Monday, September 7, 2020

"and the moon to blood"

 Well, this is interesting. So too is the click-through link. But neither mentions Joel 2 or Acts 2. That connection is for the biblically literate to make. Don't expect it of the media.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Hamann's Prayer for this Brother

Hey, everybody. And I do mean everybody. How do you pray for your brothers and sisters? Notice how Hamann prayed for his brother:

"Have mercy also on my brother, be gracious to him, forgive us all our sins and let us not meet guilt, shame, and punishment for them. Let us, in your fear, grow and increase in knowledge, and let your love and the love of our Savior, Mediator, and Intercessor be richly poured into our hearts through your Good Spirit. Let us remember Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One, and let us console ourselves and rejoice in his intercession at the right hand of the Majesty on high, let him be revealed and transfigured in our souls as our own wisdom, justice, sanctification, and salvation. Make us to be vessels of honor and compassion, and let us not be vessels of wrath and dishonor. (Prepare us for that same end that you have for us.) ... Unite our hearts, so that we may not lie, like stumbling blocks [Lit., "stones of offense"; Steine des Anstoßes], in one another's way, but may encourage ourselves to follow the voice of our Savior the Shepherd, to even deny ourselves ever more and more, to take up his cross ourselves and to follow in the footsteps that he has marked with his costly blood. Amen." (— Hamann, London Writings, my translation.)

Notice how, both in this and in his prayer for his father (see previous post), he asked for God to be merciful and gracious toward his brother (or father) and then immediately afterwards asked, "forgive us all our sins." At no point does he pray as though his brother's or father's sins are distinguishable from his own, but he assumes that any sins that have troubled their relationship is their shared responsibility. This is the way it is with original, hereditary sin and with total depravity. Hamann, well acquainted with his own guilt, has the good sense to stand with the guilty and ask — on behalf of both himself and the one for whom he prays —"forgive us all our sins." That, I dare say, is what it means for Christians to join Christ—the only sinless one who nevertheless stood with and suffered for the guilty—in the ministry of intercession. 

Hamann's Prayer for this Aging Father

How do you pray for your aging parents? Here is an example of such a prayer, written by the young Hamann in the wake of his London conversion (1758). His mother had died a couple of years earlier, and now, far from home and concerned for his aging father, he included this petition among his prayers. It is one that appears to have been answered as well, at least where he asks that his own heart might be obedient and submissive in the imitation of Christ. After he returned from London, he lived with and took care of his father in Königsburg for several years until he died.

Excerpt from his long "Prayer" (my translation) in his London Writings  ...

"... Have mercy also on my father, be gracious to him; forgive us all our sins. Bless and strengthen him in soul and body, and let him live, as long as it is your gracious will, for your glory and for the blessing of his house. [Or "family"; GeschlechtsComplete also the good work that you have begun in his soul [Phil 1:6], and let your beloved Son Jesus Christ be revealed and transfigured in the same. Draw him with [the] cords of his love for you and give him the patience to overcome the suffering of this time. Let him be prepared, through all trials that you will yet impose upon him, for your appearance. Pull him loose from all earthly things and let his treasure and his heart be with you in heaven. Let him see and taste how pleasant is the Lord, and let his heart be purified and refined thereby from all anger[,] hatred[,] and every root of bitterness. Govern also the hearts of all those who have to do with him and depend upon on him especially, and let mine also be full of childlike love[,] fear[,] and obedience toward him. Give me grace to follow the example of the submissiveness of my Savior and let my way of life in view of his also be according to your holy Word and will. Be his rod [Lit., "stick"; Steckenand staff that comforts him through the dark valley [Psa 23:4], lead and guide him according to your wise counsel, and receive him finally into glory and let those whom you have given him soon be united before your throne as well, in order to be able to praise you in eternity for the wealth of patience, longsuffering, and compassion with which you have preserved us here and brought us to you. Amen!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A short, basic introduction to John Oecolampadius

I'm happy to report there is quite a bit of buzz developing in the area of Oecolampadius research. Here is a short, basic introduction to John Oecolampdius: The Reformer of Basel, by way of my recent translation of a late 19th c. biography by Theophil Stähelin. Lord willing, there will be much more to follow, from yours truly and from many others, on this wonderful first generation Reformer. Meanwhile, here is your handshake proffered.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Going on thirty years ...

Unlike so much ordure sloshing around the media, the culture, and the internet these days, it's going on thirty years, and A Soundtrack for the Close of the Age is still the best instrumental, Christian, progressive-rock-inspired album you have likely never heard. Yes, this has aged very well, even if I do say so myself. And here we are, thirty years closer to the close of the age!

More background on this record here (though many of the links will be out-of-date).

Two new releases to announce today: Elaborations of the Psalms (1—50) and The Great Western Road (CD)

The first is Elaborations of the Psalms (1—50), which I started writing back in 2005 and took up again and finished earlier this year. Over the course of these fifteen years, several of these psalms have been the focus of sermons, so their "elaborations" here will be somewhat longer; they will also dot the yawning gap between 2005 and 2020. But I have tried to maintain more or less the same voice throughout, despite various contexts and timeframes. The style is dense, to be sure, even Kierkegaardian, but I see no reason why an adult Bible study class could not or should not chew on this for the better part of a year. Better still, though, I think this style of exposition, commentary, "upbuilding discourse," or whatever it is, forces one to slow down and let the psalms do their work, so no doubt devotional time or the pastor's study— the native habitat (time and space) in which these elaborations grew up—will be best suited to reading them. The dedication gives thanks for Walter Brueggemann in acknowledgement, not only of his enormous contribution to the church, but for the inspiration his labors have lent my own far more modest program.

