Let us now praise the internet

A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.  As opposed to the stereotype of teenagers plugged into their own virtual worlds and never interacting with real people and oblivious to the outside universe.   See  Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? – MacArthur Foundation.

We have often criticized the new information technology for its baleful cultural effects–doing so, of course, using the new information technology–so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

How has the internet made you more involved with issues, improved your relationships, helped your church, or otherwise been an actual blessing, a good gift from the hand of God through the vocation of those who made all of this possible?

HT:  Webmonk

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.

Saying grace

The Religious News Service reports on a study about how many Americans have a prayer of thanksgiving before meals:

These days, 44 percent of Americans report saying grace or a similar blessing almost every day before eating; 46 percent almost never say it, leaving just a statistical sliver in between, Putnam and Campbell report in their recently published book, “American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us.”

“We are hard-pressed to think of many other behaviors that are so common among one half the population and rare among the other half—maybe carrying a purse,” Putnam and Campbell write.

Yet unlike wearing a purse, grace is often a private act: a quiet prayer around a kitchen table, a quick thanks in a crowded restaurant, or a bowed head before a bowl of soup.

“Saying grace is a very personalized form of religious expression,” Campbell said in an interview. “It’s something you do in your home, with your family.”

The privacy of saying grace—it’s not often shouted from rooftops—makes it a better measure of religious commitment than asking people if they go to church, Campbell said. Giving thanks for food isn’t generally said or done to impress the neighbors.

But the private prayer has strong connections to public positions, especially political ones, according to Putnam and Campbell. “Indeed, few things about a person correspond as tightly to partisanship as grace saying,” the scholars write in “American Grace.”

The more often you say grace, the more likely you are to identify with the Republican Party, Putnam and Campbell report. By turns, of course, the less you say grace, the more likely you are to identify with Democrats, the scholars said.

But there is one big exception to the prayer-politics connection. Eighty-five percent of African Americans report saying grace daily, a far higher rate than even Mormons, evangelicals, and mainline Protestants, the runners-up in grace-saying. The rate for evangelicals, for instance, is 58 percent. Yet, blacks remain stalwarts in the Democratic Party.

via Comment on “How, or if, you give thanks speaks volumes”.

Only 58% of evangelicals pray before they eat?  So 42% do not?  That sounds odd.  I wonder in what sense the non-prayers are evangelical.  I also don’t understand the correlation between Republicanism and saying grace.  Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the big money materialists?  Have Democrats really become that secularist?  It doesn’t surprise me that African Americans pray so much. But why do you think all of this is?

By the way, some time ago I sort of complained about the ubiquitous Lutheran table prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. . . .”  I’m over that.  Now I think it’s a good prayer, and we’ve started to use it.  It’s especially fitting for Advent!

Saying thanks before meals is a good way to cultivate the consciousness of vocation.  In thanking God, as the source of our daily bread, we recognize that He works through the farmers, the bakers, the hands that prepared the meal, and everyone else involved in the vast network of mutual interdependence that is vocation.

The Vocation of Military Service

In honor of Veterans’ Day and to salute those who served in the military, I would like to hear from those of you who are veterans.  How did military service impact your life?  What did it do for your character, personality, beliefs, etc.?  Those of you who have been in combat, did you come out of that traumatized or stronger or a bit of both or what?  (All of this has to do with the military as vocation.)


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