Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Luther Reed in The Lutheran Liturgy writes that the feast of St. Michael and All Angels commemorates the dedication, on a 29th of September sometime in the 5th century, of a small basilica on the Via Salaria, near Rome, the first church in Italy dedicated in honor of the Archangel Michael. In England Michaelmas is the traditional beginning of the Fall terms of courts and universities.

O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant, that as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succor and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(The Book of Common Prayer [1662] of the Church of England)

Deus qui miro ordine angelorum ministeria hominumque dispensas: concede propitius vt a quibus tibi ministrantibus in caelo semper assistitur: ab his in terra vita nostra muniatur. Per dominum.
                Gregorian

Monday, September 13, 2010

Eighteen Years!

This is a slightly edited re-post of a previous blog entry. A blessed St. John Chrysostom's Day to you all. Zip+

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O Lord God, dear Father in heaven, I am indeed unworthy of the office and ministry in which I am to make known thy glory and to nurture and to serve this congregation.

But since thou hast appointed me to be a pastor and teacher, and the people are in need of the teaching and the instruction, O be thou my helper and let thy holy angels attend me.

Then if thou art pleased to accomplish anything through me, to thy glory and not to mine or to the praise of men, grant me, out of thy pure grace and mercy, a right understanding of thy Word and that I may also diligently perform it.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, thou shepherd and bishop of our souls, send thy Holy Spirit that he may work with me, yea, that he may work in me to will and to do through thy divine strength according to thy good pleasure. Amen!
That is Luther's Sacristy Prayer, and I pray it every Sunday as I vest for the Eucharist. I'll sometimes think then that it would be good to post it here and it is particularly fitting to do so today (thank you, Father Weedon, for the idea), for it was 18 years ago today that the Rev. J. Roger Anderson , Bishop of what was then called the Southern California (West) Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America addressed me as we stood in the Chancel of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (now called Faith Lutheran Church), Canoga Park, California, about 15 feet from where I had been baptized 33 years (less one week) earlier:
According to apostolic usage you are now to be set apart to the office of Word and Sacrament in the one holy catholic Church by the laying on of hands and by prayer.
Bishop Anderson was joined in the addresses that followed by the pastor loci and my pastor, the Rev. C. David Olson (of blessed memory, who preached that afternoon), the Rev. Brian Eklund (pastor then at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, who had supervised my seminary "Cross Cultural Experience"), and the Rev. Jeffrey Frohner (a friend and seminary classmate who had just begun serving his first call at Trinity Lutheran Church, Santa Barbara). With them standing around me, the Bishop then examined me:
Before almighty God, to whom you must give account, and in the presence of this congregation, I ask: Will you assume this office, believing that the Church's call is God's call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

The Church in which you are to be ordained confeses that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and are the norm of its faith and life. We accept, teach, and confess the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. We also acknowledge the Lutheran Confessions as true witnesses and faithful expositions of the Holy Scriptures. Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and these creeds and confessions?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Will you be diligent in your study of the Holy Scriptures and in your use of the means of grace? Will you pray for God's people, nourish them with the Word and Holy Sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and holy living?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God's love may be know by all that you do?

I will, and I ask God to help me.

Almighty God, who has given you the will to do these things, graciously give you the strength and compassion to perform them.
After the Prayer of the Church and Come, Holy Ghost, they (though Brian and Jeffrey aren't really visible from this angle) were joined in the laying on of hands by the Rev. John Stump (Pastor Olson's predecessor and my pastor at Resurrection during most of my college years) and the 2 nearest neighboring ELCA pastors, the Rev. John Lundeen (then of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Woodland Hills, and one of the Augustana Synod's Lundeen clan) and the Rev. Bryan Woken (then and now at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Canoga Park (West Hills). And thus they committed the Office of the Holy Ministry to me. Every time I attend an ordination, or simply take a few moments during devotions to review those promises -- many of us who have been in the Society of the Holy Trinity for a longer time have a card with them imprinted on the obverse of a holy card of Rublev's icon of the Old Testament Trinity -- I am struck once again by what I have been called to. How awsome! And how inadequate I am to bear that office.

Being reminded of that is a good thing. There is another similar Sacristy Prayer of Luther's that I don't use, but it always makes me smile, then ponder:
Lord God, thou hast appointed me a bishop and pastor in thy church. Thou seest how unfit I am to undertake this great and difficult office, and were it not for thy help, I would long since have ruined it all. Therefore I cry unto thee; I will assuredly apply my mouth and my heart to thy service. I desire to teach the people and I myself would learn ever more and diligently meditate thy Word. Use thou me as thine instrument, only do not forsake me, for if I am left alone I shall easily bring it all to destruction. Amen.
What an exciting day it was 18 years ago. And in all I've done since, I've not (yet) ruined it all. What a gracious Lord God we have!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Golden State: 160 Years

September 9, 1850 -- California is admitted to the Union.


Go ahead, let's sing together ---
California, here I come
    right back where I started from.
Where Bowers of flowers
    bloom in the spring.
Each morning at dawning,
    birdies sing an' everything.
A sunkist miss said, "Don't be late"
    that's why I can hardly wait.
Open up that Golden Gate,
    California here I come.
by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Meyer
and (at least he's often credited) Al Jolson



Gil Imber at the Mighty Miditzer Presents...
Turn of the Century, California Here I Come.
Performed on the
Mighty Miditzer Style 216 Virtual Theatre Pipe Organ.

Doesn't that sound great? Or how about this transcription by Fats Waller?



Or this record from the California Ramblers in 1924?



