Monday, December 31, 2007

Excerpt | Zdziechowski's Religiosity

One of the books that made it into my bag for vacation was a small volume of Czeslaw Milosz, Legends of Modernity.

One essay, "Zdziechowski's Religiosity," is appropriate to excerpt on this New Year's Eve as many of us review the year, think through the past and the year ahead.

"We were taught that there exists a constant law under which 'children' must always rebel against 'fathers' and treat their ideas and work contemptuously, and only when they themselves become 'fathers' and are repaid by their heirs with the same measure of alienation and incomprehension would they give the past its due. Such a law is probably a fantasy that, like many other fantasies, derives from accepting as an unchanging principle of human nature phenomena that are common for one or two centuries. There is no such law; there is instead, a mutual enmity of the generations, but it exists only a few periods, and there is no reason to assume that it has to exist always and everywhere. What is the source of that enmity? The average person imagined, until recently, that what was truth for his grandfather could no longer be truth for him, that he was wiser than his grandfather--wiser not thanks to his own efforts, but his persoal partaking of the changes in civilization. Grandfather did not fly in an airplane... he did not watch films, therefore Grandfather, even in his best and most creative moments, had to be less clever... therefore his works, if he left any, might add to the number of volumes in the library, but nothing more. In truth, this is a very important matter; it touches on the continuity of tradition and the weight of authority. Generations that are vying with time are convinced that the 10 commandments change every few years; they identify progress in means and form with progress in truth, and they expose themselves to the risk that no longer every few years but every single year and even every couple of months a new solution to the puzzles of the world will be found.

So 'school' and 'trends' multiply, and recording their short-lived history demands at the very least the same effort as recording the history of ancient kingdoms. Man is no longer then on the basis of the aspirations and works of his entire life, but according to how he has acted most recently, or the last thing he said in print, because the continuity of his development is divided into small segments, each of which is evaluated not in proportion to the whole, but in proportion to the surrounding intellectual fashions.

Can one imagine a different order, in which the enmity of generations would yield to deliberate continuity? It is possible, but it can happen only if and when the myth of automatic evolution dies out. Progress would then be the fulfillment of one human truth in continually new conditions and shapes. It would not be the pursuit of constantly changing revelation. Evolutionary thinking, however, is so ingrained in the thinking of the masses that it will outlast even the collapse of faith in 'progress' and will slowly disappear only if the generations join together in accepting some universally binding principles" (89-90).

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

National Endowment for the Arts Releases Study on The Arts and Civic Engagement

National Endowment for the Arts Releases Study on The Arts and Civic Engagement

Is worship part of "the arts"? If so, it may be the case that the church "for others" is most itself when it is also the church in song, liturgy, dancing and bannering it's way into love of God and love of neighbor. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix: Books: Edwin H. Friedman,Margaret M. Treadwell,Edward W. Beal A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix: Books: Edwin H. Friedman,Margaret M. Treadwell,Edward W. Beal: "Ten years after his death, Edwin Friedman's insights into leadership are more urgently needed than ever. He was the first to tell us that all organizations have personalities, like families, and to apply the insights of family therapy to churches and synagogues, rectors and rabbis, politicians and teachers.
Failure of Nerve is essential reading for all leaders, be they parents or presidents, corporate executives or educators, religious superiors or coaches, healers or generals, managers or clergy.

Friedman's insights about our regressed, 'seatbelt society,' oriented toward safety rather than adventure, help explain the sabotage that leaders constantly face today. Suspicious of the 'quick fixes' and instant solutions that sweep through our culture only to give way to the next fad, he argues for strength and self-differentiation as the marks of true leadership. His formula for success is more maturity, not more data; stamina, not technique; and personal responsibility, not empathy.

This book was unfinished at the time of Friedman's death, and originally published in a limited edition. This new edition makes his life-changing insights and challenges to a new generation of readers."

Got this as one of my Christmas presents and am quite excited about it!

Daily Texts * Moravian Church in North America

Daily Texts * Moravian Church in North America

What we Believe

Imagine sharing the same devotional with more than 1.5 million believers — in over 50 languages and dialects around the world! Sound impossible? Not at all. The Daily Texts have been living this ecumenical dream for more than 250 years.

First published in 1731 in Saxony, this little book grew out of a spiritual renewal of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) that dates back to August 13, 1727. In those days, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf handed out a Losung, or "watchword," for the next day to each member of the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut, Saxony (now Germany). Thereafter one or more persons in the congregation went daily to each of the thirty-two houses in Herrnhut to bring them the watchword for the day.

