Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

This Jon Stewart (and maybe Colbert?) host rally makes me giggle. They have a button that reads, "Don't click this" on their main page. If you click on it, it takes you to Colbert's page for a rally to restore fear. It's both serious and tongue in cheek at the same time, which is the kind of shtick they've been up to for quite some time with good results.

However, a rally to restore "sanity" does remind me of one of the best books on this issue I've ever read, Alasdair Macintyre's Whose Justice, W'hich Rationality. Why? Precisely because when someone claims that they are the ones restoring sanity to public discourse, you have to ask, "Which sanity are we speaking about?" I happen to agree with the overall political direction of the rally, but it is a typical move of partisan people to call their opponents "shrill," which is in some ways like being shrill with an indoor voice.

It is disappointing that the same group of people so energized in the last election (myself included) are less energized this time around, and so I commend Stewart for this work. I do wonder about the move that implies, "If you can't join them, mock them." Still puzzling over the public square issues this raises re: trust and civility.

I do think that Colbert's coining the phrase "truthiness" is one of the more prophetic and humorous contributions to public discourse I'm aware of.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reformation Day Prayer 2010

written by the Reverend Clint Schnekloth, in honor of Reformation Day, October 31, 2010

To be honest God, most of us can't imagine what all the fuss was about. 95 theses posted on the door of the church? Theses by some young obscure academic rocked the world and are the source of why we call ourselves Lutheran? We confess that we do not go to the church kiosk each week looking for a word to read that might challenge, transform, or even anger us. Fewer of us even than that hole up in rooms, alone, on the assumption that with pen and paper we could do battle with the devil and false prophets. We hardly know our own faith well enough to know who the false prophets might be. Forgive us.

Saving God, you inspire good works in us, but then we confuse those good works with what justifies us before you. We think if we are just good enough, just smart enough, and if enough people like us, we will be saved. Save us from this confusion, bring us to give thanks for the good works we do as gifts of your Holy Spirit, grace us with the knowledge of Christ and his gifts, and remind us that God likes and loves us because we are in Christ.

God of the poor, Luther wrote in thesis 86 of his 95 theses: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" Our world today still builds on the backs of the poor. You are the God of the poor, and the mother of Jesus said that you will give the poor good things and send the rich away empty. Make it so, Lord.

Merciful God, as a community we forget that Luther created a community chest for the care of the poor, and was profligate in giving his own stuff away to all in need. He lived simply so that others might simply live. As we strive for the simplicity that comes with faith, make us as profligate as he, and help us throw our wealth into the community chest that helps the poor.

This week and next we remember the saints in light. Today, dressed in red, we remember your holy martyrs, who died confessing your Word. Even as we see grotesque, fake blood, and zombies, vampires, and other beasts in yards and costumes this weekend, remind us that your power and blood is greater than the whole pantheon of paranormal, ghostly, and undead forces. You are God, and they are ridiculous.

This week, dressed in white, we remember the saints who have gone before us and now rest with you. We walk the hallowed ground of our cemetery remembering them. They are our beloved, and we are united with them, we trust, because they are beloved by you, redeemed in you, hallowed in you. They will rise on the last day, led by your son, victorious over death, and we trust in your promise that we will rise with them.

God and Father of the Word made flesh, you love words. And so we pray that great hymn your servant Luther prayed, first as he wrote, then as we can understand it, for you are a God that continually translates your Word so that we might hear and understand. You are a mighty fortress.

Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Mit unsrer Macht is nichts getan,
Wir sind gar bald verloren;
Es steit’t für uns der rechte Mann,
Den Gott hat selbst erkoren.
Fragst du, wer der ist?
Er heisst Jesu Christ,
Der Herr Zebaoth,
Und ist kein andrer Gott,
Das Feld muss er behalten.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär’
Und wollt’ uns gar verschlingen,
So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
Es soll uns doch gelingen.
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
Wie sau’r er sich stellt,
Tut er uns doch nicht,
Das macht, er ist gericht’t,
Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
Und kein’n Dank dazu haben;
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie den Leib,
Gut, Ehr’, Kind und Weib:
Lass fahren dahin,
Sie haben’s kein’n Gewinn,
Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

This is why I read Robert Jenson

"The question has to be 'following what critical theory, and penetrating to whose agenda, should the church read its Scripture?' My answer is implicit in all the foregoing chapters. [Chapters in his sparkling new book Canon and Creed]

The community positioned to perceive what a scriptural text is truly up to is the church, and the creed is the set of instructions for discerning this agenda. The needed suspicious eye is the eye trained in the church to distrust all human religiosity, also as it may appear in Scripture...

And it is the triune God who is up to something with these texts, whose agenda is to be discovered, to be affirmed by the church and denounced by others." (81)

Read that a few times. Something in it will surprise you each time. Other parts will say succinctly what you've already known for a while but never expressed so clearly.

If you read no other work of theology in 2010, read this one. It's short, just over 100 pages, but like most of Jenson, says a lot in a compact style that is worth internalizing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

AppChurch — leading churches into the iPhone culture

Is there anyone out there who is already using phone apps for their churches. If so, what resources do you recommend and/or are finding the most helpful, or are you designing your own?

The Lutherans Sterben Aus (Die Out) � David Housholder's Journal

The Lutherans Sterben Aus (Die Out) � David Housholder's Journal

Top 100 Church Blogs ( 41 bonus blogs) |

This list is pretty interesting. I was having trouble finding any Lutherans (or any women) on the list, which makes me wonder how tipped web blogs are towards the conservative evangelical spectrum. In any event, you can learn a lot about how to design quality church web sites by browsing the list.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Playing with toys

Whenever I need to list my hobbies, reading always heads the list. On a daily basis, however, I now spend just as much time, sometimes more time, handling toys than handling words. This makes me curious why when I list hobbies I'm for some reason unwilling to list "playing with toys" along with "reading." In fact, maybe I'll rectify this post-haste.

The most popular toys in our house are Thomas the Train, and Legos (both Duplo and regular), followed closely by Hot Wheels and stuffed animals. As dad, I am often in close proximity to these toys, and play with them as a form of encouragement for the kids-- but I'll admit that I most often handle toys in the way a parent or dad handles toys--that is, I put them away, organize them, and clean them up. I play if I'm invited to play, but I join the play already happening rather than engage in play for its own sake.

Last night as our son and I were playing Thomas, I found myself actually playing. He had a track he was working with, and I set up my own. There was still a bit of organization going on (I organized a party for all the trains we own that have lifts or winches), but it really was play. At a certain point, the son actually came over and joined me in my play, and asked a few questions about the way to play in the world I had organized.

Having observed this about myself, I wonder why it happens, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the role of faith. Why is it that for the most part I've given up playing with toys, except for those moments when I participate in adult-sanctioned forms of play, such as board games or sports? Why, precisely, can't I just sit down some evening and play Legos rather than read books?

This question has taken on even greater poignancy with the arrival of the latest Lego catalog. I'm fascinating by the new version of Lego trains, and would be ready to purchase and build them ASAP. Furthermore, there are other models in that catalog that spark my imagination. Of course, I'd play them with the kids. But they're inspiring enough that I might just play them for their own sake.

That being said, I still do spend more time organizing toys than playing with them. I keep house for real, not for play. I put a lot of toys away, and I try to keep them organized. I think this is a closely related phenomenon to what is going on in my life of faith. As a follower of Christ, I am more likely to organize than to play. In fact, I think most Christian communities spend more time organizing than playing. They figure out how to do a liturgy, and then they keep doing that in as organized a fashion as possible. There is very little total abandonment to the moment, to simply being taken over by the Object that is being handled.

Similarly, when I write, there is more of the organization than the playful at work. I'm trying to make clear, or be useful, or get paid. Writing for its own sake, abandonment to the Muse or whatever, is a difficult shift.

