Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lutheran Carnival IX

The Paradise
Lucas Cranach(the elder), 1530
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
From EuroWeb archives




Why have I chosen Lucas Cranach the Elder's painting, Paradise, as my theme for this issue of the Lutheran Carnival? On the surface, it is a busy painting. You must stop and carefully note what each set of figures is depicting. Certainly, as you analyze each little scene within a scene, you realize a theme. As I read through the many excellent submissions to this ninth issue of the Lutheran Carnival, my mind searched for a theme. Maybe that is human nature and a failing of my character, but it actually wasn't hard to see a pattern. The people who write for the Lutheran Carnival understand what being a Lutheran actually means and demonstrate Luther's doctrine of vocation, no matter what their subject matter. Fittingly, Dr. Gene E. Veith, Jr. recently debuted the Cranach blog, devoted to the topic of vocation. Be sure to visit daily for discussions and learn who Cranach is and what he did. Luther's thoughts on vocation are summarized in his own words:

What is our work in field and garden, in town and house, in battling and in ruling, to God, but the work of his children. Our works are God's mask, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things.

To start off this issue of Lutheran Carnival, Pastor Paul T. McCain has summarized confessional Lutheranism in his post, Does Being Lutheran Still Matter?. He writes:

People who are passionate about the truth of Biblical Lutheranism know that the Bible teaches often and clearly that we are all sinful human beings in need of God’s constant mercy, which He so lavishly gives in Christ. To be truly Lutheran is to receive the gifts of God with humility, repentantly recognizing our great need. It is tempting for Lutherans to be proud and arrogant of their great heritage, but this is a terrible evil! To be Lutheran is to be always mindful of our great sin and our great need for a Savior. To be a Lutheran is to be a sinner calling out to fellow sinners, “Come and see!”
He also warns us of pride in being Lutheran, as if we were the only ones in true faith. No! That is a lie the devil whispers to us to convince us that God is not actually as powerful as we wished he were. Pastor McCain wisely reminds us, "We must realize that the Word of God is powerful and active, wherever and whenever it is heard, read or meditated upon."

So now that we understand what it means to be a Lutheran and how we should live our daily lives, how then do we keep our blogs? Weekend Fisher, of Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength, posts on the vocation of blog-keeping with Humility and the aftermath of GodBlogCon I and notes that many prominent "Christian" blogs rarely discuss God. Aardvark Alley shows the "dark side of standing for the pure Gospel in The Meanies of Grace, namely getting a reputation of being mean-spirited and unloving for refusing to compromise it. Then he recruits modern-day "meanies" to band together in promoting confessional Lutheran blogs by blogrolling and referencing favorite posts in The Truth (Blog-) Rolls Along. Ol' Aardvark writes:

The way I look at it, confessional Lutheran bloggers should do what we can to keep the truth near the top o fthe search engines, burying racism, evolutionary biology, and other false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible.

Beyond the vocation of blog-keeper (a side job, to be sure), Lutherans must live in this world. They are pastors, parents, children, employees, bosses, doctors, dentists, patients, educators, students, geologists, writers, computer geeks and much more. They are called to be prepared to give an account for the joy they have in Christ Jesus.

Dan of Necessary Roughness defended the gospel of Christ in one of the modern day marketplaces of our electronic world, the Free Republic, where Rick Warren's chance to spread the gospel message on a Starbucks coffee cup was being discussed.
Dan looks at what Rev. Warren has chosen to tell the world. You won't see Christ... His account, Coffee Beans, Not Creeds, reminded me of Paul's experience in Athens. Paul scoped out the city and its people while waiting for others to arrive. He reasoned with people and was invited to the Areopagus where ideas were discussed. I think the Free Republic might just be a modern version of the Areopagus, especially in that many people want to hear new ideas, discuss them at length and when the conversation turns pointed, they ask people like Paul politely, but insincerely, to come back another day to discuss it again. In The Divine Service is the True "Children's Church", Dan also write of his experience in bringing his children to the worship service of a church that doesn't appear to welcome the little ones, at least not in the actual service. This is an exellent post and an important topic!

Daniel of Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran, who often ties in geology and faith as no one else could do, writes on the lessons to be learned as an ESL teacher. He writes:

Patience isn't a virtue I have a lot of, but I find I have more than I thought I did when I teach ESL. Frustration can come easy and overtake you if you are not careful.

Kletos Sumboulos of Amor Et Labor examines his chosen profession of psychologist in light of scripture in Excuses For Sin. He writes,

One of my goals for my internship is to try to spell out what a confessional Lutheran psychologist would look like in practice. I've been troubled at the following thought, "Is what I am doing as a counselor merely helping clients make excuses for sin?"

