30 January 2009

Conclusion to the Lord's Prayer

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining Pastors Keith Ellerbrock and Dick Bolland on the Issues, Etc. Pastor's Roundtable to discuss the Conclusion to the Lord's Prayer. You can listen here.

DOXOLOGY Notes: Intersection of Psychotherapy and Pastoral Care

In my last post I praised the recent DOXOLOGY retreat which I was privileged to attend. Beginning with this post, God willing, I want to give a series of summations and reflections on what I heard and learned at DOXOLOGY. I will follow the outline notes that all of us received in our handy-dandy binder, along with some of my hand-written notes and some reflections and commentary as I look back on the points made by the two presenters. While I hope that these posts of summary and reflection are helpful to all who read them, please let me say at the outset that they are not intended to replace attending and taking part in DOXOLOGY first-hand. Though I joyously want others to know what great things are to be had at a DOXOLOGY retreat, nothing can compare to "being there" and experiencing everything, from the worship to the sessions to the camaraderie. Dr. Harold Senkbeil and Dr. Beverly Yahnke deserve all the credit for anything good and salutary you may find here, and, of course, any inaccuracies due to things such as distraction while listening, failing memory or illegible handwriting, belong solely to me. I hope you enjoy these posts, and I especially hope that they will spark a desire for my brothers in the pastoral office to attend DOXOLOGY themselves.

The topic of psychotherapy may make some pastors a tad uncomfortable. I know that it used to raise the red flags for me. “What does secular, humanistic counseling have to do with the pastor’s task of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and giving out His life-giving Sacraments?” I used to ask. Too often we pastors, at least some of us, tend to dismiss wholesale the psychological disciplines and helps.

In recent years, though, I am coming to appreciate the First Article gifts of wisdom and cures in the mental health disciplines, both for myself and for my parishioners. No, that does not make me a “counselor” or “psychologist,” nor will I try to play one in my study or on TV. Yes, treating the mind and addressing human behaviors, healthy and unhealthy, are salutary and just down-to-earth helpful human endeavors.

The first session of DOXOLOGY addressed “Word, Sacrament and Psychotherapy.” Dr. Beverly Yahnke did a great job of showing the healthy intersection of psychotherapy and pastoral care while at the same time opening our eyes to the specific problematic aspects of the psychological disciplines. Let’s call it learning to cut with a scalpel rather than an axe. Instead of dismissing psychotherapy wholesale (the axe approach), let’s learn to receive the good First Article gifts that come down from the Father of lights in this area while steering away from those aspects that reject God and faith (the scalpel approach).

Since Dr. Yahnke has discovered first-hand the bias that many psychologists have against God and faith, she helps us discern the wheat from the chaff in the realm of counseling. Of course, secularists in the field reject all expressions of faith. Empathic responders ignore faith and respond merely to feelings. For them the counseling relationship is paramount and most helpful. On the other end of the spectrum we may encounter nouthetic counselors who reject all secular methodology and believe that the only useful treatment consists of repentance, forgiveness and trust in God. Finally, we can learn to spot the integrationists, those who take the best of the psychological methods and subject them to Scripture. In this realm, which I understand Dr. Yahnke to advocate, psychology has its salutary place, but it stops where God’s Word and the state of the soul begins. Think of an intersection, and not just a one-way road.

Many of us may already be familiar with the “creed of secular psychology,” but it’s always helpful to review it. In secular psychology, we are told to find our own truth, after all everyone has his/her own truth, and then we are told to find comfort in that self-determined truth. We are also told to take care of number one, shaping ourselves, working to achieve whatever good gift we determine we may want. And, of course, we must learn to forgive ourselves. Along with that comes the notion that we are not responsible for many of the things that are wrong in our lives. After all, people are innately good, says the secular psychological creed. Other tenets to this creed include: following a program (a certain number of steps) leads to health and success; happiness is a sufficient therapeutic goal; suffering is meaningless; and the therapists themselves are essential for healing.

With such humanistic underpinnings, we may wonder why our good laypeople so actively prefer psychotherapy to a pastor’s spiritual care. Here’s where the rubber of DOXOLOGY hits the road for pastoral work in the congregation. (And pastors, go ahead and get that little target out and place it right between your eyes. That’s what this part of the presentation did for me and, I would guess, many brothers also in attendance.)

