Immersion Baptism

Because I enjoy pain and suffering… I occasionally read LutherQuest. While some discussions are profitable, most of the discussions turn into personal attacks based on assumptions (you know what they say about assumptions…).

One discussion thread caught my eye recently and it was in regards in baptism by immersion. Apparently an LCMS church had installed a baptismal pool (the link doesn’t work anymore). Some came out firmly against baptism by immersion and others offered a more tempered response. One of the most interesting comments was “when have Lutherans ever done baptism by immersion?” What a denial of history. Pastor Weedon pointed at that Luther spoke about baptism by immersion and that for a good chunk of history baptism by immersion was the norm. I can understand those who are hesitant because they live in an area where baptism by immersion is required by denominations such as the Baptists). However, to completely deny history is just plain wrong. They are also all focusing on the baptism of adults. Why is it wrong to immerse a child? It isn’t! Why do you think the baptismal font at the seminary (CSL) is so big? Because it fits the space and so that we could immerse a child if we wanted!!

In a paper written this past summer I advocated a return (but not a requirement) of this practice. What a beautiful way to show the drowning of the Old Adam!! What a beautiful way to tie together the history of the church where baptism by immersion has been clearly practiced.

I will admit there are times when baptism by immersion is a bad thing. I could see a new convert insisting on baptism by immersion so that their family (who is Baptist) will recognize it. They need to understand that it is not the method that makes the baptism valid, but that the water and the Word are present. I could also see how baptizing by immersion in an area dominted by those who only baptize by immersion could be taken wrongly. It might be better at that point to make a bold confession of our faith and only baptize by pouring or sprinkling. Why? Because our fellow Christians need to be instructed in their error. We need to boldly confess that no matter what practice (immersion, sprinkling, pouring), God himself is present in the Water and the Word.

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First Icon: Christ the Just Judge

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As a gift for my vicarage I received my first icon (actually a gift certificate that allowed me to purchase my first icon). I purchased the “Christ the Just Judge” icon that is pictured with this post. It hangs on my office wall.

It truly is beautiful and full of symbolism. Of course Christ is depicted at the center. Mark is in the bottom left depicted as a Lion. In the upper left corner a “living creature with the face of a man.” In the upper right is John as an eagle. In the bottom right is Luke as an ox. It is quite common in Christian tradition to connect the four evangelists to the four living creatures spoke of in the book of Revelation, “And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight” (4:7). 

This gift has now got me hooked on icons. Go to Archangel Books in Maplewood (south of the Sem) to find a wonderful sampling of icons (and even more on the web).

New Heaven and Dogs

During two summers in college I worked for the University of Missouri as a maintenance tech for the college of engineering. I did jobs ranging from helping at auctions, driving big trucks, demolition, and painting, with numerous other jobs thrown in there. During one job I was interacting with a young guy who grew up in Columbia. We were chatting and it turns out he was at one point a Lutheran, but had converted to the Episcopal Church. I inquired as to why he converted. His answer: my pastor told me my dog wouldn’t be in heaven.

Silence. That’s all I could muster at that point. I love my two dogs that are living with my family back in MO. I loved my dogs that have died (a number of beagles and black labs). They were wonderful companions for our whole family. However, they are dogs. I was certainly sad about their death and always felt bad when they were in pain. However, I state again, they are dogs. They are not humans. I talked more with the kid, but couldn’t get anywhere with him. I think his concerns were far more complex than just his “dog not getting into heaven.”

I never gave this much more thought until I had a class with Dr. Louis Brighton, author of the Concordia Commentary on Revelation available from CPH. We were discussing the “things to come,” specifically the new heaven and new earth spoken of in Revelation 21:1. He proposed that in fact we might find animals in the new earth. He comments on what is to come in his commentary on Revelation by referencing Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Brighton points out that, “by way of the messianic reign here on earth, (this) is a typological picture of life in the new heaven and new earth after the judgment and resurrection at this present world’s end” (Brighton, 591). 

Undoubtedly there is still grief over loosing one’s pet. However, I think examining what has been described to us in the book of Revelation, we find comfort knowing that God will provide for a new creation, more peaceful than one can ever imagine and with more provisions than can ever be understood.

What does a seminarian/vicar listen to?

Ever wonder what a seminarian listens to on his iPod?

Here is your chance to find out!

I actually use my iPod for a number of things. I do watch movies and tv shows on it occasionally, especially on trips. I wasn’t sure if I would like the small screen, but I’m sold on it now. I also listen to my CDs that I’ve put on it over the years: rock, alternative, rap, classical, comedy, R&B, movie soundtracks, to name a few of the genres. The only thing not represented: country. Sorry… I can’t listen to it. My wife can, but I can’t handle it.

