25 February 2011

The Season of Lent

 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.                    Matt 9:15

Ash Wednesday is March 9 this year.  Start thinking about how your family has observed (celebrated?) Lent in the past and what you will do this year.  Within the next couple of days I will post about what our family will be doing this year (and maybe I'll finally get some pictures up).

Brief History
Catechumens in the early Church usually were baptized into Christ on Easter eve, and so they would prepare themselves by fasting and repenting while being taught the Faith.  Soul and body preparation also anticipated reception at the Lord's Table.  This preparation for Easter eventually was lengthened and broadened to include all Christians.

In the West, Easter's date is determined by the phases of the moon: It is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after March 21.  To determine Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, forty days are counted back from Easter, excluding Sundays.   (We often forget that each Sunday is a feast itself, a mini-Easter to celebrate Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil!)  The forty days is reminiscent of Jesus's forty days in the wilderness, Moses's forty days on Sinai, the forty days and nights of rain during the Great Flood, etc.

The Church sets aside Lent as a time of repentance and preparation for remembering the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Matthew 6:1-14 outlines the three traditional practices of Lent: alms, prayer, 
fasting, and is a good focus point for keeping our Lent evangelical, not legalistic.

Pastor Weedon over at Weedon's Blog on keeping our fast, prayer, and charity evangelical (emphasis mine):

"The Gospels for these Sundays teach us that our salvation is a gift, not the result of our efforts; that it is accomplished by the power of God's Word; that by faith in our Jesus, we will go up to Jerusalem with Him, having our eyes opened to see that He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  With this wonderful theological grounding, we also remember the wise words of Adolf Köberle:  "At all events even asceticism can be described by the paradoxical statement:  Its exercise can give salvation to no one but its neglect can corrupt anyone."

So as not to fall into that corruption, the Lenten disciplines are set before us.  Not as though they are tools we ought use only during the Lenten days, but as training for all our days of battling the old man in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the joyful concurrence of the new man."

Remember that these suggestions are just that--suggestions--and not a checklist of what you should do. Pick and choose.  Also, take into consideration your particular situation.  I will not be fasting, since I'm pregnant.  Making elaborate vegetarian or traditional Lenten meals probably won't happen much either, since of late dinner prep. stresses me out.  I would much rather fulfill my vocation by loving my children and husband than fulfill what the world would see as "Lenten duties."  Prepare for Easter with joy and reflection!

*Change the color on your family altar or Church Year bulletin board to purple, the color of Lent and repentance.  (Maybe you just have something small, like dining room table candles you can change as the church seasons change.  The point is a physical reminder around the house of what time of the church year we are in.)  If you have a family altar, you could place a prayer book and small "collection plate" or bank for alms, to remind the family of the Lenten focus. 

*Begin a family devotional practice such as family lectionary reading (Treasury of Daily Prayer or the Daily Lectionary inside the Lutheran Service Book are wonderful resources to begin this), or simply family prayer time, if you don't already do that.  If you already have your children pray the evening prayers out of the Small Catechism, start morning prayers.  Maybe you can teach them to examine themselves each night, repenting to each other and God for sins committed that day (good practice to start for mom and dad, too!) 

* Learn an appropriate hymn and Bible verse(s) for Lent.  Ask your pastor what hymns your church will be learning or singing a lot.

* Start meeting your pastor for private confession  and absolution on a regular basis. 

* Read  Meditations on Divine Mercy.

* Make a Jesus Tree. (I'll post more on this later.)

* Study a particular country whose Christians are under persecution.  Pray for those Christians every day

* If you say the common prayer ("Come Lord Jesus") with your kids, consider teaching them the Table Blessing, found in the Small Catechism.  If they know the blessing, start returning thanks after each meal.

