“I’m neither religious nor spiritual–I’m a Lutheran”

You know that viral video from the guy who says he hates religion but loves Jesus?  Well, Anthony Sacramone kind of agrees with him:

I like to say that I’m neither religious nor spiritual — I’m a Lutheran. It’s more than just left of pithy; it’s true. I have zero interest in religion. I had plenty of it as a kid. Sunday school; religion classes in my Lutheran parochial schools; confirmation classes. I was an acolyte and a winner of some religion-essay contest at the tender age of 9. And then there was church. And the inevitable Monday morning role call. Every Monday, our home room teacher would ask whether we had gone to church, Sunday school, both, or neither. After about age 11 I was racking up an impressive list of neithers. I would do anything to get out of going. To this day, I cannot remember a single word any pastor ever preached on any text. Church was something to endure. And among many of the Lutherans of my childhood, it didn’t seem to matter. They subscribed to Woody Allen’s shallow philosophy: just showing up was good enough.

And when I was finally confirmed, I was not just an adult in the eyes of the church; I was also free. Free never to have to endure the brain-sapping banality that was my religion. And we’re not talking about a denomination exactly given to legalism. In fact, it had very few rules. Really, it had just one: show up. Just show up. And that was enough to make my religion unbearable. Because I wanted to be anywhere but there.

If only someone had told me to read Luther. Real Luther, not Sunday school Luther. The Luther who killed religion. . . .

What exactly did the religious folk want of Jesus? They wanted a king. And Jesus gave them one “in the form of a slave.” They wanted relief from oppression, and they got parables. They wanted a kingdom, and they got the cross — a young Jewish man of dubious parentage apparently crushed by the collision of church and state but in reality bearing the iniquity of us all to reconcile us to a holy God, to inoculate us against sin, death, and the devil, to bury us alongside him, so he could raise us to eternal life. Their prayers were answered in the most startlingly appalling way: they received not power but promises.

Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a conundrum. And no one has ever wrestled with and wrung the truth out of that conundrum better than Martin Luther. And it took a class at NYU to introduce me to his inimitable voice.

Luther hated that God who demanded perfect righteousness from an original sinner but who had already rigged the game with election. How could this possibly be good news? Where was hope of being a saint when you were still a sinner? How could a perfect God understand the weight of guilt, the pain of betrayal, the agony of a broken body? Luther had failed to bridge the chasm between a wrathful God and lowly, raging, libidinous man with his fastings and law keeping. How could he possibly get from despair to hope?

It was in the communication of properties — the dual nature of Christ understood such that we can speak of the death of the Son of God and the true union of God and man — that Luther saw a way out and was able slowly to forge the key to the Christian conundrum: Jesus takes my sin and gives me his righteousness. His righteousness. There is real union, but it is predicated on faith, trust in the promises, not an ascent on our part, but a condescension on his. We are passive recipients of a gift, which is Christ’s own flesh. He really took our sin into his own flesh on Calvary and he really communicates his favor and forgiveness by feeding us that same flesh. Because life is in the blood. The worst crime in history — he who called heaven and earth into being with his Word fixed immobile to two cross beams — is the only hope anyone has of true freedom.

The church should be the place where you hear the promises of God, and embrace them as your own. The Father’s wrath at his broken law should terrify you such that you run from him to Jesus, from the Just Judge to the Righteous Redeemer, who delivers not a sentence but his own self. If what you get instead is therapy or law or even encouragement to try harder, climb higher, or even to just show up, then you have religion, and you are doomed.

via Strange Herring | And other signs that the end is nearish.

Read it all.

This, of course, is the “theology of the cross” as compared to “the theology of glory.”

Do you see what he is saying?  I’m touched by the account of his childhood post-confirmation alienation from the church.  If we could teach the radical nature of the gospel and the theology of the cross more consistently, as opposed to just memorizing answers and “just showing up,” would that make a difference?  Or are young people at that particular age more interested in a “theology of glory,” being oblivious to the grace that is hidden in an ordinary, boring church service?  Whereas, perhaps, after failing and suffering and becoming cynical for awhile, they are ready to come back?