Why do our good lay folk prefer psychotherapy to good ol’ Christ-centered spiritual care from one’s pastor? Dr. Yahnke gave these reasons:

  • Even the best of Lutherans uses “pre-emptive personal pardon.” In other words, our good lay folk are quite used to saying, “I can forgive myself,” and hence they see and feel little need for the pastor or the church.
  • Many in our pews simply are not aware that their pastor desires to offer spiritual care. As Dr. Yahnke would plead on behalf of her fellow laity: “Pastor, teach us what you do in offering Confession and Absolution, praying with us, and giving blessings.”
  • Often we pastors (yes, I include myself in this indictment) are too engaged with the job of running the parish, the “organizational jungle gym,” as Dr. Yahnke called it. How many times have you, pastor, said, “I’m just too busy”?
  • Pastors may be regarded as out of touch with real life. Our people may wonder if we really do get dirty with sin, sickness, and other problems. They may wonder if we know the challenges of being a father, and if we struggle with that parenting stuff as they do.
  • Not everyone trusts his/her pastor to honor a confidence. Let that one sink in, brothers, especially when we gather together over food and libations and “let our hair down” with each other! Our people need to hear plenteous reassurances that all they discuss with their pastor will be kept confidential.
  • Fear of the pastor’s personal judgment is a sufficient deterrent to seeking pastoral care. As Dr. Yahnke quipped, they may very well fear the pastor more than they fear God Himself. They know He is just and good; they’re not so sure about the pastor.
  • Pastors may be so light-hearted and upbeat that they are unapproachable. (Very interesting, I thought.) Would the light-hearted, ever-upbeat pastor really take the dark secrets of the soul seriously?
  • Finally, pastoral care is not “in,” that is, it is not socially sanctioned. Everyone knows about running to the counselor in time of need, but going to one’s pastor? Well, it’s not quite the culturally acceptable or common thing.

With all of this in mind, our people may not perceive their pastors as “experts,” but they know that they want the best services available. Also, our people begin to suspect that clergy cannot really do anything to help, especially if we clergy trivialize what we have to offer. How many of us pastors have thought, or even said, “Well, I only have God’s Word and Sacraments”? Yes, that may be “all” we have, but there’s no “only” about it. They really are mighty powerful tools—the Holy Spirit’s tools—for healing our most infectious contagion called sin and death, and thus affecting our health in other ways as well.

What can we pastors to do remedy this disconnect that truly exists in the minds and expectations of our people? Dr. Yahnke again made an appeal to pastors, as if speaking for all of our lay people, but I’ll speak from pastor to pastors.

We pastors must speak powerfully in the face of our post-modern culture. After all, our sheep are grazing in those pastures every day. Our people need to see that spirituality as revealed and given in the Scriptures is the real venue to genuine happiness. We pastors need to preach regularly on vocations such as mother and father, on the holy estate of marriage, and on receiving the love of the living God and His eternal yet presently life-changing gifts.

Our people do not want us to “get in the way” of God’s Word. They want us to talk about God and His Word, yes, but they also want us to talk in understandable ways and in terms that show we understand the life in which they live, work, rest and play.

While we pastors know it intellectually, we certainly do well to hear our people tell us: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” In all that we do and say, in all of our preaching and teaching, our people want to see Jesus. And, as Dr. Yahnke mentioned, we do well to boil it all down to two sentences or concepts that we want our people to take home with them.

We pastors also need to hear this one from Dr. Yahnke. Speaking for our good lay folk, Dr. Yahnke said, “We need both reverence and joy.” I love that coupling of terms and notions. Yes, our people need to see us act with reverence in the Divine Service and in prayer offices. That reverence underscores, as she said, the reality of Christ’s presence among us. However, our people also need to see the joy we have at being in His presence, proclaiming His words of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and giving out His gifts in water and meal. Our people do need to see us conducting the liturgy, as well as our whole office, with real life joy, not as mechanical automatons. Reverence and joy need not be mutually exclusive.

Our people need to hear their life’s issues cast into religious language, into terms that show they are dealing with spiritual realities, not just the day-to-day challenges that come rushing at them.

