Aardvark Alley

Lutheran Aardvark

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

27 February 2006
  Overdue Aardies
Wherein we catch up on bestowing the Golden Aardvark Aaward.

Small Golden Aardvark AawardAardie: The Golden Aardvark AawardIt's been over two months since we last listed a group of posts meriting the AARDIE (Aardvark Award for Raillery, Doctrine, or Intellect in Exposition). As always, I choose honorees according to specific, yet ever-changing subjective criteria known only to the inner recesses of my fevered mind. Thus, "winners" should accept their accolades with somewhere between a pinch of salt and an entire shaker-full while "losers" should realize that I'm a cartoonish character bestowing a cartoonish honor, so maybe those who aren't selected are the true winners.

Anyhow, if you wish to display the award on your own blog, please copy and upload it yourself rather than stealing bandwidth from Pastor Snyder, who graciously hosts the graphics at his Xrysostom domain.

‡ Dan at Necessary Roughness comments upon what happens of a Sunday morning and what the true essentials of church might be in Liturgy, Hymnody, Homily.

‡ The Louisiana Conservative has posted several spot-on parodies of churches and sermons. My favorite so far remains First Church of Democrats.

Simil Justus et Peccator isn't just a slogan, it's a statement of fact for the Christian, as Amor et Labor reminds us.

Deviant Paradigm: Of the Wolf Within offers a longish but well-worth-reading post that examines faulty argumentation on homosexuality in The Big Gay Post.

‡ Does ELCA need A Dividing Hymnal? Of course not, argues the author of Personal Diatribes.

‡ Read Broken, Brackish Mountain from Masks of God and you'll probably figure out why I wish Bill would post more often.

‡ Yeah, a Christmas-themed post from Rev Cwirla's Blogosphere might seem dated, but his Focus on the Family is appropriate ecclesiology, no matter the season.

‡ Posts about life issues abound. One of the most cogent, succinct expositions on in vitro fertilization (IVF) that I've discovered is Baby, It's Cold Inside from Madre's Missives.

That's it for now. DV, the next batch will come before the parousia (maybe even before the Pascha).
 
26 February 2006
  It's Carnival Time

Karl has Lutheran 'Nival XVIII up and running at Full Throttle & an Empty Gas Tank. Check out the latest highlights of the confessional Lutheran blogosphere.
 
23 February 2006
  + Matthias, Apostle +
24 February, New Testament

Saint MatthiasAfter the Ascension of Our Lord, Jesus' followers at Jerusalem chose Matthias to replace Judas: "And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)" Apart from the information given in the first chapter of Acts (vv. 12-26), we know nothing about him.

One extra-biblical account says that Saint Matthias was slain by cannibals in Ethiopia; another traditions claims that he was stoned and then beheaded by Jews in Jerusalem. This account lends itself to his customary symbol in religious art: The sword from his beheading is superimposed over a book or scroll representing Holy Scripture.

Lection
Psalm 133
Isaiah 66:1-2
Acts 1:15-25
Luke 6:12-16

Collect
Lord God, heavenly King, whose chose apostles have witnessed to us regarding Your resurrection, grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may praise Your wonderful works and walk in the power of Your resurrection; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
  NARAL Blue over Red State Decision
Abortionistas Angered about South Dakota Legislation

Unborn BabyFirst the good news from USA Today: South Dakota has upped the ante regarding the continuation of legal abortion in the United States. Their Senate passed a bill 23-12 banning all abortions except ones intended to save the life of the mother. The legislation closely matches a measure already passed by the SD House and will most likely be signed by Governor Mike Rounds once the chambers agree on the language.

While definitely designed to "save lives," it appears that the primary purpose of the bill is to place the entire abortion argument back in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. Perhaps this time the justices will actually interpret the law rather than invent it — that certainly appears to be the hope of the South Dakotans involved.

Of course, many assumptions will be on trial along with the proposed law. No one knows how the two newest members of the high court will vote; even if opposed to abortion and suspicious of the initial Roe vs. Wade arguments, how will precedent and later statutes affect their thinking. And even if Samuel Alito and John Roberts join with Justices Scalia and Thomas, will any of the other five move away from the interpretive excesses which first allowed legalized abortive carnage?

