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Archive for November, 2008

The “Scandal” of Christmas, in Advent

November 29th, 2008 11 comments

I was reading around the blogosphere and stumbled across a person's blog who was proudly telling about how his little daughter today opened her window and yelled at the top of her lungs at the next door neighbors, "You should not be decorating, it is Advent!" Cute story, huh? Or is it? I'm not so sure. Let's see, the child yells at the neighbors, strike one. The child condemns Christmas decorations, strike two. And then the proud dad, yes, a Lutheran pastor, brags about it all, strike three.   

This time of year we have our share of wringing hands over the "secularization" of Christmas, railing against the "commercialization of Christmas," and weeping and gnashing of teeth at the Christmas music piped over the speaker systems at the secular temples of our society: the shopping malls. Oh, the horror of it all! And then to add to it, we have ponderous lectures about how Christmas should not be allowed to intrude upon Advent, in any way!

To all such persons, dear friends all, I say, "Bah, humbug!"

I say, instead: "Bring Christmas on! Lets spend our time working to make sure the light of Christ shines in the darkness, for as often and as long as we possibly can shine it." Let's not react to the spirit of the age by presenting ourselves, and our faith, as a bunch of old church ladies, wagging our fingers and scolding people, doing all we can to confirm the stereotype that Christianity is all about making sure somebody, somewhere, is not having fun.

I'm quite sure we can observe Advent well and properly while also using this time to witness boldly and joyfully of the reason why we observe Advent.

To coin a phrase, let's light a candle, rather than curse the darkness. Our family sings in Advent, "Light one candle for hope…" and so forth. Let's use this season to present the good news. Here is how one of those naughty Advent Christmas decorators lights up their house for the neighborhood. No Santas, or Frosty the Snowmen here. No, just the bright white light of Christ, the babe of Bethlehem. This scene will be presented, every night, from now through the twelve days of Christmas, until January 6.

And a merry, happy Advent and Christmas to all!

Christmas Lights 2008-2
 Christmas Lights 2008 McCain

The McCain Family, Adventide 2008

November 29th, 2008 4 comments

Liturgical purists, shield your eyes from the vision of a [whispering now] … a Christmas tree….on the evening Advent begins. We did something really crazy this year. We acted like normal people at home and took our portrait that way. We just dressed as we always do when we are enjoying family and home, well, most of us, that is. You can guess who had to go and put on Christmas picture clothes.

We made our annual trek to go Christmas tree hunting, we bagged ourselves a seven-footer, felled it with might blows of a bow-saw and hauled it home, set it up, decorated it, and, presto, all is done, on the first evening of Advent!

And so, here are the McCain children, followed by the formal family portrait. We have here, left to right, Paul (18), Mary (14) and John (17). Next photo: kids, plus wife and mom, Lynn, and the old man in the house. The little fellow in front, in all white, is Sunny, the Bichon Frise.

The McCain Kids

McCain Adventide 2008

Categories: Uncategorized

How to Use the Treasury of Daily Prayer for Family Devotions

November 27th, 2008 Comments off

The Reverend Doctor Richard Stuckwisch, who contributed so much to the formation of the daily lectionary that is the heart of the Treasury of Daily Prayer, and who was one of the "fathers" of the concepts leading to the development of the Treasury, has some excellent advice on how the Treasury of Daily Prayer may be used for family devotions.

Thank you, Dr. Stuckwisch, for your many helpful contributions to the
Treasury. Your work and efforts are, by God's rich grace and blessing,
now bearing the fruit of a rich harvest of deeper devotion to, and
meditation on, God's Word. Thanks be to God!

Obviously, every family may choose best how much of the daily readings to use for the family, some may find the attempt to read all the lessons to be too much, and others may wish to supplement what is provided in the Treasury with other devotional materials of their choice. The Treasury itself provides a number of options for daily orders of prayer, from the most simple, to the full richness of Matins or Vespers. Dr. Stuckwisch has been blessed with a very large family, so he speaks from rich experience with family devotions.  Here then is Dr. Stuckwisch's advice.

"For those fathers and mothers who desire to use the Treasury of Daily Prayer
with their children, perhaps around the family table following a meal,
here is a simple approach that I and my wife have found useful in
praying with our children. It enables the participation of the whole
family, even the littler children, without difficulty.

Those members of the family who are able to read will typically have their own copies of the Lutheran Service Book
in hand. For their benefit, I indicate ahead of time the Psalm that
we'll be praying together, as well as the hymn of the day, both of
which they bookmark.

