Shoebox Week

We have in the past packed shoeboxes. It has been a congregational mission running up to Advent, but it was distributed. We provided boxes and info and delivery, but asked individuals to pack their own box. One of our members in the pictures below had done this with her mother. They had been trying to double the number of boxes they did each year and when her mother passed away it became something of a memorial. But now she was looking to double from 18 to 36. The individual approach wouldn’t work so well. She engaged the women’s group and they took it on as a mission. Those in the congregation could still pack their own, but we also asked started to ask for specific items, like 36 toothbrushes and 6 dyno-trucks (for the mid-boys) and baby-dolls for the girls. Also soccer balls (deflated w/pump) for the older kids. If you couldn’t pack your own, some of these smaller items were within reach. A big help from Thrivent action grants as well. A Thrivent T-shirt is in each of those bags. Maybe not the advertisement they were thinking of, but good. Last night they packed all those boxes. Plus it looks like we will get roughly a dozen pack your own. Margaret met her goal. (No idea how we meet next year.) And I have to add that we met a personal goal that I had. When I started encouraging this I had hopes that we would reach a total number of boxes equal to every family in the congregation. With this year it looks like we will have done that. And with how it was collected, I think we got much deeper participation than we ever could have each alone. A beautiful example of “Life Together”.

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The medium is the message

That was of course Marshall McLuhan bemoaning the vast wasteland of TV. The more serious point is that particular mediums (TV, books, radio, talking, letters) are not just tubes to deliver something, but they mold or form the message itself. Books are solitary, serious and heavy. TV is fast and visual. i.e. you can’t capture Moby Dick on TV.

In regard to the Christian life the medium has meaning when THE WORD is a core concept, when by the foolishness of preaching THE WORD is given. Can you find THE WORD in this new medium of blogging, and if so, how does it effect it?

Ben Myers has an interesting post and journal article on the Blog as a place for theology. He is perhaps uniquely qualified to discuss this because of his blog which was one of the first to practice Theology in this new medium.

Two quotes – “One no longer publishes and defends an authoritative statement; instead, one participates in a continuing conversation in a collective enterprise…a process that foregrounds dialogue, accountability and self-correction.”

To me that is hopeful. It means that the blog foregrounds the need for ongoing repentance. It also means learning to live in a community defined by repentance and absolution. Things that are remarkably similar to what the local congregation is supposed to be, a gathering of sinners seeking God’s Word of absolution and attempting to live it out.

Second Quote – “The fact that one’s writing is not understood as a fixed artifact means one is free to write about many things…in this respect, theological discourse begins to inch closer toward the work of pastors and clergy, who are constantly challenged to utilize their theological resources in order to address new, unanticipated problems and solutions.”

Also somewhat hopeful. We all have a theology whether we know it or not. Theology shouldn’t be strictly formal things. I’m thinking of the biblical instruction to talk about these things when you walk and when you sit, when you lie down and when you rise (Duet 6:7). Anything that encourages that and not a stultifying seriousness is a good freedom. Do we get things wrong? Yep. Is that a big problem? Not if we remember the first point – repentance.

There are several other good observations in the paper, but I’ll leave it there.

Todd Wilken meets Brian McLaren or Modern meets Post-Modern

I’m going to post two links. The first is an interview done by Scott McKnight with Brian McLaren. The second is a link to the Issues, Etc. archives regarding an interview Todd Wilken did with Brian McLaren. The background is this. Brian McLaren is an “emerging church” guy. He is an evangelical. He’s younger, and he wants to see the conversation change. And his version of changing the conversation can be seen as heretical. Here is my basic understanding. Mr. McLaren does not like the penal substitution understanding of the cross. I’m not exactly sure that he denies it; he just thinks there are much better metaphors like freedom or peace or adoption. Mr. McLaren also wants to be a universalist regarding salvation although he will hedge that. Underneath both positions, I think, is a large understanding of the limits of our knowledge. Brian McLaren thinks we are too sure of certain understandings. Todd Wilken is a smart LCMS confessional. He takes none of that squishy uncertainty. CFW Walther, LCMS founder, once held that everything in theology was settled and all we had to do was confess it. Todd Wilken is the heir of that understanding.

After I saw the Scott McKnight interview (FYI, McKnight has serious reservations about some of McLaren’s writings), there was a spot in it where McLaren complains about how certain people didn’t have any interest in what he was actually talking about, they just wanted to grind swords on dogmatic topics. He had to be talking about Todd Wilken.

So why am I posting this stuff? I think it highlights a change in the general culture. And it is a change that drives a large portion of the LCMS out of their minds. The post-modern holds multiple opinions and might even personally think some of them are objectively true. They will argue for them. But they will try on other opinions. They are experimental. They hold a small core set of propositions as universally true, and think that it is darn near impossible to build from there. The modern starts with a small set, but believes that we have the ability to construct relatively expansive systems of truth. If you question the modern’s surety, they usually gets defensive and think that you are squishy and stupid. (Can’t you see the simple logic here! If you give up that you’ve given up justification by grace! All of this stand or fall together!) The post-modern will refuse separate from others over dogma because we just aren’t that sure. (I get the feeling that Brian McLaren’s small set truth is Jesus is the Lord who represents the Father too us. Follow him as best you can.) The modern will separate very quickly and will drill down to find the point of separation.

Now let’s bring it out of the clouds. In living together in a congregation, what is more important? Should we all be sure that we confess exactly the same large set of doctrine, or is the unity on a small set and commitment to life together more important? The 19th and most of the 20th century were a large set time. Lutherans were separate from Baptists were separate from Methodists were separate from everyone. It would have been unthinkable for a Methodist to send their kids to a Lutheran VBS. The last third of the 20th century up to today is not that. Is this a sign of gross immorality and backsliding, or a healthy reshuffling toward unity? It is possible to see church history going from large set (Aquinas in the 13th century) to small set (Luther in the 16th) to large set (Confessionalism in the 17th/18th) to small set (pietism/revivalism in the 18th/19th) to large set (denominationalism in the 19th/20th) to small set (today’s environment). The complexity of the large set works, until it doesn’t. And things get ugly when it breaks.

Q | Conversations on Being a Heretic from Q Ideas on Vimeo.

Issues, Etc interviews and discussion.