in Christ for everything good, the immeasurable riches that spring from the wounds of the resurrected Christ. Devil, be gone.