This article yesterday caught my eye, about one of the stars of a popular television show that has taken some serious flack for some very unflattering comments he made about the show. Thanks to Gene Veith’s blog (always very worthwhile reading!) for a link to this interview with the actor last month before the controversy erupted.
Archive for November, 2012
I’ve celebrated Advent all my life, and it has always struck me as a bit strange. After all, how is it that we are supposed to be all anxious and vigilant, waiting for an event that happened 2000 years ago already? I mean, where’s the suspense in that? Why not just jump to Christmas and be done with it?
Date: December 2, 2012,
First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10; 1Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke
Notes: We begin a new Church Year! And as we do, we
begin a new lectionary cycle as well. We completed Year B of the
three-year lectionary cycle last Sunday, and now enter Year C. As
such, our primary Gospel source for the next year shifts from Mark to
Luke. Next year it will be Matthew. John does not have his own
lectionary year, but we draw on his Gospel at the high holidays of
every Church year.
Advent is a time of preparation. The
origins of this season of the Church year are unclear. Since it is a
time of preparation for the birth of our Lord, it would stand to
reason that Advent did not begin until the Nativity of Our Lord was
widely celebrated, which we can date with certainty no earlier than
the fourth century, at which point it seems to be widespread.
Traditionally it was a time of fasting and penance, very similar to
Lent which precedes Easter. While we don’t fast officially in the
Lutheran tradition, there is much to be said about treating this time
more somberly, not the least because of the tempering effect it might
have on the expectations that this time of year places on us to eat,
drink, be merry, and spend money on gifts. I tend to suspect that
Advent ought to give us pause to consider priorities, and a more
somber observance of the season lends itself better to that end than
the indifferent or even festive tone we are used to. The liturgical
color for the season of Advent is traditionally purple – the same
as Lent. In recent years however a deep blue has also become an
acceptable liturgical color.
Jeremiah 33:14-16 –
This is a beautiful passage of hope, particularly in light of the
first 13 verses of this chapter! The promise of a continuation of
Jesse’s line is made in the context of the final destruction of that
same line. Jerusalem is to be laid waste. The city will be filled
with the dead and dying. Yet in the midst of that stark promise
comes this bright hope – not all is lost! God must chastise his
people, but He has not completely rejected them. Though many will
die, some will live. Though the line of David will be cut off, it
will not be cut off forever. Our sufferings personally and
corporately are always experienced in the light of this same promise,
and in the fulfillment of that promise. Our God reigns over death
and suffering and the grave, and though these things still have their
place in our lives, they do not have the last word. The last Word
has been spoken, and it is a Word of victory!
Psalm 25:1-10: The
progression in these verse of the Psalm are beautiful. They move
from a very plaintive cry for help in present distress (vs. 1-3).
The speaker is in the midst of affliction. Defeat is a very real
possibility and so the speaker cries out for deliverance and
vindication from their enemies. Verse 3 forms a turning point
though. It acknowledges that while the speaker seeks to avoid shame,
no real or lasting shame can come to the one who places their faith
in God. This leads the speaker in vs. 4-5 to ask for strength to
better study and understand the will of God which is the Word of God.
In turn, the speaker also asks – based on the Word of God – that
God not forget his loving kindness, and to deal with the speaker in
forgiveness and mercy rather than righteous judgment (vs. 6-7).
Finally, our reading selection for today ends in praise of God (vs.