* Practice hospitality.  Sundays feel more like the feasts they are during Lent than other times in the year.  Ask people in your congregation over for Sunday dinner, especially people you don't get a chance to talk to very often.  Ask neighbors over for dessert and coffee during the week.  NB:  "hospitable" does not mean "show off."  Make meals that are easy to make and your family already likes.  Your neighbors should know what your house looks like messy, anyway, because they should be dropping by any time.  If they don't now, they will eventually :)

* Give generously to those in need, both in your church and in your community.   I know everyone is struggling to make ends meet, but our family could not have financially survived the last 5 months without anonymous (extremely generous) help from our church family. Sometimes it's hard to be the reciprocate, not the giver, but we have definitely discovered how much more we would like to give to others, once my husband finds a job. Find out who is unemployed in your congregation.  Visit shut-ins (some may see no one from their church but their pastor for months). 

Other ideas?  I'll be expanding on some of these suggestions as we approach Lent.

24 February 2011

St. Matthias (February 24)

[Peter said] "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us,  beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias.  Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen  to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”  Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles     Acts 1:21-26

We don't know much about St. Matthias, except that he replaced Judas and was martyred with an axe.  A popular medieval hagiography (encyclopedia of saints' lives), The Golden Legend, says:

And anon he began to preach, and had his predication about Jerusalem, and was much virtuous, and did many miracles as is written of him, of whom the legend followeth, which legend is found at Treves in Almaine [Trier in Germany].

St. Matthias which was set in the place of Judas was born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. He was set to school and in a little time he learned all the science of the law and of the prophets; he was afeard of fleshly lusts, and he passed his youth in good manners. His courage was inclined to all virtues, for he was humble and debonair [meek], and alway ready to do mercy, and was not proud in prosperity, ne frail in adversity. He did that which he preached, he made the blind to see and healed the sick men, he raised the dead men, and did great miracles in the name of Jesu Christ.

And when he was accused hereof tofore the bishop of Jerusalem, it was demanded him that he should answer thereto and he said: It behoveth not much to answer hereto, because for to be a Christian man it is nothing criminal but it is a glorious life.

Then said the bishop that he would spare him and give him respite to repent him, and St. Matthias answered: God forbid that I should repent of the truth that I have truly found, and become an apostate.

He was firm in the love of God, and clean of his body, and wise in speaking of all the questions of scripture, and when he preached the word of God many believed in Jesu Christ by his predication.

The Jews took him and brought him to justice and had gotten two false witnesses against him and for to accuse him, the which cast on him first stones, and the other after, and so was stoned, and he prayed that the stones might be buried that the false witnesses had cast upon him, for to bear witness against them that stoned him.

And finally he was slain with an axe after the manner of the Romans. And he held up his hands and commended his spirit to God. And after it is said that his body was brought to Rome, and from Rome it was translated to Treves. Another legend saith that his body lieth at Rome, and buried under a stone of porphyry in the church of St. Mary the Major.

(If you follow the link back to The Golden Legend you'll find a humorous Judas Iscariot legend which seems to confuse him with Oedipus.)


*Here is a coloring page.  And here is another one.
*If you haven't already, today would be a good time to show your (not-too-young) kids how saints are often identified in art.  Usually they are holding the instrument of their torture or martyrdom.  St. Matthias usually holds an axe.
*Other ideas?

Fun superstitions

* Green things start germinating on this day, hence "on St. Matthias sow both leaf and grass."
* A sharp frost today will last a long time.
* Foxes fear to walk on ice after St. Matthias day, for “St. Matthias breaks the ice, if he finds it; if he does not break it, he makes it all the harder.”

23 February 2011

Interpreting Christian Art

Useful site....

"Learn how to identify the saints in medieval and renaissance art.
Read the stories that the paintings refer to.
Find out the "why" behind traditional elements in paintings of scriptural events"

....all at Christian Iconography


22 February 2011

Polycarp of Smyrna (February 23)

"O God, the Father of Your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of You, the maker of all creation, I call upon You, I confess that You are true God; I glorify You because of the high priest, Your beloved Son, with the Holy Spirit; receive me and make me a sharer in the resurrection of Your saints.  Amen."                          
                                                -St. Polycarp's dying prayer (excerpt from The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp, said to have been a disciple of St. John the Beloved, is one of the most famous Apostolic Fathers.   He is most remembered for his martyrdom, a vivid account of which was recorded by his own disciple, Irenaeus.  During his life, Polycarp fought Marcionism and Valentinianism and the heretic Cerinthus, all forms of gnosticism.  In his Letter to the Philippian, Polycarp makes a beautiful profession:

"For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist: and whosoever shall not confess the testimony of the Cross, is of the devil; and whosoever shall pervert the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and say that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the firstborn of Satan."

