Sunday, December 25, 2011

Two Christmas Messages

Two messages for Christmas offered, one by the President of the United States with his First Lady, and one by Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom and Head the Commonwealth, to their people.

First, because I am a citizen of the USA, the President.

And then the Queen.

Isn't it good that, in lands where the "reason for the season" is downplayed or even set aside, particularly in the public realm, these heads of State both remind us who is at the center of his holiday ("holy day").

Merry Christmass to you, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Celebrate His Birth!

You are invited to join the congregation of
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria
in celebrating

The Nativity of Our Lord

Christmass Eve Service of Carols and Candlelight
with Holy Communion @ 7:00 pm

Christmass Day Communion @ 9:00 am

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
1534 S. Easton Avenue, Peoria
(at Easton and Hayes, 1 block west of Jefferson and Western)

Phone: (309) 637-9150

The Rev. Steven Paul Tibbetts, STS, Pastor

And in the meantime (or if you cannot join with us or your own congregation), take time to hear the sacred music of the Christmass season on Lutheran Public Radio online.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Repost: Marriage and Our Culture

Retired ELCA Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom has chimed in on the "same-sex marriage" debate in Minnesota via an op-ed in the Minneapolis StarTribune in the form of a fraternal letter to the Catholic Bishops in Minnesota. I've posted on this matter a few times in this blog -- click the Catagory Label for "Marriage" that appears down the right column of this blog to find all my posts related to the subject.

I invite you to check them out, particularly J. Budziszewski's "So-Called Marriage" and Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage. There are others, too, but the most important one I'm reposting -- again -- below.

Secularists and "progressive" Christians (like Bishop Chilstrom) would have us to believe that this is solely a "religious" issue being imposed on our society. It is not. Rather (as I wrote the first time I re-posted this), their claim
relies (and apparently successfully) on the common ignorance of the history of Western Civilization and American law.
Marriage is important to our society. Here you will get a reminder of just how key it is.

Talking about Marriage and our Culture
(originally posted 17 May 2008, with links updated 5 May 2019)

I meant to post this several months ago, but in the light of the California Supreme Court's redefinition of "marriage" this week and the conversation it is eliciting in some segments of the Church, it seemed more urgent to transcribe this portion of an interview with John Witte, Jr., from a recent edition of Mars Hill Audio. In the interview, which draws upon his book God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Eerdmans, 2006), Prof. Witte addresses why law needs to be understood in the context of its relation with other practices and disciplines, including religion.

Ken Meyers' last question in the interview is:

"One of the areas in which there's a lot of contention about morality and law right now are marriage laws. I know you've spent a lot of time studying marriage and family -- history of marriage and family. It seems that in some circles there's a reluctance to assert that our laws concerning family, what constitutes a family, what constitutes a marriage, should be based in some moral vision, that that itself is seen as a transgression of the Social Contract for a kind of pluralism. You think that it’s entirely possible to make moral arguments in the construction of laws governing family."

Witte responds:

"I think those are absolutely imperative to offer as alternatives in the discourse.

"It’s important to remember that the architects of our understanding of a social and government Contract (people like John Locke or Jean Jacques Rousseau and some of their American followers and contemporaries) had as their First Contract -- before the contract of society and the contract of government -- the First Contract was the Contract of Marriage. In Locke’s First and Second Treatise that’s presupposed. In Jean Jacques Rousseau’s work that’s presupposed. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both presupposed that as well.

"The Marital Contract is the First Contract. It's the First School of Justice. It's the first chrysalis in which nurture, education, and habits of citizenship are encouraged in the population. It's only on the strength of that contract, from atavistic individuals in nature to this first institution, that we can then begin to build a notion of a Social Contract and, beyond that, a Government Contract.

"And that's an ancient insight that goes all the way back to Aristotle, that goes back to his "Politics" in Nicomachean Ethics, where he said the first institution of the polis is the family.

"So if that is the presupposition in Western understandings of how we organize our polities, it seems to me that it is a non-starter for us to be debating the essentials of marital and family norms, and procedures and policies, and exclude from that discourse all of the rich cultural, philosophical, and theological traditions that have helped to cultivate our understanding of marriage and family, and how it works within the broader polity.

"And religious communities that bracket their theological discourse, that choose to forego a deep reflection on the goods and the goals of what marriage and family life are all about in an attempt to be politically correct, or an attempt to avoid a political fence -- or in an attempt to First Amendment-ize themselves per the caricature of the separation of Church and State -- in my view, both are engaging in theological bracketing and trimming that's unnecessary. What they're ultimately engaging in [is] an omission from the discourse that's going to harm the polity in the long term.

"And that’s not to say that there's a preordained result about how these marriage and family debates are going to work out at the State level. But it is to say that, if we're going to have a real, serious discourse about changing 2500-year-old patterns about how marriage and family life come together in the West, we better do that with full ventilation of all of the philosophical, theological, moral, economic, sociological issues at stake."

Thus far, I see few signs of a "real, serious discourse" in my "religious community."

John Witte, Jr., is the Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Ethics at Emory Universty, where he is also serves as Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. You can download or purchase the entire interview here. While you're at it, subscribe to
Mars Hill Audio.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Day We've Been Waiting For!

The day for what? The day for Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection.

More highlights can be found here. This collection is supposed to have all of The Boys' surviving talkies (shorts and features) produced by the Hal Roach studios -- except for The Devil's Brother, Bonnie Scotland, and Babes in Toyland (which are available in other collections. Here's the producers' press release from last summer:
UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF. – Celebrating the genius of the most beloved comedy team of all time, "Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection" debuts in a stunning 10-disc set on October 25, 2011 from RHI Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment. With a comedic style that defined an era and created a legacy that is still celebrated today, 58 of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy´s talking shorts and feature films, produced under legendary movie mogul Hal Roach from 1929 through 1940, are now available for the first time in the U.S. all together in one magnificent collection.

Transferred in high definition for the first time and digitally enhanced for home viewing in the finest quality available to date, the set contains favorites that have been enjoyed for generations including "Helpmates," "Hog Wild," "Another Fine Mess," "Sons of the Desert," "Way Out West," and the Academy Award winning film "The Music Box."

"Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection" comes housed in collectible, book-style packaging with an extensive, detailed film guide. The set also boasts over two hours of special features including exclusive, never-before-seen interviews with comedy legends Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis, Tim Conway and more, who discuss the enduring impact and influence of Laurel and Hardy.

