Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Christians are Like Vuvuzelas

If you've seen any part of the 2010 World Cup broadcast from Africa thus far, you have noticed the pleasant sound of the vuvuzela rising from the crowd to produce the most incorporating and relaxing sound which helps one assimilate into being part of a "football" match in South Africa.

And if you have watched any of the matches, you certainly know that the vuvuzela makes no such sound. Instead, the sound which these large plastic horns makes is annoying, loud, and sounds - as many have said - like a hive of buzzing bees. The broadcasters said the noise is even worse being at the matches in person than that which we spectators receive across the live airwaves.

Now the sound of these vuvuzelas is so incredible annoying that almost every country has complained and many of the players as well. It got bad enough that the FIFA World Cup suits were considering banning the vuvuzelas from every stadium. They discussed it and decided that the annoying instruments would not be banned. The reason they gave in defense of the instrument was this: that the vuvuzela was a uniquely South African way of celebrating football matches and to take away the vuvuzela would insult the South African host nation and its long tradition of using the vuvuzela. Despite its annoyance to the rest of the world, the vuvuzela was staying.

Perhaps we should learn a lesson from the vuvuzela. As Christians, we stick out in this world like a vuvuzela during a World Cup match, and we can be just as annoying to the world. With our Godly ethical system - e.g. the way we protect the sanctity of life, and uphold marriage - and the way in which we proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way by which a man can obtain heaven, we are the greatest annoyance to the world and they cannot bear it. Jesus Christ is the ultimate vuvuzela stumbling block for our World Cup world. (Sorry Jesus, just making a point.)

But seriously, we Christians are in the world, not of it. We look and act like others, yet we stick out simply because Jesus Christ has called us to himself. He has made us His baptized and forgiven children. He is forming us through repentance and forgiveness, confession and absolution into His own image even now. We are God's people and our lives reflect this.

This I think speaks to another point.

In the World Cup the South Africans were allowed to blow their vuvuzelas because it was inherently part of their football worship. If you took it away from them, it would be taking away from them part of who they are . It is the same with Christian worship. If we are told that we must take away part of the way in which we rightly worship the Lord, and if we are told we must change because others will be annoyed and put-off by the way the Divine Service is ordered, then we lose a part of ourselves. We lose a part of our identity. Yet, we don't lose it because it is our tradition, no, we lose a part of who we are because we take away the way in which God gives us his magnificent gifts and makes us who we are. If we remove the means by which God deigns to give us forgiveness, by word and sacrament, then we lose the very means by which we are God's people.

Who knew the vuvuzela could be a catechetical tool.

P.S. If you have an iSomething, you can download a vuvuzela as an app. Get it here.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, June 14, 2010

Amish Grace

I was bored Saturday night, so I flipped on the TV and started watching the lifetime movie Amish Grace.

The movie Amish Grace is based on shootings that took place at a one-room Amish schoolhouse on October 2, 2006. A man entered the schoolhouse and killed 5 young girls before committing suicide. It was tragic. All the people involved - shooter, children, and all the families - belonged to Christian communities of faith. The story in the press was highlighted by the outpouring of love, compassion, and forgiveness by the Amish people on the shooter's family - to the amazement of many.

The movie did a great job portraying the hatred that was felt by both the victims' families and the shooter's wife. What it did not do was accurately portray what forgiveness was. Forgiveness was boiled down into a "letting go" of negative emotions. It was also very law oriented. Scripture itself was lightly employed and the only verses I recall being quoted in the entire movie was Matthew 6:14 and the reading of Psalm 23. The idea of forgiveness was watered down to emotional blather. At one point one of the Amish elders said that forgiveness was, indeed, not pardon. So much for that "whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" spoken by Jesus.

I'm not sure if that idea of forgiveness is really what the Amish believe. It'd be hard to believe that, though I guess it could be true. And while emotional release isn't the purpose of forgiveness, I guess it still can begin that process to mental and emotional recovery. Though, that is only secondary.

In regard to this, let us always be mindful that we are justified by Christ by the forgiveness of our sins. We truly are pardoned of our many sins because Jesus himself took our punishment. Because of that, we know that even for the most horrible of sinners, even the shooter's sins in this tragedy, were taken to the cross by Jesus so that in Christ there is always hope for salvation.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Blessings of Technology

My niece was born yesterday.

Yesterday evening, Craig sent me a picture of my niece by cellphone. I skyped with my niece. I let people know by facebook that she had been safely born into the world. I wrote a blog telling anyone who would like to know that my niece was a beautiful healthy baby to the glory of God. After I did all that, I marveled for a minute about the blessings that technology brings.