Here the full account of Polycarp's martyrdom.


*Have your older children research the heresies Polycarp fought against.  Maybe you can have them report their findings to the rest of the family at dinner.  How are all the heresies similar to each other?  What Bible passages or verses can be used to refute those errors?

*Have your older children read Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians.  Have them find key Christian doctrines  he defends (Christ's divinity, authority of Scripture, etc.)

*Irenaeus made a big deal of Polycarp's great age.  Visit an grandparent or elderly neighbor today; honoring the aged would be a great way to remember Polycarp.

*For your younger kids, expand on your discussion of martyrdom from St. Valentine's feast.

19 February 2011

Christian Art

After hearing some complaints from mammas about the poor art in many children's Bible Story and religious books (see the comments after Bible Story Books), I came across a good post by Pastor Peters (from quite a while ago).  While he does not specifically mention children's books, I think it is relevant.  Here is an excerpt, and a link to the whole post:

"When I look through the various church supply catalogs that come in the mail (bidden or not) I am struck by the cheesy character of much of the stuff. Christians must be seen as somewhat dull or even stupid by the cheesy stuff that is sold. Classic in this genre is that statue of Santa kneeling at the manger. Gag. Or the creche made out of Precious Moments figures (or worse, Lego figures). Don't we get it? Why do people think that we are so gullible to purchase all this cheese? Well, I guess because we do buy that stuff. Art, tee shirts, statuary, and the stuff that to call them paper weights would be to ennoble them beyond truth... Christians buy that stuff in huge quantities.

"We need good art -- not just in the church building but in our homes. We need good Christian art that draws us back to the faith, that inspires us, that teaches us, that ennobles us... Unfortunately we buy the crap that is produced in abundance in sweat factories far away. This is not what we need. We need good, Christian art."  

 --from Pastoral Meanderings                                 

He goes on to suggest buying a quality crucifix, then an icon, and one nice classic art print.  What great ideas.

Over at Confessional Lutheran Ecclesiastical Art Resources (great site!) we see an example of a 1920's children's book on religion.  The art is maybe a little sentimental, but it's not absurd or irreverent.  The text, however, is horrible.  I conclude that, for my children, I would rather have bad illustrations coupled with good doctrine and writing, rather than the other way around.  Especially if they are already exposed to good art and are learning what is beautiful.  I don't believe you have to be professionally trained (or over 3 years old) to distinguish mediocrity and beauty (even allowing for taste and style).

But I still will search for that perfect marriage of beautiful pictures and true text.

18 February 2011

Martin Luther (February 18)

"Therefore we make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not he who has no sin, but he to whom God does not impute his sin, through faith in Christ.  That is why we so often repeat and beat it into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake.”  
Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians

 Martinus Luther. Lucas Cranach the Elder

Luther's 1534 Bible

Activities and Suggested Reading:

*We used the Luther rose coloring page from this Reformation Day Party ideas website and talked about the different parts of the rose and what they represent. It's not a Lutheran page (a community church), but some of the ideas are useful. 

Four weekly activities for focusing on Luther's life and theology (for grade schoolers).  This would be a great project for October, leading up to Reformation Sunday.  I'll try to remember to post the link again next Fall.    

What's your favorite Luther quote?                                                                                                                                                                          

15 February 2011

Philipp Melanchthon (February 16)

"Faith is nothing else than trust in the divine mercy promised in Christ."

Melanchthon. Dürer, Albrecht
Melanchthon. Holbein
Melanchthon. Cranach the Elder.