Today the biblical texts for each day continue the tradition, being chosen in Herrnhut, Germany, and then sent around the world to those who prepare the different language editions. In this edition, hymns are chosen and prayers written by Moravian clergy and laypersons from the United States and Canada. Each month is prepared by a different person or couple so that the prayers reflect the great diversity of devotion in the Moravian Church.

Membership of the worldwide Moravian Church is over 750,000 in 19 provinces. The Daily Texts has a press run of over 1,000,000 copies in the German language alone, which far surpasses the 30,000 members of the Moravian Church in all of Europe. Other language editions bring the total circulation of this devotional to over 1.5 million copies.

The American edition has traditionally added an appropriate hymn verse after each Scripture passage, but these have been omitted here due to copyright considerations.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Paper Engineering - Pop up Books and 3D Books from Santoro

Paper Engineering - Pop up Books and 3D Books from Santoro



600 Black Spots

600 Black Spots

Definitely the favorite family Christmas acquisition thus far. We're thinking of starting a pop-up book collection!

Christmas Day Sermon | Luther

Christmas Day Sermon: "We see here how Christ, as it were, takes our birth from us and absorbs it in his birth, and grants us his, that in it we might become pure and holy, as if it were our own, so that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ's birth as much as if he had himself been born of Mary as was Christ. Whoever does not believe this, or doubts, is no Christian."

Luther's Christmas sermon, 1530

Luther's Christmas sermon, 1530: "What we have said, then, has been about that second faith, which is not only to believe in Mary’s Son, but rather that he who lies in the virgin’s lap is our Savior, that you accept this and give thanks to God, who so loved you that he gave you a Savior who is yours. And for a sign he sent the angel from heaven to proclaim him, in order that nothing else should be preached except that this child is the Savior and far better than heaven and earth. Him, therefore, we should acknowledge and accept; confess him as our Savior in every need, call upon him, and never doubt that he will save us from all misfortune. Amen."

Friday, December 21, 2007


It is actually quite fitting that we have been reading Joshua and Judges during the Advent season. The name “Joshua” is essential the same as the name “Jesus.” They’re simply different grammatical forms of the same name. The name has a meaning: God saves. In this way, the name Jesus is like the name Emmanuel which we will hear a lot of this holiday season. Emmanuel means: God is with us. But you could say that “God saves” and “God is with us” mean the same thing. Our savior is Jesus Christ, and it is his coming into the world to redeem us that saves us. So, Jesus being with us, and Jesus saving us, are one and the same thing. Jesus is what he does, and does what he is.

The Israelites experience this as well. When the Lord is with them in battle, he saves them. When God is absent, they fail. They carry the ark of the covenant with them, where God’s presence hovers, and they are saved. If God’s Spirit is absent, or they leave the Ark behind, they fall down. It is appropriate that someone named Joshua is the leader of the Israelites at this time. His name makes clear that although he is the special leader of Israel after Moses’ death, it is still God, not Joshua, who saves. His name points away from himself to God.

Now, as we begin reading Judges, we read a unique time in the history of Israel. The Israelites have settled in Canaan, but they are not yet united as a nation under one king. Instead, God chooses special leaders or “judges” to lead the tribes. At various times, judges might or might not have the participation of all the tribes. It’s a very loose confederation. The judges primary job was to lead the tribes in military actions, but the judges also interpreted law, and sometimes did other things even than this (for example, Deborah, one of the judges, was also a song-writer).

Judges teaches a strong spiritual insight. When the Israelites show commitment to God, and do not chase after other gods, they prosper. When they chase after other gods (idolatry) God allows Israel’s enemies to punish them. The cycle of faithfulness, apostasy, punishment, cry for delivery, new judges given, repeats itself over and over throughout the book.

The period of judges lasts from the time Joshua enters Canaan, until the last judge, Samuel. Samuel anoints Saul as the first king of Israel. Joshua dies around 1200 B.C. Samuel becomes the first king of Israel around 1030 B.C. So, it is about a 170 year period all in all- about the same length of time as East Koshkonong has been a congregation!

During these two weeks, we read about the following judges: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. The three most famous of these are Samson, Deborah, and Gideon. You will probably recognize some of their stories. Of course, the last judge, Samuel, is also well known.

