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Archive for March, 2006

More on Diet and Exercise

March 18th, 2006 1 comment

Dr. Matthew Surburg, a real M.D., weighed in — groan — on the issue of diet and exercise and provides very useful information. He posted this as a comment, but it truly deserves its own post. Thanks Doctor Surburg.

Pastor McCain,
     These reflections on the sedentary lifestyle and fast-food mindset in the United States are sound.  I would caution people, however, against labeling low-carbohydrate diets as a “fad” alongside those that appear on the cover of supermarket checkout magazines.
     Neither Atkins, nor other diets, nor medications, nor any other technique can change the underlying mathematics of human physiology and weight maintenance: energy in and energy out.  If energy in, in the form of food consumed as expressed in the measure of Calories (properly, kilocalories) exceeds energy out, that is, expended by the body in the daily activity of maintaining cellular activity plus any other exertion that body may undertake, then that body will gain weight.  If energy out exceeds energy in, that body will lose weight.  Energy in is, obviously, affected by dietary choices.  Energy out is, to a lesser degree, affected by exercise; vigorous exercise will increase total energy expenditure only modestly (say, 400 kilocalories in an hour on a stationary bike, compared to a basal metabolic rate of 1800 kilocalories per day).  Of course, this does not make exercise less important, since exercise has other important cardiovascular benefits.  However, it does point out that a person’s diet (that is, what and how much he eats) is a key consideration.  In a starvation situation, the body will lower its basal metabolic rate, making weight loss more difficult, which explains why “crash” diets are counterproductive.
     Low-carbohydrate diets (such as Atkins) have two basic mechanisms of action.  The first (and, in my view, predominant) is that protein and fats stay in the stomach longer than refined sugars.  This induces a sensation of satiety for a longer period, which makes a person eat less – affecting the energy intake portion of the equation in a desirable way.  The second is by altering the body’s physiology to rely more on ketones and less on sugar for energy (all tissues in the body can run on either sugars or ketones, the exceptions being red blood cells, which run exclusively on sugar, and brain cells, which can run on either but are usually the last to make the switch to ketones when the situation requires it).  This shift toward ketones, if taken to an extreme, can lead to ketoacidosis, the condition described in the article.
     Since this complication has now been reported, it is now necessary to examine the concept of risk.  I do encourage patients to think of a low-carbohydrate diet as a medical intervention, and to remember that every medical intervention – aspirin, amoxicillin, even bed rest – carries certain risks.  The question is whether the benefit outweighs the risk.  Although a serious complication did occur in this case, similarly serious complications can arise from just about every over-the-counter drug in the pharmacy – but they are all extremely rare.  Statistically speaking, a low-carbohydrate diet carries less risk than driving to work.
     As a physician, I am not a strong proponent of Atkins or any other low-carbohydrate diet, but I would describe my attitude as having gone from skepticism to cautious optimism.  I usually will guide patients more toward high-protein diets (such as the “South Beach” diet) than toward the high-fat and –protein Atkins, simply because the high fat still intuitively seems unwise.  However, the medical literature has not shown (yet) a broad risk to substantial numbers of people.  Thus far, short-term data has been surprisingly positive, although long-term data is still lacking.
     The key point people need to keep in mind is that approaching “weight loss” as a matter of being “on a diet,” even a low-carbohydrate one, will be unlikely to succeed unless it is part of an overall commitment to a healthy lifestyle, including eating healthy foods in moderation, getting regular exercise, and sufficient rest.  In other words, the best results will flow from proper stewardship of the bodies God has given us.

The Real St. Patrick

March 17th, 2006 3 comments

Stpaticon_1
As an Irishman, on my father’s side, I’m very pleased to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day as the day to honor the one who was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to my ancestoral people and home. Here from "Crosstalk.com" is the real story of Saint Patrick:

If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you’re likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland.

It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish-yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.

In his excellent book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, "The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills." Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn’t really believe in God. But now-hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold-Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" and "the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more."

Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look-your ship is ready."

What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey-and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.

But, as you might expect, Patrick was a different person now, and the restless young man could not settle back into his old life. Eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.

Finally-thirty years after God had led Patrick away from Ireland-He called him back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary.

The Irish of the fifth century were a pagan, violent, and barbaric people. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger and wrote: "I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved-whatever may come my way."

Cahill notes that Patrick’s love for the Irish "shines through his writings . . . He [worried] constantly for his people, not just for their spiritual but for their physical welfare."

Through Patrick, God converted thousands. Cahill writes, "Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before." Because of Patrick, a warrior people "lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery."

As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, and "the wearing of the green," we ought to recover our Christian heritage, celebrate the great evangelist, and teach our kids about this Christian hero.

Saint Patrick didn’t chase the snakes out of Ireland, as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a sturdy faith in the one true God-and to forever transform the Irish people.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Battle of the Bulge and Fads

March 17th, 2006 1 comment

GluttonyGluttony: the sin about which one rarely hears anything and about which we rarely speak. But it is sin. And, thanks be to God, in the blood of Christ, it too is covered and forgiven, but not as license for more gluttony. Here is how to lose weight: eat less, exercise more. The more weight you want to lose, exercise even more and eat even healthier. I’ve fought the battle of the bulge all my life and the only thing that ever has worked for me, or ever will, is eating healthily and eating moderately and exercising. God made our bodies to be used vigorously, every day. Our entire culture however encourages a cult-like devotion to rest and frankly laziness and gluttony. I know. I’m living proof of it. But we can all fight the battle of the bulge by healthy eating, moderate eating, and vigorous exercise daily. Fad diets will "work," for a time, but there are risks and down-sides. See this story on the dangers of Atkins. Of course it is unhealthy to stuff yourself with fatty foods and all protein, just as it is unhealthy to stuff yourself with unlimited carbs. The typical American diet is ridiculously high in fat, salt and sugar: empty, unhealthy and harmful calories. Prepackaged foods are loaded with this stuff. Bags of "snack" foods make it all too easy to fill up on junk. Consider the sugar-laced beverages that people guzzle as a matter of course: Coke, Pepsi and all their cousins, when water would do nicely. If you really want to have your eyes opened to the realities of American diet and lifestyle issues watch this movie: Super Size Me.