File:Luther im Kreise seiner Familie musizierend.jpg
Luther Making Music in the Circle of his Family. 1875. Spangenberg, Gustav Aldolph

nice summary of Melanchthon's life includes his domestic tragedies, and subsequent willingness to fulfill his vocation as an uncle and grandfather, supporting his orphaned relatives.  (The Spangenberg painting above suggests he was the Luthers' adopted bachelor uncle  :)

Melanchthon is a tough saint to celebrate with the kiddos.  No coloring pages (unless you blow up Dürer's drawing and print that).  Few interesting legends or stories, no food associated with him.  Here's a short list of what I came up with (some are just fun):

* Talk about how important Christian education is (Sunday School, family devotions, private reading), and how "growing in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" is vital to the Christian life.

*  Everyone change their name for the day (Melanchthon's real last name was Schwartzerdt, "black earth".  He changed it to the Greek form.  It seemed to be popular among the intelligentsia, back in the day, to take on a hellenized or romanized name.  So my last name in Greek would be Glyka, in Latin Dulcis. Erasmus's real name was supposedly Gerard Gerardson--I guess I would have changed it, too.)

* Melanchthon drafted Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528).  In it he suggests grammar-school students memorize the following Psalms.  Try learning a few you don't know this week.

"Furthermore the teachers should ask the pupils to memorize a number of easy Psalms that contain in themselves a summary of the Christian life and speak about the fear of God, faith and good works, e.g.:

 Psalm 112 :11; Blessed is the man who fears the Lord.”
Psalm 34 :1: “I will bless the Lord at all times.”
Psalm 128 [:1]: “Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!”
Psalm 125 [:1]: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.”
Psalm 127 [:1]: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Psalm 133 [:1]: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” 

*If you own the game Agricola, play it with your older kids after the little ones are down.  Or have some couples over for an impromptu game and beer night.  Melanchthon and Luther had a lengthy debate with John Agricola (born Roelof Huysmann or Johannes Eisleben?) over the proper uses of the Law.  Read all about it here, or if you have more time for scholarly depth, here (I have not read the book, but it's on my to-read waiting list.  I hear there's a lot of untranslated Latin and German).  

The game has absolutely nothing to do with the man, but once the beer starts flowing, maybe the adults can have a rousing discussion on the uses of the Law.  To make it more interesting, invite a Calvinist or Roman Catholic :)

Philemon and Onesimus (February 15)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.                                      Galatians 5:13

Saint Philemon Welcoming Saint Onesimus. 14th century.

I paraphrased the story of Philemon and Onesimus for my children this morning, and we talked a bit about vocation and obedience to those whom God has placed over us.

I find bringing up the saint(s) throughout the day works well for my young children.  I'll ask my daughter, "Do you remember Onesimus?" and see how much she remembers of the story.  Later we might talk about how our Baptisms set us free from sin.  Although Onesimus and Philemon were still slave and master, they were now brothers in Christ, united in Baptism.  The Church is our family in Christ!

A fun activity for all day is to be servants to one another.  Assign each family member another family member to serve, and see how they can "outdo one another in love."  

14 February 2011

St. Valentine (February 14)

St, Valentine Baptizing St. Lucilla. 1575. Bassano, Jacopa.

Did not have time this weekend to work much on the blog.  Here is an older children's book.

And a coloring page.

Associate the red of Valentine's Day with martyrs.  Don't buy Valentines, but make them.  Add to this post with more ideas!

(Sorry I dropped the ball...)

12 February 2011

Bible Story Books

If the story is simple enough, and is found in one passage, we usually just read to our children right out of  our Bible.

However, sometimes illustrated storybooks are nice. We use A Child's Garden of Bible Stories by Arthur W. Gross and The Golden Children's Bible.   And of course, Arch Books.   I have fond memories of reading The Bible Story series by Arthur Maxwell, but I cannot attest to their orthodoxy (I should dig them up at my parents' house and write a review...) What do you like?

Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos (February 13)

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in( the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.                               Acts 24-28

If you have a small tent, set it up in your living room and get cozy with blankets while reading about the tentmakers, Priscilla and Aquila.

I made a simple shoelace sewing card for my 3-year-old.  Taking a hand hole-punch, I punched along a simple drawing of a tent.  She will sew the "tent," then color it!  (Yarn with a bit of tape at the end works as well as a shoelace.)

