Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On the 40th Day

South Korea and the Taliban have agreed to a deal that releases the 19 hostages being held in Afghanistan. South Korea agreed to remove their 200 troops in Afghanistan by year's end (which was already being planned), to stop sending missionaries to the country, and from what I've read from other news sources, they have agreed to pay some sort of ransom.

This is an odd move on the part of South Korea. South Koreans can be very aggressive when pursuing what they want. South Koreans also have a tendency to ignore you when you tell them they can't do something and go ahead and do it anyway. Plus they have that honor code and don't like to lose face. Seems to me they were passive, responsive, and shamed -- all uncharacteristic of South Koreans. Maybe they realized they were not the big fish in the Afghanistan pond. At least they got all but two of their citizens home alive.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Luke 13.22-30 and Jesus Only

This week's Gospel Reading reminded me of Henric Schartau, an 18th century Swedish Lutheran pietist pastor. (Pietism was founded by Spener, a 17th century German Lutheran.) His sermons influenced other Swedish Lutheran pastors and ignited a revival in southern Sweden. Schartau's sermon "Jesus Only" is featured in part in Giertz's The Hammer of God (which, by the way, is an incredible novel about the gospel that spans about a hundred years in a particular Swedish town). Lars Walkers' four books are fine Norwegian Lutheran counterparts to Giertz, with Walker using Norse Vikings as the launchpad for the gospel.

The only extant English translation of Schartau's sermons that I have seen is his "Jesus Only" sermon and can be found at http://www.geocities.com/resourcesforlutherans/schartau.htm

(If anyone knows where to find other English translations of Schartau's sermons, PLEASE let me know!)

Jesus is the narrow door that opens into heaven's eternal life. Jesus only, as Schartau would say. What a sweet gospel that the Holy Spirit gives to His Church through the Word, holy Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.

Friday, August 24, 2007

An Alternate History of America

I've read a number of books and novels by Harry Turtledove. He is the one of the best science-fiction authors who has carved out a niche in writing alternate history stories. Earlier this week I finished reading his epic 11 volume set about America.

His premise in the first book (How Few Remain) begins with looking at what might have happened if the Confederacy managed to keep its independence. The rest of the novels follow an 80 year history of the North and the South co-existing in North America. He draws in Canada, Mexico, and the Mormons as recurring people and places of interest. In the earlier volumes Germany is mentioned, and takes a back seat until the final two volumes when important developments in Germany reverberate in North America.

His saga is divided into four groups of volumes.

Volume 1: 1880 (How Few Remain)
Volumes 2-4: The Great War
Volumes 5-7: American Empire
Volumes 8-11: Settling Accounts (World War II)

If you'd like to ponder what things might have been like if the Confederacy remained independent, Abe Lincoln was never assassinated, George Custer didn't die at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, an independent Mormon State in Utah, an alliance with Germany in World War I, and many other twists and turns that span the years from 1860-1946, then check out this saga.

Monday, August 20, 2007

LSB Funeral Service

I had the opportunity to use the funeral service from Lutheran Service Book on Saturday. It is different from what I was used to in the Lutheran Worship Agenda, and I found LSB to be a better service. The "Remembrance of Baptism" is much better than the version from LW. I also liked bracketing the Nunc Dimittis with "I am the resurrection and the life ..." (Luke 11.25-26). Having the service in the hymnal is a big improvement! Well done, hymnal committee, well done!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Lutheran Hymnals

I thought I was finished with my American hymnal compilation. Wrong. I decided to add to the compilation two other hymnals: the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal (1904, 1908) and the American Lutheran Hymnal (1930). Both hymnals were used by my paternal grandparents. The church they grew up in seems to have been affiliated with the Joint Synod of Ohio and Adjacent States (estab. 1818). Mergers over the years lead the church from the Ohio Synod to the ALC, and finally the ELCA. I am not sure when my grandparents' church was formed (at least one hundred years ago). It's an old German-American Lutheran church. I don't know if it utilized German or not. The church exercised the best form of "church growth" by establishing daughter congregations throughout Baltimore. I know of at least two ELCA churches in Baltimore that have direct ties to St. Paul Lutheran Church. My grandparents were actively involved in both of these daughter churches. Sadly, St. Paul Lutheran has fallen on difficult times (like so many other Lutheran churches), and she is located in a really run-down part of Baltimore. But the faithful continue onward grounded on the Word and Sacraments.

