Monday, January 30, 2006

East Koshkonong Podcast

Although I do not currently own an iPod, I do subscribe to a few "podcasts." Our church has now launched a podcast of our Sunday morning worship service. This will likely be a temporary link, but if you're interested in subscribing or listening, go ahead and give it a try. Other podcasts I subscribe to include Luther Seminary chapel and NPR's All Songs Considered.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

National Church Library Association

Church libraries vary from place to place, but as my wife and I have been planning with some of our membership to update our library, we happened upon a wonderful organization, the National Church Library Association. They have comprehensive bibliographies in a variety of fields, plus general suggestions for acquisitions for the church library. Having read through one of their quarterly newsletters, I realized they are also a great resource for those of us who are constantly reading book reviews.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Czeslaw Milosz, Second Space

I'm going to post a few of the "stanzas" from Milosz's "Treatise on Theology." The whole poem bears reading and re-reading, as does the brief volume in which it has been published, Second Space: New Poems



Treat with understanding persons of weak faith.

Myself included. One day I believe, another I disbelieve.

Yet I feel warmth among people at prayer.
Since they belive, they help me to believe
in their existence, these incomprehensible beings.

I remember that they were made to be not much inferior to angels.

Under their ugliness, which is the stigma of their practical preoccupations, they are pure, and when they sing, a vein of ecstasy pulsates in their throats.

Most intensely before a statuue of Holy Mary,
as she appeared to the young girl in Lourdes.

Naturally, I am a skeptic. Yet I sing with them,
thus overcoming the contradiction
between my private religion and the religion of the rite.


It is that last line that makes Milosz such a wonderful catholic poet, imho.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gift, Salvation, and Grace

In Christian theology, gift and salvation mean the same thing. At least when we are speaking of the relation between God and humanity in Christ. God gives us all good things, Christ gives himself over to death, the Spirit is given- and in each of these cases, we do not receive partial things, but we receive the gift of God, that is, salvation.

But what I've said is apparently a very Lutheran thing to say. Not all denominations or Christians would confess what I have just confessed. So, for example, at baptism God bestows God's gifts, but for some, this is not the bestowal of "salvation" until the salvation has been actualized in the life of the believer through repentance and faith.

God is graceful to us. This is also the same as saying that God gives us gifts. So gift, salvation, and grace are also all semantically related. Or for that matter, so is Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the wholly gratuitous gift of God out of the love God shares with His Son.

Now to be really Lutheran- even faith is a gift. So faith itself is what we mean when we alternatively say gift, grace, salvation, and Holy Spirit.

I'm not enough of an analytic philosopher to know whether this is similar to the linguistic situation in English where multiple terms mean the same thing- car, auto, vehicle, ride, wheels- even when they sound different or convey different nuances.

Nevertheless, if faith is a member of this list- grace, salvation, gift, Holy Spirit- then faith means something very different from a biblical perspective than it does in common speech, and justification by faith something other than what many theologians, focused as they are on the human will and our response to God's initiative, would have us believe.

I have been led to some of these reflections because I've just begun to read Risto Saarinen's book, God and the Gift , but also because I've recently been discussing with someone whether or not baptism saves. I say it does. So does Luther. Apparently others do not. Baptism is a gift of God- it is so also grace, salvation, the bestowal of salvation, the beginning of faith.

Contra much of modern philosophy that no true "gift" can be given, because, for the philosophers, there are always strings attached, it is a dogmatic assertion of theology that a gift, a true gift, can be given, because God can give Godself, and the Christian God bestows gifts by bestowing Himself- so God is gift, grace, faith, salvation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever our reception of the gifts of God is, it is simply our participation in a gift already given, nothing more and nothing less, so that our reception of the gift becomes in fact part of the gift itself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bo Giertz's Kyrkan & Guds Rike

I've only read one book by Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God , but the book is a splendid example of the rule that you needn't write much, but write well, in order to make an impact in the life of literature. It is a book to be read and re-read.

Apparently he was also an artist. This drawing, The Church and the Kingdom of God, is for a book for confirmands. The lower circle is the church, the door into which is baptism. Inside the church is the Word of God and the Eucharist. The exit out of the church is death. Then things stream upward by way of the resurrection to life in the Kingdom of God, which is established in the resurrection, but also extends over this life as well. It is an excellent artistic summary of the faith of evangelical catholics.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style
Originally uploaded by perichoresis.

The Elements of Style is now out in an illustrated edition. This should be a boon for the blogging community. Collectively, we are in need of a few reminders, and the pith and concision of Strunk and White can be a guide to us all. I am learning a few things as I re-read this classic.

As I look back at this last paragraph, I wonder which "element" I've neglected, which grammatical rule I've broken. This in itself is a good thing.

I confess: I'm a sucker for classics re-pristinated. For example, Paradise Lost was recently reissued in an illustrated version. It includes a forward by Philip Pullman, another favorite author. I bought it. Also W.S. Merwin's new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight . The only exception to this rule is new translations of Dante (although I did purchase Merwin's Purgatoril).

My new resolution for 2006 will be to publish on this blog in such a way that Strunk would be, if not proud, then at least approving.

Friday, January 13, 2006

M. John Harrison

I have been, over this January season, been reading Harrison's new/old collection of stories, Viriconium .

M. John Harrison is to sci-fi as J.M. Coetzee is to literary fiction. Let the reader understand...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Renewing Liturgy: from Greg W.

Short Rite for Epiphany and The Conclusion of Christ-mass

aka getting rid of the Christmas tree

1. This rite is appropriate for home use or in public spaces; usually after a nice supper to mark the end of Christmas
2. After removing the ornaments, giving the edible ornaments to children, neighbor children, or other worthies, turn on the lights/light the candles one last time.
3. L: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
4. C: Amen
5. Lesson: Matthew 2:1-15
6. Hymn: O Tannenbaum, a few verses
7. L: Okay, so, now what?
8. C: Christmas is over; the stores have Valentine's stuff now
9. L: Let's pray or something
10. L: Lord, we give you thanks for this tree whose life we took, especially we hope you preserve those other trees that only Charlie Brown would take. We give you thanks that nothing bad happened to our tree [OR, we're sorry that things got out of control with the dog/cat/kids/party and the tree tipped over] and thank you for giving it to us for the important office of "Christmass tree." May we all remember the light of Christ that this tree bore [as well as our house, the yard, etc.] for this Christmas season, especially since our commute is during the dark hours. In Jesus’ name,
11. C: Amen.
12. Remove the lights, the angel or star, and clear away a space for removal. The assisting minister, the one who can dead lift the most weight, removes the tree. Take it to the curb, the dumpster, to a porch or yard, to dry out for Ash Wednesday use, or if permits or ordinances allow, have a nice bonfire with the neighbors to celebrate the end of Christmas.
13. One might consider use of the service of committal if the tree goes straight to the dumpster or curbside pickup.

Friday, January 06, 2006

This is, far and away, the coolest book catalog I have ever received. Go to the web site, browse, but for sure, get the catalog... then be tempted by the best collection of literature, theology, and philosophy you've ever seen promoted in one place.