30 November 2009

What I'm Listening to this Christmass

During the years I spent in Ukraine, in eastern Europe, there was no time more joyful than the Christmass season. My family and I fell in love with the eastern European carols that our Ukrainian friends sang at that special time of the year, with such devotion. These marvelous carols are largely unknown to Christians in the west, whose Christmass carol repertoire is based largely on what has been passed down to us from English and German sources. But this need not be!

Over the years, the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's in the Loop (now known as the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle) has issued some marvelous Christmass CDs on which they sing - in English translation! - many of these beautiful eastern European carols. I highly recommend these recordings, not only because of the charming quality of the music and the theological dignity of the lyrics, but also because of the superb technical quality of the performance and the recording.

The commercial interests all around us have already begun their selling frenzy in earnest. But I am countering these secular intrusions into my own heart and mind by playing the three Schola Cantorum Christmass CDs that I own whenever I can: at home, at work, and in the car.

There is Great Rejoicing (1993) was the first album in this genre that the Schola Cantorum produced. It is good, but my personal favorite is Light from the East (1999), which includes several hymns from the Slovak Lutheran tradition (translated by Jaroslav Vajda and sung to settings by Carl Schalk). The third CD in my collection is God is With Us (1998), which includes more of the distinctly Ukrainian carols that we used to sing in Ukraine.

I suppose there is a certain sentimentalism attached to this music for me, not only because I lived for eight years in the part of the world whence these carols originated, but also because my maternal ancestors lived there in centuries past (Lutherans in the "Little Carpathian" region of western Slovakia, and Greek Catholics and Reformed in the [big] "Carpathian" region of eastern Slovakia). But those who have no personal history or family roots in eastern Europe would no doubt also enjoy these recordings, as they testify to the great wonder of God's incarnation for our salvation, and to the salvation that is ours through Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem.

Khrystos narodivsya!

25 November 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

What do you think of this for clergy involvement in the Kingdom of the Left?

The Manhattan Declaration

11 November 2009

Living together and maybe to old to change, is there any grace?

So a man and a woman have been living together for many years now. Both have been married before, widowed and divorced. At the time, there was no desire to get married again and so on goes the story about moving in and co-habiting. There is still no desire or willingness on behalf of one of the partners to marry and the other, although they would be fine with marriage, is very apprehensive to bring it up while at the same time does not want to end this lengthy relationship that is "loving" and "faithful".

So, one day, one of the partners comes to church, encouraged by the pastor to come, welcomed with open arms, no ones really knows of the situation, and of course a fine sermon is preached. At the conclusion of the service the person leaves and does not return. The pastor calls upon them and inquirers as to why they have not come back and how might he be help you. He is told amidst manifold tears and a contrite heart, "how can I come and hear of Jesus forgiveness when I know that I am going to go right back home to my sinful relationship?"

This is not an uncommon scenario as there are many elderly who co-habit, and although a reasoned excuse, they would lose medical and other benefits if they married. Others are like the couple mentioned above. They have lived together for many years, even from middle age and economics was not the factor although it might be a contributor now.

The easy answer is, "just get married", or "live on your own until you marry" yet these are long term, albeit sinful, but committed relationships. Of course they should be encouraged and welcomed into the Church, catechized if possible but they would not be welcomed to the Sacrament until the living arrangement had changed, right.

We all have sins that we commit over and over no matter how many times we have confessed them to God. We might even go to private confession to confess them and still we commit them again. We might be "trapped" in some circumstance that just brings us right back to that sin again and we cannot leave that situation now or maybe ever.

What counsel would you give someone who was in this "living together" situation who desired to come to hear God's Word but was so crushed by the law that they were paralyzed to receive the Gospel? What would you say to them knowing that for the forseeable future if not forever they would not be able to change their living situation? I struggle finding the right words, not because I doubt that their sin is forgiven, not because I doubt in Christ's compassion and mercy or God's grace, not because I doubt the sincere contrition of their heart, I just don't seem to be able to phrase this properly to be of good encouragement and comfort to them.

I would appreciate some wisdom here from some of you who have actually dealt with this not just encountered it. Thank you.

07 November 2009

When is enough, enough? or Can you avoid someone that sin might cease?

A brief yet not so simple question for you brothers. If the relationship a person has with another is constantly leading to sinful thoughts, words and deeds, (Not sexual in this example but rather anger, despair and the like) can a person say, "I forgive you and I desire not to have any further relationship with you"? What if this is a relationship between family members? What if it is a relationship between congregation members?

In light of this week's Gospel text, Matthew 18:21-35, would forgiving and then ending a relationship fall into not having truly forgiven from the heart? Bottom line, can we divorce ourselves from relationships (not our spouses) that constantly lead us into sin or where we are constantly sinned against and also fall into regular sinning?

Not certain how to answer this, even though I counsel that correspondance may be more preferable to face to face in these situations. Certainly if one has nothing nice to say one should remain silent and allow for the suffering that comes with human relations and is rarely avoided.

02 November 2009

A question. . .

Please do not pillar me or think ill of me for this, but in discussions on my own blog the perpetual virginity of Mary arose. It should not shock folks here that I am dubious of this tradition. However, I know many good men are here who hold this tradition dearly, and so I ask this (not with the bombast of my own website) out of a desire to learn.

I will contend that what we teach must be in alignment with the Scriptures - that even if we cannot cite a specific Scriptural reference saying, "Thou shall do this" that our actions fall in line with teaching of Scripture - that what we say and do confesses the teaching of Scripture. What Scriptural truth does the Perpetual Virginity of Mary teach - what truth of Christian doctrine does it align with?

I'm not here seeking an exegetical discussion of whether brother means cousin, or whether or not it is plausible from Scripture, or even of the historical attestation to this theory - but rather, what theological benefit is there from claiming the Semper Virgo?

To me, it's troublesome. It seems to do damage to the Scriptural teachings of marriage (marriage is for procreation, a husband shall become one flesh with his wife, do not withhold yourself from your spouse -- if Mary remains Semper Virgo, does she not contradict all these teachings on marriage?) and also teachings on virginity (which is always exercised outside the estate of marriage).

Those of you who hold to this - what benefit, what clarity about God and His Word does it bring to you? I seek (honestly and sincerely) simply to understand why this is so important to so many.

In fact, to keep this from becoming a huge, blowup discussion, I'm not going to respond - I am not looking for a discussion here - but rather simply to listen. What do we learn about the Christian faith from the Semper Virgo?


Note: If I may be so bold - would others who like me are dubious of the Semper Virgo also remain silent here (if this agitates you, by all means feel free to post elsewhere. . . my own blood pressure may dictate me joining you -- I hope not, but it may).

I would hope the comments simply to be people speaking what they think on the pros of this topic - not necessarily forced to make an passionate defense of them -- that happens all too often, and soon passion becomes the focus of such heated arguments).