Life Full Voice

Some of you may remember Lori Lewis who occasionally has frequented this blog.  At one point she was all involved in radio and contemporary Christian music, but then she became a confessional Lutheran and an outspoken critic of that musical scene.  More recently she has gotten involved with opera, both as a singer and as a popularizer of that artform via radio and writing.  Her latest project, though, is a webzine entitled  Eveyday Opera.  It’s not  about opera; rather, it uses opera as a metaphor for what she describes in the site’s slogan as “Life Full Voice.”  Here is how she described it to me:

A little over 2 years ago I started Everyday Opera out of the need to find a platform for my own art.
I had gone through a down time but out of it grew this idea…Making Classic Art an Everyday Event.
Personality driven, non intimidating, but with the theory that Art lifts us in our everyday experience.  In a culture full of junk food, and I eat plenty of my share, I’m a mini-evangelist for expanding one’s horizon’s.
Opera is the metaphor here for living Live Full Voice. That is how an Opera Singer sings…Full Voice
We encourage the thinking that all of life can be lived Full Voice, whether you are a great singer,
a great chef, wine maker, farmer, mother, teacher, and on and on. (Isn’t it really modeled after
The Spirituality of the Cross? The book that help me be free as a christian to be free as a person.)

Kind words about my book.  She makes an interesting connection between Christian freedom through the Gospel, personal freedom, and vocation.  Anyway,   Eveyday Opera has articles about travel, food, art, literature, wine, music, and other pleasures of life.  It doesn’t get into theology, as such, though I’d say it has a Christian view of the world, though many Christians have arguably hung back from living life “full voice.”  (Why is that, do you think?  Do you agree that Christians are freed to appreciate things like these?)

Anyway, Lori has enlisted me to write for the site occasionally, so I wrote a piece on literary style that I’ll link to in a separate post.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”

Our Scripture reading in church yesterday included this passage from John 20:

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

via John 20 ESV – The Resurrection – Now on the first day – Bible Gateway.

(1)  We Lutherans believe that this passage teaches that Christ gives the Holy Spirit to the Church, which includes the authority to forgive sins.  This is exercised in vocation–that is, God acting through human beings–when the called pastor gives absolution during individual or corporate confession (the latter of which is part of every worship service).   After the individual or congregation admits their sins, the pastor says that as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, “I forgive you your sins.”

(2)  But that authority is not just given to pastors, but to the whole congregation, which has called the pastor to exercise this gift on its behalf.  But laypeople too can forgive sins and absolve those who confess their sins to them.  Again, it is Christ who forgives, but He applies that forgiveness through individual Christians.  (Isn’t that right?  Perhaps someone can explain the parameters.)

(3)  So when we forgive someone, according to this Scripture, that affects not only our feelings about the person who has wronged us.  Rather, that actually does something to the person that is recognized in Heaven.  (Right, Lutheran pastors?)

(4)  I know this sounds outlandish to you non-Lutherans.  But how else can you account for these verses (especially John 20:23)?  Do you think that only the Disciples were given this power?  Or what?

We’re on Issues, Etc. today

My daughter and I will be on Issues, Etc. radio and web-radio program today to talk about our book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.  We’ll be taking the book section by section today and for the next fourMondays.  The show runs from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Central Time, but it will also be archived.  Go here to listen live (though our part will be taped).

 

Coming Up on Issues, Etc.


Monday, April 16, 2012
Family Vocation, Part 1
Deaconess Mary Moerbe and Dr. Gene Edward Veith, authors, “Family Vocations”

 

 

That eye-on-the-object look

W. H. Auden–another major poet who converted to Christianity–has written perceptively about vocation.  This is from his poem entitled “Sext,” part of his Horae Canonicae, poems on the canonical hours on Good Friday.  (It gets a little obscure towards the end, but he is referring to the medieval guilds, praying to the patrons of their particular crafts, each of which was thought of as a “mystery.”  The last stanza ties to the hour (“noon,” which is when “Sext” was prayed) and to the death of Christ.

You need not see what someone is doing
to know if it is his vocation,

you have only to watch his eyes:
a cook mixing a sauce, a surgeon

making a primary incision,
a clerk completing a bill of lading,

wear the same rapt expression,
forgetting themselves in a function.

How beautiful it is,
that eye-on-the-object look.

To ignore the appetitive goddesses,
to desert the formidable shrines

of Rhea, Aphrodite, Demeter, Diana,
to pray insted to St Phocas,

St Barbara, San Saturnino,
or whoever one’s patron is,

that one may be worthy of their mystery,
what a prodigious step to have taken.

There should be monuments, there should be odes,
to the nameless heroes who took it first,

to the first flaker of flints
who forgot his dinner,

the first collector of sea-shells
to remain celibate.

Where should we be but for them?
Feral still, un-housetrained, still

wandering through forests without
a consonant to our names,

slaves of Dame Kind, lacking
all notion of a city

and, at this noon, for this death,
there would be no agents.

via theskelfs: SEXT – one of WH Auden’s Horae Canonicae.

HT:  Laura via Comment magazine

The vocation of card sharking?

Recently, we discussed what occupations would be off-limits for Christians–that is to say, not a true calling from God, a.k.a. “vocation.”  We talked a little about blackjack dealers.  Well, what do you think about this, a group of card counters who give the money they win to “ministry”?

By day, Mark Treas leads worship and baptizes new believers. By night, he plays blackjack at Caesars Palace and other Vegas casinos.

It’s all in a day’s work for Treas, who calls himself a Christian card counter. He’s part of a highly successful team of professional blackjack players known as the Church Team. The group was composed of 90 percent active Christians, included pastors, worship leaders, and church planters.

