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Topics - Dave Benke

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Your Turn / 90% (!) Vote to Delay LCMS Convention Cycle
« on: February 16, 2021, 04:02:09 PM »
With a whopping 63% of the congregations participating, an absolutely overwhelming 90% + of the LCMS voted to delay the convention cycle by one year:

That's an amazing total, really, across 35 districts and 50 states.  Amazing. 

It represents a gigantic outpouring of sanctified common sense, vote by vote, congregation by congregation. 

1) Do the right thing.  This was the right thing.
2) Follow the leaders.  The leaders - the Council of Presidents - led.
3) What was lost?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing of substance.
4) What was gained? Health, time to heal and process parish life and ministry anew.

Thanks to the leaders for leading, and giving us a chance to catch our breath as God's direction unfolds in these unprecedented times.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / De-Classifying the Classics
« on: February 08, 2021, 03:10:13 PM »
Like many of my generation of students in the Missouri Synod system, I was privileged to be immersed in what's called a Classical Education.  Enormous doses of German, Latin and Greek language learning, accompanied by equally enormous doses of Greco-Roman and 19th Century German thought, literature and art, accompanied by everything up to and including the way our cheerleaders led cheers in Greek.  This was a gift from the 19th century, actually, when during the Enlightenment the Classics were re-discovered anew after their initial rediscovery during the Renaissance. 

In our case, of course, the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome were put in the context of Sacred Scripture, which was the depository of certainly the Greek language learning but also the German and Latin thought process theologically.  Ordnung - order was the order of the day.  But the content of the classics in terms of history, culture and ethics was sub-ordinate to the Biblical order, and in some cases, of course, in direct conflict with it, according to the Lutheran overlay of two realms.

So the article I'm linking caught me up, as it evidences the ways in which the classics have been used, and the way some are attempting to either deconstruct or just blow them up.  Your thoughts appreciated, especially in the context of how Lutheran language training and its classical involvement line up with the baseline ethics.  Should we not be able to dispossess ourselves of the weaknesses so manifest in the classics as does the central figure in the article?

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Evangelical Catholicism
« on: January 30, 2021, 06:39:04 PM »
The latest issue (Fall 2020) of Lutheran Forum is entitled "Evangelical Catholicism."  Editor Dave Nelson begins with his opening word, "Once More, the Future of Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Witness" followed by six articles on the topic from a variety of perspectives, including one by Carl Braaten.  Also there's a closing article by Bob Benne, and more to stimulate the appetite. 

Tomorrow morning, weather permitting and COVID-quarantine allowing, I will be presenting our spiritual leadership team individually with the four volume For All the Saints. 

The ALPB starship enterprise is sailing into the future.  Come on along for the journey!

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Proposal to Add a Year to the 2019-22 Triennium in the LCMS
« on: December 07, 2020, 10:10:54 PM »
I just received an email with a proposal being run through the Office of the President that it seems originally came from the Synod's Council of Presidents to take a COVID-19 Stretch Year in terms of district and synodical electoral politics and practice and in effect make the Triennium a Quadrennium (although somebody at headquarters went to pretty great lengths to stay with a "Triennium Plus One" format, rather than the dreaded word "Quadrennium," even though that's what it is.) 

This seems to me a slam dunk.  Why not?  Especially given that the first conventions early in 2021 are in the Upper Midwest, where the virus is currently causing great harm.  And when we do come out of the COVID Fog, is a convention the first thing we want out of the box?

That being said, the Q/A was quick to dismiss this as a way to get to the regularization of a Quadrennial cycle in the denomination.  That had been tried and failed a couple of times.  But - in my opinion at least - it's a money saver, and could go with the regularization of term limits - 3 or 4 four year terms across the board.  (Just as right now MLB is leaning toward NOT making the Designated Hitter Universal, even though it went really smoothly in the National League this summer - just say No to Precedents in a Health Crisis!) As the Synod winds down in membership on what will be a steady and steeper decline, I'd say save the money and get an extra initial year of commitment from those who might lead.  But that's specifically NOT on the agenda for this Vote by Congregations (pastors plus one) by Feb. 15. 

