Acts 4:12

“And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”

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At first glance the picture above may appear to be the tower of some great English cathedral. Actually, it’s a photo I took at Yale university on the occasion of Kristin’s graduation.

The vast amounts of energy and resource poured into institutions such as Yale testify to a supreme sense of self-importance. Indeed, the academic culture speaks from what we have come to characterize as the ‘Ivory Tower’ with the sense of the royal ‘we’, claiming an expertise and superiority that is meant to be the latest, if not the last, word.

For the most part, theological seminaries have cast their lot with the academic culture. A glance at the faculty lists of main-line seminaries will reveal names followed by the abbreviations of academia, symbols of their expertise. But they can also be symbols of something else, something that academics in the church have a hard time confronting. Namely, conformity to the values of the academic culture.

I have joked, (actually, I have been quite serious) that every person who serves on a theological faculty should be mandated to teach confirmation classes and visit nursing homes as part of their job description. What does a Biblical theologian resplendent with a PhD have to say to a teenager in love with Ipods, laptops and pop culture? What does a high flying systematics prof have to say to a woman living out her last months in a nursing home on some nameless side street, neglected or forgotten by her family and the ‘progressing’ world around her?

If professional theologians have nothing to say to the teenage pop culture addict or a dying woman, then I have a hard time understanding what they have to say to a classroom full of seminarians destined for the trenches to do battle with “sin, death and the power of the devil”. The fact is, many of these religious professionals don’t have anything to say. They give hot air a bad name. Naturally, many would object to this. But the course descriptions of a typical mainline seminary today, Lutheran or otherwise, reveal a simple fact: the ‘schools of the prophets’ have become graduate schools in religion where the religiously diverse and inclusive values of the academic culture have made Jesus just one more option on the religious salad bar.

Theological faculties and congregations would do well to remember that it is what the church has to say to the fallen world, in its state of perpetual bondage and lostness unto death that finally matters. The academic culture and the wider society, with all their generous diversity, have no answer to these. Jesus does. For Christ, and the salvation that is in Him alone, is the heart, soul and substance of the Church’s message. It is in the sounding of this one, glorious note that the Church finds its voice, and the world its hope.

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From Pastor Mark’s blog:

http://www.lightofthemaster.net/apps/blog

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“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew 26:29

Linda and I stepped out of the elevator and this is the scene that greeted us. The rooftop restaurant looks out on the Roman Forum and Capitoline Hill.  The beautifully set tables announced that a gathering was imminent.  And sure enough, just a few minutes after this picture was taken, every seat was filled. A large family and some friends were gathering after a First Communion. Wine began flowing, food was served. The setting was spectatcular, the atmosphere joyful, full of life, a celebration. It was great to be there, even if we were on the outside looking in.

Thank God for these moments. Respites when we may gather with others for celebrations; brief truces in the wider conflicts, struggles and pressures of living, little glimpses of God’s promised future.

When our Lord Jesus Christ gathered with His disciples for what we know as the Last Supper, He was giving them, and us, a foretaste of the future. “I will not drink of the cup again”, He said, “until I drink it with you in my Father’s kingdom.” In other places, Christ Jesus described the coming kingdom as a marriage feast that knows no end. In every service of Holy Communion the future comes to meet us, full of joy and promise.

Some day, we will all be gathered at the banquet of the Lamb. Fellowship with the Living God will be the occasion for us. The endless drone of the world’s melancholy will finally give way to the joyous harmonies of eternal Easter, the glorious celebration that Christ has prepared for His people.  We will enter the banquet hall of the kingdom. Every place will be set and the feast that knows no end will begin! 

 

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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From  Pastor Mark’s blog:

http://www.lightofthemaster.com/apps/blog

 

Thank you, Pastor Mark.

Romans 1:16

 

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“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the power of God unto salvation…”

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March 14, 2012    (from Pastor Mark’s blog http://www.lightofthemaster.com/apps/blog )

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 I don’t remember his first name anymore but his last name was Carlson or Larson or Hansen or Johnson or something like that.  OK, I don’t remember his last name either!  Anyway, this wiry old Norwegian came up to me after the Reformation Sunday service at First Lutheran Church, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, October 1977.  During the offering the organist and I had performed a rousing rendition of ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’, she on the pipe organ (somewhat nervously as I recall) and yours truly adding a withering obligato on the electric guitar ( a bright red 1966 Gibson 335) complete with distortion pedal and major rock n’ roll attitude.  Mr. Han-Carl-John-Lars-son was neither inspired or edified.  “I want to congratulate you, Pastor Anderson, he said dryly.  “You have managed to overshadow the Word of God this morning and drag Luther’s hymn into the gutter at the same time.”  Ouch!  At the time of course, I dismissed him out of hand.  Now I can only marvel at the miles of passivity that old Scandinavian had to cross in order to confront one of his pastors.  I also wish I could sit down with him – which I should have done then – and listen to him.  He was onto me.  He came from a Lutheranism where laity understood they had a responsibility to the Word of God just as much as the pastor.  He was exercising his stewardship of that Word but I was too full of myself to hear him.  I was too busy being ‘relevant’ instead of being his pastor.

 

What I finally did hear while sipping coffee with those old Norwegians – and a few misplaced Swedes – was that faith in Jesus Christ and His promises was the marrow in their lives.  And they had not come to this faith because some clergy person stuck his\her finger in the wind and then blathered on from the pulpit about the indelible wonderfulness of now.  The message that gripped them was the Gospel; the old, old story of Jesus and His love often expressed in their favorite hymns; Beautiful Savior, The Old Rugged Cross, Abide with Me, and yes, In the Garden.  During the years I was their pastor I had to bury some of these folks.  Often, in those last days before the end sitting by their bedsides I would sing these old hymns accompanied by a guitar and read passages from the Bible.  And that is when I learned something that had taken me too long to learn; if you can’t sing it or say it at someone’s deathbed it probably isn’t worth singing or saying  at all.

 

 

“May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Photo from flickr and  côte d’ivoire
 
 
 
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