During these two weeks, we also read the book of Ruth. Ruth takes place during the time of the judges. Ruth herself is from Moab, a nation to the east of Israel. She comes to Israel out of faithfulness to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth is a beautiful story in and of itself. But it is also the story of one person who is in the genealogy of David, and therefore of Jesus. Ruth is an ancestor of Jesus.

And maybe that is a good thing to keep in mind throughout these Christmas days. Although you are reading a history far removed from our own (over 3000 years ago), it is nevertheless the family history of Jesus Christ, and therefore our family history as well. Ruth is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of Joseph. Jesus is Joseph’s son (by marriage if not biologically). Jesus is our brother (by faith if not biology). Praise the Lord that he sent his son to be our brother and redeem us. God saves. God is with us!

The Great O Antiphons

December 17

O Wisdom,
proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us
the way of prudence.

December 18

O Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses
in the burning bush
and gave him the Law on Sinai:
Come with an outstretched arm
and redeem us.

December 19

O Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign
before the peoples,
before whom all kings are mute,
to whom the nations will do homage:
Come quickly to deliver us.

December 20

O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open and no one can close,
you close and no one can open:
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness
and the shadow of death.

December 21

O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting,
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of the nations,
the ruler they long for,
the cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all,
whom you formed out of clay.

December 23

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the annointed of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Joseph Sittler Archives

The Joseph Sittler Archives

Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA

Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers in the ELCA

As we come to the end of another year, it's good to review, so I'm taking some time these next few weeks to review the Visions and Expectations document for pastors in the ELCA. Feel free to join me in this.

Advent Prayer

Come, long expected Jesus. Come, Lord, and set your people free. Many
are still in darkness, being denied of your liberating power. As in days
of old, redeem our souls unto your kingdom. Set your
people free to glorify you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sir Gawain and Beowulf

This is actually an exercise in embarrassing myself. I've been trying to learn more about self-editing, trying to improve as a writer. Writing on the blog isn't always the best way to improve the quality of writing. When you're writing something in the blogger window, there's a tendency to write it on the fly, much like e-mail correspondence.

As an exercise in seeing how my writing has progressed, I dredged up an old essay I wrote in college comparing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Beowulf. Seemed appropriate given that Beowulf is currently a 3-D movie in the theatres, and a new translation of Sir Gawain was recently reviewed as the front article of the New York Times Book Review.

Oh, and if you're wanting an opinion, the new Sir Gawain translation is outstanding, and the best translation of Beowulf currently on the shelves in the Seamus Heaney translation.

So here you go, unedited, the essay:

A key element in many epic and romance stories in the Middle Ages was the journey. In the stories of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf, this device is used in important ways to help develop the story as a whole. The hero leaves the safety of his castle or home, and travels into the vastly unknown. This expedition into strange lands adds suspense and drama to the story, and allows for the broadening of descriptions, as well as for a broadening of our experience of the hero; but the journey presented in these two stories plays a much more fundamental role than this. The heroes' expedition into the "wilderness", or the "fen," is portrayed as a difficult and dangerous foray into encountering the "other" (that which is outside one's normal experience); and this portrayal of the wilderness reveals the writer's understanding of the "other" as a strange, fantastical place where one encounters evil.
Although Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf are two distinct stories arising out of very different cultures, many of the fundamental aspects of the story are the same. First of all, most of Gawain's and Beowulf's dangerous encounters occur when they enter the wilderness, or the mere. These realms are immediately depicted as hostile and foreign (as well as physically separate and distant from the homes of Gawain and Beowulf). Even before Beowulf enters the sea to chase after Grendel's mother, Beowulf and his companions encounter "strong sea-serpents exploring the mere, and water-monsters lying on the slopes of the shore" (Beo 25). In the same way, when Gawain enters the Wilderness of Wirral, he encounters many dangers, both fantastic and mundane:

Now with serpents he wars, now with savage wolves,
Now with wild men of the woods, that watched from the rocks,
Both with bulls and with bears, and with boars besides,
And giants that came gibbering from the jagged steeps (Gawain 16).