Related to this, our people would tell us they need to hear us, their pastors, talk about idolatry, the idolatry of their daily living—with idols such as money, success, and their own man-made, self-devised answers to their various problems. Dr. Yahnke offered a great picture for this when she referred to Luther’s treatment of the First Commandment in the Large Catechism. We need to hear our people speaking her words: “Pastor, super-size our Catechism.” I take that to mean, “Show us how our daily idolatries go against God and His will for us to look and cling to Him for every gift and blessing.”

Here’s one final thing Dr. Yahnke suggested that we pastors can do to teach and remind our people that we are there, in the congregation, to be their “spiritual physician.” Our people need to hear us preach about the implications of faith not only in eternity (“Jesus died for us, and someday we’ll get to go to heaven and be with Him.”), but also in time. After all, our hope in Christ is not only for “eternal life”; it’s also for life now. We need to preach not only “justification”—yes, it’s the central doctrine!—we also need to preach the hope that’s present now, the eager expectation that our gracious, forgiving, loving Savior is at work now to help and heal us with His cross-won forgiveness and His resurrection life.

Dr. Yahnke’s outline for this first session of DOXOLOGY ends with some questions upon which we pastors do well to reflect. I cite them here for my brothers in Office because, after all, a little reflection and self-evaluation can’t hurt…too badly…can it? (Good lay folk who read this, feel free to "turn the volume down" now. If you do choose to read these reflection questions for pastors, please don’t go to your pastor and say, “Hey, you’d better think about these things, Buddy.” ☺)

  • How is it that my parishioners actually see me?
  • Am I regarded as approachable? Too busy? Too aloof?
  • What are the chief characteristics that I would appreciate in a pastor to whom I would turn for help?
  • What are my expectations about how another pastor would treat me?
  • What areas of my ministry do I want to examine mindfully in light of this conversation?
  • What is my current comfort level in providing care to people who have spiritual and emotional problems?
  • What is my level of comfort in collaborating with Christian psychologists or other mental health providers?

29 January 2009

Pastors, Get Thee to...

And good lay people, encourage, urge, and insist that your pastor enroll in DOXOLOGY, support him, provide registration costs for him to attend, etc. Do whatever you can (except force him against his will, of course) to be nourished, edified, and fed on Christ's life in the forgiveness of sins and to grow in his spiritual care for himself, for you and for the rest of the flock.

Pastors, I cannot recommend DOXOLOGY highly enough. You will grow and benefit immensely--in being fed via the many opportunities for prayer (the Prayer Offices of the Church replete with great music and excellent preaching), in being renewed in the purpose and calling of your vocation as "shepherd of souls," and in learning many good First Article things in the area of psychology and counseling, and from a uniquely Christian, Gospel-centered perspective.

As you can probably tell, I'm rather impressed with the DOXOLOGY retreat from which I returned last evening. After four days of worshiping with brothers (simply being fed) and learning at the feet of Dr. Harold Senkbeil and Dr. Beverly Yahnke, Executive Directors, my own sense of being a "pastor," a "shepherd of souls," a "physician of souls" has been greatly restored. My own sense of tending to things that really matter--relying on God's grace in Christ, taking care of self and family, and shepherding the souls given by God--has been greatly refreshed.

I must admit, though, I had to be pushed. I had to hit the brick wall of depression and burnout. (I guess God really does need to hit me over the head to put some sense into me! :-) But I also had the benefit of one caring layman, an elder, who insisted that I enroll in as part of my sabbatical rest, renewal, and rejuvenation. I thank God for this faithful Christian man who wanted me to be restored--and returned to--my proper sense of vocation.

