Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sleepless Night

I'm experiencing the extremely unusual for me: a sleepless night. I really ought to be sleeping like a log or a baby, or anything else which sleeps deeply or soundly (I guess most babies don't sleep that way, do they?) because a new friend of mine and I went on a two and a half hour walk this afternoon. I blame my utter sleeplessness on indigestion caused by consuming too much cheese pizza and Coke at 10:30 PM. That's what happens when you go out with friends on a Saturday night.
I keep thinking of the Psalm that says:
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (127:2)
and of course the sleepy, grouchy, little girl in me is pouting and feeling unloved by not receiving the gift of sleep from her Abba tonight. I suppose that I fall into the category of those eating the bread of anxious toil, however, and so perhaps it makes sense that I'm not sleeping.

I've had some things chewing at me for a few days, and I figure if I'm not sleeping, I ought to make the most of this time and do a little research to calm my anxious thoughts. A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who has been studying theology at a 'liberal' seminary and who has been steeped in the teaching of the JEDP method of exegesis. Basically, this is a method of Biblical interpretation developed largely in Germany during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which assumes that Moses didn't actually write the Pentateuch (granted it is pretty difficult to believe that he himself wrote 34:5-12 of Deut., because those verses take place after his death...), but rather some other editor compiled the five books of Moses from 4 other sources, designated the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly writers. While most Biblical scholars today have greatly challenged or outright rejected this understanding of the Pentateuch, that hasn't stopped it from still being taught in some schools, including the one attended by my friend.

Just as in most times when things I have always thought or understood to be true have been challenged, I have been launched on a quest to learn the background of what I 'know' and what my friend 'knows' and which is the truth. I don't want to prove that I am right, I want to learn the truth. So, I am going to dive into research on several questions that arose in my mind as a result of our conversation and hopefully gradually write on what I have found here.

I pray that the Lord, who is in Himself the Truth, will grant that I find His truth as I search. May Christ be glorified in all and above all!

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Repentance

This being the season of Lent, the season of repentance, prayer and fasting, I've been thinking and reading a lot on those three subjects. Last night I was reading a bit of the Smalcald Articles (part of the Lutheran Confessions found in the Book of Concord), and came across two particularly great paragraphs that are definitely worth cogitating on for a while, and good to share, too.
This is really what it means to begin true repentance. Here a person must listen to a judgment such as this: "You are all of no account-- whether you appear publicly to be sinners or saints. You must all become something different from what you are now and act in a different way, no matter who you are now and what you do. You may be as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you could want, but here no one is righteous, etc." SA III:3

This repentance is not fragmentary or paltry-- like the kind that does penance for actual sins-- nor is it uncertain like that kind. It does not debate over what is a sin or what is not a sin. Instead, it simply lumps everything together and says, "Everything is pure sin with us. What would we want to spend so much time investigating, dissecting, or distinguishing?" Therefore, here as well, contrition is not uncertain, because there remains nothing that we might consider a "good" with which to pay for sin. Rather, there is plain, certain despair concerning all that we are, think, say, or do, etc. Similarly, such confession also cannot be false, uncertain, or fragmentary. All who confess that everything is pure sin with them embrace all sins, allow no exceptions, and do not forget a single one. Thus, satisfaction can never be uncertain either. For it consists not in our uncertain, sinful works but rather in the suffering and blood of the innocent "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" [John 1:29] SA III:36-38
May we, as we embark on the first full week of the Fast, remember these things as we seek to live lives of repentance: Everything with us is pure sin, even those things which look to us, and to others, like righteous deeds.

Christ have mercy and forgive it all!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Worship good for the soul

Who knew that sitting down at the piano and singing some great hymns would be so GOOD for me?

I've been in more or less of a funk for quite a while (and I don't pretend to think at this point that it's over just because I'm in a good mood for the moment). I decided this evening that I really NEEDED to take my hymnal downstairs and just sing and play for a while. This is always a good idea, and after tonight I can't figure out for the life of me why it isn't an idea that occurs to me more often.

I can't also figure out why I haven't (at least for a long time) paid attention to my need to worship the Lord in English. Of course, all corporate worship service I've had the ability to attend to for a very long time has been in Czech (or Polish), and I simply haven't taken time in SO long to have a hymn-sing in the basement. For some reason, I think I have deceived myself into thinking that my Czech is good enough that I don't need to sing in English (and what a fool I am for falling for that deception...).

So much of what we do in corporate worship, in opening our lips to speak the Confession, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and all the hymns, are times when our own lips are speaking Christ's Word into our very ears, when the Lord opens our mouths that we might minister to ourselves on His behalf. I just a week ago for the first time spoke the Lord's Prayer in Czech in worship, and I still don't quite have the Apostle's Creed down, so at least I'm always speaking those in English. I follow along with the Scripture readings in my Bible, but faith comes by hearing, and what I am hearing is still largely foreign to my ears. And the hymns? Forget it.

Well, I thought it about time to get some of the Epiphany and Transfiguration hymns sung (especially my favorite, 'Tis Good Lord to Be Here, LSB #414), before Ash Wednesday comes, Epiphany has passed, and it's "too late."
I was really struck again by the words of "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" and what a walk through the season of Epiphany it is. I also discovered a new favorite, #416: Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory

Swiftly pass the clouds of glory,
Heaven's voice, the dazzling light;
Moses and Elijah vanish;
Christ alone commands the height!
Peter, James, and John fall silent,
Turning from the summit's rise
Downward toward the shadowed valley
Where their Lord has fixed His eyes.

Glimpsed and gone the revelation,
They shall gain and keep its truth,
Not by building on the mountain
Any shrine or sacred booth,
But by following the Savior
Through the valley to the cross
And by testing faith's resilience
Through betrayal, pain, and loss.

Lord, transfigure our perception
With the purest light that shines,
And recast our life's intentions
To the shape of Your designs,
Till we seek no other glory
Than what lies past Calv'ry's hill
And our living and our dying
And our rising by Your will.

Amen! May the Lord transfigure our perception by His light, the pure light of His Word, may He shape our lives by it that we look to and long only for the upside-down glory found in His death on the cross. May our glory be all in His righteousness imputed to us! May we boast only in His cross, because we have nothing else of value in which to boast, as everything else we have is only filthy rags. And may this boasting and glorying in 'unworthy' and 'inglorious' things be done in songs of thankfulness and praise to our dying and rising Savior!