Additional features include commentaries by Laurel and Hardy aficionados, along with a virtual location map that allows viewers to take an interactive tour of the iconic places in and around Los Angeles where Laurel and Hardy filmed. Available for the suggested retail price of $99.98, "Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection" showcases some of the most cherished and hilarious films in cinema history and is a must-have for comedy fans and collectors everywhere. Run time is 1,941 minutes; SRP is $99.98.

Having grown up on Laurel & Hardy, this is going to be fun!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smiling Airliner Strikes Again!

Yes, you've seen this smiling airliner before, the last time six months ago. For still in my mind PSA stands first for Pacific Southwest Airlines, secondly for Public Service Announcement, and only thirdly for prostate-specific antigen.

But however you want to think of it, our PSA L-1011 is still smiling, not because it was the best jumbo jet, but because yesterday afternoon I received the results of my latest blood test: my PSA is less that 0.1. That is, 3 1/2 years after my surgery for prostate cancer, it is still immeasurable. Praise the Lord!

Monday, August 01, 2011


Ah, finally! From 1999, my favorite TV commercial ever — for the American Express card, featuring Steve and Eydie. What a great 60 seconds!

From Creativity Online (click if the video doesn't play)

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Yes, we have a big catechetical challenge..."

The Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, reflects on further on the New York legislature's re-definition of marriage in his blog, The Gospel in the Digital Age. Note especially his reminder of something the media and proponents of this change keep steering us away from, that marriage is "at the very foundation of civilization, which the state has the duty to defend and protect, not to mutate." That sort of statement ought not surprise any of my readers. Archbishop Dolan says a lot more, and I encourage you to ponder his words -- all of them.

Hat tip to Touchstone's
Mere Comments.

Some Afterthoughts

Almost two weeks ago — hauntingly, on the Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist, whom King Herod would behead because the saint dared to defend the God-given truth about marriage — our state sadly attempted a re-definition of marriage. Is there anything left to say?


For one, thanks to those courageous millions who valiantly fought this unfortunate project of social engineering. You can hold your heads high. Sanely, civilly, thoughtfully, vigorously . . . you did not cave-in. The forces on the other side were a Goliath indeed — with tons of money, “glitterati” from entertainment circles, political powerbrokers, and the media — but you proved a worthy David.

You will understand my special word of gratitude to people of faith — evangelicals, Mennonites, Jews, Moslem, Catholics, Amish, and so many more, led often by African-American and Latino believers — who simply believe that marriage is a given, at the very foundation of civilization, which the state has the duty to defend and protect, not to mutate.

My brother bishops of New York were particularly prophetic. When I arrived here a little over two-years ago, they told me realistically that we faced a looming battle over the defense of marriage. They advised me that the odds were not in our favor, and that some experts were even suggesting that we give-in and not put up a fight.

But they were also resolute in their conviction that such would have been a dereliction of duty. As Blessed John Paul II often commented, the Church is “counter-cultural,” like Jesus, often at odds with what passes as chic, enlightened, and progressive. In their writings, sermons, personal lobbying, interviews, and our common statements — backed up by indefatigable efforts by our New York State Catholic Conference, bolstered by ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation, and, especially, supported by countless thousands of our faithful Catholic people (one legislator told me he received 47,000 e-mails against the measure from the Catholic Advocacy Network) — the bishops were on the frontiers. We have been bloodied, and bruised, and, yes, for the moment, we have been defeated. But, we’re used to that. So was the Founder of our Church.

Two, the Church neither has nor wants political “clout.” As Cardinal John O’Connor commented, “The only ‘clout’ the Church really has is God’s Truth, the assurance of His grace, and the simple yet sincere conviction of our people.” Blessed John Paul II again reminds us that “The Church never imposes, she only proposes.” And as our current Holy Father has often observed, all the Church wants is its freedom to serve humanity by bringing the light of the gospel to the world.

But, three, we do worry indeed about this freedom of religion. Editorials already call for the removal of guarantees of religious liberty, with crusaders calling for people of faith to be coerced to acceptance of this redefinition. If the experience of those few other states and countries where this is already law is any indication, the churches, and believers, will soon be harassed, threatened, and hauled into court for their conviction that marriage is between one man, one woman, forever, bringing children into the world.

Four, the real forces of “intolerance” were unmasked here. The caricature, of course, is that those defending traditional marriage were the right-wing bigots and bullies. However, as one out-of-state journalist, who was following the debate closely, commented to me, “From my read of the columns, blogs, and rhetoric, it’s not your side that’s lobbing the grenades.” A Catholic who wrote to criticize me for my defense of marriage still conceded, “But I must confess that I am sickened by the amount of anti-Catholic venom that has surfaced in this debate.” As one respected columnist has observed, the problem is not homophobia but theophobia — a hatred by some of God, faith, religion, and the Church.

Five, though, if we did hurt anybody in our defense of marriage, I apologize. We tried our best to insist from the start that our goal was pro-marriage, never anti-gay. But, I’m afraid some within the gay community were offended. As I replied recently to a reporter who asked if I had any message to the gay community, “Yes: I love you. Each morning I pray with and for you and your true happiness and well-being. I am honored that so many of you are at home within our Catholic family, where, like the rest of us, we try, with the help of God’s grace and mercy, to conform our lives to Jesus and His message. If I have offended any of you in my strenuous defense of marriage, I apologize, and assure you it was unintentional.

Point six, the Church has always stood-up for marriage — one man and one woman, united in lifelong and faithful love, leading to new life in children – whenever and wherever it was in danger. Veterans my age and over can remember sixty years ago when we fought widespread, no-fault divorce, convinced it would lead to a cheapening of the marriage bond and harm our kids (as, of course, scholarly studies now report has, indeed, happened). Recall how the Church resisted the “contraceptive mentality,” fearing it would rupture the sacred bond between love and the procreation of children. Then, remember how the Church sounded the alarm over rising rates of promiscuity, adultery, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation prior to or instead of marriage. And now we ring the steeple bell again at this latest dilution of the authentic understanding of marriage, worried that the next step will be another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity. If you think I’m exaggerating, within days of the passage of this bill, one major newspaper ran a flattering profile of a proponent of what was called “nonmonogamy.” Apparently, “nonmonogamy” is the idea that society is unrealistic to think that one man and one woman should remain faithful in marriage, and that openness to some infidelity should be the norm!

Let me say it again. None of this is anti-anybody, but simply pro marriage.

