Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pope Controversy

Without Authority has a great post on the current controversy around the pope's speech in Regensburg. He does more justice to the situation and texts than I can, so I simply point readers in that direction.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Continuity and Creativity

A commencement address by Jaroslav Pelikan at St. Vladimir Seminary. I'm currently reading a festschrift to him on his 80th birthday entitled Orthodoxy and Western Culture .

Why I Care About Icons

For those of us who are thoroughly "western" in mindset and disposition, iconography I imagine will always remain an enigma. Nevertheless, I began falling in love with icons a few years ago, maybe at first because of the icons I saw and experienced in eastern rite Catholic churches in Slovakia.

In any event, many icons grace my office and our home, and I'm always pondering how to introduce them into Lutheran worship spaces.

Protestants historically are concerned about icons becoming idols. It probably confuses us if we see someone in an Eastern Orthodox church kiss an icon, for example. But in the theology of Byzantium, where the dogmatic statement on icons was established, icons should and could better be seen as a liturgical manifestation of our Christian commitment to maintaining the two natures of Christ. Icons are true Christologically speaking.

An icon does not present itself as coextensive with the truth it teaches, but does present itself as the way that we who are its heirs must follow if we are to go beyond it... to a universal truth that is available only in a particular embodiment. An idol, on the other hand, is the embodiment of that which it represents, but it directs us to itself, rather than beyond itself. (Pelikan in The Vindication of Tradition)

In the West, we are constantly and dangerously prone to idolatry exactly because we don't understand icons, have no icons, don't even think about icons, maybe even think icons are idolatrous. By confusing icon with idol, we have established powerful idols in our midst from which we cannot escape. Money, fame, sports, self-fulfillment, etc.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Half-Handed Cloud

Below an example of why I've been studying the lyrics of Half-Handed cloud so closely. If you click on the lyrics link, I apologize in advance for all the advertising on that page, but it was the only lyrics page I could find...


Parted heavens and came down
Dark clouds He wore as a crown
With feet on the backs of angels
On the wings of wind riding
Thick clouds His covering
A visit to where earth dwells

Out of the brightness of His presence clouds advanced
Heavy full of snow that turned to rain
Water trickled down the hills that came and danced
Under showers washing their terrain

Other mountains gaze at Zion
In envy of what God has done
It's where He'll dwell forever
Extol Him who rides on the clouds
Who rides in the ancient skies
Who dresses up in weather

Sometimes (Rarely) I Agree with Republicans

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Torture and the Geneva Convention

Can we keep it this simple? Let us, as the strongest and most militarized nation in the world, uphold with the most possible rigor, the Geneva Convention. Let us be known for not torturing anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Possible the best movie ever. Ok, that might be hyperbole, but it certainly verges on perfect.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gordon Lathrop's The Pastor A Spirituality

I wanted to extend an invitation to all interested clergy to pick up and read Gordon Lathrop's new book, The Pastor: A Spirituality. Hoping to host an on-line conversation related to this book beginning All Saints' Day of this year. For more information, visit:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How We View God

A Baylor University survey on how we view God.

This is my Lutheran Shirt

We're thinking about sending this t-shirt to all our college youth. Old Lutheran does such a good job with their t-shirts.

Monday, September 11, 2006

God as the Mystery of the World

To read posts on the theology of Jüngel, see the link above. For an example of my most recent post at this discussion, see below:

"European Christianity hsa considered itself capable of thinking of God in his being as God without thinking of him simultaneously as the Crucified... the perfection of God required by the law of metaphysics forbade imagining God as suffering or even thinking of him together with one who was dead. This prohibition and its alleged reason are seen, however, from the perspective of the word of the cross, to be the basic aporia into which European theology has blundered" (GMW, 39).

This may be one of Jüngel's most crucial insights (pun intended!), but he gets it from the Lutheran tradition, so he can't claim it as coming to him ex nihilo. He also rightly qualifies the social and continental location of theology he is criticizing, not necessarily because the criticism can't be levied against theologies in other places, but because he is mostly in dialogue with the European theological tradition.

He goes on to state that "faith in the crucified One as true God and the theological consequences of this faith do not merge easily and without difficulty." You can say that again. This is a constant challenge, danger, aporia. Nevertheless, naming the aporia goes a long way towards addressing the issue. At least the lack is now known. It has been diagnosed.

Thinking God together with the crucified is what leads Jüngel to understand God as not simply "necessary" (the traditional metaphysical understanding of God in relation to the world), but rather as "more than necessary". This is a metaphysical way of saying what can be said more precisely and yet less clearly as "God is not God without humanity." Or at least God does not desire to come to Godself without humanity. If this saying confuses you, then see, you've already started not thinking of God together with the crucified, because isn't the crucified human?

Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero

Prayer for our Enemies

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Friday, September 08, 2006

Journal of Lutheran Ethics

Eight Day Books

The best book catalog ever!

12 Marks of the New Monasticism

[from the New Monasticism web site]

Moved by God’s Spirit in this time called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks:

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger

4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities
combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the
community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

May God give us grace by the power of the Holy Spirit to discern rules for living that will help us embody these marks in our local contexts as signs of Christ’s kingdom for the sake of God’s world.

The New Monasticism

I find this movement very intriguing- is it "The New Pietism"?

The Simple Way

The web site of a community started by Shane Claybourn and others. His recent book The Irresistible Revolution has been getting a lot of press. I can't write a review yet because I've ordered it but don't have it in hand.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Resources for American Christianity

Information and reflection on selected projects funded by the Lily Endowment (worth browsing at length)

1 & 2 Kings Commentary in Brazos Series

I am already in love with this commentary series after reading the first volume on Acts by Jaroslav Pelikan. And of interest to Madison folk, the lamb imagery is from the altar at Luther Memorial downtown Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

McYoga Take Two

Ok, so, the Ronald on top of McDonalds in McFarland (see previous post first), is sitting in the lotus position. Ok, I know, I should capture this on digital image and post it here. And I might. But for the time-being, I simply invite you to a feat of imagination. Imagine an inflatable Ronald McDonald, maybe 20 feet tall, sitting in the lotus position on a brand new McDonalds directly in front of some BP gas pumps, with a strip mall in the background.

Apparently along with their salads and fruit cups, McDonalds is distributing yoga DVDs. It's what I eat and what I do So Ronald in lotus is not so incongruous. Nevertheless, it is quite a sight, maybe something one can only dream up in the smorgasbord of the North American marketplace.

After a quick philosophical dive into the ironies of Ronald adopting the McYoga pose, I went on a brief trip down memory lane. I remembered, to be exact, all the places my family used to eat after church on Sunday mornings. It was our habit, I think without exception, to eat out on Sundays after church. For a while, it was always the McDonalds on Duck Creek in Davenport. Then, for a while, we graduated to Denny's. I always preferred McDonalds because you didn't have to wait. For a small child, Denny's moves slow.

Plus, there was cool stuff, even small toys, distributed at McDs.

Later, we moved on to some other options. For a really long stretch of time, our top destination was Wendys. I'll admit that Wendys is still my favorite fastfood restaurant. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was so impressed with Wendys that I bought stock in the company. For years, I held onto the stock (I didn't make that much money). Receiving the prospectus every year and a small dividend check periodically were worth the investment.

Finally, I think our regular after church meals became a little less regular- I think we started trying out various restaurants each week, as well as brunch options and buffets.

I remember also that at least some Sundays we went over to my great aunts (plural) house. They had a buzzer under their kitchen table that was used, at one time in the distant past, to page servants. My aunts didn't have servants. They just had us, who brought KFC chicken if memory serves correct. But the buzzer was cool for a small child interested in exploring old homes.

So, Sunday dinners.


Because there weren't enough McDonald's in our area, McDs has been busy building a new restaurant in McFarland (ha ha!) this summer. It opened about three weeks ago, and as we were driving through McFarland, we noticed that they had brought in a monstrous inflatable Ronald to set atop the new building. Well, not the Ronald of my childhood, but the new and healthier Ronald, the Ronald who might chant this song by Radiohead:

more productive
not drinking too much
regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
at ease
eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
a patient better driver
a safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
sleeping well (no bad dreams)
no paranoia
careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
keep in contact with old friends (enjoy a drink now and then)
will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in wall)
favours for favours
fond but not in love
charity standing orders
on sundays ring road supermarket
(no killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants)
car wash (also on sundays)
no longer afraid of the dark
or midday shadows
nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
nothing so childish
at a better pace
slower and more calculated
no chance of escape
now self-employed
concerned (but powerless)
an empowered and informed member of society (pragmatism not idealism)
will not cry in public
less chance of illness
tires that grip in the wet (shot of baby strapped in back seat)
a good memory
still cries at a good film
still kisses with saliva
no longer empty and frantic
like a cat
tied to a stick
that's driven into
frozen winter s**t (the ability to laugh at weakness)
fitter, healthier and more productive
a pig
in a cage
on antibiotics

Whoops, didn't mean to go off on a Radiohead digression, but when you're obsessed, and listening non-stop to Thom Yorke's Eraser.

Now this post has ended up being about Thom Yorke and Radiohead rather than McDonalds. That's not a bad thing, really, but we do need to have a post about the Ronald sitting on top of McDonalds in McFarland.