Some write poetry...

some write verse, some write badly, I write worse!

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Mark Mattes quote

Quote from The Role of Justification in Contemporary Theology by Mark Mattes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004)

As noted by Moltmann, the point of theology ought not to be to interpret but to change the world…. Perhaps Moltmann is right. To be human is to be inescapably thrust into a social milieu defined in terms of exchanges of power and is thus inevitably political. However, because we inevitably and decisively seek an ultimate sanction for the legitimation of our political decisions, it would be more on the mark to say that all politics, as they are currently engaged, are inherently and inescapably theological. Ultimately an individual or a people will appeal to a “higher power,” however it is named, in order to justify their behavior. All too often such calling upon gods or God to sanction, legitimate, and justify behavior simply violates the First and Second Commandments. … (emphasis original; he gives ‘freedom’ as an example of a higher power people use)

Our current problem is not that the public realm is irreligious but that it is all too superstitious. Much foreign and domestic social policy is structured by contemporary Gnostics who affirm that the self is sacred, or Epicureans who affirm that the good is a result of pleasure within moderation. Social conservatives offer economic agendas that are mythically scripted in terms of a premillennialism, while many social liberals offer economic agendas that are mythically scripted in terms of a postmillennialism. Either way, the deception of the “scientific” nature of both politics and economics inhibits their ability to meta-critique their own worldviews, codified by some ultimate, legitimating sanction….

We must be equally wary of conservatives who idealize the past and liberals who fantasize about the future as a golden age. Our hope is placed in the gospel alone.

Excerpted from pages 103-106; the full argument was more than I cared to retype but I do hope I have not misrepresented Dr. Mattes’ line of thinking. Essentially, his point is that all politics, all economics, is theology. It’s simply a question of which god you serve–which fits perfectly with Luther’s observation in the Large Catechism that “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the whole heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together, faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god. whatever you trust in when times are tough is ultimately your god.”

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A little Middle English religious poetry

I am Jesu, that cum to fight
Withouten sheld and spere;
Elles were thy deth idight,
If my fighting ne were.

Sithen I am comen and have thee brought
A blisful bote of bale,
Unto thin herte, tell me thy thought,
Thy sennes grete and smale.
-The Commonplace Book of John Grimestone, 1372

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Be Still! (Psalm 46)

As challenged by none other than my wife the hymnist…

Be Still All Lands (
Text by Rev. Alex Klages (c) 2014. Based on Psalm 46.

1. Be still, all lands, and know the one true God;
Your raging cease, your endless warring ills.
For though you cheat, you lie, steal, and defraud
Yet God remains; His Word o’ercomes all wills.
Be still all lands! Behold, the time is nigh
When Christ returns from God’s right hand on high.

2. Though violence reigns upon this earth in time,
When time shall end, then all shall be made clear.
Though now the wicked rule and have their prime,
Yet soon their schemes shall end in ruined fear.
Be still all lands! Behold, your strength and shield
Is God alone, to whom all flesh must yield.

3. When all we know is shaken to its core,
When earth gives way, and hills fall to the sea,
When all vain pleasures of earth are no more,
When every work here done exposed will be,
Be still, all lands— for God remains with all
Who in this life, on Christ as Lord did call.

4. For God is He who shatters every spear,
Breaks every bow, each chariot sets aflame;
Baptized in Christ, you never need Him fear,
Though all else fade, He’s called you by His name
Be still, all souls, whose lives in Christ are found
When worlds are shaken, yours is solid ground!

(Admittedly in need of some polish yet, but… first stab at one of these in a while!)

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Kilcrease quote

From “The Self Donation of God” pp 154-5:

"Instead of trusting in the preservation of God the creator, much recent theology shares the false starting point of modern philosophy of basing truth on the autonomous self and its interior consciousness of the truth. This approach is the very definition of original sin. It is an outright rejection of faith in God the creator as the truthful author of language and the world. In light of the fact that the human subject is inherently unstable and fallible as an entity, making this the starting point of our epistemic endeavors is like trying to levitate by pulling on one’s suspenders."

—Ah yes, the old “levitation by suspender-strap”  manoeuvre…

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I forget from time to time I have a tumblr. Was reminded of it again today. Suffice it to say I have several writing projects on the go; working on my NaNoWriMo novel for 2013 (which is the first one I’ve been intrigued in for a while); I am starting work on a couple bigger theological writings; I have promised myself to do some more hymn-writing; and I have been working on songs for an album of sorts… not that I have much by way of talent, but it is somewhat therapeutic for me to write and record songs that few, if any, will ever hear.