(By the way, as Professor Robert George at Princeton University eloquently points out, in warning about promiscuity, divorce, cohabitation instead of marriage, adultery, and “same-sex marriage,” the Church is hardly some shrill, bitter, reactionary, naysaying prude, but actually prophetically right-on-target. Recent studies by people such as Myron Magnet and Kay Hymowitz show that the weakening of stable marriage and families is the cause of most social and cultural woes, especially burdensome on poor women and children.)

Finally, last point, for us in the Church, not much changes. We continue to hold fast to the God-given definition of marriage, and acknowledge that no unfortunate legislative attempt can alter reality and morality. Yes, we have a big catechetical challenge, in that we have to admit that quite a few people no longer hold to this timeless moral truth. (Although I still believe most people do; thus the fear of a referendum on the issue by those who still claim this is a “grassroots movement” sweeping the nation.) Yes, we do have our work cut out for us, as even some Catholics, and, scandalously, even political leaders who claim to be Catholic, tell us the Church is “out of it,” and has no claim on truth.

So, we try our best to witness to the truth, encouraging our married couples and their kids to be loving, radiant, “lights to the world.” We acknowledge that, as St. Augustine taught, if something is wrong, even if everybody else is doing it, it’s still wrong; and, if something is right, even if nobody else is doing it anymore, it’s still right. Like St. Thomas More, we’re willing to take the heat and even lose our head from following a conscience properly formed by God’s revelation and the teaching of His Church, even if it is politically incorrect, and clashes with the King’s demands to re-define marriage.
This entry was posted
on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Thank you, Archbishop Dolan, for your continued forthright teaching.

Monday, July 04, 2011

What Today Is About

A re-post from 2 years ago today on this blog and 4 years ago on my other blog. This is still an important read for those of us living in these United States, and it ought to make you think about what has changed in us Americans over 235 years.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York Bishops' Statement

I've seen and heard lots of comments about what happened in New York State yesterday. This is one of the few to which I'd offer my assent. zip+

Statement of the Bishops of
New York State

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church's clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America's foundational principles.

+Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
+Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
+Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn
+Edward U. Kmiec
Bishop of Buffalo
+Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg
+Matthew H. Clark
Bishop of Rochester
+William F. Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre
+Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

Hat tip to Canon Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Pastor's Call; Congregational Conflict and "Fit"

From the Rev. Peter Speckhard, Associate Editor of Forum Letter (you do subscribe, right?) and Moderator of ALPB Forum Online, with his permission. I was going to offer some context first, but I think that just distracts from his point in these thoughts offered yesterday:
[T]he idea of a good fit between congregation and pastor is part of the problem. Perhaps a pastor who irritates the congregation (or vice-versa) is the perfect fit for what God is trying to accomplish there. It goes back to the doctrine of the call. Where there is a dispute between pastor and congregation, they need to go back to what both parties vowed at the installation. If the pastor can point out that he swore in front of the whole congregation that he would teach according to the Confessions, and if he can show that the Confessions claim private confession/absolution is retained in our churches and held in highest regard, then the congregation needs to remember that he is the pastor and they swore to submit to Confessional teaching. If, however, the pastor introduces, say, Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday and the congregation objects that it is too Catholic, the pastor needs to remember that it is not his church, it is not a Confessional issue, and there may be all kinds of good practices that a congregation is simply not interested in, and it is not his place to shape the congregation in his preferred image.

But if we just blame conflict on a generic "bad fit", the congregations grow further and further apart, because to a congregation a pastor will always seem like the best fit who leaves them comfortably going wherever they are going, and to a pastor a congregation will also seem like the best fit that already wants to go where he wants to lead. Instead of congregations unified within a tolerably broad but recognizable range of piety, we get one congregation with more smells and bells that Byzantium at its height (because pastors who love that are a good fit for congregations who love that) and another congregation that plays a few ditties in the coffee shop and chills out and calls it church, because they found a good fit. Nothing ever gets challenged or corrected or integrated into the larger church. Instead, we all march off in opposite directions, choosing drummers who carefully play to the rhythm of our walking. Yes, it absolutely goes without saying that teaching should be done gently. But sometimes gentle teaching and time still results in conflict.
If you want to read this in context, go here. But much of the thread is on another one of those unending disputes that are internal to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Which is why I almost missed it. I'm glad I didn't. Pr. Speckhard serves an LCMS congregation in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and it's (young) pastors like him who boost my hopes for the future of Lutheranism in North America.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

We Have a Bishop-Elect!

The Rev. Dr. S. John Roth, pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, Jacksonville, Illinois, was elected the fourth Bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at its annual Synod Assembly this morning in Springfield, Illinois. He received 218 votes in that final ballot, with the Rev. Robert Rasmus, Senior Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Urbana, receiving 101.

Bishop-elect Roth will succeed the Rt. Rev. Warren D. Freiheit, who had earlier announced his resignation effective June 30 to accept a call to Christ Lutheran Church, Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. Bishop Freiheit would have been entering the last year of his second six-year term as the Synod's Bishop. Bishop-elect Roth, who has served the Jacksonville parish since 1983, will take office September 1. The Rev. Gary L. Hansen, Bishop of the ELCA's North/West Lower Michigan Synod 1995-2007, will serve as Interim Bishop in July and August.

Pastor Roth has been serving on the Synod Council as the Dean of the West Central Conference since 2006, and has been Chair of the Synod's Finance Committee since 2007. Among the challenges faced by the Synod are the departure of 11 congregations since the ELCA's 2009 Churchwide Assembly (with another half-dozen reportedly in the process to consider departing) and a 20% reduction in income in the last two fiscal years. Earlier the Assembly approved several by-law changes enabling the restructuring of the Synod's program committees.

Pastor Roth is also well-regarded in the Synod as a theologian and biblical scholar, most recently having prepared biblical interpretive reflections for the Assembly's focus on 1 Peter 2:1-10 to explore its theme, "God's Work. Our Hands: God's Building Blocks." Pastor Rasmus and the Rev. Dr. Michael C. Hoy, pastor at First Lutheran Church, Decatur, Illinois, who made it to third place in the election's fourth ballot, were two of the Assembly's three presenters on its theme.

Te Deum laudamus...

To the End

Election of the Fourth Bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod, ELCA: Ballot 4 Results. 362 votes cast, 60% required for election.

S. John Roth 192 or 53%
Robert Rasmus 90 or 24.9%
Michael Hoy 80 or 22.1%

So we go straight to prayer and the fifth ballot, between Pastors Roth and Rasmus.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Process Continues

Each of the top seven was given the opportunity to complete a biographical form that included questions about the gifts they'd bring to the office of Bishop, the principle challenge in the Synod's next 6 years (12 congregations voted to leave since the 2009 CWA, and 6 more are in a discernment/voting process; furthermore, mission support from congregations to the Synod is down 20% in the last 2 years, and that trend has not yet stopped), and their leadership style. Each also got to briefly address the Assembly to say pretty much what they wanted. In the meantime, Pastor Marty was finally reached by phone and he had asked that he not be considered further.

