A sense of place

Paul Greenberg is an acclaimed nationally-syndicated columnist who has spent most of his life and career in small town Arkansas.  A recent column deals with a quality we have been hearing more about lately from the localist movement (see, for example, the Front Porch Republic); namely, “a sense of place.”  He says of those who do not have this connectedness to a specific land and community, “they inspire a certain pity, the way anyone homeless does.” (Excerpt and link after the jump.)

What he is describing is exactly what I am experiencing, now that we have moved back to our native Oklahoma. [Read more...]

Liveblogging the debate, the World Series, and the Thunder game

OK, friends, here we go.  As I said, I would be multi-tasking, so I’ll depend on you for your commentary on the Republican debate.  I plan to watch that, but also the World Series, and also (good Oklahoma citizen that I am becoming) the Thunder game.  I might even comment on all three, if I have something to say.  Feel free to do the same, if you are similarly torn in your attention span.

How God preserves His church

We were on our own for several days in Copenhagen, so on Sunday we attended a service of the Church of Denmark.  Gabriel had invited us to a congregation in fellowship with the LCMS, but the service was at 4:30 p.m., and we had to meet up with our hosts around then.  We had earlier come across a magnificent church (“the Marble Church”) near the palace (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are all constitutional monarchies, like England).  We thought we would go to a service there.  So we set forth from our hotel for a trek of probably just over a mile or so.

When we saw it as tourists, we saw a sign that the building would be closed to the public during services, so we hoped that they would let us in.  We were graciously received by the usher.  There was a far bigger crowd than I was expecting, around 100 people.   We were given an English translation of the liturgy.  We could have probably followed it without the translation, since it was the basic service that we had in the United States.  The tunes of the hymns were some of the same that we sing.

There were certainly differences.  Pastors there wear a black gown with a cool 17th-century-style ruff.  There was no offering, since the government and church taxes support the churches financially.  (They did have a box that you could put coins in as you leave, which I think is an ancient practice, before the advent of pews and passing the plate.)  They also had no confession and absolution.  (I was told later that liberal congregations tend to leave out that part of the service, while conservative congregations retain it.  Later, in Norway, we went to an Inner Mission service, which did include the confession of sins, though not an absolution from the pastor.)  [Read more...]

When I’m 64

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I’m back!

We’re back from our two-week sojourn in Denmark and Norway.  We had a very good time, my presentations seem to have gone over well, and I learned a lot.   I’ll be posting about the religious scene in Scandinavia and some of our adventures in the days ahead.  Right now, I’m too jet-lagged to do much writing (Copenhagen time is 7 hours ahead of our central standard time).

But I do want to say this:  Thanks for keeping up with this blog while I was gone!  Usually when I’m on a long trip and I can’t post regularly, readership falls off, and it takes a number of weeks to build it up again.  But this time my page view numbers were actually up, above what they usually are!   I put up some old items from my files, scheduling them to pop up during the two weeks, and sent you to various sites to find your own news to comment on.  Despite what might have seemed like a dubious scheme to give you fresh content, you kept visiting and reading and commenting.  I should be gone all the time!


Report from Denmark

Hej.  That’s a Danish word pronounced “hi.”  It means “hi.”  We’re really enjoying Denmark.  Yesterday I gave two lectures sponsored by the conservative theological faculty at the University of Aarhus.

My topic went something like this:  In our increasingly secularist postmodern times, the objective world has been drained of God and thus drained of meaning.  This was due not only to the science of the Enlightenment, but also to theological movements that relocated Christianity from the realm of objective truth to “the heart.”  As a result God (along with meaning) is thought of as an abstract or mystical concept or as an inner personal experience.  The physical realm of ordinary life has little religious significance, either for unbelievers or for believers.  This, however, comes at a cost.  I then argued that Lutheran spirituality can help bring back the significance of the physical realm.  I used as examples Lutheran Christology–the emphasis on God incarnate in the human being Jesus, who took the world’s evils and sufferings into Himself on the Cross; His manifestation in the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion; and God’s presence in ordinary human vocation. [Read more...]