8-10). They assert the good and holy nature of God, which are the
source and reason of our faith and trust in him.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13-
St. Paul has been worried about the Thessalonian Christians. Did
they hold fast to what he taught them, or did they abandon the Gospel
after he left them? Were the persecutions that they encountered
enough to drive them back to their old ways, or had they managed to
cling tight to Jesus Christ (vs.1-5)? His joy is overwhelming though
when he finds they have remained faithful! What could be better than
to see them again and to celebrate together the faithfulness of God
in which they have been kept (vs.9-10)? Paul then prays for the
Thessalonian Christians that they would persevere in the faith as
Paul looks forward to being together with them again. But they don’t
wait idly in some sort of status quo – they are waiting while still
growing, while still overflowing in love for one another, and in
holding fast to their life in Christ. Waiting is never a passive
affair, but a constant, moment by moment, day by day active
anticipation of what is to come even in the midst of the enjoyment
and enlargement of what we have already received in Jesus Christ!
alternative reading option for this morning was Luke 19:28-40. Both
readings are ones we associate with Holy Week and Palm Sunday and the
conclusion of Jesus’ ministry, and may seem a bit out of place here
at the beginning of Advent. But as we wait for the birth of the
Christ child, we affirm that He has already come. He has already
come and his ministry of reconciliation has not only begun, it has
been concluded through his suffering, death, resurrection, and
ascension. What we look forward to in Advent is a historical
reality, but it is also the continued promise of his return. As
such, the reading for this morning links us back to Christ the King
Sunday and the anticipation of the past few weeks looking forward to
the Second Coming of Christ. His first and second coming are linked.
They are part of the same activity of God.
34-36 are particularly powerful to me. Two thousand years on, how
many of us are weighed down in the concerns of our lives and the
world, and how many of us really, truly believe that our Savior is
coming, and that He could arrive at any moment? How many of us are
comfortable in the assumption that we will meet him after our death,
not before? How many of our decisions are guided by this assumption?
are the ones who are going to be surprised, caught unawares – we
who ought to be watching diligently! While we needn’t live in fear,
we do need to live with anticipation. It ought to guide our actions
and thoughts and words each day. It should continually shape who we
are by what it leads us to do and what it restrains us from doing.
Our lives ought to be characterized by this sense of anticipation
which forms the backdrop against which everything else in our lives
grow up and marry and raise a family not as an end in itself but to
ensure that they know that the Lord is coming! We take a job or
follow a career path not as an end in itself, but as a means of
loving our neighbor for however many days we have until the Lord
comes! We make financial decisions not purely for selfish reasons or
to benefit our own small family but as a means of caring for family
as well as neighbors until the Lord comes again! If there is a
characterization that others ought to be able to make about us, it’s
that we are constantly awaiting the arrival of our Lord!
Here is a discussion of the first article that was actually sent to me (thanks to Lois!). It is entitled “12 Myths about Mormonism”, and it’s good to remember the source publication – the Salt Lake Tribune.
Still recovering from a bout of some sort of nastiness yesterday – possibly food-poisoning-type-nastiness, I’m deciding to opt for a less intellectually rigorous post today. Or perhaps that’s my typical kind of post? Hmmm.
This is one of the few tangible pieces of information I trace directly to high school and remember as though it were yesterday. I can recite in entirety this short Emily Dickinson poem. That I apprehended some great truth in it as an adolescent, and that such truth has remained intact is a marvel I can’t explain.
Date: November 25, 2012,
Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
Notes: This is the last Sunday of the liturgical
church year – Christ the King Sunday. The previous two Sundays
have begun focusing us on the return of Christ, the end of sinful
human history and the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth that
are unified, not separated. This Sunday focuses on the regal, royal,
and awe-inspiring power of Jesus Christ as King of Kings, before whom
every knee will bow and tongue confess (Romans 14:11 paraphrasing
As Americans, this is a bizarre concept. We have no
king, we have no Lord. Our elected officials at least nominally bow
to our authority as an electorate. There is no one who is above
reproach or beyond recall – at least on paper. While we are
obedient to our officials and their delegates, we do so
philosophically out of our own volition. What are we to make of the
fact that we have a Lord who commands our obedience and is not
subject to our votes or approval polls? If we cannot tolerate the
temporary authority of one we disagree with, how can we tolerate the
absolute sovereignty of God?