Ballot 3: Roth 136; Rasmus 72; Hoy 64; with 91 votes spread fairly evenly between the other three.

The top three were then given time to answer 6 questions culled from questions submitted by members of the Assembly. Disappointingly, three of those questions were essentially the same as the 3 they had answered in writing. And then we voted. Results for the 4th ballot will be announced in the morning.

Off to the Assembly banquet, where we do our official "farewell" to Bishop Freiheit.

Electing a Bishop

A bit more on that first (nominating) ballot. 339 votes were cast for 49 ELCA pastors. Ten pastors received 5 or more votes; eight of us received 4. Of the 49, 22 withdrew their names.

On the second ballot, 17 pastors received 355 votes. My six votes were one fewer than the pastor who came in 7th, Peter Marty (who formerly hosted Grace Matters, the ELCA's late, lamented radio ministry. I should survive.

The top 7 are: Dr. S. John Roth, who had 93 the first ballot and 157 the second; Robert Rasmus (37, then 52); Paul Olson (27, then 41); Michael Hoy (21, 33), Jacqueline Linden-Schade (current Asst. to the Bishop, 13, 27), Phil Lund (7, 10 -- and my neighboring colleague at Bethel, Bartonville); and Peter Marty (3, 7), the only one not serving in our Synod.

We'll be hearing from them in a few minutes.

It Finally Happened!

One of the matters for our Synod Assembly that is currently in session is the election of a new Bishop; our current Bishop, Warren Freiheit, is resigning his office (a year before his current 6-year term expires) to accept a call as a parish Pastor in Arkansas.

Bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are elected by what is called "the ecclesiastical ballot." One of the things that means is there are no official nominations as such, but rather (as happens in the ELCA) each voter at the Assembly (which is all the pastors of the Synod, those on the lay rosters of the Synod, and those sent by the Synod's congregations) is given a piece of paper where he can write down the name of any ELCA pastor. In the ELCA, if any one pastor gets 75% of the votes in that first ballot, he is elected. We had 348 voters as of that ballot this afternoon, so it would take 261 votes for an election (assuming everyone casts a legal ballot).

Since we don't "campaign" ahead of time in this Synod and the Bishop is not available for re-election, the First Ballot effectively functions essentially as a nominating ballot. The second ballot includes the name of every pastor who got a vote on the first ballot (except those who officially withdraw). Again, a Pastor receiving 75% of the votes is elected. If no one gets that many votes, the third ballot lists the top 7 vote-getters, and only at that point, will we get to begin to question the "candidates." An election happens with the third ballot with two-thirds of the votes; otherwise the top 3 are on the fourth ballot, which takes 60% to elect. Otherwise, the top 2 show up on the fifth ballot, where the Pastor getting the majority is elected Bishop.

In previous Assemblies, a person or two had told me ahead of time that they planned to vote for me. But I never received any votes. This year, no one said anything to me. On the notice posted this evening, I have 4 votes.

Along with a whole bunch of other pastors (including some names I recognize from outside the Synod) who got anything from 1 to 93 (if memory serves) votes. I'll try to not let this go to my head. +;->

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Family Radio and the Return of Christ

I discovered Family Radio in 1988, shortly after moving to Berkeley to attend seminary. Broadcast in the Bay Area from neighboring Oakland, I became a bit more familiar a couple of years later when I my parents gave me a shortwave radio while I was on internship in Helena, Montana.

One of Family Radio's features was the nightly "Open Forum," where people could call in to ask any question they had about the Bible or Christian faith. "Brother Camping" was the host. He'd clearly read the Bible throughly, and most of his responses put him solidly within conservative, perhaps even "Fundamentalist" (at least in its original Calvinist formulation) American protestantism. The program wasn't flashy and his manner of speaking wasn't particularly eloquent. In fact, he rather downplayed himself, focussing on how he read the Bible. You could hear the pages of his King James Bible turn as he moved from the caller's question to his finished answer.

Like many "self-taught" Bible interpreters, he could get stuck on some peculiar notions. But one thing he impressed me with was his response to one set of questions that kept coming up over and over again, that is, the "Rapture" and the return of Christ. On one hand he could tell you, based on his studies and computations, when God created the world. But as for when it was ending, that was not for us to know, or even worry about. Christ is returning, but when He was asked He said, "I do not know." Thus neither do we.

Then I noticed him answering the question, "Where can I find a true Bible believing church?" with (essentially), "Don't bother looking any more. They're all apostate, though in a few places there are faithful house churches I could direct you to. Better, take your Bible, and worship at home with your family according to these Bible principles...." It turns out that this advice started after he left the church in which he had been a member.

Nevertheless, shortly after arriving in Peoria, I was surprised (though since he'd separated himself from the church, I ought not have been so) when Camping published a book (that the local "evangelical" bookstore was selling) in which he stated that Christ might be returning September 6, 1994. When he'd talk about it on Family Radio, he hedged his bets a much as possible, but people took notice. I figured when it didn't happen, Brother Camping learned his lesson. And every once in a while, I'd turn the radio dial and catch him (via shortwave or up in Chicagoland) on Family Radio, sounding much older and fumbling a bit as he turned the pages of his Bible to find the answer to his caller's question. Or, sometimes, not find what he was looking for, which could sometimes lead to a short discourse on some other matter that popped into his head.

So I was rather surprised to learn that he'd gone back into the prediction business, and that today (the 120th anniversary of my grandmother's birth) is the Rapture.

Frankly, it seems to me that the secular media is making a bigger thing of this than anyone else (besides Brother Camping's Family Radio, that is, and a few of his listeners). As for what this Christian pastor thinks about the date of the Rapture or the return of Christ, I think Canon Kendall Harmon wrote well this morning on his TitusOneNine blog:
Since my area of specialization in research is eschatology, I have gotten a lot of questions about a certain individual (and his entourage of followers) getting a lot of press this past little while for stating the time of the end of the world (he thinks it is soon). I refuse to post stories on this because I am not going to give him/his group any more publicity.

As for what I think, my answer is simple--I refer you to Mark 13 in which Jesus says:
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come (verses 24-33, RSV).
This is a difficult passage, because it comes in answer to a double question, but I think it is rightly understood at the end to be referring to Jesus' second coming and the "end of the world." Do you notice what he says? Not even Jesus knows.

