Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

29 July 2005
  Xrysostom's Caught a Live One
Discord follows Concord. Film at 11.

A commenter tagged the latest Ask the Pastor post on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession with the following:
Why do Lutherans focus on the bible? Christ never wrote any bible and never told anyone else to do so. If the written word was going to be the cornerstone of his religion surely Christ would have learned to read and write. Where is the proof that the bible is the inspired word of God? Why is there NO agreement on what the bible means and so much division among Christians?

We've already left "Bill from PA" some things upon which to chew. Maybe someone else can drop a line (or several) also. I've seen in so many instances that the resistance of an unbeliever persists against countless people speaking the same truth, yet crumbles when one person finally speaks the same truth in a different manner or with different words.

God willing, that "one person" will say what Bill needs to hear in a way that it registers on him. And if you're not sure what to say, you certainly know what to pray!
 
28 July 2005
  Slack Time, not Slacker Time
If Communism promised a "workers' paradise," the U.S. in August becomes a "loafers' paradise."

Since the problem of Dog Days' church attendance extends throughout Christendom, here I share my current newsletter musings:
We often consider August one of the “slack time” months. There are no major national holidays, the heat is high, we’re past most of the summer sports season, and it’s not quite time for school. Of course, the first days of school have been eating away at August’s back end for years, while teachers (and pastors who teach) know that they’d better be using their days wisely in preparation for upcoming classes.

Still, along with February, August has as much a reputation as any of the months for being a do-nothing time. In many ways, this is good. If we find good, restful recreation, the Lord can use this slack time to restore and reinvigorate us before school, harvest, and all of Autumn’s other activities overwhelm.

However, August shouldn’t be “slacker time.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines a slacker: “One who shirks work or responsibility: ‘In terms of their outlook on the future, slackers regard tomorrow with a studied cynicism or ... don’t even conceive of one.’ (Julie Caniglia)” Of course, relaxing and shirking aren’t the same thing — especially regarding church-related participation.

You see, August also has a nasty reputation as one of the worst for church attendance, the giving of offerings, and participation in Bible study. And, believe it or not, it’s not August’s fault — it’s ours. August’s church slackers duck the “work” of paying attention to their own spiritual well-being. They shirk the responsibilities of living in community with other Christians. And like their counterparts in the “real” world, slackers have a poor regard for tomorrow — especially the eternal tomorrow promised by Christ.

Yet while the Law commands regular and faithful church participation, the church slacker truly faces trouble because of the Gospel — or rather, a lack of the Gospel. Yes, our congregation has bills to pay, salaries to meet, and the like. And yes, our mission offerings are part of what God uses to spread His Word here and abroad. The real damage, however, comes upon those who allow their hearts to become dull concerning their own forgiveness and new life in Christ: Church slackers neglect taking the healing medicine of forgiveness; they starve themselves by staying away from the Lord’s banquet table.

Certainly, August has a well-deserved reputation as a time of rest and recreation. How much more blessed the rest when it includes spiritual rest. And how much more energizing the recreation when it also involves heartfelt singing, praying, and full participation in the services of the Lord’s house.

Still feeling like a slacker? Give me or one of our active members a call and we’ll joyfully pray for you and encourage you to shake off the dust, open your eyes and ears, and wholeheartedly embrace all that God gives those who gather in His name.

In Christ,
Pastor

Who needs Dog Days? I have Aardvark Days!
 
  Pride of the Yankees?
Pride of the Lutherans!

As you may have noticed, I have the daily snippet from Old Lutheran in the sidebar. Today's blurb caught my special attention, seeing as it was about one of my all-time favorite ball players:

Lou Gehrig (1903 - 1941) Famed baseball player whose life was cut short by the disease that now bears his name. He was raised in a very devout Lutheran household. Reportedly, Gehrig was once asked by a New York City reporter if he was Jewish — Gehrig proudly replied that he was a Lutheran!.

