Friday, January 31, 2014

Making the devil God and God the devil / Luther on Amos

In the first chapter Amos is difficult and obscure, where he speaks of three and four sins.  Many have knocked themselves out over it, struggling with it at great length.  But the text, I believe, shows clearly that these three and four sins are but one sin.  For he always names and cites only one sin.  Against Damascus, for example, he names only the sin that "they have threshed Gilead with iron chariots," etc. [1:3].

But Amos calls this sin "three and four" because the people do not repent of the sin or acknowledge it;  rather they boast of it and rely upon it as though it were a good deed, as false saints always do.  For a sin cannot become more grave, great, or weighty than when it tries to be a holy and godly work, making the devil God and God the devil.  So, too, three and four make seven, which is the completeness of numbers in the Scriptures, where one turns back and begins to count again, both the days and the weeks.

Martin Luther on Amos. 
(Intro:  Lutheran Study Bible, p. 1456)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chesterton on the Two Party Democracy

G.K. Chesterton on "The Voter and the Two Voices." (Essay)

The real danger of the two parties is that they unduly limit the outlook of the ordinary citizen.  They make him barren instead of creative, because he is never allowed to do anything except prefer one existing policy to another.  We have not got real Democracy when the decision depends upon the people.  We shall have real Democracy when the problem depends upon the people.  The ordinary man will decide not only how he will vote, but what he is going to vote about.

...The democracy has a right to answer questions, but it has no right to ask them.  It is still the political aristocracy that asks the questions.  And we shall not be unreasonably cynical if we suppose that the political aristocracy will always be rather careful what questions it asks ... the powerful class will choose two courses of action, both of them safe for itself, and then give the democracy the gratification of taking one course or the other.

(Religion and Politics, in "Literary Converts", Joseph Pearce, pp. 60,61)

Interesting points.

It makes me think of two things mostly.  Ever since Facebook, we seem to be closer to the discussions within the United States.  The polarization baffles and annoys anyone who is watching and listening.  If they were not continuously on the election path... if only.  If only.

And Canada is not very different.  We have three parties, which widens the discussion somewhat.  But our government tends to be in a dictatorship position once it is elected.  In contrast, in Germany, any new party can rise to power.  If it achieves 7% of the popular vote it can send members to parliament.

Secondly, it reminds me of what has lately come into my life under the guise of "dialectics".  It seems to me that it was nothing of the sort.  It was just plain contrariness, selecting the questions, framing the discussion, throwing itself against everything and anything, never intending to change its mind, or even to have a mind on anything.  Vacuous.  Futile. Vain--as Solomon would say.  But then Solomon says that everything is vanity...

"Upworthy" / Children Gone

I just watched three short videos on "Upworthy".  This one below was linked to my FB by a friend and deals with the struggles of a single Dad whose children have just left after spending the weekend with him.  He won't see them again until the weekend after next.  It is a sensitive 3 min. video shot on an I-Phone.  I think it is beautiful and reminds me also of the time after Stefan died.  There still were the left-overs of his last snack in front of the TV downstairs...  There were so many reminders all over the house--only he was not coming back.

A big difference.  Imagine the pain. Ripped out of the midst of life.

There are a number of other short and revealing videos, there.  It can help one see what the culture is dealing with.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Early Childhood Learning Alberta

This is a link I will visit a few more times, on Early Childhood Learning.

"The Four Loves" / C.S. Lewis / The unnecessary nature of Friendship, once more.

Friendship, unlike Eros, is uninquisitive.  You become a man's Friend without knowing or caring whether he is married or single or how he earns his living.  What have all these 'unconcerning things, matters of fact' to do with the real question, Do you see the same truth?  In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is:  stands for nothing but himself.  No one cares two-pence about anyone else's family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history.  Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end.  But casually.  They will come out bit by bit to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote;  never for their own sake.  That is the kingliness of Friendship.  We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts.  This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consist of our family, job, past and connections.  At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character;  husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague or subordinate.  Not among our Friends.  It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped minds.

... Hence the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love.  I have no duty to be anyone's Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine.  No claims, no shadow of necessity.  Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create).  It has no survival value;  rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.  (The Four Loves. p. 84,85)

--I don't know. -- "Do you see the same truth?" --It seems that seeing "truth" is often very much about "relationships" themselves, as in the "truth about relationships." 

Monday, January 27, 2014

On being in school

Recent studies have shown that schools in Germany, in international comparisons, fare relatively well in terms of accomplishment, but lower in happiness.  There are schools in other nations that can boast both high scores and higher happiness.

And then there are people, mostly from the United States, with whom I associate online, who seem to dislike all sorts of formal education and "uncreative" practices.  They are the would-be radicals, though mostly, they themselves have enjoyed a good education.   Young people post Youtube videos that go viral about how they self-direct their learning.  They do more skiing and more sewing of parachutes, and so on...  Well, that's all good.  It should be an option for them.  I believe in diversity.

One difference between North American education and German education is that we used to go to school only for half the day.  So we managed to have higher achievement in less time.  This left ample time for "play" which everyone seems to bemoan as disappearing.  We played a lot.  We played in the street.  We played in the field.  We played cards in the house.  We played dress-up and we played dramatic play.  And we squeezed in our Latin vocabulary list.  And we squeezed in our English vocabulary list.  And we squeezed in our French vocabulary list.  (No fun memorizing, but time efficient to learn by rote. This left much room for real unstructured playing with no goals in mind.)  What is the missing ingredient in this sort of up-bringing nowadays is the mothers being at home.  Mothers supervised the homework.  Mother's glanced out the window to see that the outdoor play wasn't getting too wild or cruel.  But they just glanced.  They did not helicopter and they did not structure.  They also did not drive you places.  You could take the bike, or walk, or if lucky, could take the bus, if someone gave you bus money. -- We were not fat.

And for those who hate school, I just wanted to say that many of my happiest moments were in school.  In school you had girl-friends.  In school you had studies.  In school you had music and singing.  It was a marvelous time in many ways.  The best of times and the worst of times?  Yes, I often said that the Latin language ruined my childhood.  But I have to say in the end, in favor of the Latin language learning, that Latin is not a dead language.  It has come in very handy.  It lives in the English language.  It lives in the most fantastic sacred music.  It lives in scholarly journals and books.  It lives as a lingua franca, here and there, still. It has given me a leg up, at times, and not infrequently pleasure.  Translating it was the highest mental exercise I had in childhood, seeing how convoluted the sentences could get.

So much.  I was just contemplating, how often I was very happy in school.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Law and Gospel and so-called Free Will. Also "uses" or "attitudes" toward the Law.