So if Jesus says he doesn't know, and if history is littered with examples of people who have confidently predicted the day with certainty and later were shown to be wrong, why should we presume to say we know? That it is coming and that it is coming "soon" we can be sure, the New Testament is quite clear on that. But as for when exactly, we don't know. I do not know. Part of being a dependent creature is to admit there are things we simply do not know--that isn't a bad thing, it is actually a key part of Christian witness--KSH.
And if you really want to see Jesus, show up Sunday mornings during the nine o'clock hour Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria (or the appointed time in one of many other churches) and I'll show Him to you. And when He returns in His glory to judge the living and the dead, you might be better prepared -- whenever He comes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

R. R. Reno: The Preferential Option for the Poor

Following is the middle section of R. R. Reno's opening essay in "The Public Square" section of the latest (June/July 2011) issue of First Things. In it, Prof. Reno addresses the question of just who are "the poor" in America, and how is it that they are poor. spt+

Today, there is certainly material want in America. People who have lost their jobs can’t pay rent. Unmarried young women who have courageously refused to abort their children struggle to make ends meet. Illegal immigrants are exploited; the homeless need shelter; the hungry, food.

Some say the best way to meet these needs involves adopting tax policies designed to stimulate economic growth, along with redoubled efforts of private charity. Others emphasize public programs and increased government intervention. It’s an argument worth having, of course, and to a great degree our contemporary political debates turn on these issues. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is a unifying consensus: The moral character of a nation is measured to a large degree by its concern for the poor.

On this point I agree with many friends on the left who argue that America doesn’t have a proper concern for the poor. Our failure, however, is not merely economic. In fact, it’s not even mostly economic. A visit to the poorest neighborhoods of New York City or the most impoverished towns of rural Iowa immediately reveals poverty more profound and more pervasive than simple material want. Drugs, crime, sexual exploitation, the collapse of marriage—the sheer brutality and ugliness of the lives of many of the poor in America is shocking. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, poverty is not only material; it is also moral, cultural, and religious (CCC 2444), and just these sorts of poverty are painfully evident today. Increasing the minimum wage or the earned-income tax credit won’t help alleviate this impoverishment.

We can’t restore a culture of marriage, for example, by spending more money on it. A recent report on marriage in America from the National Marriage Project under the leadership of W. Bradford Wilcox, When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America, paints a grim picture. The lower you are on the social scale, the more likely you are to be divorced, to cohabit while unmarried, to have more sexual partners, and to commit adultery. One of the most arresting statistics concerns children born out of wedlock. In the late 2000s, among women fifteen to forty-four years old who have dropped out of high school, more than half of those who give birth do so while unmarried. And this is true not only of those at the bottom. Among high-school graduates and women with technical training—in other words, the struggling middle class—nearly half of the women who give birth are unmarried.

A friend of mine who works as a nurse’s aide recently observed that his coworkers careen from personal crisis to personal crisis. As he told me, “Only yesterday I had to hear the complaints of one woman who was fighting with both her husband and her boyfriend.” It’s this atmosphere of personal disintegration and not the drudgery of the job—which is by no means negligible for a nurse’s aide—that he finds demoralizing.

Teachers can tell similar tales. The wife of another friend told me that her middle-school students in a small town in Iowa were perplexed by Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter: “What’s the big deal about Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale gettin’ it on?” It was a sentiment that she wearily told me was of a piece with the meth labs, malt liquor, teen pregnancies, and a general atmosphere of social collapse.

Preferential option for the poor. A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial; the most serious deprivations are cultural, not economic. Many people living at the bottom of American society have cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and some of the other goodies of consumer culture. But their lives are a mess.

And why? It’s a complicated question that I can’t convincingly answer here. But I want to end with a suggestion, if not an argument.

Read it all here (no subscription necessary). This is the first issue of First Things under the editorship of Rusty Reno, a lay theologian at Creighton University and former Episcopalian who was received into the Catholic Church as few years ago. And it's articles and essays like this that made FT a "must read" under founding editor Richard John Neuhaus.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sermon for "Good Shepherd Sunday"

The Early Church Father St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407), Bishop of Constantinople, was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence, and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places. Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is also known as "Good Shepherd Sunday" because the appointed Gospel is from the 10th chapter of St. John, where Jesus teaches that he is the Good Shepherd.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. St. John 10:1-6
Bishop John preaches to the Church on the cusp of the 4th and 5th centuries:
Observe the marks of a robber. First, that he does not enter openly. Second, he does not enter according to the Scriptures, for this is, "not by the door."

Here also, Jesus refers to those who had been before and to those who would come after him: antichrist and the false christs, Judas and Theudas [see Acts 5:35-38], and whoever else there have been of the same kind.

And he rightly calls the Scriptures "a door," for they bring us to God and open to us the knowledge of God. They make us his sheep. They guard us and do not let the wolves come in after us.

For Scripture, like some sure door, bars the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire and not allowing us to wander.

And, if we do not undo Scripture, we shall not easily be conquered by our enemies. By Scripture we can know all, both those who are and those who are not shepherds.

But what does "into the fold" mean? It refers to the sheep and their care. For whoever does not use the Scriptures but "climbs up some other way," that is, who cuts out for himself another and an unusual way, "the same is a thief.". . .

When our Lord further on calls himself the door, we should not be surprised. According to the office that he bears, he is in one place the shepherd, in another the sheep. In that he introduces us to the Father, he is the door; in that he takes care of us, he is the shepherd.
From St. John Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Gospel of John 59:2-3", as found in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT IVa: John 1-10 (p. 338).

Bishop John preaches to the Church on the cusp of the 20th and 21st centuries: "[I]f we do not undo Scripture, we shall not easily be conquered by our enemies. By Scripture we can know all, both those who are and those who are not shepherds." But if we in the Church undo Scripture, . . . hmmm.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Granger: The Publication of the King James Bible

"At the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, held between the English bishops and Puritan leaders and presided over by King James the First, Dr John Rainolds, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and the leading Puritan divine, suggested that a new English translation of the Bible be prepared.  Richard Bancroft, the Bishop of London, concurred, and King James ordered the translation be prepared.  A body of translators was formed, including professors of Hebrew and Greek in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and other leading scholars of the day, some fifty in all. Both churchmen and Puritans were represented. The translators were organized into six companies, two which sat at Oxford, two at Cambridge, and two at Westminster. Their instructions were to take the earlier Bishops’ Bible as their basis, to consult all earlier versions, including the (Roman Catholic) Douay-Rheims New Testament and the (Reformed) Geneva Bible, to retain the old ecclesiastical terms (such as “church” for “congregation” and “baptism” for “washing”), and to exclude all marginal notes, unless required to explain some Hebrew or Greek word...."