Link: Study Links Atkins, Possible Health Risk – Yahoo! News.

Categories: Uncategorized

Nobody Has Seen This Before

March 16th, 2006 2 comments

NebulaGoodness! It’s almost as if somebody actually designed this stuff or something, huh?

Twisted Double-Helix Nebula Found in Milky Way
WASHINGTON (March 15) – Cosmic nebulae usually look like
blobs in space, but astronomers using the Spitzer Space
Telescope reported on Wednesday they have found a nebula
twisted like the double helix of DNA.

"Nobody has ever seen anything like that before in the
cosmic realm," said Mark Morris of the University of
California, Los Angeles. Most nebulae are "formless, amorphous
conglomerations of dust and gas," Morris said in a statement,
adding that this one "indicates a high degree of order."

The discovery of the twisted nebula, which stretches across
80 light-years at the center of the Milky Way, the galaxy that
includes Earth, was reported in the current edition of the
journal Nature.

A light-year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light
travels in a year.

"We see two intertwining strands wrapped around each other
as in a DNA molecule," said Morris, lead author of the Nature
article.

DNA, which forms the basic material in chromosomes, has a
molecule that looks like a twisted ladder, known as a double
helix.

The strands of the nebula may be torqued by twisted
magnetic fields at the Milky Way’s center, Morris said by
telephone.

These magnetic fields are indirectly spawned by the gaping
black hole at the galactic heart, he said. Black holes are
massive matter-sucking drains in space, pulling in everything
around them so powerfully that not even light can escape.

But before the matter falls into the black hole, it swirls
around its edges. This rotation twists the magnetic fields,
which in turn twist the nebula’s strands, Morris said.

The nebula is relatively close to the black hole, just 300
light-years away. Earth is more than 25,000 light-years away.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope detects the infrared energy
emitted by objects in space with high sensitivity and
resolution, enabling it to clearly see the nebula’s distinctive
shape.

03/15/06 13:43 EST

Categories: Uncategorized

Where Feminism In the Church Leads

March 14th, 2006 14 comments

Witchbg
Ebenezer Lutheran Church and its pastor….praying to the Cosmic Mother. Watch it. What harm comes when we neuter our language? What could possibly be wrong with retranslating the Scripture to remove gender references?  What can come when we dress women up as pastors and make-believe they are? Well, folks, here you go. This is the dead end of that path.

Another blogger rightly puts matters this way:

If Martin Luther ever heard Pastor Stacy of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, also known as "her church", make the following statement found on the churches website, he would surely tack a thesis of heresy upon their door.

"In the name of the Holy, Cosmic, Mother of the risen Christ, Amen." – Pastor Stacy concluding a prayer.

Where
is the leadership within the ELCA? Has the ELCA become this liberal?
Muslims were outraged when Allah was portrayed with a bomb in his
turban. We ought not react with the same murderous vengeance as the
Muslims, but we are commanded biblically to take every thought captive
to the obediency of Christ. Fellow Christians who see this video
should have their "heresy light" flashing bright red. This "church"
needs to be counseled and challenged in a gracious manner from those
within the Christian community.

Categories: Uncategorized

Losing to Win: A Sermon by Pastor Cwirla

March 14th, 2006 Comments off

Stauros
We hate to lose.  From the earliest times on the playground or the
soccer field, we absolutely hate to lose.  We hate to associate with
losers.  If we’re on a losing team, we want to be traded; if you’re a
loser on a winning team, they want to trade you.  The “grown-up” kids
aren’t any better.  Winners like to hang with winners.  In business
it’s profit and market share.  In investments it’s return and
dividend.  In church it’s crowds and programs ablaze with glory.  We
want to see ourselves as winners not losers.

Along comes Jesus,
who has definitely been a winner when it comes to kicking around demons
and diseases.  He turns to His disciples and says, “Guess what?  I’m
about to become the biggest loser the religious world has ever seen.
I’m going to suffer at the hands of the religious, the people who
should have welcomed me with open arms – the elders, the chief priests,
the teachers of Torah (or as I like to call them, “the bureaucrats, the
clergy, and theologians”).  I’m going to be rejected and killed.  And
in three days, I’m going to rise again.  And you know what else?  If
you’re going to join me in this losing venture, you’re going to become
a loser just like me!”

Jesus said it boldly, plainly,
straight-up.  No parables, no off-center questions, no poetic phrases
loaded with double meanings.  And He said it by way of necessity.  This
wasn’t an option, one possible road among several.  He must suffer,
die, and rise.  It was necessary for these things to happen.

This
didn’t square well with Peter.  Peter had just made the “great
confession” – “you are the Christ” – but as with most things, Peter
didn’t fully understand what that little word “Christ” meant.  “Christ”
to Peter meant messianic muscle, power, glory, dominion, demon busting,
disease curing, leper cleansing, hypocrite rebuking dynamite.  The fun
stuff.  The first half of Mark’s version of the Gospel is filled with
it.  That’s what Peter had in mind when he said “Christ.”

It’s
curious, and I believe intentional, that the episode just prior to this
is Jesus’ healing of a blind man at Bethsaida.  The miracle takes place
in two parts.  First, Jesus spits in the blind man’s eyes and puts His
hands on him.  Then Jesus asks, “Do you see anything?”  (Testing one,
two, three.)  The man looks around and says “I see men but they look
like walking trees.”  20/2000 on the eye charts.  Not blind, but not
exactly seeing yet, and please don’t let him drive.  So Jesus puts his
hands on the man’s eyes a second time, and then his sight was restored
to perfect 20/20 clarity.  This was Jesus’ last miracle prior to our
Gospel reading.

I think Mark is setting us up to see the
disciples in terms of this blind man after the first part of his
healing, the spit part.  Seeing but not clearly, nor even really enough
to be useful.  Peter “sees” who Jesus is – the Christ, the Messiah -
but he doesn’t “see” in the sense of comprehend what exactly that
means.  You won’t clearly see Jesus as the Christ until you see Him
hanging dead on a cross and rise from the dead.  Until then, it’s
spiritual nearsightedness; Jesus may as well be a walking tree.