Both of the hero's experience things so bizarre that they are only describable in fantastic terms, and the realms they enter are portrayed as wild and untamed. Gawain and Beowulf are unable to reconcile these strange experiences with their own world view, and so they are described as evil realms that contain monsters that "fight [they] must" (Gawain 16).
Not only do Gawain and Beowulf venture into lands wild and magical, but they go completely alone. The Pearl Poet emphasizes this fact repeatedly, stating that "all alone must [Gawain] lodge through many a long night," and later, "far off from all his friends, forlorn must he ride" (Gawain 15). Beowulf, as well, is the only thane brave enough to enter the "warring waves, to engage his courage" (Beowulf 26). The other thanes will loan him "Hrunting... one of the oldest ancient treasures" (Beowulf 26), but the thanes could only go that far. Doing battle in monster infested seas was left to Beowulf. The fact that Beowulf and Gawain enter the wilderness alone makes the "otherness" of the hero's surroundings even more profound. There is nothing familiar for them to connect with, no safe haven in the companionship of friends.
Even though the hero's enter the wilderness environment completely alone, they do not go unprepared. Interestingly, the authors of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf vividly describe how Gawain and Beowulf dress before they leave the familiar environment and enter the foreign. In fact, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one of the most descriptive sections of the book occurs when he is putting on his armor before he leaves Arthur's court.

Then they set the steel shoes on his sturdy feet
And clad his calves about with comely greaves,
And plate well-polished protected his knees...
And massy chain-mail of many a steel ring
He bore on his body, above the best cloth (Gawain 13).

Gawain is not only well armored, but extravagantly so.

All bound and embroidered with the best gems
On broad bands of silk, and bordered with birds,
Parrots and popinjays preening their wings...
The diadem costlier yet
That crowned that comely sire,
With diamonds richly set,
That flashed as if on fire (Gawain 13).

It is apparent that Gawain's suit of armor is very important as preparation for his journey. But Gawain's preparations go beyond simply dressing for battle. "So armored as he was, he heard a mass, honored God humbly at the high altar... takes his leave at last of lords and ladies" (Gawain 13). Not only does he prepare physically for his journey, but also spiritually and mentally, making his peace with God and friends. Beowulf, as well, prepares for his descent into the sea. In an especially descriptive section of the text, the Beowulf author writes, "his war-shirt, hand-fashioned, broad and well-worked, was to explore the mere... the bright helmet guarded his head... made rich with gold, surrounded with splendid bands" (Beowulf 26). Beowulf dresses in expensive and "well-worked" armor, and understandably so, for he fights that which is outside his normal experience; and like Gawain, Beowulf says good-bye to the "ring-giver," and his fellow thanes, before he descends into the mere.
How, then, are we to perceive the author's purpose in so eloquently describing the hero's preparation for, and entrance into, the wilderness, the mere? First, traveling in such a hostile environment is only for the most able, the most brave, the strongest, and the smartest heroes. By portraying the "other" as a place of danger, the place where evil is to be found and confronted, the author sets up an opposition that makes the hero look extremely good, extraordinarily brave, and profoundly strong. We have no doubt by the end of the encounter that the hero is very capable. Secondly, there is a contrast set up between the community (the one to which Beowulf and Gawain belongs) and the wilderness, or mere. This contrast sheds further light on the community of the heroes, and we are able to learn what the author values as good, as important, as central to the community.
Furthermore, a contrast is set up by the author between the world of the heroes (the chivalrous court of King Arthur, and the honorable thanes and their ring-giver) and the world of the antagonist (Grendel's mother in the mere, her underwater abode, and the Green Knight in the Wilderness of Wirral at the green chapel). The contrast is not just one between good and evil, familiar and unfamiliar. There is an additional contrast between two actual, tangible physical locations. The heroes must actually travel to the antagonist. In this way, a much more defined difference between the two realms is created. By magnifying the distinction between the community and the "other," the authors are better able to stereotype one side as good and the other as evil.
The authors of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, then, make the distinctions between good and evil by pointing out the distinctions between the community of the hero and the "other." Beowulf and Gawain are "pushing back the darkness," as it were, by attacking it head on. In contrast to today's exploration of the "other," through scientific inquiry, anthropology, and philosophy, Beowulf and Gawain choose to fight. Certainly, there is very little attempt made at understanding the "other." Instead, both stories belie a culture steeped in retribution, where an honorable and worthy knight exchanges death blows with a complete stranger, and a strong and famous thane kills a son and mother in a continuing chain of retribution for friends slain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

John Haught's Home Page


The Salon article intrigued me enough to want to read his Dover Trial Testimony and some other works available here on his site. God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens: Books: John F. Haught God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens: Books: John F. Haught

John Haught theology | Salon Books

John Haught theology | The Atheist Delusion

Luther on Incarnation and Nativity

"From eternity Christ is born, he is always being born."

