Thursday, August 31, 2006

Law and Gospel

I've been reading Wengert's recent book in the Lutheran Quarterly series. A Formula for Parish Practice is an interesting project on a number of levels, not the least of which is it's admixture of personal reflection, historical commentary, fresh application of an historic confessional document for the church, and the re-publication of this important (if neglected) portion of the Book of Concord. I especially liked this quote in the chapter on "What God's Word Does to You."

Preaching involves both law and gospel, not as stale categories to distinguish commands from promises but as a stripping bare of the truth about the human condition and a revealing of the truth about God's gracious heart. Luther, reflecting on the dilemma of preaching, once complained that when he preached the unconditional grace of God in the gospel, the lazy and licentious always took it as an opportunity to remain in their sin. When he preached the law, the weak despaired. Either way, preaching seemed to miss its goal. However, Luther added, for the sake of the weak he would proclaim the gospel, since those who use its forgiveness as an excuse to sin would manipulate everything to their advantage anyway.

That's wise on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Old Lutheran Clergy Cap

This summer I had an outdoor wedding. For the rehearsal, I needed something to keep the sun out of my eyes. I also needed a gift to give to the retired pastor in our congregation who was celebrating his 60th (!) year of ordained ministry. The Old Lutheran Clergy Cap was perfect for both situations. Very fun.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Slavoj Zizek

I loved this movie, although as Zizek says in it, part of his popularity is clearly his cartoon-like aspects. I wonder what living theologian could be the basis for such a movie?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Strangers, Aliens, and the Hidden God

A friend of mine, Professor Greg Walter, sent me an article recently he was working on for LWF related to the hidden God and other religions. I was intrigued by his choice of language, because it is the same semantic range I often work with in talking on the ethics of the stranger (not to mention the resident alien), but he applied it to, it seemed to me, God as such, and even went so far as to say that a central loci of Lutheran theology is emphasis on the stranger. I inquired further about this, asking the following and providing a summary:

As to your argument "as a whole", I find it persuasive. You're charting a middle course, which is always difficult, between those who wish to go whole hog the way of theology of religions, and those who see the truth claims of various traditions as incommensurable. Your category of strange-ness is helpful. If I were to summarize your argument, it might be "The Lutheran tradition of the hidden God, which has resonances in apophaticism, is primarily that of promissory strangeness." Said otherwise, "Lutheran's relation to other religions is eschatologically weird." :)

I think their remains a potential incommensurability in your proposal inasmuch as a deferred unity can be deferred indefinitely. This may be an aporia in your proposal that can only be circumlocuted.

and his response was:

Lutheran emphasis on the stranger, it seems to me, comes from its contention on the hiddeness of God. I think that Luther's two forms of the hidden God (sub contrario and absconditus in maiestate) are better understood through the language of alien and stranger. Indeed, Luther uses "alien" to talk about God's law or wrath (alien and proper activity) and that belongs to the general semantic range denoted by "stranger or strange." I like "wierd," too, but it is more difficult for me to adopt wierd since it is such an interjection from my youth and nearly unsalvagable in our midwestern culture, just like the word interesting. It also has a different geneology than stranger because it belongs more to horror (tales of the wierd--Lovecraft etc) and in contemporary discourse there is a kind of "horror/wierd analysis" that borrows from psychoanalytic theory. I'll try to find the title of a "wierd" analysis of the book of revelation that accuses the book of political conservatism owing to its use of wierd creatures and figures. Wierd theory tries to show how conservative horror genres are. So, these are additional reasons why I prefer stranger/strange to wierd. I do like queer but that of course focuses specifically on sexual and gender difference.

You may be right--if I understand you--that there is a uselessness of eschatology to a pragmatic perspective. The dilemma of the dynamic between strange and proper truths is as follows. I could either articulate a unity that allows the strange to disappear into the proper, or one that maintains an incommesuarbility between them, an unbridgeable gulf, or one that resolves them into a higher unity, or one that maintains a never-ending ping-pong match between the two (a kind of incommesurability of a different sort). I had a paragraph that I deleted that did the following:

1. Christians ought to interpret strange claims not as alien but as novel (anonymously Christian claims)
2. Christians can interpret strange claims as alien that have force as proper claims (alien claims as alien)
3. #1 is the prevalant kind of inclusivism of post-liberal to Roman Catholic theology
4. #2 is the road not taken
5. Both are necessary (note difference between ought and can in #1 and #2)
6. Because of the eschatological deferral of any unity between the two, theology of religions and systematic theology are required to speculate as to their unity.
7. I offer a conception of God as infinite to bring together God as alien and God as promised.
8. This speculative conception owes itself to Gregory of Nyssa, Duns Scotus, Nicholas of Cusa, Luther, Hegel, Schleiermacher, Pannenberg, and many others.