At least some on the Left are already getting worked up about such possibilities. I've been monitoring NARAL's mailing list and Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America just sent out a brief email call to arms which included six clickable links soliciting contributions in its brief length. Evidently, an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $100,000 in pro-death contributions designed to sink the South Dakota law in the courts.

Even if NARAL et al. manages to hit the $200k mark (and I imagine they will), supporters of the bill in SD claim that an anonymous donor has already pledged up to $1,000,000 to help in the bill's defense.

Now we have a chance to do some national soul-searching and political activism the likes of which haven't been seen for years. Keenan's letter noted, "If there was ever a moment that should galvanize pro-choice Americans, this is it. It's time to elect pro-choice candidates who will respect women's health and women's right to choose." Just as much, this should be a moment to galvanize pro-life Americans who will respect unborn children's lives and health and fetal rights to birth.

HT: Captain's Quarters

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  Carnival Deadline Tomorrow

Full Throttle & an Empty Gas Tank hosts the next Lutheran Carnival. Submit your work(s) by Friday evening 24 February. Entry information is on the main blog.
 
  + Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr +
23 February AD 156

Born around AD 69, Saint Polycarp was a central figure in the early church. Said to be disciple of the evangelist John, he provides a link between the first generation of believers and later Christians, including Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who later wrote of him. Saint Ignatius of Antioch also knew and wrote to him. His home town of Smryna (modern Izmir, Turkey) was one of the seven churches addressed in Revelation (see 2:8-11 for the details).

Polycarp of SmyrnaAfter serving for many years as bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp was caught up in a local persecution of Christians. While willing to be martyred, others encouraged him to flee. However, he was later arrested, tried, and executed for his faith on 23 February c. AD 156. An eyewitness narrative of his death, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, continues to encourage believers in times of persecution.

According to the ancient records, he was tried solely on the charge of being a Christian. When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: "Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" According the the customary reckoning of his birth and death, this means that he must have been baptized as an infant, raised as a Christian, and lived his entire life as in the Faith. His fidelity follows the encouragement given by the Lord to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)"

The following prayer is recorded as his immediately prior to the fire being kindled for his martyrdom: Lord God Almighty, Father of Your blessed and beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, God of angels and hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless You that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection to eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and for the ages to come. Amen.

Collect
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, who gave to Your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for the Faith, give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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18 February 2006
  + Martin Luther, Doctor and Reformer +
18 February AD 1546

Martin LutherMartin Luther, born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, initially began studies leading toward a degree in law. However, after a close encounter with death, he switched to the study of theology, entered an Augustinian monastery, was ordained a priest in 1505, and received a doctorate in theology in 1512.

As a professor at the newly-established University of Wittenberg, his Scriptural studies led him to question many of the church's teachings and practices, especially the selling of indulgences. His refusal to back down from his convictions resulted in his excommunication in 1521. Following a period of seclusion at the Wartburg castle, Luther returned to Wittenberg, where he spent the rest of his life preaching and teaching, translating the Scriptures, and writing hymns and numerous theological treatises.

We remember and honor his lifelong emphasis on the Biblical truth that for Christ's sake God declares us righteous by grace through faith alone. He died on February 18, 1546, while visiting the town of his birth.

Please visit Pastor Walter Snyder for The Life of Martin Luther: A Chronology. Along with this biographical outline, he also includes recommended books and web sites.

Lection
Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect
O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour our Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
16 February 2006
  Philipp Melanchthon, Confessor
16 February AD 1497 – 19 April AD 1560

Philipp MelanchthonPhilipp Melanchthon, a brilliant student of the classics and a humanist scholar, was appointed to teach along with Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg in 1518. At Luther's urging, Melanchthon began teaching theology and Scripture in addition to his courses in classical studies.

In April of 1530, Emperor Charles V called an official meeting between the representative of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism, hoping to effect a meeting of minds between two opposing groups. Since Luther was at that time under papal excommunication and an imperial ban, Melanchthon was assigned the duty of being the chief Lutheran representative at this meeting. Thus, he made the primary verbal and written defenses of the Evangelical (Lutheran) position. We especially remembered and honored him as the author of the Augsburg Confession, which was officially presented by the German princes to the emperor on 25 June 1530, as the defining document of Lutheranism within Christendom.