When the ELCA's Reclaim publishes an alternative hymnal to ELW, I will most likely add those hymns to my compilation list.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LCMS Response to the ELCA

I received yesterday via email President Kieschnick's LCMS response to the ELCA re. their final day of voting at the assembly. Kieschnick, by the way, spoke earlier that day, bringing official greetings from the LCMS to the ELCA. I didn't hear every representative that week who brought greetings to the assembly, but Kieschnick's was the most Christ-centered of all I heard, and definitely the best and most relevant greeting that week. He urged the assembly to prayerfully and Biblically consider their votes because they will effect their relationship with the LCMS.

Kieschnick's email highlighted a resolution from our 2001 convention acknowledging our brothers and sisters in the ELCA who remain faithful to the Gospel. There was another Resolved that he didn't quote. I'll provide the first two, pertinent resolves of Resolution 3-21A (2001):

Resolved, That the 2001 synodical convention affrim the late President Alvin L. Barry's judgment that "we cannot consider them [the ELCA] to be an orthodox Lutheran church body"; and therefore be it further

Resolved, That we of the LCMS recognize that many of our brothers and sisters of the ELCA remain faithful to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and we resolve to reach out to them in love and support.

I also noted that in our 2001 and 2004 conventions we had resolutions that dealt with many of the issues the ELCA has sent off to a task force. In 2009 that task force reports back to the assembly and there can be no more stalling. Decisions will have to be made.

It's evident what path the ELCA is treading. Since her formation in 1988, the presiding bishops (Chilstrom, Anderson, and Hanson) have taken them down this path. Let's make no mistake here: Chilstrom, Anderson, and Hanson want the ELCA to vote a certain way in 2009, and if they get that vote the ELCA will be at that position because the leadership of the that church lead the churches that way. After the 2005 Assembly, Dr. James Nestigen (Professor Emeritus of Church History at the ELCA's Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN) said that the ELCA has court theologians who ask the leadership what position they want to take and they will then write theological papers supporting that position. Sounds like their task force on sexuality might be made up of court theologians.

Thankfully, President Kieschnick is right: there are pastors, laity, and churches faithful to Scripture and the Confessions. Many seem to have focused their energies in WordAlone and Lutheran Core, the two recognizable leaders of Lutheran Reformation in the ELCA. May they call the ELCA to account, repent, and a return to faithful Lutheranism.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Two Hostages Released

Just read this on michellemalkin.com: two female Christian Korean hostages were released this morning. Let's not forget that two have been murdered, and 19 are still captive. It's been 25 days, folks! Keep praying.

Which Way for American Lutheranism?

The two largest Lutheran church bodies in America held conventions this summer. Some groups try to move the LCMS "left" and others try to move the ELCA "right". Left and right don't work in the Church, not at all. What really counts in the Church is not "left" or "right", "liberal" or "conservative", but Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Are we grounded on the sola Scriptura (the word alone)? Are we being faithful to the Confessions which are grounded solidly upon the holy Scriptures? One determines the healthiness of American Lutheranism by how Scriptural and Confessional the individual synod or church is.

The Missouri Synod boldly proclaims that she is grounded upon the Word and the Confessions. By and large, this is true. There are some paths the Synod is taking that might need further Scriptural and Confessional guidance (the alternate paths to pastoral ministry, for one; worship questions are another). We claim to be grounded upon Scripture and the Confessions. Good. Don't forget this. Don't take it forgranted. Keep being grounded on Scripture and the Confessions. I don't want to see the Synod become a copy of the ELCA in another twenty years or so. We have a plethora of ambiguous protestant churches in America. We need to remain a solidily Lutheran synod standing upon Scripture and the Confessions, which is grounded upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets which has Christ Jesus as its cornerstone.

The ELCA makes the same claim to be Scriptural and Confessional. Yet, looking at her past assemblies (especially 2005 and 2007) and that clearly isn't the case. Hermeneutical ambiguity runs roughshod over hermeneutical clarity. In 2009 the ELCA has a supernova-temperature hot potato on her plate when the task force on human sexuality reports to the assembly its recommendations to decide all those devisive social and sexuality issues facing our brothers and sisters in the faith. The presiding bishop of the ELCA has spent two decades trying to make the ELCA more inclusive. Others have resisited. Most notably, Word Alone and Lutheran Core have undertaken to pull the ELCA back to Scriptural and Confessional Lutheranism.

Which way will the ELCA go? How will the LCMS respond? We've got two years to pray and encourage for Scripture and the Confessions to determine the way for American Lutheranism.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What's in a name?