Our dear  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther wrote:

For example, if someone should forcibly take my hand and beat someone to death with it or [in contrast] give alms to the poor, neither work would be mine, even though my hand did it;  rather, it would be the work of the one who compelled it to be done.  Therefore, that would not harm me or help me at all.  So also the works of the Law make no one godly, even though they are done through us.  Our will does it only out of the fear and punishment of the law and would much rather do something else, if the compelling and threatening law were not over us.  Therefore, they are not our works.  Now, each one must be saved through his own works.

Again, if someone does such works not out of fear, as he perhaps thinks, then he still does them because of the promises and enticing of the Law.  That is wicked and false, even worse than the former.  It is just as if heaven had not been promised and they knew that they would do it all for nothing, then they would not do it.  Therefore, again, the works are not our own but of the Law and of its enticing or alluring, through the promise of possessions and reward.  These works done for a reward are more dangerous and more difficult to recognize than those done out of fear of punishment, since they are much more subtle and very similar to free, eager, righteous works.

But the works are recognized in the cross when people reject the works of the Law and demand that the works occur for free, without seeking a reward, only for the glory of God and the benefit of the neighbor.  Human nature lies defeated and can do nothing;  it is found that it does no good works of its own, but only the works of someone else, of the Law, just as an irrational animal runs and works by being beaten or for the sake of its food.  How many godly people of honorable character do you think would remain if shame, punishment, hell, or heaven were not before their eyes?  No one at all would remain godly, for everything is kept good with fear or profit.  Therefore, everything is false and mere lies, as Scripture says, "All mankind are liars and vain" (Psalm 39: 5, 116:11).

So we see these two points in all people.  The first is that they are kept by the guardian (the Law) from a disgraceful, shameless, wild life, and remain under the discipline of the works of the Law in an outwardly honorable life.  The second is that inwardly in their hearts they truly become hostile to the Law and its punishment, and the more harshly the punishment presses, the more hostile they become.  Who is not hostile toward death and hell?  But what is this other than being hostile to the Law, which imposes such punishment?  But what is being hostile to the Law other than being hostile to righteousness?  And what is being hostile to righteousness other than being hostile to God Himself?  Here it is definite--is it not?--that we not only are wrong but also hate righteousness, love sin, and are hostile to God with all our hearts, no matter how prettily and honorably our outward conduct in works may glitter.

God certainly wants to be loved with all our heart, as the commandment reads: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might,"  etc.  (Deut 6:5).  God wants all our good works to be our won, not those of the guardian, the Law, death, hell, or heaven.  That is, we are to do them not from pure fear of death or hell, not to obtain heaven, but from a free spirit, from a delight and love of righteousness.  Whoever does a good work from the fear of death or hell does not do it to the glory of God, but to death and hell.  It is a work of death and hell, for they have stolen it, and he does it only for their sakes;  otherwise he would not have done it.  Therefore, he also remains a slave and servant of death and hell with all such works.  But if he remains the servant of death and  hell, then he must die and be condemned, as the proverb says, "Whoever is afraid of hell enters it."  Likewise:  "Trembling does not help against death."

But you say;  "What will become of this?  Who, then, can be saved?  Who is without this fear and trembling before death and hell?  Who does his works or leads his good life without this fear?"  I answer:  Who has loved God if he carries such fear and hatred of His Law and His righteousness within him?  Where now is human nature?  Where is free will?  Will you still not believe how necessary the grace of God is?  Will you still not let the behavior of all people be sink false, and untrue?  Can you still not be persuaded that works do not make one godly?

Here you can see why the Law is necessary and good and what God seeks with it, namely, these two points.  The first is that He keeps us disciplined and drives us outwardly to an honorable life, so that we can live among one another and not devour one another, as would happen if there were no Law, no fear, no punishment, as formerly happened among some heathen.  For the same reason, God did not abolish the secular sword in the New Testament, but rather established it, even though He does not want to use it and His people do not need it [Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter. 2:13-14].  Rather, He established it so that the shameless and wild people can be restrained, and so that people can live peacefully with one another, support themselves, and increase.  Otherwise, all lands would be a wilderness, full of murderers and robbers;  no woman or child would remain unravished.  Through the sword and His law they are preserved and urged into a quiet, peaceful, and honorable life.  Nevertheless, they do not become godly in that way, and their hearts are not at all better.  Their hands are only compelled and bound, and the works and righteousness are not their own but come from the sword, which compels this from them and works in them through its punishment and fear.

So God's Law also presses on us and compels us to refrain from much evil because of fear of death and hell, and preserves us like a guardian in an externally honorable life.  But no one is godly before God in that way, for the heart remains hostile to such a guardian, hates its punishment, and would rather be free.

The second point is that through the Law the man himself knows how false and unjust his heart is, how far he still is from God, how his human nature is nothing at all, so that he despises his honorable life and knows that it is nothing at all, so that he despises his honorable life and knows that it is nothing compared to what is necessary for fulfilling the Law.  Thus he is humbled, crawls to the cross, sighs for Christ, longs for His grace, despairs completely of himself, and places all his confidence on Christ.  Christ then gives him a different spirit and changes his heart, so that he never again fears death and hell;  never seeks life and heaven;  gratis and freely becomes friendly toward the Law;  lives in it with a good and certain conscience for dying and for living;  and hell, heaven, and all things are of equal value to him.

Thus the Epistle says that Christ freed us who were bound in slavery our whole lives by our fear of death (Hebrews 2:150.  Thus he testifies clearly enough that we must be without the fear of death, and all who live in the fear of death are slaves and will never be saved.  Now, neither human nature nor the Law can free us from that fear;  both of them only increase that fear.  Only Christ has freed us from it.  When we believe in Him, then He gives us that free, undaunted spirit which fears neither death nor hell, which loves neither life nor heaven, but freely and joyfully serves God.

From this we see, first, how dangerous are the doctrines which drive a man through commandment and Law to the idea that he can become godly through them.  In that way they only pull him farther from God, from Christ, even from the Law and all righteousness.  They do nothing more than give him an ever more fearful, timid, dejected, and wretched conscience, and always teach him only to fear death and hell, until they drive despair into his heart, so that both here and there he must be the devil's martyr.

