Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.

VDMA

Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.


Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

For the basics of our faith right here online, or for offline short daily prayer or devotion or study, scroll down to "A Beggar's Daily Portion" on the sidebar.

28 November 2007

The Hertz Chumash

If you do any Bible study from Jewish sources, there are two terms you'll encounter that you probably won't among Christian sources. One of them is Chumash.

What's a Chumash? In general, it is any version of the Five Books of Moses -- the first five books of anyone's Bible, also commonly called the Pentateuch or Torah -- that is bound rather than written on a traditional scroll. It comes from the Hebrew word chomesh, meaning one-fifth. A chomesh is one of the five books of Moses individually bound, which as such is not considered as sacred as a full scroll containing all five, the Sefer Torah. Maimonides said that any version of the Torah which does not meet the requirements for a Sefer Torah -- such as being bound rather than on a scroll, or having the vowels inserted -- has only the same holiness as a chomesh. Over time the word morphed into chumash (sometimes spelled chumesh) as a general term of reference for any bound version of the Torah, or Pentateuch, thus not meeting the Sefer Torah standards.

One of these for decades was the standard among Orthodox Jews, and also at the time among many Conservative Jews before that denomination drifted further to the left. It is the work of Rabbi Dr Joseph Hertz (1872 - 1946) who was Chief Rabbi of the British Empire from 1913 until he died. It contains all five books of Moses in both Hebrew and English. The Torah is divided into the portions for each Sabbath. The entire Torah in synagogue services is read in order during a year; on the feast of Simkhat Torah, or Rejoicing in the Law, right after Sukkoth concludes, Deuteronomy is completed and Genesis immediately begun. Each Torah portion has an assigned related reading from the Prophets. These are called Haftorah, and are included too, as are the Torah and Haftorah for all the special Sabbaths and festivals. And there is Rabbi Hertz' commentary and notes for each, as well as several additional essays at the end. So the book is not just study oriented but connected to worship as well, the worship Jesus and the Apostles frequented throughout the Gospels and Acts, and is not a full Hebrew Bible but that of it used in synagogue services.

It was first published in five volumes in 1936, and the English text of Scripture was the Revised Version. In 1937, a one volume edition came out, which besides putting it all between two covers also replaced the Revised Version translation text with that from the Jewish Publication Society of America's 1917 English translation of the Hebrew Bible. That version was essentially a rabbinically revised King James Old Testament put back in the traditional order of books in the Hebrew Bible. It lasted until the JPS replaced it with a brand new translation in 1985 that breaks with the KJV English lineage and promotes itself as the broadest based Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible since the Septuagint.

It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance and influence of the Hertz Chumash in my life, yet, I have never met another Christian who is even aware of it. I might not be either, except that during the twenty some years between my dropping Christianity altogether in 1973 in the wake of Vatican II's implosion of it and professing the faith of the evangelical Lutheran church in 1996, I thought that while Christianity turned out to be a Gentile misunderstanding of Jewish Messianism this did not invalidate the religion given by God in the "Old" Testament, and considered Orthodox Judaism the true religion, though I did not convert nor does Orthodox Judaism see a need such a need. During that time, as a Righteous of the Nations -- a Gentile who believes in the God of Israel -- I became aware of this book and read it for years following the pattern of Sabbaths and festivals. The Hertz Chumash was my "Bible", though I have copies of both the 1917 and 1985 JPS full Hebrew Bible translations as well.

When I was writing the "Christmas Gift Suggestions" post I described those books as the basic one at my house. And they are. They're also the books on the "Book List" part of the sidebar, plus the two books for kids. And they are the specifically religious ones listed in the Books in My Profile -- except for Hertz' Chumash. Since it remains an hugely important book to me, and is so little known in Christian circles, I though I should post about it specifically. While it isn't "my Bible" any more, I still use it regularly and here are the reasons that come to mind.