As I waxed poetic on Tuesday evening of the retreat at Chiara Retreat Center in Springfield, IL (more about that wonderful site another time), I just had to jot down this little reflection, to which I've added a little spit and polish this morning:

I have just (re-)discovered first hand the salutary intersection of Theology Highway and Psychology Boulevard. DOXOLOGY is the intersection of Theology and Psychology as it trains pastors in the art of spiritual care for the soul and opens their eyes to the world of dealing with the psyche, the emotions, mental illnesses such as despair and depression, and the new term and art of discerning “emotional intelligence” (a.k.a. EQ), all in service to our new life and healing in Christ Jesus. As the traffic of spiritual life (repentance, faith, sin, forgiveness, prayer, blessing, etc.) and personal life (emotions, depression, conflicts, crises, etc.) pulses through this intersection, the pastor learns how to work much as the traffic light in a busy intersection. (No, the pastor is not “traffic cop,” as we have heard and learned.) He learns how the traffic of spiritual life and life affected by so many physiological and psychological factors can merge and be brought to order by God’s grace and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, both for himself and for his people. And when we remember that this intersection is cross-shaped, we also remember that the Cross of Christ itself is what gives the only true, beneficial shape to our spiritual life as well as our daily life affected so much by the disease of sin.

The Doxology website
gives this overview of the whole program:

DOXOLOGY seeks to restore and recover the classic Christian legacy of the cure of souls for contemporary times. The Center provides training, mentoring, and consultation services for those who seek to improve their ability to provide spiritual care and counseling.

The primary purpose of this organization is to provide ongoing spiritual care opportunities for Lutheran pastors. Participants will be refreshed and equipped as a result of their participation in a program of soul care grounded in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. The Center provides an excellent setting for clergy to reflect on their own spiritual health and offers a program carefully crafted to help them review and enhance their professional competencies and skills. DOXOLOGY strengthens pastors so they can more faithfully pastor others.

You can also preview the program's curriculum and objectives at the Doxology website:

The program curriculum:

  1. Provides resources, insights, teaching, admonition, encouragement, new tools and strategies needed to move beyond “survival functioning in pastoral ministry” to joyful service in the pastoral life and calling.
  2. Provides opportunities for immediate and ongoing care to nurture and encourage pastors whose personal lives may have been burdened by stress and isolation or wounded by sin, depression, conflict, fear, or hopelessness.
  3. Yields critical insights to enhance the practice and pedagogy of spiritual care and counsel.
  4. Benefits from team casuistry and the experience of fellow pastors enrolled in this renewal experience.

Pastors participating in DOXOLOGY will:

  1. Prize and embrace their identity as called and ordained servants of God.
  2. Explore the art of spiritual care and enhance their skills as physicians of the soul so as to help those entrusted to their care to find health and healing in God through His gracious Word and Sacraments.
  3. Have an opportunity to benefit from receiving individual spiritual care and personal counsel.
  4. Establish and maintain meaningful professional relationships with peers through personal interaction.
  5. Return to their parish renewed, strengthened, and equipped in their vocation to preach, teach, and administer God’s Holy sacraments faithfully.

So, brother pastors, give some good and serious consideration to enrolling in DOXOLOGY in order to be refreshed in spirit, restored in your vocation, and prepared to give "spiritual care" to your flock. And faithful layfolk, know that this is a great way to support your pastor and to benefit from his renewed zeal to feed you on Christ the living Bread. Check out the DOXOLOGY website for much more information.

And just in case some are worried about the intersection of Theology and Psychology, know that the Psychological training does not at all trump the Theological. The *psychologist* who serves as one Executive Director won't let it. :-)

09 January 2009

Let's hope not

I love my Apple products, my Mac and my iPhone, but let's hope that this product never comes to pass:

By the way, who thinks of these kinds of satire and where do they find the time? :-)

07 January 2009

Fatherly Wisdom-God in Human Flesh

More on the great feast of Epiphany, this time from Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna:

In the mystery of our Lord's incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal Godhead. Yet the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that God himself took a human body. Mortals, enshrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and so be deprived of what they can understand and retain only by grace.

In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. He therefore reveals himself in this way, in order that this great sacrament of his love may not be an occasion for us of great misunderstanding.

Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, the one they have followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the one they have long awaited as he lay hidden among the stars.

Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, humankind in God, God in human flesh, one whom the whole universe cannot contain now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question, as their symbolic gifts bear witness: incense for God, gold for a king, myrrh for one who is to die.

So the Gentiles, who were the last, become the first: the faith of the Magi is the first fruits of the belief of the Gentiles.

Today Christ enters the Jordan to wash away the sin of the world. John himself testifies that this is why he has come: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world." Today a servant lays his hand on the Lord, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on Christ, not to forgive but to receive forgiveness.