I would not easily identify the promised GOd with the strange (like a veiled bride) because that would make faith entirely deferred until the eschaton, confusing faith and hope. Hope is primary, it seems to me but must be distinguished from faith.

I find this dialogue helpful on a number of levels, not least of which is its accessibility as a way of moving forward in interreligious dialogue that maintains a confessional Lutheran position that is at the same time an open rather than a closed system. If indeed that is what Greg intends. If not, it's what I'm projecting onto him. He can comment more if he'd like.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New School in Kosice, Slovakia

Our friend Ondrej, a fellow pastor (in fact, the one who married Amanda and I almost ten years ago at the Lutheran church in Kosice) has started an early childhood school. Way to go, Ondrej and others.

Evangelical Lutherans Call for Fair and Just Immigration Reform

Some of you may know that I'm an Ambassador for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The following statement by Hanson and Deffenbaugh spells out in very clear language what I think are excellent immediate and just goals for our immigration and refugee policies. I encourage it to be read widely!


Statement of Mark S. Hanson Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr. President, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

St. Paul calls us to “[W]elcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Our Lutheran tradition calls on us to uphold the Biblical mandate to welcome the stranger. The Bible teaches us “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19: 33-34).” In Matthew 25, Jesus himself identifies with aliens: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

In difficult and threatening times, churches and all Christians have an obligation to stand with the word of God against those who use fear to deny fundamental human rights and dignity to the stranger in our midst. We, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and the president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), call on all people of faith to oppose attempts at immigration reform as currently proposed.

There are those who may wish to characterize this position as weakening our national vigilance against terrorism; it does not, and it would be wrong to so imply. The ELCA has a very strong statement regarding the threat of terrorism and so advocates, but we believe the current immigration reform effort does not protect this country. Rather, it denies fundamental human rights and limits the ministry of the church to those residing in our land.

We reject “enforcement only” legislation that separates families; that criminalizes undocumented men, women and children; that criminalizes churches, their pastors and lay people who minister to the alien in their communities; that denies a legal path to permanent residence for millions already in the United States working for our companies and businesses; and denies fair treatment for farm workers who provide our daily bread.

We therefore request the following specific changes in legislation presently under consideration:

Oppose the criminalization of the church, its ministers and its members, who provide humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants. The current criminalization provision provides for seizure of assets used to further these humanitarian acts.

Oppose provisions which criminalize undocumented presence. Such provisions raise punishment of immigration violations out of proportion to the nature of the offense, punishing immigrants who seek only to work or remain with their families with sentences of up to two years. Provisions relating to criminal gangs should be amended to exclude children whose participation is involuntary, or who are fleeing the gangs. Each case must be considered on its own merits.

Provide a path to permanence for individuals currently residing and working in the United States as well as their families. A fair program to bring these individuals out of the shadows and in line to obtain legal status must be a part of any lasting solution as the failure to do so can only result in the creation of a vulnerable permanent underclass, unable to fully participate in society. Essential to such a solution is a worker visa program which unites families and provides an opportunity for workers to earn a permanent place in American society.

Ensure basic constitutional due process rights in the enforcement of our laws. We recognize the need to increase the security of our borders, but we cannot accept the curtailment of fundamental due process rights. Language in the bill would wall off access to the courts in many situations where it is now possible, eliminating checks and balances which form the basis of America’s democracy. Recent decisions by Federal Appeals Courts have shown that judicial review is necessary to ensure the process is functioning properly. Other sections of the bill allow officials to deny benefits or even citizenship based on broad, poorly defined criteria, without recourse to appeal. Detention could be extended almost indefinitely, with little or no opportunity for appeal. Transparency and accountability in decision making has been a touchstone of American government since its founding, and should not be abandoned now.