Ludwig Heinrich (later Henry Louis) Gehrig, already nationally famous because of his stellar play with the New York Yankees, became an athletic immortal for two reasons: First, he established a 2,130 consecutive games played record that lasted 56 years, until Cal Ripkin, Jr. (no stranger to hard work and dedication himself) played in his 2,131st game on 6 September 1995. While Ripkin pushed the mark to an astounding 2632 games, we'll always be left wondering what if Lou wasn't also remembered for a second reason — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — would he still hold the record?

Now we face the ugly irony that Lou is more remembered for an affliction that often bears his name — Lou Gehrig's Disease — than for either his baseball exploits or the fulness of his life.

To find out more, I suggest the 1996 German-American Day Essay Contest winner, written by high school student Shelley McDonald and the well-linked and annotated article at Wikipedia. To get to the heart of the man, however, you can merely read and ponder his farewell address on "Lou Gehrig Day," 4 July 1939:

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been to ballparks for seventeen years and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t have considered it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat and vice versa, sends you a gift, that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in the white coats remember you with trophies, that’s something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, its a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, that’s the finest I know. So I close by saying that I might have had a bad break, but I have an awful lot to live for.

I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
 
27 July 2005
  + Here's to You, Mr. Bach +
Happy Heavenly Birthday!

Johann Orycteropus BachJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted of all composers past and present in the entire western world. Orphaned at the age of ten, Bach studied with various family members but was mostly self-taught in music.

He began his professional career as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant at age 19 in the town of Arnstadt. He traveled wherever he received good commissions and steady employment, ending up in Leipzig, where the last 27 years of his life found him responsible for all the music in the city's four Lutheran churches.

Acclaimed more in his own time as a superb keyboard artist, the majority of his compositions fell into disuse following his death, which musicologists use to date the end of the Baroque Period and the beginning of the Classical Era. However, his compositional ability was rediscovered, in large part due to the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn. The genius and sheer magnitude of Bach's vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. Also, whether due to nature or nurture, he was but one of the giants in, perhaps, the most talented musical family of all time.

Christendom especially honors J. S. Bach, a staunch and devoted Lutheran, for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church, glorifying God and edifying His people. For an overview of the Christological basis of his work and a strong argument that he was among the theological giants of Lutheranism, please read J. S. Bach: Orthodox Lutheran Theologian? by Pastor Walter Snyder.

Today we remember his "heavenly birthday," for it was on 28 July AD 1750 that the Lord translated Mr. Bach to glory.

Soli deo gloria!
 
25 July 2005
  Hat's Off for Wonka
This Charlie's a Dahl

I took those members of Aardfamily as were around the burrow this evening to see Tim Burton's new vision of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Aardwife, with yours truly, clearly remembers 1971's Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from our younger years. The younger Aarddaughter had seen bits of it on TV while the Grandaard had no comparison.

To get it out of the way, I have only one real complaint: The film could have been longer. It breezes along so quickly that it seems shorter than its listed running time (a rare treat among the bloated temples to their directors' self-importance that too often fill the screen).

Johnny Depp again shows his chameleon-like skills, inhabiting the skin of Wonka as perhaps no other current actor could have done. Although some circumstances, characteristics, and appearances make a surface connection with a certain discredited pop star, Depp's Wonka is, in some ways, an "anti-Michael Jackson." Rather than refusing to grow up, he finds himself old before his time, unable to comprehend a family where love truly conquers all.

As in Roald Dahl's book, the film uses the good lad Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) as the title character. However, the film treats Charlie more as a catalyst who reactivates the latent familial feelings and eventually brings growth and a certain reconciliation to Willie's stunted emotional connections. In my recollection, Dahl treated Charlie somewhat similarly, although with a tad more character development.

The overall tone of the film, as with the book, is dark — the sweetness one expects from a factory filled with candies never materializes. Here, the movie is true to Dahl and Dahl to himself. He specializes not only in rewarding virtue but in punishing vice. In this area, we're amply rewarded with the retribution meted out upon the four ghastly children and their parents who accompany Charlie and Grandpa Joe (wonderfully underplayed by David Kelly).

