Swimming the Elbe

Those who convert to Catholicism are said to have “swum the Tiber,” referring to the river that runs through Rome.  Those who convert to Orthodoxy are said to have “swum the Bosphorus,” the strait in Turkey that separates Europe from Asia.  So what is a person swimming who converts to Lutheranism?  I have heard “Mississippi” for those who join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, based in St. Louis.  But Anthony Sacramone gives the definitive solution (whether he came up with it first or someone else did, I don’t know) when he refers to “paddling the Elbe.” [Read more...]

Bad sermons

Karl Barth (not to be confused with the good Karl Barth of the LCMS) was a neo-orthodox theologian, which isn’t as good as being an orthodox theologian, but it was arguably better than being a liberal.  Which he was when he first got out of seminary, to the point that he was called in his Swiss parish “the red pastor of Safenwil.”  Barth recalled the bad sermons that he used to preach.  Fred Sanders posts about the time he preached on the text of the Titanic:

Looking back on these early days, Barth later remarked with some regret, “During my time as a pastor… I often succumbed to the danger of attempting to get alongside the congregation in the wrong way. Thus in 1912, when the sinking of the Titanic shook the whole world, I felt that I had to make this disaster my main theme the following Sunday, which led to a monstrous sermon on the same scale.” (from the definitive Barth biogarphy by Eberhard Busch, p. 63) Yes, Barth took as his sermon text the current event of a disaster, rather than an actual portion of Scripture. [Read more...]

“The long march through the institutions”

In the course of an article about the Roman Catholic organization Communion and Liberation, a group with which the current Pope Francis was affiliated, one that offered a more orthodox alternative to Liberation Theology, Tracey Rowland describes two Marxist strategies for dealing with Christianity and for influencing the culture.  One is Stalin’s approach of violent revolution.  The other is Antonio Gramsci’s “long march through the institutions.” [Read more...]

Easter and Vocation

In the sermon for the third Sunday of Easter, based on John 21:1-19, in which the disciples saw Jesus while they were fishing, Pastor Douthwaite related Easter to vocation:

Jesus has not changed, and Easter does not mean that He is now done all His work and now it’s up to us. No, He is still working. What He did before Easter He now does after Easter. And Jesus is not just now all “spiritual” – He is still working through the physical, through their calling, or vocation, as fishermen. That didn’t change and won’t change. What changed is the disciples. What changed is us. Jesus’ death and resurrection was not to make Jesus new, but to make us new. To raise us from sin, fear, and death to a new life in Him. Not a new super-spiritualized life, but a new life in your callings, or vocations. Not to take us out of this world, but to make us new in this world. And we see that in Peter. He is a changed man. And so are you.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon.

Being children of God

Last Sunday, Easter 3, our pastor preached on the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to His disciples by the shore of the lake, as recorded in John 21:1-19.  Rev. Douthwaite showed how our being “children” of God is an image of our status in the Gospel, referring not to what we do but to what we are:

He says to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Children. They’re children here – not disciples, not apostles. For those two titles focus more on what they do – those who follow, those who are sent. But children focuses on what God has done. Because no one does anything to make yourself a child. Being a child happens to you. You are born or adopted into a family. And so while disciple and apostle is the calling given to them and what they then did, children is who they are. [Read more...]

“Everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed”

As you have probably heard, Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son committed suicide.  That’s about the saddest thing I can imagine, both that someone would take his own life and that those who love him would have to go through that sorrow.  I pray for the Warrens and for others who have gone through this.  But that’s not what I want to post about.

The Washington Post published a follow-up story on Christians’ reactions to the suicide, focusing on the stigma often attached in evangelical circles to seeking psychological help.  Various church leaders are quoted, saying as how Christians in mental distress should, in fact, seek professional help and that churches should support them in that.  But that’s not what I want to post about either.

I was struck by this quotation:

“Part of our belief system is that God ­changes everything, and that because Christ lives in us, everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed,” said Ed Stetzer, a prominent pastor and writer who advises evangelical ­churches. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes need medical help and community help to do those things.”

via Suicide of star pastor Rick Warren’s son sparks debate about mental illness – The Washington Post.

Is that true, that “everything in our hearts and minds should be fixed”?  That we should expect either Christ or doctors or some combination of the two to “fix” every aspect of our lives that is out of whack?   Not just our moral failings but “everything in our hearts and minds”?