Monday, August 25, 2008
I don't want to take any space up with a recap of the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, then you need to read a review of it before my post will make any sense. Ms. Sheri McMurray has provided a great synopsis of it at Christian Spotlight on Entertainment (from ChristianAnswers.net).
As we watched it again, I discovered that the end of the movie offers a remarkable illustration of the Christian life that deserves more attention than it has received in the Internet postings I have read. (Before taking the time to write this post, I scanned the Internet (using Google), looking for reviews of "Meet the Robinsons" with Christian themes. (My search terms are in bold.))
Near the end of the film, Lewis has returned (from the future) to the science fair (in the present) with his "memory scanner". The entire movie centered on how Lewis' successful science fair entry becomes the invention that launches a life that eventually sees Lewis as the chief inventor of a major company whose products have revolutionized and improved life for everyone! (In fact, the villains in the movie (themselves from the future) have dedicated their efforts to ruining Lewis' science fair demonstration, stealing the device, and passing it off as their own.)
But Lewis came back from the future with more than just the knowledge that he needed to successfully demonstrate his invention in order to unlock a highly successful future. He also knows that in the future he saw, he has foster parents (Lewis is an orphan), he is married to a wonderful wife with a terrific family whose quirkiness mirrors his own eccentricities, and the world is a pretty remarkable place besides! However, because Lewis did not live the life between the science fair and that future yet, he has no idea how it will all unfold. He just knows what the future will look like at one point in time.
While demonstrating his device at the science fair after returning from the future, he discovers that one of the judges and her husband are his foster-parents of the future and a crazy little girl who trains frogs to sing is his future wife. A reporter shows up and announces that Lewis has a bright future ahead of him. Lewis, seemingly struck by the blessings showering down around him, smiles a terrific smile, nods and says, "Yeah." There is much yet to come for young Lewis, but he is already seeing his perfect future unfold! It isn't all there yet, but because he knows what is coming, he recognizes it unfolding around him.
The movie closes with a series of scenes of his unfolding life that include his new foster parents driving him away from the orphanage and their eventual purchase of the building that contains the huge room that will eventually be his lab. The last scene shows him working enthusiastically in his lab as the notes, diagrams, models and inventions begin to accumulate on tables and drawing boards around him. We know that from this point on, Lewis lives his life very confidently. He adopts the motto "Keep Moving Forward", which is reflected in his refusal to give up when his invention ideas meet with initial failure.
Life in Christ is a lot like this. Through the Word of God, we know what the future holds; it is no longer in doubt. Moreover, because the Father has given us faith in Jesus' atoning death and resurrection, we know that this future is for us!
Christ has defeated death and the devil by His perfect life, sacrificial death and bodily resurrection. He has revealed that he will return in glory for the final judgment of the earth, at which time he will usher in the new heaven and new earth, which will no longer be separated! God himself will live with us; he will be our God, and we will be his people. Immanuel! God with us!
And this future is free from sin; we will live in perfect trust; we will not worry about what we will eat, drink and wear (Matthew 6:25-34); we will look to the needs of our neighbor continually. There will be no death, or mourning, or crying, or pain!
Even now, we see the future unfolding around us! Christ has ascended bodily into heaven, but remains present to strengthen us in the sacrament of the altar. Because God's Law (which judges us sinners) describes the perfection of God's creation, we catch glimpses of what perfection will look like all the time. When sinners (that's us) show compassion towards one another (whatever our reasons) or sacrifice our own good for the benefit of others, we see the world as it was to be and will eventually be again. True, this view is dim right now; but the view is there to behold! (1 Corinthians 13:1-20
We know what to look for because we know what is coming. God has revealed this future to us in and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. We do not know exactly how it will unfold, but we walk with the endurance, character and hope that comes by grace through faith. (Romans 5:1-5)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for(O) these words are trustworthy and true."
-- Revelation 21:1-5
Sunday, August 24, 2008
However, Pastor did not simply leave the presentations to speak for themselves. Before he began to guide the groups in describing their experiences this past summer, he "framed" their presentations by means of three illustrations.
Pastor introduced the illustrations by referencing a recent effort to bring together seven students from different religions to live together in a "reality show" environment. The moderator prompted their discussions with questions. One of these was: "Why do you suppose there are so many religions in the world?"
Pastor responded to this question by asserting the situation was far simpler that this question supposed: there are only two religions! Two of the three illustrations graphically presented these "two religions in the world".