Read it all here at For All the Saints.

And for more about the Kings James Bible as English-speaking Christians around the world celebrate its 400 years, see the the fine King James Bible Trust web site.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage

Following up on his December 2010 Washington Post article, "On Gay Marriage, Stop Playing the Hate Card," Matthew J. Franck writes in the current (May 2011) issue of First Things:

In briefly rehearsing well-known defenses of conjugal marriage that others have elaborated elsewhere, I noted in the Post that marriage "has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that children will have mothers and fathers" and that same-sex unions are "not an expansion but a dismantling of the institution." The response of some readers was not merely that I had not fully fleshed out this argument (which I could readily admit) but that such statements did not even bear the marks of rationality—that they were so obviously wrong that only those in the grip of unreasoning hatred or bigotry could put them forward.

Some of our high public officials, unfortunately, have encouraged this kind of flattening and coarsening of our public discussion. Judge Joseph Tauro, of the federal district court in Boston, in ruling against the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as between one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law), said last July that the difference between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples is a "distinction without meaning." How he claimed to know this, since he did not explain it, is anyone's guess, but it was enough for him to conclude that Congress, in passing DOMA, had acted on an "animus" that "targets" people on the basis of a "sexual orientation" of which Congress "disapproves." But DOMA was passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, and signed by a Democratic president, for the express purpose of defending the right of the people in each state to govern themselves on the question of marriage. It would never even have been proposed in Congress but for the existence of a movement determined to make an end-run around the institutions of democratic decision-making—determined, that is, to persuade judges like Joseph Tauro to bend the Constitution to suit the purposes of a political agenda. DOMA is just what its title says it is—a defense of marriage against assault by a court-centered strategy. Given the feebleness of his arguments, it's a fair question just what "animus" the judge himself has toward people who disagree with him.

In late February, Judge Tauro's view was essentially adopted by the Obama administration, which announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend the constitutionality of section 3 of DOMA but would instead take the opposite position in federal courts. It is perfectly legitimate for presidents to assert their independent judgment about the constitutionality of the laws that govern us. But what passed for judgment in the administration's analysis was shockingly thin. The most substantial point made in Attorney General Eric Holder's letter to House Speaker John Boehner was that, during the 1996 debate on DOMA, some members of Congress had expressed "moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships—precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against."

The disapproval of "moral disapproval": This moves us closer to the heart of the matter. Not long after Judge Tauro's decision last summer came the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker, of the federal district court in San Francisco, striking down California's Proposition 8, itself a defensive measure passed by a majority of the state's voters in 2008 after the state's supreme court invented a right of same-sex marriage under the California constitution. Judge Walker declared that there was no "rational basis" for Prop. 8. "Tradition alone," he wrote, "cannot form a rational basis for a law." Tradition normally has a presumption in its favor in such inquiries, but not for Judge Walker. He sniffed out what was really going on, declaring that "moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples." The law unavoidably speaks in the name of a community's moral vision, so to what did the judge really object? He called opposition to same-sex marriage a "private moral choice," with "private" meaning it was not entitled to enactment as public morality. Clearly, for Judge Walker, the reason for this conclusion lay in the second term of the phrase of his, "moral and religious views." In the most telling passage of his opinion, he claimed—as a "finding of fact," no less—that "religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful . . . harm gays and lesbians."

There we have it. Marriage only between a man and a woman is a mere "tradition" with no claim on our attention when a claim of "discrimination" is made on the other side. All that this tradition has going for it is the "moral and religious views" of its supporters. But the law embodies moral choices, so why is this moral viewpoint illegitimate as the basis of a law? The problem is that it is driven too much by the religious commitments of those who hold it—and so it must be dismissed from public life and relegated to the realm of "private moral choice," disallowed from enactment as the view of the majority in a democratic society. So toxic is it to hold certain religious views that merely believing them works a "harm" to other people. Those who hold these views must not only be prevented from enacting those views as the will of the democratic majority; they must, to the extent possible, be silenced in the public square. They must . . . shut up.

Read it all here. Prof. Franck is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alleluia, Christ Is Risen!

Christ is risen from the dead! By this time on Easter Day, however, many of his pastors have the energy of someone still dead. So, here's a repeat from my blog for Easter 2007, an Easter Sermon from St. John Chrysostom.

Photo: Easter 2011, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria

If any person is devout and loves God,
let him come to this radiant triumphant feast.

If any person is a wise follower,
let him enter into the joy of his Lord, rejoicing.

If any have fasted long
let him now receive refreshment.

If any have labored from the first hour,
let him today receive his just reward.

If any came at the third hour,
let him keep the feast with thankfulness.

If any arrived at the sixth hour,
let him have no misgivings for he shall not be deprived.

If any delayed to the ninth hour,
let him draw near, fearing nothing.

If any have waited even until the eleventh hour,
let him not be alarmed at this tardiness.

For the Lord will accept the last
even as the first.

Therefore, all of you,
enter into the joy of your Lord.

Rich and poor together,
hold high festival.

Diligent and heedless,
honor this day.

Both you who have fasted, and you who did not fast,
rejoice together today.

The table is full;
all of you, feast sumptuously.

The calf is fatted;
let no one go away hungry.

Enjoy the feast of faith;
receive the riches of God's mercy.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
for the fullness of the kingdom is revealed.

Let no one weep for his iniquities,
for forgiveness shines forth from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the savior's death has set us free.

He who was held prisoner by death
has annihilated it.

By descending into death,
he made death captive.

He angered it
when it tasted of his flesh.

Isaiah saw this, and he cried:
Death was angered when it encountered you
in the lower regions.

It was angered,
for it was defeated.

It was angered,
for it was mocked.

It was angered,
for it was abolished.

It was angered,
for it was overthrown.

It was angered,
for it was bound in chains.

It received a body
and it met God face to face.

It took earth
and encountered heaven.

It took that which is seen
and fell upon the unseen.

O Death,
where is your sting?

O Grave,
where is your victory?

Christ is risen
and you are overthrown.

Christ is risen
and the devils have fallen.

Christ is risen
and the angels rejoice.

Christ is risen
and life reigns.

