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Archive for January, 2006

Jesus Stands By Me and Calms the Storm

January 29th, 2006 3 comments

Calmthestorm_2 Today, January 29, 2006, is the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. In the historic Lutheran church year, the Gospel reading for today is from Matthew 8:23-27, Christ stilling the storm. J.S. Bach wrote what perhaps is one of his most operatic cantatas, BWV 81 "Jesus schlaeft, was soll ich hoffen" — "Jesus sleeps, how can I hope?" for this Sunday. It puts the Christian in the boat with Christ, as the storms of life rage. Here then is a meditation on the Gospel reading, inspired by Bach’s Cantata 81.

In this life there are times when all appears lost and no hope seems possible. Death stares us square in the face. We cry out to the Lord, wondering why He seems so far off, so far away. Why does He seem to hide Himself in the midst of our trouble? Why does He sleep when we are threatened so? The storms of life churn around us and crash against us, doubling their rage and anger. Where do we turn when the guilt of our sin fills us with grief, or when loneliness and worry, anguish, fear, frustration, or anger, press down unbearably?

In the midst of life’s storms and tempests, the Christian stands like a boulder, while all around the stormy wind howls and angry waves roar and foam, threatening to weaken our faith. We hear the voice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, "Oh, you of little faith, why are you so fearful?" He speaks to the storms and winds and waves in our lives, "Be still! Be quiet! Return to the boundary set for you, so that my chosen ones will not be lost. Be still! Be quiet!" He speaks His forgiveness, "Be still! Be quiet!" He speaks to your worries, your fears and your anxious thoughts, "Be still! Be quiet! I have overcome all of this, for you. Sin has met its match. Satan is vanquished. Even death can not destroy you. I have come for you. My death, is your life. In my peace, you find your rest. Therefore, be quiet. Be still."

How blest you are when Christ speaks His word to you. Your helper awakes and with Him all the storms and troubles and angry raging seas of life, all the dark and fearful nights of sorrow and worry and anguish are gone. How? Beneath the shelter of His healing mercy you find your rest and hope and safety in the storms of life. You are freed from all enemies. So, let the Evil Foe rage and storm. Jesus stands with you. Yes, even while thunder and lightening crash and flash all around, Jesus is here with you. Sin and hell do frighten and threaten, but there is One greater than them, Jesus, your priceless treasure. And he says to you, "Peace! Be still!"

Categories: Christian Life

Priest May Go On Trial For Saying Jesus Existed

January 29th, 2006 2 comments

I really could not make this kind of thing up if I tried.

Priest May Be Tried for Saying Jesus Existed.

Categories: Uncategorized

How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself

January 28th, 2006 4 comments

Hmmm…..is this what "sola Scriptura" [Scripture alone] means? Is this possibly where a lopsided regard for this one "sola," taken out of context with the rest lead? If it is is in fact possible to truly "interpret the Bible for yourself" do you really need a book to help? Perhaps what I’m concerned about is that with just one word you get to the real problem: How to Interpret the Bible BY Yourself.  How does this book support, or weaken, the teaching of Holy Scripture: "No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." [2 Peter 1:20; KJV]

Link: How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Essential spiritual and devotional writings for theologians

January 28th, 2006 4 comments

Oh, boy….now they’ve gone and really done it! The "Essential Paintings" list was interesting. The "Essential Philosophers" was equally so….but….now they dare venture into the treacherous waters of trying to nail down an essential reading list of spiritual and devotional writings for theologians, the brave souls! What do you think of their list?

Link: Faith and Theology: Essential spiritual and devotional writings for theologians.

Gerhardmeditations_2
Here’s my take on it. I like their goal of linking theology with spirituality. We classical Lutherans would think instantly of the necessary understanding that theology is a "habitus" … an inward inclination of the heart, a "habit" formed in us by the Holy Spirit who instills and preserves true faith. I like this emphasis in their list.

They probably don’t know about Johann Gerhard, but he really must be on their list as the finest example of writers of "Protestant" spirituality from the Lutheran confessional tradition. And since, well, how to say these, we were the first out of the chute when it came to the Reformation, John Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy really needs to be here, along with his Sacred Meditations.