1. One could say the scholarship is dated. Well, of course. It came out in 1937. However modern Biblical scholarship hasn't changed its mind set since its inception with Julius Wellhausen (1844 - 1918) in the later nineteenth century, and Hertz in his notes and essays thoroughly exposes the underlying assumptions and the holes in them of the historical-critical school, whose proponents as of the 1960s were the stock in trade of Scripture classes such as I had them in university, and a Roman Catholic one at that. It was amazing to me, and contines to amaze me, to see what had been taught to me as the latest and greatest in enlightened thinking about Scripture in particular and religion in general -- and so beautifully encapsuled in the near textus receptus of the day, the original (1966) Jerusalem Bible, which I still have and also consult from time to time -- so completely dispatched by this brilliant rabbi decades before!

2. At the same time, and unlike so many other religious, Rabbi Hertz neither feared nor despised scholarship, but used what was of legitimate value in it. A terrific example. He wrote in the Preface to the original edition, preserved in the second: "Accept the true from whatever source it come" is sound Rabbinic doctrine -- even if it be from the pages of a devout Christian expositor or of an iconoclastic Bible scholar, Jewish or non-Jewish. Which sound Rabbinic doctrine St Paul encourages for Christians in Philippians 4:8 -- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (ESV).

3. The greatest thing of all the Hertz Chumash gave me was, of course, Scripture, and, in a way that is connected to worship, both for the regular cycle through the year and the festivals given in Scripture itself. Liturgy and Scripture then became two aspects of the same thing, faith. And not as some afterthough by the church, that may or may not have any present value, but as a practice from ancient times, handed on to and used by Jesus and the Apostles, and I would come to see, adapted by the new Israel the church for the Messianic times. Scripture takes on a new light when it is studied along the pattern of Liturgy. Liturgy takes on a new light when it is seen as the present celebration of what it recorded in its Scripture. One reads and studies scripturally what one celebrates liturgically. Scripture is Liturgy in one place, Liturgy is Scripture over time. And, I would come to see, where the Law was read in a year now the Gospel was read in a year -- primarily Matthew, whose Aramaic original is the oldest, placed first with the other Gospel accounts in the NT as the Law is first in the OT -- and as related passages from the Prophets were associated with the Torah portions now related passages from the Epistles of the Apostles were associated with the Gospel portions. And the great Biblical festivals themselves were similarly transformed, Passover becoming Easter, as a day and as a "little Easter" each Sunday and every time the Sacrament of the Passover Lamb at the Altar was given, Pentecost the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai becoming Pentecost the celebration of the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem, which empowered the Gospel to be preached as we live in our temporary booths on our way to the Promised Land of eternal life with God. Far from being some sort of legalistic stuff we can now safely ignore since the Messiah has come, Jewish liturgy became the pre-Messianic form of Christian liturgy just as the Law had to be given before the Gospel. Far from being some sort of legalistic stuff we can now safely reject as an unfortunate regression from the freedom in Christ, Christian liturgy became the post Messianic form of Jewish liturgy just as the Gospel had fulfilled the Law. And all of it part of one motion of God toward Man to save him and restore him to life with God both now and forever.

I find this beautiful unity of God's unfolding action in love toward Man in Scripture and Liturgy and the saving events they contain almost impossible to express. I hope I have been able to suggest at least something of what this is.

For me this unfolding unity of doctrine, Scripture and Liturgy -- things which taken separately often appear so different than when taken to-gether -- began to come to-gether for me in the years when I followed the Hertz Chumash. And while I no longer follow it as I did in those years, it remains among my most treasured possessions, and not a keepsake from my past but a continuing source of inspiration as I study the Bible and the Book of Concord and live out what it confesses in the worship and life of what is called among men the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

I am happy to say this magnificent volume is still in print. You can get one from the publisher at http://www.soncino.com/product_info.php/cPath/21/products_id/113

Oh, I forgot. The other term if you study from Jewish sources that you won't encounter much among Christian sources is Tanakh. The word is an acronym and simply means the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament to Christians. But the Christian Old Testament, while it has the same books, mixes up the order and division of them in the Hebrew Bible. There are three distinct divisions, Law, Prophets and Writings -- a usage found with Jesus and the Apostles -- and Tanakh is formed from the first Hebrew letters in the words for each: Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings). A curious thing about this different order is that the Old Testament ends with Malachi where God promises to send Elijah to avert utter destruction in consequence of our faithlessness, whereas the Hebrew Bible ends with Second Chronicles, where God moves the Persian King Cyrus to build the Temple in Jerusalem and allow and encourage the Jews to leave and go do it!