Peter
pulls Jesus aside and begins to rebuke Jesus.  “No, that’s not the
program.  Enough of this loser talk.  We didn’t leave the fishing
business for this.  We thought we were in on the ground floor of the
kingdom.  Suffering and dying aren’t part of the kingdom building
agenda.”

That wasn’t Peter talking.  That was the diabolical
voice last heard in the wilderness, tempting Jesus not to be the
suffering Son of God.  Now he tempts Jesus through one of His own, the
chief of His disciples.  “Get behind me, Satan.  You do not have in
mind God things but man things.”

A cross-less Christ.  That’s
what the devil wants.  No suffering servant stuff.  No bloody
sacrifice.  No vicarious atonement.  Power and glory and fame and
celebrity.  That’s the satanic way.  It’s also man’s way.  Our way.
The way of the winners.  Not the cross.  Crosses are shameful.  Losers
hang on crosses.  Resurrections are cool, but there’s a catch:  you
have to die first.  No Easter without Good Friday, not matter how hard
some Christians try to have it that way.

A cross-less church.
The devil couldn’t be happier.  And I don’t mean a church without a
cross symbol or a crucifix, though the absence does make you wonder a
bit.  I mean a church that can go on as if Jesus hadn’t suffered for
the sin of the world.  That’s what I mean by a “crossless church.”

Why
do you think people want to rid the world of the symbol of the cross?
Why do you think a crucifix is so offensive, even to some Christians?
It really isn’t political, though it often gets political.  The cross
is the big scandal of Christianity.  It’s what makes Christianity the
great non-religion in the world of religion.  God-in-the-flesh hung on
this shameful instrument of torture to offer up His life to save a
world that didn’t ask to be saved.

Look at what’s happening in
the church today, even in some of our own Lutheran churches.  The focus
is on purpose, prosperity, peace, programs designed to fire us up so we
can be winners, transform society, improve the self-image.  Put your
cross detectors on and take a reading.  Do modern hymns fix your eyes
on Jesus, on His death and resurrection, on His body and blood?  Do our
sermons preach Christ crucified or some other gospel which is not good
news at all?  Can we say and do what we say and do even if Jesus never
died and rose from the dead?  If we can, then it isn’t uniquely
Christian, no matter how piously purpose-driven it might be.

Jesus
would say the same to the church today as He said to Peter:  You are
not “Theocentric” (God-centered); you are “anthropocentric”
(man-centered).  That’s the self-centered religion of old Adam in us
who would like nothing more than to get rid of that bloody Jesus on a
cross and show some slides of pretty flowers and sunsets and smiling
children so we can all “feel good about ourselves.”  That’s not
Christ’s church; that’s the devil’s church.

A cross-less church
cannot bear suffering.  It can barely suffer an ingrown toenail.  Did
you hear the apostle Paul this morning?  We rejoice in our sufferings!
Huh?  What kind of people rejoice in suffering?  We have pills for
that.  What sort of people embrace suffering as a way of growth and
life?  Cross-centered people do.  People who have been baptized into
the death of Jesus and who have been given to follow Him through death
to life.

Suffering makes sense only in Jesus, only in His death
and resurrection.  Take away the cross, and suffering is a puzzle, a
mystery, a glitch in the “intelligent design” of the universe.  Why
does an all-powerful, loving God permit suffering?  You don’t ask those
sorts of questions at the foot of the cross.  Instead you thank God for
the privilege of being chosen to suffer, trusting that you are
justified nonetheless, trusting that you have peace with God in Christ,
knowing that your suffering is producing perseverance, character, and
hope and there’s no other way to produce perseverance, character, and
hope except through suffering.

That’s the big big reason the
church is in the shape she’s in, especially in our midst.  She’s fat,
complacent, comfortable, like the church of Laodicea in the
Revelation.  Lukewarm Laodicia, rich yet poor, complacent in her
comforts.  We fight “worship wars” and worry about meeting the
corporate bottom line.  Look where there is a vigorous and vital
Christianity emerging today.  It’s precisely where Christians suffer
for their confession – in Africa, in communist China, in Siberia.  In
our Thursday Bible study we’ve been reading the book of Acts.  Do you
know when the Word of the Lord increased and the church grew?  When it
suffered persecution and martyrdom.

I went to a one day pastor’s
retreat this past Monday at a monastery near Sacramento.  Our teacher
was a noted Lutheran historian of the liturgy, Frank Senn.  He’s
written what we lovingly call the “Fat Book” on Christian worship.  Pr.
Senn made a great comment comparing “homegrown” contemporary creeds to
the three great creeds of Christendom – the Apostles’, Nicene, and
Athanasian creeds.  He said, “I won’t confess a creed written by a
church who hasn’t suffered for confessing it.”

“If anyone would
follow after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow
me.”  The cross is the way of Jesus the Christ, and of all who would
follow Him.  There’s no other way.  The cross is the narrow door that
many seek but few find and our sinful selves want nothing to do with.
Who wants to be a loser when you can be a winner?

Deny
yourself.  We’re not talking about giving up chocolate or coffee for
Lent, people.  We’re talking dying to your self, denying that inner
brat who wants everything his or her way 24/7.  Dying to sin and self.
That kind of denial.

Take up your cross.  This is not some piece
of self-chosen suffering, as though you could go to the cross catalog
and pick one that matches your Sunday outfit.  “Here’s a pretty one.
This will be my cross.”  Crosses are laid on you, and you are nailed to
them. Crosses don’t inconvenience you or hurt you a little bit like a
hang nail or a sprained ankle.  Crosses kill.  They were a form of
capital punishment in a day when they didn’t care if punishment was
cruel or unusual.  In fact, the crueler and more unusual the better.

To
put it plainly, your cross is your death.  You can’t choose your death
(except for suicide, I suppose).  Your death something given you.
Jesus tells His disciples, and us, the plain truth about our lives.  To
save our lives we must lose them in Jesus.  To live we must die, not
just once, but daily in our Baptisms. 

