Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Sunday

Had an excellent time doing choral "double duty," a.k.a. singing in two services and *not* getting out of the second one until after Communion! Today's readings were Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14a, 22-36; and John 8:48-59 (sermon text).

The Christian life is a doxology, a hymn of praise to God. Certainly not boring! In the Gospel, Jesus lives this life, in process confronting the Jews with a solid declaration of His deity: "Before Abraham was, I AM." He uses a revealed name of God to describe Himself. In response, the Jews tried to stone Him, for He opposed their man-made doctrines.

At Pentecost, more (or the same) Jews were cut to the heart; later they were baptized into the triune God. Still later, Festus saw Christianity as a madman's ravings. According to Judaism, Christ is a liar; according to others, He's a lunatic; to us, as C. S. Lewis put it, He is certainly our Lord. Let us not, as G. K. Chesterton warned, abandon intellectual grasp of this or any doctrine - but also let us not quench the Spirit. Let us continually study the One who loves us, as a bride studies her husband all their lives. Love goes with knowledge of the thing loved.

Learn and know the promises of God, my God, our God, the I AM. Doctrine isn't boredom, but praise! Praise Him for His blessings, the Sacraments, the prayers, hymns, doctrines. Believe and hold to Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost

Today's readings were Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21, and John 14:23-31 (sermon text).

Today is a day of languages - the Epistle lists 16. John tells of Christ's promise of the Word-bringing Spirit on this day of Pentecost.
  • Loving Jesus is the same as keeping His word. Do we understand this in a moralistic sense of "keep," as "obey"? The parallel question: is religion about us rising by deeds to God? No. A better rendering is "cherish," as in Matthew 28:20. The Father, who sent the Son, also sends the Word and the Spirit for us to cherish.
  • The Spirit brings recollection of Christ's spoken words after the Ascension. He teaches us all things, for on our own we do not learn the Word. Naturally, we oppose and don't know the Word of God - e.g. Babel, the Flood, etc. Pentecost is God's solution to Babel, to enable all who will believe, to believe.
  • Christ's final "words" were actions to combat Satan directly - torture, crucifixion, death, burial. Passive obedience shows the world that Jesus loves His Father (cf. point 1). He entered - and exited - the tomb for us! Later the Comforter came, still finding and teaching us.
Soli Deo gloria.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some of everything...mostly science!

It feels good to have time to blog again, and items worth blogging about. Have at these splendid (as usual) WSJ articles:

  • For me and any other people who have trouble motivating themselves to work out at least 3x/week for half an hour (including walking, biking, weeding, etc.), have someone call you!
  • Let smurfs eat dirt. 'Nuff said.
  • Modern research demonstrates that Pilate's action after pronouncing sentence on Jesus is a beneficial (at least in one sense) thing to do.
  • Spraying mosquitoes instead of using a fly swatter and/or eating organic has a positive correlation with ADHD.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Easter 7

...a.k.a. back to normal. I am at home, eagerly awaiting the start of life's next chapter. Today's readings were Acts 1:12-26 (sermon text); Psalm 133; Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20; and John 17:20-26.

Why did we sing an ordination hymn (LSB 682, "God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets' Sons")? Today's text is about the office of the ministry, about which we can make three important points. Background: all is quiet after Ascension, so the disciples (sans Judas Iscariot) return to Jerusalem with the remnant to pray.

Point 1: Judas must be replaced to restore the original number of twelve. Why is 12 important? It is the number of the church, built on the foundation of the twelve apostles.

Point 2: This replacement must be someone who had been with Jesus for His entire earthly ministry. Faith is not blind; our faith is based on fact, actual historical events and acts of God. Also, pastoral training (i.e. having been in Christ's presence to become intimately acquainted with His teachings) is important so that they can discern truth. Doctors have the same amount of training as Lutheran pastors; the latter wield the sword of the Spirit, the two-edged counsel of God, to treat the soul as surgeons treat the body.

Point 3: How was Matthias chosen? Two candidates were proposed; they were prayed over; then they cast lots (!). God guided this casting. We look today for lists of attributes - but look at Biblical figures! Moses and Paul would fail the criteria so often proposed for pastors, but God chose and worked through them (i.e. divine monergism). Look therefore for faithful preaching of God's word; people skills come second.

Soli Deo gloria.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On education

Apologies for a very nonspecific title, but seeing as I haven't had the time or proper focus to write a post like this in quite some time, please bear with me. My sources are Hobbling Charter Schools (Review/Outlook) and Why Liberal Education Matters (Berkowitz), both in today's WSJ. As today is graduation day at my school, education is a fitting topic.

What is the central purpose of education? And who has it right?