During the first illustration, Pastor Zimmerman put on a pair of garden gloves. The Muslim participant from the "reality show" provided a statement that best describes this first religion: "I work for God to earn his favor and a place in heaven." All religions other than the religion of the true disciples of Jesus of Nazareth fit into this first category. Question: Why garden gloves? Answer: In this religion, what you get is what you work for.
The second religion is the religion of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate God-man, who lived a perfect life, died as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and was raised by the Father on the third day so that all who trust in Him alone will inherit eternal life. To illustrate this second religion, Pastor took off the garden gloves and donned a baseball mitt. Question: Why a baseball mitt? Answer: With Christianity, what you get is what you receive from God Himself. Can you catch a ball that is not thrown?
The third illustration was an element of contrast for the presentations to follow. Lutherans, Pastor said, are often accused of wearing two baseball mitts. We are seemingly so averse to even the appearance of works righteousness that we eschew service to our neighbor and seek only to receive, receive, receive.
Of course, this is not at all what Christ taught; it's not what the Lutheran Church teaches, either. To extend the second illustration: we give away what we have received! God's Word teaches us that our freedom in Christ is given us for the benefit of the world around us. As we have been freed from sin through the faith in Jesus that comes from God alone, we can now confidently abandon our own sinful pursuit of "self-fulfillment" and look to the benefit or our neighbor.
We forgive as Christ forgave us! (Colossians 3:12-13) The Father did not wait for us to "make the first step". While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8) So we do not wait for our neighbor to "make the first step" or "prove their worth". Every person is a person for whom Christ died; every person is a person in need of forgiveness and mercy (1 John 4:19-20). Who is YOUR neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Attached are a series of pictures from David's first day at kindergarten at Captain Elementary School! The picture above is the group of "sem kids" walking along Founders Way heading towards Captain. As you can see, David wanted to ride his bike. So far, he's wanted to do this every morning.
The next picture is David dropping his backpack "on the line" for the Hearts class. This class is David's class, and it is taught by Mrs. Rosenkranz. (David had already met her during the orientation.)
Every morning (weather permitting), the kids get to play on the playground until time to "line up". This last picture is the kids as they line up to go inside.
As you will discover if you follow the links at the top of this posting, Captain Elementary is a public school in the Clayton District. We are fortunate that the seminary is located in such an excellent school district. However, this is not the only school option available to our seminary community. For those of you who follow my postings to gain insight into the experience of seminary life or to gather information to aid your own discernment in following our Lord's calling, please check out the page on local school options provided by the CSL Student Services.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
The congregation's introduction to the Lutheran Service Book continued this week. We prepared for worship by singing the Agnus Dei (that is, "Lamb of God") on page 210 of the LSB. Heather, the kids and I arrived late and had to sit in the back under the choir loft, so I was not able to gauge how well the congregation took up this beautiful pre-communion song.
Pastor Zimmerman's sermon was based on the Gospel reading (Matthew 15:21-28). In this passage, a Canaanite woman comes to our Lord and begs him to heal her daughter, who is suffering from demon possession. In a difficult passage, our Lord seems to be unwilling to heal the daughter of a woman outside of the "lost sheep of the house of Israel"; but, in the end, when the woman goes so far as to equate herself to the dogs that that wait at the master's table for crumbs to fall from the childrens' mouths, he "relents".
It has been my pleasure to chew on this passage for a little over a week now. My brother and I recently began translating the lectionary together to keep our translation skills sharp. (And so I can take advantage of my brother's vastly superior knowledge of Scripture and the Christian teachings of our church). So we began working on this passage two weeks ago. On Tuesday morning, I also joined in a Bible study led by Pastor Zimmerman which also took up this then-upcoming Gospel. Because I have been working this passage over for so long, Heather and I have also had opportunities to discuss it.
The beauty of the Gospel lesson is not that the Lord leaves the woman a "dog" or says "fine, crumbs it is then". Our Lord shows the woman for what she really is: a child of Abraham and a member of the house of Israel. For the promise to Abraham is by faith. And this faith is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God; God raises children of Abraham through faith! The Canaanite woman knew that crumbs falling from the mouths of the master's children was enough; our Jesus said "no, my child" and gave her the loaf.
I was really looking forward to hearing the Pastor apply this Word of God to us. Unfortunately, Emily and I had to leave the sermon for an emergency trip to the bathroom just as Pastor was applying the text. But his preparatory remarks focused on our tendency to focus on what we do and can do, as well as what we have done and accomplished, in evaluating our worth. His examples included the efforts of China to "prove something" in hosting a larger-than-life olympic games and our introductory question when we meet someone: "What do you do?" We are a people trying to build a Tower of Babel under our own feet!