A mere 25.75 years ago, I was born. If someone had wanted to see me as a newborn baby, they had to come to the hospital. If they wanted to tell others about me, they had to call another person almost definitely on a hardline hoping that someone was around to pick up. A person if they were away from that birth would miss out on a lot of the celebration.

I was away, yet I can tell my niece when she's older that I was able to celebrate with everyone on the day of her birth. I got to see her and hear her, even though I was not able to hold her. Praise the Lord that He has blessed men and women in this world to dream and create this kind of technology for the benefit of His children.

Now you can argue about the dangers of technology and it's dismal effects on society. But we cannot downplay the blessings that it provides as well. As a vain exercise, I think about what it would be like if Paul would have had Skype to talk with Peter and Apollos. What if Athanasius had blogged during his exiles and all the people of the world could have read what he had written? What if the Cappadocian Fathers had had Facebook? I know, I know. Feel free to mock this vain exercise. God did not ordain it to be, so perhaps I should not think this, but it is still fun.

We cannot deny that there are many blessings to technology. And I thank God that I was able to utilize that which He has given to bring joy to my life.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kaytlyn Grace Fleming

My niece!

I am blessed to be the uncle of a healthy 7lbs 6oz, 20 1/4" beautiful little girl named Kaytlyn Grace. She brings me so much joy and I haven't got to hold her yet. However, I have gotten to see her. When she was only about 6 hours old, my niece and I "skyped" each other. She's wonderful. I love you Kaytlyn!

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. - Psalm 127:3

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ignatius to Polycarp

I picked up my copy of the Apostolic Fathers today. I was intending to glance through the Didache in order to do a little early church teaching with the Thursday evening Bible class. Instead, I wound up reading the letter from Ignatius of Antioch to Polycarp of Smyrna.

With all the talk of "relevance" today in the church, they should take a page from Ignatius' letters and realize that Christ and His Word is relevant simply if it is kept unadulterated and taught purely.

You can tell by the way Ignatius exhorts Polycarp to be a good pastor, that there is clear concern for God's people founded solely on the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And those exhortations bring joy to the heart because in those exhortations he continually points us back to grace. For example, Ignatius exhorts Polycarp,
"Bear with all people, even as the Lord bears with you."

"Please the one whom you serve as soldiers, from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism serve as a shield, faith as a helmet, love as a spear, endurance as armor."
It's quite remarkable what Ignatius does with His exhortations. I realize this is a letter and not a sermon, but would that I could exhort with as much grace as Ignatius did, better yet, with as much as our Lord Christ did. Thorough the grace of Jesus Christ, indeed, we can rejoice at Godly living that He has worked in us and through us.

What a remarkable letter! And I pray that one day as I finish my studies another pastor would say to me as Ignatius said to Polycarp,
"For by grace I trust that you are ready for a good work in the service of God."
+Kyrie Eleison+

Monday, June 7, 2010

101.1 - Woodward, OK

Tonight I listened to K101 out of Woodward, OK. Country music at its best.

It's been a while since I've listened to the station. I had forgotten that I could - online. It's my favorite radio station. It plays the mainstream stuff, but it also plays a lot of music that isn't mainstream.

It was probably the most relaxing evening I've had in a while. I read about the Athenian's slow decline in naval power while listening to Easton Corbin belt out Roll With It. Fun. Just Fun.

Alright, good night.

Psalm 3:5
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why are you clapping?

When I am sitting in church, there are a few things that make me want to slam my forehead into the pews in front of me. But recently, there is nothing that makes me want to do this more so than clapping during church?

The Divine Service (and indeed any service) is one where we first of all receive what God gives us in His Word and Sacraments. As of second import we respond to what we are given in calling upon the name of God, prayer, praise, and giving thanks. The entire service is a back and forth flow between God giving and us receiving and responding.

So, into which part of the service does clapping fit? Why are you clapping? The people who clap likely have not even considered this. Are you clapping in response to what God has done for you?

Or... are you clapping for the group of kids who just finished singing a song about how they love Jesus? Are you clapping for the trumpeter who has just played the descant to "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" in the grandest fashion? Are you clapping for the choir who has just sung a grand piece at a most appropriate time of the year?

Why are we clapping for people who are presenting their gifts and talents in works of service to the church? Why have we turned our attention off of our Lord during the service and put it on men? Why do we so often cheer and applaud the works of men, rather than keep our attention on the greatest work ever done for us by God - the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins?

It astounds me.

I guess the sinful flesh will have its way with us and rebel against God, especially during the time when God is trying to give us His most precious gifts.

Holy Spirit work in us to focus our attention on the true center of God's Divine Service, Jesus Christ.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Lords of the Sea

I am reading a fantastic book. It is called Lords of the Sea written by John R. Hale. It chronicles the correlation between the rise of democracy in Athens and the ascent of the Athenians to "Lords of the Sea."