I must tip my hat also to the film's "eye candy." From the Bucket manse to the Wonka factory, design is beautifully imagined and faultlessly rendered. The large-scale effects, including the elevator and the underground chocolate river, ring true.

And special mention has to be made of Deep Roy, who plays every single one of the 165 Oompa-Loompas who sing, speak, dance, gather, row, or otherwise work for Willie Wonka, and of the effects wizards who made each one an individual being.

Finally, in yet another collaboration with Tim Burton, Danny Elfman provides music that's always just right for each scene — sometimes front-and-center, sometimes way in the background, but never more or less than what's needed.

Overall, those who prefer their moral tales from the Brothers Grimm instead of Veggie Tales, will be well-rewarded for their time in the theater. I'll give it 8 stars only because I wish it had been longer.

"Everything here is eatable. I'm eatable, but that, my children, is called cannibalism and it is frowned upon in most societies." - Willie Wonka

Truly it was "eatable," and I devoured it with gusto.
 
24 July 2005
  Taking Up the Cross
(Again.)

The Rev. Paul McCain also weighs in on the crucifix at his Cyberbrethren blog.
 
23 July 2005
  In Memory Most Maudlin
Another reminder that Jesus came for us sinners.

I was so busy today (Friday, since I haven't gone to bed yet; Saturday, since it's past midnight) that I almost forgot to drop a few lines in honor of Saint Mary Magdalene, whose commemoration is 22 July.

The Gospels mention Mary of Magdala as one of the women of Galilee who followed Jesus and His disciples. She witnessed His crucifixion and burial, and went to the tomb on Easter Sunday to annoint His body. She was the first recorded witness of the Risen Christ and was sent by Him to tell the disciples. Thus, early Christian writings sometimes refer to her as "the apostle to the apostles" (apostle means "one who is sent").

Mary Magdalene
Confusion sometimes abounds as to whether she is the same person as Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) or the unnamed woman who annointed Jesus's feet (Luke 7:36-48). Add in the statement that Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) and you get the origins of a tradition that she was a prostitute before she met Jesus.

Following the assumption (possibly quite misguided) that Mary Magdalene truly had been a spectacular sinner whose penitential sorrow was deep and complete — and possibly because John described her as crying at the tomb of Jesus — artists often portray her either as weeping or with red eyes from having wept. This appearance led to the English word "maudlin" — "effusively or tearfully sentimental." Magdalen College at Oxford and Magdalene College at Cambridge (note the different spellings) — both pronounced "Maudlin" — derive their names from this Saint Mary.
 
21 July 2005
  Double + Crossed
"Signs, signs, everywhere signs ...."

The Five Man Electrical Band sang in lament over the posting of too many laws in their 1960s hit Signs. The Christian Faith is also filled with signs. Unlike the world's tokens, however, God's most powerful signs bespeak His grace and mercy. Chief among these is the cross. The cross is a thing — a specific instrument of torture and death upon which Jesus died. The cross is also an event. Because of these, the cross likewise is a sign: It indicates that God in Christ makes right the wrong of sins which keep us from Him.

In the baptismal rite, the pastor says to the candidate, "Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your forehead + and upon your heart +, to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified." Baptism is a participation in Christ's death (cf. Romans 6:3); thus, the "mark" we wear is no mere symbol traced upon us by our pastors. We are marked, imprinted, covered by the cross and by the redemption which Christ purchased upon it.

In light of this marking, the Church developed outward expressions designed to remind us of our participation in Christ's cross-borne gift of salvation. With our own fingers we can trace from forehead to heart and from shoulder to shoulder the image of this holy sign, remembering both Christ's death for us and our own death to sin in Baptism. The Church also encouraged its artisans to cast, carve, paint, and otherwise craft images of our Savior nailed to the cross in earthly shame, yet divine glory.

With these in mind, I commend to you Xrysostom's comments on The Sign of the Cross, Tim's self-examination of his understanding of the crucifix, and the survey that essay invoked. Just as we were "double-crossed" in Baptism, so the cross clings to us and we to it throughout our earthly days.