At times, the team acted like any other fellowship group, gathering for quarterly meetings, keeping each other accountable, and encouraging each other to be lights in the dark casino environment. But they spent their nights in Las Vegas, winning more than $3 million in three years and getting kicked out of casinos across North America.

Colin Jones, the co-founder of the Church Team, said the group’s overarching goal was to use their activities as a platform for living out their faith: “The way we see the world, everything a Christian does is a ministry, whether you’re a plumber or a priest.”

But many question if card counting is compatible with a Christian worldview. Even the players themselves mention the gray areas and differing opinions about their work.

Card counting is a strategy in blackjack where the player mentally tracks what cards are played to calculate the probability of a certain hand. While not illegal, casinos consider the practice cheating and will ban players they catch beating their system.

Jones and Ben Crawford first picked up the basic techniques of card counting as a hobby, but when friends from church expressed interest, they created the Church Team as a business venture in 2006.

Using money from outside investors and their own bank accounts – some risking mortgages and life savings – the Church Team rolled in $3.2 million from 2006-2009, with investors making a 35 percent annual return on their money. The players were confident in the statistics behind card counting and compared playing blackjack to playing the stock market. . . .

Many players . . .[say]  they hate the way casinos exploit people. Liberating money from casinos was an extra motivator, and one player said that he considered playing blackjack “a calling,” not a hustle.Jones also said that professional gambling can actually keep players from falling into gambling addictions. “Most addictions have everything to do with trying to escape reality. But when you’re a professional blackjack player, you’re not escaping reality at all. You’re exhausted after eight hours of sitting at a table using your mind to play.”

They also tried to hold each other accountable while working in an environment with a lot of temptations: “We felt that if people were falling into sin because of this job we’d shut the business down,” said Jones.

But as unhappy casinos continued to kick out the card counters, more “gray areas” arose.

Casinos have a business’s right to deny service to any customer, including card counters, and players sometimes disguised themselves to avoid detection by security. In the documentary, Crawford is seen donning a range of costumes, including an MIT professor and a black-lipped goth.

via Holy card shark | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..  [Free subscription required]

This particular group has disbanded.  Notice the attempt to invoke vocation (“everything a Christian does is a ministry, whether you’re a plumber or a priest”) without really understanding what that doctrine entails (plumbers and priests are masks of God in loving and serving their neighbors, but how is a card shark a mask of God and how is he loving and serving his neighbors who run the casinos?).

Which is worse, gambling or cheating at gambling?  An honest blackjack dealer or a dishonest Christian player in a disguise?  Gambling or a theologically  problematic understanding of ministry?

Are some vocations off-limits for Christians?

We discussed David Brooks’s column wondering if Christians should ever be professional athletes as did a number of other bloggers.  The debate gave Collin Hansen of Gospel Coalition the idea of asking me how the doctrine of vocation addresses the question of whether some occupations should be off-limits to Christians.

He gave me 2000 words, which is longer than a typical post, so you can click over to the site to continue reading.  Here is what I came up with.  Feel free to comment at Gospel Coalition–I’d like the rest of the world to know the caliber of my readers (plus it’s interesting to see how  some of the non-Lutherans react to these ideas, such as Christians selling alcohol!), but do comment here too.   I would like your input as to whether these guidelines are helpful or if I’m missing something:

Which Vocations Should Be Off Limits to Christians?

The Reformation doctrine of vocation teaches that even seemingly secular jobs and earthly relationships are spheres where God assigns Christians to live out their faith. But are there some lines of work that Christians should avoid?

The early church required new members to give up their occupations as gladiators or actors. Whether Christians should enter military service has been controversial at several points in church history. So has holding political or judicial offices. Recently, New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that Christians should not become professional athletes. He observed that “the moral ethos of sport”—which centers on pride—“is in tension with the moral ethos of faith,” which requires humility.

So what guidance can we find from the doctrine of vocation? There is more to that teaching than most people realize, so let’s review some of its more salient points. (To study this in more depth, you can check out my book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life and follow the Bible references and footnotes. Also see my new book Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood for yet more facets of this critical teaching for how Christians can live out faith in the world and in their everyday relationships.)

God Never Calls Us to Sin

“Vocation” is simply the Latinate word for “calling.” The doctrine of vocation means that God assigns us to a certain life—with its particular talents, tasks, responsibilities, and relationships—and then calls us to that assignment (1 Corinthians 7:17). God never calls us to sin. All callings, or vocations, from God are thus valid places to serve. So strictly speaking there are no unlawful vocations; the question should actually be whether or not a particular way of making a living is a vocation at all.

God himself works through human vocations in providential care as he governs the world. He provides daily bread through farmers and bakers. He protects us through lawful magistrates. He heals us by means of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. He creates new life through mothers and fathers. So we can ask whether or not God extends blessings through a particular line of work.

The purpose of every vocation, in all of the different spheres in which our multiple vocations occur—the family, the workplace, the culture, and the church—is to love and serve our neighbors. Loving God and loving our neighbors sums up our purpose (Matthew 22:36-40). Having been reconciled to God through Christ, we are then sent by God into the world to love and serve him by loving and serving our neighbors. This happens in vocation. So we can ask of every kind of work we doing, “Am I loving and serving my neighbor, or am I exploiting and tempting him?”

Obviously, those who make their living by robbery are not loving their neighbors. Heroin dealers, hit men, con artists, and other criminals are hurting their neighbors and have no calling from God to do so.

But there are some legal professions that also involve harming their neighbors instead of loving and serving them. An abortionist kills his small neighbor in the womb. An internet pornographer is abusing the neighbors he is exploiting sexually and, moreover, causing the neighbors who are his customers to sin.

Continue reading.