Saturday, January 31, 2004

One of the "candidates" becomes "mired" in the "episcopal" controversy, so to speak. (Perhaps I'm the only one who found this to be WAY funny)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I just got an email from a friend who has moved on from my church. He has had an abiding interest in the problems of Sudan and was spearheading a move to relocate a group of refugees to our area, a move which sadly was pre-empted when our gov't in its wisdom decided that refugees were some sort of threat to our national security (never mind that these are people who have had no concept of security of any kind in their lives).

The current situation over there has really become horrible beyond words. Do your own news search on Sudan or Darfur or Chad to see what I'm talking about. Here's the most recent Yahoo news story.

I'm not really even capable of knowing how to process things like this. Reminds me of Judges 19:29-30.
If your name is Mark Horne and you are looking for a reason to vote in November, click here. Others beware.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

This is turning inta a verrrrryyyy looooonnnnnng weekend around here. I'm getting tired of sitting around. May have to go build a snowman just to get outside.

Monday, January 26, 2004

I think this can only mean one thing: Glenn received the joke while he was still up there.
Although I've said a lot, both on and off the blog, about the practice of music, I'm still not sure I'd want to live with this guy when he was practicing (long but worthwhile video clip).
Even more on church in scandinavia.
Once you get past item 1, there's a lot of good stuff in this Stossel article.
When I spent a couple of days in Stockholm last June, I was really struck by the absence of any detectable signs of religious activity. As a proper amaerican, I don't actually have much idea what's going on in the rest of the world, so it was hard for me to even have any context to put my tiny experience of modern scandinavia into. Well, it looks like Stanley Kurtz has done some research into at least one aspect of Nordic life today, one which should be of condsiderable interest here in the states--gay marriage. The scandinavian countries have apparently volunteered to be the lab rats for the effects of gay marriage on a culture.

Certainly the most interesting part for me of this is the role of the church. This also should serve as a sober warning for us here as well :

Norway's Lutheran state church has been riven by conflict in the decade since the approval of de facto gay marriage, with the ordination of registered partners the most divisive issue. The church's agonies have been intensively covered in the Norwegian media, which have taken every opportunity to paint the church as hidebound and divided. The nineties began with conservative churchmen control. By the end of the decade, liberals had seized the reins.

While the most public disputes of the nineties were over homosexuality, Norway's Lutheran church was also divided over the question of heterosexual cohabitation. Asked directly, liberal and conservative clerics alike voice a preference for marriage over cohabitation--especially for couples with children. In practice, however, conservative churchmen speak out against the trend toward unmarried cohabitation and childbirth, while liberals acquiesce.

This division over heterosexual cohabitation broke into the open in 2000, at the height of the church's split over gay partnerships, when Prince Haakon, heir to Norway's throne, began to live with his lover, a single mother. From the start of the prince's controversial relationship to its eventual culmination in marriage, the future head of the Norwegian state church received tokens of public support or understanding from the very same bishops who were leading the fight to permit the ordination of homosexual partners.

I don't want to make dire predictions about the future of scandinavia (well, I WANT to, but I won't), especially since on my two brief visits everything seemed so pleasant. I will just mention what I notice here. Many in the church wonder about how to "deal" with homosexuality. Some choose vilification; some choose soft-pedaling or silence; some think, "it doesn't matter--homosexuals don't come to (our) church and couldn't care less what we think." But here in this example --and there are numerous examples in our lives I'm sure-- homosexuals DO look to the church for its word. Of course they hope for a word of affirmation, as we all do. But if the church is to be the church, one of the things she needs to do is to tell the truth. To sinners of all kinds we say, "you are enslaved by your sins--come to Jesus to be set free." We just must, like the minority of the German churches in the 30's and 40's, resist the temptation to sell our blessing to the highest bidder.