The other big use for my iPod is for podcasts. Here are the podcasts that I currently listen to (by category) with a few notes:

Theology:

Educational:

  • Car Talk. My mom and I would often listen to NPR’s Car Talk while driving home from church. When it came out as a podcast… who could resist? Lisa and I normally save up episodes and listen to them on trips. Yes… we have listened to five straight hours of Click and Clack.
  • USGS Corecast. This is a rather new edition that was added to my podcast feeds after the small earthquake that happened last spring in St. Louis. While surfing the USGS website I found the podcast. Very understandable and reasonably short.
  • PotterCast
  • MuggleCast.

Technology

Now please don’t think that I listen to every episode of all of these podcasts. Many sit in my iTunes directory for a while only to have me delete them…. that is especially true for the Harry Potter and the technology podcasts.

Death Sucks

Dr. Jeff Gibbs, professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis is famous for a phrase (and I might be paraphrasing here a bit), but it essentially is, “Death Sucks.” We should never minimize the evil that is death by trivializing it and making it seem like a joyous event. Yes, the death of one suffering means an end to their suffering. However, it is still evil. Death is the culmination if sin in this world. There is nothing glorious or happy about that.

I write this after a long five months. Five months ago my grandfather passed away. He was followed shortly by two more friends from my home congregation. More funerals in the fall at my home church. Before Christmas we found out a close cousin of ours (an older man) died. What is sad about this is that we didn’t find out about it until almost a month after his death. From the last December 29, 2008 to January 8, 2009 my home congregation had six deaths including the death of an infant. Last night I got a phone call saying that my grandfather’s younger brother, our Uncle Leroy died suddenly while driving home from eating dinner. This happened five months to the day after my grandfather’s death. That leaves my grandma and one in-law left out of that generation.

Death Sucks. 

However, in all of this, in all the evil and despair I have  a hymn in my mind thanks to Pr. Weedon and a post on his blog (and the subsequent comments):

Then why should men on earth be so sad, Since our Redeemer made us glad, Then why should men on earth be so sad, Since our Redeemer made us glad, When from our sin He set us free, All for to gain our liberty?
“On Christmas Night All Christians Sing” (LSB 377)

Death sucks. However, Christians have comfort in the knowledge that Christ, who came to earth, born of the Virgin Mary, to be crucified for our transgressions, will again come to judge both the living and the dead. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Heresy

One of the more humorous parts about being a seminary student is how quickly we can turn on each other.

One example: During Confessions II today, where we are discussing the Formula, my very good friend asks a question about the Two Nature’s of Christ. In the process of asking a hypothetical question, he clearly stated a heresy from the early church (or a combination of two ancient heresies). While we knew what he was asking about and we knew he did not subscribe to that heresy, we of course turned on him like a pack of wolves. In fact, you could probably hear in the background students gathering wood and a torch to burn him. The worst thing is when you are the one talking and you realize that you are going to spout heresy… but it’s too late to stop. You just prepare to be pummeled.

Are we a cult?

Cult:

  • a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object : the cult of St. Olaf.
  • a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister : a network of Satan-worshiping cults.
  • a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing : a cult of personality surrounding the leaders.
Now the question… are we, the Holy, Catholic, and Apostlic Church a cult?
This question got posed to me in my contemporary cults class at CUNE. The general consensus of the class, after some debate was, “Yes, we are a cult.. and that’s okay.”
I started thinking more about this on Friday as I gave a presentation in my Teaching the Catechism with Luther class. I’ve been researching the early church catechumenate, specifically focusing on the mystagogical preachers, Ambrose of Milan, Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Theodore of Mopsuestia. I’m also studying Augustine, since he was a catechumen under Ambrose. As I was describing the early church rituals surrounding the catechumenate, specifically focusing on the Lenten discipline, the Easter Vigil, and the subsequent Mystagogy (preaching on the mysteries), I brought up the secrecy and the mystery that surrounded the church. This was not discouraged, but was encouraged by the Fathers. They didn’t want people to know, prior to Baptism, what took place with the Sacrament. They were encouraged to keep the creed amongst the baptized and not let it “get out.” A fourth-year said, “This sounds awfully cult-like,” to which I responded, “Yup… and I think that’s okay.” I also said, “think about it… we make exclusive claims about salvation, are a relatively small group (the invisible church), we have an exclusive object of our faith (Jesus Christ), and we do things that are considered strange (pouring water on a baby’s head and drinking small sips of wine and eating small pieces of bread).”
Yup… I think we are a cult… and that’s okay.
What do you think?