Church-politically, I can think of a few of the current District Presidents who had term limits and were "termed out" in 2021.  Now they get to take a full year victory lap, such as victory laps go in our circles.  So there's that.  My last year - given the reality of fulfilling 8 3 year terms - was "The Year of the Plaques."  I got some beauties, to be sure.  But now they get "The Year of the Plague."  "Yes, we took a Plague Year; stayed home, rode it out."  Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / LCMS Black Clergy Caucus on Racism
« on: June 05, 2020, 08:52:38 AM »
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered”
James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
“I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.”
Proverbs 30:1
“...that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word...”
Isaiah 50:4

The year was 1967. A few years prior, the last remaining historically Black college and seminary dedicated to training Black Lutheran clergy was closed by the Synod. The nation was in unrest. Racial injustice was being protested in a nation that had long denied its existence. Black men and women were being killed by those who had sworn to protect them. Lynn Blanding. Carl Cooper. Aubrey Pollard. Fred Temple. Racial tensions flared into riots in Detroit. As time would testify, Black Lutheran pastors knew that “Detroit was not an isolated case,” so an isolated response would not suffice. As the late Rev. Dr. Richard Dickinson, former Executive Director of Black Ministry, describes, “Every city in this nation... was seething with unrest, with the potential to explode into a race riot at any moment. If such a crisis should arise in Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee or some other city, where could our black congregations turn for help?” (This I Remember, 27). “They had absolutely no confidence in the District office... to even understand the nature and scope of the crisis, and absolutely no commitment to try to resolve it.” There was a lack of representation. There were no Black Lutherans on the Synod Board of Directors. The Seminary Boards of Regents lacked Black clergy. To date, there had been no Synod President or District President who was Black. “There was no black person in any influential position in the District or the Synodical administration. Detroit was burning down, and black ministry in that city had nowhere to turn for some official who could understand and bring hope or comfort.” (This I Remember, 28)
Fast forward 53 years after the formation of the Black Clergy Caucus of the Lutheran Church.

The year is 2020. A few years prior, the last remaining Historically Black College and University dedicated to training Black Lutheran teachers was closed by the Synod. The nation is in unrest. Racial injustice is being protested in a nation that has long denied its existence. Black men and women are being killed by those who have sworn to protect them. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. David McAtee. Racial tensions flared into riots in Minneapolis. Black Lutheran pastors knew Minneapolis would not be an isolated case, so an isolated response would not suffice. “If such a crisis should arise in Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee or some other city, where could our black congregations turn for help?” Can we turn to District or Synod? Do they “understand the nature and scope of the crisis [and have a] commitment to try to resolve it?” That is our genuine hope. Yet there are no Black Lutherans on the Synod Board of Directors. The Seminary Boards of Regents lack Black clergy. To date, there still has been no Synod President or District President who is Black. To paraphrase Dr. Dickinson, when our cities are burning down, does Black ministry have anywhere to turn for some official who is able to understand and bring hope or comfort?
Amid the riots of 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “A riot is the language of the unheard. What is it that America has failed to hear?” It is time for the Black Clergy Caucus to speak again.

George Floyd was known as a ‘person of peace’ (Luke 10:6) by his pastor. Anchored in his baptismal identity, George would lug a baptismal font to a basketball court located a few blocks from a Black Lutheran church. Like the Ethiopian Eunuch who said, “Look, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” George prepared the way for local clergy to preach the gospel. George later moved to Minneapolis due to a church work program. He was a product of the church. He was also a Black man. The son of Black man. The father of Black man. I, too, am the son of a Black man. When I have children, my son will be Black. But will his baptismal identity in Christ be asphyxiated by the world because of the color of his skin? Will he be another statistic to a world that does not even know the number of hairs on his head? For many, the thought is overwhelming, born of centuries of racism. In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, we are, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Thank God, we are not alone in our suffering. For the first interaction between God and man was when God breathed life into Adam. The last interaction (before the resurrection) was when man suffocated Jesus, taking the Son of God’s final breath. Jesus died of asphyxiation on the cross. “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37). We must learn to see how our sin took the breath of Jesus; then we must learn to see how our sin took the breath of George.
When we see life taken, we remember the Fifth Commandment, which states, “Thou shalt not kill.” Yet we minimize our responsibility. Luther’s Large Catechism gives two important insights. First, “we should not use our tongue to advocate or advise harming anyone.” If we advocate violence, on social media or otherwise, then we have broken the commandment. Second, we have broken it, “not only when we do evil, but also when we have the opportunity to... prevent, protect, and save [our neighbor] from suffering bodily harm or injury, but fail to do so.” We all bear responsibility in this moment, for we all have the ability to respond to this moment. “If you see anyone who is condemned to death or in similar peril and do not save him although you have means or ways to do so, you have killed him. It will be of no help to use the excuse that you did not assist their deaths by word or deed, for you have... robbed them of the kindness by means of which their lives might have been saved.” If we have the opportunity to prevent more lives from being lost, let us seize it.

