St. Michael and All Angels

Today we fest and celebrate for St. Michael and all Angels whom God has created to watch over, protect, and do all other sorts of duties we cannot fathom. We call the Archangel “Saint”, not to suppose that he is a human being glorified by God, but in giving him the title “Holy.” In other words, nearly every other time Saint is used, it refers to human beings who have been justified by God and brought into fellowship with Him.

The Lutheran readings are particularly good for this feast day: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:-13 which speaks to some of the warfare and powers that the spiritual beings exercise on our behalf; Rev. 12:7-12 and Matthew 18:1-11 which gives us the teaching that we have guardian angels.

On a sad note, when I was a kid I believed that guardian angels were a Roman Catholic myth. At least, that’s what I was taught in some capacity…yet I believed my mother who saw an angel watching over her on the night she had a reaction to an antibiotic and  broke her jaw when she passed out and nearly died. So I held these two contrary opinions. I don’t know where I picked up the first one, though I suspect an overzealous Sunday School teacher who didn’t want any “Catholicism” creeping in. Now I know better. Jesus says the little ones have their angels. And though I am tall and bearded, I want to be a little one in God’s Kingdom, for if we do not become little, we will never enter it (Matt. 19:14).

There are also the parental stories of children seeing their angels. MH once heard the story of a lady eavesdropping on her toddler standing near the crib of the baby. Her toddler was whispering to the baby, asking her, “What does yours look like? I can’t see mine any more. Tell me what he looks like.”

One of mine at the age of 18 months was waving to nobody once, smiling and having a good time. We asked her what she was waving at, and she said, “Dat man dere. Now he at da couch.” We asked him if he was a good man, and she nodded vigorously, smiling. “Oh yes!” We have other stories of Eliana, and Jack. His angel seemed to play hide and seek with him.

Maybe those are legends too. Maybe it’s small brains which cannot perceive reality correctly, or rich imaginations. Maybe psychologists can explain it all and sort it out.

But maybe it is we who cannot see reality. Maybe it is our scarred hearts and stubborn spirits which shield our eyes from seeing. Perhaps it is us whom the prophets call “seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing.”

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
Virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of th’eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Athelstan Riley (1858-1945)

What I’ve Been Doing

I took a brief blogging break last week and a few days off to help my dad do some home improvement projects while Marjorie was out of town at the Mothers Of Preschoolers convention in Nashville. She had a good time and got back home safely, and dad and I got quite a bit done with my mom’s help with dishes and the kids. Yesterday evening a good friend of my parents who lives in the Oklahoma City area stopped by to see us. She was at my high school graduation and two family weddings, but I hadn’t seen her in a decade or more, so it was great that she was able to come and have dinner with us.

We have a lot going on here at church. This weekend is our Oktoberfest and the congregation’s 75th Anniversary. A former pastor will be our guest preacher on Sunday. Last Sunday I performed an adult confirmation which was a great blessing to her and her family. It’s also budget time, nomination for church officer time, annual voter’s meeting time, and several of our members are pretty ill. One is having surgery in Wichita this week, another was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and is having surgery next week, and two more have been in the hospital with some serious conditions. 

There’s more: my circuit (think small ecclesiastical group like a diocese or deanery) is hosting the annual Church Worker’s Conference this year–also in October. I’ve been busy making arrangements with our main presenter and will be preaching at the worship service which begins the conferece.

And did I mention that the seasonal influenza and Swine Flu are emptying our schools?

Luther, Lutheranism, Lutherans and So On

I’ve got a lot of semi-connected thoughts about denomination (doctrinal) loyalty and commitment and can’t quite string them together yet…or not without getting a little too specific for a publicly read blog.

Since this is a blog and just a step above Jack Chick tracts, I can post about not having anything to post. I guess it’s a good thing you have low standards, or you wouldn’t be reading here anyway, I suppose.

Tradition is the New Counter Culture

The title is for a friend. But in reality, the increasing popularity of traditional “high church” worship is more than just rebellion against the consumerist pop-worship of the Baby Boomers and my sad generation, but is recognition that the church has sold out to a pagan culture. My question: if it plays in Lawrence, KS, would it work in Enid, OK? Read the article linked below (I posted the teaser too).

When introducing a new service these days, most churches seem to go the rock ‘n’ roll route — something new to bring in a younger crowd.

To say that Trinity Episcopal Church went in another direction might be a bit of an understatement.

When the church decided to add a new service in fall 2006, instead of looking forward, it looked back.

Way back. As in the fourth century.

The result is a unique celebration of Christianity referred to as the Solemn High Mass. A mystical meeting of old traditions in a setting where blue jeans and T-shirts are appropriate, the Sunday night service features incense, music and what the church, 1011 Vt., refers to as all of the “major propers” including the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Credo, the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, which are chanted.

Performed only during the Kansas University school year, the service, which began its 2009-2010 season last Sunday evening, has snagged a crowd young and old, Episcopalian and not, says the Rev. Paul McLain, the church’s curate.

How’s this different than how Redeemer worships? Several reasons.

  1. This congregation does use the traditional liturgy with some chanting, but we do not chant the full service. Nor do we use incense, and processions are somewhat rare.
  2. We do not use all the propers, but only a few of them.
  3. In all honesty, I think the congregation’s preference of the traditional liturgy is less a choice and more a default position. In other words, despite my efforts, I think for many we worship using the liturgy of the hymnals because “That’s what Lutherans do.” It’s comforting. This is part of the reason why we don’t use the full propers or incense and such: it’s not part of what most of them experienced in days gone by. And some of it is the fact that I prefer liturgical worship, and they just put up with me.