Too many signs? Not when they point to Christ!
 
20 July 2005
  A Funtastic Time
Summer movies, and the livin' is easy
Fantastic Aardvark 4
I took the grandvark to see the Fantastic Four last night. He loved it and kept trying to spontaneously combust all the way home. I must have heard, "Flame on!" at least fifty times between the theater, Barnes & Noble, and home some 40 miles away.

My review? Well, I've been reading the comics since I kicked over my first ant hill, so my prejudices — for good or for bad — would certainly come into play. Overall, it was faithful to the Marvel Universe. Like a number of comics and comics made into films, details about origins and interactions have changed slightly since the original. The cast was a mixed bag. Michael Chiklis nailed both Ben Grimm and The Thing and Chris Evans had all the attitude that Johnny Storm (Human Torch) needed. Julian McMahon was an engrossing Dr. Doom and his slide into overt evil was fascinating to follow. Jessica Alba's Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) probably could have been better filled by a slightly older, more mature actress, but she wasn't bad. You could certainly see what Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) saw in her. Unfortunately, the reverse wasn't as true. Ioan Gruffudd's characterization didn't really show what she saw in him, although he certainly was the preferred option to Doom.

Overall opinion: A good summer movie and a fun time with the grandvark.
 
17 July 2005
  They're All That ...
... and, Maybe, Fat

There's a new type of All-NBA roster taking shape at Raisin the Mar. Fat, ugly, named for nature, and other pseudo-squads are posted with an invitation to help the author establish an even more definitive list.

Thanks to Ryan at Wretched of the Earth for the tip.
 
14 July 2005
  "It's My Body" or "This Is My Body"?
Whose life are you living?

"Screw Abstinence [800k PDF]," the sleazy pro-abortion party scheduled for tonight in Seattle, Washington's was noted on a number of blogs. I first saw it at Balaam's Ass.

In related new item, Pro-Choice Washington, the Washington state branch of NARAL, showed that intended it as "an outreach event [aiming] to reach twenty-five to thirty-five year old adults." They claimed they wanted "to give adults accurate information and skills to make safe and informed decisions about their bodies" and to work against "federal funding for abstinence-only until marriage sex education programs."

As I read the material, the "my body, my choice" mantra of the abortion rights wrongs movement suddenly collided with another "My body" statement — that of our Savior, who, "on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you.' (1 Cor 11:23-24 ESV)" The libertine, self-serving, and selfish NARAListas, meanwhile, are saying, "This is my body, I'll do with it as I damned well please" — not realizing that "damned" is much more than a mere figure of speech.

Earlier in the same Epistle, the Apostle Paul spoke of his own body: "I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (9:27 ESV)" Paul realized that the Christian's body is "a temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19 ESV)," not a carnal pleasure palace to be defiled, vandalized, and eventually allowed to rot into oblivion.

The pro-abortion movement even has members who claim to be Christian, but what tortured mental and spiritual gymnastics they must perform! Our Savior offered Himself, sacrificing the strong for the weak. Abortion sacrifices the weak for the strong. In Christ, the Life-giver tasted death. In abortion, the life-bearer brings death to her unborn. In love, Christ creates a new, healthy heart (cf. Ps 51:10) and nurtures it into life everlasting; in abortion, a new heart is stilled and tossed in the trash.

It comes down to understanding not only who we are but whose. In Galatians 2:20, Paul reminds the Christian, "I have been crucified with Christ." The "old me" is dead on Calvary; the "new me" isn't me, but "Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)" (See Romans 6:1-14 for a fuller discussion, including Baptism's role in dealing death to death and creating new life.)

If Christ "loved me and gave himself for me," how do I rationalize the tremendous arrogance it takes to say, "I love me and give the life of this unborn child for myself"?
 
11 July 2005
  Mother Earth without Feminism

Intolerant Elle raises the question of the use of "mother earth" in Christian discourse &mdash specifically, in stanza 2 of the hymn "When Seed Falls on Good Soil."

