Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quoth the blogger, 'Evermore'

Readers responded to Mulshine's recent lament over newspapers' sufferings. A common theme among the letters is frustration about papers being annoyingly similar to the MSM in showing easily discernible bias toward or against certain parties. Blogs are biased too - it's what makes for blog wars, after all! - but there are many on either side of a given divide.

People with pockets are becoming poets. There's plenty to go around.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Strangeness and struggles

Today's Health Journal describes several odd medical syndromes, disorders, dysphonias, delusions, etc. While the first few comments do nothing but remind me of of the Journal's readership, the descriptions are entertaining, helpful, and sometimes both. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome gives a name to something I experienced as a child. Now I know.

As for the struggle for existence so recently mentioned, here is a letter challenging the article.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today's readings: Jeremiah 31:15-17, Revelation 14:1-5, and Matthew 2:13-18 (sermon text).

Joseph protected his family in this reading. He is a prototype for all fathers, something spoken about infrequently in Scripture. How should one be a good father or husband? The Bible - unsurprisingly - is NOT about how to be a good person/father/mother/etc. So it doesn't talk much about it. It's about Christ.

We can glean five points from Scripture about parenting:
  1. God is our true Father. Therefore, He is the model for all fathers.
  2. God created an order for things. The first ranks of this order: Father > Son > husband > wife > children. Rejoice about this. Don't gripe.
  3. This husbandly leadership should be done with love, respect, and honor (Colossians 3:19), not harshness.
  4. Household leadership should be through teaching (one of the chief commands of Moses) - husbands teaching their wives and children what is right.
  5. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:23).
We're all aliens in this world. Each human has a God complex, leading to a solitary, lonely, unfulfilled world. It's out of God's order. So go back to point 2. Adhere to it; accept that God is your Father. He loves you, is infinitely patient, and is the best Father. Therefore He enables human fathers to imitate Him too.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A friendly reminder

In "All I Wanted for Christmas was a Newspaper," Paul Mulshine of one of America's 15 top newspapers notes that blogging, particularly political, has not so far been the boon for democracy it was touted to be in its inception. Much, I agree, is boring and perhaps even useless. However, should bloggers take offense at this article? Or should we look at it as a clarion call to quality?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lessons and Carols

From yesterday's order of service:

"Before the Marvel of This Night" as the Advent wreath and Christ candle were lit...

"In Dulci Jubilo" before the first (Genesis 3:8-15), second (Genesis 22:15-18), third (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7), fourth (Micah 5:2-4), and fifth (Luke 1:26-28) lessons...

"O Magnum Mysterium" before the sixth (Luke 2:1-7) lesson...

"The Virgin's Slumber Song" before the seventh (Luke 2:8-20) lesson...

"Il est ne" before the eighth (Matthew 2:1-11) and ninth (John 1:1-14) lessons...

"All is Well" to conclude the service. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video with any arrangement of this. Pity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting religion

Go read this terrific book review about why the MSM tends not to get things right when covering religious topics. At the risk of putting too much in nutshells, the media would still do well to remember these two points:
  1. Islam, despite meaning "peace" and having many peaceful adherents, has a decided propensity for violence. Against non-Muslims.
  2. Christianity, despite being vilified and having the occasional militant adherent, has a decided propensity for loving fellow humans.
Cross-posted at Exploring the Quran.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent 4

Today's readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; and Luke 1:26-38 (sermon text).

Medieval paintings of this scene depict God's power: His word goes from Gabriel's mouth to Mary's ear, conceiving Jesus Christ. But let's look at Elizabeth first. Her pregnancy was no accident either; six months previously God had likewise spoken to Zechariah. Elizabeth, barren, had then conceived John. Now with Mary, God chose to act in an out-of-the-way manner in an out-of-the-way place, Nazareth.

The Bible has few personality details for Mary and Joseph. Why? Answer: It's NOT about them! It's all about and pointing to Jesus Christ! He is the only reason for our home - blotting out our sin (the cause of hopelessness). But Christmas is NOT about hope either! Why do we think that the Word's byproducts are more important than the Word Himself? Let Christmas be about Christ for once!

The story is profound, not sentimental. Here are the details, given, that we need to know about the characters:
  • Joseph is descended patrilineally from David, a fulfillment of God's promise (see the OT reading) to build His house from David's seed.
  • Mary is favored because God chose to favor her. It's the same way for us saved ones - we are made BY GOD into the favored ones of God! She also happens to be descended from David.
  • "You shall call His name JESUS." Note well: it's not "Hope" or "Peace," but rather "Yeshua" (Savior). Therefore turn to Him, the Everlasting King of the Everlasting Kingdom.
God has forgiven you your sins and reversed the work of the first Adam. And that's what Christmas is all about.

