Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hedging Risks: Reformation Day, 2005

Updated on Saturday 09 August 2014... none of the links that were live in 2005 currently work. They. Have. Died.

Martin LutherLate October, approaching Hallowe'en and All Hallows' Day: duller days and not bright nights. The Revised Common Lectionary's in yet another installment of Ordinary Time, though Reformation and Reign of Christ - both extraordinary festivals - are just around the corner. In fact, although October 31 is the date of the real Commemoration of Luther's Wittenberg Door Escapade, whenever the 31st is not on Sunday, the Churches of the Reformation celebrate Reformation on the Sunday before the 31st—that's today! This year, 2005, marks the 488th year of Protestantism, though...well, like every other branch and expression of Christianity, it really started a couple thousand years ago and the Church didn't beeline straight from Paul to Luther the way some people believe it did.

I began this as something altogether different from the way it turned out, so some time in the future I'll write more about my original topic. Today being Reformation, I'll say a little about Luther.

Hedging Risks, really!

Hedges, borders, boundaries, and berms: since I've mentioned Reformation, did Martin Luther hedge his life? Or did he bet his life on the Risen Christ? Knowing what we do about Luther, albeit some of it necessarily the inevitable legend that develops and surrounds such a incredibly gigantic figure, we know he literally risked his life because he knew how completely he could trust the Risen and Ascended One. Like his 20th-century namesake, Martin Luther King, Jr. and like his ultra-mentor in faith, Paul of Tarsus, Pastor Martin did his time in prison, and for a time a price hovered over his head.

This afternoon I tried a few web addresses: "martin luther dot com" and "martin luther dot org" (no return on either of those), so then I got European with "martin luther dot nl" and finally, "martin luther dot de" — that one resulted in a handsome page for the Luther Memorial Foundation. And an English version of the site, also no longer active.

The Dutch Maarten Luther Page also bit the dust.

Pastor Martin's Kleine Catechismus in Luther's original German no longer resolves in 2014.

That's all for now—Happy All Hallows' Eve and Blessed All Saints' Day!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Theology to Live By

Recently I observed,
Despite the biblical "bloom where you're planted" (build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce; seek the welfare of the city where I've sent you: in its welfare you will find your well-being, healing, recompense, etc.—if your environment thrives, you will thrive—I'll blog that soon), being good theology, I need to discover and uncover another *where*!!!!! Yep, that's an exilic text, and in many ways we're not living as people of God unless we're living with a sense of exile yet living to the fullest and richest extent possible wherever we are right here and now, but there's also the imperative of responding to God's call to our next *where*!
Once soon has become right now, so here's my blog on the text: it's not much more than a list, and I've linked to four blogs from this far by faith, my testimony blog, so it looks as if I'm trying to take some of my own counsel. Likely it's obvious that again I need to get some stuff out of my head and into the 'net! First though, my readers may have noticed the daily Bible verse on this site, courtesy of a deft piece of code from Augsburg Fortress. I've been writing down some of the most striking verses; for Monday, October 17, 2005, the Bible Verse of the Day was Isaiah 45:4,

"I call you by your name." (NRSV) The NIV reads, I summon you by name!

When I sought out (summoned?) some synonyms for "summon," among others I got call together, assemble and convene. Call together, assemble, convene. Exactly what God does to the Church and the churches! Sometimes we refer to eighth-day worship as the "Sunday Assembly" and we speak of our judicatories convening.

Also from Isaiah 45:15, "Truly you are a God Who hides Himself, O God and Savior of Israel."

Truly a God Who hides Himself—not a God of apparently spectacular manifestations, but a God Who paradoxically shows Himself by not showing Himself, maybe better described as God revealing Himself in hidden ways, i.e., not manifest with the dazzles and pyrotechnics people generally would expect of a Divinity Who is Sovereign over all of creation!

In my current (ummm...currently somewhat hidden, since I'm not planning to make it publicly =manifest= any time in the near future) version of my faith journey, I mention my many attempts to really belong at a long series of protestant mainline churches. For me, belonging means not simply being included in the head count, not just begrudgingly being allowed to do something or other occasionally, but being invited to participate and having my volunteer offers met with the local equivalent of enthusiasm. With my vast(!) and extensive(?) experiences in life and churches I do realize the typical mainline denizen isn't often particularly Pentecostal histrionic in their everyday emotional expressions! A couple years ago in a theology discussion I pointed out, "The Bible's not a metaphysical witness." Okay, meaning it's an historical, material and earthly one. Though created by the Spirit of God, the gospel and the church are substantial and tangible—according to the Bible's witness, at least they're supposed to be! You're supposed to be able to feel, touch, hear, embrace and see the churches and the gospel in action, doing God's things in the name of Jesus Christ...the Church is supposed to be the proleptic realization of the eschaton! I'll translate that into the more everyday exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven—to the world.

