America’s third favorite holiday

Halloween is America’s third favorite holiday,  just after Christmas and Thanksgiving. (See the whole list after the jump.)  Halloween used to be a holiday mainly for children dressing up and going trick-or-treat, but now it has been seized by adults, who also like to dress up and scare themselves.   Why do you think Halloween has become so popular in our culture?   Is there something about American individualism that makes us enjoy dressing up, putting on a mask, and pretending to be someone else?   I hear that the big Halloween dress-up thing for this year is to make yourself up to look like an Ebola victim.   The Halloween vogue would appear to be related to the aesthetics of darkness and horror that seem to be dominant in our popular culture, judging from our movies, books, films, art, television shows, and video games.  This would seem to accord with what the recent pope called our current “culture of death.”  Maybe death provides the mystery, the sense of the uncanny, the non-rational emotions even though they be horrific, that can substitute for the mystery, the sense of the supernatural, and the religious experiences associated with a transcendent faith.

I don’t intend to take an anti-Halloween stance, as such, in this post.  I’m just curious why the holiday has jumped ahead of Easter, patriotic holidays like the 4th of July, and even people’s birthdays in popularity.  What significance do you see in this? [Read more…]

Vocation Day

Most people probably don’t know what they are celebrating on Labor Day–“something about Unions”–but we here at the Cranach blog have long sought to fill this holiday with meaning by turning it into a Christian feast commemorating the doctrine of vocation.

The term, which just means “calling,” is about far more than a person’s job, though it includes that.  We all have multiple callings:  in the family (as husbands & wives, fathers & mothers, sons & daughters), in the workplace (as employers & employees, in all the niches of the economic order), in the church (as pastors & laity), and in the state (as citizens & members of society in this time and place).  God, in His providential governing of the world, works through human callings, and the purpose of all vocations is to love and serve our neighbors.  Thus, our various vocations are the realms in which we live out our faith. [Read more…]

America at 238–what’s to love?

The United States of America is 238 years old today.  And, arguably, feeling its age.  The country is polarized, but nearly every faction (though for different reasons) distrusts the government.  Nearly every faction also (for different reasons) criticizes the culture.  The patriotic legends of our history have been replaced with shame about slavery and how white people treated the Indians.  The rest of the world seems to have little respect for us anymore.  Our intellectual and artistic contributions are dragging.  The one bright spot is technology, but we use it mostly for trivial reasons, and it comes at the cost of hacking, identity theft, and privacy violations.  Most people would agree that America is very messed up right now.  America is in the doldrums.   And yet. . . .

Chesterton said something to the effect that we love our country in the same way that we love the members of our family.  In spite of their faults, which we know all too well.  In fact, a family member’s faults and problems properly bring out more love, since we want so badly to help.

So as a Fourth of July exercise, bring up things that you still love about this country.   I’m not looking here for “how great we are” statements.  Greatness is not necessarily a reason to love something.  What are some characteristic things about America that, despite everything, make you love your country?   I’ll go first, after the jump. [Read more…]

Trinity

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday.  At our church, we said the Athanasian Creed and a little girl was baptized in that august Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, her name joined to His.  What a glorious God we have!

Those of you who celebrated that day of the church year, did you gain any insights into the Holy Trinity from the sermon or the Bible study for yesterday?

(Sunday was also Father’s Day, of course, so happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers.  Did you gain any insights from that holiday?)

Pentecost as holiday of Law and Gospel

For the Jews in Jesus’ time and today, Pentecost was a celebration of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, which was thought to have happened 50 days after Passover.  So for centuries, it was a holiday that celebrated the Law.  But then, on the same day, God gave His people the Holy Spirit, making it also a holiday celebrating the Gospel. [Read more…]

The Upper Room

Something I picked up in church:  The “upper room” that was the setting for the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-12) was also very likely the same “upper room” in which the Disciples met to replace Judas (Acts 1:13).  That means it was also the place where Jesus washed His Disciple’s feet and since it was the place “where they were staying” in Jerusalem, it must have been where Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection and was very likely where the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which we celebrate this Sunday.  So this room was, in effect, the first church-as-building.  And it reminds us of what happens even today in church buildings, which are the places where we too receive the Lord’s Supper, serve each other, meet the Risen Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit.