Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Palms and Hosannas to Crucify Him. . .

As we begin Holy Week, there is a perennial debate among Lutherans over the Sunday which was called Palm Sunday and now is called Passion Sunday.  I must admit that it is a curious one for me.  When I grew up the majority of Lutherans I knew had confirmation on Palm Sunday.  Instead of Jesus riding in on the back of a donkey, a row or two of finely groomed young men in the first real suits and young women in their white, lacy dresses were assembled for the rite Luther loved to hate -- confirmation.  So we did not hear much of Jesus entrance into Jerusalem amid palms and hosannas nor did we pay much attention to what was coming later in the week.  It meant one thing to us -- no more catechism class!  Yeah!  The two hours on Saturday mornings sitting quietly except to repeat memory work would finally come to an end.  Who could not be happy about that?  It was, at least in our minds and the minds of our relieved parents who saw us finally finished, a much more important occasion than what happened in the Gospel. So maybe this has soiled my perception of the argument in favor of palms and tilted my sympathies toward the passion over the palms.  I cannot say that I am objective about this but I am not without appreciation for the argument which changed the day.

Some complain that the reading of the Passion overshadows the rest of the week and renders the individual stories of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday superfluous.  I disagree.  We do have palms and hosannas -- where they belong in the great procession that enters Holy Week by following Jesus through the crowds to the cross.  We do pay attention to the grand welcome in which the Savior came to His appointed destiny humble and mounted on a donkey.  But we do this in the context of the larger outcome.  Jesus did NOT come for the crowds or the accolades or the welcome.  He came for the cross.  In the past the palms gave us a glory moment which was not Jesus' primary glory.  He came for the glory of the cross.

Yes, I agree.  It is cumbersome to read the whole Passion story in one fell swoop.  It is long.  It taxes the skill of the reader and the listener.  But such is the weight of these words that we at least once in Holy Week hear it all -- from beginning to end -- before we explore the smaller stories inside the big one.  Yes, it does kill the surprise ending but the Church and those who have gathered to celebrate the day already know the surprise ending -- we know He dies and we know He rises again.  This is exactly why we come.  To hear it all again -- the old story retold again, not for dramatic effect, but because this IS the Gospel. 

So sing All Glory, Laud, and Honor and wave the palms and shout the hosannas.  But make sure that on this Sunday everyone knows where this goes -- to the cross.  And don't forget to sing one of the great Lenten chorales (O Sacred Head, A Lamb Alone Goes Willingly, etc.) or one of my personal favorites, No Tramp of Soldier's Marching Feet.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A whim, a goofy mistake, or worse???

Helsinki: Orthodox Metropolitan Ambrosius of Helsinki of the Finnish Orthodox Church invited Female Evangelical Lutheran bishop Irja Askola to Altar with him during Clergy ordination at the Sunday Divine Liturgy. This has sparked much controversy.

He also ordered the Deacons to pray for the Lutheran woman bishop during litany. This has angered several Orthodox faithful.

Archbishop Leo- Primate of the Finnish Orthodox Church has condemned the incident and has asked Metropolitan to clarify the issue before considering any measures against him.

Major Finnish newspapers have reported the incident. Archbishop Leo have released an official statement on the controversial incident which is available at the official website of the Finnish Church.

Does this woman look like a Finish Orthodox bishop?  priest?  deacon?  laywoman?  What was in the mind of Metropolitan Ambrosius of Helsinki to invite female Lutheran bishop Irja Askola to the altar during a clergy ordination?  Read it in Finnish here.  So far I do not have a date.  Can somebody help me here?

Friday, March 27, 2015

The shibboleth of modernity. . .

From Breitbart:

Students at Kings College London (KCL) have successfully campaigned for the removal of a window featuring former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, an alumnus of the college, on the grounds that his stance on gay marriage makes him “homophobic”.  The move comes despite Carey’s reputation as a liberal while he was Archbishop, ushering in the ordination of women priests for the first time in the Church’s history.