25 November 2007

Christmas Gift Suggestions

Kids asking if Santa Claus is real and wondering what to say? Wondering if there is something a little more to the point to read for Christmas Eve than "Twas the Night Before Christmas"? Luke 2:1-20 ain't bad. Then, how about reading them what A Visit from St Nicholas (the actual title of Moore's, well, probably Moore's, poem) is really all about!

Find "St Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend" at
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=562230&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=st+nicholas


Looking for some solid Christian formation with language and illustrations appropriate for kids to give a child for Christmas, even participate with them?

Find "My First Catechism: An Illustrated Version of Luther's Small Catechism" at
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=223052&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=my+first+catechism


Need a little brushing up on just what it is confessional Lutherans confess? Know someone who might want to know too? Nothing states the Lutheran confessions like the Lutheran Confessions!

Find "Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions" at
http://www.cph.org/concordia


Looking for a solid devotional book to carry the Sunday Scripture readings through your week?

Find "God Grant It" at
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part%5Fno=124261&find%5Fcategory=&find%5Fdescription=&find%5Fpart%5Fdesc=god+grant+it


No, I'm not a paid endorser for Concordia Publishing House. I bought all this stuff myself. They're the basic books at my house. Well, there is one more, of course. The Bible I use.

Find "ESV Deluxe Reference Bible - Concordia Edition" at
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?part_no=011952

24 November 2007

Thanksgiving? Advent? What Happened to Sukkot?

In my posts around Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one. And, that this is precisely what one would expect if the Messiah had come and fulfilled the Law.

In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, there are three major festivals commanded, Pesach or Passover, Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks, and Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. In addition, besides Sukkot in the Fall there is also Rosh Ha-Shana or New Years (actually one of several new years, there being a new year for trees and a new year for kings which begins the year in terms of the festivals) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year.

So we saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper into what we call Holy Communion and ratified by his Death and Resurrection which we celebrate as an event in time on Good Friday and Easter. Then we saw God as it were count the Omer and transform the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai at Pentecost by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which we celebrate as an event in time on the day also called Pentecost. Then, what -- the whole thing seems to fall apart!! Where's the transformed Rosh Ha-Shanah, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth?

Nowhere, it seems. The Christian calendar is entirely absent of such things. Fall , full of observances in Judaism, comes and goes with nothing until the secular Thanksgiving and then Advent which is a time of preparation for Christmas. So does the parallel fall apart here, or perhaps show itself to be irrelevant anyway if it exists at all?

No. Consider. Christ has himself become our atonement, that to which the Day of Atonement led. The Day of Atonement was the historical Good Friday, once for all. Rosh Ha-Shanah too, the day on which creation was completed and God judges each person for the coming year, has been fulfilled in God's having re-created lost Man by making justification possible because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice. That is how we are now inscribed, not just for the coming year but for eternity. They are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.

And what of Sukkot? At Sukkot, one lives, or at least takes one's meals, in a temporary structure -- a booth, a tabernacle, but not in one's actual home. This is to remember the passage of the people after the Passover and Pentecost to the Promised Land. And, Zechariah (14:16-19) predicts that in the time of the Messiah the feast will be observed not just by Jews but by all humanity coming to Jerusalem for its observance. That's a pretty big event. It ain't happening. And there isn't even some sort of transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar. So what is the deal here?