Now is the time. As a Christian, if you do not help end a system of injustice that takes the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ like George Floyd but “use the excuse that you did not assist their deaths by word or deed,” then “you have killed him.” “For although you have not actually committed all these crimes, as far as you are concerned, you have nevertheless permitted your neighbors to languish and perish in their misfortune. It is just as if I saw someone who was struggling in deep water... and I could stretch out my hand to pull him out and save him, and yet I did not do so. How would I appear before all the world except as a murderer...?” (LC, V, 189-190).

This is not ‘black radical thought’. This is the Lutheran Catechism from your time in Confirmation, when you affirmed your baptismal vows, marking you as one claimed by God – and not the world. Friends and colleagues have reached out to me, asking as those by the river asked John the Baptist, “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:10). From the womb to the tomb, we are called to protect life. Life is not a multiple-choice test. It is all of the above. You either affirm all of it – or none of it. “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them,” Scripture exhorts, and “look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you.” (Hebrews 13:3). When we do not seek to end the institution of racism, this nation’s original sin, or worse deny it, we not only fail to recognize the humanity of our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ, we also fail to recognize the God in them, the Spirit of God Who has given them life and breath.

We have not been the most hospitable. Since closing Concordia Selma, the last Lutheran HBCU, Synod reduced Black Ministry’s budget and divested from the Black Ministry Family Convocation – a triennial gathering to study God’s Word and celebrate the perseverance of Black Lutherans. With no HBCU to support Black Lutherans, no Black Lutherans are entering seminary this year. We do not need Synod to offer us thoughts and prayers. Prayer is an essential spiritual discipline; platitudes are not. St. John reminds us that in love, it is not enough to say the right thing, we must also do the right thing: “Let us love, not in word or speech, but with action and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Scripture warns us that talk without action is meaningless, or worse, hypocrisy: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16). As for fasting, God says, “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?” Ceremonial humility will not do if we want our voice to be heard on high. Instead, God says, “Is not this the fasting that I choose: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and remove every load from their neck?” (Is. 58:4-6). As brothers and sisters, now is the time to be joined in true prayer. True fasting. True lament. True com-passion. True love.

The Black Clergy Caucus does not speak for all Black Lutheran clergy; we advocate for them. They have their own voice, their own thoughts, their own ministry. We are not a monolithic group. Within the Lutheran Church, we have an amazing diversity of Black Lutheran churches, pastors, deaconesses, and teachers. Get to know one. Listen to him or her. The first act of love is to listen.

“As love of God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening.... This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end, there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words. One who cannot listen long and patiently will presently be talking beside the point.... Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together).

I encourage you to read more, to learn more, to listen more. To Black Lutheran pastors and laity. To Black authors. To Black musicians. To Black business owners. To people you normally do not. With a heart that listens to understand. So often what divides us is a defensive heart born of fear, anger, or pride. But as brothers and sisters in Christ, God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 36:26). This world is unable to solve the problems that vex us, but God is able. This world may seek to tear us apart, but God is able to “knit [us] together in love” (Col. 2:2). This world may test our patience, but God is able to give us a peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7).

To our Black Lutheran churches, this I say to you: Thank you. Thank you for being the Body of Christ in the world. Thank you for showing hospitality even when hospitality is not shown to you. Thank you for your endurance, for we know that, “endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:4-5). Thank you for loving our sons and daughters. Thank you for reminding them of who and whose they are – that they are of ultimate worth to God. I encourage you to talk with your pastor or deacon. To listen to them. To pray for them. To work with them. To let the church be the church, particularly in times like these. And to let God be God.