He particularly attracted their ire during a debate on same sex marriage held at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in 2012. Lord Carey made a point about the new sanctity awarded to equality, saying: “It seems to me that so many of our current problems revolve around the all-too narrow attempt to make equality the controlling virtue. Acceptance of differences does not challenge equality. We are not the same.  Men and women are equal in the sight of the Lord but that is a statement about our legal status and not our identity. Same sex relationships are not the same as heterosexual relationships and should not be put on the same level.”

It was the last sentence in particular that angered the campaigners, who branded Lord Carey a “homophobe” and a “hate figure”, and began to campaign for the window’s removal. 

Modernity shouts diversity and condemns suppression EXCEPT for that which disagrees with its sacred values.  In a very short period of time the modern shibboleth has become gay rights and gay marriage.  It will not be long before every other right must bow at this altar -- including freedom of religion.  When that day comes we will discover just how fragile freedom truly is and just how effective an enemy is the thought and speech police who get to define what a homophobe is and what will not be tolerated in public conversation.  Churches need to pay attention to this for it will not be long before tax status and legal rights are stripped from everyone who dares to speak against that which once dared not speak its name at all.  It is also, sadly, a tacit admission of the bankruptcy of British culture and values that this is happening more and more in jolly old England.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The first casualty is usually the truth. . .

Read The National Review for an article on the push back to the Archbishop's desire to have teachers in Roman Catholic schools actually teach in line with Roman Catholic teaching.  It is not that difficult and certainly no stretch of the imagination to believe that those who teach in Roman Catholic schools would actually teach in line with Roman Catholic teaching -- whether or not they personally believe such.  Yet it is clear that when it comes to the highly organized and well funded gay lobby, this is exactly the things being challenged.

First they will characterize the teaching as rigid.  It is a typical move to paint orthodoxy as rigid, unbending, heartless, and unfeeling.  Who would agree with orthodoxy if it meant surrendering your heart at the door.

Next they will characterize orthodoxy as out of step with the people in the church.  How many times have we not heard orthodoxy described as not the mainstream of people's thinking or a stretch for the average person in the pew?  Here the point will be made that because there are Roman Catholics who disagree with the church's position, the position must change to fit the people's viewpoint.

And then, of course, they will attempt to discredit the moral high ground of those who press for orthodoxy.  But this is and has never been about who is holier -- it is about the unchanging teachings of a church and the ordinary expectation that a school that wears the church's name should be expected to teach and practice in conformity with that teaching.

Lest we think this is a uniquely Roman Catholic issue, we Lutherans have seen the Lutheran-ness of our own church schools diluted and weakened to the point where it is hard to identify anything in the curriculum or policies of such a school in conformity with the confessional standards of the church.  A particular example might be the promotion of evolution (we all expect that evolution will be taught informationally but we have a right to expect that it will not be promoted at the expense of Scripture).  Another example would be the area of worship.  Sadly many students in a Lutheran school go to chapels that bear no distinctive marks of Lutheran faith or piety.

Lutheran schools are expensive.  The parents pay good money in tuition.  The parishes support the school, facilities, and mission of the school with good money given in food faith.  The minimal common expectation is that the faith and practice of such schools will conform to the doctrinal positions of the larger church.  Apart from this is the basic question of why such a school could or should be called Lutheran in the first place.  Funny, though, is the fact that most of our parents make the great sacrifice of tuition and offerings in support of Lutheran education because they believe that Lutheranism offers something good and positive toward education.  Why else would you spend so much money on your child's education?  No, the basic and most foundational expectation of people sending their children to a Lutheran school is that the school will impart a solidly Lutheran education for their children.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation Of Our Lord

A quiet day. . . following my father's funeral. . . remembering the Annunciation. . . rejoicing in the gift to us all God placed within Blessed Mary's womb. . . recalling her resolute trust in the wisdom of the Lord and her consent to His will. . . renewing our own faith with the prayer that we may manifest such trust in God's gracious will. . . and resting our wounded hearts in His promise. . .