After all:

Some write poetry
Some write verse
Some write badly
I write worse!

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Been working on some stuff

Mostly on keeping my sanity. At any rate, I have been working on an album of sorts. The production values are non-existent, but it is fun to write songs and sing them. It is fun to write songs and play them. It’s the sort of recording that only appeals to close friends since I am not untalented enough to be an outsider musician but also not talented enough to bother spending the coin to record properly.

Have also started work on a series of poems with a Manitoba theme. If I get ambitious I may post one or two here at some point.

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On baseball and pastoring

A long time ago, I used to be pretty good at fastball. (For the uninitiated, there are three distinct, yet related sports: hardball, which uses a 7-inch ball, is pitched overhand/sidearm from 60ft 6inches, and has 90ft between bases; fastball, which uses an 11 or 12 inch ball, is pitched windmill underhand from 46 ft and has 60 ft between bases; and slowpitch, which has lobbed underhand pitching from 50 ft with a 13-15” ball.) At any rate, one thing that always amused me is how the difference of point of contact with the ball, even by a fraction of an inch, could make all the difference between a good hit and a foul ball, or between a pop-up and a line-drive. I always feared facing certain pitchers because they were better pitchers than I was a hitter. (For the record, my batting average in my fastball career was about .360, 0 HR. More a contact hitter than a power hitter; if I recall correctly, I might have been the only player on my team without a home run one particular season.)

Being a pastor is kind of like playing fastball. You get in a groove and you just seem to find all the right passages of Scripture to encourage and strengthen those who struggle, people seem to be growing from the sermons preached, things are rolling along well. Like being on a hitting streak, and playing solid defense in the field. (I played 2B and LF.)

And then the devil throws a riser, high and inside, breaks your rhythm. A long-time strong member struggles through a marriage breakdown. A child of a pillar of the church apostasizes. You struggle to find the words, not wanting to be a platitude-spouting blowhard like Job’s counsellors in his time of need, but not wanting to be utterly useless. On occasion you seem to hit the ball OK but you seem to be popping up or hitting easy grounders a lot. Your defense is still pretty solid but you aren’t making the spectacular plays, and even the routine plays can become a challenge.

And then there are the times when you just strike out every time. Try as you might, the words don’t seem to come and you have to go to the archives well one too many times. People leave the church and won’t let you visit and the only reason you hear is, “They won’t come back as long as you are the pastor.”

Yet you just keep on  going. You don’t know what the next at-bat will bring. Sometimes you get a hit, sometimes you strike out. But you keep going. Because you know who has already won the series. You know what the final outcome will be. And in those times you utterly mess up everything, having an 0-4 at the plate and a couple major defensive gaffes in the field—- then you especially rejoice that each day you start over again by contrition and repentance, and, reclaiming the grace given you in Baptism, you go back to work. Preaching the Law and Gospel in right measures, as best you can. Encouraging. Teaching. Visiting. Administering the Sacraments. That’s what I do.

And I remain ever thankful that ultimately all the power, all the authority, and all the effectiveness rests in God and His Word, and not in me.

Just an observation. (If the extended metaphor is a big swing-and-a-miss, I do apologize to you, dear reader!)

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Good Friday

Good Friday

I looked toward you—
    Smelled the acrid odour of vinegar and dripping sores
    Touched the ripped flesh hanging, dangling, between earth and heaven

I looked away—
    Heard the breathless cries, the bitter anguish
    Felt the cold darkness settling on the earth

I looked back—
    Stared hard one last time
    Saw myself through blood-stained glasses

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Good Sasse quote

(is there any other kind?)

"Never is it said of a ‘congregation’ that it is a member of the Body of Christ. The members of the Body are always the believers. Just as according to Luther the sacramental body of Christ is truly and essentially, but not locally or quantitatively, present in, with, and under the consecrated bread and every communicant receives the entire body, so also the church as the Body of Christ is not limited to the qualities of earthly human fellowships. The church is there as the undivided Body of Christ, where a thousand times a thousand and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before the throne of the Lamb. And it is present where two or three are gathered in His name. The church is not the sum total of churches. The individual church is not an arithmetic fraction of the total church. The church is not made up of churches. It consists in churches.”

(Hermann Sasse, “The Rights and Limitations of the Congregation”, in  Letters To Lutheran Pastors, Volume One, St Louis: CPH, 2013, p. 190)