Personification is an accepted metaphor in Scripture and Christian theology. "Mother" earth is, of itself, a good term, "pregnant" — as an old prof used to say — with meaning. Just as the Church is the womb which bears and the mother who nurtures spiritual life, so the earth is the womb which bears and the mother who nurtures physical life. This appears to be behind Job's resignation: "And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return....' (1:21 ESV)" I think that Job, like Nicodemus, clearly understood that an adult cannot crawl back up the birth canal into his mother's uterus. Thus, the "womb" must the the same earth from which Adam and all his children are born.

I have no great problem with the hymn: Indeed, I appreciate the way the metaphor is used. "The soil [passively!] receives the seed." She doesn't beget life, nor does she choose what life grows where. The Initiator, the Life-Giver, the Begetter is our Father. The hymn is not to mother earth; it is (partially) about her.

Cranach - The Sower
Clement of Alexandria, in his Exhortation to the Heathen, wrote of the folly of worshiping created things or of forming gods from them:
Why, I pray you, have you assigned the prerogatives of God to what are no gods? Why, let me ask, have you forsaken heaven to pay divine honour to earth? What else is gold, or silver, or steel, or iron, or brass, or ivory, or precious stones? Are they not earth, and of the earth?

Are not all these things which you look on the progeny of one mother — the earth?

Clement obviously didn't confuse motherhood with Godhood. The problem comes when we elevate Mom or her offspring to divine status.

Tertullian used mother earth to expound On the Resurrection of the Flesh:
The flesh, too, has her departures for a while — in waters, in fires, in birds, in beasts; she may seem to be dissolved into these, but she is only poured into them, as into vessels. And should the vessels themselves afterwards fail to hold her, escaping from even these, and returning to her mother earth, she is absorbed once more, as it were, by its secret embraces, ultimately to stand forth to view, like Adam when summoned to hear from his Lord and Creator the words, "Behold, the man is become as one of us!" — thoroughly "knowing" by that time "the evil" which she had escaped, "and the good" which she has acquired.


I want to be careful with a hymn under copyright, but would address a bit more the other half of Elle's title; i.e., "What about Father God?" I think that the prayer to the Lord in stanza 3 establishes that it's not "mother earth," but "Father God" who's responsible for the earthly planting, growing, and harvesting. In it, we implore God to "do the verbs." We ask Him to "plow" the hard-packed path, "clear" the rocky soil, "tear" the harmful growth, and then to "sow the seed." Applying it directly to ourselves, we conclude by seeking Him to "prepare" each one of "our hearts," that the seed might fall on fertile ground.

On the other hand, I concur with Elle that the deification of the earth is wrong, shameful, and sinful. Feminism, goddess worship, and the like creeps like kudzu throughout the fertile soil of Mother Church. Sometimes, we can rip the weeds out; in other instances, it appears that we must wait until the final harvest and the burning of the tares. For those who improperly understand our alma mater as a goddess worthy of worship, I offer a bite on the backside, courtesy of this sarcasm from the seventh of The Seven Books of Arnobius Against the Heathen:
To mother Earth, they say, is sacrificed a teeming and pregnant sow; but to the virgin Minerva is slain a virgin calf, never forced by the goad to attempt any labour. But yet we think that neither should a virgin have been sacrificed to a virgin, that the virginity might not be violated in the brute, for which the goddess is especially esteemed; nor should gravid and pregnant victims have been sacrificed to the Earth from respect for its fruitfulness.... For if because the Tritonian goddess is a virgin it is therefore fitting that virgin victims be sacrificed to her, and if because the Earth is a mother she is in like manner to be entertained with gravid swine, then also Apollo should be honoured by the sacrifice of musicians ...; Aesculapius ... by the sacrifice of physicians; ... Vulcan by the sacrifice of artificers; and because Mercury is eloquent, sacrifice should be made to him with the eloquent and most fluent. But if it is madness to say this, or, to speak with moderation, nonsense, that shows much greater madness to slaughter pregnant swine to the Earth because she is even more prolific; pure and virgin heifers to Minerva because she is pure, of unviolated virginity.
 