Second we see that that is a threefold use of the Law--or that people take a threefold attitude toward it.  The first are those who risk everything and lead shameless lives against it;  for them, it is a if there were no Law.  the second are those who refrain from sch a dissolute life and are preserved in an honorable life;  they are under discipline outwardly, but inwardly they are hostile to their guardian, and all their things happen out of fear of death and hell.  Thus they keep the Law only outwardly, and the Law keeps them outwardly, but inwardly they do not keep it and are not kept by it.  The third are those who keep it outwardly and inwardly;  they are the tablets of Moses, written outwardly and inwardly by the finger of God Himself (Exod. 31:18)

(Luther's Works, American Edition.  Volume 76.  Church Postil II. pp. 4-7)

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"The Life of Pi" and the "Average Citizen"

There is something I have been meaning to confide to the internet.

People I know have been watching "The Life of Pi", a movie according to the book of Yann Martel.

Product Details

Look at that nasty Tiger.  Something of an anti-Aslan, wouldn't you say?

When I read the book about 10 years ago, after it first appeared, I enjoyed it and the realization at the end hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had thought that I had "got it" and I knew that the Tiger was Pi, and that I also am Tiger and Pi.

But every time I meet someone else who has read the book or watched the movie and I want to see what they think about it--that person won't agree with me.  "What?  The Tiger is Pi?"  -- Em.  Who do you think he is and what does it mean?--The last suggestion someone made to me was that the Tiger is God.

Ok, I read the book a long time ago, and I can't now work out that train of thought.  How can the Tiger be God.  I suppose, if the Tiger is Pi's ego, and the ego is my "god", then Tiger can be "god", small "g".

What baffles me is the conviction held by my conversation partners that the Tiger is NOT Pi.  NO, No, No.  We don't have here a sudden surprise of "Oh!  The Tiger is Pi!".  NO it's  "Pi is NOT the Tiger!!!"

They don't seem to want the Tiger to be Pi.

Since all the details of the book are not with me any more after all this time, I try and get them to explain it to me.  Perhaps, after all, I am wrong.  Maybe the Tiger is not Pi.  Alas, in the end we googled it, seeing that we now live in the 2010's.  Who has not all the answers at their fingertips?

And guess what:  the Tiger is Pi's "alter-ego." --!!! Well, that should settle it.

They still don't like it.  Don't like it.  Don't like it...  couldn't be.

I said, did you know that starving people in Ukraine under Stalin ate their own children (Bloodlands, Snyder)?  Did you know that the embarrassing fact of famines is that people laps into cannibalism?

Ah, all that non-fiction comes in handy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Camp activities and songs

Nice resource for camp activities and songs.  Here are the table graces:  

This is the one I was trying to find:

We thank the brown cow
for the chocolate milk.
We thank the pig (oink, oink) for the bacon on the grill.
We thank the egg for the chicken,
And the chicken for the eggs,
We thank the Lord for our daily bread.

Cute but a little goofy.

Anyhow, while looking for it I also saw this video by a young man, sharing two grace songs,  mentioning how an atheist friend of his complained about thanks-giving as too humble.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Praying "Collects" privately and making your own.

Clearly the Collect is intended for use in the most formal of settings. That does not mean that the formal Collects in prayer books can't be used as models for less formal times of prayer.

In the introduction to his Are You Running with Me, Jesus? Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd mentioned a man whose son had died. His distress and agony were compounded when he wanted to pray and "did not know the words of a single prayer." 

--This also was my experience when our son died in a car accident, not that long ago.  It becomes very difficult for anyone to know what to say, or think, or pray.  It is also very easy for individuals or families to fall completely apart.  It is really a very deep distress that tears at the fabric of everything.

Then we found that we did very well to keep to our devotional schedule and at the time the Treasury of Daily Prayer was issued by Concordia Publishing House, in which are found many beautiful prayers and excerpts of books and sermons, together with the Bible readings.  Onto this we hung what remained of our lives.  

All the Collects in The Book of Common Prayer are ancient prayers, and I have copied the modernized version. It's still more formal than anybody ever speaks conversationally, and I would never attempt to ape that style in my own prayers. 

Besides being easy to remember, though, the chief virtue of the form is that it forces me to place whatever I ask for in the context of God's grace rather than my own desires. If fact, if I cannot express a desire in the form of a Collect, I have to suspect that I need to meditate very specifically on how "not my will but yours" applies to the issue. In that way, what first seemed like a good way to structure public prayers became a means of evaluating to what extent my own desires.

--This is an important thought.  Our own desires are not the primary thing in our prayers.  They belong there, no doubt, but they are not primary.  This is the only way to live with faith and hope in the light of tragedy.  Even with joy.  

The author suggests writing your own collects and gives an example.  This would be an interesting exercise.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

St. Peter and St. Patrick

Apparently, telling by my FB feed, it is St. Peter's day:
Today we remember the Confession of Peter: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’” (Matt. 16: 15-18 ESV). (Image: Peter by Francesco del Cossa, 1473)

As Lutherans we stress that this foundation rock is the confession of Jesus Christ, which Peter made.  Always the message is more important than the sinful man, though the man can also be the message, especially with Christ who is medium and message. It is Christ to whom all authority has been given on heaven and earth.  He also delegated some of this to the church when it is to bind and release sin.  So, there is always overlap, but Christ is in all and through all.

Which brings me to St. Patrick.  He made this beautiful and simple prayer, which is flying around in my purse.  Maybe I should laminate it.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me, 
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, and in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

There are people who want to wrest this confession out of our hearts, minds and souls.  I have been assailed by such people.  They are indefatigable.  It does make you wonder what exactly motivates them.  

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The "unnecessary" nature of Friendship / Lewis "The Four Loves" 6

You do marvel at how deeply a man like C.S. Lewis can think about a subject such as "friendship".  Most of us just blunder along and have friends.  It does make you wonder what is the necessity of all this analysis?  It seems that people have always talked and written about such things and, in any case, we probably would do well to analyze our close relationships more than we do.  Perhaps we are taking our friendships for granted.

P. 81

"I have stressed the 'unnecessary' character of Friendship, and this of course requires more justification than I have yet given it.

It could be argued that Friendships are of practical value to the Community.  Every civilized religion began in a small group of friends.  Mathematics effectively began with a few Greeks friends got together to talk about numbers and lines and angles.  What is now the Royal Society was originally a few gentlemen meeting in their spare time...  What we now call 'the romantic Movement' once was Mr Wordsworth and Mr Coleridge talking incessantly (at least Mr Coleridge was) about a secret vision of their own.  Communism, Tractarianism, Methodism, the movement against slavery, the Reformation, the Renaissance, might perhaps be said, without much exaggeration, to have begun in the same way.

