Monthly Archives: August 2009

Claiming Fellowship, and not Living by the Truth ???

I’ve heard this set of verses many thousands of times, being its part of the liturgy, and it never hit home before. What would cause one to claim fellowship, and not live in the truth? I’m wondering if the allure of the law is so strong, it blinds folks from the Gospel?

1 John 1:5-7 5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

So whats up with the walking in darkness deal? Its interesting to note Isaiah 50:10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. Certainly in this passage from Isaiah, obedience is not the issue, nor is unbelief. Granted, it is possible 1 John 1 and Isaiah 50 are not inter-related, but I think the immediate context of 1 John 1 serves as key. The kicker is lieing, and not walking in truth… not unbelief, nor necessarily any of the myriad of other sins one might want to pick and choose from.

I wonder if Matthew 6-7 ripples throughout this. Ie, putting on a show, individuals doing the pietist thing in public, acts of righteousness, prayer, fasting, and. Storing up treasures on earth, judging, building faith on sand etc.

Jesus is pretty hardcore with Matthew 7:21-34 21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

It is however way cool, that 1 John 1:7-10 provides an answer. It is not to say we are without sin, It is not to shy away from fellowship, it is not to throw the law out the window. Its a lot simpler than any of that. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives

Bishop Hanson after Passage of Res 4 CWA09

I thought Bishop Hansen’s statement right after resolution 4 was passed were quite profound. This is from the ELCA unofficial text feed.

Presiding Bishop Hanson:

I WANT MORE TIME TO THINK ABOUT WORDS FROM ONE YOU HAVE CALLED TO SERVE AS PASTOR OF THIS CHURCH.
I HAVE BEEN STANDING HERE THINKING ABOUT MY 23 YEARS AS A PARISH PASTOR AND HOW DIFFERENTLY I WOULD GO INTO A CONTEXT IF I WAS GATHERING WITH A FAMILY OR A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT HAD JUST EXPERIENCED LOSS OR PERHAPS WERE WONDERING IF THEY STILL BELONGED OR IN FACT FELT DEEPLY THAT ONES TO WHOM THEY BELONG HAD BEEN SEVERED FROM THEM.
THAT WOULD BE A VERY DIFFERENT PASTORAL CONVERSATION.
AND I WOULD PROBABLY TURN TO WORDS SUCH AS ROMANS 8, “WHO IS TO CONDEMN?
IT IS CHRIST JESUS WHO DIED, YES, WHO WAS RAISED, WHO WAS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, WHO INTERCEDES FOR US, WHO WILL SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF CHRIST?
I’M CONVINCED THAT NEITHER DEATH, NOR LIFE, NOR ANGELS NOR RULERS NOR THINGS PRESENT, NOR THINGS TO COME, NOR POWERS, NOR HEIGHT NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION WILL BE ABLE TO SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.
BUT THEN I THOUGHT, “WHAT IF I WERE GOING INTO A FAMILY OR A GROUP, A COMMUNITY THAT HAD ALWAYS WONDERED IF THEY BELONGED AND SUDDENLY HAD NOW RECEIVED A CLEAR AFFIRMATION THAT THEY BELONGED.
ALL OF THE WONDERING ABOUT THE DIVIDING WALLS, THE FEELINGS OF SEPARATION SEEMED TO HAVE DROPPED AWAY.
THAT WOULD BE A VERY DIFFERENT CONVERSATION.
I WOULD PROBABLY READ TO THEM OUT OF EPHESIANS. “BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS, YOU WHO WERE ONCE FAR OFF HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEARBY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST.
FOR HE IS OUR PEACE.
IN HIS FLESH, HE HAS MADE BOTH GROUPS INTO ONE.
HE’S BROKEN DOWN THE DIVIDING WALL THAT IS THE HOSTILITY BETWEEN US.
IN HIM, THE WHOLE STRUCTURES JOINING TO AND GROWS INTO A HOLY TEMPLE AND LORD IN WHOM YOU ALSO ARE BUILTING TO SPIRITUALLY INTO A DWELLING PLACE OF GOD. “.
BUT THEN I THOUGHT, WHAT IF THOSE TWO GROUPS WERING TO?
WERE TOGETHER, BUT ALSO IN THEIR MIDST WERE THOSE WHO HAD NOT EXPERIENCED LOSS OR THE FEELING OF THE DIVIDING WALL OF SEPARATION COMING DOWN, BUT WERE WONDERING AND WORRIED IF ALL THAT HAD OCCURRED MIGHT RECEIVER THE UNITY THAT — SEVER THE UNITY AND WONDERED IF THEIR ACTIONS MIGHT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO RECONCILIATION OR SEPARATION?
IF ALL THOSE PEOPLE WERING TO IN A ROOM — WERE TOGETHER IN A ROOM, I WOULD READ FROM COLOSSIANS, “AS GOD’S CHOSEN ONES, HOLY AND BELOVED, CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH COMPASSION, KINDNESS, HUMILITY, MEEKNESS AND PATIENCE.
BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER.
IF ANYONE HAS A COMPLAINT AGAINST THE OTHER, FORGIVE EACH OTHER JUST AS THE LORD HAS FORGIVEN YOU SO YOU MUST ALSO FORGIVE.
ABOVE ALL, CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH LOVE, WHICH BINDS EVERYTHING TO IN PERFECT HARMONY AND LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN YOUR HEARTS, TO WHICH INDEED YOU WERE CALLED IN THE ONE BODY AND BE THANKFUL.
LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY.
TEACH AND ADMONISH ONE ANOTHER IN ALL WISDOM, WITH DRAT TUD IN YOUR — GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS, SING SONGS, HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS TO GOD.
AND WHATEVER YOU DO IN WORD OR DEED, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF JESUS, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM. “.
THAT PASSAGE GIVES INVITATION AND EXPECTATION THAT THOSE DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED TODAY WILL HAVE IN THIS CHURCH THE EXPECTATION AND THE FREEDOM TO CONTINUE TO ADMONISH AND TO TEACH.
AND SO, TOO, THOSE THAT HAVE EXPERIENCED RECONCILIATION TODAY, YOU ARE CALLED TO HUMILITY.
YOU ARE CALLED TO CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH LOVE.
BUT WE’RE ALL CALLED TO LET THE PEACE OF CHRIST RULE IN OUR HEARTS, REMEMBERING AGAIN AND AGAIN THAT WE ARE CALLED IN THE ONE BODY.
I WILL INVITE YOU TOMORROW AFTERNOON INTO IMPORTANT, THOUGHTFUL, PRAYERFUL CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WHAT ALL OF THIS MEANS FOR OUR LIFE TOGETHER.
BUT WHAT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT FOR ME IS THAT THAT’S A CONVERSATION WE HAVE TOGETHER.
I ENDED MY ORAL REPORT WITH THESE WORDS.
“WE MEET ONE ANOTHER FINALLY, NOT IN OUR AGREEMENTS OR OUR DISAGREEMENTS, BUT AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.
WHERE GOD IS FAITHFUL, WHERE CHRIST IS PRESENT WITH US, AND WHERE, BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WE ARE ONE IN CHRIST.
LET US PRAY.
OH, GOD, GRACIOUS AND HOLY, MYSTERIOUS AND MERCIFUL, WE MEET THIS DAY AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS AND THERE WE KNEEL IN GRATITUDE AND AWE THAT YOU HAVE LOVED US SO MUCH THAT YOU WOULD GIVE THE LIFE OF YOUR SON SO THAT WE MIGHT HAVE LIFE IN HIS NAME.
SEND YOUR SPIRIT THIS NIGHT, THE SPIRIT OF THE RISEN CHRIST THAT HAS BEEN BREATHED INTO US.
MAY IT CALM US.
MAY YOUR SPIRIT UNITE US.
MAY IT CONTINUE TO GATHER US.
IN JESUS’ NAME,

AMEN.

Tornado & CWA09, but what about the rest

Lots of folks are fussing over causality/God’s will or not. I’m not, as the arguments on both sides have been beat to death. What I do want to address is that the tornado impacted a much wider area than just the convention center and Central Lutheran. Homes were damaged, trees destroyed, and there is a real mess to clean up.

Along that line of thought, the Grace Temple Deliverance Center appears to have been damaged. Photos and some detail are at Hot-For-Jesus Former Fundie.

In checking that out, I spent some time this evening on the Grace Temple Deliverance Center’s website. I’ve often thought that heavy lifting was pretty much the domain of large denominations, and/or mega churches where the economy of scale can come into play. The folks at Grace Temple appear to be a small congregation, but wow, talk about taking on massive projects. Its a rare congregation indeed that can take on school and hospital projects, even more so to do so offshore rather than in ones backyard. That rare congregation seems to exist at Grace Temple.

For sure, our theology is vastly different, yet we worship the same Lord Jesus Christ.  If I were at CWA09, I’d take some time and see what needed to be done over at Grace Temple. Being I’m not, physical help is off the table, but most certainly I will be praying for them. I am just amazed at all they have done.

======21-August-2009 update======

Interesting to note the following, the sun came out in the convention center area, and a rainbow formed near LTSG.

Bound Conscience, whats the deal?