And to the Black clergy of the Lutheran Church, this I say to you: “Your labor is not in vain.” Continue to care for your local church. Pray for it. Lament with it. Love it. You are the pastor that your church needs. Not another. You are the pastor this Synod needs. Your presence and dedication to keep on keeping on is what we need right now. “You are important to me; I need you to survive.” Let us come together, now more than ever, as we remember the origins of the Black Clergy Caucus and continue to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Know that no matter what this world may do or bring, your “soul has been anchored in the Lord.”

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
African-American Spiritual

Your brother in Christ,
Rev. Warren Lattimore, Jr.
Pastor: St. Paul’s Lutheran Church – New Orleans, LA
President: Black Clergy Caucus of the Lutheran Church, Inc.

Your Turn / Mens Sana in Corpore Sano
« on: June 02, 2020, 07:31:16 PM »
We're in one of the more difficult times in recent history when it comes to exercising our Christian faith, many of us in spiritual leadership.  Beyond the leadership level, we're human beings going through something that changes our basic habits of living.  I thought I'd ask how we - lurkers and posters - are dealing with the demands of this new lifestyle not only from the spiritual perspective, but maybe more so in this thread from the physical and mental perspective. 

What I'm thinking about is diet, exercise, physical activity, daily habits, health-related issues, mental and emotional health, social and cultural activity, and the like.

A little from me -
I'm not happy in this mode of existence.  So the effort is to make it work.  And it is an effort.  That's for starters.

The change in personal contact with other human beings is about 90% less for me here in NY.  It's coming back a bit.  Phone calls, zoom meetings etc get something done, but don't get it all done by a long shot.

Exercise - NO GOLF, NO SPORTS EVENTS, NO GYM.  But I am getting my 8-12000 steps a day in.  And 35-50 pushups.  And a little stretching.  Somewhat - boring.
Diet - trying the 11-7 diet, eating basically during only 8-9 hours a day (11am-7pm, whatever works for you), which limits intake and helps regularity.
Alcohol - more than before.  For sure.
Family time - wife and self - dramatically increased, for the best

That's enough for now.  Your thoughts and hints and best practices appreciated.

Your Turn / The Five Golden Hemorrhoids of First Samuel
« on: April 26, 2020, 02:47:33 PM »
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.   Now that we've officially determined this is the worst of times, and since I had the time, I would check in with regard to a situation I have with diverticulosis.  Upon examination, the doc said first we'll deal with your hemorrhoids.  What?  So that's what's happening, and we won't dig into that, so to speak, in detail.

But it did point me back, as so much does, to Scripture.  Where "emerods" or "tumors," as they're described in English, appear under the Hebrew word "Tithraim" (plural).  An intriguing topic, no?

They are always somebody else's problem per se.  I think that's due to the rites of purification and kosher eating regulations of the Israelites.  Eat a lot of fiber, stay away from pork and seafood, no problems with "emerods." 

But in the curses section of the Torah, Deuteronomy 27, if you fail to keep the covenant, you're going to be afflicted with Egyptian diseases, boils, blains and tithraim - hemorrhoids.  "Walk like an Egyptian" apparently means that!

But the best indicator light is I Samuel 4-6.  There the vagrant sons of Eli (the one to whom the message from young Samuel was given), namely Hophni and Phinehas, dipping into the sacrificial meats without warrant, cause the loss of a big battle and a major, major theft, one that causes obese Eli to die by breaking his neck falling over backward.  The theft was of the Ark of the Covenant.  Boom!

So because the Philistines from five West Bank towns were involved and actually came into contact with the Holy of Holies, they are afflicted with two afflictions - mice (or their larger relatives, rats) and, you guessed it, hemorrhoids. 

Without recounting the whole really interesting story, the way out for the itching scratching poorly pooping Philistines was to present an offering of five golden mouse/rats and five golden hemorrhoids and then set the Ark free.  This is how the 12 days of Christmas comes to include "Five Golden Hemorrhoids....Four calling birds, three french hens, etc."  It's about insufficient roughage.

