Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Dull of Hearing Church

As Thursday turned into Friday last week, I was in the Palanca Chapel of the Peoria Cursillo Center for an hour of prayer and meditation for the men's Cursillo weekend that had started that evening. That is something I've tried to do every possible Cursillo weekend since I began my Fourth Day in September 1994.

Drawing upon my experience from January, when I found myself reading out loud (I was by myself that time) the entire book of Ephesians, I decided this time to focus the hour on reading through the book of Hebrews. So I brought my Ignatius Bible, which uses the superior RSV translation and read — silently, this time, as I had company.

The edition I have breaks each book into pericopes, that is passages that are brought together that form a single thought or idea or "story." And being caught up (perhaps too much so?) in the internal debates about the teaching of the church body in which I am a Pastor, this pericope struck me (emphasis added):
About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God's word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Task Force Dissenters Speak Out

Courtesy Lutheran Forum, the minority on the ELCA Task Force for Studies on Sexuality is identified and speaks further on their dissent from the Task Force's proposals.

Statement by Three Dissenting Members of the ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality

We begin with a word of thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to serve on the ELCA Task Force for Human Sexuality. Even though the three of us often disagreed with the other 27 members and advisors of the task force on traditional biblical interpretation and theological principles, we were treated as the minority voice with great kindness, dignity and respect. Because we firmly believe the current polices of the ELCA, when enforced, are consistent with the biblical witness, Christian moral tradition, and the view of the vast majority of Christians in the world, we refused to sign off on both the social statement and the recommendations and are submitting our dissent. Changing current policies would sever the ELCA from the ecumenical church and the Christian consensus down through the ages. These policies include:
  1. People who are homosexual in their orientation must live a celibate lifestyle in order to serve on the roster of the ELCA. (Visions and Expectations and Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline)

  2. The 1993 Statement of the ELCA Conference of Bishops states that “there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship.” However, this statement by ELCA bishops acknowledged that local pastors within their contexts are to “provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”
Of critical importance when considering sexuality is the role of God’s commandments—his Law—in the moral ordering of the Christian life. We are convinced that God’s intention for marriage—life-long covenant of fidelity between a man and a woman—established as the First Institute in Genesis 2 and re-affirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:6-9, serves as the center around which all Christian sexual ethics are defined. That original design, echoed throughout scripture and even depicted as the ideal relationship between Jesus and his bride, the Church (Revelation), has been shattered due to human sin (the Fall; see Genesis 3). Because of sin, humans have turned away from God’s intent for their sexual lives, bringing into the world such behaviors as polygamy, divorce, abuse, adultery, homosexual acts, pornography, etc., that no longer reflect the established pattern and ideal set forth by God.

However, by focusing on trust, freedom, and love of neighbor, the social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, strains forward to see what God might be doing anew within the community of faith, particularly in regards to conduct of persons who are homosexual, rather than building on the foundation depicted in the creation accounts of Genesis. The concept of freedom of the Christian, while helpful in our understanding of salvation by faith alone, cannot be the justification for a lifestyle and behavior contrary to the biblical witness and the moral tradition. From Galatians (5:13) we heard often, “For you were called to freedom.” However, we did not hear often enough the next line, “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the self-indulgence.” By centering on justification by faith, the social statement minimizes the role of the Law in Christian life, contrary to Luther’s exposition of the Christian life in the catechisms, and is at odds with the Lutheran Confessions—Article VI of the Formula of Concord. Justification by faith does not nullify the commands of God; to argue thus is to fall into “antinomianism.”