Why might it work better in Lawrence than here? Lawrence, Kansas is a college town, and college kids tend to be more open to new experiences. Enid, OK is also a college town…but it has more of a community college feel. Few travel to Enid to come to college; most of the students are from around here, trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, or trying to get grades up so they can go back to OU or OSU. Like most major college towns, Lawrence will have a more cosmopolitan atmosphere. Enid is more of an agricultural town, and the college is simply not large enough to affect the character of the town that much.

Why could it work here? Because it’s true.


Bibleworks 8 Review

I bought Bibleworks 3 when I was a seminary student. It was an incredible program back then, helping me extensively with exegetical work for sermons and seminary papers. It was so powerful I found I didn’t use half its features. Years later I upgraded to version 5. There were a few changes, mostly in additional resources that did not come standard with the previous version. If there were more changes, I’m not aware of them. One helpful addition back then: a massive user manual to help with searches.

Once established in pastoral ministry, I used Bibleworks in even a more limited way. I would still translate sermon texts, (mostly from Greek), but its heaviest use came from doing phrase and word searches across several English versions at once. For instance, writing a sermon I would remember that one verse that said something like “only after Thee.” Or maybe it was “only after You”? So I would search all English versions for that phrase and, nine times out of ten, find it immediately. During this time my exegetical work in the text faltered, but I found myself doing more work in the Church Fathers and liturgical connections to the text.

Readers here know about my experience with the Logos system a few weeks ago. The nail in its coffin was translation work. After a few weeks, some option somewhere got changed and the program no longer gave the word meaning and parsing in the pop-up box anymore. It was a minor issue, and I’m sure I could have gotten technical support for it, but it was more the idea that what I wanted to use it for wasn’t working well. That, and after nearly four weeks of usage it was no less opaque to me than before.

I returned it and bought Bibleworks 8 and it’s like breathing fresh air again. The interface is changed significantly from what I used before, making good use of the current trend in wide monitors. It has many incredible resources provided with the base package, including the entire set of Church Fathers. The different areas of the desktop are intuitive and well-explained in the packaged tutorial videos.

There are a few drawbacks. Bibleworks has abandoned the large manual for a quick-start guide and tutorial videos, which I do not like in general. The Church Fathers and other resources do not seem as integrated into the program as they are in Logos. If one wanted to add resources, there are few commerical add-ons, but nothing like Logos has. Another major drawback is the lack of apparata for the NA27 and Hebrew Bibles. For whatever reason the company has not been able to sercure rights to these. I do wish Bibleworks would include or make available a few resources: TDNT (unabridged) and something like the Anchor Bible Dictionary, both expensive resources in print, but incredibly helpful (Logos Original Languages includes TDNT).

However, Bibleworks has a different purpose than Logos. Logos is very much an electronic library system, and using Greek and Hebrew resources is a part of that. Exegetical work is the purpose of Bibleworks, and everything they have is oriented toward that, save the apparatus issue. It does not seek to replace the bookshelves in your study. It does provide everything you need to do serious translating, searching and notetaking for Scriptural study. One reviewer (forgive me for not citing him), put it this way: Logos is for reading commentaries. Bibleworks is for writing them, if you are so inclined. Bibleworks doesn’t provide the background and secondary matierals, commentaries and dictionaries like Logos does, and it is intentional. However, f there are critical exegetical works the user needs but are unavailable, Bibleworks provides the tools for creating your own add-ons, free of charge. It doesn’t look too easy to do, but they provide the technology to do it for free, unlike Logos.

Which one is best for you? If you’re comfortable with one program, it will be hard to learn the other. And that’s okay. They both can do similar things when it comes to Greek and Hebrew. But one needs to keep in mind their philosophies and purposes and choose the program that best suits your needs.

Holy Cross Day

On this day in 335 AD the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was dedicated in Jerusalem with a piece of the True Cross that St. Helena, mother of St. Constantine the Emperor had found. The site of the Church is on the grave where Jesus had reposed for the three days, since unused.

The celebration in Orthodox and Catholic Churches focus on the veneration and “lifting up” of the relics themeselves, or of the cross in general. Among the Lutherans…well, I’m not really sure what it’s doing on our Liturgical Calendar. We don’t venerate relics. We do venerate the altar, at least to some degree. Or I do, at least. But not crosses.

So that must leave Holy Cross Day as a celebration of the saving power of the cross. Yet we do celebrate Good Friday. And we preach Christ crucified every week, at least in theory. And Lutherans are not much repeating ourselves, being efficient Germans and all.

To me it seems strange that there is a day on the Lutheran calendar for venerating the cross when we don’t venerate the cross. What am I missing?

Finally a Finished Project

I finished the compost bin this afternoon. It is an ugly, poorly constructed thing. But it is for grass clippings, fruit rinds, egg shells and coffee grinds, so I don’t feel too bad about it. I am fairly pleased with the way I made sliding doors for the front to make turning it over easier. Didn’t execute it well, but I think it is a pretty good idea.

The bad news is that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to move it. I’m not sure it will hold up well once the dirt and rain accumulate and do their business. But even when we move someday, I’ll already be leaving behind the doggy McMansion I made a few years ago. It’s too big and heavy to get through the fence.

And it definitely feels good to get something finished. There’s been too much drama in my life lately. Marjorie’s got some drama with one of her community groups; the kids have been stressed with the back-to-school grind; I’ve got circuit and district projects going full bore, congregation projects and activities and building progress and of course, the resulting tension that is misdirected at other things, and I have been on edge.

It’s been one of those periods where nothing I put my hand to seems to work out well. So it’s good that this is done. Ugly, crooked and a little wiggly, but done. And it feels good.