To rise with the
winners we must take our place on the cross with the biggest Loser of
them all, the One who lost His life to save you, the One who denied
Himself to embrace  you, the One who exchanged His perfect life for
your miserable sin and death, the One who was not ashamed to bear your
shame in nakedness, to become your sin in His own sinless flesh so that
in Him you might become the righteousness of God and be justified and
have peace with God.

The world doesn’t understand this.  We have
to teach them.  We have to show them.  Lift high that shameful cross,
with crucified Jesus hanging on it, and do not be ashamed of it.  Eat
the bread that is His Body and drink the cup that is His blood and so
proclaim His death until He comes.

The world of winners will
think you’ve lost your mind.  And you have, along with your heart and
soul and strength and all that you are.  You’ve lost it all in Jesus;
and losing it all in Him, you have gained it all forever.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Categories: Uncategorized

1580 German Book of Concord — Online

March 11th, 2006 3 comments

The Book of Concord, the official confessions of the Lutheran church, were first published in 1580, in German, soon thereafter published as well in 1584, in Latin. These two editions of the Book of Concord, in German, and in Latin, are the "textus receptus" of the Lutheran Confessions. There is now available a scanned copy of the 1580 German Book of Concord, online, free for you to peruse, print out and enjoy to your heart’s delight.

It is made available by "Lutheran Legacy" which we have mentioned here before, an effort to scan and put online classic works of Lutheran theology.

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Temptation: Christ’s and Yours

March 9th, 2006 Comments off

Temptation_1A sermon from Pastor William Cwirla.

Mark gives the temptation of Jesus only a few short sentences in his version of the Gospel: 

The
Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in
the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild
beasts; and the angels ministered to him.
It
goes by so quickly in Mark, you almost miss it. Still dripping wet from
His baptism in the Jordan, Jesus is cast into the wilderness by the
Spirit.  Just as Israel emerged from the parted water of the Red Sea to
a 40 year wilderness journey to the promised land, so Jesus – Israel
reduced to One – begins His journey to the cross.  Forty.  The number
of days the rain fell in the Flood.  The number of years the Israelites
wandered in the wilderness.  The number of days Elijah trekked through
the wilderness to return to Mt. Horeb.  Jesus – God’s Israel, His
Servant, His Son.

Matthew and Luke fill in the details.  Jesus
was hungry.  He hadn’t eaten for forty days.  He was having His Lent.
Don’t you try that at home in yours.  This is uniquely His to do.  He
was tempted by the devil, Satan.  Tempted by miracle:  Turn these
stones into bread.  Tempted to test the Word:  Throw yourself off the
temple.  Tempted by religion and power:  It’s all yours, Jesus; just
bow down and worship me.  Tempted in every way we are tempted, except
for one thing.  Jesus did not sin.

Satan tempted Jesus not to be
what His baptism said He was:  the Christ, the Son of God.  “If you are
the Son of God….  You are, aren’t you, Jesus?”  So sly, so subtle.  A
snake in the garden.  “Did God really say it?  How can you be the
Christ if you are rejected and crucified?  Is that any way to start a
successful religion?  Is that any way to reform the masses?  Is that
any way to solve the problems of this world?  Be crucified?  That’s not
what the world is looking for.  They want miracle, they want invincible
power, they want celebrity.  They don’t call it “American Idol” for
nothing!  Give them what they want, Jesus.  And maybe then, you can
give them what you want.”

Why did Jesus have to be tempted this
way?  Ever wonder?  Why go through forty days of hunger, of isolation,
of temptation?  Why even bother with the devil, that old liar?  It goes
back to the garden and the threat that was a promise:  “I will make
enmity between you (the devil) and the woman, between her seed and
yours.”  There’s going to be war.  One on one.  In the wilderness.
What the devil did to humanity would be undone by God enfleshed in
humanity.  Where the devil’s lie was successful in getting Eve and then
Adam to disobey, he would fail in the second Adam, the new head of
humanity.

This is part and parcel of Jesus’ mission to seek and
to save.  It flows right out of His baptism.  Immediately He is driven
by the Spirit into the wilderness.  This is part of the package, to
confront the great liar in our human flesh armed with nothing more than
what you and I have – the Word of God.  Whereas we’re willing
accomplices, He is not.  He faces the great temptations that warp our
lives and turn us against each other and against God Himself.  He
trusts His Father and the Word.  That’s all Jesus has at His disposal
in this barren wilderness with the wild beasts all around Him and the
devil hot on His heel.  Nothing but the Word.

Abraham trusted
the Word of God, the Promise that he would be the “father of nations.”
He trusted the Word even when God told him to offer up his only son.
Can you imagine the anguish of that man?  Talk about confusion!  God
against God.  God gives him a son of the promise and then says, offer
him up to me on Mt. Moriah.

Abraham trusted the promise, even
against the law, God’s command.  He took his son, left the servants
behind, trudged up the mountain with the wood and the fire and the
knife.  Oh, and how the question must have burned him like fire, cut
him through like a knife.  “Father, where’s the lamb for the burnt
offering?  The fire and the wood are here, but where’s the lamb?”  How
but by the grace of God did Abraham even manage to say it?  “God will
provide the lamb, my son.”

Abraham builds an altar, arranges the
wood, ties up Isaac, and lays him on the altar.  He reaches back for
the knife and is ready to slay his son, when Christ calls out from
heaven, “Abraham!  Abraham!  Stop.  Don’t touch the boy.  Don’t do
anything to your son.”  Off in the thicket is a ram caught by its
horns.  The substitute.  The lamb for sacrifice.  YHWH will provide.

God’s
Lamb walks alone in the wilderness – your Substitute – hungry with your
hunger, thirsty with your thirst, tempted in weakness to go another way
than the cross, to seek another joy than your salvation, to refuse the
shame and the pain in favor of power and glamor and cross-less,
painless, feel good, be happy religion.  But then He would not have
been the Lamb of sacrifice.  He would not have been tempted as we are.
He would not have laid down His life to save you.  And you would be
like Isaac without a ram, with the law of God dangling over you like a
knife.