Some in the twitterverse have suggested or implied that applying bound conscience ends up replacing scripture with experience. Certainly history has shown time and time again, when other factors triumph over scripture, whacked theology and abusive practices show up in spades.

By the same token, experience does play a role in scriptural interpretation. Wesley’s quadrilteral, ie, scripture, tradtion, reason, and experience is very true even for Lutherans, but how we implement it is different. We like to discard the quadrilertal, and say scripture alone… but to be totally honest, if we threw out everything but scripture, we’d likely be in a vastly different place. Imagine if each parishoner had to reinvent the Augsberg confession from scratch, or even the Nicene Creed for that matter.

This is not to say tradition, reason, and experience should triumph, or even balance with scripture. But more so, I think we must admit they do play a role, even if only a small part in our interpretation.

As far as divergent beliefs, we can look towards our own recent history of a couple hundred years. We had pietists, rationalists, pro-slavery, anti-slavery, high church, low church, Missourians, anti-Missourians, and a host of others (the term election controvery is commonly used, but that seems merely a catch-all phrase to me). Then throw in that within some communities, there was a mix of Mormon and Reformed theology within the Lutheran church as well… yet if asked, many likely would say, scripture alone.

In light of such diversity, it is commonplace for there to be divergent thoughts on any number of issues over interpretation. Both sides will state they have the right interpretation. Both sides will provide solid scriptural support for their views, albeit each side likely will doubt how solid that support really is on the part of the other side, even more so if they use differing methods of interpretation. Some might even get out a hammer to pound their view into the heads of the other party, but to no avail.

This is where bound conscience enters in. I think Luther said it quite well.

Luther:  For I am neither arrogant nor so eager for vainglory that for this reason I would be ashamed to revoke ill-founded doctrines. Indeed, it will please me most of all if the truth is victorious. However, I do not want to be compelled to affirm something contrary to my conscience, for I believe without the slightest doubt that this is the meaning of Scripture.

Luther: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in the councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.

When 2 parties are thus at odds over an interpretation, both likely hold views very similar to Luther. In effect, if one wants to maintain some sense of unity, the really only solution is to agree to disagree, and in doing so respect one anothers views. A Hammer has no place in this.

Luther quotes taken from

http://www.elca.org/~/media/Files/What%20We%20Believe/Social%20Issues/In%20Process/Human%20Sexuality/Wengert_on_Bound_Conscience.pdf

Does the Sexuality vote Define #CWA09 & by ext ELCA

@erikullestad tweeted the following: “Lots of people (on both “sides”) who think the sexuality vote DEFINES the #CWA09 and, by extension, the ELCA. I’d love to hear why..”  As such, I’ll give it a shot 🙂

To the same gender seminary grad praying to be allowed ordination, by all means, the vote defines #CWA09. Granted, they no doubt see the vote as one of many good things, but being it is so personal, absolutely, it is a defining moment. As far as extending to the ELCA, I’m less sure for a couple reasons.

First, sexuality issues do not define, nor really even extend to the body of believers as a whole. As potential pastors, their focus is on Christ and the Gospel, much less so their own identity. Secondly, this really is a tiny step in the big scheme of things, granted, its massive progress, but there still remain huge barriers. I think it puts a major dent in the “welcome, but…” exclusion of the least of these. Otoh, just as the old adam remains, until same gendered folks, single, married, committed, etc are welcomed the same as anyone else, the almost welcome thing will remain.

To the person who upholds views similar to Carl Braaten’s, or even more so, someone who ascribes to a different/more literal Bibliology, or even the remnants of congregations with a pietist leaning or even historical connection, it is a huge deal. To the few who would leave over the vote, by all means, it would define #CWA09, as at the bottom if they leave, the vote would also define the ELCA.

In a nutshell, I think the call as to its definition, or lack there of depends upon their level of personal connecton to the results of it.

For me, what defines #CWA09, as well as the ELCA, is what happened at CWA07. It was pretty cool, that despite the disagreements, how much Jesus was seen as truly the center of all that occurred, not just the sexuality, not just the diversity, not all the other uber cool resolutions, but that the light of Christ shown forth over all.

An Interesting Position on Health Care

I subscribe to a conservative Christian email list, and a most interesting post came across the wire. A fellow suggested that all taxes relating to medical care are morally wrong. Its something interesting to ponder what the effects might be if that were the case.

Most obviously, most of those over 65 would be out in the cold. The only reason private medicare part B insurance exists, is due to part A, govt controlled prices, govt research, and subsidies. Pull the part A, ie socialized medicine out of the mix, and insurance would only be available to the exceedingly wealthy, and likely only if they were healthy. In effect, its a balance between “theft” as he states, and the disgust of euthanaisa of the elderly.

