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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Theology for the dying and the dead

Death has been on my mind for more than a year. I can trace its shadow back to a strange origin: The birth of my daughter.

I think about it every night, as we put her to bed. We help Olivia into her pajamas, watch her brush her teeth, read "Goodnight Moon" together, and say a prayer. The lights go out. The rocking chair creaks, Olivia sighs in her sleep, and my own mortality grips me. And holding her there in the darkness, I'm filled with a holy ache. The close of the evening is one tiny goodbye in a lifelong string of goodbyes.

I can't help but whisper Jesus' name. I hold my daughter tight, and I cling to the Gospel all the tighter.

"A theologian is born by living, nay dying and being damned, not by thinking, reading, or speculating," wrote Martin Luther. His words reflect the profound mystery: The kingdom of eternal life is hidden in dying and death. Here, the power of God is revealed to us through littleness, lostness, lastness, and leastness. It's revealed to us in a homeless carpenter, cast out by the outcast and crucified by the criminals.

It was this losing-as-winning Gospel that repelled even those closest to Christ. What kind of God comes to earth to save it from certain damnation and gets Himself killed? This stuff does not make for good action movies.

Saint Paul makes this life-through-deathness the climax of his letter to the Romans, intimately tying the work of the Spirit to the death of the flesh:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

And later:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I draw attention to "in all these things" -- and specifically the word "in" -- because this passage is easy to misread. Paul isn't speaking as if we were an undefeated football team, plowing over our impending slaughter without a scratch. Instead, he points out that it is in our very sheepish slaughter that we are conquerors through Christ--the Lamb of God who was first slaughtered for our sake.

I am in no way saying that we somehow pay for our sin with our individual deaths, as Christ paid for the world's sin with His own death. Rather, we are brought through death (by the death of Christ), and into resurrection (in the resurrection of Christ) so that our bodies may be redeemed. Christ blazed the trail, and the Spirit carries us along down that same path, washed in his blood the whole way.

This eschatology must inform our preaching of the Law: Its fulfillment is tied up in this trail-blazing suffering, death, burial and resurrection I've been harping on. Too often, we tend to use the various uses of the Law like the blades of a pocket knife--pulling them out to tackle whatever situation is at hand. But the Law is not so easily divided. The Law certainly gives us directions--the so-called "third use"--but the roadmap laid out is inseperable from its final destination: the grave. The struggles, sufferings, and death we face along the way aren't merely the deterrents of the world, they are the divine vocation God has called us to.

To put it succinctly for other Lutherans, this is the theology of the Cross. And it turns the whole world on its head. Any shred of safety we used to try and find in "doing the right thing" has been torn from beneath us, so that all we have left to lean on is Christ's looming death--and the blazing hope beyond it. "But hope that is seen is no hope at all."

In the end then, I savor these quiet moments I spend holding my daughter. With each passing moment, each fading goodbye, each final word, and that one final breath, the kingdom unfolds before us.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lutheran Carnival XX

Right Here at the main site for the carnival.

The next carnival's entries are due to Dan at Necessary Roughness by April 7th @ midnight.

This time around people scoured the archives of blogs and I'm humbled and honored to have 3 of our old posts mentioned. There are a lot of other good posts that I remember. It's worth a trip down memory lane. :)

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is not something I do often

but I feel it must be done.

I am growing up in a generation of young adults, specifically Christian/Evangelical adults, looking to parent the "godly way." Rather than look to our parents and to our God given instincts we often seek out books.

Usually, the most popular books win, whether the advice is sound or not. And as we fad-weary know, usually the most popular has the most garbage.

Michael and Debbie Pearl of "No Greater Joy" ministries (I won't provide a link, they're easy to find) are certainly not the most popular in the mainstream, but in evangelical homeschooling circles they very much are.

I just wanted to provide this article (Caution, it is very sensitive material), and an admonition to look very carefully into any parenting advice that calls itself "the only biblical way" to parent.

I had a lot more to say, but I think that it's better to come to your own conclusions about these things. But since this is not the first article that I've read along these lines I thought that it would be good to raise awareness of the dangerous practices that are being taught (from books and from the pulpit) as "God's commands" on raising children.