But you already know all this.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

I remember seeing this some years ago in the front of a hymnal. I thought it was wonderful then, and I'm not sure that it has been improved upon (anyone recognize it?):

Directions for Singing

I Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you hve learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III Sing all. See that you join the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness of weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when He cometh in the clouds of heaven.

Friday, January 23, 2004

This brings back memories, but not of the good kind. Makes me feel terrible just reading it.
In any event, I bet neither France nor England can boast something like this.
I imagine someone has something to say about this. Alastair? JB?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Wow. That's all I can say.
A short break from me telling you what I think. What do YOU make of this article on contemporary american ethics. I actually thought of about five things I wanted to say, but I'll spare you for the moment.

Monday, January 19, 2004

On a lighter note, if there's a better sign of divine justice than this, I'd like to know what it is.
I think I've mentioned a couple of times (way back) how much I've been enjoying Paul Tournier's stuff. I'm now working on one called Learn to Grow Old, and, as with everything else I've read of his, I'm sorely tempted to quote large amounts of it here were it not for my respect of copyright law. I'll just give you a little paragraph. I don't know precisely when this was written, but it was translated into English in 1971.

Contact between people of different ages used to be possible in the street, because people walked about peacefully on foot. They were able to greet each other, and stop for a chat. An old man would know who the child was he met, and he would chat to him about his parents whom he used to know well when they were little. He would talk of things he remembered, and so the child became aware of a living link between the past and the present. Nowadays the traffic makes it impossible for the old as well as the young to stroll in the street. We cram into buses or the underground, in solid, silent masses, in which the promiscuity of our bodies is equalled only by the solitude of our spirits. The old are not there, adn the children are stifled.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Art, nothing to get upset about there. I think the question I have is why polite society these days thinks everyone has to be as tolerant as possible, but allow artists to be as offensive as they wish. Seems like some kind of cruel game.
Thumping good church service today. We learned about Psalm 52 and Doeg the Edomite (after beating some of the youth into submission on the new foosball table). However I was very surprised to see a death annoucement in the bulletin. Jonathan Chao died of cancer at the age of 65 on Monday of last week. I have never met a braver man, or one who more fully lived out the implications of the New Testament teaching that we are citizens of a heavenly country, or, for that matter, the Old Testament teaching that the LORD is my strength, whom shall I fear? Jonathan was a leader in providing training and resources for house church leaders all over China. He was not well thought of by the Chinese government. I don't really have the words to describe the respect I had for him.

Also, in closing we sang a hymn whose words I had not previously noted carefully. In honor of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, we sang Once to Every Man and Nation, which he apparently cited often in his speeches. Part of it (which hit me quite hard while I was singing) goes like this:

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scafold, and upon the throne be wrong,
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow keeping watch above His own.
Good inside look at the practice of music by professionals in small ensembles here.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

My friend Kirk forwarded this to me:

by Ulf Gunnarsson

Hark and ware, oh Warrior!
Weird of Sven now hear you.
How good Lars he harried,
pestered him with questions.
Late at meadhall light burned;
Lars did strive to largen
belly with a bowl of
boiled fish his mission.

And some chunks of chicken,
cheese and bread and peasoup,
finally pounds of pancakes
paired with lingon berries.

Smallish snack he snuck while
woozy wife lay snoozing.
When inside there wandered
forth a fellow northman.

Lars did greet him greatly
for he knew the gruesome
tales of host who hasten
travelers forth from doorstep.

Lars did ask his name then.
"I am Sven," he mentioned.
"Sven I am," he stated.
"Do you like lutefisk and yams?"

"Nay." said Lars, "though largely
like I food most goodly, but
I do not like lutefisk and yams,
I do not like them Sven I am."

"Ah," said Sven most sagely.
"Would you eat them on a trip?
Would you eat them on your ship?"

"Nay," said Lars, "though largely
like I food most goodly, but
I would not eat them on a trip.
I would not eat them on my ship.
I do not like lutefisk and yams,
I do not like them, Sven I am."
"Ah," said Sven. "Then maybe
might you eat them on a raid?
Might you eat them with a maid?"