This future psychologist is a man after Dr. Laura's, as well as Luther's, heart! Collegiate musician Sean of Hot Lutheran on Lutheran Action explains how Bach's KlavierUebung Part II ties in to Luther's Small Catechism.
Jumping off a lecture on the 3rd part of the J.S.Bach's KlavierÜbung given by Christoph Wolff (world famous Bach scholar), this post discusses this work and its connection with Luther's Catechism. Bach understands vocation, and generally blows us all away with his deep theological commentaries in his music.

Lutherans engaged in life have many opportunities to discuss important issues of our day, such as evolution, bird flu, abuse, abortion and other sufferings of this world.
Pastor's Wife at Lonesome Grove reminds us of a time, in the midst of a terrible time of sickness, when a beautiful hymn was written. The pastor of a dying congregation wrote of the great joy we have in life or death, sickness or health, peace or war, abuse or respect. She is reminded, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Amid reports of a 'potential pandemic' sweeping around the nations, Just Me finds comfort in God's word and our Lutheran hymnody in wake, awake, for night is flying.

Madre's Missives provides wise counsel on the topic of abuse in our relationships, but also helps readers to put abuse into God's perspective. In You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, she writes,

God does not mean for the worst possible thing to happen to us. That's the last thing He means for us. In giving Christ all the worst things that could happen to every human being since Creation, we are given all the best things the Only-Begotten Son deserves. He didn't deserve God's punishment, but He took it because in Christ God loved us and meant for our salvation and deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.
Ron, that great and Terrible Swede, examines a more helpful approach to discussing abortion in Abortion and the Message of the Church. Ron describes the tract from Lutherans for Life combating the Devil's lies and reminding us of God's forgiveness. One excerpt:
"Failing to preach about abortion offends women more grieviously than preaching about it. If the sin of abortion is never mentioned, then the Gospel - that Gospel pastors have been called to proclaim - is never applied to that sin nor to those caught up in the pain and guilt of abortion. Instead, Satan whispers through the silence, 'This sin is so awful, even Jesus can't forgive you.' ...The Church has the message of forgiveness and hope that can bring healing."
Does God need us to defend Him when others are suffering? Joy in the Lord is for now, not just in a distant future. Pastor Borghardt of Bloghardt's Reflector reminds us of the lavishness of God's grace as he proclaims The Gospel Is THAT Audacious! While it is true that God calls us to repentance in Christ through the cataclysmic event, it is also true that the mundane is His means for the same, too. However, the routine is often the means for despair both because it is banal and we because have tuned out where He can be found in it. Ste. Em of Quicunque Vult posts Mundane Catastrophes. She writes:
For what is the ordinary task but service to neighbor? And what is the defeat of Satan bu the confession of our own sin (not the neighbor's) in repentance?
Bob Waters, of Watersblogged, challenges us,
in The Wrong Question, to consider the true differences between evolution, creation science and intelligent design:
I think that conservative Christians have once again blundered in their attempt to advance Intelligent Design as science, and thus as the proper subject matter of a public school science class. In fact, it is no more science than materialism is. Both are philosophical conclusions from the data, and neither have any place in the public school classroom.

Rather than trying to get Creationism or Intelligent Design taught too- thereby choosing to battle on ground which compels us to argue that, contrary to fact, either one of them is any more "science" than materialism is- why not choose to fight the battle on ground which guarantees victory? Most scientists believe in evolution. Many consider it a scientific fact. I see nothing offensive to the Faith or to the First Amendment in the theory and the conclusions most scientists reach about it being taught to public school students on precisely those grounds.
He also reminds us of the purpose of public school classrooms:

It seems to me, finally, that we need to take account of whence the movement to teach Creationism and not Intelligent Design in the public schools originates. It comes from those Fundamentalistic traditions most apt across the board to confuse the Two Kingdoms, and to see the State as an appropriate agent of the work God has properly assigned to the Church. It comes from the same folks who promote the inaccurate and scandalously revisionist version of history which seeks to transform the United States into something meant by its founders to be a "Christian nation."

Our daily lives also give us opportunity for reading, reflecting on prayer and discussing faith and blog-keeping with a friend, as Karl, the not-very-disgruntled world citizen , relates. I can relate to the Tevia comparison as Karl writes on prayer:

"...I'll find myself in church praying and my mind starts to wander, or I'll be mouthing the words, but my brain is disengaged and before I realize it, I've missed it and I have martryed the Lord's Prayer,yet again.