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 –
I selected this from the two possible verses for the day (Isaiah
51:4-6 was the alternative) because of the focus on the glory of God
the Father and God the Son. Daniel does utilize these titles, but
as we let Scripture interpret Scripture, it is very clear who these
two divine personages are. I liked Daniel’s emphasis on describing
the glory of God, his radiance and power.
Though we affirm that God
the Father is true spirit, not human flesh, Daniel is being given a
glimpse of the glory of God in terms that he can make sense of. He
is seeing God in the throne room motif that is recurrent throughout
the prophets and into John’s Revelation. We cannot conceive of a
God that is not physical, so God appropriates a physicality and a
setting that we can make sense of – a divine king and judge who is
beyond compare in terms of power and glory. Daniel, who would be
used to the pomp and circumstance of his Babylonian captors and king,
conveys the true grandeur and glory of God as incomparable. And
before this glory there is only one person who is capable of standing
to receive authority and glory and power – the Incarnate Son of
God, Jesus Christ. Whatever our conceptions of heaven may be like,
if they conceive of heaven apart from the overwhelming awe and
majesty of the full presence of God, we are not imagining it
Psalm 93: A beautiful
psalm of glory and honor to the all-powerful creator of all things.
Louder than the most persistent thundering sound on earth, the sound
of waves crashing against the shore, the voice of creation will
praise its maker. God alone is eternal, from all eternity, and
therefore is solely appropriate to reign in all power and majesty.
As the creator of all things, God alone is the fit recipient of the
praise of all creation. If the waves themselves sing the praises of
their creator, how is it that humanity could even consider
Note that the embodiment of God is the
Word of God in the final verse. God is not separate from his Word.
We are not free to conceive of God and what pleases him on any basis
other than his own revealed Word. It can’t be truly said that we
can’t conceive of God, because we can conceive of him using the words
and descriptors and statutes that He has revealed specifically to us.
It is the Word of God that we should study and meditate on, rather
than on vague imagined ideas of divinity.
The alternate reading option was Jude 20-25, but I preferred the
Revelation text because it focuses us squarely on the glory of God
and not on ourselves. Note how John begins his revelation. What
follows in his revelation might be terrifying if it were not for the
assurance of who Jesus is, not just as the firstborn from the dead
and ruler of the kings of earth, but as the one who
loves us and has freed us from sin
I have had discussions with people who struggle with the idea
that they might need to fear God, because for them fear is a negative
emotion and God should not engender any such negative emotions. But
the natural reaction to anything so much greater, so much more
powerful, and so much more different
than ourselves is fear. A lack of fear indicates a level of
confidence in something, either that we stand apart and unaffected by
God, or that we somehow stand over God. Neither is true! We fear
the power of nature, how much more ought we to fear God – but how
much more ought our fear of God be tempered because of his love for
us. Without that assurance of his love, without the incarnation and
crucifixion and resurrection and ascension and promised return of the
Son of God, our only possible
reaction to God could be fear. But because of the Son of God in
human time and space, we are free to love God, knowing how deeply and
firmly He loves us!
Though I like the Mark 13:24-37 alternative text option, I think the John
text more accurately conveys our dilemma regarding the kingship and
authority of Jesus Christ. If the focus of this morning is on the Kingly glory and authority of our Lord, we must also recognize that we are peculiarly unable to accept this and act upon the truth of it.
are pragmatic people. We are grounded in the day to day events of
reality as we know it, and so while we confess Jesus Christ as our
Lord and Savior, we have practical issues that we need to deal with
that sometimes push our appropriate response to this confession
knows that Jesus is innocent of the charges made against him. He
seems genuinely puzzled and intrigued by this enigmatic teacher and
healer who he has undoubtedly already heard about. Pilate doesn’t
have difficulty believing that Jesus conceives of himself as a king.
