Romantic love and marriage

For St. Valentine’s Day. . . .

Did you realize that romantic love, as it blossomed during the Middle Ages, was originally nearly always outside marriage (e.g., Dante and Beatrice) and often adulterous (e.g., Lancelot and Guinivere)?

And did you realize that romantic love was brought into marriage, both as a precursor and as a fruition, by the Reformation?

See C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 13-15, , and  Justin Taylor, “Martin Luther’s Reform of Marriage,” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway Books, 2005), pp. 239ff.

What an organist learned

Lynette Tedlund, a.k.a. the commenter on this blog known as  “Booklover,” wrote a piece for her local newspaper on the topic “My First Job.”  Her first job, along with her sisters, was organist for her church.  Here is what she learned from that experience:

Aside from forming in us an idea of what truly beautiful sacred music and hymnody is, the Lutheran liturgy that we played and participated in formed the very fiber of the women that we became.

One will never think too highly of oneself when one has repeated weekly, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee.”

Regular singing and playing of “Beautiful Saviour, King of Creation” undoubtedly prevented each of us from looking to a mere mortal man to be the perfect Prince Charming husband or, heaven forbid, to a future political figure to be a savior.

The weekly congregational reciting of the creed: “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” built in us a firm belief that there is truth and that it can be held in community.

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen,” the weekly chanting of the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, led us to know, in the very core of our being, that there was more to reality than our daily temporal existence.

The “Te Deum Laudamus,” which begins, “We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting,” helped us to look outside of our own own provincial sphere.

As we played and sang, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” we instinctively knew that we would never fall prey to the false theology that we had now arrived and needed no further Help from above.

All of these truths I still know today.

via Spirit of job refreshes soul.

Frodo & Vocation

The Lord of the Rings is another tale about vocation, as John Ortberg realizes:

My daughter and I were re-watching Lord of the Rings before Christmas. At one point, on the last part of the journey through Mordor, Frodo turns to Sam and tells him how badly he wishes he did not have to be the one to carry the Ring. Being the Ring-Bearer was a difficult and dangerous role. He took it up voluntarily; he knew it was a worthy task; he understood in some dim way that he was suited for it—even his weakness was part of his gifting, and yet the cost of it wore him down. . . .

“But you have been chosen,” Gandalf says to Frodo. “And you must therefore use such strength and hearts and wits as you have.”

You have been chosen. I don’t know if you (or I) am in exactly the perfect fitting job. But that’s not the issue.

You have been chosen.

And this sense of having been called—the worthiness of it, the glorious goodness of a life lived beyond an individual’s agenda—is a precious thing. It is sometimes subverted into grandiosity. It is perhaps more often lost in the ministry of the mundane. It needs to be guarded.

Sometimes, in the quest, we get to visit the House of Elrond; the Fellowship is united and strong, the plans are glorious, hope is fierce, and hearts beat fast.

But you don’t get to spend every day there.

All ministry involves slogging through Mordor.

via Guard Your Calling, Frodo | LeadershipJournal.net.

Rev. Ortberg is discussing specifically the pastoral ministry.  But doesn’t the example of Frodo apply to all vocations (marriage, parenthood, one’s job, citizenship, life in the church,etc.)?

Vocation gone wild

This is from a couple of years ago, but Carl Vehse just found it and brought it to my attention.  It’s from Pastor Petersen at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne, IN.  It’s an account of vocation gone wild:

I recently had a mild encounter with a German friend of mine. I wanted him to turn down the heat in a public building, of which he is a member. I didnt feel quite right doing it, since I was a guest, and because I didnt know where the thermostat was. It had to be 80 degrees in there. He became offended. He said Germans have a word for this. It means “reaching into someone elses office.” They simply dont do such things. Turning down the heat belongs to the office of the janitor and he was home and not return until the next day. In the meantime, nothing could be done and it was rude to suggest that something be done. My German friend would not dare to presume to do something that wasnt given to him. He then told me this was Luther’s doctrine of vocation. He is a friend. We were bantering. But I may have said something along the lines of: “That is what is wrong with Germans. Stand by and do nothing and claim it is piety.” To which he was quick to respond, “You are a nation of rebels.”

via The Royal Custodianship of all Believers.