Today, as the psalmist prophesied: "The voice of the Lord is heard above the waters." What does the voice say? "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."

Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters in the likeness of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; so now a dove is to reveal that the world's shipwreck is at an end for ever. The sign is no longer an olive-shoot of the old stock: instead, the Spirit pours out on Christ's head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfill what the psalmist had prophesied: "Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." (Sermon 160; cited in Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, 48-49)

06 January 2009

No Mere Idea

Treasury of Daily Prayer is certainly a stellar resource for praying the Daily Offices with the Church, according to the liturgical year, using a standard lectionary, etc., and many of the devotional readings that I've seen thus far have been quite good. However, I must take issue with the little explanation of the Epiphany of Our Lord on page 1094. Here's what it says (see if you can spot the problem):

The feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord commemorates no event but presents an idea that assumes concrete form only through the facts of our Lord's life. The idea of Epiphany is that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem is recognized by the world as God. At Christmas, God appears as man, and at Epiphany, this man appears before the world as God. That Christ became man needed no proof. But that this man, this helpless child, is God needed proof. The manifestations of the Trinity, the signs and wonders performed by this man, and all His miracles have the purpose of proving to men that Jesus is God. Lately, especially in the Western Church, the story of the Magi has been associated with this feast day. As Gentiles who were brought to faith in Jesus Christ, the Magi represent all believers from the Gentile world.

Did you spot the problem? It's rather like that little story of a batch of brownies tainted by just a small amount of dog droppings. For the most part, the batch of brownies can be considered "good" in that it has the usual, tasty (and fattening) ingredients, but that little bit of doggie doo-doo taints the whole batch. Likewise here in this reading.

What is the problem? The notion that Epiphany "commemorates no event but presents an idea that assumes concrete form only through the facts of our Lord's life" (emphasis added). How utterly Platonic (from Plato the Greek philosopher who advocated the ideal over the more material)! What an open door to Gnostic tendencies that spurn the material world, created by God and good, and favor the speculative!

On Epiphany do we really set aside and celebrate this great feast day of the Church for "an idea," not an event, even if that "idea" "assumes concrete form"? I was under the impression that we have such ceremonies "for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ" (Augsburg Confession, XXIV:3; Concordia, p. 47).

No, I say drop the strange notion of presenting and commemorating "an idea" becoming concrete (Can you say, "Ugh, how philosophical!"?) and instead cling to the event that Epiphany does indeed celebrate: the Son of God in the flesh revealing Himself as the light and life of the world. We see this in the story of the Magi coming to worship the Infant Jesus. We also see it in our Lord approaching John the Baptist to be baptized and thus reveal Himself along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yes, Virginia, these are events, not merely an idea.

Actually, we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord by focusing on a Person--Jesus, the very Son of God made flesh, even as He's wearing diapers and nursing at His mother's breast. We celebrate His work of revealing Himself to the world, both by becoming flesh and then by showing Himself to the world, first to the Jews (e.g. presentation in the Temple), then to the Gentiles (e.g. the Magi).

Perhaps the underlying problem in this little reading on this Epiphany of Our Lord is that it sees Christmas and Epiphany as two separate events. Let's not tear asunder what God has joined together. Christmas and Epiphany are a package deal. Together they give us the God who took on flesh, the God who humbled Himself to become one of us, the God who reveals Himself as both God and Man, the God who restores us to life with Him. For that matter, also keep the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension in the package. After all, Epiphany doesn't mean anything with out "the rest of the story."

No, Epiphany is not about a mere idea, even if it somehow becomes concrete. Rather, Epiphany is about the very real, very flesh and blood Son of God and the very real event of Him manifesting Himself to us. Yes, Virginia, there is an Epiphany event.

The Epiphany of Our Lord

Today brings us to the great feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord. It has also been called "Christmas for the Gentiles," and, in fact, has been celebrated for much longer in the liturgical year than Christmas, December 25, itself. On this day the Church celebrates not only the Word made flesh, but also the fact that the very Word, the Son of God, has revealed Himself as the salvation and life of the world.