Quicquid ab aeterno nascitur, semper nascitur WA 39/II, 293.

Luther seems at some points to think of the nativity in similar terms to the crucifixion, which is likely of a piece with the broader implications of Luther's being a theologian of the cross keeping connected what theology sometimes separates- incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection.

Instead, just as the cross was, yet is for us now, and continues in the future(see Paul in Colossians), so to Christ was born, is being born, and will be born. This is not first of all a liturgical point, but a matter of faith, and the life of faith.

"Everything is full of Christ through and through, even according to his humanity" (LW 37, 151-372).

"Thus it is rightly and truly said: God is born, was nursed or suckled, lay in the crib, felt cold, walked, stood, fell, wandered, ate, drank, suffered, died, etc." (Tischreden, VI:68, 18-40).

I remember reading an essay once with the title, "The Incarnation Never Saved Anyone." The thesis troubled me now and still does. The point was to try and lift up the cross and resurrection as signs of forgiveness and salvation, with the incarnation as more of a necessary precursor. But if we simply remember that it is the same body, the same person, born there of Mary who is later crucified on the cross, and it is the same body that God raises from the dead, then we cannot say so simplistically that the Incarnation never saved anyone.

Remember was Gregory Nanzianzen wrote: "For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson, 1995, 7:440). Christ at birth, or even better, at the conception of Mary and the Holy Spirit, unites God and humanity, and this is already at this point good news, that God has put on that which has gone astray in order to save it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Question

Teach me about something important to you. Write and share about something that makes you happy, inspired, alive, hopeful, joyous, peaceful. Then tell me if there's any way that something is or can be related to church or faith in Christ. Be honest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Every Church A Peace Church

Every Church A Peace Church

Lutheran Services in America

Lutheran Services in America

Final Count Down Melo-N

Fav Books 2007

In no particular order, here are my favorites at year end:

1. Little Heathens, Mildred Armstrong Kalish
2. The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin
3. The Chess Machine, Robert Lohr
4. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
5. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
6. Halting State, Charles Stross
7. Radio Freefall, Matthew Jarpe
8. Spook Country, William Gibson
9. Exit Ghost, Philip Roth
10. The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch
11. Unbinding the Gospel, Martha Grace Reese
12. We Are Here Now, Patrick Keifert
13. The Making of American Liberal Theology, Gary Dorrien
14. The Arrival, Shaun Tan
15. Snow, Orhan Pamuk
16. The Curtain, Milan Kundera
17. Theology the Lutheran Way, Oswald Bayer

I'm sure I've forgotten to list many that could be on here, but this is a good start. If there is demand, I'll write short comments on the above. I'll probably also do a separate listing for favorite children's and picture books...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Shaun Tan | The Arrival

The Arrival tells the story of human migration, using no words. You really have to see it in hand...

The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope.

Philip Pullman | The Golden Compass

So, the press has apparently decided that a fantasy novel and movie can be the basis for a certain kind of culture war. As a pastor, I've already been asked a number of times what I think of The Golden Compass, and whether I've read the books. And there has been in the news a steady stream of articles, pro and con, for the movie.

Here's one of the best.

Another thorough article.

But you want to know, what does Lutheran Confessions have to say?

First, I don't want to say that much. All the news on this likely creates more smoke than fire, but I will list these ad hoc theses.

1) Fiction is fiction, movies are movies, fantasy is fantasy. They need to be taken for what they really are, and judged on their own internal integrity. I found all the "news" about the Narnia movies just as suspicious as all this current news, because it was as if the movie itself didn't matter, and only the idea that the lion stands for Jesus, etc. that mattered. This is the pop philosophy and theology of cinema that grows tiresome. It's a good movie, or it isn't, and can be valued or not based on those grounds.

2) Have we somehow forgotten that virtually all movies currently made, not to mention most children's literature read by children, is thoroughly secular? Which is worse, to immerse our children in a worldview through fiction and art that is secular, with no mention of God or the gods, no sense of faith relating to ethics, the good life, or what have you? Or a movie that challenges (or portrays a challenge to) the presumption of the church doing good?

3) Yes, Pullman himself seems to be a kind of evangelist for atheism or agnosticism. You can read the articles to get a better sense for it than I want to summarize here. The introduction he wrote for a recent publishing John Milton's Paradise Lost is especially indicative of his position. Nevertheless, having read the novels, I can say that I very much enjoy being immersed in his fantastic worlds, even if I don't agree with all or much of what he has to say specifically about religion in the "real" world.

