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…]

Checking in from Denmark

I have no idea what time it will be in the States when this post goes up, but I have a little time and an internet connection, so I thought I’d check in.  Our trip went very smoothly and we are exploring Denmark before my lecture at the university tomorrow.  Denmark, with the rest of Scandinavia, is considered one of the most secular of countries, but I have been meeting many strong Christians who are a true delight.   I’m learning that the religious picture is more complicated and nuanced than I realized,  that there will always be a remnant in Christ’s church, and that when Christianity is not just the cultural thing to be, those who do bother to go to church take it very seriously.   I’ll report more on these things when I fully digest my experience.   Anyway, we’re having a good time and wish you were here!

My Scandinavia gigs

Today my wife and I will catch a plane to Copenhagen for a series of presentations I’ve been asked to make in Denmark and Norway.  The Scandinavian countries are considered among the most secular in the world, and yet there seems to be some interest in my book The Spirituality of the Cross, which has been translated into those languages.  On October 1, I’ll be giving some lectures at the seminary connected to the University of Aarhus.  On October 5, I’ll be speaking at a Bible college in Copenhagen.  On October 7-8, I’ll be in Oslo, Norway, giving four keynote addresses at a summit meeting of Scandinavian youth ministries.  (This is the group that is bringing me over and arranged the other gigs.)  We’ll fly back to the states on October 10.

This blog will go on for the two weeks that I’ll be out of the country.  I’ve stockpiled quite a few posts that I think you’ll find interesting to read and discuss, and I’ll schedule them to appear in the days ahead.  I’ve also figured out a way for us to cover and discuss news and current events, though I’ll depend on your active participation and comments for this to work.  I’ll be taking my computer and though I won’t be able to blog as I usually do, I’ll try to check in when I can.  Certainly when I get back from this tour I’ll tell you all about it.

Please, please, pray for us and that my presentations will be well-received.  Who knows what these little sparks might ignite?