10 July 2005
  He Is the Very Model of the Modern Labour Minister
or, "How to Become a Notional Nonentity"

Electech offers "an animated tribute to charles clarke, id cards and puppy pianists ... it also features a hint of politics and opinion, a dapper dog and british politicians in spandex ... you have been warned."

This Flash animated frenzy ridicules Home Secretary Charles Clarke's continuing call for a British national identity card. It urges the English people to stand against the card, pointing them to the group NO2ID (and while you're there, be sure to check out their cartoon gallery).

Thanks to the Confessing Evangelical for tipping us to this.

Methinks we Yanks should bookmark this site ... just in case.
 
  Storm Warning from Saint Paul
Ill Wind or Fair?

Hurricane WarningMy sermon was based on today's epistle, Romans 8:18-25.

With Hurricane Dennis in the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on the US shore, the "sufferings of the present time" certainly present themselves to us. Along with the ills of body and the evil of our fellow man, the forces of nature certainly don't seem "futile" in their subjection. Winds in excess of 140 mph, torrential rains, and tidal surges bespeak a wild and free fury aimed at human safety and security.

Yet as the apostle says, "The creation waits with eager longing" — not for our destruction, but for its own fulfullment. Storms, earthquakes, human weakness and decay — all anticipate "the revealing of the sons of God." In and of itself, Creation is neither benevolent nor malevolent — it merely is. Bound by God and marred by sin, Creation's natural forces bring growth and destruction, rain and drought, life and death. Through it all, they testify to Him who bound Creation and who will free it in the Day of "revealing of the sons of God."

Called to do God's alien work of Law, wrath, and judgment, the clouds pile and swirl, gulping water from the Gulf and vomiting it out on the land, driving it in sun-fueled rage. The hymn Abide with Me reminds us, "Change and decay in all around I see." Beach erosion, snapped trees, and smashed homes point to this decay.

Yet, as Paul noted, "This present time [is] not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." In the Resurrection, all will (finally!) be changed for the better — indeed, for the best. However, as we wait, we need stability — one sure and solid Rock. Thus we also sing, "O Thou, who changest not, Abide with me!" Paul wrote, "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Cor 15:51-52 ESV)"

Until then, in life's storms and safe harbors, whether for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, the constant love of God in Christ remains with us as He graciously shepherds us to our Promised Land, when dawns our revealing in our Resurrection bodies as the "sons of God."

Hurricane Dennis
Eternal Father, Strong to Save
  1. Eternal Father, strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

  2. O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
    And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
    Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
    And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

  3. Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
    Upon the chaos dark and rude,
    And bid its angry tumult cease,
    And give, for wild confusion, peace;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

  4. O Trinity of love and power!
    Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
    From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
    Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
    Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
    Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

MIDI available from the Lutheran Hymnal Project
 
09 July 2005
  Grape Ass You Have There, Judah
Connecting tethered donkeys and a couple getting hitched.

Bits and pieces of Israel's prophetic blessing in Genesis 49 are familiar to many Christians, especially to those paying attention during Advent:

Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father's sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion's cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him [or, "until Shiloh comes"];
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey's colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk. (vv. 8-12)

Yet while we recognize this as Messianic prophecy, what's with the donkey and grapevine stuff? The foal and colt language may remind us of Zecheriah 9:9 and its fulfillment on Palm Sunday. We get an idea of royal splendor with the wine-washed robes, dark eyes, and gleaming teeth. Yet what's so Messianic about where the livestock is tethered?

Xrysostom's post on biblical beer triggered a memory of things learned long ago. He wrote, "The time of Messiah was prophesied to be a time of free-flowing wine, illustrated by Jesus' first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana."