Christ is risen
and not one dead remains in the grave.

For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, and to him be glory and honor, even to eternity.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Photo: Good Friday 2011, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria

              Who was the guilty?
              Who brought this upon thee?
my treason, Jesus,
              hath undone thee.
I, Lord Jesus,
I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

Johann Heermann, 1585-1647; tr. Robert Bridges, 1844-1930
From the hymn "Ah, Holy Jesus" (Herzliebster Jesu)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sin Clings

The conclusion of Zion's Lenten Midweek series, By Faith: the Assurance of Things Hoped for; the Conviction of Things Not Seen (from Hebrews 11), brought us to Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Early Church Father Theodoret of Cyr says:
The models of godliness are set before us on all sides, he [the author of Hebrews] is saying, in such vast numbers as to resemble a cloud in density and and testify to the power of faith. Accordingly, let us keep our eyes on them, be light on our feet and rid ourselves of teh burden of unnecessary worries, in this way being able also to avoid sin that is easy to contract.
Then comes this exquisite sentence:
Before everything else we need perseverance to succeed in the course ahead of us. He said sin "clings" because it is easily contracted and committed: the eye is fascinated, the ear charmed, touch titillated, tongue easily loosened and thought quickly directed to the worst.
From Theodoret of Cyr, "Interpretation of Hebrews 12", as found in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT X: Hebrews (p. 209).

That about nails sin, doesn't it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Chernobyl? Not Quite!

Since the earthquake and tsumani in north-eastern Japan, students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT) have been maintaining a weblog at for "information about the incident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plants." The purpose of the MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub is
not to provide up-to-date information about the ongoing situation at the nuclear facilities in Fukushima, Japan, nor is it to promote to a pro-nuclear political agenda. Rather, we are trying to provide non-sensationalized, factual data from engineers in a manner that the general public can understand. We are fighting to decipher conflicting news reports and manage the frustrating lack of clarity to provide this information.
The key is "non-sensationalized, factual data" at a time when the various broadcast (or "narrowcast") news media seem to specialize in sensationalizing serious matters.

Here's their take on today's news reports:
New Provisional INES Rating + A Chernobyl Primer
Posted on April 12, 2011 3:32 pm UTC by mitnse

Today the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency revised its INES rating of the Fukushima Daiichi event. The previous assessment treated the events at each of the ailing reactors as separate: the core damage to units 1-3 resulted in an assignment of a 5 (accident with wider consequences) for each reactor; the problems at unit 4′s spent fuel pool were assigned a 3 (serious incident). NISA is now treating the situation as a single event, assigned a rating of 7 (major accident). This rating is still being assessed as information about the disposition of radioactive materials originating at the reactor site comes in.

Because the rating is now the same as that assigned to the Chernobyl accident, the blog has received a number of questions about how the events at Fukushima differ from it. We present a sequence of events at Chernobyl, along with links to some denser technical matter for interested readers, and an IAEA report on the human costs of the disaster. For comparison, it’s been estimated that the radiation released by the Fukushima reactors is 1/10th that released to the environment at Chernobyl.
The rest of the post describes what really happened at Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history.

But catch that closer: "it’s been estimated that the radiation released by the Fukushima reactors is 1/10th that released to the environment at Chernobyl." This is no Chernobyl. The sensation of Fukushima Daiichi is just how safe nuclear power is.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cable and the Decline of Broadcast News

Dear CNBC:

Oh, dear. I'm not sure whether the plural of "Leaf" (as in Nissan Leaf) is "Leaves" or "Leafs." One thing I know, however, is that it is *not* "Leaf's." I'm trying to imagine Huntley, Brinkley, Chancellor, or even Brokaw (to name some of NBC's news luminaries) letting such poor English show up on the screen repeatedly on their newscasts -- as I saw early this afternoon.

Steven Tibbetts

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Catch My Smile!

I know, you've seen this smiling airliner before. But in my mind PSA stands first for Pacific Southwest Airlines, and then Public Service Announcement, and only thirdly for prostate-specific antigen.

Regarding the last on that list, Thursday is the third anniversary of my prostatectomy, which is how we treated my prostate cancer. Our PSA L-1011 is still smiling because this morning I learned the results of my latest blood test: my PSA is less that 0.1. That is, still immeasurable. Praise the Lord!

Today was also local Election Day in Illinois, and in my part of Peoria the ballot included members of the City Council and the community college board. I voted shortly after 3 o'clock in the afternoon and was the 11th person to vote in my precinct. No smiles there.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Today has been my 52nd birthday.

It was also the day I presided at wedding for a young couple. They knew it was my birthday, but it seemed good to them that they get married on St. Patrick's Day and I am their pastor. And the groom's parents thought it was good that, as part of the post-wedding festivites that they treat me to a "birthday dinner" as the wedding party continued their celebration at one of the local Irish taverns. Peoria does St. Patrick's Day well. Very well.

The wedding was not at the church, so after the ceremony and the cake and punch, the wedding party undecorated the setting and then departed for Kelleher's, where there was a huge crowd. It's St. Patrick's Day, after all. The bride and groom, as often happens, had some things to take care of before they were able to join the rest of the people at this part of the post-wedding celebrations. But the father of the groom and I were able to find a place to sit and eat way in the back of the tavern with some other people who had nothing to do with the wedding at all. Because of the crowds, no formal reserved seating was possible, and people were sitting wherever there was room. But the women who had graciously let us sit at their table departed, and we knew that the bride and groom were about to arrive -- and we were able to hold those seats, telling people who walked inquiring about those seats that we were part of a wedding party and the couple was on their way.

Getting through the crowd of the tavern was not easy -- wall-to-wall people -- and the groom, still in his tux, arrived a couple of minutes before his bride, who was trying to negotiate in her wedding gown. Everyone else there had changed into more comfortable clothes, but I was attired in my suit with black shirt -- though I had removed my clerical collar.

As the groom was walking to the table, another patron asked one of our party if the seats across from us at the table were taken. "Yes," came the response, "they're for the rest of our wedding party."

And seeing the groom walking towards us in his tux, the patron looked directly at me and said, "Congratuations!"








Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Blog's Sidebar

It's been some time since I've updated the Blogs for Faithful Churchmen blog roll on the right column here, so I thought I'd draw attention to my addition of one blog and my deletion of two others.

