Saturday, August 26, 2006

Registration for the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar

Registration has begun for the 2006 Confessional Worldview Seminar! Check it out at the official seminar blog:

Lots of good information has been posted at the blog:
Feel free to ask me any question. I can email you the brochure, church bulletin or the presenters vitae and abstracts. We are expecting a huge turnout (we already have registrations without an official registration form), so register early. If you are a frequenter of this blog, I will personally shake your hands. No, I'm not a speaker (we're sticking with real theologians - the kind with diplomas), but I will be there helping and coordinating.

If there is enough interest, we will design a meeting just for us!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Masks of God

The other day I picked up a photo on my pastor's desk. It was of his first son, Hugh, taken just hours before he died last August. Although Hugh's skin tone and the tubes attached to his little body indicated a sick child, the sparkle in his eyes and the smile on his face were full of life and expressed delight and joy.

I was struck by the contrast in the photo: dying child full of life. How could that be? I know if it had been a photo of me as I lay dying, I would have made sure to look sick in the photo! Hugh hadn't learned that trick yet. He was still reveling in the joy of life...of a life soon to change.

I think there is a lesson in that photo. I need to find some scripture to go along with it. God put life into the child and gave him a soul. Baptism brought his soul into faith in Christ. Disease, born of a sinful earth, robbed Hugh of his earthly body, but not the life God gave him.

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Hugh Brooks' arrival at heaven's gate, I am posting something I wrote after attending his funeral. Up to that point in my life, I had never been to the funeral of a pastor's children nor had ever been to the funeral of a child. Here are my reflections of that day...

Masks of God

orginally posted in August of 2005

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government--to what does it all amount before God except child's play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things. --Martin Luther, "Exposition of Psalm 147" from Masks of God blog

Our pastor and his wife recently buried their young son. During his four short months on this earth, struggling to overcome a heart defect, his parents kept on online journal. One entry, made on a more hopeful day, struck me deeply:

We are so thankful to see God working and to see Him hiding Himself behind the vocations of cardiologist, neurologist, anesthetologist, surgeon and nurse. Doctor is one of the masks God wears.
This young pastor also wears a mask of God, and his wife as well. Even in their deep and utter grief, though they were both emotionally and physically near exhaustion from the death of their sweet firstborn son, God's love could be seen beaming through in their eyes, their smiles and their touch. They were not spiritually exhausted; they were reaching out to all of us, hugging everyone and reminding us of the joy of salvation that sweet Hugh has now obtained through Jesus' death on the cross.

I had never seen a pastor at the funeral of one of his own. I had never been at the funeral of a baby nor a child. Now, I don't base my faith on what my eyes have seen and I can't believe in God just because of how my pastor and his wife gave clear account for the joy that is in their hearts; but seeing them doing so confirmed what I already knew to be true through the witness of the Holy Spirit. God has provided a clear and joyous salvation from this fallen creation - where little boys are born with heart defects- through the atoning sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. He has prepared a place for all who believe this is true. As if that wern't good enough, God has also sent his Holy Spirit to plant the seed of faith in the hearts of all who are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and to grow and strengthen the faith of all who hear His Word preached and partake of Holy Communion. My pastor taught me this and he didn't run from it when his own little son died. Pastor and wife are one of the masks God wears.

During this last week, I have struggled fruitlessly on my own to defeat the evil plot of a computer programmer who has used his God-given talents for understanding numbers and computer programming to trick people, steal their money and corrupt minds and souls. He or she is faceless and nameless to me, but not to God. He is wasting his talent and rejecting God's urging to come to Him.

Just when I was ready to give up, I was led by my ISP provider to a young man who also has great God-given talents for understanding the same things as his evil counterpart. He uses those talents to continually learn more about viruses and trojans and hackers. He freely gives his time for no pay to companies in exchange for learning more.

To date, he has spent three hours straight on his phone dime, doing the work of a entry-level computer support person while also searching for an elusive hidden trojan virus. Sure, he is compensated in others ways and hopes to one day invent a little device to clean your machine in five minutes! But, he's got a long way to go and on his way he has helped countless numbers of people rid their machines of trouble and get back to work. Computer programmer,"geek", forensic network specialist are also masks God wears.

Pastor Snyder recently posted about the new Lutheran Carnival and the confessional Lutheran blogosphere: Ask the Pastor: Lutheran Carnival III and Beyond. He wrote:

"Lutherans are among those rare few who realize that even when we talk of “ships and sails and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,” we also are talking theology. While I’m pretty sure that there will be plenty of theologizing from blogging pastors I’d be interested not only in lay theological perspectives about jobs, careers, marriage, and other vocational areas, but also reading some of the “daily grind.” Many of the bloggers I read, including Love and Blunder, Kiihnworld, and Pastor Steve Billings let me see much of their hearts and their theology through windows opened into the “ordinary” in their lives."
Yes, Pastor Snyder mentioned me in his last sentence and it really touched my heart, but that is NOT why I am mentioning his post. Blogs have been taking a bad rap lately, especially among our own. That deeply saddens me because blog-keeper is also a very honorable vocation. I began writing not thinking that anyone would ever read. I wrote to make sense of my life and faith.