I do not know what Pastor said after Emily and I stepped out, but I liked where he was going. The last thing I heard was "this Canaanite woman had surely done everything she could for her daughter. When we returned, the first words I was able to concentrate on were: "The measure of our lives is not what we can do, but what God has done for us (in Christ)." I have great confidence that whatever connected these two phrases was of great benefit to its hearers; I wish I had been one!
This Lord's Day, we also celebrated the Sacrament of the Altar together. In many ways, our Lord draws near to seek, save, strengthen and preserve us. We come to him again as beggars, knowing we deserve nothing, but ready to take the crumbs that fall from his table. Instead, Christ Jesus feeds us with his very body, and nourishes us with his very blood. Amen.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The tradition at the end of the summer Greek class after the ELCE is complete is for the students to dive into the seminary fountain outside of the library. This year was no exception, and the Hebrew class was invited to participate as well. The group picture above was taken before we dove in; the celebratory cigar enjoyed by my friend Jay (pictured below) and others was after (obviously!).
Monday, August 11, 2008
It has been a very enjoyable, but very challenging, summer wrestling this language to the ground. Although I am not "fluent" and must rely on a lexicon to carry out any translation work I do in the Hebrew scriptures, I now have a good foundation on which to build!
Praise be to God in heaven!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
In addition to "breaking the new hymnals in", this morning's sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. Allan Buckman. Pastor Buckman and his wife, Carol, are former missionaries to Nigeria who have, in recent years, been actively directing the course of Christian Friends of New Americans (CFNA) to reach out with the love of Christ to new immigrants to the United States who have settled in St. Louis.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
This week, Pastor Zimmerman and Kristen Schade, the organist, introduced the congregation to the Nunc Dimittis from LSB page 211. Mt. Calvary has a set of the blue Lutheran Worship hymnals in their pews, so I suspect that the congregation is preparing for a transition to the LSB. (I have not taken the opportunity to ask anyone about this.)
The sermon addressed the gospel reading, the Feeding of the Five Thousand. The sermon was titled "You Give Them Something to Eat!" When the disciples' solution to the peoples' problem was "send them away" the Lord told the disciples to meet their need for food!
Our Lord was teaching the disciples (and us), in a very concrete way, what he had already demonstrated. When he had left the crowd to find some solace after hearing of his cousin's death, the people had followed him. They needed him! And Jesus had compassion on them; he did not send them away. Whatever he was seeking for himself fell to the side as he reached out to heal those who had followed him.
Pastor Zimmerman noted that the disciples learned the lesson. He cited Acts 2 to demonstrate. On Pentecost, when three thousand people came to the disciples and cried out "what shall we do?", the disciples did not send them away. Rather they faithfully pointed the crowd to repentance and baptism into the risen Lord Jesus' name.
It surely did not stop there. The ministry of Christ through his body, the church, extended from Jerusalem to the entire world. Above all, we carry the good news (that's what "gospel" is, folks) of Jesus life, death and resurrection for us sinners. But, having been saved from destruction ourselves, we are bold to live out the complete trust we have for our Father by abandoning the cares of this world to reach to those in need around us. We serve our neighbor with love in the confidence that the Father is taking care of everything.
What do we do when this world has need? We pray: "Lord, have mercy!" Sometimes we pray: "Send so-and-so to minister to this need." Often, however, the Needy One has come to us directly and, by the grace of God working through the Holy Spirit, we have responded without thinking. In those moments, we have surely been Christ's Body, dropping our own desires, obsessions and convenience to the side, to minister to the need of our neighbor.
Quoting from the worship flier distributed before the chapel service: "The three brief songs were created at the Taize community, founded in 1940 near Cluny in southeastern France and known for [...] its contemplative style of worship, often employing ancient languages."
Although our chapel service did not include a portion of the prayer in which the congregants offer their individual petitions to the Lord in the presence of the congregation, I have been told this variant is used by others who adopt the Taize community's style of worship. This was told me by a classmate who observed this practice at Concordia University - Seward.
I would have liked to reproduce the order of worship here in its entirety for the readers' benefit, but it appears to be copyright protected by the Taize community and licensed through OneLicense.net. So I will simply refer the interested reader to the hyperlink at the top of this post.