Reading and actually knowing the Bible and having some familiarity with life, we discover God's presence frequently is concealed, and we know God most typically can be found in surprising places and situations, at least surprising in conventional religious terms. Precarious and shaky as those Salt Lake City years were, I got some support and some social opportunities from settings that sought me out and that I wouldn't have thought of, specifically a Tongan United Methodist Church and the local Latter-day Saint ward, where I went to most of the monthly Friday evening parties and attended Relief Society homemaking—these days called "enrichment," to sound more contemporary. At no point would I have denied the goodness and righteousness of either of those settings, but they never would've been where I first would've looked. In addition, in the social and intellectual discussions at my social and political activist activities I came across a lot of welcoming discussions and lots of welcome tables, too.

Verse of the Day for Tuesday, October 25, 2005—Leviticus 19:2, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." About being holy and becoming holier, I just blogged, Thursday Blues.

During mid-August on this far by faith, in my Genesis 12 blog, I wrote (mainly) about God calling Abram/Abraham to go to a place "I will show you!" Is that where I am now? Start walking and start looking?

On the day before my Genesis 12 notes, I posted the lyrics to Let the River Run, which includes:
Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge, running on the water,
coming through the fog, your sons and daughters.
Let the river run, let all the dreamers wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.
I already used the word countercultural! in the last dsf blog before this one:
A few days ago a conversation reminded me of that essential word, countercultural! A people shaped not by consumerism, nor by greed; not by any type of trendiness, or by addiction; not by superfluity of finances or possessions...

...a community formed in the shape of Yahweh's own heart, an assembly convened and possessed by the One Who is Lord of All—Pantocratur...where the resurrection people of God in Christ Jesus always abide. Let's call that community "Christians, the Wilderness People!" Amen? Amen!!!
And I want to keep the countercultural concept going in this blog, especially since it's Theology to Live By! How do we, how can we "build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce; seek the welfare of the city where I've sent you" yet live as Christians, Wilderness People?

Here's Friday, October 21's verse of the day, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Incidentally, if anyone ever disputed Paul's authorship of 1 Thessalonians, that verse alone blows their argument way out of the water!

Theologian Paul Santmire cites the position of an inner-city single parent who has done absolutely everything completely right from a human perspective but still gotten close to nowhere. His comment: "These people don't want a sweat lodge; they want the Eucharist!" They're not interested in a comparatively inert artifact of a local tradition nearly as much as they hunger after the life-giving bread of heaven and cup of salvation. This blog is called, "Theology to Live By," and without any doubt the sacraments need to be part of our Living Theology, and a large part of how the rest of society thrives in our presence, which, after all, equates with the Presence of the Crucified, Risen and Ascended One, as we live out our baptismal call as Speakers of the Word, Emissaries of the Divine and Stewards of Creation.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Words to anyone Wise

Cryptic title, but I had to name it something in order to save my file and in the meantime I haven't thought of anything else, so I've kept the original. Here's another post I began mainly for myself, then it spun into something more all-purpose.

One more time I'm celebrating the fact the Chinese pictogram for crisis points to potential peril and possible providence. As discouraging as much of almost everything has been and as frequently as I focus on the failures, I cannot help but acknowledge certain things have gone almost amazingly well. Mainly theology! Not that I'd intended to become theological beyond the base truth everyone, everywhere is a theologian of sorts, but I'll admit God has compensated for a little of the loss by encouraging my involvement in more formal, more academic theology. I'm also excited to be part of the new genre of Blog Theology! Not at all sure anyone officially has termed it such, but with the internet's ubiquity and the incalculable count of online blogs and related editorializing, undeniably it's happening.

I'd imagined my life had a few guarantees(!), though with fallout dust from too many events, non-events and disappointments pretty much settled and those other imaginary assurances totally proven null and void, one, only a single and way outside of the ordinary guarantee remains: God's constant unmediated presence, relentlessly yoked with evidence thereof. I've talked and taught about the other gods of the Ancient Near East requiring sacrifices, entreaties and rituals, while still remaining far away from the sacrificers and entreaters; bear in mind—even the gods of the Egyptians could do the signs and the wonders! Yahweh's most show-stopping feature was not pyrotechnics but rather constant, unmediated presence and unrelenting provision for creation's need. Privately I've talked about learning the heart of God, though so far I haven't risked a public blog about it...maybe this one will qualify as an Initial Public Offering on that theme!