To be academically more precise, the Hebrew word "Tithraim" comes through the northwest semitic wordstream from an Arabic phrase meaning "straining at stool," which anchors the biblical meaning.

And that's how you spend your time in quarantine.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / What's in a Name? Protestant Church Names
« on: January 15, 2020, 09:58:01 AM »
This topic has intrigued me for a long time. 

Having returned from Rome this fall, I told the folks at St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn that I had been to another, different and somewhat larger St. Peter's in Vatican City.  And, I went on, their art work is better than ours, even though we have a Tiffany window of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But, I concluded, ours is better - more comfy, lots of love.

My hunch is that Lutheran churches through our 500 years have for the most part been named after saints or after God (Holy Trinity, First Trinity, Our Father, etc.).  On the downside (to me), our list of saints has been truncated pretty much to apostles.  So there are beaucoup duplicates in, say, a Lutheran district or synod - 23 St. John's, 12 St. Mark's, 6 St. Luke's, and 25 St. Paul's, etc.  This has to do, I believe, mostly with the received and perceived Lutheran prohibition of prayer to the saints, and our confessional foundation on the doctrine of the apostles and not on the person of the apostles.  We also have lots of Religious Term congregations - Faith, Hope, Peace, Love and above all, of course, Grace.

However, many other Protestant denominations, at least in this country, were named after the village or neighborhood with the addendum Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist.  First Fill in the Blank is probably the favorite followed by the city/town name.  Or Second or Third followed by the name.  There my inclination is to say that the anti-Catholic strain was more pervasive, so that it would not be appropriate to list any saints, even the apostles, on the masthead, for fear of appearing to be linked to the pope. 

Anglicans/Episcopalians, being with Lutherans more focused on the liturgy and eucharist, and more on the book of common prayer than the confessional documents, use the names of saints more frequently and use the names of more saints than just the apostles - maybe that's just in this part of the country, but I think it's national. 

So the more recent movement of Lutherans toward generic congregational names is to me first of all more of a low-church Protestant phenomenon.  Better Deal Lutheran would be an attractor to many.  But then the low-church Protestant thematic doesn't need or even want a denominational label.  So Better Deal Church is a better attractor.  And in fairness a lot of the newer non-religious-themed names have to do with location - Happy Valley Church or Grace in the City or Lakeside Park, whatever. 

Do others have thoughts on this?  How does the church name and history enter into the discussion?  Can and/or should a church change its name, do a re-boot/re-brand?  I don't think that's out of the question.  Could Lutherans begin using other saints' names for congregations - St. Anselm, St. Clement, St. Ambrose, St. Julian the Apostate (whoops, wait - no).  Could we Lutherans ever consider St. Mary Gate of Heaven?

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Sermonics
« on: September 20, 2019, 12:53:57 PM »
How about a separate thread on Sermons - good, bad or otherwise, what makes a sermon a sermon, what makes a sermon not a sermon.  All things sermon.

My initial observation is that in the Lutheran Confessions and the writings of Luther, the Predigamt or Office of Preaching is also described as the Office of Teaching.  Which, given that Luther was primarily not a pastor or a parish priest but an academic, makes Lutheran sense.  However, in the concept of what makes a sermon a sermon, could be confusing.  I taught the doctrine of justification last week - was that a sermon?  My own experience/point of view is that to move from a teaching of a doctrinal or exegetical point to a sermon, the element necessary is "pro nobis" or "pro me."  Otherwise it is indeed a lecture.  True or false?

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Missouri Synod News Updates
« on: October 24, 2018, 09:57:17 PM »
The Unbidden New Haven Newspaper arrived in New York today, and with it several items of interest to this inhabitant of the Eastern region (in the phrase of a former District President here - Osten, der Verlorener Posten - The East:  The Lost Outpost). 

First, I was stunned to read that our own Chaplain/President Dan Gard is retiring from the Presidency of Concordia Chicago at the end of the school term.  We have heard much of Admiral Gard's involvement in urban outreach on behalf of the University as well as the latest endeavor in combating Domestic Violence, among other initiatives.  Respecting Dan's decision, I am happy for his leadership at Concordia Chicago and if I may, I wish it were continuing!