Include in the legislation the bipartisan “Agricultural Job Opportunities Act” for farm workers, a measure negotiated by growers, agricultural employers and farm workers to create an “earned adjustment” program enabling some undocumented farm workers and H-2A guest workers to obtain temporary immigration status with the possibility of permanence and that revises the existing H-2A worker program.

Finally, we oppose the rush-to-judgment atmosphere that is currently surrounding this issue. Complex language that would affect the lives of millions of people is being discussed in back rooms of Senate chambers, with insufficient time for understanding, public discussion, and reasoned consideration of the consequences.

As members of a church with immigrants, and with roots in immigrant churches in a nation of immigrants, we urge the Congress to make these corrections to the bill, or to reject it.
ELCA Bishops Who Endorse the Statement 3/27/06

ALABAMA - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; ALASKA - Bishop Ronald D. Martinson; ARIZONA - The Rev. Alton Zenker, Interim Synod Bishop; ARKANSAS - Bishop Floyd M. Schoenhals; CALIFORNIA - Bishop Murray D. Finck; Bishop David G. Mullen; Bishop Dean W. Nelson; COLORADO - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; CONNECTICUT - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; DELAWARE - Bishop H. Gerard Knoche; FLORIDA - Bishop Edward R. Benoway; GEORGIA - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; HAWAII- Bishop Murray D. Finck; ILLINOIS - Bishop Warren D. Freiheit; Bishop Paul R. Landahl; Bishop Gary M. Wollersheim; INDIANA - Bishop James R. Stuck; IOWA - Bishop Philip L. Hougen; Bishop Michael A. Last; Bishop Steven L. Ullestad; KANSAS - Bishop Gerald L. Mansholt; KENTUCKY - Bishop James R. Stuck; LOUISIANA - Bishop Paul J. Blom; Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse; MAINE - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; MARYLAND - Bishop Ralph W. Dunkin; Bishop H. Gerard Knoche; Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; MASSACHUSETTS - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; MICHIGAN - Bishop Gary L. Hansen; Bishop John H. K. Schreiber; MINNESOTA - Bishop Jon V. Anderson; Bishop Craig E. Johnson; Bishop Peter Rogness; Bishop Peter Strommen; Bishop Harold L. Usgaard; MISSISSIPPI - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; MISSOURI - Bishop Gerald L. Mansholt; NEBRASKA - Bishop David L. defreeze; NEVADA - Bishop David G. Mullen; The Rev. Alton Zenker, Interim Synod Bishop; NEW HAMPSHIRE - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; NEW JERSEY - Bishop E. Roy Riley; NEW MEXICO - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; NEW YORK - Bishop Stephen P. Bouman; Bishop Marie C. Jerge; Bishop Margaret G. Payne; OHIO - Bishop Marcus C. Lohrmann; Bishop Callon W. Holloway Jr.; OKLAHOMA - Bishop Floyd M. Schoenhals; OREGON - Bishop Paul R. Swanson; PENNSYLVANIA - Bishop Carol S. Hendrix; Bishop Ralph Jones; Bishop A. Donald Main; Bishop Donald J. McCoid; Bishop Gregory R. Pile; Bishop David R. Strobel; RHODE ISLAND - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; SOUTH CAROLINA - Bishop David A. Donges; TENNESSEE - Bishop Ronald B. Warren; TEXAS - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; Bishop Paul J. Blom; Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse; Bishop Ray Tiemann; UTAH - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; VERMONT - Bishop Margaret G. Payne; VIRGINIA - Bishop James F. Mauney; Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; WASHINGTON - Bishop Wm. Chris Boerger; Bishop Robert D. Hofstad; WASHINGTON D.C. - Bishop Theodore F. Schneider; WEST VIRGINIA - Bishop Ralph W. Dunkin; WISCONSIN - Bishop George G. Carlson; Bishop James A. Justman; Bishop Paul W. Stumme-Diers; Bishop April Ulring Larson; WYOMING - Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg; BAHAMAS - Bishop Edward R. Benoway; PUERTO RICO - Bishop Margarita Martínez; U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Bishop Margarita Martínez

[editorial note: some synods cover more than one state/area; some states have more than one synod]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Experience and Sing
Jonathan Rundman’s
Heartland Liturgy
September 10th—9 a.m.
East Koshkonong Lutheran Church
454 E. Church Rd.
Cambridge, WI 53523

Growing up in the isolated Finnish communities of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Jonathan Rundman has drawn comparisons to singer/songwriters Paul Westerberg and Freedy Johnston for the decidedly homespun quality of his "heartland" rock. Using the geographical isolation of his youth to his advantage, Rundman formed a musical vocabulary grounded in the budding strains of Americana/roots rock, Lutheran hymns, traditional American folk music, and '70s rock to present a uniquely eclectic variant of Midwestern rock.