Wedding at Cana

In an agrarian culture, especially in a dry climate where even the "wealthy" often have little to spare and a small margin for error in planting and harvesting, Jacob's comment seems patently ridiculous. If you need every grape in order to produce enough wine and raisins for the next year, why in the world would you tie your animals to the vines? A donkey will eat anything that's green (and many things that aren't). To do this invites disaster.

When could you ever afford to act so extravagantly? Only if you already had more and better wine than you ever imagined. More? How about 120 - 180 gallons? Better? How about learning that "the good wine" had just appeared? The Lord announced Himself through "the first of his signs" as the New Judah, heir to the "scepter" and the "ruler's staff" of Genesis 49.
 
  Singin' a Happy Song

My new friend Webcritter pointed me to Allan Sherman's The Laarge Daark Aardvark Song.

bum-bum-bum-bum, bum-bum-bum, bum, yeah yeah yeah!
 
  Packin' a Biretta
It ain't my civvies or my skivvies.

I promised some folks the other night on IRC that I'd show them what I look like when dressed for the Office:

Bishop Orycteropus

See what happens when an aardvark puts on the dog!
 
08 July 2005
  Razing Hell

Ask the Pastor provides a detailed study of Christ's descent into hell. It includes references from Scripture and Confessions along with a Luther sermon quoted from Bente's Historical Introductions to the Book of Concord and a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.
 
07 July 2005
  Parlez-Vous Holy War?
The Hydra (Al Qaida) reared one of its many venomous heads today, tearing flesh and taking lives in London's mass transit. Various nations and leaders responded with anger, resolve, and other expected reactions. Meanwhile, message boards and blogs brought pontification from throughout the political (and mental health) spectrum.

What so many of the respondents fail to grasp is what a true "holy war" entails. Of course, in the case of Islam, "holy" sits diametrically opposite the truth. Islam is a godless, indeed, satanic, belief system which, in its radical form, wants the eradication of all opposing religions and philosophies. Be that as it may, the West generally and collectively fails to understand sincere, impassioned religious fervor.

After 9/11, when President Bush first called for a "crusade" against terrorism, the Arab world &mdash almost without exception &mdash condemned the idea. It wasn't that many didn't want world terror ended, nor that all of them supported violent jihad. Arab Muslims, however, remember the original Crusades, not only historically but also religiously. Whether Bush's word was chosen with intent or out of ignorance, I notice that I don't hear it come from Washington anymore.

Yet politically speaking, some sort of "crusade" needs to be mounted. It remains to be seen whether a largely godless West can do so against Islam and its false god. The governments and people of Europe and the Americas must realize that they fight only partially armed when they battle Islamic terrorists without the same degree of religious conviction.

Sadly, we've largely forgotten the power of ideas and the powerful hold they can have on minds conditioned to receive them. Even agnostics and atheists can cling to a higher cause &mdash but how many of them do? And among those who claim religious faith, including Christians, few appear to hold these beliefs with any great depth, strength, or fervor. Until things change, we'll continue to underestimate the might of the enemy.

The chaff is piling up; when will the torch ignite it?
 
  Blinded by the Light?
Or still in the dark?

Deep Impact on Comet Tempel 1

NASA's Deep Impact smashed into Comet Tempel 1 early on 4 July. While I laud doing science for science's sake, didn't they spend an awful lot of our tax money for a fireworks display intended to help discover the origins of the universe? Don't Christians already know the answer?

Next time, NASA, try this free link.
 
06 July 2005
  Catching My Breath after Vacation
Now I need another vacation to relax.

Our whirlwind wedding, family visiting, and recreating tour officially finished when I rolled into bed at about 3:00 a.m. CDT today (Wednesday). "Vacation" comes from the Latin vaca, meaning "to be free from work, of a master, of property." For a few days, I had no assigned work nor master, and once the credit card bills come in, I should be devoid of property, as well.