Second, enclosed in the paper was the Completely Anonymous United List's choices for some of the top Synodical leadership positions.  Most were incumbents; but due to the retirement of the redoubtable Herb Mueller, the First Vice-Presidency's UL Selectees include a long-time colleague in John Wille, and a relative newbie at the COP level, Jonathan Lange.  And in place of Dan Preus, the United Listers now favor as a replacement part in a Midwestern Vice Presidential Region a sometime interlocutor here, Ben Ball, who is also Will Weedon's pastor/successor.  Finally, the second choice for Synodical President next to Matt Harrison is Ft. Wayne Seminary President Larry Rast. 

The United List lets us know in their promotional brochure that they "fully support the official doctrine and practice of the LCMS."  As far as I'm concerned, this is great news - women can vote, women can hold congregational offices of leadership, holy communion admission is to be dealt with through patient pastoral approach, worship practice includes a variety and diversity of materials. 

It's all good!  We're finally one in the areas of wine, women and song!  I guess it's true - all are at peace.   The Koinonia Process has Produced - Wyoming and Atlantic are on the same page in the same book, and it's not the Book of Mormon.

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Rite Vocatus
« on: August 15, 2018, 01:48:29 PM »
I'm dropping this in from the immigration thread. 

To SW's point about the rostered pastor who's semi- retired having a contract with St. John Gaspump to be there two Sundays a month plus one day of shut-in visitation a month:

He's in the same situation as the pastor with a two year contract to teach religion and math at St. John Gaspump High and Middle School (and most likely do the chapels).  The semi-retired man does Word and Sacrament; the other guy does math and religion.  Both have a contract to serve.  One is probably giving 50 hours a week; the other is giving maybe 10.  Are both hirelings, or just the guy in the congregation who "only" has a contract and not a call document?

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Lutheran Forum and Pro Ecclesia, summer and spring 2018
« on: June 01, 2018, 01:34:32 PM »
I received my spring edition of Pro Ecclesia yesterday, on the same day I received the summer edition of Lutheran Forum.  It was the last day of the merry merry month of May, but publication schedules must be three months different at the two shops.

Anyway, both are, to me, valuable endeavors.  Certainly Pro Ecclesia is less accessible to the average reader, with more scholarly articles like "The Sacramentality of the Church in Dumitru Staniloae's Theology" (who was that again?) following "Scriptural Completion in the Infancy Gospel of James."  Cool beans, but not light reading.

At the same time, Lutheran Forum holds up an excellent model for accessible and pan-Lutheran ponderings on matters that are designed to attract interest.  Such as the cover and back cover of the current issue - "Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor Family," by a German Painter in the late 1500s, which hangs at the Met here in New York.  Quality printing of the painting and a very stimulating article by Caroline G. Fleming and Virginia C. Raguin entitled "the Inflammatory Print Culture of the Reformation."  Editor Sarah Hinlicky Wilson always delivers, as does Associate Editor and our own contributor Matt Staneck.  The historical items and Luther studies by old friend Mickey Mattox are great, as are the reflections on George Lindbeck. 

My sense is that Lutheran Forum is on its game and inside its mission.  It is not a church-politicized zone, and yet speaks clearly from an evangelical and catholic theological perspective to, about and for Lutherans, which is exactly what Pro Ecclesia aims to do in its way.

I'm sitting here looking at Christ blessing with his right hand while touching the globe with his left while the good German burgher, his wife and kids look out at us - great stuff!

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Publishing House Perspectives
« on: March 23, 2018, 01:51:36 PM »
I signed up recently to receive info from Fortress Press (after they emailed me asking me to do so).  Of course I already receive info from Concordia Publishing.  So I went to their websites to evaluate what they've published recently, not so much for my use personally, but for my use in the congregation, not so much for worship, but for general reading at the congregation and leadership level.  I don't know how they're each doing financially, but in the overall scheme of publishing, I doubt that they're going great guns.  New day, new dawn.

The difference in perspectives is somewhat stark.  FP has titles like Presumed Guilty:  Why We Shouldn't Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism, or Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness will Transform Your Life, or Rising:  The Amazing Story of Christianity's Resurrection in the Global South.    At the same time, Concordia carries "The Gates of Hell:  Confession Christ in a Hostile World," or "Embracing Godly Character:  The Christian Community's Response to a Godless Culture."