I pray that this is a passing phase like Jabez, but since my Mother-in-law was dealing with the Pearls when she was teaching her children, I have a feeling this is sticking around for a while.

And for the sake of peacefulness, I would NOT like to debate spanking in the comments. I would like to leave the comments open for questions and discussion though with the forewarning that I will not advocate or condemn "spanking," since that was not my point in posting this article.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lutheran Carnival xix is up.

I'm trying to be more pro-active on this matter.

See Be Strong in the Grace.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Meditations on Sin and children (well, every one else, but especially children)

Matthew 9:1-8

1And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.

2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?

5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?

6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

7And he arose, and departed to his house.

8But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Since this is Lent, I thought that it would be a good time to share some of my thoughts on Sin. A lot of these thoughts are stolen from the wise women in my devotional class at church, so if I'm sounding redundant to those who know me, I am totally guilty of thought-plagiarism (so sue me John H.).

We believe, as Lutherans, that everyone is guilty of sin. Even the 14 week old fetus I'm currently incubating will go to Hell if not for the grace of God offered in Christ. This is a hard teaching that we do not want to accept.

Surely this child who cannot even survive outside of my womb is not a sinner, what could he or she have done to deserve Hell?

The fact that this child could not survive outside of my womb is the proof that this child is a sinner. "The wage of sin is death," and by knowing this we can discover who the sinners are. We may be able to postpone it, but we all die. Everyone who has ever been conceived has died, or will die.

Our sicknesses are also the proof of our sinfulness. When Olivia was born we both had fevers. We had to take antibiotics. I certainly had just recently been guilty of sin. I was guilty of hating those awful nurses and not being thankful for the care they were trying to give me. I knew I was a sinner.

But Olivia was proven a sinner as well, even though she was not even aware of what was going on and was completely incapable of feeling hate or ingratitude. She had a fever, Death's mark on sinners. She needed to be healed, both of sin and of her fever.

Matthew 9 teaches us that sin and illness are one in the same. Heal the sins, and you heal Death's hold on that person as well.

This is a hard teaching for sure. I want to believe that my newest child will be in Heaven and be raised on that day when my Lord returns. But on what am I going to place my faith? It is surely no comfort for me thinking that this littlest of children has done nothing wrong and can't be blamed before God. We have seen that that is obviously not true.

Rather, I will place my faith in God's mercy. He gives us His grace daily when we hear the Word of God. I know that my little one in me has heard God's Word. If my child is born knowing her earthly father's voice because he or she heard it for nine months in my womb, then she will surely know her Father in Heaven's voice as well. Heck! Olivia recognized Emmylou Harris's voice when she was only a few days old. I know she heard God's Word more than she listened to Wrecking Ball inutero.

Jesus died on the cross for us 2000 some odd years ago, and we receive the benefit of that today through the Means of Grace: The Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Surely I will place my faith on those things. Surely I will bring my children to the Table and the Font. Jesus is the only person who has conquered the death we are all subject to, and therefore I know He is the only one I can trust.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hat Tip to T. Swede

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Devona!

  1. India tested its first nuclear Devona in 1974.
  2. All shrimp are born as Devona, but gradually mature into females.
  3. More than one million stray dogs and half a million stray cats live in Devona!
  4. Devona was named after Devona the taxi driver in Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life'.
  5. If you don't get out of bed on the same side you got in, you will have Devona for the rest of the day.
  6. It's bad luck for a flag to touch Devona.
  7. Devona is the last letter of the Greek alphabet!
  8. Four-fifths of the surface of Devona is covered in water.
  9. Carnivorous animals will not eat another animal that has been hit by Devona.
  10. You would have to dig through four thousand kilometres of Devona to reach the earth's core.
I am interested in - do tell me about

Friday, March 03, 2006

And here's one of Olivia singing...

a Ω. , l; .///>?? akk˚˚˚˚˚˚w¸ lo, .'

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This is a really old video

from before Olivia knew how to walk but I just found DropShots, and I had been wanting to share this for a long time. When I get Olivia up later I'll try to take some more recent video of her. Maybe something along the lines of her reading a book to herself or walking her babydoll in a stroller.