Topic suggestions: Talk about Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos as missionaries; continue to talk about Christian persecution and martyrdom (continuing discussion from St. Silas' Day); pray for the persecuted Church today; discuss why a Christian should always be open to correction, and the virtue of humility. Talk about how God used Apollo's eloquence and education to convert people, but that ultimately the Holy Spirit through Apollo's preaching of the Scriptures accomplished the end!

09 February 2011

Silas (February 10)

After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and 
ordered the jailer to keep them securely.  Following these instructions, he put 
them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the 
prisoners were listening to them.

Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were
shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened.
Acts 16:23-26

To commemorate St. Silas we will read about his imprisonment with Paul, color some coloring sheets, and pray for Christians today who are imprisoned.  We also will sing "By All Your Saints in Warfare" (LSB 517, Stanzas 1 and 3).  (Any other hymn would be appropriate, since Paul and Silas were singing in prison.) If there's time/sustained interest we will make some paper "prison chains."

Here's a free coloring book about Paul and Silas.  The art is inferior, but you have options.  I found it through this site, which has a lot of other free Bible story coloring pages.

Silas is the semitic form of Sylvanus, which means woods/forest, so maybe older kids could do some sort of tree research project on St. Silas Day (identify all the trees in their backyard; if sap has started running in your region, tap some maples; if you have a woodburner, find out what trees make the best, hottest and longest burning firewood).  Of course, the real reasons for remembering Silas should be religious and Gospel-oriented.  However, I would like to eventually expand our family's feast day celebrations into school and learning topics.

08 February 2011

Diversity in Unity, Pt. II

How does the previous post fit with practicing the Church Year in our local congregations and homes?

When you observe the church year in your home, keep the unity of the seasons.  Observe Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost (Sunday mornings will make a lot more sense if you do).  Observe the Saint days as outlined in the Lutheran Service Book (or your own tradition's sanctoral calendar).  But then think about family and local observances.  Some ideas:

1. Favorite saints of your region.  We are not Swedish, but our city is (was?) and there are tons of St. Lucia Day celebrations in December.  So we celebrate St. Lucia Day.  Neighborhoods in Chicago have Polish saint festivals (and of course, there's the whole St. Patrick's Day fiasco).  If a certain ethnicity is prominent in your town's history, think about joining in saint celebrations (within orthodox reason, of course).

2. Baptismal Birthdays. Celebrate the anniversary of being born again.  We have a small celebration after dinner (family only), and the birthday boy/girl will receive a small devotional gift (book, jewelry, picture, CD, etc.).  Concordia Publishing House has a good resource for ideas for observing baptism birthdays, and remembering our baptism in general.

3. Name Days.  Celebrate with your children their "saint day" or "name day."  You might have to do some research to find more obscure names (or use middle names!), but connecting your child with an historic, real Christian of the past is so special.  Call them by the saint name for the day (if it is their middle name, or a variation.  So call a "Trevor Stephen", Stephen for the day. Or call an Isabelle, Elizabeth for the day).  Gifting your children with an icon of their namesake is a special way for them to understand their connection to Christians who have gone before us.  If your child is named for a relative who has died in Christ, that relative was/is a Saint,.  Their "saint day" is the the day they died (the day they were born into eternity). (Thanks, Rebekah, for the ideas.)

4.  Local Christian heroes and anniversaries.  Does your church or family have a connection with brave missionaries or faithful martyrs?  Perhaps your church was the first Lutheran mission in your county or state--celebrate the day of its founding.  Although they were Baptist, my husband has ancestors who were killed by Indians for the sake of the Gospel (the father was a pastor and was trying to start a church among the natives).  We dedicate a day in our year to remember their birth into eternity. 

What unique anniversaries or festivals do you observe in your home or church?   What other ways can we, without disrupting or overshadowing or replacing the universal church's feasts and seasons, observe (or create!) local customs and traditions?

Diversity in Unity, Pt. I

The lower-tier state university I attended had creepy "Unity in Diversity" Soviet posters all over the place.  The only creepier public ad I've seen is the lyrics to "Imagine" on a ticker in Picadilly Circus.