Trials and temptations will come your way.  That is
certain.  You can expect them.  You are baptized, after all.  Look at
all the trouble Jesus’ baptism caused Him.  To be baptized is to live
as marked men and women.  You bear Jesus’ mark, and the devil hates
that.  So does the unbelieving world.  A servant is not greater than
his Master.  The cross is always there for the baptized.  The very next
thing that Mark tells us is that John was put into prison where he
would die.  And with that, Jesus goes up to Galilee and announces good
news:  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent, believe – trust the good
news of Jesus.

“Lead us not into temptation,” Jesus taught His
disciples to pray.  God doesn’t tempt anyone.  That’s the devil’s
doing.  He does test, as He did Abraham.  And He’s promised never to
test you beyond what you are able to bear, and in Christ you are able
to bear much more than you may even think you are able.  That’s the
“secret” the apostle Paul learned when he wrote, “I can do all things
through Him who gives me strength.”  In our temptations, we are never
alone.  Christ is with us, by our side, “with His good gifts and
Spirit,” as we just sang.  And He’s the One who was tempted for us and
did not sin.

The baptized life is not an easy life.  Christians
are granted no special immunities from disease, no exemptions from
suffering, no special passes that allow us to go around the
wilderness.  You can only go through it, you can’t go around it.   The
season of Lent symbolizes that for us.  Forty days of sober, somber
preparation – a fast before the feast of Easter.  It is “symbolic” in
the sense that we choose the time and the place and even the
“suffering,” if you can call it that.

The reality is that our
wilderness is this life that we’re in; and the sufferings and
temptations are real, not some self-chosen discipline.    Were it not
for Jesus, we wouldn’t make it.  We wouldn’t even take a first step.
But there is a promise stretched out like an umbrella over you that
reads:  “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
You do not walk in this wilderness alone.  God does not leave you alone
to wrestle with the devil, the world, and your own sinful self.  And if
God is for you, who can be against you?  If God gave His Son for you,
if that’s what you are worth to God, do you think He would possibly
abandon you in your time of need?  If Christ died for your sins, who
can bring any charges against you?  If God has justified you in Jesus,
who can condemn you?

Do you realize what that means?  You walk
in this world justified by God, forgiven, restored, redeemed by the
blood of Jesus who is at the right hand of God interceding for you.
The Son of God, the crucified and risen Lord, is interceding for you.
“Father, forgive them,” showing His wounded hands and side.  There is
literally nothing in this world that can drive a wedge between you and
God.  Nothing.  Not trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness,
danger, sword, global warming, Islamic terrorists, tsunamis,
hurricanes, cancers, stray bullets, clogged arteries, killer viruses,
or holes in the ozone layer.  Not angels, demons, the present, the
future, powers, nothing in the heights or the depths.  Not even the
worst of your sins can separate you from the love of God in Jesus.

Not when your sins have been washed away in Baptism. 
Not when your sins have been forgiven by the word of Jesus. 
Not when you have received the broken Body and the shed Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. 
Not when you have Jesus on your side, the One who resisted the devil for you with a word.

We
really do face death all day long, as Paul says. We’d rather not
admit.  We’d rather live in denial of it.  Yet Paul says in all these
things – things that signal death, things that the world fears and
maybe you do too – in all these things we “hyper-conquer,” we conquer
above and beyond conquering, through Jesus who loved us to death and
who conquered sin, death, and devil for us.  Only in and through Jesus
can you say that, because only Jesus conquered death itself by dying on
a cross.  And the proof of that:  His risen body, His empty tomb.

The
Lord will provide, as faithful Abraham once said.  And He has in Jesus,
the sacrificial lamb.  And He will provide, through Word and Water and
Supper as you make your wilderness way through this Lenten life and on
to endless Easter.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Categories: Lutheran sermons

What’s Old is New…Again

March 8th, 2006 2 comments

I was speaking to a young man who has three small children. He was telling me how he and his wife decided to start attending a church that offers more "traditional worship" for, as he put it, they realized their children were not receiving the kind of substantial nurturnig in the faith that Lutheran liturgy and hymnody provide. It was a very interesting conversation, one I’ve had over the years with more younger people than I can even remember. Here is a story from Texas on this phenomenon from another denominational perspective.

Posted on Sun, Mar. 05, 2006

Old-time religion is good enough for many

The joyful noise got contemporary, and some faithful craved tradition. Churches are heeding the call.

Sam Hodges

writes for the Dallas Morning News

DALLAS – A funny thing happened last summer at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas. A shipment of hymnbooks arrived, and not by mistake.

Lake Pointe is a megachurch with contemporary-style worship. Years back, it dissolved its choir and got rid of its hymnals in favor of Christian "praise" music, played by a rock band, with lyrics flashed on big screens.

But in August, sensing demand, the church debuted its "Classic Service," an early-morning alternative with choir, piano, organ and lots of congregational singing – out of those shiny new hymnals.

The first Sunday, Pastor Steve Stroope and his staff prepared a room for 200. Nearly twice that many came, forcing a move the next week to the church gym. A second batch of hymnals was ordered. The service now regularly draws 300 to 350, with chairs covering the basketball court.

"We’ve scratched an itch," Stroope said.

Call it a counterreformation, or a rearguard action in the worship wars. But more and more churches that cast their lots with contemporary worship are beginning to innovate through tradition, giving folks some old-time religion – especially hymns.

Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., founded by Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, is famously and influentially contemporary in worship style. But last September it added a Sunday service called "Traditions," complete with hymnals, to its several worship options.

"Although it is not one of our larger venues, it is extremely popular with those who attend," said Gerald Sharon, part of Saddleback’s pastoral staff.

Across the country and across denominations, there are churches that feature contemporary worship but offer a traditional option. Quite a few, including Allentown Presbyterian in Allentown, N.J., and Spokane Valley United Methodist in Spokane Valley, Wash., use classic to describe the service.