There is something in this.  But nearly every reader would probably think some of these movements good for society and some bad...  What at any rate seems certain is that when Friendship bears fruit which the community can use it has to do so accidentally, as a by-product.  Religions devised for a social purpose, like roman emperor-worship or modern attempts to 'sell' Christianity as a means of 'saving civilization', do not come to much.  The little knots of Friends who turn their backs on the 'World' are those who really transform it."

--The Reformation?  Friends gathering?  Hmmmmm...   --We would probably say that the Reformation began in Luther's confessional time with Staupitz.  So we could say that the confessional was a small group meeting of two friends.  From there it went into Luther's study.  And from there to the university disputations.

But the aim was very much to improve civilization and the lives of the average citizen, to separate church and state and have the church cease waging wars, etc.  Luther went at this in a scholarly way, but not all by himself.

On the other hand the Lord Jesus said that he would be where two or three were gathered in his name.  Just worshiping him becomes a time of inspired friendship. The world would consider it a waste of time--"Unnecessary", as Lewis says.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Luther, Volume 76

The freshly translated Luther's Works, American Edition, Volume 76, came in the mail, last week.  !!!  Yea!  At this point, I have to put him on my reading pile, but I did get started into it already.  Who can resist sneaking a little Luther here and there...  (Not I...)

OK, ok, now I have to give you a sneak peak, too.

"The goal of the translation is to allow Luther to speak in modern English yet as a man of the sixteenth century.  The translators have been asked to resist bowdlerizing Luther's language to conform to modern sensibilities about society and gender--or scatology.  Editorial introductions and notes are offered to familiarize the reader with the particular circumstances of each text and its theological and social context."

I had to look up "bowdlerizing".  It means something like "censoring".  So Luther was not to be censored.  Good.  It would be a terrible mistake to try and fix him.

Ok, sneak peak:  the first piece is on Galatians 3: 23-29.  I think it is supposed to be a sermon, but it is 38 pages long. !!!  With 101 numbered paragraphs.  Well, it is on Galatians, his Katharina from Bora--letter, he can go on as long as he likes.

This is numbered paragraph 1:

"This is also a truly Pauline epistle, written about faith against works, and it is easy to understand from the previous Epistle.  What is said there about the slave is to be understood here about the student.  Here St. Paul introduces two comparisons to teach us what the law does and why it is useful.  Therefore, we must again speak about the law and its works, namely, that there are two kinds of works.  Some are extorted by fear of punishment or aroused by expectation of profit and reward;  others are done spontaneously, eagerly, and for free, without fear of punishment or striving for profit, but from pure kindness and desire for what is good.  The first are the works of the slave and the student;  the second are the works of the child and the free heir."

This is the beginning of the introduction into the much-treated matter:  law and gospel, slave vs. free, slave vs. heir.  Yet, Luther's insights into Paul have always been pivotal to us.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Finding Christ and community in South Africa

My cousin, who lives in South Africa, sent me this for Christmas and the New Year.  It is an article written by a writercouple from Berlin who moved to Africa and found faith in Christ, there. It is in the German language.  All I can do right now is post it.  It speaks about how people who grew up in a rich artistic milieu in Berlin, who have published books and novels, learned what it is to live when they met people in Africa and learned to trust in Christ in the Bible, becoming part of the world-wide community of faith.  He speaks about how life became three-dimensional instead of sketched.