New is For All the Saints, though perhaps it would better be described as a "renewal" or even "resurrection," albeit in a slightly different guise. This For All the Saints blog (not to be confused with the Lutheran breviary [daily prayer books] For All the Saints) -- subtitled "encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, strengthened by their fellowship" -- is a new effort by an old blogosphere "friend," Todd Granger. In starting it last November 28, he wrote:
One of the features of my near-defunct weblog, The Confessing Reader, was the posting of the commemorations of the saints in the sanctoral (saints’ days) calendars of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, along with some commemorations from the Lutheran Book of Worship.

This weblog will continue that function of The Confessing Reader. For each commemoration, or “lesser feast” as The Episcopal Church’s sanctoral supplement to the Book of Common Prayer described them, I will post a brief biographical sketch, the collect for the commemoration, and the propers for the day (or a link to the Lectionary Page’s propers for the day). For most of the posts, there will also be an icon, or an iconographic depiction, of the saint whom we are commemorating and for whom we are giving thanks that day.
Read more of his (re-) introduction here.

The Confessing Reader itself has been on my blog roll for as long as I've had one, but (as Todd notes) it is nearly defunct. In its heyday it not only featured the calendar of saints, but regular theological reflection on current matters (including the controversies within the Episcopal Church, most of which were quickly immersing the ELCA) and news from the Nordic (Lutheran) churches -- something notoriously difficult to find in English. Now, there's still plenty of good things in The Confessing Reader's Word Press archives (though much more got lost in the fall of CANNet), but apart from occasional posts of the calendar of the saints, which is now on Todd's newer blog, it's been pretty quiet the last couple of years.

Pontifications has also been on my blog roll forever, another must-read CANNet-hosted blog written by Fr. Alvin Kimel, started when he was a reasserter Episcopal priest. What one finds on the current Word Press iteration is but a shadow of the wonderful reflections and discussions that were lost (at least to the blogosphere) in CANNet's fall. Fr. Kimel's blog quieted down when he gave up the struggles of being faithful in the Episcopal Church and was received into the Roman Catholic Church and ordained a priest under the Pastoral Provision. He is, I suspect, much more content -- at least that's what I read between the lines of a blog whose last post was a year-and-a-half ago.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fifteen Isn't Enough

And so I got tagged by a Facebook friend (who happens to be an actual friend that only just came on to Facebook:
15 Favorite Vocalists

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen vocalists that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. And in no particular order. Tag fifteen friends, and me, because I'm interested in seeing what singers my friends choose.
So, after looking at Elisabeth's list, I took about 10 minutes and posted:
  1. Nat "King" Cole
  2. Bing Crosby
  3. Peggy Lee
  4. Ella Fitzgerald
  5. Bobby Darin
  6. Glen Campbell
  7. Dean Martin
  8. Michael Jackson
  9. Vikki Carr
10. Frank Sinatra
11. Johnny Rivers
12. Tom Jones
13. Brooke Benton
14. Jimmie Rodgers (as in "Honeycomb")
15. Chris Isaak
But now I must confess, these weren't the first 15. 4 or 5 other names had come to mind over about 10 minutes, but I discarded them from these 15 because the ones here had been really important at some point of my life. Then, after posting the above list I looked at other friends' lists and the comments their friends added. Wow, there were some really top-notch vocalists there, some of whom I should have included on any "favorites" list, some of whom I recognize as good but who don't do a whole lot for me.

And then there is in my car a list of "important vocalists" that I have been keeping track of as I listen to the radio (particularly XM Radio's SIRIUSLY Sinatra channel. And when I looked at it, sure enough were 3 more names on that list:
* Billy Eckstein
* Perry Como
* Barbra Streisand.
And I knew that I needed to make a more complete list of my favorite vocalists. So, looking through my list of records and CDs that I have or want, I add these vocalists, again in no particular order:
* Johnny Mathis
* David Clayton Thomas (Blood, Sweat and Tears)
* Jim Morrison
* Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals)
* Lou Rawls
* Tony Bennett
* Andy Williams
* Matt Monro
* Jimmie Sommerville (Bronski Beat)
* Bryan Ferry
* Pat Boone
* David Bowie
* Neil Diamond
* Greg Lake
* Mika
* Freddie Mercury (Queen)
* Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys)
* Louis Armstrong
* Sammy Davis, Jr.
* Rod Allen (The Fortunes)

* Linda Ronstadt
* Karen Carpenter
* Martha Davis (The Motels)
* Phoebe Snow
* Norah Jones
* Carly Simon
* Shakira
* Diana Ross
* Madonna
* Judy Garland
* Petula Clark
* Patricia Kaas
* Mama Cass Elliott
* Marilyn McCoo (The 5th Dimension)
That's 52 Favorite Vocalists. And I know I'm missing somebody!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011

As beautiful as it is, the best thing one can say is:

Pitchers and catchers report next Sunday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sunday Morning


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Christmass Concludes Thursday: You're Invited!

Celebrate the Revelation
of Jesus Christ to All People!

The Epiphany of Our Lord
(The Festival of the Three Kings)

Thursday, January 6, 7:00 pm
Service of Candlelight
Holy Communion
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria

1534 S. Easton Avenue (at Hayes), Peoria
1 block west of Jefferson & Western
(309) 637-9150

An offering will be received for the Prison Mission.

The Epiphany of Our Lord celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world, recalling the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus at the Holy Family’s home in Bethlehem. This day begins the concluding season of the Christmass cycle (Advent — Christmass — Epiphany) which focuses on the Incarnation — God becoming human in Jesus.

Next to Easter and Pentecost, Epiphany is the most ancient festival of the Church year, having been observed on January 6 in the Christian East since the third century (or earlier) AD — pre-dating the observance of Christmass by a century. The date was derived from the date of the Resurrection (April 6 according to a calendar used in the eastern Mediterranean), which was also taken to be the date of Jesus’ conception. The theological emphasis of Epiphany was not so much the birth of Christ, but the beginnings of his ministry — that is, his baptism, his first miracle (at Cana), and his revelation as the Savior to all — Jews and Gentiles.

The English word "epiphany" comes from the Greek word
epiphaneia, which means "manifestation" or "appearance" — especially that of a sudden force that rescues an army from defeat. It was the word used when a king or emperor would make an official visit to a city of his realm, particularly to show himself publicly to the people. "Epiphany" is also a word used to describe the moment of revelation, insight, or clarification — the "a-ha!" of sudden understanding.

On the Epiphany of Our Lord we see with the Magi that the Infant Jesus, son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is God the Son come into the world to reveal himself and rescue all humanity (and creation itself) from our Sin. In recognizing the Lord, we humbly offer our gifts to him — and Jesus offers the gift of himself to us.