We contend that the recommendations proposed in Report and Recommendations, which advocate same-gender unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexual persons, have little biblical, historical, or traditional support. The proposed recommendations advocate a radical departure from long-held moral tradition and biblical interpretation, thus distancing us further from the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Churches, evangelical churches and most of the churches in the Protestant mainstream. We believe this is a very serious step that should not be taken by a sharply divided church, particularly without passage by a 2/3rd vote at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Because of these theological and pragmatic concerns and because the proposed recommendation threatens to fragment the ELCA as a church by allowing synods and individual congregations to determine their own practice, we felt compelled to draft Dissenting Position #1 (found in the Appendix). Recommending broad change in the present policies is extremely unwise and unfaithful. There may come a day in which a new consensus in the Church might mandate a change in teaching and practice, as was seen with slavery and Apartheid. Or, over time, this church might find that its resolve grows even stronger to maintain its foundational core beliefs, such as with the authority of scripture (II Timothy 3:16), justification by faith alone (Romans 3:28), and the primacy of Christ (Acts 4:12). Lack of consensus does not mandate change. In fact, it argues for the opposite: maintaining current policies.

Because longstanding biblical interpretation and teachings of the apostolic faith, all of which are shared with ecumenical church partners and partner churches of the Lutheran World Federation, argue against changing the current ELCA policies, we recommend the following to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
  1. Affirm and uphold the current policies of the ELCA, including both rostering and discipline, as stated in Vision and Expectations and Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.

  2. Affirm the pastoral guidance of the 1993 Statement of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, that “there is basis neither in Scripture nor tradition for the establishment of an official ceremony by this church for the blessing of a homosexual relationship.” However, pastors within their local contexts are to “provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister.”
The ELCA is a church deeply divided on the issue of human sexuality. The recommendations of the majority of the task force represent a radical change that not only is contrary to Scripture and the apostolic faith, but is one that will splinter our congregations, alienate many of our members, further divide the unity of this church and, we believe, grieve the heart of God. We pray this tragedy will not occur.

Submitted in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The Rev. Dr. Scott Suskovic; The Rev. Corinne Johnson; The Rev. Carol S. Hendrix

Pastor Zip would amend this (otherwise fine) statement in 2 ways.

First, replace the word "celibate" with "chaste." The heart of my argument in "The Big Lie: ELCA Celibacy Requirement," noting that Vision and Expectations never calls for celibacy, but rather says:
Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.
That last sentence is about chastity, not celibacy. (See what I wrote here, too.) Likewise, the Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline speak of "chastity," not "celibacy." Again, see Pr. Richard Johnson's July 2004 Forum Letter article, "Controlling Chastity."

Also, I'm still waiting for the ELCA's sexuality discussions to grapple with Jonathan Mills' thesis in Love, Covenant & Meaning, "that the presence of 'homosexual' desires in a man does not make him incapable of marrying and raising a family." While I recommend the book itself, do take a look at Gilbert Meilaender's First Things review, "Gays Marrying," from May 1998 (!) and the Mills-Meilaender dialogue in October (1998) Letters of First Things (under the headline "Appetite and Eros") for a good description.

Second, I would want to clarify that to "provide pastoral care for all to whom they minister" does not, at least if pastoral care is to be faithfully Christian, permit a Pastor to publicly "bless" a homosexual union -- regardless of how many ELCA Bishops and Pastors have twisted the Conference of Bishop's 1993 Statement to insist that it means the opposite of what it meant in 1993.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cars of Distinction

This was my first car, a 1978 Renault 5 GTL DeLuxe (aka a LeCar) that I bought new for $4700 in the summer of 1979. I loved that car until some unlicensed kid turned in front of me at an Inglewood intersection in May 1986 and, unable to stop quickly enough, that ended my R5's life.

I never had any serious problems with this car, but the one challenge to owning it was finding someone to service it. I'd purchased it from the Canoga Park Renault dealer largely because the salesman bragged about the great mechanic they'd just hired away from Holiday Motors in Sherman Oaks (where I'd first test driven an R5 a few months earlier). Alas, the mechanic was unreliable about actually showing up. This was also about the time Renault bought American Motors, so the Renault franchise switched to the AMC-Jeep dealership next-door. But when it came to servicing the Renault they didn't inspire much confidence and soon I was taking her to another Renault dealer, Santa Monica Import Motors (which also handled Peugeot and Lotus and other exotic cars) on Ocean Boulevard, across from the Santa Monica Pier. They kept me and my R5 happy, but going to Santa Monica for service wasn't very convenient for a West Valley resident.