Unfortunately, Melanchthon's desires for peace within Christendom led him to later rewrite and weaken some of the Augsburg Confession's language. The resulting Variata were palatable to some who disagreed with certain Lutheran teachings and allowed for false teaching to infiltrate Lutheranism. Ask the Pastor details some of this in a post on the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.

Lection
Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect
O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour our Your Holy Spirit on Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Note: We commemorate Philipp Melanchthon's birth date because his death date often conflicts with Holy Week and Easter observances.
 
  More Ideas for Confessional Bloggers

Poor Michael's Almanac ties together some of the ideas I listed in Building a Lutheran Presence; Part 1 and Part 2 and some of the discussion on the Google group for the Confessional Lutheran Bloggers Conference.

Read what Michael says about A Confessional Lutheran Blog Association and weigh in on the questions he's asking. First, he's looking for a name for our umbrella aggregator (which we hope will also form the focus for our upcoming confessional überblogroll). I'm promoting The WittenBLOG Door for the name since a) it provides instant Lutheran identity, b) the most recent offerings of member bloggers will be "nailed" to it, and c) it will provide an entry point to the whole confessional Lutheran blogosphere.

The other question Michael poses also grew out of discussions on the CLBC group, regarding the formation of an actual association. I personally think this a good idea, both for support and for peer-review and self-policing. So go leave Michael some comments and let's try getting beyond the inertia of "wouldn't it be nice" for some of these ideas for confessional Lutheran blogging.
 
15 February 2006
  Philemon and Onesimus
15 February, New Testament

OnesimusPhilemon was a prominent first-century Christian who owned a slave named Onesimus. While the name "Onesimus" means "useful," Onesimus proved himself "useless. (Philemon 11)" He ran away from his master and perhaps even stole from him (v. 18).

Somehow, Onesimus came into contact with the apostle Paul while the latter was in prison (possibly in Rome). Perhaps he knew that Paul and Philemon had a friendship and went to Paul in order to protect himself from harsh treatment should he be returned home. In any event, through Paul's proclamation of the Gospel he became a Christian. After Onesemus confessed to the apostle that he was a runaway slave, Paul directed him to return to his master and become "useful" again, as Paul had already determined him to be (v. 11).

In order to help pave the way for Onesimus' peaceful return home, Paul sent him on his way with a letter addressed to Philemon, a letter in which he urged Philemon to forgive his slave for having run away and to "receive him as you would receive me (v. 17)" Paul encourged Philemon to think of Onesimus "no longer as a slave ... but as a beloved brother (v. 16)"

The letter was eventually included by the church as one of the books of the New Testament.

Those looking to Scripture for a definitive statement on slavery find mixed messages in this brief epistle. While Paul seems to urge Philemon in the direction of treating Onesimus as a freedman, he certainly leaves open the option that Onesimus might be returning to slavery, albeit in a much-improved situation.
 
14 February 2006
  Building a Lutheran Presence; Part 2
Increasing Readership and Raising Visibility for Confessional Bloggers

In Part 1, we examined ways of maintaining and improving the quality of our individual blogs. This included attractive and uncluttered layout, rich content, being intentionally and unapologetically Lutheran, and related matters.

Assuming that you write well, your layout is clean, your graphics sharp and uncluttered, your paragraphs of managable size, and your chosen topics of interest to others, you may have another question: "Why aren't more people visiting my blog?" So if you've lain the groundwork of quality in your blog, let's get on to the business of rounding up some quantity, namely an expanded readership.


No Blog Is an Island

If you want to reach others, it helps to join with others. The easiest way is through some form of blogrolling. You'll notice that the Alley has a rather large blogroll. This is intentional; if we were all professionals, I'd call it professional courtesy. I don't read all the blogs on my Confessional Lutheran blogroll every day, but I do keep an eye on them. I list them not because I agree with everything they say in total, but because we are theological brothers and sisters and because I've learned to trust the output to be interesting and edifying. You may favor certain blogs over others; this is fine. Give them top billing or a bright color scheme in your blogroll. But don't forget to list some of the others who are plugging away, making their own contributions to Lutheranism in cyberspace in their own way. Especially, consider reciprocal links whenever possible.

Reciprocal blogrolling is the backbone of increased readership.