I think this is a concept I need to sit with for a while, but I have a feeling that my willingness to play will be directly in proportion to the faithfulness and creativity of that which I write.

I should also add a brief comment here. I actually am the kind of adult who plays. When kids are in confirmation, or VBS, or anywhere, I'm the adult that will be found playing with them rather than sitting on the side observing them. I encourage more adults to do this. The pleasures of play are immeasurable, and our giving them up as adults is tantamount to an act of apostasy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marilyn Robinson on Writing and Theology

Watch this brief interview with Marilyn Robinson on writing and theology from the Center of Theological Inquiry. She is my role model for the intersection of theological and literary writing.

Confirmation Prayer

Lord God of our ancestors, we thank you for what you have done and will continue to do with our sons and daughters. Walk with them in life, and keep the evil one from obstructing their path. You see all; you know where the water is deep. Keep them from danger. Order their steps and guide their feet while they run the race of faith. May the good work that you have begun in them be brought to completion at the day of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. (ELW)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

I know, there will probably be some great albums that come out between now and 2011, but since I'm dramatically decreasing my CD purchasing budget for the remainder of the year, I've decided to publish this list now.

Tied for first place:

The National- High Violet
Charlotte Gainsborough- Irm

The National's Boxer was my favorite album of 2008, and they've done it again, with another spectacular album that gets even better with each listen. However, Charlotte's album surprised me, and since she worked with Beck on it, I'm not surprised that I have fallen in love with it.

Continuing the top ten:

2. Sleigh Bells- Treats (by far the best album of the year to simply rock out to at high volume)
3. Vijay Iyer- Solo (all of his jazz piano work is amazing)
4. Joanne Newsom- Have One On Me (how can a seemingly self-indulget 3-disc album work? Amazing)
5. Steve Lehman Octet- Travail, Transformation, and Flow (this is what post-modern jazz should sound like)
6. David Byrne- Here Lies Love (fat beats, retro, and a bizarre historical retrospective)
7. Spoon- Transference (I'm gaga for it, great album to listen to while driving)
8. Jamie Lidell- Compass (beautiful sonic funk)
9. Laura Veirs- July Flame (just great song-writing)
10. Wolf Parade- Expo 86 (just turn it up loud)

And in the 11th position, one I know we'll love but we just haven't purchased yet:

Elizabeth Mitchell- Sunny Day

Finally, some honorable mentions, albums I really enjoy listening to but are less inspiring than previous albums by the same bands:

1. Band of Horses- Infinite Arms
2. Neil Young- Le Noise
3. Arcade Fire- Suburbs
4. The New P- Together
5. LCD Soundsystem- This Is Happening
6. Hot Chip- One Life Stand

How real is America's faith? | Stanley Hauerwas: Face to Faith | Comment is free | The Guardian

How real is America's faith? | Stanley Hauerwas: Face to Faith | Comment is free | The Guardian: "Americans do not have to believe in God, because they believe that it is a good thing simply to believe: all they need is a general belief in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce interesting atheists in the US"

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Custom Perichoresis Bumper Sticker

I admit up front this may be a bit nerdy. I've been pondering what bumper sticker to put on the back of the car since my Bob Dylan sticker faded away.

For a while, I was contemplating the Coexist bumper stickers, but I happen to think that the world religions can do better than simply coexist. I'd prefer that they thrive, have Shalom, truly be alive together, etc. I played around with a bunch of words to see what could represent that, and failed.

So then I'm back to considering printing a batch of perichoresis bumper stickers. If I have a few folks interested in purchasing them with me, I'll probably print and order them.

I love the word perichoresis. It refers to the mutual indwelling, fellowship, of the members of the Trinity, sometimes called the dance of the Trinity. It's a great word, and since perichoresis then extends that fellowship to us and all of creation, it can stand, if not an exact cognate of "coexist," at least as a worthy and theologically rich partner.