Slowing down, by the way, is among the chief spiritual benefits I have gained in my translating work as well. But it is also a quality of the second piece just released, which is my third album, The Great Western Road. Recorded (mostly) in early June, this is also my first record in nearly 20 years. Like A Soundtrack for the Close of the Age, it is instrumental, though unlike that first album, which was mostly keyboards and some guitar, this is mostly guitar, with some keys, and is more contemplative (in the style Ant Phillips' PPP series that has sustained me through the years), as will be clear from the very first track, which, if it weren't so dissonant, would remind me more of another fine meditative treatment of the psalms. After I finally got the audio files uploaded, I discovered two other records from the twenty-teens with the same or similar album title. I have not heard those albums and have no idea what style they represent. But since the title of this record comes from the eponymous guitar suite and that suite was featured in a concert (and in an intended, but never released "live album") from 1994, an "event" (such as it was) also promoted under this title, I think I can claim the oldest sell-by date, for whatever that may be worth, as well as a less urban focus (if those album covers are any indication). 

No need to tell me not to quit my day job, but based on some comments I had from folks last November/December, it became clear that I could be a better steward of this material and should probably record it before I either forget how or grow too arthritic to play it reasonably well. 

I imagine both pieces may have a pastoral function to play at this time, so it seems fitting to announce them together. "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you." (2Thess 3:16)

UPDATE: Proof copies of The Great Western Road appeared yesterday, with UPC blocking some text. Grrr. Changes made and uploaded for clearer print and greater legibility.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Journal of the Plague Year (Curate Edition)

In a couple of previous posts (now tucked away) on Daniel DeFoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, I summarized some key points that I think preachers and church leaders in particular might find instructive or at least interesting in this, our own pandemic year. While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of editions of this classic available, some for free, I have since folded an edited version of those prior posts into a short (new) Foreword to this "Curate Edition," now available both on Kindle and in paperback. The aim behind such an edition is to offer to busy pastors both the full text of the classic in question, as well as a brief orientation to what they will likely find from their uniquely theological angle. Hopefully the new Foreword and Series Introduction, in addition to the Scripture Index already included, will advance this reprint further toward the goal of being of service to working pastors.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oswald Myconius, "Prayer of repentance in a more difficult time." (1541)

Oecolampadius' successor in Basel, Oswald Myconius, penned this prayer of national confession in 1541. It sat among his papers until they made their way to the "Kirchenarchiv," where it drew the attention of K. R. Hagenbach, who published it among a handful of other remains from Myconius' ministry, most notably a long pastoral letter from 1534, and his interpretations of the Gospel of Mark (the Gospel on which Oecolampadius was preaching when he died in November 1531) and Psalm 102. This short prayer, translated into English here for the first time, includes a petition for divine guidance for the civil authority to keep the peace (or to "wield the sword in advance" of the Gospel—the aim of which image is actually peacekeeping), but especially for the prophets, i.e., preachers, to convey the good news in accordance with the Holy Spirit. It is a bold prayer, in which Myconius, without apology, prays for the entire nation, the people as a whole, to acquire a fervent love of the Gospel.

Oswald Myconius, 

"Prayer of repentance in a more difficult time." (1541)[i]

O Lord, almighty, eternal, and heavenly Father, we confess how cheaply[ii] we have sinned in many different ways against your goodness, by ingratitude for both the immense gift of your Holy Word and also for the rest of your kindnesses,[iii] by which we have allowed ourselves to be misled[iv] into wantonness. We have scorned the rod of your wrath, which you have now used over us for a time, and the threats of more severe enemies, which we feel painfully today. But in this we also confess the power and the benefit (the benevolence) of your groundless[v] compassion, for you—O Lord!—have said: I do not want the death of the sinner, but that the sinner[vi] would repent and live. Yes, with great earnestness you call us through your prophets to repentance, when you speak: Convert yourselves to me wholeheartedly, with fasting, with weeping and lamentation. Rend your hearts and not your garments; repent to the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, patient and of great goodness, and pardons sin and wickedness; therefore, we ask you, O merciful God, from a fully repentant heart (imbued with contrition), that, in this difficult time, you would have mercy on us and forgive us our sins and take away[vii] the hard enemy, as this is according to your will. Wherever not, then may you grant to us, that we might bear this your chastisement with proper faith and proper patience according to your divine good pleasure unto the end. In so doing, grant the authorities[viii] proper knowledge of the truth, for the sake of your holy name, that they may wield the sword in advance of your holy Word, that they may therefore defend justice and equity and protect to the best of their ability. Give the nation fervert love for your Gospel, so that, with all diligence and earnestness, it may form and shape its life according to the same.[ix] Above all, teach your prophets, that they may wield (proclaim) the heavenly teaching according to the mind of your Holy Spirit. Grant them steadfastness against all that would dare to revolt against your truth; [we ask this] all to the honor and praise of your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power and the glory of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

i. My translation. This prayer is included among the selected writings of Oswald Myconius, in K. R. Hagenbach, Johann Oekolampad und Oswald Myconius , die Reformatoren Basels. Leben und ausgewæhlte Schriften(Elberfeld: R. L Friderichs, 1859) 444. There Hagenbach notes the original manuscript is held "im Kirchenarchiv. Antiqu. Gernl. I."
ii. Or "lightly"; billig.
iii. Or "favors, good deeds;" Gutthaten.
iv. Or "seduced, enticed"; verleiten.
v. Or "bottomless, gratuitous"; grundlosen.
vi. Or "he"; er.
vii. hinnehmen
viii. Obrigkeit
ix. The pronouns are sg. in reference to  dem Volke and sein Leben, though alternatively one may render this using pl. forms: "Give the people fervert love for your Gospel, so that, ... they may form and shape their lives ..."