The Vatican is bloviating about the evils of the death penalty and condemning the execution of Saddam Hussein. They can never get the Biblical truth about the doctrine of the two kingdoms right, can they? In the Middle Ages they claimed the right to wield both swords, all power in both the spiritual and secular realm, now they are decrying the use of the sword in the civil realm. Pastor Weedon has a good blog post on this papal bull. The Vatican needs to spend more time dealing with homosexuals and child abusers in it clergy ranks, and the lousy theology that infests most of its institutions of higher learning in this country, than pontificating on how to deal with mass-murderers and tyrants. My only question today about the execution of Hussein is why they didn’t broadcast it live? Sic semper tyrannis! The only reason I can think of as to why the Vatican is so strongly denouncing the execution of Hussein is to try to provide protection to Roman Catholics and other Christians in Muslim nations who may be on the receiving end of Islamic demonstration that their’s is a "religion of peace" <yes, that’s sarcasm>
Indiana Jones is coming back to the big screen. Thanks to Dr. Luther at the movies for pointing this article out. I’m hopeful, though given Lucas’ track record in recent years, I’m also a bit fearful of what we will get. But it will be great to see Indiana Jones. The whole "Last Crusade" thing in the last movie will make it interesting to see what they come up with. Each of the Indiana Jones movies have revolved around a story featuring a religious artifact. First the Ark of the Covenant, then a holy stone of Hinduism, then the Holy Grail in the last one. What this time? Should be interesting. And what year will it be? The last one took place around 1939 or so. Can’t wait. Will Connery be back as his dad? Might be kind of weird, since Ford himself is nearly 65. I’ll make a prediction. They will blow it by making the move more about Indiana Jones than a high-adventure fun movie as the other three were, and will try get all sentimental and so forth and basically botch it. That’s my take on the last three Star Wars movies Lucas made.
A friend pointed this out to me recently and I was skeptical, to say the least, since it seemed too good to be true. For years I’ve had my eyes on the Brilliant Classics complete recording of the works of J.S. Bach but have hesitated because of the price. Well, Daedelus Books, a huge remainder book and music seller, has this set now on sale for $113 (that price includes shipping). I received my order, very well packaged, in about a week. Read more…
Plowing through my photos from the trip to Germany last Pentecost, and ran across this one I took in the great cathedral in Magdeburg. This cathedral is the oldest in Germany, and is the final resting place of the first German emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Otto the Great. The cathedral was taken over by the Lutherans in the Reformation and became one of the chief spiritual home to the Gnesio-Lutherans after Luther’s death, the "genuine Lutherans" who preserved the Lutheran confession in the face of those willing to compromise it. What struck me the first time I visited the cathedral, and even more so the second time, is how richly ornamented it was and how all the statuary is relatively well preserved. Lutherans were not iconoclasts. That means, we did not regard "reform" to require "revolution" and destruction of what is beautiful and useful for Christian piety and devotion. You see dramatic examples of the conservative nature of the Lutheran Reformation in the Magdeburg Cathedral. All the existing ecclesiastical art was embraced and used, without skipping a beat. In fact, in the cathedral the most ornate and gaudy art I saw was actually produced as memorial plaques on the wall to honor the senior Lutheran pastors who were in charge of the cathedral in the 16th century! I’ll have more to show and say about the cathedral later. But, the photo below is the high altar, made of incredibly beautiful marble, constructed in 1363. It is placed in a sanctuary that features columns brought from the older Ottonian cathedral, on which rest statues dating from 1220 showing the Apostles Andrew, Paul and Peter, then John the Baptist, St. Maurice and Pope Innocent, after 1232. Otto brought the columns from Northern Italy where he tore them out of palaces and villas dating to the Roman Empire. It was one way Otto was claiming, "Hey, I’m the heir of the Caesars!" The columns are constructed from porphyry, marble and granite, some of them have their original Roman-era capitals. If you are ever in Magdeburg, please budget enough time to take a thorough walking tour of the cathedral. They have an excellent English language guide book that explains all the artwork. And, do be sure to pay your respects to Otto. His mortal remains are still there, lying before the high altar. His grave was moved here when the "new" cathedral was finished in the 13th century or so. His tomb dates from 973! A simple single fresh flower is placed on his grave every day. Well, the point with all this is simply to underscore the fact that those who claim that Lutheranism is best expressed through a poverty of visual arts and in a manner that is stark and bare of decoration are simply wrong. Lutherans have always rejoiced in the visual arts and church decoration and ornamentation. [Wait till I show you the Reformation-era pulpit placed in the Magdeburg Cathedral!].
OK, so I go on this great trip to Germany last summer, in June. It was a blast. Pentecost Sunday in St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, viewing the Cranach altar piece, listening to one of Bach’s Pentecost cantatas performed by a good sized choir and small orchestra. All the Luther sites, plus Chemnitz’ digs of Braunschweig/Brunswick, etc. etc. I take along my new digital camera, the Canon 5d, a full frame 35mm digital camera, truly an amazing camera. So, I being the photography purist that I am, shot everything on the trip in RAW mode, producing oh, individual pictures that are around 13 megabytes EACH. And then you have to convert them into JPEG or some other format to share them with friends and families. Anyway, finally…here at Christmas time I have some time to convert all the images [over 30 gigs!] into JPEG. It’s taking HOURS, but I’m getting ‘er done. So, what not to do with your new digital camera? Take pictures like there is no tomorrow in RAW mode, that’s what, unless you have a LOT of free time on your hands. Here is one of the shots I took at St. Andrew Church in Eisleben, where Luther preached his last sermon. What’s of special note in this church is that the pulpit, which you see on the left is the actual pulpit from which Luther preached. There are only very, very few pulpits left in which Luther preached, and, happily, the very last one he used is still preserved. It is used now only on special occasions. The pulpit itself is original, the stairs leading to it have been replaced. This is a view of the interior of the church, looking toward the back. The font in front is original. I’m standing at the edge of the chancel. The church is in rather poor condition, but is, as it was, on the day that Luther preached his last and had to stop due to chest pains. He was taken to the house nearly directly across from the door which is not in view, but is to the left and just south of the pulpit. There he died. The church is filled with interesting artifacts and well worth the visit when you are in Eisleben. The man in the chair is Mr. Jon Schultz, Vice-President of Concordia Publishing House. The arm and back of our president, Mr. Bruce Kintz, is also visible. They very patiently put up with my incessant photo taking.
Thanks to my good friend, Pastor William Weedon, for throwing down the gauntlet on a very wise and worthy resolution for the new year. I share it with all of you. He writes on his blog:
In the New Year, by the grace and mercy of God, I will:
1. Read the daily Scripture readings assigned in LSB for morning and evening (pp. 299-304).
2. Pray the daily Psalms assigned in the Psalter Chart (p. 304).
Read the assigned section of the Book of Concord for Monday-Friday for
each of the 52 weeks of the year (Concordia, p. 19-22 – note: they are
presented in chronological order of their writing)
I offer this
as a suggestion because I think it would be utterly achievable for anyone – even the busiest. The easiest way to accomplish the above
would be to pray Matins and Vespers daily (using the assigned Psalms
and Scripture readings) and to read sometime during the course of the
day (maybe before, at, or after lunch?) the page or two assigned from
the Book of Concord. What strength would come to us from such an
immersion in the psalter, such a reading through the Word, and such a
review of the Church’s Symbols!
Anyone willing to take up the challenge?
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him were all things created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross." Colossians 1:15-20
May the joy of our Lord’s nativity received through the
gifts He gives: forgiveness, life and salvation, give you peace. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
I’ve never understood all the enthusiasm for the "O Antiphons." But, now I do. Thanks for all the comments that persuaded me to give these more attention, prayerfully, which is what they are meant to be: aids for devotion to our Blessed Lord.
"A wise observer has said that young people will give their lives for an exclamation point, but they will not give their lives for a question mark." (First Things, January 2007).
As I watch some of my fellow clergy and some of our congregations doing their level best to look like "First Evangelical Non-Denomination Around the Corner" and trying hard to sound like Pastor Bob strolling about the stage in business casual, offering worship services that look not much different than the big mega-warehouse "worship center" down the street, this thought continues to come to mind:
If we give people no meaningful and compelling reason to be, and remain, uniquely and faithfully and genuinely and specifically Lutheran, they won’t!