Newt takes South Carolina in a landslide

Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary in overwhelming fashion.  Now each of the four contenders left standing has won a primary except for Ron Paul.

The South Carolina primary results:

Newt Gingrich 243,398      40.4% Winner

Mitt Romney 167,957          27.9%

Rick Santorum 102,213       17.0%

Ron Paul 78,093                   13.0%

Others 10,772                          1.8%

via South Carolina primary results, visits and political geography – 2012 Campaign Republican Primary Tracker – The Washington Post – The Washington Post.

Gingrich rises, falls, then rises again.  So is he now the alternative to Mitt Romney?

I know that Ron Paul is the alternative with the greater difference, but is there a path to his nomination?  He isn’t likely to do well in Florida, the retirement capital of the nation, with his opposition to Social Security.  That’s the next contest, January 31.  Where can Paul win?

Who do you think would be better, Mitt or Newt?

Joe Paterno dies

Penn State football was Joe Paterno’s life.  Now, shortly after he was fired from the scandal-plagued program, he died.   He had a treatable form of cancer, but it killed him at age 85.

Do you think the timing was coincidental, the cancer being the sole physical reason why he died, or can mental trauma be a cause of death?  Do you know any other examples of that?

Fired Penn State coach Joe Paterno dead at 85 – Yahoo! News.

Choosing death vs. choosing life

Sunday was the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.  Today is the March for Life in Washington, D. C.

Those who believe in abortion call themselves “pro-choice.”  Women indeed do have the “choice” of whether to get an abortion or let the child live.  Rev. James Lamb, director of Lutherans for Life, has some provocative reflections on “choice”:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Just saying, “Choose life!” can stir things up because it is associated with abortion. But this verse is not about abortion. It is about what we as God’s people base our choices upon. We base our choices upon who has chosen us. . . .

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are special because we have been chosen. God in Christ rescued us from the slavery of sin and set us on the path to the Promised Land of heaven. . . .

Death is the god of choice in our culture today. We choose death through abortion to rescue us from a crisis pregnancy. We choose death through the destruction of human embryos to rescue us from disease. We choose death through assisted suicide to rescue us from pain and suffering. Luther says in the Large Catechism that whatever we turn to for more “good and help than God” becomes our god (Tappert, 368, 28). But the god of death only seems to offer “good and help.” In reality, “evil and curses” follow in its wake. . . .

The choice of death as our rescuer-god always leads to “evil and curses.” There has never been a choice of death that rescues us from our problems and leads to life. Well, there was that one time! “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus chose death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10b). Jesus chose death to rescue us. We never have to!

That is our assurance that we can trust Him. That is our assurance we can choose life. We can trust God because He loves us and has proven that love in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can trust God because He “sets His love upon us” every time we come to His holy meal to receive the very price paid for our rescue.

Talking about life issues in our churches is more than just speaking against something going on in our culture. It is speaking for those who face these issues and are being tempted to choose death. What a message we have to share with one another. We belong to God. We can choose life. We can choose life and defend the life of the vulnerable. We can choose life and care for those who are weary and burdened. We can choose life and share the forgiveness of Christ when mistakes are made.

via Lutherans For Life | Chosen People Choose Life.

With the liturgy, “you never need words for joy”

Rev. Samuel Schuldheisz points us to the role of the liturgy–including the Psalms and the classic hymns of praise–in the life of J. R. R. Tolkien.  This is from a letter to his son, Christopher:

“If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudete Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need words for joy.”

via E-nklings: Tolkien on the Liturgy.

HT:  Mary Moerbe

Big campaign developments

Texas Governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the GOP presidential race.  He endorsed Newt Gingrich.  So did Sarah Palin. Ex-candidate Herman Cain, however, endorsed “the people.

Gingrich’s former wife is saying that he wanted “an open marriage” even as he was making speeches about family values.

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses.  A miscount had given the victory to Mitt Romney, but it turns out that Santorum actually had 34 more votes.

So where does all of this leave us?  If enough candidates drop out, might voters coalesce around someone other than Romney?  If so, who?  Ron Paul is, of course, a major alternative.

Who do you think would be better–or worse–Gingrich or Santorum?


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