I’m assuming he figures the church would step in and prevent that, but being the median church size in the US is 65 members, most of whom are older, there is no way even if they wanted to, they could do anything. Perhaps in a 10,000 person megachurch, with mostly younger members it might work.

Next, the NIH and other research entities would have to be shut down, thus ending substantial research in basic science, as well as clinical work. The resulting burden shifting to private industry would likely result in massive business failures in the short and long term. Short term, as they could not pick up the gap. Long term, as investment in basic science has a pay back period in some cases of decades… and its impractical for private industry to make such investments.

Then we have the issue of closing hospitals, being they would not be subsidized, either directly, or be favorable tax status. This would likely affect the average Joe and his family. Sure they would have a few extra percent extra in takehome, but likely not enough to travel, much less afford the huge increases in healthcare costs.

Of course this also has ripple effects, in a few short years, most companies would migrate off shore where they can get a better deal on healthier employees, as well as saving substantial costs. Ie, being able to deduct 8-30% of a persons benefits are a huge savings, but it is “theft” being weath is distributed to pay for that deduction. We would in effect become a third world country, albeit said “theft” would no longer be an issue.

Abortion and euthanasia by neglect would increase multifold. The 65 member church just doesnt have the resources, albeit a 10,000 member church might be able to make a dent.

To me, the above are pretty high costs to take the moral high ground in one narrow area, over the other moral areas of the system as a whole. It is an interesting paradox especially coming from a devout Christian.

More than likely he has not through the ramifications, or maybe he doesnt understand the huge impact and intrusion govt has in healthcare. There are huge reasons why short of third world countries who cant afford to, that govt is and must be entrenched in medicine.

I’m not a big fan of HR3200, as its a huge wealth redistribution from society to insurance company investors, but to remove govt funding from the health care arena in total would be a disaster of untold proportations. There are better solutions out there. The Texas Medical Association has a good policy page, as well as Mayo Clinic.

Sharing the truth, and crashing a Christian’s worldview

In some cases, the truth of the Gospel may end up rocking a persons worldview. It might be that someone has built their faith upon sand, ie a theology of glory, or in non Lutheran terminology, a subtle or not so subtle form of works based theology.

Sadly, it seems that far too often, we run into Christians who held such beliefs, whose worldview is already crashing, or worse, it has already hit bottom and they’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water. Usually, this is due to them hitting a wall, where in their works fail them. In other cases, its due to their worldview being challenged, and they don’t have a support network. For purposes of this blog entry, I’m only looking at the later, ie the world view has yet to come crashing down. Its good that such cases are reasonably easy to recognize. Its also pretty clear a gentle approach is needed, and that follow up care is a must.

As such, when we step up, and challenge a worldview, there are two typical responses: A, to get out the cannons, and fire at random, as the worldview must be protected at all costs. B, sooner or later, to realize they were upholding a theology of glory, and in some cases, followed by heading rapidly towards despair, Ie they see their foundation slipping away very fast, and they have yet to see the rock, ie the theology of the cross.

Its pretty hard to be gentle, when it comes to A, as we hear the cannon firing, and we want to speak over it… Far too often, if we try to yell, all the person hears is a muddled clanging gong noise. Perhaps its one of those things thats just going to take time, and maybe its just a you know where i stand, and if you ever have questions, lets talk.

As part of that, a beer or a coffee is a ton easier to communicate over, than out in the field with the guns ablazing. In the mean time, building further understanding and friendship can be a cool thing. One must also consider that upending the worldview is not the primary goal. Ie, such changes are in Gods time, not ours, and it may not be God’s will that we are his agent for this specific person. Our primary focus must be sharing the love of Christ, understanding one another, and concurrently the love for one another in Christ.

By the same token, once a worldview is shaken, a support infrastructure should be in the staging area. This is not unlike our protestant brethren who practice revivals, mass evangelism, or even street minisry to those who do not know Christ. They know very well, that when a seed is planted, it is irresponsible to not have a game plan for it to be nutured, although granted, some seeds will sprout even without such. Ultimately, to say lets talk sometime, and then drop the ball, or to make ones friendship conditional in some way is not cool at all.

Now, some might say, whoa, whats up with a staging area??? They may already have a church, are you advocating sheep stealing? And no way no how is my answer. What I am saying, is that in far too many cases where a worldview up ending occurs, folks end up going it alone. They dont want to share it with another brother or sister in Christ in their church our of fear or embarrassment. Or perhaps maybe they dont even have anyone they are close enough to in order to feel comfortable to do so. Or maybe you happened to reinforce what their pastor already preaches, but it never made sense to them before. Either way, to upend their worldview, and leave is far beyond not cool. Thats preaching the truth and forgetting the love, sort of the gong thing all over again.