What would you put on their list? Or remove from their list?

Categories: Books

Pharmacists Sue Over Birth Control Policy

January 28th, 2006 2 comments

This is one to watch. In Illinois several pharmacists have sued after being terminated for refusing to give customers so-called "emergency contraception." Here in Missouri a Target pharmacist was fired for the same reason.

Link: BREITBART.COM – Pharmacists Sue Over Birth Control Policy.

Categories: Sanctity of Life

Good Summary of Deus Caritas Est

January 28th, 2006 Comments off

Why should we even bother to pay attention to what the Pope says? I can hear that question being asked by some of my earnest Lutheran friends. Well…let’s see….other than the fact that Pope is the spiritual head and chief teacher of the world’s largest group of people who claim to be Christians, I can’t think of a good reason to pay attention to what he has to say. Here is a good summary of Pope Benedict’s first encyclical.

Link: BREITBART.COM – Pope Warns About Loveless Sex.

Pope Warns About Loveless Sex
Jan 25 10:35 AM US/Eastern
Email this story

By NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY

Pope Benedict XVI warned in his first encyclical Wednesday that sex without unconditional love risked turning men and women into merchandise.

In the 71-page document "God is Love," Benedict explored the relationship between the erotic love between man and woman, referred to by the term "eros," and the Greek word for the unconditional, self- giving love, "agape" (pronounced AH-gah-pay).

He said the two concepts are most unified in marriage between man and woman, in which a covetous love grows into the self-giving love of the other, as well as God’s unconditional love for mankind.

He acknowledged that Christianity in the past has been criticized "as having been opposed to the body," _ the erotic form of love _ "and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed."

But he says the current way of exalting bodily love is deceptive.

"Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’ has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself has become a commodity."

"Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere," he said.

Benedict explored the two aspects of love to then explain how the Roman Catholic Church’s charitable activities are based on love and are a fundamental part of its mission. He said the church had no desire to govern states, but at the same time couldn’t remain silent in political life because its charity is needed to ease suffering.

The encyclical, eagerly watched for clues about Benedict’s major concerns, characterizes his early pontificate as one in which he seeks to return to the basics of Christianity with a relatively uncontroversial meditation on love and the need for greater works of charity in an unjust world.

Even Vatican officials have expressed surprise at the topic, considering Benedict was the church’s chief doctrinal watchdog and could easily have delved into a more problematic issue such as bioethics in his first authoritative text.

In the encyclical, Benedict said the church’s work caring for widows, the sick and orphans was as much a part of its mission as celebrating the sacraments and spreading the Gospels. However, he stressed that the church’s charity workers must never use their work to proselytize or push a particular political ideology.

"Love is free; it is not practiced as a way of achieving other ends," he wrote.

"Those who practice charity in the church’s name will never seek to impose the church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love."

He rejected the criticism of charity found in Marxist thought, which holds that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place when the wealthy should be working for a more just society.

While the Marxist model, in which the state tries to provide for every social need, responded to the plight of the poor faster than even the church did during the Industrial Revolution, it was a failed experiment because it couldn’t meet every human need, he wrote.

Even in the most just societies, charity will always be necessary, he said.

"There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable," he said.

Benedict stressed that the state alone is responsible for creating that just society, not the church. "As a political task, this cannot be the church’s immediate responsibility," he said.

However, he said the church wants to help "form consciences in political life and stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest."

He said the church was "duty-bound" to offer such a contribution, and that the lay faithful, who as citizens of the state, are duty-bound to carry it out through works of charity.

"We do not need a state which regulates and controls everything, but a state which … generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need," he wrote.

Categories: Uncategorized

Listening to a Homily [Sermon]

January 28th, 2006 1 comment

Father Philip offers interesting advice on how to say focused while listening to a homily, or as we call them, sermons. One thing I sadly noted, and have continued to note, is that in many cases preaching in the Roman Catholic Church is … how to say this politely… ah…. lacking? Less than good? Not exactly consistently good? Well, they know it too. The Dominicans here in the USA continue to work hard to improve RC preaching. Fr. Philip is a young Dominican priest and theologian and I thought his comments on how to listen to a homily were interesting. How do you listen to a sermon? Link: Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!: Put down the missalette! Hearing a Homily.