Offering an imitation of non-denominational, Willow Creek, Rick Warren style Protestantism is not Lutheranism. Aside from the many substantial and essential theological reasons for not doing this, which apparently don’t register with those pushing this stuff, here is a hard fact of life in the real world. The head of Costco once said, "Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but it is no strategy." This isn’t rocket science, but it is common sense, and perhaps that is the problem, since common sense is quite uncommon sometimes.
An interesting and expanding new resource on the Internet holds out real promise and is, in my opinion, precisely what our seminary faculties need to be doing to get the Word out much more widely. Check out ConcordiaTheology.org and, tucked into the lower left hand corner, is a particularly important part of the project: Concordia Seminary’s podcasting site. You can download lectures, for free, on a growing variety of subjects, including their last symposium series, elementary Greek and elementary Hebrew, Lutheran Confessions discussions, and more. Kudos!
Looks like an interesting article. TIME magazine has chosen you, and me, and them, and us, and that guy…as the person of the year. Why? To underscore the explosion of information sharing and communication around the world made possible by the Internet. Oh, yes, did anyone notice what computer they use on the cover to make their point? ’nuff said.
"Most young Catholics [Lutherans] are uncatechized and disengaged from the church. The recommendation [we often hear is] that parents train their children in the faith and set an example of Catholic [Lutheran] devotion. No doubt a very good idea, if only the parents were not uncatechized themselves. We are now well into the third generation of Catholics [Lutherans] who were never introduced to the basics of the faith. Coloring butterflies in religion classes and encouraging inflated self-esteem are no substitutes for dogma and doctrine." (First Things, January 2007).
As it always does, the latest issue of First Things really caught my attention and set me to thinking. As I watch and observe many of the younger generation of Lutheran folks as they talk theology on Facebook or as they blog or post messages here and there, I am increasingly impressed by how much they want substance, not fluff. Often they are not settling for Lutheranism served up soft and soupy, sappy and empty, light and airy.
Movies. I love them. Most of them are simply average. Mindless entertainment is ok, but…much more satisfying are those few rare movies that actually make you think and do it in such a way that is not overwrought melodrama, or sappy sentimentalism. The best movies are those that use the full power of the medium of sight and sound and a good story to get the job done. The Insider is truly a superior movie in all respects, one of the most captivating and riveting films I’ve seen in a long time.
I’ve got good news! We’ll be shipping out the second edition of the Book of Concord at the beginning of January and we are now again taking orders for it. Right now the printer is hard at work sewing and binding the second edition. More information about the second edition is available by visiting its web site. You can see second edition pages, including the "user’s guide." There is an improved index in the second edition, along with additional textual notes and introductory resources. We’ve got a great essay in the book on the textual issues concerning the Book of Concord, along with a short, powerful essay on confessional subscription.
The book is now burgundy on the spine wrapped around on to the front cover, and is now a deep, rich blue, instead of the gray. The picture here is a computer representation of the cover, so the color isn’t coming through all that well, but there you go. Be the first on your block to get one in the mail in the new year! We are extending the special [frankly, fantastic] introductory price of $20 per volume for a limited time, so I suggest that if you wish to obtain copies of the second edition in the new year, you place your order as soon as possible, and be sure to get as many copies as you believe you, or your congregation, will need. Finally, here are Dr. Uwe Siemon Netto’s remarks about Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions:
At a time of great perplexity, Lutheranism’s theological treasure
has been opened to the general public. This beautifully edited and
elegantly presented “Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord” is a
wonderful guide out of the spiritual labyrinth created by liberal fudge
on the one hand and simplistic self-righteousness on the other. Often
it seemed that Lutherans had buried their assets. Now finally we have
an intelligible elucidation of what they “believe, teach, and confess”
and what they “reject and condemn.” What emerges is an unambiguous and
certain witness to the Christian faith that has at this instant been
made accessible to all—Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike.
—Dr. Uwe Diemon-Netto, Director of the Institute on Lay Vocation at Concordia Seminary