About two months after starting my blog, I did a random search for confessional lutheran blog, thinking I would find nothing. With great surprise and delight I clicked on The Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran and my world changed. From that blog, I discovered so many others, Confessing Evangelical and Bunnie Diehl were among the firsts and are still my favorites, although I've met so many more fellow saints since then. For the first time in months I realized that I wasn't alone in coming to the Lutheran confessions. Now how else would I have found other confessional Lutherans to strengthen my faith - mutual consolation of the saints, as the wise Wildboar once wrote.

Writing about my very ordinary life through the lens of my faith in God has helped me to be able to be able to more easily give account for the joy that God placed in my heart. And I'm not talking about blogging, I'm talking about my everyday REAL life. Writing about my faith is helping me to be open about my faith to others. I used to save my "Christian comments" for fellow Christians; now I can more easily leave God in His rightful and natural place in the world and include Him in my conversations with people. I attribute my ability to account for the joy to God; His Holy Spirit has planted it in my heart. I do believe that He also expects me to find and know good preaching, so that I learn more and practice saying and writing it down.

To you, dear reader, and to all the established, burgeoning or just-learning writers who decide to keep a blog, I thank you. Blog-keepers also wear a mask of God. I can't possibly begin to name those of you that have blessed my faith and my life, but I will try: Pastor Snyder, Rob and Devona, John, Bunnie, Scottius Maximus, Daniel, Elle, Dan, Glen, Bob, David, Jason, Floyd, Mutti, Brian and Matt, Pastor Steigemeyer, Chris W., Prof. Chris, Terrie, Vicar Lehmann, Michael and Timotheos, Pastor Brandos, Pastor McCain, Rev. Klages, Ron and Erica, Twylah, Josh S., Wildboar (wherever you are), Suzi and Tim, Monergon and Theophorus, Worthy Woman, Rick, Michael S., Rev. Chryst, Minister2B, Maria, Webcritter and Mr. Critter, and the many others that I've probably missed (probably because you don't have an RSS feed. If your name isn't here, email me and I'll ADD it! I've thanked you before and I'll thank you again for sharing your life and vocation through your blogs. It is a blessing to me. God be with you today and always!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Contempory Praise and Worship Music: A call to arms or a chance to teach?

My Drama:

An ugly shadow has reared its head outside the door of my castle...of my refuge and the place I hope to live out my days on this fallen earth. The knights of the roundtable of my castle are merely discussing whether or not to let the shadow in the door, but I know that harm has already come if such a thing is being discussed.

The shadow is a chameleon known to convince Christians that it is really an innocuous and pleasant diversion...a "modern" version of the same. The shadow disguises itself as light and calls to people. It tricks them into thinking that more people will come if it is used. It has been described as the smell of sulphur by one respected man. It has also been called the "stick of dynamite in the deconstruction of evangelicalism" by another. Yet another voice urges,

"...rather than spring into the usual defensive posture, what we really ought to do is become leaders in the area of sanctification. We need to take the initiative- not just showing the truth of Lutheran teaching, but also its great practicality, to say nothing of its evangelical heart! Out of love for our Lord and his church, it's high time we put our rich heritage into action."

I know I've irritated some by claiming this would never happen in my refuge. Those of you who were irritated may now rejoice that I was wrong. Or you can help. Pray for my castle. Submit links to aid in the educational opportunity. Or just consider this a fun guessing game and take a stab at my riddle. What is the shadow whispering at the door of my refuge and my castle?

An Explanation

This is fun! I can't remember the last time I had several comments. Of course, now that I've confused my own fellow church member, Norman, I probably should explain.

As a post-evangelical, I admit I have an adverse reaction to Contemporary Praise and Worship music. My faith once depended on it, or so I thought, as part of an overall Christian lifestyle. When my foundation of sand began to quickly fall apart a few short years ago, I started to notice the lack of doctrinal soundness in many of the P&W choruses. Yet it's influence on me was so great that the very first thing I asked my pastor-to-be on my first visit to him was borderline insane:

"If I become a confessional Lutheran, can I still listen to the local Christian radio station?

To this day, I don't know how he didn't burst into laughter. Instead he replied that I would find the station on in his home from time to time. With that major concern out of the way, I was able to go on with the minor matter of adult catechism. During that wonderful summer of learning, I was able to leave behind my dependence on contemporary praise and worship music. I learned that faith is given to me by God and sustained by God alone through His Word.

The first time I worshiped as a prospective member at my new church, I was underwhelmed by the music offered to me. My thought went something like, "How will I be able to tolerate this for the rest of my life?" No wonder I thought that, considering that I was used to clapping, drums, singers raising their hands and waving, etc. Over the course of a few weeks, the rich scripturally based liturgy and the timelessly-true hymns of praise and worship taught me and my family. I soon fell in love with the rich heritage of worship and song that confessional Lutherans have passed on from generation to generation dating back to ancient days. Not surprisingly, I am one of the more enthusiastic defenders of traditional liturgical worship.

So, when the idea of a modern modern liturgy or a few contemporary praise songs harmlessly added to a weeknight service gets brought up by a few very well-meaning members, I hit the panic button. Don't they understand the harm that music can bring? Or is it just me? Am I just being unreasonable based on my own past mistakes of how faith is created and sustained? Will my objections cause harm to the faith of those who ask the question of why not? How do I communicate my concerns without insulting or offending? These are my questions.