Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vacation is OVER

Well, despite the fact that I still have one week left of vacation, for all intents and purposes, my vacation is OVER!  My professors have posted the syllabi for the upcoming quarter, and I have decided to get a jump on some of my readings.  (As in today, reading the books of Ezra and Zechariah)  I am also still plugging away at Greek and hoping that I will be able to retain the information that I need for the quiz next week.

However, feeling like I have a purpose again in completing schoolwork is making me excited.  Also, finishing up the fellowship proposal and finalizing CPE placements.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

This is why I am a Lutheran

I am currently up in Montana at my parent's house.  On the flight up here yesterday I started reading some of the collected works of Martin Luther.  Delving a little more deeply into Lutheran theology was one of my projects for this holiday break.  I have read quite a bit of Luther's writings, but that was way back during my sophomore and junior years of college, and a lot has happened in the intervening years.  

As I was reading the Heidelberg Disputation, I was struck by two theses in particular.

Number 16 in the Heidelberg Disputation is as follows: "The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty."

Luther's commentary on this assertion is what is most interesting to me.  Luther states that left to our own devices, we will only be motivated by our own purposes and see ourselves in everything.  A big part of Lutheran theology is the concept of law vs. gospel.  According to the law (or works-based righteousness, etc) we think that salvation is assured if we do good works.  That is sanctification.  Gospel is grace.  The message of salvation through grace and faith alone is known as justification.  Which is Luther's message.

However, while Luther asserts that grace trumps law, the law is necessary to experience the true power of grace.  The law humbles while grace exalts.  Through law we realize that our own efforts to save ourselves are utterly futile.

Luther states "For this reason the law makes us aware of sin so that, having recognized our sin we may seek and receive grace...through knowledge of sin comes humility and through humility grace is acquired."

The 18th thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation is my favorite.  It states "It is certain that a man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the Grace of Christ."  Being a Lutheran at a Methodist seminary has required that I learn to articulate my deeply held convictions.  While both mainline protestant denominations, Methodism and Lutheranism have some distinct differences.  I will be exploring them in further blog posts.

There is a tremendous amount of freedom in realizing that we are both simultaneously sinner and saint.  Realizing that our own efforts will get us no where, but that God good and offers us grace, and through that, we are made holy.

God does not love you because you are good; God loves you because God is good. God does not love you because you are good; you are good because God loves you.
-Richard Rohr

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Advent week two

Today is the second Sunday in Advent.  Advent is my favorite season in the liturgical year.  It is a time of joyous anticipation and the time in which the liturgical year starts anew.

During the four weeks of advent we wait for the appearance of the coming Christ.  A portion of today's lectionary reading comes from the book of Isaiah.  I spent a fair bit of time with Isaiah last quarter and have really grown to appreciate what this book has to offer.  The book of Isaiah is a redacted (i.e.:assembled by editors) collection of three separate writings.  First Isaiah (Ch 1-39) refers to the story of the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem.  Second Isaiah (Ch 40-55) is written during the Babylonian exile and Third Isaiah (Ch 56-66) is written much later, after the exiles have returned to Jerusalem and the temple has been rebuilt.

Today's lectionary reading of Isaiah comes from the Second portion of the book, Chapter 40:1-8.  This book was written to comfort the Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.

What strikes me the most is verses 3-5: "A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all the people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'"

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting for a time when all things will be made new.  While the Isaiah text is directed to a specific people at a specific time, and it is imprudent to read too much Christology into the text (which does not allow the Hebrew Bible to stand on its own), the message is still relevant today.

The Lectionary reading from Mark 1:1-8 goes on to share the "good news of Jesus Christ" and quote the Isaiah text.  I think more than ever we need some good news.  I watched news reports last week during Black Friday in which a woman pepper sprayed shoppers in Walmart to get to an Xbox, an elderly man died in Target and was stepped over by eager shoppers and people would rather spend three days camped outside Best Buy for $200 HDTVs than spend Thanksgiving with their families.  I have closely been following the Occupy Wall Street protests with dismay.  The current political vitriol has reached epic proportions.  Unemployment numbers are down, but only because people have stopped looking for work.  All I have to say is that we need to be renewed in Christ.  Because I think our world is going to shit.

We wait for the coming light to bring hope into the darkness.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

12 days of Christmas...according to my fridge

In my free time I decided to get ambitious and clean my fridge.  Before the mold-covered mysteries decide to evolve and walk out of the fridge on their own.  I am a little ashamed to admit that I have amassed such a ridiculous amount of junk in my kitchen.  

On the first day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

A one year old jar of vegan mayonnaise

On the second day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Two ancient potatoes sprouting 

On the third day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

three cartons of soy milk

On the fourth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Four jars of red curry paste

On the fifth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Five mostly empty jars of salsa

On the sixth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Six bottles of salad dressing

On the seventh day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Seven fossilized tortillas

On the eighth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Eight eggs without an expiration date

On the ninth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Nine forgotten pickle spears

On the tenth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Ten containers of unidentifiable food

On the eleventh day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

Eleven bottles of outdated condiments 

On the twelfth day of Christmas my fridge gave to me...

An ice tray that has never been filled.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


A couple weeks ago I was dreaming what I would be doing when I was done with finals.  I finished on 11/18, and since then, have thoroughly been enjoying myself.

So far I have:
1. Gotten a pedicure
2. Gotten a massage
3. Read five books (for fun!)
4. Had multiple conversations with friends at coffee shops that lasted for hours.  One conversation this week with my friend Amy lasted for about four hours.
5. worked out almost every day

This weekend some people at my church are taking on an ambitious project...we will be reading the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts and John) out loud to each other in celebration of Advent.  It will take about 7 hours.  But that is going to be a beautiful thing.

Next week I head to Montana for a few days (pray for no snow!), then back here until school starts.  I have quite a bit of Greek homework to do (which I have yet to start), and I am beginning work this afternoon on my fellowship proposal for the Fund for Theological Education.  Life is good.