It’s Been a Busy Spring at the Preschool!

We’ve been incredibly busy this spring at St. Mark’s Preschool! We completed a Caterpillar to Butterfly  theme. We made pom pom caterpillar magnets and toilet paper roll butterflies and played with butterfly wings and nets. We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the kids even had their own caterpillar made out of a Pringles can they could “feed.” The kids loved how their caterpillars came out of a paper bag “cocoon” as butterflies on the last day! We also spent a week learning about Easter. We learned the Easter Story, made stained glass crosses and finger paint crosses, made Easter baskets, and had an Easter egg hunt.

After that, we had our Farm theme. We learned about a variety of farm animals, including cows, pigs, horses, chickens, and sheep. The kids got to play with farm toys, and they created their own Veterinarian’s Office in the dramatic play center. The kids’ favorite activity seemed to be the day they learned how cows were milked and got a chance to “milk” a Latex glove filled with cream. They also enjoyed shaking the cream to make it into whipped cream! We also did some art projects, including painting with toy tractors and making Muddy Pigs out of brown fingerpaint mixed with oats. We even took a day to celebrate Earth Day. We made spin-painted Earths (on display on the bulletin board outside the preschool room) and discussed the importance of preserving our planet.

Today, we started our Community Helpers theme. We’ll be learning about some of the people who play important roles in our community, such as doctors, firefighters, police officers, postal workers, and more!

The Good Shepherd

The text for this upcoming week is the good shepherd in John 10, so everyone who wants to sing/hear those hymns, this is your week.

Basil of Seleucia, 5th century Bishop part of the Council of Constantinople which finished the Nicene Creed, makes a comment about the text – “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep and so seeks to win their love.”

With all do respect to a 5th century father, but first on a practical level, does that make sense? Isn’t this a world where sacrifice actually calls you out as weak, the one least likely to receive reciprocating love? Isn’t saying something like that painting Jesus as the ultimate loser boyfriend? You know, the one who only gets the girl in a Hollywood movie, because being true to life doesn’t create warm fuzzies?

Far from any transaction or the sentimental pastoral (meaning of the fields) notions of innocence isn’t the point of the passage – “I am the good [i.e. the true and the beautiful (i.e. the ideal holder)] of the office of shepherd”. It’s a crappy part of the job that the wolves try and eat the sheep and the shepherd protects. That is why there are so many bad shepherds. And this has more application outside of the church than inside although the most egregious tales of bad shepherds are inside because echoing Obi Wan to Annakin – “you knew better”. But Jesus is the good shepherd. He does his job. And because he does it – the wolves of world have been defeated. While we were still running from the scene.

Wendell Berry’s NEH Jefferson Lecture

Here is the full speech. If you want to hear a prophetic voice, but put in non-religious language, read the lecture…

When people succeed in profiting on a large scale, they succeed for themselves. When they fail, they fail for many others, sometimes for us all. A large failure is worse than a small one, and this has the sound of an axiom, but how many believe it? Propriety of scale in all human undertakings is paramount, and we ignore it. We are now betting our lives on quantities that far exceed all our powers of comprehension. We believe that we have built a perhaps limitless power of comprehension into computers and other machines, but our minds remain as limited as ever. Our trust that machines can manipulate to humane effect quantities that are unintelligible and unimaginable to humans is incorrigibly strange

Prayers for Parents

Roman Catholic Simcha Fisher with a short list of prayers that should have but failed to be included in the “prayers for all occasions” in the hymnal or prayer book…

Parents’ Morning Blessing

Father of mercies, we ask you to bless these children, which, with some uncharacteristically poor judgement, you have entrusted to our care. Make them strong enough to follow your ways, kind enough to spread your love, and smart enough not to repeat what Daddy said about people with Obama bumper stickers on their cars. Let these children be a beacon in a dark world. Let them be a shining witness for the culture of life. And let somebody come by with another few bushels of hand-me-downs, because the boys all grew out of their pants again last night.