Categories: Christian Life

The Defining Test: The Vatican and Homosexuality

January 28th, 2006 Comments off

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I’ve now found several excellent Roman Catholic blog sites. No, they are not "excellent" to the extent they represent false teachings of the Roman church [necessary disclaimer for the knee-jerk types reading this blog site], but excellent to the extent that they offer helpful news and information and insight. My blog roll is, thankfully, growing daily as I enjoy the wide world of Christian blogdom. So far I have a collection of Baptist, Calvinist, Roman Catholic and Lutheran Blogs. If somebody wants to point me to a good Eastern Orthodox blog site, I would like to subscribe to several of those as well. The more the merrier.

Here is an interesting piece, referencing an article in one of my favorite journals, First Things, in which the recent Vatican ruling on homosexuality is discussed as a defining test.

Link: Catholic World News (CWN).

Categories: Roman Catholicism

The Profound Blessings of Blogging

January 28th, 2006 Comments off

Is blogging a profound blessing? Waste of time? Exercise in narcissism and vanity? Helpful way to communicate on issues important to you? A great new way to communicate and dialogue? A way to ask a lot of questions and not give too many answers? All of the above? Here is an interesting article on the "profound blessings" blogging is. What say you?

Link: Challies Dot Com: The Profound Blessings of Blogging.

Categories: Blogging

A Diet of Worms

January 28th, 2006 Comments off

Earthworms
New weight-loss program? Another weird Guinness Book of World Records attempt? Nope. Today is the day that Emperor Charles V opened a meeting of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1521, some time later a certain monk showed up and was told to recant his writings, or else! Some of our Wisconsin Synod fellow Lutheran blogging pastors, have a nice blog site with good information on Luther’s appearance before the Diet of Worms.

So, while Luther may have, in effect, told them to go eat worms, to my knowledge there was no intentional worm eating taking place there. Truth be told, Worms, pronounced in German as "Woorms" is actually a city, and the word "Diet" means "A formal general assembly of the princes or estates of the Holy Roman Empire."

Link: Preach. Teach. Confess.: On this date in history.

Categories: Lutheranism

Money-Grab? Or… An Attempt to Order Chaos

January 28th, 2006 Comments off

A previous post provided news that the Vatican has announced that papal writings would not be made available, in many cases, with the requirement of royalties. Was this story fair and accurate? Perhaps not. A reader of this blog site sent this interesting piece from Catholic World Report. It may well be that the earlier media report was, as is often the case, not the whole picture. If this report is the more accurate one, I can entirely agree with the Vatican’s recent decision.

From Bettnet.com.

All of the stories characterize this as a money grab by the Pope and the Vatican. And they’re all wrong. The fact is that Father Joseph Fessio and Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press were both at the meeting at the Vatican last month of all the publishers of the Pope’s writings and they say this is hogwash.

Here’s what’s happening. The Vatican wants to assert some control over the publication of papal writings to prevent abuses and inaccuracies. Mark Brumley gave me the example that last summer a German or Italian publishing put together an unauthorized compendium of all the Pope’s speeches given at World Youth Day in Cologne. However, what they published was not what the Pope said. They published the prepared texts when, as well know, the Pope has a tendency to extemporize and re-write on the fly, so the speeches and homilies that were actually heard differed markedly from what this company published. Despite repeated requests of the Vatican, this company would not correct the error.

So this is the Vatican’s attempt to get a handle on shoddy translations, badly compiled works, and even leaked documents. Will they be able to do so worldwide? I think it will be like trying to wrestle a bowl of Jello, but they’re trying.

But this is definitely not about money. Already several people have approached the Vatican about publishing or re-publishing older works by Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, and all of those requests have been approved without a single request for royalties. Unlike the USCCBureaucracy, this isn’t moneygrubbing a few bucks off Church documents, but about protecting the integrity of those documents.