Readers Follow Referrals

LinksIf you like what someone else said, mention it in your own blog. Even if you quote and give attribution, don't forget to also supply a link. It's nice when you link to my blog; it's great when you link to the specific post you're citing. Our readers are often in a hurry. If you take them exactly to the source, they're much more likely to read the material than if you just take them nearby. Also (and we'll take this up more in a moment), post-specific citations can have greater search engine credibility. To give an example of how this works, here's a previous post wherein I addressed some of these same topics. Remember that the word "link" wasn't idly chosen for cyberspace; consider the strength of a number of metallic links joined together to form fences, chains, and suits of armor. We bloggers can adapt this truth to our own structure.

Linked posts form a strong chain of Lutheran blogs.


Hang Out with Other Blogs

TechnoratiJoin Technorati, "claim" your blog(s), pick appropriate tags, and insert their code in your blog. Many people use Technorati as their first choice for blog searches, so it pays to be listed here. They place a premium on currency, so the more often you post and update your blog, the more likely you are to be found. In like fashion, add your blog to as many other listings and directories as you can. Many of the graphical buttons in my blogroll link to various directories. Please note their respective rules: Some require reciprocal links. Make sure you know your "feed" URL, also. It may end in "xml," "rss," "rdf" or something else — some resources are going to ask for it, so you'll need to know it. Don't forget the obvious; make sure you're listed with the Lutheran Blog Directory.

Keep it simple; keep it direct(ory).


Get Aggregated

Aggregators are dynamic directories devoted to specific topics. For these, you'll almost certainly need to supply your blog's feed URL. Each time you update, your newest post will be previewed in an appropriate place in whatever aggregators list it. One of the confessional bloggers is working on a new combination aggregator and blogroll compiler even now. In the meantime, there's already the Augsburg Aggregator, which is devoted to confessional Lutheran blogs only. It's run by David R. Bickel of Dawning Realm. Evangelical Christians (that includes us Lutherans) can join the Evangelical Aggregator. When you click the email link, you'll have the option to ask to also join the Blogroll of God. Go ahead and ask for it, too — it also requires TTLB listing (see next paragraph). If you support and post on pro-life issues as part of your blogging, you should sign up with the Pro-Life Blogs aggregator.

A little aggregation now beats a lot of aggravation later.


Embrace the Ecosystem

TTLBOne of the most enjoyable ways of building traffic comes from joining the Ecosystem at The Truth Laid Bear. I don't know all the nuances, but basically, you receive credit each time another member of the ecosystem links to your blog. The system is somewhat weighted; links to specific posts are, I believe stronger than links to the blogs. TTLB's NZ Bear devised a whimsical way of displaying the relative popularity of blogs within the Ecosystem. As you gain in notoriety, you move up through a parody of an evolutionary ladder. From Insignificant Microbe to Multicellular Microorganism — you might become a Flippery Fish, a Flappy Bird, a Marauding Marsupial, or even a Mortal Human. NZ's top ten bloggers move into semi-divine status as "Higher Beings." TTLB also sponsors blog communities, including the aforementioned "Blogdom of God." I've talked with him and, once he's gotten some of his backlog caught up, NZ says he'll look at helping us confessional Lutherans start our own community within TTLB.

TTLB Ecosystem code note: Sometimes bloggers add others blogs to the ecosystem in order to improve their own rankings. If you attempt to add yours and get the error message, "Weblog URL is a duplicate of an existing weblog," yours has already been added to TTLB's scan. New adds are given a code snippet so their status can be displayed. If you don't get the code because someone has already added your blog, please email me and I'll send it to you. You can put the code in your blog's head, sidebar, or footer; just make sure you display it somewhere on the front page; i.e., in the template, not in an individual post.

Darwinian evolution — bad! TTLB evolution &mdash fun!


Count Your Blessings Visitors

Web counters aren't just feeding troughs for the ego. Good counters tell you who's coming to visit and from where. Perhaps you suddenly start getting new visitors, as happened recently happened at Luther Library. Our counters from eXTReMe Tracking and Sitemeter showed that they came as the result of mentions on other blogs. eXTReMe is particularly good at letting you know what search terms are bringing visitors from Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and other search engines. While I certainly wouldn't advocate "keyword stuffing" in your posts, it doesn't hurt to know why folks stop by.

Install a counter or two and learn what they're telling you.