Read more…

Categories: CPH Resources

Advent and the Treasury of Daily Prayer

November 27th, 2008 3 comments

Users of Treasury of Daily Prayer will notice that the daily readings for Advent appear to be "starting too early" but that is merely a matter of calendar dates. It was felt best to provide readings designed for Advent on the earliest possible day when Advent could begin, rather than later. So, since we are not yet in Advent, but are already in the Advent readings in the Treasury, I consulted my friend William Weedon, knower-of-all-things-liturgical for advice on how to handle this situation. His sage advice was simply, "Enjoy a preview of Advent with the readings, but don't use the seasonal propers for Advent until Vespers before this coming Sunday, which is Advent I. So, enjoy the "preview" and a blessed beginning of Adventide to you all.

This just in from Dr. Richard Stuckwisch, one of the proud "parents" of The Treasury of Daily Prayer. Thank you, Dr. Stuckwisch, for these additional thoughts and helpful explanations of the transition from the end of the Church Year into the time of Advent. Indeed, now that we see stores already filled with Christmas decorations, music, and the like, well before Thanksgiving, we need all the help we can get in these matters. Here are Dr. Stuckwisch's thoughts:

We (on the Lectionary Committee) did consider this in developing and finalizing the daily lectionary. Pastor Weedon's good advice is precisely right in that regard.

But as far as the transition to Advent is concerned, we reckoned that most people are, in fact, turning their hearts and minds toward that season with the Thanksgiving holiday.  That's not a liturgical rationale or argument, but a practical consideration.  It means, simply, that we didn't regard the beginning of "Advent" readings as incongruous or unsettling at that point.

Liturgically speaking, the shift from the final weeks of one Church Year to the beginning of another is not a sharp turning, but a gentle continuation of the circular shape and character of the Church Year.  Indeed, what we know as "Advent" originated as a six- or seven-week observance beginning with St. Martin's Day (11 Nov).  This entire period, which straddles the "end" and the "beginning," is defined by an eschatological awareness of our Lord's coming (His Advent), then, now, and then-again.

Hence, there is, as it were, an intentional blurring of the transition from the Time of the Church to the Advent of Christ.  Notwithstanding the fact that, yes, the Prophet Isaiah and First Peter are taken up with the earliest day on which Advent may properly and precisely begin.

The Saxon Rulers Most Responsible for the Success of the Reformation

November 26th, 2008 6 comments
Categories: Lutheranism

Twitter: Clarification

November 26th, 2008 1 comment

Just to clarify. Yes, I'm on Twitter again. Yes, I still think it is a colossal waste of bandwidth, but CPH colleagues have urged, encouraged and otherwise browbeat me into getting back on it. So, there you go. Frankly, I think Facebook is way better than Twitter, but…whatever. You can follow my "tweets" in the Twitter widget in the right hand column of this blog page and "follow me."

Categories: Internet Resource

Give a Gift, Share a Gift: New CPH Program

November 24th, 2008 Comments off

Picture 1
Saint
Louis, MO—Concordia Publishing House (CPH) announces the launch of
cph.org/wonder for the Christmas season and urges customers to “give
gifts with a message and a meaning” this year.

CPH
will offer competitive prices online throughout the month of December.
Sale items will include CPH professional and consumer books, children’s
books, and its collection of Inspire Christian gifts. Customers can sign up
for CPH’s “E-news” for updates about special promotions, incentives,
and sale announcements.

“People
are thinking differently about their Christmas giving,” shares Joseph
Snyder, CPH’s director of marketing. “We want to help our customers
give gifts that share the real message of Christmas.”

CPH
will share that message with St. Louis children through a special
Christmas offer. Throughout December, for every children’s Christmas
book purchased online or at a CPH bookstore, the company will donate a
Christmas book to local children’s charities. “Christmas is about Jesus
Christ. It’s a truth that every child needs to hear, and this program
is one way that CPH, through the involvement of our customers, can help
that happen,” says Gretchen Jameson, who handles public relations for
the company.

Concordia
Publishing House is a Lutheran Christian publisher based in St. Louis,
Missouri. The company offers more than 8,000 products for use in
Christian congregations, schools, and homes. Orders can be placed at
www.cph.org or by calling Customer Service at 1-800-325-3040.