"Nay," said Lars most strongly.
"Like I food most goodly, but
I would not eat them on a raid,
I would not eat them with a maid,
I would not eat them on a trip,
I would not eat them on my ship.
I do not like lutefisk and yams.
I do not like them, Sven I am."

"Hmmm," said Sven, "Good fellow,
would you eat them on the field?
Would you eat them off your shield?"

"Nay!" cried Lars most wrothly,
"Like I food most goodly, but
I would not eat them on the field,
I would not eat them off my shield,
I would not eat them on a raid,
I would not eat them with a maid,
I would not eat them on a trip,
I would not eat them on my ship.
I do not like lutefisk and yams.
I do not like them, Sven I am."

Sven then looked most crafty.
He then slyly stated:
"Would you eat them served up cold?
Would you eat them if I paid you gold?"

"Well," said Lars, "since largely,
Like I food most goodly...
I might like lutefisk and yams.
I might like them, Sven I am."

Sven produced this Swedish
yam and lutefisk sample.
Lars did test this tasty
treat then longly pondered.

Stoutly Lars then stated:
"I despise lutefisk and yams.
I despise them, Sven I am.
I will not eat them served up cold,
I will not eat them if you pay me gold.
I will not eat them on the field,
I will not eat them off my shield,
I will not eat them on a raid,
I will not eat them with a maid,
I will not eat them on a trip,
And I will NOT eat them on MY ship!
I do not like lutefisk and yams,
I do not like them, Sven I am."
And he slew Sven.
Sorry, link below died apparently. You can try the mixmaster yourself here. Seems to work well at mixing blogs and news sites, but feel free to play around.
I have a funny feeling that posting this will screw it up, but I tried using the mixmaster today, at my wife's suggestion, putting my site info into the foxnews layout. I got a picture of Iraq with a big caption saying "The Victory According to Mark." You can see the current state of things here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I love my youth pastor. I caught him at the church last night at about 10:00 playing Madden 04 on our church's new X Box. He told me the computer had beaten him badly and he wanted revenge. I told him he had to play me, since I've never played on an X Box. Of course I thrashed him soundly, thus leaving him dejected and having to explain to his wife why he came hime so late :)

Of course I also like the fact that at our outh bible study tonight he asked questions like "Is the gospel teaching or history?", expecting "history" as the proper answer. We got to discuss why, when Paul confronted Peter about not eating with the gentiles, he (Paul) accused him of not living according to the gospel. It's interesting trying to get from point a (the life of Jesus) to point b (the gospel requires Jews to eat with gentiles).
If anyone ever does a musical version of the life of Abraham, they need to include a rockin number where Abraham and Sara sing to each other, "You are my sister, you are my brother." Big dance number in Pharoah's palace. Can you picture it?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

I'm still getting to know my bible. While this is true in a general sort of way, what I mean more precisely is that I've been using a new bible for the last 6 months much of it seems new and exciting to me.

Today during Sunday School, James (the youth minister) was talking about community and individualism from the first chapter of Philippians. Verse 19 in my NJB reads like this: " and I shall go on being happy, to, because I know that this is what will save me, (b) with your prayer and with the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ;"

I turned my attention away from James for a minute to see what the footnote was and discovered a reference to Job 13:16. While I should have been paying attention, especially since I'm trying to be a good example for the kids, I felt compelled to look up the refernce. It just seemed lie a weird phrase to quote, plus the NJB edition I have is pretty spare on footnotes, and usually what they put there is interesting to me.

Of course Job is always interesting, and it came at me in a fresh way when I looked back there. Job apparently is speaking to one or all of his friends here:

Kindly listen to my accusation and give your attention to the way I shall plead.

Do you mean to defend God by prevarication
and by dishonest argument,
and, taking his side like this, apoint yourselves as his advocates?

How would you fare, if he were to scrutinize you?