Zeit Online 12.08.2012
Religion: "Ihr glaubt echt an die Bibel?"
Zwei Berliner Schriftsteller gehen nach Südafrika. Sie wissen nicht genau, wonach sie suchen.
Und dann finden sie Gott. Elke Naters und Sven Lager erzählen, wie sie zu Christen wurden.
Eine moderne Erweckungsgeschichte. Von Elke Naters und Sven Lager
Neulich beteten wir für einen sterbenskranken Bauarbeiter, der kurz darauf aus dem
Krankenhausbett aufstand, seinen Tropf in die Hand nahm, auf den Flur hinauslief und rief:
»Ich bin geheilt! Ich bin geheilt!«
Zur gleichen Zeit erhielten wir einen erbosten Brief von einer deutschen Familie, die eine
Townshiptour gemacht hatte. Ob wir jemals ein Township betreten hätten, wie sonst könnten
wir als Schriftsteller das Elend dort bunt und lebensfroh beschreiben. Ihre Empörung machte
uns bewusst, was uns so selbstverständlich geworden war, dass wir es nicht mehr bemerkten:
eine geradezu aggressive positive Lebenseinstellung.
Wir leben mit unseren Kindern seit sieben Jahren in Südafrika. Es war unsere Entscheidung,
das Licht im Dunkel der Welt zu sehen, die uns zum Glauben gebracht hat. Dieser Glaube hat
mit der transformierenden Kraft der Liebe zu tun.
Vor acht Jahren wohnten wir noch in Berlin-Mitte. Wir standen an einem Punkt unseres
Lebens, an dem sich ein Überdruss breitmachte, der schwer zu fassen war. Deutsche
Winterdepression? Berliner Künstlermelancholie? Midlife-Crisis?
Wir fragten uns, ob das alles war, was das Leben zu bieten hatte: Bücher schreiben, Kinder
kriegen, trinken gehen. Ein paar rauschhafte Nächte, gute Filme und anregende Gespräche. So
zog das Leben vorbei – die meiste Zeit recht angenehm, ohne besonderen Schmerz, aber auch
ohne besondere Tiefe.
Es musste mehr als all das geben. Wir lebten zwar in unvergleichlichem kulturellen Reichtum,
doch Kunst, Musik, Literatur boten keine Antworten mehr. Wir waren durstig und hungrig,
aber egal was wir in uns hineinfüllten, wir wurden nicht satt.
Die Autoren
Elke Naters, geboren 1963, wurde bekannt durch ihre Popromane »Königinnen« und »Mau
Mau«. Ihr Ehemann Sven Lager, geboren 1965, schrieb unter anderem eine
»Gebrauchsanweisung für Südafrika« und den Roman »Phosphor«. Als Autorenduo
veröffentlichten Naters und Lager zuletzt »Was wir von der Liebe verstehen«
Da es nicht weiter in die Tiefe ging, suchten wir die Lösung in der Breite. Wir wollten mehr
Sonne, herzlichere Menschen, noch mehr kulturelle Vielfalt und ein noch anregenderes
Leben. Wir dachten ans Mittelmeer, an Vancouver, an Kalifornien. Aber zu unserer
Überraschung landeten wir in Südafrika. Unsere Vorurteile fanden wir sofort bestätigt, als wir
auf der Autobahn an den Bretterbuden der Townships vorbeifuhren, die sich endlos hinzogen.
Aber es war auch verdammt schön, dieses Land. Die Weite, die Berge gleich neben dem
Meer. Der eisblaue, eiskalte Atlantik. So viel unbewohnte, unbebaute Natur griff uns
Stadtmenschen ans Herz.
In einer warmen Januarnacht saßen wir auf einer Bank im Garten unter der Bougainvillea, der
Mond ging auf, stand für einen Moment auf dem Bergrücken, als wollte er hinunterrollen und
im Meer versinken. Ein Frieden kam über uns. Und wir wussten, hier wollten wir leben.
Wir gingen Langusten angeln, im wilden Atlantik surfen, bestiegen den Tafelberg und lernten
Menschen kennen, die die natürliche Großzügigkeit ihres Landes widerspiegelten. Auch ihre
Lebensgeschichten waren ein paar Nummern größer als unsere.
Der Süßigkeitenverkäufer in der Grundschule unserer Kinder zum Beispiel war erst Lehrer,
dann Söldner im Kongo gewesen, danach Maisfarmer, und hatte später seine Korbfabrik in
einem tropischen Wirbelsturm verloren. Jetzt verkauft er Naturheilkräuter und afrikanischen
Schmuck und züchtet Papageien. Wilson Salukazana war Hotelboy und Bankangestellter
während der Apartheid, ist Kindergartengründer, Walschreier, Mentor vieler Vaterloser im
Township, König des Hlubi-Clans, Fundraiser und mit seinen 70 Jahren auch noch Tourguide.
Vor allem aber Christ.
Es dauerte auch nicht lange, und wir begriffen, wie sehr die Menschen hier vom christlichen
Glauben geprägt waren. Nelson Mandelas Absage an die Gewalt und seine Predigten für
Vergebung hatten die junge Demokratie vor dem Bürgerkrieg bewahrt. Ohne Desmond Tutu
und die Wahrheitskommission hätte es nie den Frieden gegeben, den die Opfer brauchten, um
das Trauma der Apartheid zu überwinden und weiterzuleben. Vergebung war und ist im
südafrikanischen Alltag wichtig. Anders als in unserer Heimat. Schwer vorstellbar, dass in
Deutschland ein Altnazi einem ehemaligen KZ-Häftling die Füße wäscht, wie der ehemalige
Sicherheitsminister Südafrikas, Adrian Vlok, dem Kirchenmann Chikane, dessen Vergiftung
er während der Apartheid angeordnet hatte. Oder die Mutter der jungen Amerikanerin Amy
Biel, die in einer Township gesteinigt wurde: Sie vergab den Mördern nicht nur, sondern
verhalf ihnen zu einem besseren Leben.
Der Glaube der Südafrikaner ist radikaler
als Punk oder Revolution
Solche Geschichten übermenschlicher Liebe sind in Südafrika an der Tagesordnung. Immer
geht es um Vergebung, Nächstenliebe, Ermutigung, Gemeinschaft. Hier hat der christliche
Glaube noch eine soziale Kraft. Keine sprengende, sondern eine vereinende. Als unsere
Kinder sich an die neue Sprache gewöhnt und eingelebt hatten, erkrankte in ihrer Schule der
siebenjährige Zach an einem Gehirntumor. Die ganze Nachbarschaft half, kochte, fuhr seine
Brüder in die Schule und sammelte Geld für die Mutter, damit sie möglichst viel Zeit bei ihm
im Krankenhaus verbringen konnte. Zach ist jetzt zwölf. Und Dutzende Freunde stehen der
Familie immer noch bei mit allem, was sie haben. Das ist Jesus in Action.
Der Glaube der Südafrikaner ist radikaler als Punk oder Revolution
Unter Südafrikanern lernten wir einen Gott kennen, der in den Menschen lebt und nicht in
einem Kirchengebäude. Einen persönlichen Gott, der Humor hat, der liebt und den Menschen
Zuversicht gibt. Einen Glauben, der radikaler ist als Punk, Kommunismus, Feminismus und
jede Revolution. Der Krankheit, Rassen und Klassen überwindet. Einen gerechten Gott, der es
ablehnt, dass ein Prozent der Bevölkerung 50 Prozent des Profits einstreicht, und der jedem
jederzeit ein neues Leben anbietet.
Jesus gab sich gern mit Außenseitern ab und schien ständig mit seinen Jüngern Wein zu
trinken. Vor 200 Jahren taten die deutschen Missionare in Südafrika etwas Ähnliches. Sie
brachten ehemaligen Sklaven Lesen, Schreiben, Musizieren und ein Handwerk bei. Sie führen
heute noch basisdemokratische Kommunendörfer in allen Teilen des Landes. Auf uns wirken
sie wie wahr gewordene Utopien – und das hat uns zu Christen werden lassen.
Seither sehen wir die Kraft des Glaubens nicht nur in Südafrika. Der Amerikaner Shane
Claiborne zum Beispiel hat schon viele Jahre vor der Occupy-Bewegung 10.000 Dollar in
Münzen und kleinen Scheinen auf die Wall Street gekippt, und einen Tumult verursacht, dass
die Straße abgesperrt werden musste. Radikale Großzügigkeit verschließt die Türen der Gier –
so lautete seine christliche Botschaft.
In unserem deutschen Freundeskreis wären wir auf mehr Verständnis gestoßen, wenn wir
Buddhisten, Veganer oder akoholabhängig geworden wären. »Ihr glaubt echt an die Bibel?« –
»Ja, wir leben danach.« – »Also seid ihr Fundamentalisten? Wie Bush und die Leute, die vor
Abtreibungskliniken stehen?« – »Nein, aber wir glauben, dass Jesus wiederauferstanden ist
und in uns lebt.« »Ewiges Leben, Himmel und Hölle?« – »Genau. Und wir glauben an ein
Leben vor dem Tod.« –»Oh...« Spätestens jetzt wird die zweite Flasche Pinotage entkorkt.