So anyone want a sticker?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Surviving Layoffs (and a word to the Guy In Charge) - ARE:A Renewal Enterprise

Surviving Layoffs (and a word to the Guy In Charge) - ARE:A Renewal Enterprise: "Avoid massive layoffs at all cost because all the research proves that huge layoffs end up, inevitably, doing more harm than good. One leadership blogger writes: 'All they do is create active disengagement, lower the stock price, and damage the brand. In fact, the damages to the bottom line are proportional to the severity of the layoffs.'�"

RNS: Behind Colbert' s right-wing funnyman, a quiet faith - Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

I think Colbert is probably the most theologically informed person in the popular media today.

Bread for the World: Have Faith. End Hunger.

Watch the 2010 World Food Prize event tonight with David Beckmann

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Praise of Scrivener – Fluid Imagination

2.0 will be released soon, and those of us who write long documents wait with baited breath!

Church Planting

Saw a humorous post on Facebook recently that read:

Steps every chuch planter should follow (based on popular practice)

1- choose a name
2- build a website
3 - keep a blog about planting a church with the intention of turning it into a book
4- be with people (this one is recommended but not required)

I decided to try my hand at summarizing the same process, Pauline style.

Steps Paul the Apostle followed for church planting:

1) Start tiny outposts in pagan places that haven't heard the gospel
2) Stay a short time, then encourage and challenge new apostolic ministries by writing periodic letters from jail
3) Which also means: Get arrested
4) Study scripture, write more letters, and nurture gospel-centered friendships until executed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Open Letter to young Christians on their way to college

"Be faithful in worship. In American, going to college is one of those heavily mythologized evens that everybody tells you will 'change your life,' which is probably at least half true. So don't be foolish and imagine that you can take a vacation from church.

Be uncompromisingly moral. Undergraduate life on college campuses tends in the direction of neopagan excess. Good kids from good families too often end up using their four years at college to get drunk and throw up on one another. Too often they do so on their way to the condom dispensers. What a waste! Not only because such behavior is self-destructive but also because living this way will prevent you from doing the intellectual work the Christian faith demands.

Be deeply intellectual. We--that is, the Church--need you to do well in school. That may sound strange, because many who represent Christian values seem concerned primarily with how you conduct yourself while you are in college; they relegate the Christian part in being in college to what is done outside the classroom.

The Christian fact is very straightforward: To be a student is a calling. You are priveliged to enter a time--four years!--during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.

It is an extraordinary gift. In a world of deep injustice and violence, a people exists that thinks some can be given time to study. We need you to take seriously the calling that is yours by virtue of going to college."

Stanley Hauerwas, excerpted from his essay, "God With God," in First Things, November 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa On The History And Future Of Literature | The New Republic

The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has a great essay on the necessity of books, and I provide a link to it here in celebration of him winning the Nobel Prize this year. I do, however, hope that Philip Roth wins some time soon.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Preaching Habbakuk

Enter the Bible - Old Testament: Habakkuk is a great resource in case you're preaching the OT lesson this Sunday. It's the one and only chance in the lectionary to preach this minor prophet.

That's the kind of thing Christians do

Every week I read for insights into the texts for Sunday. In the most recent essay, this made me tear up...

"May I digress for a word of personal testimony? Though raised in the church-centered Bible Belt, I did not grow up in church. When I was twelve, I spent a week in the hospital with a hip injury. I received two visits, one from my aunt and uncle's part-time pastor and one from a church youth group. (The youth group brought a cutely packaged soap and washcloth.) Just a few years later, when I could embrace my faith, I remembered both of those visits. That's the kind of thing Christians do.

Unfortunately, our culture has acquired a taste for spectacular spirituality. By the grace of God, mustard seed faith and ordinary discipleship more often suffice."

Preaching on Social Issues - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Preaching on Social Issues - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America This is the series I now edit at JLE. Watch for new essays each month, October featuring Lutheran rocker Jonathan Rundman!