A book I might purchase is "Future Faith:  Ten Challenges Facing Christianity in the 21st Century" by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, who has some pretty strong credentials.  Here's the outline:
1. Challenge One: Revitalizing Withering Congregations . . . 7
2. Challenge Two: Embracing the Color of the Future . . . . 21
3. Challenge Three: Seeing through Non-Western Eyes . . . 43
4. Challenge Four: Perceiving the World as Sacred . . . . . . 65
5. Challenge Five: Affirming Spirit-Filled Communities. . . 85
6. Challenge Six: Rejecting the Heresy of Individualism . 107
7. Challenge Seven: De-Americanizing the Gospel . . . . . . 135
8. Challenge Eight: Defeating Divisive Culture Wars . . . . 163
9. Challenge Nine: Belonging before Believing . . . . . . . . . 191
10. Challenge Ten: Saving This World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215

So frankly, that set-up appeals to me in terms of the congregation I serve and the situations we encounter as a very multi-cultural group that seeks to remain strong and in the strong bonds of community through outreach and leadership development.  It looks like a book our deacons and elders could tackle.

Checking out "The Gates of Hell," it is edited and written entirely by the Missouri Synod current Praesidium, the President and Vice-Presidents of the LCMS.  This is interesting in and of itself, not so much for theological but for other reasons.  At any rate, it's a series of addresses and sermons on topics like "the Gates of Hell and the Status of the Church in Western Society," for example. 

I haven't read either book, so I'm just asking overall publishing house perspective questions based on the introductions of these books.  Can and should these two books be "talking" to one another?  Are the Publishing House Perspectives of two of the three Lutheran "houses" on the same page, in the same book, totally on opposite pages?  The catechism and Lutheran-specific worship items are not all that disparate; don't know about VBS or Sunday School.  So there are some resources that are almost shared.

The third "house" is Northwestern.  A recent book of theirs explores a central theme in the WELS/ELS nexus - the doctrine of fellowship - but through the stories of a Peruvian missionary; it's called "Escaping the Deathtrap."  Anyone else have thoughts?

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Four Chaplains
« on: February 05, 2018, 08:58:24 AM »
For Dan and John and all other military chaplains - this article from today's New York Times about a Mass celebrated each year in New Jersey to commemorate four chaplains who gave their lives as a torpedoed troop ship sank in WW II:

Dave Benke

Your Turn / Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary Lutheran Witness
« on: December 14, 2017, 05:38:28 PM »
Just in time for the third Sunday in Advent, we received our December Lutheran Witness in New York.  The title article is "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" penned by "our own" Will Weedon.  I found it stimulating and balanced, helpful in very many ways not only to Missouri Synod readers, but to wider Protestant audiences.  Both semper virgo and the assumption of Mary are dealt with through the course of history and belief in what I found to be an evangelical way.  I'd give a link but don't find the article link-able.

Somewhere (maybe First Things?) there's a recent article on the theological reasons for the doctrine of the Assumption and its other connective tissue that gave evidence through the history of the Church catholic beyond the usual Protestant bromide that in the 19th century a Roman Catholic hierarchy on the defensive buttressed its doctrines to fend off any possible change.  It, too, was helpful to me.   Maybe others have input on where that theology is articulated.

Anyway, my only critique was that when I saw the title I was thinking the article would be an exposition about the revolutionary poem of Mary, the Magnificat.  "The rich he has sent empty away," all a Marian riff on the Song of Hannah in I Samuel.  That these highly provocative poems were spoken by women and ascribed to women is to me an evidence of the high regard found in Scripture for a fierce and creative (yes, prophetic) voice that belongs to women.  There's a song modeled on the Magnificat called "The Canticle of the Turning," and when I can find a girl/young woman with rapping skills we put that song to rap rhythms (it's really set to an Irish melody and beat):

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the one who waits.
You fixed your sight on the servant's plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.

Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me.
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn.


From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev'ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.


Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forbears heard
is the promise that holds us bound,
'Til the spear and rod be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.


Thanks, Will, for the article and the Synod's overt desire to find a special place among Lutheran for the Mother of God.

Dave Benke

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