The Eastern Church celebrates this day by hearing the story of Jesus' being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Forerunner. Here the Holy Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--is clearly revealed. Here the Son of God reveals Himself as the one who steps into the chaotic, death-filled waters of our world and our lives in order to conquer sin, death, and the devil. It's a wonderful preview of His ultimate work of mercy and salvation when He goes to the cross and rises from the grave to smash the serpent's head, forgive our sins, and bring life and immortality to light. In the Western Church, we celebrate our Lord's Baptism on the Sunday following the Epiphany.

On this day of Epiphany the Western Church looks to the story of the Magi visiting the Infant Christ as the Gospel reading for the day. When these "wise men" (scientists? scholars? royalty? One reads various opinions.) pay a visit to the Infant Lord Jesus, two things happen. First, our Lord Jesus--God in diapers, remember--reveals Himself to the Gentiles as the salvation of the world, the source of God's grace, life, and light. Second, the Magi respond in the only proper way possible: they pay Him homage by giving gifts and they bow down to worship Him.

A star may have led the Magi to the Infant Savior, but He is the true light of God who shines His light of truth, forgiveness and life to dispel our lies, our sins, and our separation from God. But this glimpse of light in a house in Bethlehem pales by comparison with the revelation of God's forgiveness, mercy, and life in the darkness of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. The Magi certainly brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but the Infant King is the true gift from God to us. In Him we see the boundless love and mercy of God. In Him we have remission of sins. In Him we are restored to the image of God that Adam and Eve disposed of in the Garden. And so we most certainly can bring Him our gifts, especially the gift of faith (which we receive from Him in the first place) and the gift of our "bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Isaiah 52:7 says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" The One who brings good news sits on His mother's lap as Magi from the east adore Him. The One who was born of the Virgin brings good news of our happiness and peace with God Himself. The One who was laid in a manger also publishes His salvation for all to receive, trust. and enjoy.

This Epiphany Lord, this Infant Savior, this Bringer and Publisher of good news and salvation, is also our light and life. He is the focal point of our worship and of all our life, because He is our temple. As we heard on Christmas Day, "The Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us." As the Apostle John says in Revelation 21:22-26: "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations."

So, on this day when the Church observes the Epiphany of Our Lord, we do well to consider and celebrate it as one of the highest feast days of all. God's Light reveals Himself in the flesh and for the salvation of all people. Yes, the nations, the Gentiles--you and I--are brought into God's eternal kingdom. The only fitting response is to bow down and worship.

"As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led by Thee.

"As with joyful steps they sped,
Savior, to Thy lowly bed,
There to bend the knee before
Thee, whom heav'n and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat." (LSB 397:1-2)

05 January 2009

Fatherly Wisdom-Eve of the Epiphany

As we shift gears from the Twelve Days of Christmas to celebrating the Epiphany of Our Lord, here's a little something from Leo the Great to pinpoint the cause of our joy and the "reason for the season," the Epiphany season that is:
The loving providence of God determined that in the last days he would aid the world, set on its course to destruction. He decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ.

A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham in regard to these nations. He was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith. His descendants are therefore compared with the array of the stars. the father of all nations was to hope not in an earthly progeny but in a progeny from above.

Let the full number of the nations now take their place in the family of the patriarchs. Let the children of the promise now receive the blessing in the seed of Abraham. In the persons of the Magi let all people adore the Creator of the universe; let God be known, not in Judea only, but in the whole world, so that "his name may be great in all Israel."

Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God's grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, "who has made us worthy," in the words of the Apostle, "to share the position of the saints in light; who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son." As Isaiah prophesied: "the people of the Gentiles, who sat in darkness, have seen a great light, and for those who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a light has dawned." He spoke of them to the Lord: "The Gentiles, who do not know you, will invoke you, and the peoples, who knew you not, will take refuge in you." (Sermon 3 for Epiphany, 1-3; cited in Wright, Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church, 46-47)

04 January 2009

Check this out

And we in the U.S. have been fretting over bailing out the auto companies? Looks like one of them is doing pretty well in ... are you ready? ... Brazil - quite apart from U.S. taxpayer (bailout) money and/or certain union restrictions.

Check this out from, of all places, The Detroit News (detnews.com).