Rely on the Robots

Finally, you're going to have to put your blogs into the hands of the impersonal algorithms of the internet search engines. Even if all the other Lutherans link to you, an awful lot of potential readers may not visit any of their blogs. But all this linking isn't for naught! The magic of the search engines includes a weighted system of who links to whom. Thus, as more of us Lutheran bloggers link to each other, we not only refer visitors among ourselves, we also boost each other higher in the search engines. The way the math works, you eventually help yourself by linking to others. I told some of the importance of blogrolling, linking, and getting higher in the search engines in an earlier post. The information is important enough to repeat. I wrote about a particular search engine hit at the confessional Lutheran blog Ask the Pastor:
I clicked the eXTReMe Tracking button for Ask the Pastor and went to the Referer Tracking 1 page, which shows the 20 most recent referrers, the 20 most recent search engine queries, and the like.

One of the search strings came through Yahoo search for bible adam sons. When I checked, the first hit was for "Ask the Pastor: The Wives of Adam's Sons" while the second pointed to "If We Are All Sons of Adam" from the Stormfront White Nationalist Community. To which would you want an inquiring soul to turn?

I bring this up because, while search engines use often complex formulas, the number of sites (and blog posts) linking to another site heavily influences which posts come out on top. Now consider that Yahoo says this search returned "Results 1 - 10 of about 2,410,000 for bible adam sons." Poke around at some of the other links over the next few pages and you'll discover such wonders as Serpent Seed Doctrine (currently ranked #20) and "Cain and Abel, the Biblical Story" (ranked #33). The first is another white supremicist, Christian Identity cult site while the second begins by saying, "Cain and Abel are types of men. These are not historical figures but their story is our story."

The way I look at it, confessional Lutheran bloggers should do what we can to keep the truth near the top of the search engines, burying racism, evolutionary biology, and other false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible. So I encourage you to blogroll all the orthodox Lutheran blogs you regularly read, then consider expanding your blogroll to others you know are edifying, even if they're not on your regular menu. Even if a person never visits this blog, one of my links may have gotten another's site listed high enough on a search engine that someone may have found what was otherwise lost.
My thinking hasn't changed since 18 October 2005, when I first wrote those words. If anything, I believe even more strongly that we confessional Lutherans must do whatever possible to publish our own blogs and promote those of each other in order to keep "burying ... false doctrines and philosophies of men as deeply as possible." For example, if you click the above-mentioned Yahoo search link, you'll no longer see the solidly Lutheran post from Ask the Pastor listed at the top. Unfortunately, you'll find several neo-Nazi distortions among the first ten sites returned.

Search engines will always be "good news ... bad news" propositions. The bad news is the astounding number of sites with whom we must compete, many filled with outrageous untruth and glorious false doctrine. The good news is that almost every one of the previous steps I listed will improve our chances of being read above the trash that passes for truth on the internet.

Climb the search rankings through blogrolling, reciprocal linking, directory listings, and feed aggregators.


In Conclusion

If this post and its preceding partner struck a chord with you, please do what you can to implement their suggestions in your own blogs. If you think highly enough of them, remember that a note in a post with a corresponding link back is always appropriate recognition for the work of a fellow blogger.
 
  + Saint Valentine, Martyr +
14 February AD 270

Saint ValentineDetails of ancient Christianity are sketchy since for much of the Church's early years, it was a crime to be a Christian and records were hidden or kept purposely incomplete to protect believers. Thus, the story of Saint Valentine, as well as those of many others ancient believers, must be pieced together from fragmentary evidence.

Some ancient accounts record a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of the Emperor Claudius. This Valentine become one of the noted martyrs of the third century. It seems that his main "crime" was joining couples in marriage. Specifically, Valentine married Roman soldiers. Evidently, Claudius thought that single men made better soldiers while Valentine and the Church resisted the immorality of less-permanent relationships.

The commemoration of his death, thought to have occurred during the year 270, became part of the calendar of remembrance in the early Western Church. Tradition suggests that on the day of his execution for his Christian faith, he left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer. The note was written on an irregularly-shaped piece of paper which suggested the shape of a heart. This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine's Day in many nations.

Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr Valentine, grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
13 February 2006
  Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos
13 February, New Testament

Aquila and PriscillaAquila and his wife Priscilla (Prisca) were Jewish contemporaries of Saint Paul. They traveled widely, perhaps in part for business reasons but then because of unrest and persecution in Rome. They went to Corinth and met the apostle, who joined them in the tentmaking trade (Acts 18:1-3). They, in turn, teamed with him in his mission of proclaiming the Christian Gospel. The couple later traveled with Paul from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18), where the two of them established a home that served as hospitality headquarters for new converts to Christianity.

Apollos was one of their numerous Jewish pupils in the faith. An eloquent man, Apollos "being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. (Acts 18:25)" Apollos later traveled from Corinth to the province of Achaia, where he showed "by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:28)"

We especially remember these three for their great missionary zeal.
 
12 February 2006
  Carny Time

Lutheran Carnival XVII: Septuagesima is up at Random Thoughts of a Confessional Lutheran. Enjoy the current sampler of the Lutheran blogosphere.
 
10 February 2006
  + Silas +
10 February, New Testament

Paul chose Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia (Acts 15:40). Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) and experienced the riots in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) and Berea (Acts 17:10-15).

They were apart for some lenght of time, after which he rejoined Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). Apparently, he remained there for an extended time. Aside from these accounts, Scripture records little else about Silas and his relationship with Paul.
 
08 February 2006
  Carnival Deadline

Lutheran Carnival entries are due in on Friday.

Check for formatting details and send entries to lutherancarnival AT gmail DOT com.
 
04 February 2006
  + Jacob +
5 February, Old Testament

Jacob's DreamThe Patriarch Jacob was the third of the three great Hebrews given this title, following his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. Jacob was the younger of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. He received his name because before birth he gripped his brother Esau's heel, seeming even then to be struggling for supremacy (Jacob can mean "He grasps the heel" or "he cheats"). After wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob, who certainly had lived up to the name of "Deceiver," was renamed Israel, which means "he strives with God" (Genesis 25:26; 32:28).

His family life was filled with trouble, much of it caused by his acts of deception toward his father and his brother Esau and his parental favoritism toward his son Joseph (commemorated on 31 March). He spent many of his later years grieving over the death of his beloved wife Rachel and the presumed death of Joseph, who had been appointed by the Egyptian Pharaoh to be in charge of food distribution during a time of famine in the land.

Late in life, as he was blessing his sons, Jacob uttered God's prophetic promise that the Messiah would come through the line of his fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49:8-12).
 
02 February 2006
  Building a Lutheran Presence; Part 1
Increasing Readership and Raising Visibility for Confessional Bloggers.

The following summarizes and builds upon some of the thoughts expressed at the Confessional Lutheran Bloggers Conference prior to the Fort Wayne Symposia in January of this year.

Not everyone blogs to be read by anyone. Some write intentionally for a small audience of friends, family, co-workers, and the like. However, even in these circumstances, most bloggers remember in the back of their minds that others also may be reading. Most bloggers — including confessional Lutherans — do write for a wider audience. Finding, attracting, maintaining, and building that readership is the focus of this series of posts.

Hold the Mirror Up to Your Own Blog(s)

First of all, if you want to keep readers — even from among your own family — a good product helps immensely. There are many good color schemes — and many horrible. Clean, uncluttered layouts abound — so do cramped or sprawling messes which either trap the contents or spew them randomly about the reader's monitor. Not everyone writes like Hemingway — unfortunately not everyone spells like him, nor do they always follow the rudiments of good grammar. If someone stops to read your blog, make sure it's easily read.

Relating to this is content. Most bloggers write because they enjoy it. Often, someone along the line told them they were decent writers. However, if that someone was a teacher, he or she likely also encouraged writing about what one knows. This doesn't mean we can't speculate or only touch on certain portions of a topic we understand. However, the best blogs combine their authors' knowledge of a topic with a certain passion for (or against) the subject. My favorite reads belong to people comfortable with their vocations, whether they raise cattle, children, or skyscrapers. Know who you are and what you know; tell others who you are and what you know; give others some idea why who you are and what you know are important.

Be Lutheran. This doesn't mean constantly quoting Luther, Confessions, hymnals, or even Scripture. However, it does mean possessing and writing from a distinct Lutheran worldview that understands grace, vocation, and being both saint and sinner. Whether writing about your congregation, your family, your job, or your hobby, how does being Lutheran help you to enjoy, cope with, overcome, or surrender to the events of life? Most Lutheran blogs, except for a few which intentionally write at a high intellectual and academic level, do well by limiting the jargon and explaining that which they use. Justification, quia, sanctify, simil iustus et peccator — all of these are fine expressions possessing true Lutheran distinctives. Just don't assume that most people reading your blog will understand them. Embrace people with your Lutheranism; don't rub their noses in it.