Nicht jeder unserer Freunde glaubt nach ein paar Flaschen Wein, was wir glauben, aber wir
haben den Stein ins Rollen gebracht, die Kultur des Glaubensaustausches angeregt. Die
meisten wissen ja nicht, was es heißt, ein Christ zu sein. Wir sind immer wieder überrascht,
wie wenig wir selber lange Zeit wussten. Wir sind zwar konfirmiert, einer von uns ist sogar in
einem katholischen Internat zur Schule gegangen, doch das hatte unser Leben bis dahin nicht
weiter beeinflusst. Erst Südafrika, wo wir eine andere Sprache sprechen und ein fremdes Land
verstehen mussten, half uns, eine Offenheit zu entwickeln, für die wir sonst nicht bereit
gewesen wären. Offenheit auch für einen Glauben, den wir längst als verstaubt abgelegt
Anfangs war Südafrika nur Abenteuer, ein Vordringen in unbekannte Welten, das wir wie
Anthropologen betrieben. Und es war unheimlich und faszinierend zugleich, wenn wir in
einem fremden Wohnzimmer saßen bei Menschen, die mit geschlossenen Augen Hände
auflegten, in Zungen beteten oder unter Tränen erzählten, was Gott in ihrem Leben bewirkt
So verrückt das alles zunächst wirkte, die Menschen waren aufrichtig, und die Zeugnisse ihrer
transformierten Leben waren die besten Geschichten, die wir je gehört hatten. Wie die von
Enrico. Enrico war ein hochrangiger Gangster. Seine Zähne sind aus Gold, er ist von Kopf bis
Fuß tätowiert, sein Rang ist ihm in die Haut gestochen, seine Vergangenheit offensichtlich,
jeder Gangster muss ihn respektieren. Vor drei Jahren erschoss er beim Säubern seiner Waffe
seinen besten Freund. Als er begriff, dass Gott ihm vergab, was er sich selbst nicht vergeben
konnte, änderte sich alles für ihn. Er ließ sein Verbrecherleben hinter sich, verdient jetzt sein
Geld mit Gelegenheitsjobs, sammelt und repariert Spielzeug für Kinder, schreibt
Theaterstücke für Jugendliche.
Oder James, den Gott schwer krank im Krankenhausbett aufsuchte, obwohl James nichts von
ihm wissen wollte, und ihn auf einen Schlag heilte. Seine Familie dachte, er sei verrückt
geworden, als er plötzlich zu beten begann und nur noch von Gott sprach. Bis dahin hatte nur
seine Frau gebetet und an den Straßenecken gepredigt, und auch das nur, wenn sie betrunken
war. James hörte auf zu trinken, betrog seine Frau nicht mehr und brachte seine ganze Familie
zum Glauben. Einschließlich seines unehelichen Sohns, der von Crystal Meth loskam.
Das war, was uns als Schriftsteller faszinierte: die Menschen und ihre Dramen, die so wahr
und wild waren. So lasen wir auch die Bibel, als tiefbewegende Geschichte echter Menschen.
Das beste Buch aller Zeiten, wie schon Bertolt Brecht gesagt hat.
"Ihr glaubt echt an die Bibel?"
Die Europäer kennen das Wort Kirche, aber
keine Gemeinschaft
Anfangs war unser Glaube noch ein wenig verschwommen, enthielt viel Zweifel und Skepsis.
Aber nach und nach entfaltete sich die Wahrheit in ihrer ganzen Schönheit. Das hört nie auf.
Die radikale Liebe Gottes, die Freiheit, die wir in ihm finden, und wie Jesus sich in jedem
Menschen spiegelt – um das zu verstehen werden wir mehr als nur ein Menschenleben
brauchen. Dazu braucht man ein ewiges Leben, denn der Glaube sprengt unser weltliches
In Südafrika erleben wir, wie der Glaube die Herzen der unterschiedlichsten Menschen
verknüpft. Das ist mehr als eine Religion, das ist real und lebensverändernd. Zum ersten Mal
fanden wir Freunde, die in keiner Weise waren wie wir. Die nicht die gleichen Bücher
gelesen, die gleichen Filme gesehen, die gleiche Musik gehört hatten. Wir sind ihnen
trotzdem nahe. Wie Patrick, unserem jungen Freund vom Stamm der Xhosa. Patrick hatte in
der zehnten Klasse die Schule verlassen, mit dem Wildern von Abalonemuscheln für die
Gangstersyndikate etwas Geld verdient und blieb nach einem Fahrradunfall
querschnittsgelähmt. Wir lernten uns im Krankenhaus kennen und beteten jede Woche
zusammen, aber es ging bergab mit ihm. Die Bettwunden schlossen sich nicht, er hatte Aids
und war depressiv. Er wurde immer dünner und immer schwächer und schlief den ganzen Tag
mit einem Laken überm Kopf. Die Ärzte und sogar seine Familie hatten ihn schon
Aber dann kam Sipokasi, eine alte Schulfreundin von Patrick, und schlug vor, ihn zu taufen.
Über Nacht ging es Patrick besser. Die Ärzte waren baff. Denn die Veränderung war
offensichtlich. Es war, als hätte man ein Licht in ihm angeknipst. Seine Depression
verschwand, er nahm zu, und wenige Wochen später wurde er aus dem Krankenhaus
entlassen. Seine Mutter war außer sich vor Freude. Sie glaubte, dass jemand zuvor mithilfe
eines Zauberdoktors einen Fluch auf ihre Familie gelegt hatte. Das Verwünschen aus Neid
und Eifersucht ist häufig unter den Xhosa, und viel Geld wird verschwendet, Flüche mit
Gegenzaubern aufzuheben.
Sogenannte Sangomas bieten ihre zauberkräftige Hilfe in allen Bereichen an: Krankheit,
Schulden, Ehestreit, Erektionsprobleme, unerwiderte Liebe – für alles gibt es ein Muti, einen
Zauberspruch und ein Mittelchen. Prostituierte zahlen jeden Monat eine beträchtliche Summe,
um vor Aids und Schwangerschaft geschützt zu werden, was ihnen trotzdem nicht hilft.
Rose, eine moderne junge Xhosa-Frau, wurde schon als Kind in ihrem Clan als Sangoma
vorgesehen. Die Welt der Zauberei, wie sie uns Deutschen in den Märchen der Brüder Grimm
überliefert wird, ist für real. Wassergeister, Hexen und Dämonen. Etwa ein Jahr nachdem sie
Christin geworden war, begann der wirkliche Kampf um sie. Wann immer sie anfing laut zu
beten, kamen unangenehme Dinge aus ihrem Mund, Schimpfworte, Flüche, unheimliches
Zeug. Es überkam sie jedesmal ganz plötzlich, und mehrmals musste sie deswegen aus der
Kirche rennen. Die Kirchenfamilie aber betete unverdrossen. Und Gott half Rose mit seiner
Liebe, die Angst wich, die Attacken hörten auf, und sie kamen nie wieder zurück.
Durch Freunde wie Patrick und Rose lernten wir, dass der christliche Glaube in Afrika nicht
nur eine Lebenshaltung oder eine Philosophie ist. Für Patrick wurde mit dem Heiligen Geist
die Macht der bösen Geister über seine Familie gebrochen. Er glaubt an einen realen Gott, der
ihn beschützt: einen persönlichen Gott der Wunder, der allen anderen spirituellen Wesen, die
den Menschen schaden könnten, überlegen ist.
Die Europäer kennen das Wort Kirche, aber keine Gemeinschaft
Die Jesusgeschichte, dass Gott am Kreuz für unsere Sünden gestorben und seine
Wiederauferstehung Triumph über den Tod ist, das leuchtet jedem Afrikaner ein – während
die Westeuropäer das Übernatürliche nur noch symbolisch verstehen. Also gar nicht.
Wir aber haben in Afrika gelernt, dass das Evangelium die unterschiedlichsten Menschen in
einer Familie zusammenbringt, denn die Stärke des Glaubens liegt im Ubuntu, wie die Xhosa
den bedingungslosen Zusammenhalt der Gemeinschaft nennen. Die Europäer kennen dafür
zwar das Wort Kirche. Nur dass ihnen seine radikale frühchristliche Bedeutung verloren
gegangen ist.
Uns hat der Glaube auch als Familie stärker gemacht und unsere Liebe füreinander vertieft. Es
ist fast so, als würden wir unser Leben plötzlich dreidimensional sehen statt nur skizziert. Und
wir können uns gar nicht mehr vorstellen, wie andere Menschen ohne Jesus eine Ehe führen,
wie sie die Pubertät ihrer Kinder meistern, wie sie Geldkrisen, Sorgen, Sehnsüchte, Ängste,
Todesfälle ertragen, wie sie auch nur das eigene Älterwerden bewältigen.
Wir haben in Afrika auch begriffen, dass wir nicht alles verstehen müssen. Was wir wissen,
ist, dass Gott uns den Auftrag gibt, diese Welt zu einer besseren zu machen. Ganz einfach.
Mit Humor, mit Freude und mit unserer Kunst. Mit aufrichtiger- Liebe füreinander. Von
Mensch zu Mensch – aber mithilfe einer Kraft, die göttlich ist.