4) Apparently one of the best ways to sell a movie is to drum up controversy around its religious themes. So, in this sense, we're not having a religious debate on the topic at all--what we're doing is playing into the capitalist vision, the "universalization of the commodity form, the transmutation not only of all things, but also of all relations, in to commodities." Bonus points to anyone who can spy where this quote comes from, or who it is inspired by...

5) Maybe more theses will come later...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Darfur LWR Advocacy

LWR asks you to support immediate steps toward peace in Darfur

War in Darfur has displaced nearly 2.5 million individuals from their homes, and caused the death of over 200,000 people. While refugees and other victims of conflict in Darfur are poised for peace, they desperately need support from the international community and United Nations.

This week, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are negotiating final legislation for 2008 foreign appropriations funding—including a proposed $724 million in emergency funding for UN peacekeepers in Darfur. A full peacekeeping deployment is contingent upon this $724. Funding is at risk and may not be included if Congress does not hear from you by this week.

Join thousands of U.S. advocates as they participate in Darfur National Action Week and promote Congressional support for peacekeeping in the region.

Take Action
Call your member of Congress

Tell them:
· To support providing $724 million in emergency funding for peacekeeping in Darfur.
· To support higher, Senate level funding, for UN peacekeeping in any final appropriations deal.
· The UN-led peacekeeping mission in Darfur needs money now to pay for housing compounds, to dig wells, build roads and prepare for the deployment of peacekeepers.

Get connected to your representatives’ offices immediately by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

When you call, ask to speak with the foreign policy aide. Here is a sample script for your call:


Thank you for taking my call.
I am ________ from (give your town and state)

I am calling to let you know that peace in Darfur is important to me, and that I support U.S. legislation prioritizing this issue. In particular, I support a peacekeeping mission in Darfur and hope your office will as well. I understand that the House and Senate are negotiating foreign appropriations legislation this week. I ask that your office promote legislation that includes $724 million in financing for such a mission. Overall, I encourage you to support higher Senate level funding for UN peacekeeping in any deals made on the final foreign appropriations legislation.

Thank you.”

Lord, we pray for those displaced by the ongoing conflicts in Sudan.
Just as your Son, Jesus Christ, brought healing and reconciliation,
Make us agents of your peace.
Shelter the victims of violence
Comfort all who are weary and afraid
Bring relief to those who hunger and thirst
Turn the hearts of those who inflict cruelty
And move us to recall our shared humanity.
Unite us in Your will for the world,
And set our minds upon your love for justice.
In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen
THANK YOU for considering this action. By raising your voice you are making inroads to peace in Sudan.

For more information, or to join the LWR advocacy network individually, please contact or Gretchen King at gking at
WHO IS LWR? Lutheran World Relief, an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world's most impoverished communities to help themselves. With partners in 35 countries, LWR seeks to promote sustainable development with justice and dignity by helping communities bring about change for healthy, safe and secure lives; engage in Fair Trade; promote peace and reconciliation; and respond to emergencies. LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945.
Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), individuals and parish groups in international relief, development, advocacy and social responsibility

The Promised Land

After such a long time reading in Genesis, reading Exodus really felt like it flew by. Of course, we skimmed through some sections of Exodus, sections I hope you’ll go back to at a later date to read. It is interesting, if sometimes strange and confusing to read the instructions for the tabernacle and worship, plus the whole law and Sabbath instructions for Israel. But try to imagine it this way. What if you had to write down a very, very thorough description of how our church was built, what worship furniture sat where, what the altar and paraments and pulpit looked like, what actions the pastor and assisting minister and other worship participants took when they worshipped on Sunday mornings. I imagine you would quickly discover that such instructions and descriptions would take up many pages of a notebook. The conclusion of Exodus is like that, but on an even grander scale.

Next, you come to two books that are very important in Scripture, but also difficult to read straight through. Leviticus is a book for worship, and an instruction manual for clergy. It contains detailed instructions on how to offer sacrifice, how to ordain leaders, distinctions between clean and unclean things (because in ancient Israel, clean and unclean was an important part of proper worship). The only section of Leviticus we are reading are the instructions for the Year of Jubilee. These were early laws that helped establish justice, keeping people from being permanently wealthy or permanently poor. If a book on worship and sacrifice interests you, consider taking the time in the next two weeks to page through and read larger sections of this book.