But Pilate’s response is so often our own – even if Jesus is a
king, the truth of this is easily lost in a pragmatic world. We can
hear Pilate as perhaps the first postmodern, the first person to
utter what has become the mantra of our culture today – “What is
truth?”. If it exists, how can we know it? If we can know it, how
can we attune ourselves to it? And if we attune ourselves to it,
what difference will it make in the big picture? There are things
that need to be done. Money that needs to be earned, bills that need
to be paid, people that must be placated or loved or raised or cared
for. Jesus may in fact be a king, but the fact of the matter is that
the constant demands of the moment are what truly reign in so many of
has issues to consider. He has a restless population to keep
satisfied. He has a career to nurture and advance. He has a wife to
deal with. He can’t be distracted by petty concerns such as truth –
he is a pragmatic man who knows that all too often the truth gives
way and is ground under whatever private interests demand to hold
sway. Jesus may well be a king, but that won’t make the crowds
outside any quieter. Jesus may well be a king, but that won’t
satisfy Pilate’s higher-ups when they demand to know why he wouldn’t
agree to the demands of his constituency.
the King Sunday should force us to confess that Christ is often our
King in name only. It should drive us to repentance for placing
ourselves and others before his will and truth. And it should afford
us the assurance that the King has forgiven us and has raised us back
to our feet to once again seek to obey him. While that may seem
impossible, he assures us that his yoke is easy, and his burden is
light (Matthew 11:29-30).
9 was one of the in-flight movies I watched recently. I thought that the trailers for it looked interesting when it was released, and I was happy to get the chance to see it. But I was disappointed. Some broad spoiler material ahead, so be forewarned.
Post-apocalyptic world, where machines have turned on their makers and unleashed biological warfare that has terminated all life. What remains are a few animated machines, and a series of animated sack-dolls created by the same genius who created the machines that promised the future and delivered death. Apparently several generations of these creatures have been unleashed into the world, with 9 being the last. None of the first 8 remember anything about the creator though, despite the fact that he apparently was still alive when they were created. He has infused these mechanical sack-dolls with his own soul, bringing them to life for mysterious purposes.
9 accidentally awakens the final great machine which is capable of self-replication and the exploitation of resources to do so. Essentially, this mega-machine is a metal man, fixed on personal survival for somewhat tenuous reasons. The sack-dolls find themselves attempting to undo the reanimation of this creature while trying to sort out philosophical and theological differences amongst themselves that do a credible job at replicating the fractured soul of a mad genius.
The cry throughout the film is ‘back to the source’ – the same rallying cry as the Renaissance. By going back to the genius of antiquity we can recreate ourselves and realize our full potential in the future. The movie dutifully falls into the same cracks and chasms created by the original Renaissance, however. No authority can be tolerated save the authority of the individual. The Church is a blind slave to tradition and personal ambition masquerading as self-sacrifical piety, willing to rely on strong-arm tactics to coerce obedience. Fine – any institution is going to struggle because it has humans in it, and the Church certainly falls into this category. Technology is demonized on the macro level while being idolized at the micro level (the small light that 9 creates to illuminate his path). The problem is that mankind doesn’t know where the dividing line is between the beneficial micro technology and the self-destructive macro technology. The metaphor of light in this sense is reminiscent of Frank Miller Jr.’s fantastic post-apocalyptic literary masterpiece, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”.
The movie tries to end on a hopeful theme, but I’m not sure what the hope is based upon. There is the hint of a recreation of biological life, but I’m not sure how this in and of itself is supposed to be hopeful. Nor is there any explanation how a group of sack-dolls without any reproductive capabilities of their own are going to recreate and re-establish the world. Definitely a major leap of faith.
The movie is beautiful to look at, but it offers nothing of substance underneath the graphics.
As plans were made for a trip to Israel, there were more than a few people here in the States that expressed concerns about a trip like that, particularly in the past several months prior to the US elections, when media reports about heightened tensions became more prominent in the US media. Not the least among those who worried were my folks.
I’ve never been a Cracker Jack addict. When I was younger, I didn’t much care for peanuts. By the time I started to enjoy them more, it seemed silly to start eating Cracker Jacks. Though this twist on the old favorite might be worth investigating – caffeine infused Cracker Jack’d.