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July 26, 2013

Double-Minded Culture Part 2

Hello!  This is a continuation of a post I created in May.  This post was supposed to be a continuation of that post I started only a few days later, but never finished.  After a discussion with my fieldwork pastor a few days ago, I realized the importance of finishing what you start less someone get the wrong idea!  So, here, finally, is the second part to my post, "Double-Minded Culture."

In the first part, I discussed the difficulty of reaching this culture and how we as pastors need to finds ways to encounter this relativistic culture personally.  Once we make that personal connection with them (both to us in God's stead and to God Himself), then we must work at bringing them back into the fold of Christ's church.

To the confessional Lutheran, the way to go about this is clear: we catechize them of course!  However, this process may not be as straight forward as it seems.  How unfortunate would it be to partner with the Holy Spirit in bringing this person to faith only to get in way once they are ready to join the church.

What I mean is this: Luther's Small Catechism is a historical document written by Martin Luther in 1529 to the German people of the Holy Roman Empire.  He wrote it as a practical guide for the heads of families to instruct their family in the Christian life.  With it they would be able to apply the Word of God, revealed in the Bible (which is another historical document with its own time and context), to their own lives 1500+ years later.  Luther's Small Catechism is a sixteenth century document written for sixteenth century people.

So why care about Luther's Catechism today?  Now, I want you to hear me loud and clear, I AM NOT ADVOCATING DOING AWAY WITH LUTHER'S CATECHISM!  In fact, I argue the opposite.  Luther's Catechism is the continuation of the tradition of witness to the Scriptures.  Just as Jesus came as the ultimate international witness to God's Word, Luther's catechism is an international witness to Jesus Christ.  By it the Word of God comes to meet people where they are at, but then lifts them back up to its source.

This "descending" and "ascending" is essential!  Imagine two people: one standing on a bridge and the other drowning in the river below.  It will not help if the one on the bridge simply yelled, "Stop drowning, come up here!"  If he could do that he would not be drowning in the first place.  Yet, if the person on the bridge jumps into the river without any way to get back is just as useless.  They both end up perishing.  Now, the best would be for the person on the bridge to secure himself to it and then jump.  He would then be able to pull them both back up to safety.

So if descending is meeting people where they are, a.k.a. helping them experience God personally, then ascending is bring them into the corporate body of Christ.  The catechism is a great tool to use to instruct those who are new to the faith, yet we must not forget that this culture is starving for personal experience.  Therefore, we must contextualize the content of the witness, but stay faithful to the message of the witness.

We are able to stay faithful to the message of the witness when we use the same language as the witness.  Now, I using language here as a spoken dialect (such as English, Spanish, German, etc.), otherwise we would be restricted to only using the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Old Testament and the Koine Greek of the New Testament.  What I do mean by language is the categories that we use in the witness, such as justification, sanctification, Law, Gospel, grace, and others.  This helps us stay anchored to our sure foundation.

Thus, after bring people to the personal experience of God, we must then bring them into the corporate body of the church.  This is done through catechizing, but we must take care to make sure that the people see how and why these things apply to their lives, not just 16th century Germans.  Therefore, as pastors our primary job is interpreters.  This is because if we cannot interpret Scripture and the witness to it, we will not be able to bring our people into the fold of God and they will not be able to recognize what they have been searching for.  Yet, it is no good to show them what they were looking for and leave them outside the church because it is something that only can be received in the corporate body and witness of Christ.

July 9, 2013

Running

So, for those of you who don't know already, I've picked up a new, disgusting habit: running.  I know, it's pathetic, right?  Who in their right mind would ever willingly decide to torture their body, and for what?  Well, it's becoming more and more a part of who I am.  I've recently outfitted myself with a pair of five finger running shoes.  I've began a personal program to help me run longer and faster, part of which is running every Thursday with my brother who served as an Army Ranger.  Talk about trying to kill myself... So why do I run?  A couple reasons; let me tell you:

My first reason for running is for a sense of personal achievement.  Running is a competitive sport not only against others, but also against yourself.  As I am still a beginner, I have had a lot of personal bests recently.  Yesterday I ran an 8:53 mile.  A few weeks ago I ran 11.6K (that's 7.25 miles).  These "records" keep pushing me further, not only because it is exciting, but it motivates me.  Further, it proves that "I am able."  I have had many voices throughout my life that have told me, "You can't;" most of them being my own.  I am proving to myself I am able to do something I never thought I could.  One of my new life goals is to run a marathon, something that I would never have aspired to simply because I never thought that it was within my reach.  Now that I've started running, I have surprised myself in big ways and know that if I keep working at it, I will be running marathons before I know it.

My second is my health.  Marie and I are pretty health conscious.  We are not fanatics in, but we are aware what we put in our bodies.  We eat lots of fruits and veggies and mix up out meets.  Of course, eating alone won't do the trick.  Activity is a big part.  Running works a large portion of the body: the heart, lungs, abdomen, legs, and even the arms.  You put a lot of yourself into running.  As a result your entire body is built up.  I have another reasons to be healthy too.  My baby is expected to arrive next month.  I want to be the healthiest father I can be for my baby.  I want to be here to not only see my child grow, but to be an active participant in my child's life.

My last reason for running is my faith.  Running, believe it or not, has had an impact on my relationship with God.  Along with health, I want to take care of my body because it is a gift, crafted for me by my heavenly Father.  He gave it to me to use and experience His creation, and as a gift I am to keep it holy, as a temple.  Frankly, I have spent most of my life treating it like the money collectors did.  This past year, Jesus has been helping me drive the money collectors from my temple.  All the bad things I put into myself, He has helped me clean it up and rededicate myself to Him.  I also started marveling at what God created the human body to be able to do.  This time last year, I could barely run a mile and now I'm running over seven in one stretch.  It just blows my mind how elastic He has designed our bodies to be.  Lastly, running is the physical manifestation of faith. Paul says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)  Running can be painful, and sometimes you just want to give up and stop, but you know that once you cross the finish line it will be worth it.  It reminds to keep going even when it gets tough.

So that is why I run.  It has become part of who I am and makes me feel great to be alive.  God bless!

July 5, 2013

Day of Freedom (in more way than one)

It's been almost a month since I posted last.  Life has just been busy.  Yesterday, Marie and I were both off of work/school.  The night before we turned off our alarms and had no plans.  When we woke up and started moving, we decided to use our AMC giftcard to go to the Dine-In movie theatre.  We saw the Lone Ranger.  It was a great movie and good food.  I really enjoyed the experience.  After that we went to REI to use our gift card that we received for buying me new running shoes (I bought a pair of five finger shoes and I love them.  I ran my first 10K straight through in them!)  and used it to buy some camping cooking equipment.

After that we went home and rested a bit while we thought of something else to do.  We couldn't come up with anything so we headed out to Grant's Train and walked a couple of miles.  After that we went back home and Marie started making dinner, mac and cheese with broccoli and breadcrumbs, while I worked on a bit of homework.  When dinner went in the oven, we started watching episodes of Lost: Season 6.  We're almost halfway through the season now.  When we finished eating dinner, we played a game on Monopoly while we kept watching Lost.  Once we finished the game we went to bed.  Overall it was a good day.

This weekend is going to be busy though.  I will be leading the liturgy both Saturday and the second service on Sunday.  I'm also leading Bible study as Pastor Sell leads the New Member class.  I also have homework to do as I need to finish my manuscript for the first sermon I have ever written.  I may post it on here once I am done.  Anyway, it's about time to go to chapel!