I have often wished I could be like Tevia in Fiddler on the Roof his style of prayer is wonderful. He has conversations with God. He knows who his god is and isn't afraid to go to him with problems, or praise. Why is it that I can't do that, aside from the fact that people might look at me like I'm crazy..."
Lutherans value the vocation of all Christians, but we sure love our pastors! It is tradition to send our brightest young men to seminary and make sure they learn Greek, Latin and Hebrew so that they can teach us well from scripture. My sister and I used to have a little joke about creating our very own pocket pastors because of the way our pastors could explain Bible passages. We wanted to be able to carry that wisdom around in our pockets! Pastor Walter Snyder of Ask the Pastor talks about issues in Biblical translation while answering questions on Translating, Copyrighting, and Profiting from God's Word. He also clarifies the Biblical teaching of simil iustus et peccator in Sinner and Saint: Why Do I Do Wrong?

Vicar Charles Lehmann, of Drowning Myself Whenever I Can does a good job, in That Too Gross to be in the Bible, of showing teens that the Bible is relevant to all ages, just as it is written, without our artifical attempts to make it more exciting. It is an example of a way to get kids interested in studying God's Word (and seeing Jesus!). The smiling vicar also posts A Sermon for Trinity 22 He writes:

We want to be like Peter. Peter doesn't realize that he's the unmerciful servant he's condemning, the same unmerciful servant who has received his very life from the King. We want to try to hold all that love, all that life, inside of us. But, friends, it just doesn't work that way. If you try to keep Jesus to yourself, He'll burst forth from you, and that's not going to be good. He'll leave you behind, because Jesus is Gift, and He's not going to be satisfied unless He's being given out.

And so we don't get to keep Him to ourselves. We don't get to make a little box, put Jesus inside it, and keep him there in a nice cool dark place where He can never have His way with us. The grave couldn't hold him, and neither can we.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer, of A Burr in the Burgh, informs us that he is for "preaching the law of God, first as a mirror which reveals my sin, but also as a rule for life. It's about preaching the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian, through the Word. It's about vocation. It's about understanding the two realms we inhabit." In Antinomianism: I'm Against It he attempts to explain the importance of preaching God's law to Christians, not only to accuse them and bring them to daily repentance, but also to instruct them for living.

As much as the little ones need to hear the law preached along with the gospel, so do our eldest Christians. Pastor Tom Chryst, of Preachrblog, writes The Law is but a Mirror Bright...
about a funny, but poignant sermon to residents of a nursing home.

Along with our excellent pastors, Lutherans also are blessed with laymen who take seriously the catechism of the congregation, often by using their training and talents in other fields. Who is most excellent Theophilus? Richard of dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos theophilos explains. CPA of Three Hierarchies, weighs in on Christian Liberty. His post was the longest of this carnival, so I saved it to read last. CPA often writes in detail and adds in his unique perspective of Asian history. You can never breeze through one of his posts, but if you take the time to study what he writes you will be blessed in return. He writes:

The first question is, what is Christian liberty for? Let’s go back to Paul. Paul’s teaching of Christian liberty, as enunciated in his famous chapters in Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Colossians, is primarily occasioned by the need to integrate two different cultures in one church: Jewish and Gentile. (This is not to say that cultural integration within one church is the only possible use of Christian liberty, but that was the occasion for its scriptural enunciation.) These two cultures differed in their calendar (Jews observed lunar months and sabbaths [i.e. Saturday], while Gentiles had only the Roman solar calendar and pagan festivals), eating habits (Jews had access to kosher butchers and could eat meat, but Gentile Christians had access only to pagan butchers who dedicated their victims to the pagan gods and hence found meat-eating problematic), and bodily care (Jews circumcised, Gentiles didn’t).

As with any good blog post, sometimes the best part is the discussions following it. So it was with the post on Christian liberty. Finally, since I didn't have time to post during my famous battle with a nameless, faceless cowardly troll, I will highlight a exchange of ideas that took place on Beggars All between Tim the Enchanter, Glen of Territorial Bloggings and I on Blogging, Prudence and the Adult Children of Fundamentalists.
Like our Lord, Christian bloggers need to "know what is in men" and to not entrust ourselves so freely to them (John 2:24-25). The world is not always a friendly place, especially to confessional Christians, and maybe that's why bloggers use goofy pseudonyms, like my own, even though anyone with half a brain could easily figure out who we really are. (Hey, if folks can figure out who the elusive Kathy Luder is, they can figure out who we are!)

I think blogs, even those produced by humble layfolks like myself, have a place. Like the "Wittenberg Trail" stories in the Issues, Etc. Journal, I think that such personal confessions of the liberating power of the Gospel so clearly taught in our Confessions are very much needed today.
Be sure to read the rest of his post! Thanks for the opportunity to host this carnival. I believe it is the first time that I've actually studied posts rather than merely breeze through them. For the benefit of that alone, I encourage blog-keepers to take their turns hosting. Likewise with the seemingly questionable painting at the top of this post; look at it closely and you will see a detailed portrayal, in all its joy and sadness, of paradise. Long live the Lutheran Carnival!

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