I love Advent hymns. Probably more than Christmas carols and hymns. Definitely more than Lenten hymns. Easter hymns would give them a run for their money, however.
I’m not sure why I love them so much. Perhaps because they are not overused and overdone like Christmas carols are. Perhaps they evoke the Christmas spirit without evoking muzak, Elvis and Kenny G versions heard at stuffy shopping malls. Maybe they are just pretty.
But, to toot the same tune as before, next Sunday is not about the hymns I like or not. It doesn’t matter what I like, nor what you like (sorry). We sing the hymns of faith, the hymns of our tradition, the hymns that serve the Word and our worship. We sing not for pleasure, but for worship. Not to make us feel praisy and warm our little hearts and put smiles on our faces and jazz up and energize us, but to worship God and confess the faith and teach and remind us of the truth. Like the Psalms in Scripture, so are our hymns. Mostly.
In our hearts we are aspiring tyrants, everyone of us. Rules are to be applied, mostly to others, unless of course it’s inconvenient for us. Even when you get good Confessional Lutherans and Democrats who insist that legalism is wrong and freedom from rules and pieties is necessary, then, by God, it is Necessary, and you are wicked if you disagree.
Yes, even bohemians ascribe to their own rule-book. Hippies and hipsters follow their code of behavior and thought-laws.
There is no cure for this either. Only death gets rid of it. Some of us die earlier and get it over with. But even most of those still have their little legal code hiding away deep in their hearts, resisting the golden stake of wood planted once on the Hill of the Skull.
Let’s stab it with our wooden spears. Lets plant a stake in our codified hearts and pour that water in to mix with the blood. Or better, lets pour Godblood in.
The plan is to clean the garage out thoroughly this weekend, while it is still nice, or nice-ish. Mom and Dad are coming next week to spend Thanksgiving with us. I am taking a few days off before and after the Feast, and Dad and I plan on doing some trim work in the kitchen and dining room and then addressing the dining room table which needs to be taken apart, cleaned, sanded, rebuilt and finished.
So that’s Friday and Saturday. Sunday I get to preach (yes, it is a Pew-Sinker) and then administer the Eucharist to myself and the congregation. I’m looking forward to that too.
When I teach confirmation it seems I spend more in two subjects: the Ten Commandments and Christology.
The Commandments just seem to require a long time to explain commission and omission of each commandment,and to make sure they understand them. Then we get to the Creed. I spend a lot of time emphasizing in every way I can that you can’t cut Jesus in half (separate the two natures in a nestorian way). I also drill into them that the Trinity does not have “Parts” and neither does Jesus. There are Three Persons, and Two Natures, but One God and One Jesus.
I don’t speak so much about Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King, nor even about the states of humiliation and exaltation. I remember being drilled on those when I was in confirmation. They are important, but not as much as getting down Who Jesus is.
I usually fly through the Lord’s Prayer, and then drill them for a long time on the definition and application of the Means of Grace and sacramental theology before I teach on the specifics of Baptism and the Eucharist, which is brief compared to the preparatory work.
Don’t get me wrong. I wish that I had the time, diligence and predilection to be even-steven and cover everything in depth. But I get hung up on these matters…and of all, I think they are most important to spend time getting right.
Sometimes pastors have to preach the tough ones. The sermons which really point out the dysfunction and sin working right in the middle of the congregation. Sometimes these are more “teaching sermons” where we have to teach or remind the congregation of truths they do not want to hear. Like why we sing Advent hymns and not Christmas hymns.
But whether they rebuke sins or teach what people don’t want to learn, they are uncomfortable to hear. My wife calls them “pew sinkers.”
I feel the same way, quaking at the thought of saying them. Fearful I am preaching God’s Word and not just taking out anger on them. Fearful I am teaching good things, and not just pushing my own tastes or agenda on them. I have to remind myself that I am not here to be liked, but to be their pastor and shepherd, to preach Law and Gospel, and sometimes (all the time) that causes pain along with joy. Growing pains. Tentatio.
That is the call. To preach in and out of season. To rebuke and exhort and comfort (2 Tim. 4:2).
But I sink and quake at these sermons too, because while I exhort and rebuke you, I do the same for myself.
This is why I love the site Lifehacker. Great posts on practical stuff, hacks and tips and then nice inspiration posts like this one, which unlike much of the inspiration/motivation pulp out there, is good:
…”The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” This quote from poet Henry Van Dyke reminds us not to waste our talents or get discouraged if others are more accomplished or talented.
Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something (making an app, writing a blog, setting up a business, etc.) because that specific thing has already been done by someone else successfully? Consider this: if everyone was deterred that way, the world would be a lot blander than it is now.
Use your talents, whatever they may be. Your work doesn’t have to be better than everyone else’s; it just needs to be yours. (From here)
We don’t measure the success of parenthood, we are parents. We don’t measure how strong our faith is with others, we are faithful. We don’t compare our singing with others, we sing to the Lord.
The Elder Scrolls V:Skyrim is out today. Yes, I am a gamer geek…at times. I actually used to do much more computer gaming than I have the last year or two. But I really got immersed in a previous Elder Scrolls game and now I’m hooked.
The great part of this game is how open-ended it is. The game does not control where you go or when you go there. There are hours of quests and things to do outside of the main storyline. It is a completely open world. It’s like playing around inside a novel.
Needless to say, I’ll have a new distraction these winter nights, but my freelance and fiction writing may take a hit for a while.
Day three of working from home. Olivia was one sick little girl, but is doing better today. I plan on finishing my sermon for Sunday and working ahead on a few more sermons, which will free me up next week to make some shut in visits and focus on some other projects too.
It is nice having a job which allows me to do some work from home, but I do miss going into the office and having the interaction there. I wouldn’t want to work from home all the time, but I appreciate the flexibility.
How many of you have jobs you can do from home (in part, at least)? Are you more or less productive?