Consider. Christ is our Passover in whose blood we are washed and made clean, the Holy Spirit has empowered the spread of this Good News beginning on that Pentecost recorded in Acts. But the end of the story, unlike the arrival in the Promised Land, has not happened. The real Promised Land is not a piece of geography but heaven itself, the ultimate Jerusalem. So, there cannot be a Christian Sukkoth because we are still in our booths, as it were, not in our permanent homes, still on our pilgimage to the Promised Land, and what Zechariah saw is happening as "the nations", all people, join in this journey given first to the Jews and then to all Man, the Gentiles. Our Sukkot is our life right now, in our "booths" or temporary homes on our way to heaven. So this feast awaits its transformation, and that is why it is absent. The first two of the "pilgrimage festivals", the Shalosh Regalim, have been transformed, into the basis of not just our calendar but our life and faith itself, but the third will be heaven itself, toward which we journey as we live in our booths here on the way.

While we do not, therefore, have a certain observance of a transformed Sukkot in our calendar, being in our booths presently, we do have something of it as we go. Our nation, and others too, have a secular, national day of Thanksgivng at the end of harvest time, preserving that aspect of thankfulness for our earthly ingathering of the fruits of our labour. And in the final weeks of the Sundays after Trinity, we focus on the End Times in our readings, the great ingathering that will be for all nations when our Sukkoth here is ended, not just at death personally but finally at the Last Day.

At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1997, the pastor concluded the sermon by saying: A few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.

So is the promise to us all. And that's what happened to Sukkot.

22 November 2007

President Washington Declares The First National Thanksgiving (1789)

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

The First Thanksgiving Under The Current Law (1942)

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation - The President

Hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers

Psalm 103

Hymn, Faith Of Our Fathers

The First Lesson, Deuteronomy VIII

Hymn, Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

The Second Lesson, Matthew VI:25-end

Hymn, Eternal Father, Strong To Save

The Lord's Prayer

The Collect for Thanksgiving Day

Prayer for The President

Prayer for the Nation

Prayer for All In the Service of Our Country and Our Allies

Prayer for Peace

Prayer for Those Who Mourn

The General Thanksgiving

A Special Thanksgiving

The Grace

Hymn, Battle Hymn of the Republic

The Benediction

This service was conducted in the East Room of the White House on 26 November 1942 at 11 AM Eastern and broadcast nationally. The President's Proclamation called the attention of the nation to the joint resolution of Congress of 26 December 1941 designating the fourth Thursday in November each year as Thanksgiving Day.

Previously, all presidents since Lincoln had year by year designated the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. In 1939 the last Thursday in November would be the 30th, and President Roosevelt was persuaded by business leaders that a longer Christmas shopping season -- once upon a time it was considered inappropriate to start the Christmas season before Thanksgiving -- would help the economy out of the Depression with more sales and declared Thanksgiving the next to last Thursday in November that year. The new Thanksgiving was widely derided as "Franksgiving" -- Roosevelt's first name being Franklin -- and had no force of law, some states observing the new "Democrat" Thanksgiving and some the old "Republican" Thanksgiving. A Commerce Department report in 1941 found no significant difference in sales from the change, and Congress passed a law designating the fourth Thursday in November, which some years is the last and some the next to last Thursday, as Thanksgiving Day every year, so 1942 was the first Thanksgiving under the current law -- by which time a new world war had maybe redirected things away from retail sales to graver matters.

Funny, Washington didn't have a thing to say about sales, Christmas, or Christmas sales regarding Thanksgiving when "Washington" referred to a man and not a city. Neither did President Lincoln, whose example had been followed since.

21 November 2007

Once Upon A Time In America (1863)

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State

20 November 2007

What's a Runza?

LP Cruz, author of the excellent blog Extra Nos, asked in a combox to an earlier post what is this Runza to which I referred.

So here's the answer. A runza is a rectangular pocket of dough bread filled with beef, onion, seasonings and cabbage that is baked. It originates with the Volga German immigrants to the United States. They can be made at home according to variations on the theme, and there is a commercial Runza fast food chain begun in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1949 and now a regional chain.

When I first came to this area in 1983 it was to Lincoln and shortly thereafter someone suggested we go to a Runza so I could get introduced to this local delicacy. I thought it sounded absolutely grotesque but went along, and converted from the first bite. They are fabulous!! Personally, I like the cheese Runza best. And the fries and onion rings you can get for sides are better than any other fast food chain too. IMHO of course. And their burgers are better than the others too! You just can't lose going to Runza!! I've lived in Omaha since 1991 and we are well stocked with Runzas all across the metro area.