My father and I were talking about the Lutheran Church this morning. Last month our Missouri Synod had her convention, and this week the ELCA is in assembly. We talked about the two mergers that formed ALC I and II. One occurred in the 1930s and the other in 1960. My father said that when the second ALC merger was being considered that a debate ensued concerning the name: is the "t" in the American Lutheran Church a "t" or "T"? (Seems to me the debate decided upon "T".) I said in our church polity class at the seminary we were told about a debate regarding the LC--MS: is it a short dash or a long dash? And the professor impressed upon us that it was definitely a long dash -- end of debate.

I had never known about that little, intense debate regarding the name of the ALC. My father and I chuckled about the "t" and the "dash" debates. We acknowledged, however, that both the LCMS and the ELCA have some important issues before them -- issues that are truly important and necessary to debate and come to decisions that are Biblical and Confessional. May God keep us faithful to the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions now and always.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ELCA in Assembly

I've been watching the ELCA Assembly in Chicago. Tuesday morning they unveiled a Bible reading campaign called "Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible". Encouraging Bible reading is a commendable task, but a lively debate ensued when one delegate proposed an amendment calling for "the distinctive Lutheran focus on God's use of Scripture to bring sinners to repentance and salvation in Christ." The proposed amendment was defeated.

Odd that a Lutheran church body would defeat an amendment exhorting a Lutheran approach to the Scriptures. The ELCA, however, has had for some time a pull in two different directions. One pull wants the church to remain Lutheran; the other pull wants the church to diversify. Back at the ELCA's 2005 Assembly in Orlando, some delegates spoke of their concerns that the Lutheran identity of the church body was eroding. Criticism of the forthcoming "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" was mentioned at that assembly as an example of a watering down of Lutheran theology in the ELCA. Some want the ELCA to become a traditional Lutheran church; it seems that the current leadership is content to make the ELCA into the image of just another American liberal protestant church. The re-election of Presiding Bishop Hanson seems to indicate that the ELCA is committed to becoming just another protestant church in America. My initial skimming of the ELW seems to confirm that move.

On the bright side, there are some committed Lutheran pastors and lay people in the ELCA who continue to pull the church body in the direction of traditional Lutheranism. This wouldn't make the ELCA into a larger version of the LCMS. I suspect such a move back to traditional Lutheranism would center the ELCA into a more moderate position. That would be a big improvement from the path the ELCA seems committed to go down at the present.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Theology and Science-Fiction

Normally, theology and science-fiction don't go together. Most science-fiction shows ignore theology all-together, and others make a token mention once in a blue moon (aka Star Trek). Almost never do the two realms intersect.

Except with Babylon 5. I still think this television show/movies/novels is the best science-fiction ever produced. The show did not focus on theology, but theology and morality often came up in the episodes. Case in point, this is the only science-fiction show I have seen that actually mentions Christianity and the Church, and when they are mentioned it is not in a sarcastically critical mode.

Another case in point: the newly released for DVD movie "Babylon 5: The Lost Tales" has two short stories set ten years after the final episode. The first short story deals with Church, theology, and evil. The topics were wonderfully explored as the issue was delved into: What would be the result for Christianity if humans went travelling to the stars and did not find God, but numerous alien races each with their own concepts of God? And what is really going on when a Roman Catholic priest is brought to the space station "Babylon 5" to exorcise a demon-possessed man?

Babylon 5 again shows why it is the pinnacle of science-fiction. When theology and God are brought up, they are treated reverently and thoughtfully. While certainly not a primer for catechesis, "Babylon 5" nonetheless helps the viewer engage in serious theological, philosophical, and moral questions, questions which 99% of science-fiction pass right over in favor of action. Babylon 5 has plenty of action, and plenty of meditation on issues relevant for us in the 21st century.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lutheran Hymnals

Early this morning, I finished a project I had undertaken nine months ago: compiling the hymns from a number of American Lutheran hymnals. Praise the Lord! I cross-referenced all the hymns from the LCMS, ALC/ELCA, and ELS. The document ended at 49 pages.

I haven't done a detailed analysis of the hymn traditions between American Lutherans, but I did note that some hymns appear in every (or nearly every) hymnal. Obviously, "A Mighty Fortress" would be one of those hymns. I found also that you can visually see a hymn's genealogy among the LCMS and ELCA. Each of these synods has a very definite core of hymns unique to their history. It is also interesting to see what hymns were in early hymnals, but were dropped from later ones.

Now I can pick up in earnest my other hymnal project: translating untranslated hymns from Synod's German hymnal (i.e. those German hymns that never made it into our English hymnals).