So when I got a card from a new independent shop right in Canoga Park that specialized in French and English cars I checked the place out. Cars of Distinction they called themselves. The proprietor was an Englishman by the name of Stephen Wynne and amidst the Jaguars, Rovers, Peugeots, and the occasional Citroen or Rolls-Royce there were also plenty of Renaults. And the business seemed to thrive, growing larger over the years he took care of my R5.

The third major expansion of Cars of Distinction was the separation of the DeLorean DMC-12 servicing -- which they'd started, in part because DeLorean used the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo engine, after DeLorean collapsed-- into its own unit called DeLorean One. It wasn't too long afterwards that my R5 was killed and I had no more contact with Stephen Wynne, Cars of Distinction, or DeLorean One.

Until this week when PBS' MotorWeek featured "The Return of the DeLorean." Hearing Stephen Wynne's name mentioned in the report caught my ear. Then I heard a old familiar voice come out of my TV.
The Return Of The DeLorean
Steven Chupnick

Huey Lewis sang about it, Doc Brown cooked it up on the silver screen, and Marty McFly blazed in and out of decades with it. I'm talking about the DeLorean. The stainless steel car that is better known in movies than on the streets. Well this week, Steven Chupnick heads Over The Edge to tell us the story of this 1980's flash in the pan and its amazing return. So hold on to your Calvin Kleins for what's old is shiny and new again. – John Davis

It was one of the cars that defined the 1980's: the image of it sticks in your head, brimming with gadgets, gizmos and flux capacitors...

The DeLorean was the car that took Marty McFly "Back to the Future." Now, the past is the future.

But it was way before the movie franchise when John DeLorean began the DeLorean Motor Company, better known as DMC. The man behind Pontiac's GTO series had a much bigger vision after leaving General Motors.

In the 1970's, he developed the prototype which would then become one of the world's most famous vehicles. It even turned up right here on MotorWeek back in 1982.

John DeLorean built his facilities in Northern Ireland and his dream was under way. But just as the dream of designing his own car was beginning, it came crashing down hard. Not long into the start of production, the British Government stopped funding the car. John ran out of money, allegations of drug deals entered the picture, and his life quickly spiraled downward. It was about that same time Stephen Wynne crossed the pond to the states. A trade mechanic, whose love of the DeLorean has now grown into his career.

STEPHEN WYNNE, PRESIDENT & CEO, DELOREAN MOTOR COMPANY: We had a few customers that had DeLoreans and they couldn't get satisfactory service. And the dealers were all kind of iffy because they were going out of business. We started working on them and it seemed easy to work on them.

The work was easy because there was still a ton of product. As the doors on the Ireland factory closed in 1983, the workers there continued to press out thousands more parts. So was it really the end of the dream? About ten years later, Stephen bought the company name, as well as all the remaining DMC parts, moved to their facility in Houston, Texas, and in 2009, he's bringing the DeLorean back to the road.

WYNNE: For us to have this warehouse of the NOS inventory is just priceless for what we're doing today to have this kind of in-depth quality and quantity of parts.

The NOS inventory, or new old stock, is what is helping Stephen and his right hand man, James Espey reinvent the brand.

JAMES ESPEY, VICE PRESIDENT, DELOREAN MOTOR COMPANY: I don't think Stephen and I are creating the future as much as we're keeping the past alive.

And it's John's original vision that keeps them going as well.

ESPEY: There's not a day that goes by that the thought of John doesn't cross my mind. He wanted to create a car that was something ethical, and by sheer virtue of the fact that so many of the cars are still around here 25 years later, it's a pretty good testament to the longevity of the car.

The new DMC facility is 40 thousand square feet, 75 percent of it is warehouse. That's where Leif Montin comes into play.