"Classic makes me chuckle. It sounds like oldies rock for boomers!" said Mark Miller-McLemore, an assistant professor of the practice of ministry at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville. Others, including Stroope, said the word reminded them of Coca-Cola

Classic, a term born of the New Coke fiasco.

No one can dispute that the contemporary-style worship has helped churches grow by pulling in "unchurched" young and middle-age people, who tend to like the informality and rock-influenced music. It is still far more common to see a mainline church experimenting with a contemporary service than a contemporary-style church trying out tradition.

But some students of the contemporary style say that much of its music lacks the melodic sophistication of enduring hymns, or the poetry and doctrinal depth of lyrics penned by such writers as Charles Wesley ("Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"), Isaac Watts ("When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"), Fanny Crosby ("Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine") or Thomas Dorsey ("Precious Lord, Take My Hand").

And while traditional worship can be stiff and uninvolving, the contemporary experience – music, big screens, mood lighting – is often derided as "church lite."

Stroope, 52, describes himself as equally fond of contemporary Christian music and hymns. He signed on as Lake Pointe’s pastor in 1980, a few months after it was founded by seven families in an abandoned bait shop. Now, Lake Pointe has 10,000 members and a $12 million budget – and the contemporary-style worship is clearly one of the reasons.

But as Stroope watched the church grow, he worried that a percentage of its loyal members were gritting their teeth through the electrified praise music.

"We just really felt led that there was a group of people in our church that come out of the builder generation [pre-baby boomers] who very graciously, because they love everything else about our church, tolerated our style of music," Stroope said.

"I just realized that we had grown to such a size that we probably had a critical mass of those folks."

To run the classic service, Stroope recruited the church’s senior adult pastor, Lyn Cypert, and hired Don Blackley, a veteran Dallas-area Baptist minister of music.

The choir has done Southern gospel, various hymn arrangements and some fairly new pieces that have made their way into choral repertoire, including one by acclaimed British composer John Rutter.

"I’m challenging the heck out of this choir," Blackley, 64, said. "There’ll come a point when we’ll do something from Beethoven and Handel, but it’ll be sprinkled in. We’ll find ourselves more often doing gospel and hymns."

As for the worshipers at the Classic Service, they, too, skew senior. Jerry Walker, 66, of Rowlett, is among the regulars.

"What’s incredible to me is, you’ve got the freedom and acceptance Lake Pointe offers, yet now you’ve got the traditional service, too," he said. "The music that’s in the contemporary service – well, it’s just harder for me to sing along with."

Quite a few middle-age folks attend the Classic Service, along with a sprinkling of younger adults, such as Brad and Cindy Bianucci, who take their three small children. The music draws the Bianuccis, as it does Oria Mason, 50.

"If I was 20, I’d still be coming," he said. "I love to hear good ol’ gospel. I was brought up with it. It sticks with you."

On a recent Sunday, the choir sang a hymn familiar to most Baptists – "I Surrender All." But the arrangement, by Mark Hayes, was different and arresting, beginning with a bluesy alto solo, moving to accompanied four-part singing, then to a brief a cappella section, then to a rousing finish by singers and instrumentalists alike.

And when it was over, some deep-voiced men in the congregation provided a classic response.

"Amen!"

Amazing Grace

March 8th, 2006 6 comments

A recent post by a Lutheran blogger, a former Southern Baptist, really drives home the joy and wonder of the Gospel, and underscores the sinking sand of the emotionally-driven "decision theology" that is at the core of much of American Christianity.   