But invert the phrase and you have a good description of the Church: Diversity in Unity.  Ok, maybe a bit slogan-y and trite, but thinking in Epiphany terms:

1. The Gospel is for all people, all tribes, all nations.  Christ died not just for the Jew, but for we poor Gentiles, too.  He didn't just die for the elect, but for all of humanity.  We are to "teach all nations" (Matt 28:19), Christ is the "Desire of all Nations" (Hag 2:7), through Abraham, in Christ "All the nations will be blessed" (just go read all of Galatians 3).  We are Christ's body, and one in him, regardless of ethnic, sex, or economic differences.  We are united to Him (and therefore to each other) in baptism.

2.  Christianity is not Hinduism.  We are not not losing our individual self in a sort of Platonic pantheism.  Material is good (God said so, when he made it). But material, by nature, divides and separates.  I am not you, although I am one with you in Christ, if you are baptized.  When we are all glorified, we will still be individuals, distinct from each other.  We are diverse.

I think a good doctrine of the Trinity helps understand the Christian "Diversity in Unity." Meditate a bit on the precise wording of the Athanasian Creed.  Like the Trinity (I say this with no impiety intended), we are one (because of our baptism, and being members of Christ's body), yet retain our personhood.

So how does this translate into practice?  I love visiting a church where I know when to stand and sit, what to expect in a sermon (Law and Gospel, baby!), and I recognize the ordinaries.  Even when attending my in-law's conservative Reformed Baptist church, I recognize the skeleton of a traditional liturgy.  They have a call to worship, Psalm, Bible reading (distinct from the sermon), a sermon hymn, and "prayers of the church."  It's not a Divine Service (no communion on Sunday morning, ever!), but I know what to expect.  When I attended Roman Masses abroad I loved hearing the Our Father and Nunc Dimittis, although spoken in French, Italian, or Latin.  I could follow the service because I knew the outline of a traditional liturgy, and I could hear the familiar inflections (Christians everywhere seem to say the Our Father the same way).  I'm not promoting a shallow ecumenism, only pointing out the comfort of unity and consistency. It's good to know when you're in church.

But I also love attending congregations when they are celebrating a local anniversary or custom.  The local church, while part of the church universal, has its own history and particular traditions:  special  Easter brunches or other annual meals, services of thanksgiving for regional blessings (perhaps a good harvest), or prayer services during local disaster, and any number of little yearly observances.

So how can we practice diversity in unity in the home?

04 February 2011

Jacob (February 5)

39-19-01/62 Victors,Jan. Isaac benissant Jaco...
Isaac blesses Jacob  Victors, Jan

Jacob's Dream. de Ribera, Jusepe
Jacob Fights the Angel Rembrandt

Jacob Blessing His Children. Rembrandt

There is so much to say about Jacob: family drama;  sin and deceit; love, heartbreak, sorrow and betrayal.  But the stories in Genesis are about God forever keeping his promises, even to (frankly) horrible people.  And God keeps his promise to Jacob, to Israel, to his Bride.

I have never really liked Jacob.  David was a sinner, but at least he was manly.  He wasn't a mamma's boy, he waited on God's timing to take his rightful throne, he was loyal and honest (usually).  I believe David when he repents, but I don't trust Jacob when he prays "I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown to your servant..." (Gen 32:10).  I just think, "Yeah, right, you're just scared Esau is going to destroy you. Wimp."

Until I read an article by a Lutheran pastor arguing Esau was not necessarily damned from eternity (an article I'm still trying to track down), and heard Pr. Nathan Dudley on Issues, Etc., I always had a Reformed understanding of the story of Jacob and Esau (without knowing it).  "Esau I hated" just because he was predestined not to receive the inheritance, was elected to damnation, and "Jacob I loved" just because he was elected to salvation.  I have never held Reformed views on election, but I accepted that interpretation without thinking too much about it, and its full implications.  It was a "hard passage" that seemed to support Reformed theology.