The parts and inventory supervisor has been working for the DeLorean Motor Company since 1979, back in Ireland and then opening up the original parts store in Irvine, California.

The memories he has of John and the old crew are endless, but his best is still being around these cars.

LEIF MONTIN, PARTS/INVENTORY SUPERVISOR, DELOREAN MOTOR COMPANY: It was always my interest to make sure that the people that bought this car should have an opportunity to keep it running. So when DeLorean folded and Consolidated International bought the assets, so to say, they bought me too.

The other side of the building is the workshop for restoring and repairing the DeLorean. Don't think these DeLoreans are like the older versions. They're putting all kinds of new toys in there, including a touch screen fold-out panel, rear-view camera and a built-in navigation system. Is Stephen Wynne really Doc Brown?

WYNNE: Doc Brown did all the mad scientist stuff; I'd rather be the one who keeps it a little bit more on the ground.

So no need to worry about getting these things up to 88 miles-an-hour, cause... "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads..."
Good luck, Stephen, with your continuing enterprise. And good fortune with the "new" DeLorean.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening

Having recently been given a copy of the old booklet published by the Augustana Book Concern by a brother pastor from the Society of the Holy Trinity (thank you, again, Phil), yesterday I read Bo Giertz' Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening. I had read it before, having downloaded its text from the LCMS website several years ago, but holding the actual booklet (autographed by Bishop Giertz!) in my hands makes for a more satisfying reading experience.

The booklet itself is actually only section of Giertz' first pastoral letter (herdabrev) written soon after his 1949 election as Bishop of Gothenburg. Clifford Ansgar Nelson's translator's introduction tells us,
It is an ancient and treasured custom in the Church of Sweden that when a new bishop is elected in any diocese of the country, he writes a pastoral letter intended in the first place for the ministers of the diocese. This "Herdabrev" is usually a very personal word of encouragement and pastoral counseling which serves to introduce the new bishop to his pastors and people. Sometimes the letter is brief and can be contained in a few printed pages but frequently the letter is long enough so that it becomes a book of considerable size.
Pastor Nelson concludes his introduction with a word that, at least from an American Lutheran perspective, is as amazing today in 2009 as when he wrote it 60 years ago:
It deals with a religious question that is perennial in the church. And it is because the bishop reveals such a profound appreciation of the values of religious awakening and evangelical piety on the one hand, and of the time-honored values of liturgical worship on the other, that this section has been lifted out for translation. We in the American churches will do well to ponder the problem that the bishop discusses in these pages. It is toward an understanding both of liturgy and spiritual awakening that this document is herewith published.
Here we see an attitude towards worship unlike what we've experienced in the "worship wars" between "high church" and "low church" proponents. Interestingly, it is an attitude one finds clearly expressed in Giertz' The Hammer of God and one I experienced when with the Society of St. Birgitta in Vadstena.

Perhaps the following will whet your appetite for Bishop Giertz' important message to the priests of the Diocese of Gothenburg in 1949 and to Christians today:
It is important for us that both awakening and liturgy be given their proper and pristine Christian place in the life of the congregation. Awakening is always needed, not only because the church must always be a missionary church and reach out after those that are on the outside, but also because there is always the need for awakening even among the most faithful members of the church. The church has exactly as many sinners as she has members. The old Adam in each one of us is prone to fall asleep, to make the Christian life a dead routine, to use liturgical form to cloak his self-complacency and impenitence. It is not difficult to fashion a form of religion that suits the ego and allows the old Adam within to become sovereign again. One may go regularly to church and Holy Communion. One may cherish beautiful church music and lovely sanctuaries. One may be honestly convinced that one possesses the correct doctrine and loves the pure preaching of the Word. And at the same time one may be thoroughly obsessed by self-love, complacent with one's self, satisfied with one's own pious accomplishments and totally indifferent to the troubles and burdens of one's fellow men, which are so apparent before one's very eyes. The Holy Spirit always needs to awaken slumbering souls, stir up the dust, push the old Adam against the wall, and blow a new breath of life into the dead bones. Awakening is never superfluous, as long as we are in the flesh.

