Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Times of Testing - Hard News Reminds u of the Powerful Gospel

I've heard several horrible stories of deaths this past week which leave one awed, humbled and all too aware of the kind of world we live in. First, a classmate of mine who lives in South Carolina, was on the way to a funeral with his wife and her family when they were hit by a semi-truck. His mother-in-law died instantly, and his brother-in-law is still in a coma. He and his wife appear to have sustained only minor injuries, but that does not make for much comfort. Then, last night I heard from another friend who pastors a small congregation in the northwest, about a family who pulled off the side of the freeway for a moment. One of the children dropped something out of the window, and the oldest boy, in gradeschool, said, "I'll get it," and opened the side door to hop out. A moment later he was gone, hit by a swerving truck.

Even recounting this story swells within me tremendous amounts of pain and fear. In selfishness I think first of my own children and my desire to protect them. In charity my heart goes out to this family and their pastor who tries to comfort them. Where to begin? What to say?

This alone demonstrates the vast importance of learning the faith we have believed in the here and now, when things seem at their best. What we believe, teach and confess is that no matter how good things appear, at any moment the chaotic sins of the world can bring destruction and death upon us. Such times will try and shake us, even to the very roots of what we have believed. How could God let that happen? Why wasn't I more prepared?

The faith which we are given by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus is one which can and will stand against all the powers of sin, death and the devil, even in the face of tragedies like these. But tragedies like these are not the best time for evangelism. Evangelism happens now, building the foundation of our faith so that when the storms come, the rock of Christ holds true for us. If we neglect this need of ours to feed and sustain our faith with the pure Word and Sacraments of our Lord, we will find that the storms come and we rest on nothing but sand.

There are no platitudes to take away these tragedies that this week touched your lives through my own connection to them. But I share them with you for a very real purpose. I share them so that you and I and all will once again be equipped to say, "God's own child, I gladly say it. I am baptized into Christ. Death you cannot end my gladness, I'm a child of paradise."

Fellow Christians who die in auto wrecks, whether elderly or children, all have the same, singular, one, real hope - that in Jesus death is defeated. No matter what our ending, or how our bodies finally meet decay, we each have the same, confessed, true, absolute hope - that in Jesus death is defeated.

This is the promise of baptism. This is what the shattering of the gates of death by Jesus mean. Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation. Learn what you believe and why you believe, because you never know the hour of testing.

Remember the point of it all: He is risen, and with him we shall rise. Alleluia!

the Lord is with you, as always, in your Baptism,


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Luke 7 and 8, and Luke 8 - Pentecost 3 and 4

Pentecost 4


Pentecost 3 (a little late)


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Luke 7 - 2nd of Pentecost


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

End of an Age - On Paradigm Shifts and Thinking Out Loud

I wrote the following this morning as a private letter to a colleague in response to a question he had asked of me a week or more ago. I thought I would share it here because the ramifications are much bigger than he and I.


I was reminded of some of your thoughts during my morning reading today. The following quote from Here Comes Everybody:

"Social effects lag behind technological ones by decades; real revolutions don't involve an orderly transition from point A to point B. Rather, they go from A through a long period of chaos, and only then reach B. In that chaotic period, the old systems get broken long before new ones become stable."

A blip in the book, but an important one for anyone wrestling with the implications of decaying institutions. We have been here before at other historical times of paradigm shift. What is important to recognize is that it is not all institutions that will decay always and forever, but, rather, institutions built upon the old paradigm (in this case, pre-internet/global-flattening coupled with the descent of the American economy from global prominence.)

There will be institutions in the future. They just won't look like the ones we have now. My generation has been characterized by the Boomers, et. al., as being lazy. Are we really lazy? No. (Well, yes.) But it is more that we put a premium on efficiency because we've realized that we can. We're operating naturally/culturally in a shifted paradigm. The globe still must catch up, but it won't happen until the old paradigm generations pass away. The question is, how much capital can be lost before that happens? What truly useful institutions will go down with the old paradigm ship? How can we get them onto the lifeboat of at least partial new models?

Let me give a concrete example from the recent English District convention. (I have no wish to besmirch anyone. This is about models, not people.) The Board of Directors report to the convention is an excellent example of an old institution not making the shift.

From what I've seen, the BoD is a very small body which holds the tremendous task of setting the policy and agenda for an entire national district. Their official report to the convention consisted of a power-point (15 to 20 minutes - hours to put together?) showing pictures of the board and staff, with bullet points of an abstract list of attributes claimed about the board by the board: "we are joyful," "we are prayerful."

In the new paradigm, that is lazy and completely wasteful. It was an advertisement for the BoD making very poor use of the latest tech from 15 years ago. Whether true or not, it looked like an institution which is (at best) useless to real work in the parish/field.

What the BoD should be doing in today's enviromenment, at the very least, is keeping concrete minutes of its real time decisions on a monthly basis, and publishing them via a social network page. (And this should be being done by a local volunteer, or the secretary of the BoD.) Even better, a clear representation of debated/disagreed upon points might be presented so that all concerned parties might hear how the events which affect us all are being decided/defended.

This would be moving towards an institution which might survive because it would be attempting to operate in the new paradigm. "Authentic" is only one of the words about the new paradigm - and by itself means very little, but a key aspect of authenticity is transparency. Institutions which are not transparent will decay in the age of the internet when the globe has been lain flat. People will choose to follow new institutions which are at the very least trying to be transparent in the way the new networks allow/force them to be.

Those are just ideas. The point I'm trying to share is this: it is not institutions that are going to die. It is institutions that insist on the old paradigm as their paradigm that are going to die with the old paradigm. In this, the greatest hindrance will be (as it always has been in history) those who confuse the old order with the essence of our existence.

Example from the book: Abbot Johannes of Sponheim who published "In Praise of Scribes" in 1492 in order to defend their necessity to the future of society. But he published the book using the printing press. The medium destroyed the message.

How will "administrators" adapt to an age in which administration can no longer be considered a "profession" because it doesn't need to be? The social networking and media tools have taken their place, just as the printing press took the place of the scribes. Keeping the network ("district" "synod" etc) together no longer "needs" an office. It can an will happen automatically via the new tools. If it doesn't happen under the leadership of those who are in the offices now, it will happen under the leadership of those who are outside the offices but leading naturally through adaptive existence in the new paradigm. (Another example is the unifying effectiveness of Issues, Etc, which, without a wit of actual authority, continues to lead the LCMS precisely in the area of adapting to the new networking medium.)

The true visionary leader will see this clearly. He will not publish printed books on scribal necessity. He will not use the new technologies to defend and prop up the old administrative ordering. Instead, he will strive to order the administration according to the model of the new paradigm: the global, social network of hyper/mass-communication.

(As an aside, I believe there is a 2nd part to this future model, and is the return to locality as the center of life. Whereas the radio, TV and the expensive phone calls moved us to "nationalization," I believe that the internet and cheap phone calls will return us to neighborhood and city as microcosmic-parallel of/in-step-with the global network [which itself will be held together by actual/tangible shared ideology/theology/worldview].)

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