. . .I am putting my flesh between my teeth,
I am taking my life in my hands;
let him kill me if he will; I have no other hope
than to justify my conduct in his eyes.

And this is what will save me,
for the wicked would not dare to appear before him.

I don't remember off the top of my head if this is one of the passages that Richard Hays talks about in Echoes of Scripture, but it sounds like it might be. Job's language here almost sounds like the reverse of the protestant doctrine of justification. I would previously have been tempted to think that Job was just not right on tis point, or at least that he was lacking sorely in the knowledge we now have from the NT. But I now have to think this is not the case.

Going back to Paul, in the passage he is talking about how his imprisonment has brought new confidence to the brothers, both those who loved him as well as those who despised him. Here is the obvious connection with Job. Paul endured his suffering with patience and with confidence that God would be the one to justify him in the end. Job's hope was the same. But both situations are not those of isolated individuals, but of people dealing with people trying to convince them they are idiots. I can only imagine that if Paul wrote a letter specifically to those who had "malice and rivalry", there would be quite a bit more of Job in it.

The lesson Paul picked up from Jesus and which becomes one of the themes of Philippians was that suffering and pain and death could be (and ARE, in Christ) not signs of God's disfavor, but quite the opposite.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Since Valerie has dropped out, I'd like to introduce folks to one of my new favorite blogs. Go say hi to a little aardvark. He's been talking about christian music lately. Seems like a cool guy.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Also, both of AKMA's comments for today are worth thinking about.
One of my favorite blogs is not posted on the side bar there because it is carefully disguised as a site that reports on the releases of new video games. Be not fooled. This is actually a real blog. When you have a minute you'll need to check out the most recent post (I think you'll have to scroll up a little to get the top), the results of a contest on the worst holiday experience. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I like this one:

“I believe that the reason I smoke and drink every day and my wife is overweight is because we watched TV every day for the last four years,” Dumouchel stated in a written complaint against the company, included in a Fond du Lac police report.
I did something a bit odd just before the holiday. I wrote a fan letter. First one of my life. It just felt kinda weird doing it at my age, but I really wanted to introduce myself to Stanley Hauerwas and thank him for the impact his books have had on my life.

He sent me the most gracious response and answered all my (mostly implicit) questions and gave me a few book recommendations. I recommended Neal Stephenson to him and he agreed to check him out sometime :)

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I'm sure everyone has been asking themselves, "What sort of D&D characters would the Dem. hopefuls be?" Wonder no more.
Unless someone tells me they miss it, I'm taking away the reading list from the sidebar.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Looks like I'm not the only one to notice these things.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Mr. Burns: "Oh, meltdown. It's one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus."

Friday, January 02, 2004

Of the religion and biblical studies books I read this year, only a few of them dipped below the threshold of "recommend very highly." As I look over the list, I find it quite impossible to rate them relative to each other, So I'll just give them to you in the order I have them written down here (pretty much the order in which I read them). Also, since I'm tired, I'm just putting titles down but not authors.

1 The Faith of Jesus Christ--A thorough and seminal study of Galatians 3 and following. Creates a whole host of theological questions we should be wrestling with.

2 Handbook of Biblical Social Values--This could be one good place to start reading what I now find to be the indispensible contributions of the "Context Group." The book is done in encyclopedia style with short essays on key social-science terms. I'd recommend it as a great resourse for pastors and other christian teachers.

3 The Resurrection of the Son of God--You probably either have read this one or at leastt heard about it. Inspired me to get into debating atheists about the resurrection, though that was often a less than fulfilling experience.

4 A Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John--tons of valuable insights, though the final section on the resurrection is downright heretical. Everything else was wonderful though.

5 Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew--This was by far my favorite Context Group book I read, and possibly the best book of the year for me. Honor and shame are the 2 most important concepts to "get" when trying to understand the people of the bible. If you only get one book based on my recommendation, make it this one.