Liturgy is just as needful. There can be no normal church life without liturgy. Sacraments need form, the order of worship must have some definite pattern. It is possible to live for a short time on improvisations and on forms that are constantly changing and being made over. One may use only free prayers and yet create a new ritual for every worship situation. But the possibilities at soon exhausted. One will have to repeat, and with that the making of rituals is in full swing. I circles where people seek to live without any forms new forms are nevertheless constantly take shape. Favorite songs are used again and again with monotonous regularity, certain prayer expressions are constantly repeated, traditions take form and traditional yearly ceremonies are served. But it would not be wrong to say that the new forms that grow up in this way are usually less attractive and more profane than the ancient liturgy. They contain less of God's Word, they pray and speak without Scriptural direction, they are not so much concerned about expressing the whole content of Scripture, but are satisfied with one thing or another that seems to be especially attractive or popular. The new liturgy that grows in this manner is poorer, less Biblical, and less nourishing to the soul than the discarded ancient order.
Go ahead, read it all here or download it here as a pdf document.

Links updated 21 July 2011

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Here I am showing off the cake (chocolate) that Shirley made during Sunday's birthday party at Zion.

And this courtesy the "ECULAUGH" meeting on Ecunet:

From the inside of a Birthday card where the outside says:

"Inside this card is a special message from God"

"See you soon!"

Hey, I am starting my sixth decade...

The Still-Clueless Priest

As we begin the day we celebrate the heavenly birthday of St. Patrick, who used the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, we return to the saga of the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding courtesy of the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, who is the subject of this article posted to the paper's web site Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Redding's saga first made Pastor Zip's Blog in July 2007, after the Seattle Times picked up the curious story in the newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia featuring a priest who claimed to be both Christian and Muslim. Olympia's Bishop didn't seem to think there was a problem. But then it turned out that Redding, while serving in Olympia, is canonically resident in the Diocese of Rhode Island and that Bishop recognized otherwise and quickly suspended her from any priestly activities for a year of "Pastoral Direction," a year that was extended due to the Lambeth Conference. Last October Bishop Wolf inhibited Dr. Redding, giving her a deadline of this month to show why she ought not be defrocked.

Writes the Journal's Richard C. Dujardin,
But these days, as she approaches the 25th anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest on March 25, Redding, who lives in Seattle, faces controversy of a different sort. She is on the verge of being defrocked by Rhode Island Episcopal Bishop Geralyn Wolf because of her insistence that she can be a Muslim and Christian at the same time.

Bishop Wolf, who is Redding's canonical superior, has told Redding that her conversion to Islam through her recitation of Shahada, the basic Islamic creed, constitutes an abandonment of the Christian faith and that unless she recants by March 30, she will no longer be a priest.

The warning, formally issued by Bishop Wolf with the backing of the diocesan standing committee last September, has been among the communications that began in September 2007, soon after Bishop Wolf attended a meeting of the House of Bishops and heard stories about a priest claiming to be both Muslim and Christian.

Bishop Wolf recalls getting up at that meeting and saying such a stand was misguided because the fundamental teachings were incompatible. Only after returning to Rhode Island, she says, did she discover that Redding, a former parishioner at St. Stephen's Church in Providence, had been ordained by her predecessor, Bishop George N. Hunt. Because Redding never shifted her canonical residence, Bishop Wolf is her superior.

"I had her come in because I didn't want to rely on a newspaper story," the bishop recounted. "I said to her, 'This is a spiritual challenge for you to decide where you are in terms of your understanding of the Christian faith, especially Christ's passion, and resurrection and incarnation. I want you to take some time to seek spiritual direction.' "...

When the bishop and priest met again last September, Redding repeated her view that she saw no conflict between embracing Islam and following Jesus. It was then that Bishop Wolf said she would begin proceedings to have her deposed.