            Before I became Lutheran I was Southern Baptist. For
many years, an unchurched Southern Baptist who didn’t do a very good
job of living it, but I believed and confessed it nonetheless. Although
I had frequently"backslidden" I believed that once I was "saved", I was
always "saved". Afterall, no one could pluck me out of the Father’s
hand, right? I mean, it was right there in the Bible. And I was "saved"
when I secretly prayed the "sinner’s prayer" at nine years of age.   
            Throughout the years, whenever I felt "convicted" by the
Holy Spirit during altar call, I maintained my salvation by going
forward to "rededicate" my life to Christ. Sometimes, I even re-prayed
the sinner’s prayer, just to be sure that I really meant it. There were days that I didn’t feel
saved. I continuously struggled and strived to live in a way that would
repay Jesus for dying in my place. I owed it to Christ to live right
and do good. It was a fair trade ~ my life for his, right? He gave his
life for me and I needed to do something in return. God expected that.
I needed to go to church, read the Bible, and witness. It was my duty
to share my "testimony" with others. This meant telling others what
Christ had done for me. Particularly how I had come to realize that
Christ died for me, how the Holy Spirit had convicted me of my sin, how
I had realized my need for a savior, and how my life had changed
because of my decision to "follow" Christ. It also involved knowing the
date and circumstances under which I made the "decision" to invite
Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior. If I really meant
business, then I would give up certain things like drinking, dancing,
and anything else I considered to be sin. I needed to walk the straight
and narrow in order to avoid sinning. I was worried about God’s wrath
and punishment. And, I should be trying to "win" others to Christ as
well. This meant that I needed to witness to others in order to lead
them to salvation. I should set a good example of what a Christian is.
I needed to talk to them and pray for them. If I were successful, it
would result in leading them also to the sinner’s prayer. My reward for
this would be a higher place in heaven and I would receive another
jewel in my crown. That was indeed something to work for. Besides, I
was afraid of standing before the Judgement Seat of Christ one day
emptyhanded for not having led anyone to Christ. How would I answer to
him for that? Frequently,
I felt discouraged at my inability to stay on the right
"track" and I thought about giving up on faith altogether. I didn’t
know if I could keep doing the things I should do in order to be worthy
of what Christ had done for me.
            In my early thirties I attended a few Lutheran worship services. And as an Evangelical Christian, I percieved them to be synonymous with the Roman Catholic church; the vestments, the Liturgy, the infant Baptism, and the close Communion. It was all so foreign to me. And at first, it kind of gave me the "willies". What was I doing, and what would my parents think? I kind of felt like a traitor. I was doing something really really out of my comfort zone; Roman Catholicism or anything resembling it seemed nearly cultish! You get the idea.   
            Eventually, under the pressure of a friend, I began attending Adult Information Class at the Lutheran Church I had been visiting. It did indeed feel strange. But I wasn’t there to become a Lutheran, right? I was just getting "information" about what Lutherans believe. Or so I thought. And I argued fiercely with the Pastor about Baptism, Communion, and Free Will. I knew what I was talking about and I was relentless. But I couldn’t change his mind for anything and we just kept butting heads on everything he wanted to discuss. So I became frustrated and quit going.
            A few years later, I met and married my husband who was born and raised in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. I wanted to go to church but I didn’t want to go with my husband. So I began visiting different Evangelical churches in the area. I mean, aren’t all Evangelicals basically the same? They’re not Roman Catholic and they’re not Lutheran, right? I tried to talk my husband into visiting the other churches with me, but he wouldn’t. I couldn’t understand that. So I grudgingly went to church with him. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the Liturgy and I didn’t like close Communion. I didn’t agree with infant baptism either. I believed in an "age of accountability" which is the age that a person is able reason and understand and make a "decision" to become a Christian and get Baptized. I disliked going to the Lutheran Church so much that I cried on the way home sometimes.
            Through all of this, I thought I knew the meaning of grace. I mean, isn’t grace the unmerited favor of God? Didn’t he give this to us when he sent Jesus to die for our sins? Yes, and yes! But how do we receive God’s grace? Do we have to ask for it? Do we have to do something for it? No, and no! Huh? Then how do we receive this grace? God created me with a free will, didn’t he? Yes, I have a free will. So what’s the problem then?   
            The problem is that our free will is corrupted by original sin. No matter how we try, we can do nothing good through the exercising of our own free will ~ nothing, period. We are either sinful or not. Which one is it? If we are sinful beings, then how much of our person is effected by sin? Just some of it? We have sinful thoughts, desires, and behaviors. We have sinful words and attitudes. Not one of us can say we have days we sin and days we don’t. We are sinners from the very moment of conception ~ we are sinners, sinners all the time.
            Original sin changes everything. The biggest struggle I had before I was able to accept Lutheran theology was accepting the fact that my nature is corrupted to the very core by original sin. Indeed, it is so desperately corrupted that I cannot trust that anything good will come from the exercising of my own free will. Every choice that I make is tainted by original sin. Even what I (or the world) might consider to be good works are tainted by sin and come forth from a sinful nature because I am stricken to the core with sin. As a result of this, I cannot come to Christ on my own, or by my own will or decision.   
            No one can truly comprehend what the true meaning of grace is unless he can grasp the concept of original sin and how deeply it corrupts our spirits, our thinking, our wills, and our minds, feelings, and bodies. Understanding and believing what Scripture teaches about Original Sin is what opens the door to the true understanding of how God’s grace really works. And it enables a person to see that God doesn’t rely on us to do anything for our salvation; not even make a decision to receive it. Understanding original sin helps us see how God truly does work in Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. It’s admiting that we can do nothing to save ourselves. Even what some Evangelicals would consider the "will" to be saved comes from God himself, not from within us. Our hearts are corrupted and cannot will anything good, including salvation. Faith is not our doing, rather it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
            No one can come to the Father on his own. No one can choose Christ. It is through and by the Holy Spirit that anyone has faith at all.

Categories: Lutheranism

Divine Service: What’s Worship All About?

March 8th, 2006 1 comment

I follow a number of non-Lutheran blogs. One of my favorites is "Boar’s Head Tavern" a sort of "mega-blog" site involving a fairly large number of folks who seem to me best described as Evangelicals longing for a more historic approach to the Christian faith. A recent thread of discussion has involved what worship is to be. Here is one post on it that I found interesting. People coming to Lutheranism from a non-denominational or Evangelical or some other conservative non-liturgical background are often fascinated, intrigued and puzzled by Lutheran worship. In most of their circles the time for worship often resembles a combination of a lecture, a pep-rally and a motivational seminar. Here is how one of the BHT folk talks about it:

All: I think we need to ask ourselves why we go to church,
why we hear sermons, or why we do anything. What is worship? I think
that worship is God serving us with his gifts, and us responding to him
(Gottesdienst is a great German word to describe this with no
English equivalent). I think the purpose of a sermon ought to be
salvific–the pastor ought to preach salvation, show the people the way
to prepare themselves for Christ’s return into kingdom, show them what
this kingdom looks like and how to live it now, remind them of what
kind of King they have, etc. It should never be bare ethics or purely
white-tower doctrine. Tell the story and put us into it. Show us Christ
and his kingdom. Jesus went around "preaching the gospel of the
kingdom," not doing word studies in the original Hebrew or giving
disputations on predestination.

The classroom stuff should be reserved for the classroom. At my
previous church, I really enjoyed having a pastor-led Sunday School
where he would get into the details of the text he was going to preach
that morning. I’d always pick up on subtleties in the sermon I would
have otherwised missed, but it kept the sermon a real sermon instead of
turning it into a lecture on either "What to do" or "What to think."

Well, I just checked and it is a Lutheran who posted the above remarks, but hey, pay the site a visit and you’ll notice a number of BHT folks expressing concerns about the worship services found among many American Protestants. It is difficult for life-long Lutherans fully to appreciate the power of liturgical worship. I once worked for a man who put it the problem in a typically vivid and down-to-earth manner, "We Lutherans have eaten theological prime rib for so long in our worship services, we are tempted now to want theological hot-dogs instead." — A.L. Barry, of blessed memory.

Categories: Christian Life

Anglican Communion Could Rupture

March 8th, 2006 Comments off

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
06 March 2006 

 

Anglican Communion could rupture over gay clergy, says Williams 
ENI-06-0219 

Geneva, 6 March (ENI)–The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan
Williams, has warned in a television interview that the worldwide
Anglican Communion may "rupture" over the issue of homosexuality.