The Pastor’s Study – An Economics Pondering

In the mail today came the latest Christian Book Distributors (CBD) catalog. It is always interesting to see thee things: a) who the high-flying Evangelical authors are by what is on the cover and who has their own author pages, b) which translations of the Bible are taking up more space or less and c) the offerings/prices of the academic or pastor’s study section.

There is a somewhat funny to modern ears clip from (if I’m remembering correctly) CFW Walther about how a circuit counselor (monsignor or ecclesiastical hierarch who is not the bishop) should judge a pastor’s library. There are certain staples that you (should) find: Augustine, Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule, at least one good commentary on each of the gospels and Romans, the confessions of your denomination (for me a Book of Concord), I’m not a dogmatics person but at least one orthodox presentation of the faith, and for a Lutheran some Luther (fill in with Wesley, Aquinas, Calvin, etc for whoever your tribe likes best). These books are expensive, or at least they were. Pastors would bequeath them if they didn’t need the money or sell them when they retired. I am the inheritor of parts of two collections. (I suppose I should throw onto that list a book like The Lutheran Liturgy by Reed which gives the history and theology of worship.) I know to the average lay-person that this will sounds nuts, but those books are grist of pastoral life. You find yourself going back to them again and again.

Now to the economics. One of the investments I’ve made is the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series. It is a series of books arranged by biblical book that gives you a passage and a location to find more of what the Church Fathers had to say about every passage in the bible. This is a new updating, revising and enlargement of the what was called the catena aurea or golden chain. 29 volumes x $35ea ~ $1,015 for the complete series. I find the patristics the most useful source, and since it is new this is like buying the just released drug. The publisher needs to get back their investment and I’m one who would pay it.

Now back to CBD. Calvin’s Commentaries, and Calvin is a great and insightful commentator, 22 volumes for $150. Barth’s Church Dogmatics (I can’t read the guy, but a neo-orthodox Reformed theologian worth reading), 14 volumes for $120. Schaff’s Early Church Fathers, a monumental piece of scholarship, 38 volumes for $250. A little shorter but still a watershed, Keil & Delitzsch 10 volumes on the Old Testament for $80. (I inherited 2 volumes on Isaiah which I reference every Christmas and Lent). So why am I quoting volumes and prices? Why would anyone want dead tree editions anyway?

First the dead tree question. These are reference works. You don’t read them straight through. Much of what is in them is available online. The contents are in the public domain. So the primary advantage of digital is search, which you can get for free with many of them. But what that doesn’t give you is underlines (both yours and prior owners) or margin notes or the serendipity of opening these great authors for one thing but reading just a bit before or just a bit after. The ideal is both digital and a dead tree copy. That is why these things are still available.

Now the crux – why am I quoting these prices? Because the Reformed World has learned something. They want their ministers to have these works at hand length. These books are priced in a digital world to have both. What would I as a Lutheran minister have to pay for a similar set of Luther’s Works? 55 volumes x $35+shipping ea. or roughly $2,200. Here is Calvin’s Commentaries online for free. What would I pay for a similar digital copy of Luther’s Works? The closest I get is this (which I have the pre-cursor on CD-ROM) for $259. So Calvin – digital and dead tree – $150. Luther – $2500.

Now I’d love to be able to say that was because Luther was worth so much more. But the real answer probably has to do with copyright. The American Edition of Luther’s Works is held by Concordia Publishing House and Fortress Press. Most of the editions (the ones with the meat) were published in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The index was published in 1986. They will probably enter the public domain 95 years from date of publication if I’m reading copyright correctly. The Reformed translated and published in English their founding works earlier and hence are in the public domain. Lutherans in America hung onto German for a long time. Lutheran’s will just have to wait until 2046 to get a deal.

And that is if Paul McCain doesn’t figure out a way to put a new crimson cover on them (or is he going to be forced to blue now) and extend copyright somehow.

How do you know?