Finding a Friend / C.S.Lewis "The Four Loves" 5 / Friendship cont.

Friendship cont.

"Lovers seek for privacy.  Friends find this solitude about them, this barrier between them and the herd, whether they want it or not.  They would be glad to reduce it.  The first two would be glad to find a third.  

In our own time friendship arises in the same way.  For us of course the shared activity and therefore the companionship on which Friendship supervenes will not often be a bodily one like hunting or fighting.  It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation.  All who share it will be our companions;  but one or two or three who share something more will be our friends.  In this kind of love, as Emerson said, do you love me?  means do you see the same truth?--Or at least, 'Do you care about the same truth?'  The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, if is of great importance, can be our Friend.  He need not agree with us about the answer.  

Notice that Friendship thus repeats on a more individual and less socially necessary level the character of the companionship which was its matrix.  The Companionship was between people who were doing something together--hunting, studying, painting or what you will.  The Friends will still be doing something together, but something more inward, less widely shared and less easily defined;  still hunters, but of some immaterial quarry;  still collaborating, but in some work the world does not, or not yet, take account of;  still travelling companions, but on a different kind of journey.  Hence we picture lovers face to face but Friends side by side;  their eyes look ahead.

That is why those pathetic people who simply 'want friends' can never make any.  The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends."   (pp. 79-80)

C.S. Lewis understood all this so well.  He looked for Joy, and found it when he was NOT looking.  We seek Friends.  We seek Authenticity.  We seek Humility.  We seek Vocation.  We seek and seek and only find when we look away from ourselves.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Teaching the 10 Commandments through Bible stories.

First Commandment: Mark 10:17-22 (rich young man)
Second Commandment: Exodus 3:12-15 (God reveals His name to Moses)
Third Commandment: Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha)
Fourth Commandment: II Samuel 15:1-37 (Absalom disobeys David)
Fifth Commandment: Genesis 4:1-16 (Cain murders Abel)
Sixth Commandment: II Samuel 11:1-5 (David commits adultery)
Seventh Commandment: Joshua 7:20-22 (Achan secretly steals).
Eighth Commandment: Matthew 26:59-61 (False witnesses testify against Jesus)
Ninth Commandment: I Kings 21:11-16 (Ahab covets Naboth’s vineyard)
Tenth Commandment: Philemon (Paul returned a runaway slave to his master)

(Pastor Donovan Riley)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

C.S. Lewis / The Four Loves 4 / Friendship 2

"In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.  By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity;  I want other lights than my own to show all his facets...  Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend.  They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.'  For in this love 'to divide is not to take away'.  Of course the scarcity of kindred souls--not to mention practical considerations about the size of rooms and the audibility of voices--set limits to the enlargement of the circle;  but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases.  In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious 'nearness by resemblance' to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed increases the fruition which each has of God.  For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.  That says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' to one another (Isaiah 6:3).  The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have."  pp. 74,75.

That is just so beautiful.   So beautiful it is breathtaking.

And just like a Bible study.  When everybody gets together and gleans things from the text and loves it and knows their sin and knows their Savior and savors his words and actions.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas Holiday Reading

Over the holidays I read "Winnie the Pooh"!!!  For the first time, ever!  I have not even seen a Disney Movie.
I laughed some and cried some, and it was delightful.  This is the version I had, the original with the original drawings.

I also read some of it to my nieces and nephew of various ages.  And to my husband.

Hm, who is my favorite character?  Winnie, of course, is marvelous, the bear without brains but always making poems and schemes.  Eeyore reminds us of ourselves, a lot, with his depressive mood and negative and needy ways.  And so on.  You know what I am talking about.  I don't think we have anything quite so sweet in German.  As Christopher Robin said:  "Tell it to me sweetly".  Which is how it goes.

The other book was Jonathan Fisk's, which I thought quite brilliant and timely. And with-it.  And fundamental, exposing common errors.


On Amazon, you can read the beginning pages, which are quite well constructed to draw you into the problematic. Very much worth getting.  Get several copies right away because you will want to give some away.

I also started this book, which I conveniently gave to my husband as a present.  I started underlining in it all over the place, which is turning him off from reading it, he says.  I said I could get him another copy, if he'd like. -- It is a very Roman Catholic book, a little hagiographical, but still totally worth it.  I am afraid I will have underlined half the book because there is so much to learn about the men and their times.  It seems to me we don't know enough about the closing decades of the 19th century and the earlier parts of the 20th century.

You can also look inside this book on Amazon to see how it reads.  Chesterton now seems to us such a neglected and important critic and heresy hunter, I feel that for next Christmas I might want to get the collected works or a larger collection.  I've been reading him in I-books.  But an important man like that!--you don't read him in I-books.

