Saturday, May 04, 2013

But What About Eating Bacon?

It doesn't matter whether the subject is women's ordination or homosexuality or abortion.  Often, when a Christian brings up, "The Bible says ..." the rejoinder will be, "But the Bible has all these dietary rules.  And you eat bacon.  And you eat shrimp and crab.  See?  You don't really care what the Bible says."

And that's supposed to be the proof that everything scriptural can be jettisoned.

Well, for just a moment, let's set aside the lengthier discussions of moral law and natural law as over against dietary law.  Let's set aside the whole thing about Christ being the fulfillment of the law, and how the law shows us what love is, and why God made those rules about what the Jews were to avoid eating. 

For just a moment, let's look at Acts 11, where God Himself tells Peter in a vision to eat the unclean animals.  So God Himself gave the go-ahead to set aside the Old Testament's dietary laws.  We're eating bacon-wrapped lobster tail not because we decided to set aside those laws, but because God said to.

Footnote 1: Yes, I realize that's not the main point of Acts 11.
Footnote 2:  Wouldn't it be great to have a grocery budget that allowed for bacon-wrapped lobster tails periodically?  Mmmmm.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Measuring Cups

When all the contents of a house have to GO [due to down-sizing or moving to a nursing home or because of death] ... the stuff has to go someplace.  To grandkids?  To a resale shop?  To the dump? 

What about pictures and once-treasured possessions?  What happens when the next generations don't cherish the things I cherish?  What will become of those items?  And should it matter?

A bunch of stuff is finding its way into our home these days. I can't cherish everything that could arrive here from grandparents, parents, and in-laws.  What's odd is the things that I do enjoy.

For all my adult life, I have owned one set of measuring cups and one set of measuring spoons.  For someone who cooks and bakes from scratch, that's been a little inconvenient.  Now I have my mother-in-law's metal measuring cups and spoons.  If my 1-cup measure is floury from baking bread, I have another cup [gasp] to measure sugar for kombucha.  Whoa -- this is nice.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Law Is the Final Word

At least, it is according to almost everybody in the whole wide world.

Other religions teach that works are how we please the god or how we gain heaven or nirvana or whatever.  Be good; get a reward.  When I was having a conversation with a Jehovah's Witness about eating turkey on Thanksgiving and celebrating birthdays, that's what it came down to: "follow the rules, get a blessing from god."

Other Christian denominations too teach the same thing.  Yes, they admit that the Lord (the eternal God of the promise of salvation, the God who is triune and whose nature is love) helps us be good.  And yes, they admit that the Lord forgives our screw-ups for when we're not good.  But the point of religion is still to Be Good.  That's essentially what the Roman Catholic's purgatory and the Eastern Orthodox's theosis end up being about.  (Of course, most of them would deny it.)   And it's what most Protestants teach.  (And I'm sure they too would deny it.  And that's a good thing; it means their rational minds are conflicted against the saving faith worked in them by the Holy Spirit.)

It's even a controversy among Lutherans.  While no Lutheran would disagree with the necessity for good works, and while no Lutheran would disagree with the truth that we are saved by God's grace in Christ through no merit of our own, there are still many who (somehow) come off sounding like the point of the Gospel/forgiveness is to make us able to do a better job of following the Law.

In Bible class last Sunday we were discussing Luke 5.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law had come from all over the place, from Galilee, but also from way down in Judea and from Jerusalem.  They wanted to check out this Jesus dude and the stories they'd been hearing.  And when he forgave the sins of the paralyzed man, they were hacked off.  "Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Pastor had other points to make, but for the most part, I got lost, thinking and thinking about why the legalists were there and why they were perturbed.  We live in a [ahem] diverse society today.  Everybody thinks they should be able to do whatever they want.  Everybody should be able to think whatever they want.  Children grow up and reject what was imparted to them.

SO ... what does it hurt anybody for Christians to believe in grace

Why do people fuss about it?

Okay, okay, IF we purportedly believe in grace and then live in sin that hurts other people, then I can understand people saying, "Whoa, hold up!  Your so-called freedom in the Gospel is damaging me."  And that would be valid.  But if the law is being preached rightly, and the gospel is forgiving sinners, then licentiousness can result only through rejection of true doctrine.