Scripture Text: Luke 24:36-49
Full Text of Sermon

Facts, assertions, methods, inferences, hypotheses, stories. Facts are nice. We all like facts. But lets also be straight: 1) facts are usually boring or maybe better inert and 2) a lot that parades as fact just isn’t. My 3rd grader does a lot of learning of facts and methods. There are some things that come home as fact that I might question. I’ll challenge her every now and then to evaluate or analyze the facts, but that is not the role of a 3rd grader. That is the role of an adult. Unfortunately, in our postmodern world, that is a responsibility that we often neglect.

Probably the biggest reason that we have come to metaphysical despair is simply the question in the title – How do you know? I can (and do) proclaim the wounds of Christ, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and all of the apologetic strategies. As the great lenten hymn says, proofs I see sufficient of it, ’tis the true and faithful word. Those are the facts of the Jesus story. The question is what to say about them: A ghost, like the disciples at first, a fraudulent conspiracy, a mass delusion, a myth, a resurrection triumph over sin, death and the power of the devil? You can tell most of those stories with a purely materialist mindset. You can’t tell that last one. How do you know that Christ is arisen? The Spirit who spoke by the prophets lives in me, lives in the live of the church, the people of God.

The adult task of the Christian is to work with the Spirit – in word and deed. Be in the Word on a daily basis. Live that word out in our daily lives. We are witnesses of the resurrection – starting in Jerusalem.

Images, Art, Kitsch, Beauty, Doctrine and the Christian Tradition

HT: Houses of Worship in the WSJ
On this past good Friday a painter that you probably know died – Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light. You know, the guy who painted thousands of very pretty overly light filled cottages, houses and other landscapes. Franklin Graham commissioned Kinkade to paint a cross/crucifixion painting for the Billy Graham library. Depending upon your pre-existing thoughts about Kinkade you might either have that sinking feeling or an already natural uplifting expectation. Here is that picture.

Kinkade used to like to say in defense of his work, “I like to portray a world without the fall”. That is a big problem when it comes to painting a cross. But Kinkade is far from alone. I want to bring up a couple of cross scenes from a prior generation’s popular culture – the scene of Christian seeing the cross in Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan.

Maybe not to the same extent as Kinkade, but you get that same visual impression. The otherworldly light. The slightly twee sense of cleanliness. The absence of the body from the cross. Superficially enticing, but yet there is something missing. Something not quite right.

And that is probably the tie to doctrine and an ancient heresy – Docetism. Docetism was the belief that Jesus’ body wasn’t really real. Since Jesus was God, and God is Spirit that whole flesh thing must have just been an illusion along with the cross and passion. The church and society moves in a docetic direction anytime the reality of the physical is denied. If your god could not take on flesh and be born of the virgin Mary, then this flesh stuff is substandard. The church specifically moves in that direction when the deity of Christ is emphasized to the exclusion of the humanity. That goes part and parcel with the belief that I’m escaping this world for the joys of heaven. There is a truth implanted in there, but it also obscures the central proclamation of the church. Our hope is not in heaven. Our hope is in the resurrection. The resurrection is the recreation of all flesh, a putting back together of body and spirit which had been separated by the fallen world. A separation that we can feel and experience before the final one as our bodies age. But that flesh is not substandard; it is fallen. And God intends to recreate, to resurrect.

Here is another image – the Grunewald Altarpiece. Until we can find beauty in this, we have not grasped the core of the message of Jesus.

“I’d Rather Text than Talk” – Shaped by Technology

Take 20 mins to watch this…

One the one hand I could put it in the “kids these days” folder, on the other I think there is an emerging theme in the technological world that each new invention promises a fuller and more connected life but each one ends up removing a bit of our humanity and placing us a little further away from any real connection with each other. If anyone has read That Hideous Strength, I couldn’t help but think of it and the depiction of battling the powers.

Sentence to Ponder

From Johannes Tauler, Sermon 21…

“You ought to seek joy in sadness, detachment in the midst of disaster, and comfort in bitterness; this is the way to become a true witness of God.”

That is the stew that Luther came out from, a mysticism formed by the black death. To what extent would modern therapeutics say detachment is just avoidance or denial? What God does this witness too?