So much.  Stuff to do.  Lot's to do.  New work...

Can Atheism be unified?

It reminds one of when Hitler was pitted against Stalin, both of whom steam-rolled over millions, not caring how many died.  Can atheism be "friendly"?  Can it be an "assembly"?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Loehe on Weekly Worship

"In worship the congregation experiences its Lord most intimately.  Here it lives in nearest proximity to its Groom in a heavenly life on earth, an earthly life in heaven.  Worship is the most beautiful flower of earthly life.  Just like land in the middle of an ocean, the Word and the Sacraments stand in the inner life and worship of the congregation.  You have one week behind you, a new week lies in front of you.  Between these two weeks is the day of Communion Sunday.  You desire to draw near to God with the congregation.  What do you, whether you are a shepherd or a sheep, have to do first?  You do what all religions say is necessary for the soul:  you cleans it like feet that have become dirty from the activity of daily life.  In other words, you prepare yourself for worship by confessing your sins and receiving absolution.  Being cleansed from sin, you enter into the joys of the particular festival day or Sunday.  But the worshiper finds that earth still has other burdens and sorrows, both present and future.  Life, death, and eternity, with all of their bitter fruits and consequences, threaten you as you journey to the heavenly kingdom.  Worries burden you and keep burdening you.  But no longer does sin torture you, no longer do you fear evil, no longer do you sigh longingly, but joyful confidence fills your soul.  You sit beneath the face of the Lord.  In the sermon you begin to experience the blessed communion of the saints who rejoice in the Lord.  The worshiping congregation experiences itself as the Bride of the Lord, rich not only in and through Him but also in and through one another.  The congregation, in its fullness thinks of the special needs and miseries upon the earth, delights in all good things, and goes before the altar of the Lord with intercessions, petitions, and prayers.  All worshipers are blessed and approach the throne of blessing knowing they are worthy.  The worshipers realize that the Church is one unit both here and everywhere.  Pilgrims are one in their prayers and are cleansed with all of the blessed saints in heaven.  (J.K. Wilhelm Loehe, in Treasure of Daily Prayer, p. 1080 and 1081, Concordia Publishing House.) 

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Five years--seems like thirty.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

C.S.Lewis / "The Four Loves" 3 / Friendship

A  C.S. Lewis post from the other day, has suddenly had very many hits, I believe from people who are dealing with abusive relationships and are coming from a particular website. (Maybe.)  C.S. Lewis, for reasons one can glean from his autobiographical writing,  had good insight into abusive relationships. This is motivating me to open the new year by quoting C.S. Lewis and "The Four Loves", again.  For myself, for the new year, I hope that I will engage less with abusive people.  It does not seem to do any good.  Jesus didn't do it either.  He kept silent or was very brief.

Let's move into chapter 4, on "Friendship".  I read this chapter to my husband on the beach in Hawaii.  Somehow, it did not motivate him to pick up the book, but he said some homosexuals a towel over were listening intently. -- I did not see them.  He would notice this.

"When either Affection or Eros is one's theme, one finds a prepared audience.  The importance and beauty of both have been stressed and almost exaggerated again and again.  Even those who would debunk them are in conscious reaction against this laudatory tradition and, to that extent, influenced by it.  But very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all.  I cannot remember that any poem since In Memoriam, or any novel, has celebrated it. ...  To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves;  the crown of life and the school of virtue.  The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.  We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few 'friends'.  But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describe as 'friendship', how clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book.  It is something quite marginal;  not a main course in life's banquet; a diversion; something that fills up the chinks of one's time.  How has this come about?

The first and most obvious answer is that few value it because few experience it.  And the possibility of going through life without the experience is rooted in that fact which separates Friendship so sharply from both the other loves.  Friendship is--in a sense not at all derogatory to it--the least natural of loves;  the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary.  It has least commerce with our nerves;  there is nothing throaty about it;  nothing that quickens the pulse or turns you red and pale.  It is essentially between individuals;  the moment two men are friends they have in some degree drawn apart together from the herd.  Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared;  but we can live and breed without Friendship.  The species, biologically considered, has no need of it.  The pack or herd--the community--may even dislike and distrust it.  Its leaders very often do.  ...

But in Friendship--in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen--you got away from all that.  This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.

But then came Romanticism and 'tearful comedy' and the 'return to nature' and the exaltation of Sentiment;  and in their train all that great wallow of emotion which, though often criticized, has lasted ever since.  Finally, the exaltation of instinct, the dark gods in the blood;  whose hierophants may be incapable of male friendship.  ... There was not blood and guts enough about it to attract the primitivists.  It looked thin and etiolated;  a sort of vegetarian substitute for the more organic loves.  

... For all these reasons if a man believes (as I do) that the old estimate of Friendship was the correct one, he can hardly write a chapter on it except as a rehabilitation.

This imposes on me at the outset a very tiresome bit of demolition.  It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual.  

... the rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair.  Lovers are always talking to one another about their love;  Friends hardly ever about their Friendship.  Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other;  Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.  Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only.  But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best.  And the reason for this is important.  Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A,B, and C), A should die, the B loses not only A but A's part in B.  In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.  By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity;  I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.  Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke.  Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.  Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves."  (pp.69-74)

--Let this suffice as an introduction to "Friendship".  Lewis develops this last thought more fully, after this, in a very moving way.  Just the idea that three friends together are better than two friends together is an important insight.

When I get together with my girl-friends, it tends to be with one or with two more or sometimes with four more.  When there are five of us, we have developed a system of taking turns in talking, so everyone gets to have an equal chance.  This is also a way of bringing each other out, being silent so the quieter one will talk.  We find these get-together`s extremely satisfying.  We have them scheduled at regular intervals, and though they may be difficult to schedule, with a laborious process in place to get everyone on the same page, none of us would miss the event.  They have become an absolute priority when it comes time to plan them.

Why is this?  Certainly, there is noting erotic or homoerotic about it, but often only other women can understand a woman, and often only other women will be interested in something that a woman has to say.

What about male-female "friendships"? --  It is different.  You cannot sink yourself into them the same way you can with your same-sex friendship.

So much for New Year's Day, 2014.

What do we mean when we say that through Christ we have Friendship with God?  "I call you Friends", Jesus said.  He said the evidence is his willingness to die.  A true friend is willing to die for you.  He died for us, and, at least theoretically and emotionally, we are willing to die for him.  Our prayer is for a steadfast faith, which is also his gift to us, through all the means through which he sustains it.

Such as the meal.  Just like we get together with our friends to commune and share.