It was a good, if brief time. On Friday night, we went to Busch stadium and watched the Cardinals trounce the Rockies. Saturday brought wedding preparations, including gift shopping (the bride was only registered in the St. Louis area), the rehearsal, and a picnic dinner following. Sunday included church at Immanuel, Olivette and Bible class with Bill Schmelder, a brief breath-catching at the hotel, then a wedding, photos, and the reception in nearby St. Charles. Thanks to that city's weekend-long celebration of Independence Day, we had an excellent view of their July 3 fireworks from the reception hall.

Monday morning meant a trip to the Saint Louis Zoo. We then ate lunch with family and watched the newlyweds open their gifts. That night we ate with the bride's brother and his wife, then went to a park in Bridgeton, where we could watch fireworks from that community and St. Charles.

Tuesday was Six Flags Day. After a day of rollercoasters and water rides, we ate supper at my brother's house, chewed the fat way too late, then drove home red-eyed and (in my case) hypercaffeinated.
 
  Put not Your Trust in Princes ...
... in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. (Psalm 146:3 ESV)

As a political, social, and religious creature, I'm all a-twitter over the coming nomination from President Bush for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice O'Connor. I'd be more than happy if the nation finally had an Hispanic Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the long track record of predicting the behavior of justices after their confirmations makes me wonder how Alberto Gonzales would vote on life issues and other religion-based cases.

I firmly believe that the Psalmist had it nailed when he said, "Put not your trust in princes." It doesn't matter whether they're elected, appointed, or rule because of inheritance or strength of arms, even the most godly rulers often act in a manner unlike a Christian. Of course, so do the rest of us!

Therefore, I don't look for an abortion panacea, no matter whom nor how many the President appoints to the Court. On the other hand, that doesn't stop me as an informed and concerned citizen who also cares deeply about religion in the marketplace from praying for my rulers, while also lauding their good and addressing their wrongs.

I continue to hate abortion and would truly celebrate were it once more banished from our national consciousness. Still, I'll not hold my breath waiting for such a blessed even to happen: If I did so, I'd almost certainly turn bluer than a Smurf before my prayers were answered.

Please, dear Heavenly Father, let me be wrong.
 
03 July 2005
  Temptation: Adam and Adamant
Wherein a carbon-based life showed Himself to be a Diamond when the pressure was applied.

I sat in on Bill Schmelder's Bible study today. They'd just gotten underway in Mark and the Baptism and Temptation of Christ led us off. Jesus' baptismal identification with us sinners and the baptism to wilderness parallel with Israel got me thinking about some of the OT/NT parallels, prophecies, and completions.

If you look at Genesis, you meet Adam. Eve gave him the fruit and he ate. His resolve was every bit as firm as jello at a church picnic in July.

Then we travel forward to meet the Second Adam — the original Adamant. Immediately after his baptism, the Holy Spirit "drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (Mark 1:12-13)"

Sometimes I think we forget the extent of the Temptation. Jesus didn't just sit around eating nothing, doing nothing for 40 days, then face a three question exam, pass it, and head home. If you only read the Matthew 4 account, you might think this. However, Luke and, especially, Mark indicate that Jesus faced temptation for the full forty days; a temptation only summed up by the three questions recorded by Matthew and Luke.

Where Adam bent, Adamant stood firm. Where Adam embraced sin, Adamant rebuffed it. Where Adam became his own God, Adamant followed the one true God.

The Father's Crown Jewel, the Adamant Second Adam, truly is our "Jesus, Priceless Treasure."
 
02 July 2005
  If You Can't Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Nursery
In "War of the Worlds Words", Brooke continues to bite back at Tom.

First, Brooke Shields blasted Tom Cruise for his criticisms of her using antidepressants to combat her postpartum depression, wondering if his lack of estrogen might contribute to his lack of knowledge. She continued by ripping his belief in Scientology, saying she wouldn't take advice from someone who devotes his life to creatures from outer space. The trifecta came when she offered to leave tickets to her current stage production, Chicago, offering him a child ducat so he can take "child-bride-to-be" Katie Holmes along for the show.

Ah, if only all theological debate were so entertaining.
 
01 July 2005
  She's Getting Married ... I'm Getting Gone
We're off to Saint Looie.
 
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