I once took a class at the University of Oklahoma called Freedom in Greece by the great professor Dr. J. Rufus Fears. In that class, though we covered many aspects of Grecian power, we studied extensively the Athenians and the Spartans (bitter enemies of one another). They had an intense desire for liberty that no man would take from them. This was my introduction to Ancient Greece and her exploits.

I also took two other classes there, The Ancient Art of War and The History of Sparta. Both of these classes were taught by Dr. Alfred S. Bradford. He was a kind-hearted professor who also happens to have served in Vietnam. In these classes I was able to dive more intensely into the warfare culture that had developed in ancient Greece, especially in Sparta.

Now with this book, I am getting the strictly Athenian side of the history of the Greek world. It is interesting to see the difference in perspective when reading this book as compared with The Spartans. It is clearly more sympathetic to the Athenians, though it does do a fair job at not demonizing the Spartans.

The book covers a timeline from about 480 BC until c. 320 BC a period of roughly 160 years. That is less time than the U.S. of A. has been around. It is incredible to see the dynamics of government go from oligarchy, to democracy, to oligarchy, to tyranny, to oligarchy, to democracy, and never remain stable AND how it ultimately resided upon the success of their maritime activities. Simply incredible. As I near the end of the book, I begin to realize how quickly these changes took place within Athens, and how comparable some of the Athenian situations are to the current government of the United States.

Immigration, taxation, disappointing government officials, allocation of state funds - all of these things which were problems and instigators of change in Athens are current problems in America. Sure we are much larger than Greece, but the problems remain. Perhaps it is only a indicator that changes are coming, but they will only come more slowly.

Athens was the superpower of the Ancient World. It was the most technologically advanced civilization. It was the leader among its allies, and its allies aided the greater Athenian seafaring forces in battle. Yet, how quickly the tides could turn. Athens quickly went from superpower to subservient city-state. What lessons can we learn from them? I think that may be still up for debate. But, I am afraid that the U.S. is on a collision course with history, and if we don't yield and learn from that great passing ship, we might end up like the Athenians and find that we have become but a small vessel drifting helplessly against the out going tide of time.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The "Gospel" According to Starbucks

I am reading "The Gospel According to Starbucks".

It is not a good book.

It is well intentioned, but it is way off track. It makes unreliable claims about the personality of Jesus and has a blatantly negative view of all things historical in worship. Okay, maybe not blatantly, but you can still see that the author of the book clearly thinks that if Christians are to be REAL Christians, they must be exciting.

I'm about half done. I'll render a more thorough review after I am done with it.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Month of 30+ Posts

Friends and all, I am going to attempt something I have yet to do - post on my blog each day for an entire month. Since I made a post yesterday, I have decided to post every day for the course of June.

My reasons for doing this?

1) Discipline. This in part will be an exercise in discipline. Am I disciplined enough, committed enough, to blog every day for the month of June. We shall see...

2) Forced expansion of theological horizons. I have been lax in disciplined reading this year. I have read large pieces of books here and there, but I intend for the month of June to do much more. Thus some of those thoughts from reading will be the subject of my blog posts.

3) Things are wrapping up on vicarage. A little more free time should allow for me to do this.

So, if you read my blog, that is fantastic. If not, well, no "if not", because you aren't reading this anyway.

Blessings and lets see where my endeavors take us.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gustavus Adolphus

For the next two weeks Angelyn and her family will be in Scandinavia traveling through Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. That got me thinking about Gustavus Adolphus, a great hero of the Thirty Years' War.

Why? First, because with a name like Gustavus Adolphus, you simply must be awesome. Second, as a the King of Sweden he was a superb general (often credited with furthering military strategy), an excellent governing authority (bringing order and stability to the economic well being of Sweden), and a devout Christian. Both his parents were Reformed of the Calvinistic strain, yet he was highly influenced by Lutheranism.

Angelyn has been across the Atlantic more than a few times. She mentioned to me that in some places the residents tended to memorialize certain characters, ranging from the mythical to the historical. I am hoping that Gustavus Adolphus is one of these characters that the people of Sweden have chosen to rally around.

You see, it was Gustavus Adolphus who gave great hope to the Lutheran/Protestant side during the Thirty Years' War. Though the Lutheran side was eventually gravely defeated and great concessions were made on their part, for a time due to Gustavus Adolphus' leadership and skills as a general they were inspired to make headway during that war. It has been said that as a leader he was truly devout and tried to lead a truly Christian army, if that could indeed be done.

As it is, I am hoping that Angelyn can find something "Gustavus Adolphus" to bring back for me. That would be fantastic.

+Kyrie Eleison+