So why the objection to people trusting in grace?

Atheists object.  People of other religions object.  And even Christians want to convert other Christians to a belief that they have to Do SOMEthing to be real Christians.

If you don't want to trust only in God's grace in Jesus' blood shed to save you, if you want to depend to some extent on your own works, I can't change your heart.  But what skin is it off your nose if I believe that?

I don't understand.

Who's Hiding in the Closet?

So a gay basketball player comes out of the closet and is lauded for it.  In the wake of the announcement, a sports analyst mentions that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin as is any sexual activity outside of marriage.   Oh my goodness -- the horrors of what he said!  The station apologizes.  The sports analyst is forced to apologize.

And then the news release about how the government is looking into enforcing anti-proselytizing regulations, thus forbidding soldiers from telling others about their faith, even to the point of being able to court-martial them.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Do Your Sins Pile Up?

Some Christians think that we commit sins, and then we go to confession or go to church or go to the Lord's Supper, and [zap] Jesus wipes away our sins.  And then we go about life, oops, here-a-sin, there-a-sin, everywhere-a-sin-sin.  So we're dirtied up, and we have to go to church to be cleaned up again, ... and the cycle repeats itself.

Pastor often tells us, "NO, that's not what it is."  If it were, that would mean our confessing was the thing meriting God's forgiveness.  Also it would be denying original sin, as if there were days (or hours) (or moments) when we could be spiffied-up and sin-free.  Also it would mean we could have no certainty about our salvation because we could never know whether we'd [oops] sin and then die before having a chance to Get It Fixed At Church (or at least in our personal verbal prayers).  Pastor likes to use an example from a M*A*S*H episode, where Frank Burns is jumping back and forth across the threshold of the tent's door, chanting, "I'm in.  I'm out.  I'm in.  I'm out."  Being in God's grace is not like that; it's not like we're covered by His forgiveness, and then are out, and then are back in after the absolution in the Divine Service, and then back out again next time we lose our temper.

Hearing "I forgive you all your sins" does not mean a pile of sins is erased, brought down to zero-level, before we start piling up sins again.  No.  Because of Jesus' blood shed on the cross, God sees utter perfection, holiness, righteousness, purity.  Going to confession or going to the Lord's Supper doesn't change our status in God's eyes.  What absolution does is to reorient our blind eyes from our navel-gazing, and open our eyes to see ourselves as God sees us, as He declares us to be.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Express

Ernie Davis -- 1961 Heisman trophy winner -- first black guy to do that.

The movie made a great story.  Gary and I enjoy sports movies.  This had the added themes of history-and-racism, as well as showing a strong family. 

[For those bothered by Language, there is some.  But it's not gratuitous; it's practically necessary with what's happening in the story.]

Monday, April 29, 2013

That Radio Is Driving Me Nuts

So an old heavy-metal rock band is coming out with a new album pretty soon.  On three different days since this song debuted recently, I've been at work listening to the DJ's push this song.  It plays repeatedly!  And it's long.  And very very repetitive.  "God is dead.  God is dead. God is dead."  I tried looking up the lyrics to count how many "God is deads" are in the song.  I couldn't find the lyrics online, but I'm guessing at least five dozen "God is deads" each time this thing gets air-time, which puts me at 200-400 "God is deads" per day.

As I drove home from work, I wondered what would be an appropriate and allowable response.

If I'm not busy I could walk over to the radio and turn down the volume.  I'd have to explain to my partner why, and tell him he could turn the volume back up in eight minutes or so.

I could sing out loud what I've been singing to myself -- a Good Friday hymn.  "O sorrow dread.  Our God is dead, but by His expiation of our guilt upon the cross, gained for us salvation" and subsequent stanzas.

I could sing out loud a response: "He lives, all glory to His name.  He lives, my Jesus still the same.  Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives: I know that my Redeemer lives."

Or I could just continue to bite my lip and pray.  I've listened to shocking and putrid things on that radio station -- both songs and the talk/banter.  But until now I haven't considered anything so drastic as turning off the radio and forcing the other person to listen to the dreaded Quiet.