(Yeah, I'm a little homesick...)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Don't Burn the Qur’ān; Read It!

Sometimes Christian pastors are really stupid. I can get away with saying that because, as of next week, I'll have been one for 18 years. And I've done some (okay, a lot of "some") stupid things as a pastor.

But nothing as monumentally stupid as Pastor Terry Jones' dubbing of September 11, 2010, as "International Burn a Koran Day." Granted, as pastor at a pretty small church myself, there's a bit of envy that he's brought world-wide notoriety to his tiny Dove World Outreach Center (where do people come up with such names for their churches?). But this is not what the Lord Jesus has in mind when he teaches his disciples that the world will hate them.

For an better plan, Martin Luther is actually quite relevant. You see, one of the reasons the Reformation had staying power in the 16th century was that Christian Europe was in the midst of a grand struggle with the Muslim Ottoman Turks. Under Suleiman the Magnificent, the Turks captured Belgrade in 1520. Then it was the defeat of the troops of King Louis II of Hungary (who was killed) at the Battle of Mahács August 29, 1526 -- which terrorized Christian Europe even more than September 11, 2001, terrorizes Americans. Suleiman would lay siege to Vienna in 1529 and attempt it again in 1532. While those campaigns failed, the Turks controlled much of eastern Europe, finally occupying Buda (the western part of modern Budapest), Hungary, in 1541. Most of Hungary would be under Ottoman dominion for the next 150 years; the Balkans into the 19th and 20th centuries.

It's this context that explains Luther's regular references to the Turks even from the very beginning of the Reformation. It turns out that Luther mainly knew about the Qur’ān from Italian sources. He finally read a poor Latin translation at the beginning of Lent 1542, which led to his translation into German and the publication of an early-14th century (or earlier) document as Refutation of the Alcoran by Brother Richard.

In 1542 Theodore Bibliander of Zurich produced the first scholarly Latin translation of the Qur’ān, but he couldn't get it published (Basel authorities censored it and jailed the either Bibliander or his printer -- historical footnotes in Luther's Works conflict here) until Luther intervened.

The Qur’ān was published, with a preface by Luther and other notes by Melanchthon. Far from burning the Qur’ān so that it would be destroyed, Luther wanted Christians to read it so that they would know what taught and compare and contrast that with the Holy Bible. As far as I can tell, Luther's preface hasn't been published in English, but you can read this summary on the LutheranWiki, including such points as:
Some fear that weak minds might be confused by the publication of the Quran in Latin – but there is no one in the church who is not absolutely sure that no religion or doctrine concerning God can be true that totally differs from the prophetic and apostolic writings.

Mohammed confesses to have come up with a new opinion that differs from the prophets and apostles – as the heathen opinions of old are to be rejected, so also Mohammed’s figments.

Those who do not even know that on the religion in agreement with the prophets and apostles is the true religion, how do they arm themselves against Mohammed’s ideas they might hear even if they do not read the Quran?

We who teach in the church have seen many different enemies – papists, Jews, Anabaptists, Servetus, and others – let’s also arm ourselves to fight against Mohammed: one cannot say anything about things one does not know.

“Therefore it is useful for the learned to read the writings of the enemies in order to refute, shake, and overthrow them all the more powerfully, in order to be able to heal some and certainly to arm our people with firmer arguments.”
Pastor Ronald Marshall of First Lutheran Chruch of West Seattle offers a handout of Luther's Preface to the Qur’ān for his class, Reading the Koran with Pastor Marshall, which he has held for several years.

So, Pastor Jones, if you want to perform the true service of a Christian minister, read the Qur’ān, learn how and where it conflicts with the Holy Scriptures, teach that to confused Christians and anyone else willing to listen, and proclaim the Gospel of the Jesus Christ. It was good enough for Martin Luther; it ought to be good enough for you. Don't burn it!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Army Chaplain Killed in Action

Distressing news from Afghanistan of the first military chaplain killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hat tip to Chaplain Daniel Gard (who is also a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne) over at ALPB Forum Online:
The official message from the Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Army through the Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Navy:

Subject: FW: CH (UNCLASSIFIED)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

It is with my deepest sympathy and utmost respect that I announce to our Chaplain Corps that Chaplain (CPT) Dale A. Goetz was killed in action in Afghanistan on August 30, 2010 while serving as the Battalion Chaplain for 1-66th Armor Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. Dale was one of five Soldiers killed by an Improvised Explosive Device while traveling in a convoy near Kandahar Province. Chaplain Goetz is survived by his wife, Christy, and by their three sons- Landon, Caleb and Joel.

Chaplain Goetz is the first military chaplain killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan. Dale was a selfless servant of God, a devoted husband and father, a strong American patriot, and a compassionate spiritual leader whose love for Soldiers was only surpassed by his firm commitment to living his calling as a United States Army Chaplain.

Please join with me in prayer for Christy, Landon, Caleb and Joel as we mourn with them in the loss of Dale, our fellow Soldier and Unit Ministry Team member. Let us also strive to honor Dale's sacrifice with a continuing bold commitment to ensure the finest religious support and pastoral care possible for our beloved Soldiers and their Families.

May God bless the Goetz Family and the Families of all our Fallen Soldiers; and, may God bless our Army and the United States of America.

PRO DEO ET PATRIA...FOR GOD AND COUNTRY!

DOUGLAS L. CARVER
Chaplain (Major General) US Army
Chief of Chaplains
Chaplain Goetz was a Baptist who served his God and his Country to the very end.

Rest eternal grant him, O Lord;
and let light perpetual shine upon him.