 

Anglicans have been riven with division since the election in
2003 of V. Gene Robinson, who lives openly in a same-sex
relationship, as a bishop in the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church,
and the introduction by a diocese in Canada of a rite for
blessing same-sex unions.   

Many Anglican churches, particularly in Africa, condemned
Robinson’s election and several have cut ties with the US church.

 

Interviewed by veteran broadcaster David Frost for the BBC in
Sudan, where he is visiting aid projects, Williams was asked if
he could imagine the Anglican Communion becoming a looser
federation to accommodate Anglican churches with widely differing
stances on  homosexuality. 

"If there is a rupture, it’s going to be a more visible rupture,
it is not going to settle down quietly to being a federation,"
said Williams, the leader of the more than 70-million strong
Anglican grouping. "My anxiety about it is that if the communion
is broken we may be left with even less than a federation."   

In 2004, the "Windsor Report", produced by an Anglican commission
set up after Robinson’s election, requested the US church to
adopt a moratorium on any candidate for bishop in a same-sex
union until a consensus had emerged in the communion. It also
urged the US and Canadian churches to apologise to other
believers within the Anglican communion who they had offended by
their actions.   

Still, among five nominees to become the new bishop of the
Episcopal diocese of California are a lesbian and a gay man, US
media have reported. Both homosexual candidates, Bonnie Perry of
Chicago and Robert Taylor of Seattle, are in same-sex
relationships, the reports stated. 

The diocese will vote on the candidates in May, with the
bishop-elect requiring ratification at the Episcopal Church’s
general convention in Columbus, Ohio, the following month. The
Episcopal convention is also scheduled to elect a successor to
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. Three of the nominees are
reported to have voted in favour of Robinson’s consecration as a
bishop. One opposed it. 

Meanwhile, in an article in the Washington Post, the Episcopal
bishop of Washington DC, John Bryson Chane, struck out at
Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a prominent opponent of the
election of Robinson. 

Akinola, wrote Chane, "is perhaps the most powerful member of a
global alliance of conservative bishops and theologians,
generously supported by foundations and individual donors in the
United States, who seek to dominate the Anglican Communion and
expel those who oppose them, particularly the Episcopal Church
and the Anglican Church of Canada". [456 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: Current Affairs

A Very Good Question

March 4th, 2006 12 comments

Double_standard
Greg Chudy posted a very, very…very good question by way of a comment on one of the fasting posts below.

"What I find hard to understand is why we Lutherans are quick to attack this sort of legalism in the evangelicals/Baptists/etc. (e.g. all alcohol is sinful, women wearing pants is a sin, everyone must give exactly 10% of their income to the church or face divine wrath, and on and on) but we excuse it in the Orthodox just because they have a pretty liturgy and wear glittery vestments.

Why the double standard?"

Categories: Eastern Orthodoxy

Fasting Legalisms

March 1st, 2006 3 comments

Yes, the Eastern Orthodox Church is legalistic in regard to fasting. No doubt about it. Prescribing, regulating, ruling, requiring a certain time and way to fast. That is legalistic and somebody who does not get this does not understand the Gospel nor the New Testament. There is absolutely NO justification [pun intended?] for such teachings, no Biblical warrant.

This is the Biblical position, as testified to in Holy Scripture and as witnessed to in the confessions of the Evangelical Church [Lutheranism]:

"These have indeed an appearance
of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and
severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the
indulgence of the flesh." (Colossians 2:23)

"That prescription of certain foods at certain times contributes nothing toward restraining the flesh" (Ap XV.48)

"So fasting in itself is not rejected. Instead, we reject making it
a required service with prescribed days and foods, for this confuses
the consciences." (AC XXVII.39)

And there you have it.

Here, on the other hand, and in stark contrast and even denial of Holy Scripture is an example of Orthodoxy’s anti-Gospel legalism.

Here is but one of any number of examples one can find on the Internet from EO web sites:

Fasting Guidelines as Prescribed by the Orthodox Church

Wednesday & Friday

Every Wednesday and Friday is to be observed with fasting unless
some important feast takes precedence over the fast (See exceptions
below). The fast on Wednesday is in memory of the betrayal of the Lord,
and the fast on Friday is in remembrance of His Passion and Death upon
the Cross.

Special Fast Days

   

   

   

   

   

   

Aug 29 Beheading of St. John the Baptist
Sep 14 Elevation of the Precious & Life-Giving Cross
Jan 5 Eve of the Epiphany



(These are strict fast days in which holy tradition teaches us that
we should fast on these days from meat, meat products, fish, dairy
products, olive oil, and wine).

Lent, The Great Fast

Lent begins the forty days before Palm Sunday, on the Monday
after Cheese-Fare Sunday. and lasts until the evening preceding Palm
Sunday.

Holy Week
A special fast in honor of our Lord’s Passion and lasts from the evening of PaIm Sunday through Holy Saturday.

The Fast of the Holy Apostles
The Fast of the Holy
Apostles begins on the Monday after All Saints’ Sunday (the Sunday
following Pentecost) and lasts until June 29, the Feast of the Holy
Apostles Peter and Paul. The fast varies in length according to the
date of Pascha.

The Fast of the Theotokos
The fast which precedes the Feast of the Falling asleep of the All Holy Theotokos begins on August 1 and lasts until August 14.

The Christmas Fast
The fast before Christmas begins on November 15 and lasts until December 24. (fish is permitted until December 12)

Periods When There is No Fasting
All Saturdays, except Holy Saturday (from oil products)

December 25 – January 4

The week following the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican

The week following Pascha

The week following Pentecost

(1) It should be noted that in common Orthodox usage the
words ‘fasting’ and ‘abstinence’ are used interchangeably. Prior to the
Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church made a clear
distinction between the two terms: abstinence concerned the types of
food eaten, irrespective of quantity, whereas fasting signified a
limitation to the number of meals or amount of food that could be
taken. In the Orthodox Church a clear-cut distinction has not been made
between these two words. The Church Fathers simply state as a guiding
principle that we should never eat to satiety but always rise from the
table feeling that we could have taken more and that we are now ready
for prayer. T. Ware, The Lenten Triodion

Categories: Christian Life