6 Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down--a study of worship within the modern church within the modern culture. A great deal to think about here. The downside is that it will probably make you start asking too many questions about why your church does things the way it does and get you into trouble.

7 The Politics of Jesus--Despite the title, deals mostly with Pauline theology. Consider this, for instance:
A- Men have the right to self defence.
B- Jesus had the right to self defence.
C- Jesus voluntarily gave up that right.
D- The attitude of C above (though not strictly limited to that) is exactly what Paul was referring to when he spoke of imitating Jesus.
Yoder also anticipates quite a bit of what became the NPP.

8 Portraits of Paul: An Archeology of Ancient Personality--an extremely helpful book on ancient notions of identity and personality. Lots of classical and early christian works cited for examples.

9 The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament--A good general work touching on many aspects of 1st century life.

10 Matthew and Empire--a very well written and well argued defense of a political interpretation of Matthew. An excellent companion to the Neyrey book above. Would be a good follow-up after reading Wright's books on the gospels.

11 Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul--a difficult but very rewarding look at Paul's use of the OT. Only downside is that a fair amount of it isn't in English.

12 Paul Among the Postliberals--a study on the effects of the "New Perspective" on 20th century theology. Interacts with many of my favorite theologians. The section on Wright is a bit odd though. Still a fascinating read.

13 Truthfulness and Tragedy--If you have any interest in medical ethics, you'll find a lot to think about here. The broad idea is that we lie to ourselves and lie about God when we deny the tragic elements of our lives. Good stuff.

14 After Christendom? How the Church Is to Behave If Freedom, Justice, and a Christian Nation Are Bad Ideas--If the title makes you angry, this is the book for you. You'll be glad you read it.

15 The Victory According to Mark--Yes, Mark, you made it to my list. The strength here is the wealth of thought about how the gospel of Mark echoes so many ideas and images from the OT.

16 Resident Aliens--a good place to start seeing a radical view of the church. Simple but quite profound.

17 Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition--A wealth of good articles expanding on Alasdair MacIntyre's work and applying it to the church. Yoder's essay on forgiveness was the best essay I read all year.
Wow, finished three today. Philip K Dick's The Simulacra was very good. Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death was one of the best books ever. Daniel Ottati's Reforming Protestantism was just awful.
I have floating around in my brain now some ideas for a paper on the subject of music as a chritian practice. Not quite sure where to start, other than reviewing MacIntyre's statements on practices. I'm just kinda continually irritated by the fact that in our culture music is not something that one practices, but rather something that is always in the background, or that one accomplishes by pushing a button on a machine, or improves through spending more and more money on equiptment. As Lenise and I were having a good time at a couple of recent holiday parties I was thinking about the fact both of the hosts found it prudent to "play" holiday music during the festivities. This was mitigated by the fact that at the first party we did actually have someone play a keyboard and sing together.

If anyone knows of any publications which deal with public participation in music activities, please feel free to forward them to me.
Final book count for the year 2003 was 106. Among the the books I read over the holidays, I'd like to point out two. First, Don Cook's book The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies was fascinating throughout. It almost convinced me that the american revolution should be considered more a subset of English history than american history. The star of the book was Ben Franklin, who spent much of the period in question in London. One of the most interesting tidbits to me was how the English received the Declaration of Independence. It was published toward the back of a periodical called Gentleman's Quarterly, and in reponse received only one letter to the editor, which letter pointed out, among other things, that it was ridiculous for the americans to be talking about all men being created equal since they practiced slavery.

The other book is The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life by Stan Hauerwas and William Willimon. This is a brief examination of what the commandments have to say to (american) christians today. The book is liberally sprinkled with quotes from the great theologians: Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Wesley. By count, Calvin actually gets the most space. The book cover indicates that a study guide is available, so I'll be recommending this to my small group for a future study.

Hoping to get to my religion list--2003 tonight. I haven't made any sort of goals or commitments for 2004 at this point, other than to spend some time re-reading Gene Wolfe and Patrick O'Brian.