Early this morning fog, a.k.a. ground clouds, and to sound biblical, a.k.a. thick mist, covered this corner of Paradise. From the familiar narratives we know Yahweh, Lord-God of the nascent people Israel, journeyed before them with sensory substantiation: cloud by day, fire by night. In the exodus desert, Yahweh shaped and transformed the one-time slaves into persons of trusting freedom; in responsive relational reciprocity the people themselves participated in their own identity-formation into a community in the shape of Yahweh's own heart. What is Yahweh's own heart? After God's own heart implies the heart of a Holy and Wholly Other-than-us, willing to live as a stranger, an outcast, a resident alien, in order to be with and live among all the people and all of creation all of the time. From the beginning, the God of Adam and Noah, God of the covenants, ventured wherever the people went, meeting them, revealing His presence to them wherever they were. God never has been a deity predictably present when people were praying or otherwise being typically religious, but God always has been Lord of the Ordinary, God of the Sacredness of everyday life, His unmediated presence defining any time and any place where God and the people of God encountered each other as "Holy." A while ago I heard a New Mexico-based preacher talk about "Yahweh, the Wilderness Guy." I've written about God "pitching a tent" and living among the people during those exodus desert wanderings; I've told about God pitching a tent by becoming incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and I've talked about our becoming tent-toting tent-pitchers who some times - but not every time! - live on the edge of conventional culture and reputable society, ministering as the Spirit moves, always carrying our temporary shelters with us so we can set them up and stay for a while as long as that corner (or periphery!) of the world needs us. Those scratch-for-life times are among God's specialties, and God calls us, his people to make them part of their expertise, as well. In these New Covenanted days of 2005, to help us live in the image of our Wilderness God, we still have physical, sensible evidence of God-with-us and God-among-us, first, in the pair of signs the Reformers insisted was enough for the existence of the Church, the risen Body of Christ—Word and Sacrament.
  • "The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered." Philipp Melanchthon, Augsburg Confession, from Article 7
  • "Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 4, chapter 1, section 9.
Baptism and eucharist are mighty acts of God, but particularly in the Reformation tradition, now and again we fail to emphasize the necessity of human cooperation for the sacraments' existence! Just like the Israelite community born in the exodus wilderness as a result of Yahweh's gracious initiative paired with the people's response, the community of the Church first birthed on Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday continually becomes re-formed by Word and Sacrament. Exactly like the exodus desert gang, we partner with God in our own revival and renewal by responding to the Holy Spirit's invitation. God also offers the church - and offers the world outside the technical boundaries of the church - evidence of His gracious abiding presence in the community distinctively formed by God's action in the earthy, seemingly finite vehicles of Word and Sacrament, a people shaped into the shape of God's own heart. For a second time born—in baptism's waters of life, sustained with the bread of new birth and the cup of salvation, fed with the Living Word, in the most ordinary times and commonplace locales God's people walk alongside each other and the rest of creation, often one step ahead, clearing the way to make the journey safe, wherever anyone anywhere has need!

In these New Covenanted days of 2005 we still have physical, sensible evidence of God-with-us and God-among-us, in the reasonably objective symbols of Scriptures and Sacraments, and still astoundingly in the resurrection community of the Church and the churches, which is an extremely subjective sign, chosen by grace and for grace. This sounds scary, because as our highly esteemed colleague in ministry Martin Luther insists, although baptized forgiven and free into Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, those same people in that identical Eastered community are simultaneous both sinners and saints: in an aging bumper sticker's parlance, "not perfect but forgiven." But the church is not exclusively or even primarily a human institution, not a club we choose to join or not, but it's the Holy Spirit's creation! Maybe you've heard (or possibly you have the CD) of Daryle Singletary's version of "Amen Kind of Love," written by Trey Bruce and Wayne Tester? It's one of the abundance of supposedly secular love songs full of theological significance! Here's a text clip:
We are moved by the spirit, we are here to testify
We found an Amen kind of love
The kind that makes you fall down on your knees and reach for the sky above
The kind that your soul can never get enough
We've found an Amen, Amen, Amen kind of love
  • Holy and ever-living One, I need a sign of Your Presence—please show me a sign of Your Presence!
    • There it is: right there!
  • What, where, when and how?
    • What?
    • Word
    • Sacraments
    • All creation—rocks, rivers, forests, hills; streams, animals, canyons, prairies; cities, suns and stars—where the Risen and Ascended One always abides
    • The baptized, Holy and ever-alive community
  • Where? Right here!
  • When? Right now!
  • How? Not by power, not by might, but by My Spirit!
A few days ago a conversation reminded me of that essential word, countercultural! A people shaped not by consumerism, nor by greed; not by any type of trendiness, or by addiction; not by superfluity of finances or possessions... ...a community formed in the shape of Yahweh's own heart, an assembly convened and possessed by the One Who is Lord of All—Pantocratur...where the resurrection people of God in Christ Jesus always abide. Let's call that community "Christians, the Wilderness People!" Amen? Amen!!!