In Bishop Wolf's view, the moment that Redding recited the words of the Shahada, the creed that says "there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger," she gave her allegiance to Islam and abandoned the Christian faith.

"As I understand it, Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Christ. They don't believe in the death of Christ or that he is the Son of God, which are cornerstones of the Christian faith. Yes, there are people in every religion who try to stretch the basic tenets of a belief, but if you choose to be a priest within the Episcopal Church you are speaking for the church and its teachings. It demands a commitment."

Reached at her home in Seattle, Redding said Thursday that unless something causes her to radically change her convictions in the next few weeks, she will "continue to be faithful to the call and invitation that God has given to me."

She says that while she had been familiar with some of the teachings of Islam, she began looking at them more seriously after inviting Muslims to speak at the cathedral in the aftermath of 9/11.

But it was a personal crisis, one she does not wish to share, that led her, she says, to a realization that "I needed to totally surrender myself to God. Surrender to God is what Islam is about."...

"It never occurred to me I was leaving Christianity any more than the early disciples of Jesus would have felt they were leaving Judaism by becoming his followers," she said. "It was only after the fact that I recognized it could be very confusing to many people."

And how does Redding place herself between two faiths, one which holds that Jesus is the Son of God and another that regards Jesus as a prophet and forerunner to Muhammad but not God's Son?

Redding, who'd like to be a bridge between the two faiths, insists that the two religions are closer than many think. The Koran, like the New Testament, teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. She says she finds that Muslims are more firm in that belief than many Christians she knows, who seem not to be sure.

She says she continues to believe that Jesus is divine but goes on to explain that she believes there is an element of the divine in all of us. "We are all children of God."

"When Christians say that Jesus is the only-begotten son of God, we are putting into words an understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus and the unique intimate relationship we have with him and his mission," she says. "But I don't think that the 'only begotten Son' language is to be taken literally."

In a departure from traditional Islamic teaching, Redding holds that Jesus was crucified and was resurrected. She argues that the Koran doesn't explicitly deny that Jesus was crucified but only that the Jews did not crucify him.

However, Imam Abdul Hameed of the Islamic Center of Rhode Island disputes her reading. The Koran, he says, makes clear that Jesus was not crucified or killed, but was "lifted up" to God.

"I think she is a little confused. There is no possibility for one to be both a Muslim and a Christian," Hameed said. "If she doesn't believe that [Jesus] is the son of God, she is not Christian. And she can't be a Muslim if she believes Jesus died on a cross."

Redding says she prefers to stay away from some of the constructs theologians have built to help decide "who is in and who is out, who is going to heaven and who is not."

"The Trinity is a wonderful way of thinking about God. … But will I reduce God to a formula? No.

"To those who say you have to believe in the formula, I say, 'No, God cannot be packaged.' "

Even now, facing the possibility of being defrocked, Redding continues to worship at various Episcopal churches and to receive communion. On Fridays, she goes to recite prayers at the Islamic center....

But even Redding believes she is in an uphill battle. She says her situation might be easier if the the U.S. Episcopal Church itself weren't under pressure from conservative prelates in other countries who want the church to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion for ordaining a gay bishop. She notes that many of the church's sharpest critics are Third World prelates who are competing with Muslims every day.

Bishop Greg Rickel, who became leader of the 33,000-member Olympia Diocese after the controversy started, said he agrees with Bishop Wolf that Redding can't be a member of two faiths.

But he adds: "I also want to say I love Ann Holmes Redding. She has taught me a lot and I enjoy her company. As a person of faith here, she gets a lot of support."...
Read it all here. Tip of the biretta to TitusOneNine.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beware the Ides of March!

Yesterday after worship the good people of Zion threw a 50th Birthday Party for their pastor. Fortunately I'm still a 49er (what else should a Californian be) until tomorrow, the Feast of St. Patrick, which is the true 50th anniversary of my natal day. You see black among the colors of the decorations.