“He comes off as a Christian who takes seriously the priesthood of all believers and strives, with halting success, to integrate what happens on Sunday morning with life in a workaday world” (New Testament scholar Mark Allan Powell)

Blessing of Backpacks Litany

Some of us gathered here today find the following wisdom far too true:

Eccl. 12:12 Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Others of us are excited for another year of studies the way Ezra set his heart to the study of the law:

Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach the statutes and ordinances in Israel.

In our weariness and in our excitement, for those of us beyond school age years and those of us just beginning, for all those who prepare for another school year, let us abide by these words especially:

Deut. 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, [iron them or clip them to your backpacks, write them on the covers of your binder], [or] write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Now raise your hands, palms up, towards the ceiling, and praying with me:

Almighty God, fountain of all wisdom,
You have blessed us with the joy
and care of children: give us and teachers
everywhere calm strength and patient
wisdom to bring them up, teaching them
to love whatever is just and true and good.

Now turn your hands down and hold them over your bags or backpacks. Congregation, raise your hands to bestow a blessing on the children gathered here:

Bless now these backpacks and the children
who carry them: That with hearts enlightened
by your Holy Spirit they may grow in knowledge
and piety, to worship and serve you
from generation to generation
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Assisting a Fellow Blogger in Shameless Self-Promotion

Conrad Gempf writes:

[I thought you might be interested in this and perhaps willing to mention it on your website/blog]

Published by Zondervan, distributed by Apple, price of Free.

There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is you're getting a free book. The bad news is that you have to listen to ME reading it.

The folks at Zondervan have given me permission to give away an audio version of the entire text of my first book, _Jesus Asked._

This will take the form of a weekly podcast. I'll be reading about a half-chapter in a chunk (this should be between 10 and 15 minutes).

Subscribe via iTunes: Just open the Music Store, search for 'Gempf,' click on the title and subscribe button. That way, iTunes will download the new episodes each week.

This link uses your web browser to open iTunes to my podcast:

If you're not using iTunes or not sure you want to subscribe, you can download the individual sound files (mp3s) from my website Annex every week:

Just to remind you:

_Jesus Asked_ is a book about the habit that Jesus had of asking questions all the time. The print version is available from Amazon and other bookshops.

John Ortberg called "highly readable and sorely needed".

Brian McLaren said it was "the best book I've read on Jesus in years," (though I doubt he still thinks that... he's read a lot of Jesus books since then). He does refer to it in passing in his Secret Message of Jesus.

Dr Conrad Gempf is a lecturer in New Testament at London School of Theology. He worked with the NIV Translation Committee on the TNIV and also with Rob Lacey on his street-wise gospel translation, _The Liberator._ He's also the author of _Mealtime Habits of the Messiah_ and, in the UK, the author and presenter of the home group DVD _Christian Life & the Bible.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Era of (The Illusion of) Privacy is Over

If you had the illusion that information about you was, in general, at least somewhat private, this Zabasearch site should dispel any illusions you have. I was able to find basically every address I've ever lived at since moving away from the home I grew up in. And this is just an aggregate site, they just pulled together information readily available and free from other places. Uff da.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shoehorning God

Given the conflicts created when religious practictioners adopt literal interpretation of scripture, how is one to separate the figurative from the literal commands? Lastly, it seems that religion is powerful in part because it reminds us that God operates beyond our understanding of the physical (and literal) world, why are we often compelled to shoe horn God's teachings into earthly, human, and flawed rules of logic?

These are the 2nd and 3rd questions from Sam. The first one is relatively easy to respond to, although books have been written on the topic (see biblical commentary that makes use of form, rhetorical, or other kinds of lit crit). In any event, my answer would be that we are to take what is written as it comes to us. If it is a parable of Jesus, then take it as a parable. If it is a letter addressing the Corinthians (but also written clearly addressing a wider audience of readers) then read it as that. If it is exhortation, take it as exhortation. If it is written as history, read it as history.