Categories: Uncategorized

Dr. Gene Edward Veith’s Comments on the Cancellation of “The Book of Daniel”

January 27th, 2006 Comments off
Categories: Uncategorized

Chrysostom on Righteousness

January 27th, 2006 1 comment

And he well said, “a righteousness of mine own,” not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.

–Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians 3

With thanks to W.W. for the quote.

Danger to Christian Unity

January 25th, 2006 Comments off

Ironically, and appropriately, a word on the dangers of modern ecumenism comes from a representative of the Pope. Well said indeed! The Lutheran World Federation represents a dead-end when it comes to genuine church unity. It is more than willing simply to let everything become an "agree to disagree" matter of "reconciled diversity."

There is a great book by CPH titled, "<http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=531112&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=ecumenical>The Ecumenical Luther" — an excellent survey of Luther on church unity and how he handled these matters. Here is the link in case your e-mail client doesn’t display imbedded links:
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=531112&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=ecumenical

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
25 January 2006 

 

Vatican cardinal warns that search for Christian unity is in
danger 
ENI-06-0063 

By Stephen Brown 
Rome, 25 January (ENI)–The search for Christian unity is at risk
because churches no longer agree about the aim of ecumenism, a
top Vatican official has warned, but he says they can make
progress if they clearly state their differences in an honest
dialogue. 

"If we no longer agree about the aim the danger is that we will
go in different, maybe even opposite directions, and will be
further apart at the end than we were at the beginning," said
Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for
Promoting Christian Unity. 

"We have become much more aware of the differences over the past
decade," Kasper noted in a speech to a meeting in Rome intended
to promote unity between Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and
Protestant denominations in Europe.   

He pointed to developments such as a Roman Catholic statement
from 2000, which restated Catholic belief that Protestant
denominations "are not churches in the proper sense". Also
Protestants had made statements in which they clearly distanced
themselves from Catholic positions, he recalled. 

"Such a profile-based ecumenism, as it is called these days,
leads to a certain disillusionment but also to greater honesty,"
Kasper told the 24-27 January opening event of the 3rd European
Ecumenical Assembly. "It has nothing to do with the onset of an
ecumenical ice age or the end of ecumenical dialogue," he
continued. "Only partners that have a clear identity that they
know and appreciate can appreciate the stance of others and enter
into a serious dialogue and exchange."   

Still, German Lutheran Bishop Margot Kaessmann, in her keynote
speech to the gathering, warned that attempts by churches to
differentiate themselves from one another weakened their common
witness in European society. 

"In an age when so many religious currents are flowing into
Europe, from Islam to Buddhism, from the esoteric to patchwork
religion, Christians’ common witness to their faith needs all the
more to be recognisable," said Kaessmann. 

She noted that, "Particularly in facing the great ethical
challenges of our time, we should seek common positions"
highlighting issues such as biotechnology, assisted suicide,
energy policy, and refugees. 

The Rome meeting has been organized by the Council of European
(Roman Catholic) Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Conference
of European Churches (CEC). The two church groupings between them
account for almost all of Europe’s Anglican, Orthodox,
Protestant, and Roman Catholic churches.    

The two previous ecumenical assemblies took place in Switzerland
in 1989 and in Austria in 1997. [422 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 
Switzerland 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 
Email: eni@eni.ch 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Benedict XVI’s First Encyclical

January 25th, 2006 3 comments

Link: Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est".

Interesting to read, many good things said, but at the end, the old Marian heresies come gushing forth as its conclusion. Sad to read ….

Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly
kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations,
their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours.
They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which
she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude,
offered to her from every continent and culture, are a recognition of that pure
love which is not self- seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the
devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is
possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through
which the soul is totally pervaded by him—a condition which enables those who
have drunk from the fountain of God’s love to become in their turn a fountain
from which “flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Mary, Virgin and
Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly
renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of
love:

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God’s call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 25 December, the Solemnity of the Nativity
of the Lord, in the year 2005, the first of my Pontificate.

Categories: Uncategorized