Those who know me will be surprised to see me talking on a cel phone. Don't worry, it belongs to someone else -- I remain cel phone free. Don't ask me to do anything with one of those things besides talk on it. Nothing makes me look like an idiot more than handing me a cel phone with the request to call someone. I even had to hand it back to Ruby (its owner) so she could turn it off when the call ended. But this was a doubly unusual phone call for the person on the other end of the ether wishing me "Happy Birthday" was none other than our young Congressman, Aaron Schock. That was Ruby's special gift to me.

Zionites managed to come up with another surprise, too. I'd been asked a couple of Sundays ago by Shirley, who often makes the cakes for special Zion events (like the pastor's birthdays), what my favorite cake was. "Well, if you really want to know, when I was a boy, Mom always made a caramel cake with burnt sugar frosting." Actually, I think I said it wrong, but that's partly because in my Betty Crocker Cookbook it's a Burnt Sugar Cake with caramel icing, but I know that is backwards from the birthday cakes Mom made for me after I discovered the recipe in her Betty Crocker Cookbook. And I told Shirley to make either chocolate or white, because I like either of those and others will, too.

Overhearing that conversation, though, was Glenda, who was co-ordinating things for the party. And between worship and the potluck dinner she hands me this cake dish with a story of how she'd called Mom, tried to get the recipe, finally got one from an on-line mid-1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook, then had fun trying to interpret it for today's kitchens. Blending shortening with butter was something she'd not ever seen in a recipe before. (As the forward to my reprint edition of a West Coast cookbook from the '50s observes, we really do eat quite differently these.) Well, Glenda managed to figure it out and, honestly, the cake is pretty good. Not quite as Mom made it -- but though that's based on 40-year-old memories.

On the other hand, I managed to surprise a few folks, too. "No green at this party" I observed. "That's because you don't like green," came the reply. "Huh? Green's my favorite color!" 16 1/2 years, and we still surprise each other.

49 years, 364 days. I knew it would happen eventually. I just didn't think it'd happen so soon.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reading the Bible in Church

The context isn't that important, but the following snippet from an ALPB Online Forum post by Marie Meyer evokes for me a wonderful image. Mrs. Meyer is reflecting after having just returned from five weeks with her husband working among pastors, seminary students and deaconesses of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church:
In the midst of millions of non-Christians are fellow Lutherans who, against obstacles we could not comprehend, are teaching, baptizing and making disciples. We worshipped in thatched huts that followed the liturgy with which I grew up. No matter what the size of the congregation, everyone brings their Bible to church and follows the lessons. One practice that captured our attention is that the first person, man, woman or child, who finds the announced lesson stands and reads the text. The on-going LCMS discussion about whether the pastor is the only one who ought to read the lessons seemed so trivial as we watched the devotion with which the lessons were read by members of the congregation.
Hmm. Perhaps adopting that practice would not only save Zion the cost of bulletins with the lessons pre-printed, but we could also stop worrying about getting people to sign up as Lector. (We haven't that particular LCMS discussion in decades.)

Reminds me of a story my mother often told about when Pastor Eddie Spirer, the first pastor I actually remember, was Vice-Pastor (now we call them "Interim Pastors") of our church. (I was 4 at the time, and I remember being part of a group of children running down the aisle to excitedly greet Pastor Spirer.) Pastor Spirer wanted worshipers to bring their Bibles with them to church. (Seems Lutherans didn't do that any more than we do today.) So he promised that every person he saw carrying a Bible into worship would get one of his famous jelly rolls (you did notice the sub-title of his biography, no?). One Sunday, Mom managed -- between getting us home from Sunday School and coming back to church -- to bring her Bible. Yup, Eddie noticed! "I don't know her name," Mom remembers his announcement beginning his awarding her of a jelly roll.

Of course, no one would have dreamed to ask her to then read the lessons in the service. It was 1963 and that was the Pastor's job, even in the "liberal" LCA. We didn't start having lay readers (lectors) until the mid-'70s. So I'll just point you to Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth and that's enough for tonight..