Wikipedia has further material on runzas, the food itself and the chain. The place to start is the main article, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runza

You might read up on the Volga Germans themselves, the Wolgadeutsche, or "Russian Germans" as they are sometimes called here. It all comes from Catherine the Great of Russia -- who was herself a German -- who invited Europeans to settle in Russia to create a sort of buffer zone for the Russians themselves. A fascinating, and rocky, history.

So how does Runza turn up on Lutheran blog? Well, some of the Volga Germans are Lutheran. But the real reason is Lutheran Lucciola, the subtitle of whose blog is "Stories of Transformation and Cabbage" -- a reference from this non-German convert to the German in origin Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (like myself) to the use of cabbage in German cooking.

I gotta tell ya, if you're looking for German cooking with cabbage, a runza is IT!! After writing this I'd head straight to the nearest one myself, except it's closed at this hour. Drag.

11 November 2007

What's an Armistice?

Here is what the world, I hope, knows. 11 November was originally Armistice Day, from the armistice that ended hostilities in the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, GMT (or UTC), in 1918. Later, with another and even worse World War having been fought despite a War to End All Wars, Congress in 1954 changed the observance to include all veterans, hence Veterans Day.

What's an armistice? The English word is transliterated from the Latin armistitium, which literally means a stopping of arms. It's a truce, a cessation of hostilities. Now, if you're one of those getting shot at, that's a good thing -- but, it's not a comprehensive social and political solution to what led to the hostilities, and not even necessarily permanent, let alone that universal aspiration of beauty pageant contestants, world peace. Which means, hostilities may well resume at some point. And always have.

Here is what the world probably does not know or care about. 11 November is the feast day of St Martin of Tours, who is the patron saint of, guess what, soldiers! Hmm. Martin was born a pagan around 316 and was career military in the Roman army. One day he passed a man freezing on the road, tore his military issue cloak in half and gave it to him. That night, he had a dream seeing Jesus wearing the half a cloak. Shook up, he went to the bishop (now called St Hilary) for direction. He was taught the faith and baptised, obtained a discharge from the army and set about combating the Arian heresy which about did the church in at the time, thinking he was God's soldier now. He was forced into exile by persecution, lived as a hermit, and later was finally persuaded to become the new bishop of Tours when the old one died, and from there soldiered on to preach the true Gospel in Gaul.

11 November, feast of the patron of soldiers for centuries, date of Armistice Day, now Veterans Day? Coincidence, or one of those little things that pokes through from what is beyond the surface? The armistice of 11 November 1918 turned out to be just that, a cessation of hostilities. What was fought as The War to End All Wars would become World War One as hostilities resumed in an even worse World War Two. Along with the millions of lives lost, and millions more of lives forever changed, something changed in what might be called the spirit of Man too. The great sense in the age leading into these cataclysms that Man was on an upward spiral of progress toward an enlightened future lay rotting like the wreck of that great expression of the age the RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) Titanic.

The Titans had lost, but unlike the mythological battle, who were the victorious Olympians, or if there even were such, was not clear. Man began to speak of life as absurd, the old certainties were gone, the search for "meaning" was on amid an apparently essentially meaningless existence. One could simply accept that life is absurd and meaningless; one could understand that meaning is something Man, or each man, creates for himself; one could deny the whole thing and remain irrelevant and inauthentic in either a religious faith or, equally, in holding on to the secular faith in the progress and perfectibility of Man. And, at the present writing (2007), hostilities continue amid the arrangements worked out nearly a century ago following the War to End All Wars in Southeast Europe, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

So the Twelve Titans. So the Twelve Olympians, who this time apparently aren't going to show up. If Genesis isn't witness to Man as fallen, the world history of Man surely is. A history filled with the universal intuition that Man is less than he is meant to be or can be, filled with however many religious, philosophical, social and political programmes to accomplish his fulfillment -- and filled with the dashing of all of them.