Have a blessed last week of Advent and prepare for a Christmas Eve post! Feast your ears also on "In Dulce Jubilo" and "O Magnum Mysterium."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In memoriam iterum

There's a strange struggle of the fittest going on right about now: Darwinians vs. chargers of plagiarism. This made GHF quip: Why did an angry-at-God Darwin die before his Christian wife did? Was that survival of the fittest as well?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anger management

First, the anger-inducers:
  • Who wouldn't have anticipated the petty non-arguments taking place in the comments section to an article about large dinosaur bones? I agree with Ed on this one in that we should be doing research, not merely rehashing claims. Those claims may definitely be true, but the creationist and ID camps (yes, they ARE separate) need to publish more research papers.
  • The comments section on the Daily Mail's take on the shoe-throwing incident is similarly petty. There are gems in there, but the populace could use some civility. And the question posed by the article still stands: Where was the Secret Service?
Last, the humorous/heartening antidotes:
  • The passengers and the commenters took the honorable admission of a pilot in stride very well. The pilot did the right thing.
  • In a brilliant burst of satire, here is a letter regarding top-secret government plans.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent 3

Today's readings were Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (sermon text); 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Christmas letters may sometimes describe a bad year - but think about many consecutive bad ones! Captivity, oppression, punishment for sin - this is what Israel had been experiencing. There was heartache everywhere; people were downtrodden. At this point, the prophecy in our text was made, fulfilled and quoted by Christ. The Spirit of the Lord rested on Christ Jesus ("Anointed Savior") at His baptism. Of course, the Jews thought that the fulfillment would be physical only: freedom from Rome's rule. However, the Gospel brings spiritual deliverance.

He also binds up the "shattered of heart" (literal rendering). God desires that all of our hearts be "broken and contrite" (Psalm 51:17) that He may restore them to us. We have sinned against Him; therefore our hearts are against him, and therefore they must be broken.

Then comes the year of the Lord's favor. This isn't necessarily a 365-day year, but rather an era in our lives. Present suffering won't compare. The expression comes from the Year of Jubilee (every 50th), where land was restored and families were brought together. The Year of the Lord's Favor is far greater, since it lasts an eternity!

The Day of Vengeance, on the other hand, is a sobering contrast. God will judge all. Many who sing Christmas carols do not understand the Cross and are therefore lost. But remember that God's grace (YEAR) is greater than His judgment (DAY). The saved, the believers, we have the former. Our eternity is with Him because of Christ.

God's blessings on you all the rest of this Advent and beyond!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why this? Why now?

Daniel Levitin tells us today why music affects our buying habits and so forth. The article made me grumpy for a number of reasons...
  • Ack! Evolutionary biology MUST be used to explain everything at all costs! "Early Homo sapiens coupled music with ritual to infuse special days with majesty and meaning. Before there was commerce, before there was anything to buy, our hunter-gatherer ancestors sat around campfire circles crafting pottery, jewelry and baskets, and they sang." Yes, this is perfectly allowable. Yet it still raises hackles on my neck.
  • It's all about shopping. I hate shopping.
  • "Consumer research has shown that music, when it isn't torture, indeed has a significant effect on buying behavior." If that's true, why don't more stores play quality music instead of amateurish versions? Perhaps even a Gregorian chant or two?
My remedy for the invasion (not even mentioned! How could he have not mentioned it?) of Advent by Christmas and holiday music? WGUC! (opens up Windows Media Player) Have a blessed rest of Advent, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Biblical incorrectness gets one nowhere, as we can see

If only we built more Biblically correct creches (i.e. no Magi, a stone stable, tired parents, some cow manure, fearsome angels, and a red and wrinkly freshly-born Jesus), perhaps this would happen less often.

HT: The Stiletto; last night's dinner conversation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good breakfast?

Yahoo News notes a giant Lebanese potato. Seeing as it's finals week for me and many other students, perhaps this tuber could be put to good use as a nutritive breakfast.

While we're all eating that piece of starch-filled goodness, we might read yet another article on the Great Books and the young's general rejection of the idea of a canon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent 2 (Pearl Harbor)

Today's readings were Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, and Mark 1:1-8 (sermon text).

John the Baptist announced the next level of the war between God and His enemies. The Savior born into this world was to be Satan's doom; John signaled the beginning of His ministry. This involved His death, as is common in war. Mark, the "action" Gospel, leaps in at this point. In the baptism of each Christian, a new member of God's army is enlisted.

But why does Isaiah tell the messenger, John, to tell Jerusalem (a city used to perpetual, literal war) that "her warfare is over"? Answer: the warfare was taken up by God incarnate. War's cost is ultimately life laid down. But don't let this event of utmost importance slip into distant memory (as Pearl Harbor has for many), then out!

John's mission was to elevate Christ and lower himself; our role is similar. Call attention to the Savior within us, the Bringer of true peace on earth, something more than Rudolph. Peace is possible only after war. Christ did what was needed; now we have life. The world doesn't get it, so show them! The battle with sin for life and death is over.

Have a blessed Advent! Sermons will be from my home church until February.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why I don't want a corporate job

Courtesy younger brother, from here.

Memo from Director General to Manager:
Today at 11 o'clock there will be a total eclipse of the sun. This is when the sun disappears behind the moon for two minutes. As this is something that cannot be seen every day, time will be allowed for employees to view the eclipse in the car park. Staff should meet in the car park at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse, and giving some background information. Safety goggles will be made available at a small cost.

Memo from Manager to Department Head:
Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car park. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will disappear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The Director General will deliver a short speech beforehand to give us all some background information. This is not something that can be seen every day.

Memo from Department Head to Floor Manager:
The Director General will today deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the eclipse. This is something that can not be seen every day, so staff will meet in the car park at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.

Memo From Floor Manager to Supervisor:
Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car park, where the Director General will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn't happen every day. It will be safe, but it will cost you.

Memo from Supervisor to staff:
Some staff will go to the car park today to see the Director General disappear. It is a pity this doesn't happen every day.

It's like 'Telephone' on steroids.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008