So back to David vs. Jacob.  Remember when Nathan says to David "You are the man!" (You can read the whole story here)?  Well, God, through his Word in Genesis, is pointing to Jacob and saying to me "You are that man!"  After I just wrinkled my nose and expressed my disgust at Jacob's sliminess.   The Lutheran interpretation of Jacob and Esau as types of the Church and Christ is brilliant (and so obvious once pointed out).  Of course, for all of Jacob's grossness, God still chooses to bless the world through him.

It helps me to frame the saint or OT character of the day in Christ and his work before I begin our "Saint Time" with the little ones.  "In the Home" includes mom and dad meditating on the commemoration or feast, too, before talking to the little ones (or bigger ones) about who we are celebrating and why.

We will focus on the story of Jacob and Esau and God giving the birthright to Jacob, in spite of Jacob's sin.  We will make lentil soup, color a coloring page, and make some play-doh soup bowls or popsicle stick ladders.

I found Olney Hymns: In Three Parts by Newton and Cowper, which includes hymns inspired by Genesis passages.  We're not going to try to sing any of these, but here are a few lovely lines:

"Lo! He saw a ladder rear'd
Reaching to the heavenly throne,
At the top the Lord appear'd,
Spake and claim'd him for his own"

(As Jacob demands a blessing from the Lord....)
"No--I must maintain my hold,
'Tis thy goodness makes me bold;
I can no denial take,
When I plead for Jesus' sake."

The bits on Jacob are found on page 29.

February Preview....

In case you're wondering what's ahead:

5th     Jacob
10th   Silas
13th   Aquila, Priscilla, Apollos
14th   Valentine
15th   Philemon and Onesimus
16th   Philipp Melanchthon
18th   Martin Luther
23rd   Polycarp of Smyrna
24th   St. Matthias

I'm also working on a Lenten Traditions post. Email me if you have any favorite Lent activities you would like to share.

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03 February 2011

Ordered Books

A reader asked to list which books I will be reviewing in the weeks to come.  Here they are!  I should have them all by the end of the week, and then I can decided which to begin reading!

  • Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church by the Fourniers
  • Celebrating the Church Year with Young Children by Joan Halmo
  • A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations by Joanna Bogle
  • Beginning at Home: The Challenge of Christian Parenthood by Mary Perkins, et al.
  • A Continual Feast by Evelyn Bitz
  • Feast Day Cookbook by Catherine Burton
  • Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle
  • Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis Weiser (thanks, Dawn!)

Most of these are RC.  I've been (casually) looking for a good book that follows the church seasons and liturgical year through music (classical and/or folk).  Any music majors out there who can help?  Also, are there any Lutheran resources for feast day celebrations anywhere?

The Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord (February 2)

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”                                    Luke 2:22-32

Hymns: Variations on the Nunc Dimittis (LSB 937, 938); TLH 131

(Found another wonderful art resource: biblical-art.com)

Candlemas, as the Presentation was popularly called in the West, is the hinge where we swing from thoughts primarily of the Incarnation to thoughts of the Crucifixion. (Of course, the two can never be completely separated.)  It is the end of the Christmas season!

We are still in Epiphany, and the canticles of Simeon (and Anna) in Luke 2 reveal to us who the Christ child really is (God's incarnation we celebrate at Christmas and Epiphany), and what he will do (save us from our sins by his work on the cross and resurrection, which we celebrate at Easter).

It was popular in the Western church to hold processions, carrying candles to be blessed at the service (hence "Candlemas").

Activities and Lore:

Coloring page!

Traditional Candlemas recipes:
Crepes in France.  These are only to be eaten after 8pm, and if the crepe-maker can flip a crepe successfully while holding a coin in his other hand, the family will have success all year.

Tamales in Central and South America.  Whoever gets the coin (or metal doll) in their piece of Rosca De Reyes (a version of King's Cake) on the eve of Epiphany has to make the tamales and throw a party on Candlemas.

Our Groundhog Day grew out of older Candlemas superstitions ("If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite.  If Candlemas brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and will not come again").  I guess we in the Midwest are safe.  Spring is coming early :)