Does anyone know what that German word is?  What is the mistake in this view of vocation?  What is the kernel of tru

Vocation vs. Churchianity

I love to see what happens when people discover Luther’s  doctrine of vocation.  Here Chaplain Mike at Internetmonk looks at St. Paul’s exhortation for the Christian life and contrasts it with what we hear from most pulpits today:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

• 1Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NLT)

Chaplain Mike then contrasts that with what we would be more likely to hear from pulpits today:

In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give a list of doable activities that one could perform on behalf of others to express love.

We have this thing about being “practical,” and we want to know the “steps” of “application.” We value creative ideas, instructions, a manual with directions to follow. We want to know which books to read, which videos to watch, which seminars to attend, which websites to consult, which counselor can help us make the breakthroughs we need to live this out more fully. Paul does not oblige.

• In today’s church, we might have expected Paul to give examples or tell a story that touches our hearts about how someone showed extraordinary, exemplary love for another, how a person showed sacrificial generosity toward another—perhaps an unworthy recipient—and how God blessed as a result.

Perhaps the person who received love opened his or her heart to Christ. Or maybe the person who sacrificed received back abundant blessings from the Lord for showing such love. Maybe a marriage was saved, a prodigal came home, a life turned around. Perhaps a video clip would be shown of people extending themselves in remarkable ways to serve and bless others. But Paul gives no such heart-tugging motivational example or story. . . .

Paul’s encouragement, instead, must seem remarkably lackluster and ordinary from the point of view of those who invest so much in spiritual engineering and technology, motivational methods, and churchianity. . . .

• Live a quiet life.

• Mind your own business.

• Work with your hands.

The best way to show Christian love to others? It almost sounds like a prescription for a small, selfish life! Yet this is how the Apostle, by divine inspiration, encourages us to live.

Paul commends a life that is the very opposite of activist churchianity. Instead, he advocates the way of Christian vocation—Walk humbly and quietly with God. Don’t think it’s your job to change the world. Quit sticking your nose in everybody else’s business. Do your work and do it well. Let Christ’s love for others grow naturally out of that soil. Earn the respect of your neighbors over time as you live your life in Christ. Slow down. Get small. Run quiet. Go deep. Grow up. Keep on keeping on. Stand on your own two feet. Become a mature human being.

Not sexy at all. Kind of disappointing.

Maybe the video will be more practical.

via Paul’s Disappointing Approach to the Christian Life | internetmonk.com.

Raising children so they will go to church as adults

This has been out for awhile, but I just came across it in the course of some research.   Basically, if fathers go to church, their children will when they grow up.  If fathers don’t, even if the mothers do, the children won’t.

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

Before mothers despair, there is some consolation for faithful moms. Where the mother is less regular than the father but attends occasionally, her presence ensures that only a quarter of her children will never attend at all.

Even when the father is an irregular attender there are some extraordinary effects. An irregular father and a non-practicing mother will yield 25 percent of their children as regular attenders in their future life and a further 23 percent as irregulars. This is twelve times the yield where the roles are reversed.

Where neither parent practices, to nobody’s very great surprise, only 4 percent of children will become regular attenders and 15 percent irregulars. Eighty percent will be lost to the faith.

While mother’s regularity, on its own, has scarcely any long-term effect on children’s regularity (except the marginally negative one it has in some circumstances), it does help prevent children from drifting away entirely. Faithful mothers produce irregular attenders. Non-practicing mothers change the irregulars into non-attenders. But mothers have even their beneficial influence only in complementarity with the practice of the father.

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

via Touchstone Archives: The Truth About Men & Church.

Yes, this is a study of Switzerland, which has many cultural differences from the United States.  In Europe, women have been taking the lead in church-going, and this may explain the relatively sudden secularization of that once-Christian continent.  The study is from 1994.  Still, the results are fascinating.  In your experience, do you think the study applies here?

It may be that the Lord has made it easy for fathers to carry out their calling to bring their children up in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  All you’ve got to do, dads, is take your kids to church.  Can you do that?


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