Categories: CPH Resources

Discomforting Questions

November 23rd, 2008 61 comments

Question
So, I've been thinking quite a lot, about what has struck me as a complex set of contradictions for a long time. Even as we are passionately against abortion, should we not be passionately in favor of universal health care? Why is America the only industrialized nation on earth that doesn't have universal health care? Why do we have the highest infant morality rates of any industrialized nation and our health expectancy the lowest?

If we can spend billions, and trillions of dollars, to kill people around the world, all for perfectly justifiable reasons, I hope, can't we figure out a way to spend even half as much to heal and care for the sick and the poor in our own nation? Why is socialized medicine acceptable in the United States military, but not for the whole nation? Isn't a healthy nation in our national best interest? We have socialized our fire safety long ago. Why are our police forces not privatized? Why is health care based on the availability of cash, not need? Why are sick people treated as customers of health care, not persons in need of it? Why should the Presidents/CEOs of our nation's largest private health insurance company be millionaires and in at least one case, a billionaire, when we have, across our country, chronic lack of health care insurance, or worse yet, chronic underinsurance? Why do we pay more attention to the Dow Jones average than we do the neighbor in need?

I've been reading Luther's Large Catechism, on the fifth and seventh commandments, and these and other discomforting questions came to mind.

Categories: politics

Facebook

November 23rd, 2008 5 comments

Home_facebook
NOTICE: If you are under the age of thirty, or already on Facebook, please disregard this post and forgive what will sound to you like old people talking about their gout.

If you are not on Facebook, you should be. Yes, you. You who have heard of Facebook but have said, "What's that?" or "Nah, just one more stupid thing to keep track of." Yes, you, you who are reading this and are probably not on Facebook, therefore proving you are over the age of thirty or a helpless Luddite, and probably both. And if you are reading this and you are on Facebook and do not know what a "Luddite" is, then shut the computer off and go read some books for a change, you young pup you. Or you could just click the hyperlink and avoid books. Sigh.

As far as I can tell after being on it now for quite a while, it is the communication medium of choice for anyone under the age of thirty. It is a "one stop shop" for chatting, messaging, sharing photos, etc. etc. etc. Yes, like everything on the Internet it can be a big time waster, but it is also very useful. It is the way I stay in touch with my two away-from-home children. So, check it out and if you are not on it already, and once you get signed up (it is free), look me up.

Categories: Internet Resource

Sorry, One-Year Lectionary Users

November 22nd, 2008 13 comments

The survey about the use of the one-year lectionary has provided some very fascinating information. Several hundred people have responded. Sadly, however, it is proving quite dramatically that Concordia Publishing House can not offer much by way of resources for the one year lectionary. Why?

Users of the one-year lectionary are all over the map on their choice of Bible translation: ESV, NIV, NKJV, NASB, AAT. Comments such as: "We would use resources for the one year series, but only if they are in the NKJV" or "Only if they were in AAT" or "Only if they were in the NASB."

Users of the one-year lectionary said they would probably not buy bulletin covers designed for the one-year series, not enough anyway to make it practical to do. They would not want a one-year lectionary Bible study unless it was in…yup, their favorite Bible translation, which, as I said, is all over the map.

And finally, there is no unanimity on which lectionary, precisely, one-year series users are talking about. Most who responded to the survey are using the LSB one-year lectionary.

And finally, the number of persons using the one year lectionary are in the minority compared to those using the three-year lectionary; ironically, even on a survey that specifically is asking one-year users to speak up, and speak out.

So, there you have it. Given the diversity of practice among one-year series users, and relatively low numbers of one-year lectionary users, it is not possible to offer much more for them than an actual lectionary book. I found the diversity and lack of uniformity in practice among one-year users to be a surprise.

Categories: CPH Resources

Free Digital Lutheran Liturgical Calendar

November 21st, 2008 4 comments


For many years, Concordia Publishing House has distributed, each year,
to all rostered LCMS church workers a free “pocket diary.” It has been
an essential part of the daily life of so many. But the times, they are
a-changing, and for more and more of us a printed calendar has been
replaced with various digital devices. This year, for the first time,
Concordia Publishing House is offering a free digital edition of the
Pocket Diary.

While we are unable to support every digital device with this free
resource, the format in which it is being offered allows the vast
majority of digital calendar users the opportunity to use the digital
diary and with Google Calendar, everyone who has access to the Internet
can access the digital Pocket Diary and have daily e-mails sent to them
reminding them of what is on their calendar. The other major option is to subscribe to the Google Calendar in Microsoft Outlook Calendar or iCal, and between these two formats, the
majority of digital devices will be able to use the digital Pocket
Diary.