There's twelve something else who had something to say about that. The Twelve Apostles. Not "the church", the twelve Apostles. They got told to go into the world with the message that Man just isn't going to get himself out of his self-constructed mess, that God has seen that and became Man in Jesus to die to pay for all that and rise again, so that Man can by the gift and power of God repent of his own self-destructive efforts and start over, be reborn in faith in the One God has sent that because of Him one can be washed clean by being covered in his sacrificial blood and even amid the brokenness of this world live in partial experience of that which is beyond it, dying with him to rise with him. That message continues to-day where God calls and feeds Man in his Word properly preached and his Sacraments properly administered.

Interesting that in that context, 11 November, St Martin's Day, in 1483 was the day that Mr and Mrs Luther brought their day old baby boy to be baptised, and following the traditional custom he was given the name of the saint of the day -- Martin Luther, who too would devote his life to preaching the true Gospel against heresy.

So as we rightly remember and celebrate in gratitude those who have served to preserve and defend our temporal freedom, let us also remember that armistice is the best we can do, the hostilities cease for a while only to resume, and let us remember and celebrate in gratitude Him who gained our true spiritual freedom for now and all eternity, who gives peace not as the world gives peace, but for real and for ever.

Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis.
Peace I leave thee, my peace I give thee.
(John 14:27, used in the liturgy after the Agnus Dei before Communion)

Here is the Collect from the mass propers for the feast of St Martin of Tours:

Lord God of hosts, who clothed Your servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and set him as a bishop in Your Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.

04 November 2007

Reformation Mini-Carnival!

Here are links to some outstanding sermons for Reformation Sunday, from the blogs on the sidebar. Maybe we should call it Christianity Sunday, because a proper understanding of what the Reformation was -- is -- all about entails everything else too!

http://confessionalgadfly.blogspot.com/2007/10/reformation-sunday-october-28-2007-john.html

http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2007/10/lutheran-reform.html

http://esgetology.blogspot.com/2007/10/reformation-sermon.html

http://fatherhollywood.blogspot.com/2007/10/sermon-festival-of-reformation.html

http://rasburrysres.blogspot.com/2007/10/homily-reformation-day.html

These five sermons (OK, one is really a post and the rest are posted sermons!) really lay it out. What a blessing to be where the Gospel is rightly preached and the Sacraments properly administered!

"The Most Dangerous Thing in the World"

There are a number of excellent Reformation Sunday sermons in the blogs by pastors on the sidebar, and I'm tempted to come up with sort of a mini-carnival to list them.

I came across a post entitled "The Most Dangerous Thing in the World" on a blog I visit sometimes that isn't on the sidebar -- and after reading this, maybe it should be! While not specifically a Reformation Sunday post, it is entirely about what Reformation is. Since there seems to be some confusion these days not just about what Reformation is but even what church is, I cannot say enough for the clarity this post contributes.

http://www.extremetheology.com/message_of_the_cross/index.html

03 November 2007

A Firefly; Outside Us

Please note the addition to my blogroll of two blogs I have been reading for a while now but have neglected to add to my blogroll. Both are by lay confessional Lutherans, like myself, who also like myself are converts, having been given the faith of Christ correctly stated in the Book of Concord after having been given something else.

Lutheran Lucciola is a terrific story of transformation indeed, just as the blog's subtitle suggests -- but rather than try to recount or describe it here, why not click over there where the author does so herself? It's also just great fun too.

Extra Nos (Outside Us) is by a software engineer from Australia of Filipino descent. An excellent place to start is with his latest post, Miles Apart, which lays out with great precision how people with similar sounding talk about Christ actually are, well, miles apart.

All three of us have ended up not where we began, both temporally and spiritually. As to the latter, all three of us began in enchanting, shall we say, forms of Italian religion reaching back to ancient times, Stregheria, The Old Religion with Etruscan roots, and Roman Catholicism, the state religion of the (Western) Roman Empire.

The Word of the Lord does indeed endure forever, and speaking of cabbage, if you ever get to Nebraska be sure to stop for a Runza!