Monday, June 28, 2010

Lutheran Culture Scratches Our Spiritual Itch

You may have heard me say on this blog, a time or three, that of all Christian venues through which my wife and I have traveled, the Lutheran pathway not only is working for us, but also has provided purpose for our lives.

Yesterday, once again, we received another confirmation of this during the sermon by our Pastor, the Rev. Jim McEachran, a gifted scholar and Bible teacher.

Before we get to his Bible text, it may be worth noting that we’ve often used the phrase, “living out the Grace of God in our everyday lives” as sort of a summary capsulization of how we’ve come to understand what it means to live the Christian life in Lutheran terms. By the way, Lutherans love “grace,” as did Martin Luther himself.

The core of yesterday’s sermon text was the familiar message of Ephesians 2:8-10, but for some reason, the way the NRSV Bible translates the 10th verse really struck me yesterday. Here’s the passage:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

"For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

Italics on verse 10 are mine; that's the portion that stood out to me yesterday. If that verse doesn't provide an excellent rationale and wonderful perspective for "living out the Grace of God in the world,” I surely don’t know what would.

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spinning Our Wheels?

I finally finished James Davison Hunter’s book, To Change the World – The Irony, Tragedy & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. The book really delivers in the realm of social theory, explaining why Christians are mostly ineffective in their efforts to “change the world”.

In fact, “changing the world” should not be our primary focus, he suggests. And he laboriously makes the case that despite our country being nearly 80% “Christian,” the influence of Christianity is, to a great degree, ineffective. Further, he suggests, rather than positively influence society, Christians (especially the Christian Right) have instead come across as angry, bitter and resentful.

A significant part of the problem, he says, (and I’m greatly oversimplifying here) is that the Christian Left, the Christian Right and the neo-Anabaptists, all have chosen, in one way or another, politics, policies and law as the target areas in which to “penetrate” in order to change society.

This will surely fail, he says (two thirds of the book is given to explaining why), and his proposed alternative is what he calls and defines as “faithful presence.” “A theology of faithful presence,” Hunter says, “calls Christians to enact the shalom of God in the circumstances in which God has placed them and to actively seek it on behalf of others.”

This should be done in our daily living, rather than through the political or legal systems as is seemingly the current focus, he offers. You can see that simply understanding what he means and how it should be implemented is a significant challenge - but a worthy one - and one for which the book is very much worth a read.

The book does not end on a particular high note. His own assessment of his theology suggests that even if Christians and the Church could live according to his concept of “faithful presence,” his best prognosis is that we may be able to live in “a better world.”

I think I might have titled the book, Spinning Our Wheels?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Aubrey Performs Like a Veteran in End-of-Year Recital

Our youngest granddaughter, Aubrey, 7, (above) performed wonderfully last night in Oregon at her Year-End Piano Recital, culminating two years of lessons. Sorry, btw, for the less than perfect photo; it was taken with my phone cam under low light conditions.

Grandma and I made our second trip this week to the Yamhill valley to enjoy end-of-the-school-year musical functions (also see Tuesday’s post for a note on Hayley).

For her recital selection, Aubrey chose the rather interesting Paul Revere’s Ride by Jane Smisor Bastein. It’s an airy piece with some almost dissonant chords near the end. Our gal did an absolutely fine job, as she was one of 13 who performed.

Nice going, Kiddo; we were glad it worked out that we could be there. Keep up your great work, Aubrey Joy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hayley Shines in Year End Band Concert

Last night we were privileged to attend the year-end band concert of our granddaughter, Hayley (above pic taken by dad), who is in the seventh grade at Chehalem Valley Middle School in Oregon.

Hayley was virtually the only seventh grader in the Advanced Band and Advanced Jazz Band (Advanced Bands consist usually of eighth graders, but she was a good enough clarinet player to make both by audition). She flawless held up her clarinet end of a duet with a trumpet.

The school district is fortunate to have director Dave Sanders and choral director Gwen Gilbertson, who work hard to prepare these hundreds of young musicians for future development in high school.

The Advanced Bands never run from difficulty. Their challenging, and well-performed, renditions included Don’t Stop Believin’, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Lion King. That’s the Advanced Jazz Band above. Hayley is in the top row, second from the left.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Unlikely Friends

Our grandson loves to watch this video of the most unlikely of friends. Click on the arrow and join in his fun.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Should Christians Try to “Change the World”? A Controversial Sociologist and Theology Professor Believes It May Be A Misdirected Effort

I enjoy reading “controversial” or “edgy” books that want you to stretch your thinking. I’ve found another one in To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davisson Hunter.

This professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the U. of Virginia has taken on the views of some heavyweights in the Christian world like Chuck Colson, Jim Dobson and Jim Wallis with his persuasive – and provocative – observations.

His 1991 book, Culture Wars, in which he described the dramatic realignment and polarization that has transformed American politics and culture, laid the groundwork for his current writing efforts.

Christopher Benson, a book reviewer for Christianity Today, said the following in his comments about Hunter’s latest book:

“Faithful presence (Hunter’s coined term) is not about changing culture, let alone the world, but instead emphasizes cooperation between individuals and institutions in order to make disciples and serve the common good. ‘If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world,’ Hunter writes, ‘it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God's command to love our neighbor.’"

Interestingly, this is not, at first look, at odds with our Lutheran concept of “living out God's grace in the world.” Stay tuned. More coming when I finish the book.