Friday, March 28, 2008

Roman Art, The Gates of Paradise, and a Fishing Boat

Yesterday was a wonderful day in two ways. Not only was it Kay Lynne’s and my wedding anniversary, but also it demonstrated once again why she is the greatest wife any man could ever have.

In mid-morning we headed to Seattle for a visit to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) where actual pieces of ancient Roman art are on display, sent over on loan from the Louvre in France. And we also got a glimpse of three actual panels of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s gilded brass Gates of Paradise, so named by Michelangelo himself, and now restored after 550 years.

The image at left above, from the Roman collection, is of Lucilla, who lived in the 2nd century a.d. The marble sculpture is representative of the 180-piece exhibit covering 300 years of Roman culture just before and after the time of Christ. We were overwhelmed with the extent, complexity and sophistication of this great civilization, so well represented by these relics, and it was well worth experiencing.

Also on display but closing at the end of next week was the Gates of Paradise exhibit. The panels that have come to our country for the first time ever have been meticulously restored over the past 25 years after more than 500 years of weather exposure and human contact in Italy.

The displayed panels are three of 10 that usually are encased by the door of the Florence Baptistery in Florence, Italy. Pictured is one of the three, David's Slaying of Goliath, which shows (at the bottom) the beheading of the giant by the young warrior and future King. Sixteenth-century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari called the brass carvings “the finest masterpiece ever created, either in ancient or modern times.”

After viewing the extensive intricacies first hand, we would add our “amen”.

The reason why, finally, my wife is the greatest ever, is that on our anniversary she then accompanied me some 40 miles southeast of the city to put a deposit on a small trout fishing boat that I will soon be using in nearby lakes. Pics to come on future posts.

Is she a “keeper” or what?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Christ’s Resurrection Is More Than “Coming Back to Life”; It Is, In Fact, The Present Assurance of Our Future

I have not yet finished N.T. Wright’s new book, Surprised By Hope – Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. But I’ve already gained an incredibly wonderful perspective on our future.

In the book, Bishop Wright meticulously takes us through Hebrew, Jewish and early Christian views of life, death and the hereafter. And, of course, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to a clear understanding of what New Testament writers are talking about as they lay the foundations of our faith.

Here, in my opinion, is one of his most crucial fulcrums in what I have read thus far:

“The whole point of what Jesus was up to (in his resurrection) was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future. And what he was promising for that future, and doing in that present, was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is, so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose—and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project.”

Wow. Just think for a bit of the ramifications of Wright’s implications. Wow.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday Begins The Triduum

Earlier tonight we went to Maundy Thursday services at our Lutheran church. The experience was very moving and meaningful as we observed the significance of the Last Supper by participating in Holy Communion and witnessing a foot-washing ceremony.

“Maundy” is an English form of the Latin word for “commandment.” It was at the Last Supper that Jesus gave a new commandment to his disciples, to “love one another as I have loved you.” And it was at the Last Supper that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as a demonstration of his love and servanthood. We celebrated both tonight.

The worship service signified the beginning of the Triduum, the final three days of Lent and at the same time the three days prior to Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve (Saturday Vigil) comprise the Triduum and are observed as one continuous celebration commemorating the central acts of Christianity. Each day needs the other in order to make sense.

The service was a wonderful and meaningful blend of Scripture recitation, seasonal church music and sacrament. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Six Bedroom “Cottage” on the Oregon Coast

This past weekend we were in Oregon with our granddaughters while our son Gregg and his wife Elaine spent some time away at a spectacular beach-front getaway on the Coast at Seaside with a group of close friends.

Kay Lynne and I enjoyed a great three days with Talli, Hayley and Aubrey while mom & dad were gone. Aubrey, the youngest at 5, showed off her “creativity” in this photo taken Sunday afternoon. We have no idea what it means or what prompted her. That’s a curling comb she’s “wearing.”

Talli heads into high school come September, while Hayley will enter middle school. Aubrey will begin serious studies, as she starts first grade. Time is sure flying by, and we treasure every one of these times we have together with family.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tax Freedom Day

For most people, tax freedom day is a point in time between April and June when, from that instant forward, we’re working solely for ourselves instead of for the government.

However, for me, tax freedom day was yesterday. It was the day my wife and I finished gathering information, receipts and forms, and we sent it all off to our C.P.A. Now she can have fun trying to figure it all out.

And I am now free of the yoke which bears heavily on me each late winter and sometimes into early Spring. In fact this year we finished the abominable task earlier than I can remember over the past 15 or 20 years.

I’m a procrastinator by nature, and so I’ve always tended to “put off the inevitable” as long as possible. It has ruined many a Major League Baseball opener for me.

I love baseball, and I really look forward to opening day as a relief from the sports drought since football ended about two months ago (I’m not a basketball fan at all, except for a slight interest in March Madness). The horsehide opener is early this year (late March instead of somewhat into April), and now I’ll have some time to even watch the Mariners and the Giants from Arizona whenever they’re on TV. And to enjoy opening day without a thought given to the tax man.