Numbers is also a book of profound importance that is sometimes tedious to read (Holy Scripture is not holy on the basis of how fascinating or exciting it is). It’s a genealogy and numbering of God’s people who were in the wilderness wandering. It also tells many stories from their 40 years of wilderness wandering. It records how the Israelites, rather than being gracious for God liberating them from Egypt, grumbled and openly rebelled against God.

For the next two weeks, we are reading substantial sections of Deuteronomy and Joshua. Deuteronomy is basically three long sermons that Moses preaches to the people before they go into the Promised Land. They are speeches or sermons, and they do a number of interesting things. First, they recount the history of what God has already done—the giving of the 10 commandments and the great commandment (Deut. 5-6), the story of the Israelites rebellion and the commands of God (Deut. 1-4), various laws and instructions for the people (Deut. 5-25), and finally a sermon on life or death (Deut. 30) and the great song of Moses (Deut. 30-32). This book also records the death of Moses, the last event and chapter of these five books, the Pentateuch.

Since Moses is assumed to be the author and editor of all five of these books, it is appropriate that the last book is his sermon, and the last few chapters record his death. We cannot speak of the Torah without speaking of Moses. We cannot speak of Moses without speaking of the Torah. They are inextricably bound together.

Maybe the most important sentence in the whole of Deuteronomy, important at that time and still important today, for our own faith and for inter-religious dialogue, is this, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (6:4). This is the first and greatest commandment, and all other commandments are linked to it. When we begin recognizing other gods than the true God, then we also at the same time fall into the other sins catalogued in Scripture.

Finally, during these weeks we read incredibly dramatic history, the story of Israel going into the Promised Land. Joshua is chosen as Moses successor, and he is the one who leads the Israelites into victory over their enemies. Chapters 1-11 are the “book of war,” the story of the Israelites first spying on and then taking over the land. Chapters 12-24 record the distribution of this land to the twelve tribes of Israel. It is worth looking at a good map to see how the land is divided up among the twelve tribes—Simeon in the south, Judah just north of it, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh along the eastern flank, Dan, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun all crunched into the space between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, and finally Naphtali and Asher in the far north.

Consider reflecting during your reading on these themes: success and failure, grumbling and rebellion immediately after liberation and freedom; right worship and church leadership; the grand story of Moses and what we need to keep remembering of him; the importance the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind,” and another like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” for your own life.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Church and Life - Articles & Stories in the Danish Folk Tradition

Church and Life - Articles & Stories in the Danish Grundtvigian Folk Tradition

Articles & Stories in the Danish Folk Tradition

Church and Life is a monthly periodical which seeks to be consistent with the philosophy and theology of N.F.S. Grundtvig. While the publication’s roots are Danish and Lutheran, its readers and contributors include many who are neither.

The culture of the “Happy Danes” was experienced in the United States by immigrants committed to the Danish folk tradition of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, later named the American Evangelical Lutheran Church.

While the folk church of Church and Life has not existed as an entity for more than 40 years, much of its spirit continues. (A brief history of Church and Life)

Walter Capps, theologian and congressman (1934–1997), characterized the Grundtvigian tradition as:

1. Affirmation of life
2. Staying as close to nature as possible
3. The goodness and beauty of ordinary life
4. Lifelong learning and education

Church and Life publishes poems, stories, book reviews and editorials which articulate these values.

Grundtvig is known for his famous phrase: “Human first; then Christian.” Our common humanity is the basis for freedom, equality and dignity. Christ is found in the living community rather than in any book. Personal freedom and community are of the highest value. Sermons and articles published in Church and Life reflect this tradition .

Grundtvig wrote many beautiful hymns and songs. The phrase “a simple life, a merry heart” in our tagline comes from Grundtvig’s “Simplicity of Life” as translated by S.D., Rodholm:

Give me a simple life, a merry heart,
And kings may keep their pomp and garments splendid;
Let me in hut or mansion live the part
Of one from worthy ancestors descended.
With eye for things above as God ordained,
Awake to greatness, goodness, truth and beauty,
Yet knowing well the yearnings unattained,
Thro’ knowledge, great achievement, deeds and duty.

But we may not expect the ripened fruit
Except through growth, the law of all creation;
In spring we see the green and tender shoot
In early summer like a revelation;
A burst of glory, flowers bright unfold;
Then through the sunny summer days appearing
The fruit matures for harvest: so the soul
Is only step by step its harvest nearing.