Berkowitz focuses on the first question, in particular higher education. Liberal arts, he says, should be at the core of any bachelor's degree. I find it interesting that the situation is opposite of what it was around 140 years ago: in 1867, sciences needed to be ushered in to the liberal arts degree, whereas today, we spend inordinate sums on science education, at the expense of student knowledge in both fields. Many sources note the lack of correlation, positive or negative, between per-student funding and actual knowledge gained. Other factors are more important.

But I digress. The central purpose of education, according to Berkowitz, is to infuse liberal arts knowledge to prepare a student for democratic citizenship. That's a mouthful right there, about which you can do your own reading, since I will by no means tackle analysis of that statement.

Who has education right? That is, who teaches effectively so that children learn, retain, and use knowledge pertinent to citizenship, vocation, and career? Review/Outlook says that idealized, unfettered charter schools do. Charter schools are a whole other discussion topic, so I will merely compare them to home schooling, for reasons you already know if you've browsed my archives.

Charter schools ask for "exemptions from the staffing, curriculum and budget requirements of traditional public schools." So do home educators. In place of administrators who may not know a child beyond GPA and select test scores or athletic achievements, home schooling is by definition primarily parental (secondary options include co-ops, where parents of other children team up). Having brought up their students from birth (or near birth in the case of adoption), the "administration" of a home school is utterly qualified to know what each child needs to learn best. Discipline and admonishment can also be administered promptly, enabling sounder moral training in addition to academic material.

Second, "[t]raditional public schools mus usually implement a fixed curriculum and use specific textbooks, while charters can adapt both based on specific needs." From personal experience, this is also definitely true for home schools. While workbooks may be the easiest form of text to grade, some children just don't learn well from them. My parents saw this and allowed me to read great books, retell orally their contents, and do independent projects based on the material, even in early grades, as can be seen from our archived science journals. In this way, I had many years to practice being at least a semi-independent learner, an invaluable skill thus far.

Finally, "[c]harters must already operate with less money, on average, than district-run schools, and they must often find their own buildings." I view this from a more positive angle: home schools already have a building, the home (and backyard if one is lucky!); personalization and lack of levels of bureaucracy in said school allows for vast educational savings. Why pay for the newest geology textbooks when you can, on your own time, raid the library and walk through a rock-laden park nearby? Other examples abound, as Cheryl and Elephant's Child know well.

I am inestimably thankful that my parents brought me up the way they did. Their foremost training focused on imparting to me good moral character and a sensitive conscience; only then did they focus on academic skills. Now I sit here, ready to step to the next phase of education (for one never stops learning), and thank God for them.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter 6 (Mothers' Day)

The last Sunday of the semester was spent at school. Today's readings were Acts 16:9-15; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; and John 5:1-9 (sermon text).

Statistics can change depending on your specific circumstances. What about the man at Bethesda's pool - 38 years waiting for a miracle? He was all by himself among the multitude, where everyone was selfish, and he had no one to fight for him to increase his chances of getting to the pool. Yet we are not alone as we wait for God's provenances - our mothers, though not all have theirs now, spend time with our fathers helping us, praying for us, and thinking of us.

God's gifts are not selfish. As a parent, He doesn't love you less because you were baptized later than someone else. He rescued you and each one of the saved in the miracle of faith, a true spiritual resurrection! Your earthly parents brought you to this water.

God also surprises. The man had only one plan in mind: get to the pool on his own power. Yet Jesus came along and healed him unexpectedly, immediately. God works for us in this way - surprising us by joy. Let Him do this for you so you don't miss out on seeing His actions. He knows your needs; He will provide.

Soli Deo gloria.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Easter 5

We went to one of the oldest churches in the area, one using TLH! So the members of our little group were quite excited. The readings were Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-7, and John 16:12-22 (sermon text).

"A little while" is explained by Jesus in the text. He truly understands what is meant by His parable of a woman in labor, for He created all. There are other "little" whiles - childhood, discipline, adolescence - but also in non-domestic situations. There are "little" whiles of mourning, loss, pain - and joy. Christ's death, sorrow, was soon turned to joy by His resurrection. Now He is with us forever, not visibly, but truly.

Until He returns, the Church weeps in its labor as the world rejoices for a time. When the world tempts us with this "joy," we too often forget that peace with the world equals enmity with God. Remember that the tribulation now will be replaced by eternal joy in God's proximity! For now, rejoice that Christ is very near you, as the Spirit declares forgiveness of your sins.

Do you thirst for something other than this "little while"? You should, for that is the tendency God implanted in you. Yearn in the meantime for the gifts Christ freely gives. He suffered an eternal little while for you in death to be able to give you a place with God without perishing. Take courage and rejoice in the little while of tribulation in this earthly life, comparable to a concentration camp. Past death is endless Life.

Soli Deo gloria.