Back in the days when our taxes were less complicated, and I was able to do them with the assistance of Turbo Tax, I can remember sweating tax bullets often right through opening day. That’s enough to not only require a lot of Pepto Bismol – but also to spoil the grand beginning of the baseball season.

One reason I love baseball is that it’s a Spring sport. There’s nothing quite like the blended aromas of a well oiled baseball glove, sweat, freshly raked dirt, and new grass underfoot. All of nature is optimistic in the Spring, and it carries over into baseball hopes for the season and to an anticipation of many wonderful warm weather days or nights at the ballpark.

It matters not that I still have to deal with paying the taxes on the 15th of April. I’ll drop the envelope in the mailbox on the way to the ballpark.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What Is Jesus Suggesting With the Imperative, “Take Up YOUR Cross and Follow Me”?

The above consideration was discussed yesterday in the fifth session of our adult ed Sunday School hour class, DOWN + OUT – Where Grace Takes You. Last week we discussed how that when we go “out” into the world, we administer God’s grace through our “vocation” (our “calling” for which we are God-gifted).

This week we were presented with the idea that our own family is the first focus of our vocation. One Lutheran theologian in our DVD series suggested that “parents are the apostles, bishops and priests” for their children. He meant, of course, that our children discover and get to know God through our lives.

As regards family, how do we best live out our vocation. Another discussion leader pointed out that we “find our cross in our calling.” He was referring to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We don’t bear Jesus’ cross; we take up our own.

Our discussion then zeroed in on how this is done in the family context. One DVD series leader offered that “we don’t ask, ‘what’s the Christian thing to do?’” Instead, we should ask, “what needs to be done? – and then do it.” If the carpet is dusty, vacuum. If there are dishes in the sink, wash them. If a diaper needs changing, change it. The cross we are asked to bear takes form and is applied in doing everything we notice in the family setting that needs doing.

Lutherans believe that we administer God’s grace to our family in this way. And I’ve got a feeling it’s not only Lutherans who believe this. Now if we could only practice it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

“Prayer Is Something That We ARE” – Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia

Yesterday we ventured over to the Emerald City and the Seattle Pacific University Campus to hear a talk on the Orthodox Christian view of “prayer.” The speaker was the most Rev. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, the man probably most responsible for explaining Orthodox beliefs to the western world. He was the featured guest in the school's annual Palmer lecture series.

Born Timothy Ware in England, he was raised an Anglican but converted to the Orthodox Church in his mid-20’s. After a long and distinguished career as a priest and educator (at Oxford) he was consecrated Bishop of Diokleia (part of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain) in 1982. Since his retirement in 2001, he continues to lecture around the world, and in 2007 he was elevated to Metropolitan.

“We should think of prayer as something we are” (in contrast to thinking of prayer as something we do), offered Kallistos. He underlined the thought with a fourth-century quote from Gregory the Theologian, “Remember God more often than you breathe.”

He was expanding on Jesus’ charge to “Pray without ceasing”. As we learn, he said, the Holy Spirit works in our heart to allow us to listen to God’s leading. He admonished that too often we “listen” by asking God for something, when, instead, we should “be quiet and just listen.”

These concepts are developed further in his books The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way (required reading in most universities), both of which have been widely read in the western world. His most recent writing is titled The Inner Kingdom, if you’re interested.

Monday, March 03, 2008

“Preach the Gospel Always – If Necessary Use Words”

The above quote by St. Francis of Assisi was used yesterday in the fourth session of our six-week adult ed Sunday class, DOWN + OUT – Where Grace Takes You.

The very Lutheran concept of Grace – God coming down to us through Justification and we, in turn, going out into our world via our Vocation – is what the class is all about. Yesterday’s focus contrasted the nuances of Vocation (our calling) and Occupation (what we do for a living). Realizing these distinctions can mean the difference in finding freedom and satisfaction in the Christian walk.

Vocation (or “calling”) utilizes our God-given gifts and creativity to enhance God’s world. Occupation is how we earn money to live in society.

As an example, my wife’s vocation is in teaching and nurturing children with love and understanding. It’s her God-given gift (I certainly don’t have her gift) and through it she gets her “strokes” and some self-validation through her service. Her occupation was (we’re retired now) as an office administrator, and she was a very good one. But just ask her; it had “its times.”

As we as Christians administer God’s grace in the world through our vocation and calling, it can obviously overlap into our occupation, and often does. But what’s beautiful about the “picture” is that our vocation never changes – whether we’re a student, or whether we’re working at our job or profession, or even when we’re retired. This is what’s so “freeing.”

My wife still teaches Sunday School and loves kids, as she has all her life, even though we are now in the “golden years.” Exercising one’s gifts in one’s vocation just could be the way God allows us to get some important strokes for self-validation. That may not always happen, for instance, in struggling with a difficult or frustrating “job.”

Kay Lynne and I are more and more realizing how blessed we are to be in a church that not only helps us discover these distinctive nuggets of truth, but also continues to provide teaching, resources and opportunities for living out our vocations in God’s grace.