Remember to regularly critique your blog and invite honest friends to tell you what bothers them — and what they like. This applies to content (am I getting boring, repetitious, preachy, rambling, or just plain off-target?). It also applies to form (does my blog load quickly, are graphics well placed and appropriate, is something interfering with readability?). If you can test with different browsers and screen resolutions, so much the better. I use Firefox and recommend it to all, especially those who have trouble viewing my pages. I also examine my blogs with IE and occasionally open up Opera and look through it. I've seen Amazon ads and Flickr displays bring page loads to a grinding halt. If you use a high-speed connection, keep in mind that many still use dial-up. Make sure improvements and enhancements really improve and enhance your blog.

A related suggestion: Learn the language. I don't mean English (I hope you already know enough of it to avoid looking like a kindergartener in a college class). Your writing is displayed using coded formats which tell browsers how to display your wares properly. Developing familiarity with HTML, CSS, and the like will help you make little tweaks which result in much more effective displays. I've told some of my pastor friends that if they could learn Greek and Hebrew, they can learn enough HTML to write their own web pages. The amount needed to greatly enhance your blog composition is less than the French or German you'd need to order a meal in a European restaurant, find a beer and a bathroom, and get directions to your hotel. If you want to see how someone else pulls off a cool trick, you can often use your "View" menu or right-click your mouse to "View page source." Learn to size your graphics, include "alt" and "title" tags, and otherwise tweak your page. Learn the page-authoring code and use it properly.

Finally, be accessible to your readers. If you allow comments, respond when appropriate. Try to provide contact information. If you don't want spambots harvesting your email, then write out your edress along these lines: "aardvarkalley AT gmail DOT com" or "aardvarkalleySPAM@gmail.com". Netiquette (net etiquette) frowns upon contacting bloggers through their comment links with unrelated posts. Rather than making your readers use poor manners, give them some means of reaching you. Maybe they have a good idea, perhaps they represent the estate of a long-lost family member, maybe they want to invite you to join a worthwhile project. Perhaps they want to involve you more completely in the Lutheran blogosphere through link exchanges and you're going to lose that exposure because you aren't prepared to welcome their email. If you want, get a special gmail or Yahoo! account just for your blogging. In the minds of the reader, an accessible author equates with an accessible blog.

This concludes Part 1. I welcome comments about related material. If I've neglected a significant related item, I'll add it to a future post. Part 2 examines ways of attracting new readers by promotion, linking, and using site feeds.
 
01 February 2006
  The Presentation of Our Lord
2 February, New Testament

The PresentationThe Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, one of the Christological feasts of the Christian Church, is Scripture's final infancy narrative concerning Jesus. After the Presentation, the Bible says nothing more about Him until His twelfth year.

Saint Luke is the only one of the Evangelists to describe the event (see 2:22-40), something likely unfamiliar to most of his Gentile readers. According to the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Baby to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to consecrate Jesus to God and to complete the ritual purification of Mary, both because of the command of God's Law (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; Leviticus 12).

Some liturgical calendars name this the Feast of the Purification, emphasizing its Marian connection. Still another term used is Candlemas, drawing the name from the tradition of blessing the coming year's church candles on this day.

Upon entering the temple, the family encountered the devout and holy Simeon. Luke records that he was promised that "he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:26)" Simeon took Jesus into his arms, prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, blessed the parents, and prophesied regarding Jesus and Mary.

The prophetess Anna (2:36-38) was also in the temple. She, too, offered prayers and praise to God for sending the Savior.

In the Western liturgical calendar, the Presentation of the Lord falls on 2 February because this is forty days after Christmas, the celebration of His birth. It is the last festival determined by the date of Christmas and thus shows that the Epiphany season is drawing to a close. Most churches in the East observe the occasion on 14 February since they celebrate Christ's Nativity on 6 January.

Lection
Psalm 84
Malachi 3:1-4 or 1 Samuel 1:21-28
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Collect
Almighty and ever-living God, grant that as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our human flesh, so by Him we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
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