Due to the nature of this resource being provided free of charge, we are not offering any technical support, so kindly do not call CPH or contact us for technical support.

We do have a comprehensive explanation available on how to use it and
hundreds have already availed themselves of it with no problem.

So, for your free digital edition of the Concordia Publishing House Pocket Diary, please visit this web site. Enjoy!

Categories: CPH Resources

November 21st, 2008 2 comments

Picture 2

Categories: Lutheran Confessions

Historic One Year Lectionary Users: Here is Your Opportunity

November 20th, 2008 3 comments

We are asked frequently about the possibility of Concordia Publishing House offering more materials to support one year lectionary users. In order for this to happen, we need to determine how many congregations in The LCMS are using the historic one-year lectionary and what they are using. The only way we can offer materials for historic lectionary users is if we can have enough potential users of the materials, who will, in fact, purchase and use materials we offer.

So, here is your chance, one year lectionary users.

Since we are looking for responses from parish pastors and will only consider one response per congregation, please send this survey link to as many people as you possibly can. We will throw out any responses from duplicate congregations or non-existent congregations, so no ballot stuffing is possible on this survey.

Here is the link to the survey:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=gsaG1B_2fQ_2bl2N50spbnHH7Q_3d_3d

Categories: CPH Resources

One of My Favorite Blogs: Sacramone’s Strange Herring

November 20th, 2008 2 comments

I know a lot of you love to put your long lists of blogs on display before men, to receive their praises. I understand. But, I, when I read blogs, I go into my blog closet, so as not to be seen by men. OK, seriously…I never put up lists of blogs for I know I will forget to include somebody. Somebody will be offended and, despite all appearances, I do not like to hurt people's feelings on a personal level, whenever I can avoid it. So, I don't do it.

But since Cyberbrethren is one of the most widely read Lutheran-specific blogs on the World Wide Wherever, meaning at least 18 spam-bots and four real humans stop by every other day or so, I do, from time to time, feel it is necessary to plug a blog, now and then. This is one of those now times. Without question, one of the most humorous, sarcastic and biting blogs I read whenever something is posted to it, is Tony Sacramone's blog. You should too. He just has a way with words. See for yourself.

Categories: Blogging

The Pope Says Luther Was Right, but…..only if…..

November 20th, 2008 5 comments

So, the Bishop of Rome has stated, in the remarks reproduced below, that "Luther's expression 'sola fide' is true." But, dear reader, please note very carefully how finely nuanced the Pope's remarks are. He says Luther's statement is true "if." If what? If faith is understood to be our activity as well as as the receiving instrument by which we are given salvation. This is the nothing other than the classic Roman Catholic error in regard to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone.

While I appreciate some aspects of the Pope's remarks, we still have, at the end of his remarks, a view of faith that is not the Biblical understanding of faith as "trust" but rather faith defined as activity, yes, activity made possible only by God's grace, but nonetheless same view of faith as Rome has held since Trent. Hence, the Pope concludes: "by love of God and neighbor, we can be truly just in the
eyes of God."

The Lutheran Confessions explicitly, clearly and specifically reject this view of faith as  for example:

"The adversaries are in no way moved by so many passages of Scripture, which clearly credit justification to faith. Indeed, Scripture denies this ability to works. Do they think that the same point is repeated often for no purpose? Do they think that these words fell thoughtlessly from the Holy Spirit? . . .  They say that these passages of Scripture (that speak of faith) ought to be received as referring to faith that has been formed (fides formata). This means they do not credit justification to faith in any way, but only to love. . . if faith receives forgiveness because of love, forgiveness of sins will always be uncertain, because we never love as much as we ought to. Indeed, we do not love unless our hearts are firmly convinced that forgiveness of sisn has been granted to us. . . We also say that love ought to follow faith . . . yet, we must not think that by confidence in this love, or because of this love, we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation, just as we do not receive forgiveness of sins because of other works that follow. But forgivenss is received by faith alone." (Apology of the Augsburg Confession IV.110ff; Conocrdia, p. 100).

Pope Benedict explains St. Paul’s teaching on justification to thousands

.-
On Wednesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI continued his weekly teachings
on St. Paul while speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St.
Peter’s Square.  The Pontiff further explained the apostle's teaching
that believers are justified by faith in Christ and by the acts that
flow out of love for him.  

Read more…

Categories: Roman Catholicism