Furthermore, again as in my previous response, I'd remind Sam (and Sam, thanks for asking these questions) that in addition to reading Scripture in the form it comes to us, it can also everywhere and always be read as first order discourse. That is, it can be read as the basis for prayer, as personal address. This is not the same as saying it is literal OR figurative. Rather, it is saying that when you read it, you can hear God addressing you personally, and you are called to respond prayerfully and consider what God has spoken to you through the Scripture.

Finally, a good Lutheran response would be to say something like, "We don't read Scripture either literally or figuratively. Rather, we read Scripture because it is the cradle in which Christ is lain. We read Scripture because it preaches Christ. If somebody else reads the Bible in some way so that it preaches something other than Christ (and him crucified) then they are inventing some other Bible... we will stick to Christ, he is the lense through which the Scripture is read as well as the source and norm of why we read it at all."


In response to your last question, I'd reverse the issue on you. Why are you shoehorning God out of the earthly, human, and logical? What is it about the earthly, human, and logical that is distasteful enough that you think God can't be there? Or that it is the wrong way to perceive God, or the wrong place to seek God. Lutherans have tended to have a sub-narrative (not always obvious in Lutheran preaching, but certainly present in Lutheran theology) of the hidden and revealed God. Luther warned people away from the revealed (naked) God, because this is God in God's majesty, and is something we cannot know, and/or because this God is dangerous, can kill us (see Moses' encounters with God, for example). God "in the abstract" is something we should not and need not dwell on, because we already have the revealed (that is preached) God, the God we know in Christ. Jesus Christ was earthly, human, and made appeals (at times) to logic. And Jesus is God earthed, humanized, and logicized (made into words that you can sense and touch). This Jesus Christ is for us the true God incarnate, and continues to be present in an earthly, human, and logical way in these three forms, earthly as bread and wine in the Eucharist, human in the gathered community which is the people of God, the body of Christ, and logical in the preached Word that gives power to those things that otherwise would be simply water, bread, wine, sermon, mutual admonition, etc.

Lutheranism is crusty, physical, tangible, dying and rising daily, because it's Lord is like that. This is the logic that is written about in the first couple of chapters of 1 Corinthians, for example.

Sam, thanks for asking these questions, and I hope the responses have proved helpful. Feel free to respond.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Resurrection Ain't No Myth

By the way, here are my lapsed Lutheran questions of the month: Jesus' parables and teachings were largely figurative, though he got into hot water because the powers that be took them literally. What if, and in what ways are/could Christ's resurrection and awaited return are meant to be figurative rather than literal?

This is the first of Sam's "lapsed Lutheran" questions from the comments. I promised a more thorough "practicing Lutheran" response to each. Here goes.

The idea that the resurrection is a pious story the early Christians told each other as indicative of the "meaning" of Jesus life is not new. It's been around for quite a while, but it's most compelling defender was Ludwig Feuerbach. If you want to read the best theological construction of this proposal, you can do no worse than read Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity. In it he makes a compelling case for understanding the actual forms of religion as expressions of our various human needs. In this sense, the doctrine of resurrection is a kind of wish fulfillment, an expression of our human need to imagine life after death.

A more recent proponent of this idea, apparently, is Bishop John Shelby Spong. I'm not as familiar with his work, so I will not try and debate him or present his position. I will say what I do think I know, that he believes that Jesus ascended to God, but that the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus is not a doctrine that can mesh with postmodern rationality, and should be abandoned.

In any event, as a Lutheran, I find none of this at all compelling. Feuerbach's is a kind of Hegelian abstraction. Most versions of this theory worry too much over how exactly a body can be resurrected, thinking it seems magical, and therefore a barrier to true faith. The errors attending this theory include:

1) A kind of denigration of the body and the physical and the historical, so that religion needs to be abstracted from an actual history or Christ's actual bodily presence, and made into a conceptual myth
2) Too narrow a sense of creation, so that re-creation, new creation, resurrection, cannot be a part of God's good creation. In this way, most people who hold this theory seem to forget that the creation itself is a miracle, of which the resurrection would simply be the further small miracle after the big one of there being anything at all.
3) This theory does not cling to Christ and him alone. It clings instead to a pious theory.