Third Use of the Law

My friend Cheryl recently pointed out a blog post.  In spite of trying to curtail my computer-time, I went and read.  I clicked on a link in the post, skimmed another blog post, clicked on another link, etc.  Apparently there is (again!) quite the ruckus in the Lutheran blogosphere about the place of "preaching sanctification."  But one thing became apparent to me in the 10 minutes that I bopped around a few sites (that is, before I grabbed control of myself and headed to the laundry room to wash sheets).

Much of the "Woe is us!  We need to preach more sanctification!" is motivated by the decaying culture out there in society.  There's political pressure for homosexual "marriage."  People kill babies unborn ... and born.  Foul language is prevalent.  Sleeping around is common.  Terrorists and madmen go on killing sprees.  This is terrible, and we want it fixed.  If the preachers preached more law, maybe it would change.

It sounds to me like what we're clamoring for is actually more "First Use of the Law."  Not more "third use."  But then again, maybe that's a clue that we don't use the law:  if it's preached, it will function as the Holy Spirit wills.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Garden Report

It's that time of year when we go through a LOT of hand soap, trying (somewhat in vain) to clean hands when we come in from the garden.

Two raised beds have been cleared of overgrown walking-onions, shoveled, fluffed with half-rotted leaves underneath, and the soil on top raked smooth.  A couple of mini-rows of lettuces have been planted.

The compost pile has been turned into a potato bed.  Last year we accidentally grew a nice batch of potatoes from some Yukon Gold that were supposed to be rotting in the compost pile.  Because the compost pile was lighter, airier, fluffier than typical garden dirt, the potatoes grew bigger, cleaner, and prettier-shaped.  Hey, I could use an accident like that again!   So I put a 15" layer of last fall's leaves on top of the compost bed.  In each spot where I was going to plant the potatoes, I put a pint of dried manure, the potato, and another pint of manure.  I then sprinkled a very thin layer of manure across the top of the leaf bed, just to finish off the bag.  On top of that, another 8" of leaves.  On top of that, about 3" of gunk off the burn pile (wood ash, dried leaves, leaf ash, and lovely rich dirt from stuff that had been at the bottom of the pile for a few years).  Now, will it work?  Will I grow a lovely batch of organic potatoes?  Or have I spent my energy today for no food, but just a day outside, enjoying the fresh air and the SUNshine and the birds singing?  Oh, and some sure-to-be-sore muscles.   ;-)

Eighty-percent-dead cherry tree is down.  Gary managed to knock it over without a chainsaw or ax or anything; that poor thing was in sorry shape (and yet somehow still quite productive).  The baby next to it is up and budding. It was a sucker that we left to grow, and for two years it bore fruit just like the parent-tree. 

I gathered the icky, wet, half-rotted, gucky leaves off the garden and put them in black 30-gallon garbage bags.  I hear tell that in the space of several months they should rot into leaf mold.  A)  Now the garden soil can begin drying a bit.  B)  Stunning that I can be so hyped over the prospect of rotting leaves -- woo hoo!

One of the lilacs looked pretty rotted-out too.  So I knocked that over.  Boy howdy, we have a LOT of wood to burn!

A Long Way From Chicago

The whole idea of "coming-of-age novels" makes me want to barf.

But maybe that's because of how those have been written in the wake of the Hippy 60's.

On the other hand, I suppose you could call the Little House books "coming-of-age novels" too, and I'm crazy about those.

A few years ago, a friend insisted we had to read listen to the Richard Peck novels, A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder.   The audio-book is read by Ron McLarty ... and is a hoot.  A long car ride recently gave me the opportunity --finally!-- to listen to these stories.  These books are so good (and funny) (and heartwarming) (and great for grown-ups too) that it's almost hard to believe how new they are.

Mom, I think you'd like these.  Because of the Newbery awards, they're widely available in libraries.  And they're set in Piatt County, during the Depression years, with occasional references to places such as Bement and Decatur and Farmer City.  Fun fun fun!

(Warning to Katie, though.  It's not time for you to read them ... just like it's not time for you to be reading Ramona out loud in your house.)