sunrise-153600_1280“To put it at its most basic: the resurrection of Jesus offers itself, to the student of history or science no less than the Christian or the theologian, not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical and foundational event within the world as it has begun to be. It is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world. The claim advanced in Christianity is of that magnitude: Jesus of Nazareth ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.”
— N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p.67

Recommended reading for today: Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike.

CrossofashesThe Ash Wednesday liturgy has the very memorable line, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (BCP, p.265). This stark sentence is said while the priest imposes ashes. The liturgy makes the strong point that none of us will live forever: we all die. Often a person thinks of a life-ending situation and says, “If I were to die …”, but the correct wording is, “When I die, …”. Lent, a time of preparation for Easter, is a time to prepare for one’s death. This doesn’t mean only spiritual preparation but also preparation with regard to practical, material concerns.

There are many things which a responsible person ought to do to prepare for death. One item, necessary for all of us, is to make a will. Another is to document your wishes with regard to your funeral or memorial service. One should also have a living will and/or power of attorney in case of a serious illness or injury which doesn’t lead immediately to death. There are many other things one should deal with in preparation for death. Two web pages which provide brief but useful guides are One Day, You’re Going to Die. Here’s How to Prepare for It and You Don’t Have to Spend a Ton on a Funeral — Here’s Why. There is a lot of information on the web pertaining to planning of funerals, writing wills, preparing a power of attorney, and other end-of-life concerns. These two web pages will help you get started and you can use a search engine to find additional information on any of the action items.

Use the time of Lent to prepare for your death; dealing with these issues while you live will keep your loved ones from having to deal with them in their time of grief. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Got LentLent is upon us. It is traditional to have a Lenten discipline — to adopt a habit which assists in capturing the spirit of the season. Traditionally one gives up something for Lent: chocolate is a popular choice, as is alcohol. However, it is sometimes better to take on something as a Lenten discipline than to give up something. One may adopt a new daily prayer schedule, for example, or decide to perform a “random act of kindness each day”. Jan Risher, in a post on the Advertiser, has a good suggestion. Her idea is to write a letter of thanks to someone each day. We all have people to whom we’re indebted for an act of kindness, someone who gave us a helping hand. Ms. Risher’s idea for a Lenten discipline is to choose one of these people each day and hand write a letter of thanks. The letter is certain to be appreciated, and offering thanks to (and for) the people who have helped us in our journeys is sure to improve our spiritual outlook. This is a very good idea.

playmobil-luther-1Playmobil has announced that their toy Martin Luther is the best-selling figure in their history. The figure was produced for the German and Nuremberg tourist boards, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. The initial production run of 34,000 pieces was gone in less than 72 hours. The company has ordered its factory to produce more units but they won’t be available until the end of April which means that currently the figure is in high demand and short supply. A quick search of eBay found 16 listings; the one closing the soonest (in two days) currently has a high bid of $70.55. However, there are also many listed with a Buy It Now price of $25 to $30.

Playmobil did not expect such success; a spokesperson for the company stated that it is “a big mystery [and] a huge surprise.” Most of the units (about 95%) were sold in Germany. Astid Mühlmann, a governmental official who is helping prepare for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, suggests that education is the cause of the toy’s popularity. “There’s quite an interest in looking back to our history. Parents want to make sure their children grow up knowing who he is because he had such an impact on how society evolved in Europe. I’m very happy with the news because it shows people are interested in history.”

You can read more about story this in a Newsweek article. By coincidence, I’m posting this on Martin Luther’s feast day on the Episcopal Church calendar.

 

Biblical inspiration — the belief that the Bible is God-inspired — has caused difficulties for thinking people for many years. The belief itself, that God inspired the words of scripture, is not troublesome; the problems arise when we try to explain the mechanism and meaning of inspiration. Are all the words of the Bible inspired, or only some parts? Did God ‘dictate’ the words to the writers (i.e. ‘verbal inspiration’) or did God simply lead the writers to speak on certain topics or reveal selected truths? These are big questions, and they lead to many more questions. I’ve thought about these issues, and I think all Christians should. Each of us needs to come to an understanding of inspiration which can guide us in applying scripture to our lives. Andrew Wilson, author of If God, Then What?, wrote a column for Christianity Today which offers a way of thinking about inspiration. It isn’t a complete answer to the question, but I believe it gives a valid insight. You can read the column, entitled What Scripture and Jazz Have in Common, on the Christianity Today website.

Marcus_BorgMarcus Borg, liberal theologian and New Testament scholar, died last week (January 21) at age 72. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Borg several years ago and of hearing him speak. He and I disagreed on almost everything but I found him to be a likable and genteel man. Christianity Today posted a death notice which praises Dr. Borg for his willingness to engage in dialogue with those who disagreed with him. The article is entitled Died: Marcus Borg, Liberal Jesus Scholar and Friendly Provocateur, and can be read by clicking on the title. The American Spectator published an article which spends more time dealing with Dr. Borg’s theology. It is authored by Mark Tooley, the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. The article, In Memoriam: The Death of Marcus Borg, Christian Panentheist is interesting reading. It also can be read by clicking on the title. The Huffington Post has a death notice with more personal content from friends. It can be read here. These three articles give (at least) three views of Dr. Borg, and together they give us a better understanding of him as a person and of his work. Different authors, different sets of facts, different understandings: all (and more!) are needed to form a complete picture. Just like with the Gospels and the life of Jesus: four gospels give us four different viewpoints, and therefore a fuller picture of Jesus.