Ok, so what would a Lutheran believe instead? Well, for one, a Lutheran would take Scripture at its word, and believe and confess that there were some early followers of Jesus who experienced the resurrected Christ, touched his wounds, ate with him, felt his breath on them, heard him say "do not be afraid," walked with him, and spent forty days with him after his resurrection learning the gospel of the 40 days, that is, the gospel communicated to them during the time between his resurrection and ascension.

Furthermore, a Lutheran would agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection is the grounds for our hope. If there is no resurrection from the dead, then faith is null and the promise is void.

But not only that, resurrection is not simply a pious thing we wish for some day in the future. Resurrection is something the Christian community participates in even now, already, through baptism, through the life of the church, which is the body of Christ. In this way, there are some resonances between the theory Sam puts forward and the Lutheran response, because it is true that the resurrection can function as a kind of parable for us, inasmuch as when we learn that we participate already now in the resurrection, that very story re-creates us and resituates us vis-a-vis the story. The resurrection is NOT a parable, far from it, but it is a narrative truth that makes a claim on us. In your baptism, you were made a part of the story that includes Christ's death and resurrection.

Finally, I think the resurrection as myth forgets how dead Jesus really was. This is not simply resuscitation. Nor is it simply memorializing a dead person so his memory lives on. That happens with many people. Abraham Lincoln is alive and well in our collective memory, for example. But Jesus is unique, in that he was truly dead, and God made him alive again, so that he is the firstborn of the dead. We will be like him, and this ain't no myth.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More Books, All the Time

Does anyone else out there have the problem that there's always a pile of books (in fact multiple piles of books in various places), and you're always in the middle of reading a few of them, and when you go somewhere (like out shopping, or on vacation) you can't just take one book with you, but you have to take two or three (six or seven on vacation), and you never get to the bottom of the pile because you've purchased more before you've read through the pile, and you have to manage the pile, because there is the pile of books you've bought, and the pile of books you've checked out from the library, and you're trying to read a balance of books from the various genres, not tooooo much theology, at least a little bit of poetry, peppered with some fiction and here and there a bit of popular non-fiction for good measure, so you constantly re-stack and re-consider and re-organize and re-prioritize?

And not only do you have all these books you're reading currently, but your favorite part of every newspaper and journal that you read is the book review section, so that on Sunday morning you pull the book review section out of the NY Times first and read it while brewing coffee, and when you get, say, First Things or the Christian Century, you read all the book reviews first, and your spouse even subscribes to book review lists from Powells and the like?

What exactly do we call this ailment?

Monday, August 07, 2006

More from Mary Karr

Descending Theology: Christ Human

Such a short voyage for a god,
and you arrived in animal form so as not
to scorch us with your glory.
Your mask was an infant's head on a limp stalk,
sticky eyes smeared blind,
limbs rendered useless in swaddle.
You came among beasts
as one, came into our care or its lack, came crying
as we all do, because the human frame
is a crucifix, each skeletos borne a lifetime.
Any wanting soul lain
prostrate on a floor to receive a pouring of sunlight
might--if still enough,
feel your cross buried in the flesh.
One has only to surrender,
you preached, open both arms to the inner,
the ever-present hold,
out-reaching every want. It's in the form
embedded, love adamant as bone.
In a breath, we can bloom and almost be you

Ever Felt Like This?

Mary Karr writes in "Sinners Welcome", page 70: "That very morning, I'd confessed to my spiritual advisor that while I still believed in God, he had come to seem like Miles Davis, some nasty genius scowling out from under his hat, scornful of my mere being and on the verge of waving me off the stage for the crap job I was doing."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Journal of Lutheran Ethics

If you've never visited, now is the time to do so. JLE is a wonderful forum for Lutheran theological reflection, and the newest topic, on the Pope's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, is stellar. I've written on the ethics of food for this journal, and will have a follow-up article in the journal some time in the fall.

Recently in conversation with someone on what it means to be Lutheran and ethical, I stopped together with them at the library to check out Martin Luther's The Freedom of a Christian. Thankfully I see it is also on-line.

p.s. Please note that the on-line version of the essay uses gender exclusive language. It's an older translation. When reading it, just translate as you wish into a greater level of gender inclusivity. The essay as translated in Timothy Lull's compendium of Luther's writings is a fresher translation, if you're looking to read the document out of a book (translator=Jaroslav Pelikan).