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…
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.
Some write poetry
Some write verse
Some write badly
I write worse!
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.
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!)
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
(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)
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a fifteenth century map of England, Wales and Scotland. Confusingly, Scotland is at the bottom. Can you spot the cathedral city of St Andrews? And look, there’s Canterbury at the top. Can you see Ely, surrounded by water? What a beautiful book.
Image source: British Library MS Harley 1808. Image declared as public domain on the British Library website.
“In Which Ely is Entirely Surrounded by Water.”
This map makes me deliriously happy. I have no idea why.
A busy, indeed somewhat frantic time for us who are clergy as we prepare for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter itself; some add onto that various Holy Week services (I’ve been using the daily lectionaries for Holy Week as I visit the home-bound members of the parish) and, on the whole, one does get a feeling, to a small extent, how frantic the week must have felt for our Lord. From the crowds of anticipation on Palm Sunday to the crowds calling for His crucifixion on Friday, there was rarely a dull moment that week, to be sure.
Yet, having said that, knowing that the Easter message of resurrection and eternal life is just around the corner makes it a real pleasure. We do believe, teach, confess the Creed, after all, and to know that this Jesus Christ, Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, died to take away my sins and rose to guarantee eternal life is one of the most comforting things to know in this world of sin and sickness and death.
Jesus dies that I might live. Jesus lives that I might live forever. This is most certainly true.
Not reading the endless information overload that Twitter can become at times has helped clear my head a little. I think I might yet come back to Twitter after Easter. For now, though, it’s nice to be away. Read some Sasse, prepare sermons for Holy Week, record some songs. It feels good to have my head clearing from the noise.