Holy Books and Violent Texts

“Come in and kill them. Let no one escape.”

Such is a verse found in a book sacred to billions of religious people in the world. It’s not the only text of violence in this holy book. Indeed, there’s lots of violence in it. It would be easy to read this book – isolated verses and the longer sagas – and conclude that those who consider it to be holy are radical extremists, and that their God considers violence to be just.

Here are a few more verses:

406460_f520“Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

“He said, ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for God.’ When he came to the place, he killed all who were left, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of God that he spoke to the prophet.”

“The king said to the guards and to the officers, ‘Come in and kill them; let no one escape.'”

“Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys … They burned down the city, and everything in it.”

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Did I give it away by that last one? These quotes, some slightly edited, come from the Bible that Christians around the world consider to be sacred.

Reading a people’s holy book outside of that people’s tradition of interpretation, piety, and prayer is dangerous.

I’d hate for a non-Jew or non-Christian to pick up and read the Bible on their own apart from the community of faith. Look at these verses! Read in isolation there are horrendous. Holy Books are products of living and active religions, and are interpreted within a living and active tradition and community of faith.

The Bible has all kinds of passages that are, on the surface, terrible. However, our interpretive tradition has, over the centuries and millennia, struggled to frame and make some sense out such verses. In isolation, these verses do not exemplify my faith nor the faith of billions of Christians (and Jews, for that matter).

Here are those verses from above, unedited, with citations:

Ps 137:9 “Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

2 Kings 10:16 “He said, ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.’ So he had him ride in his chariot. When he came to Samaria, he killed all who were left to Ahab in Samaria, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah.”

2 Kings 10:25 “Jehu said to the guards and to the officers, ‘Come in and kill them; let no one escape.'”

Joshua 6:21, 24 “Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys … They burned down the city, and everything in it.”

Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

And I could go on.

Holy texts cannot be understood apart from holy communities.

Just as I would not want a non-Christian to read these verses as if they defined my faith, let’s not read the Koran, or any other holy book, and claim we know what it means. Sacred texts belong in faithful communities, and apart from those communities they cannot be properly understood. Christians who seek to understand Islam cannot simply pick up and read a Koran in isolation, but instead must learn from the community of faith who consider that text to be sacred.

Sharing Profile Photos on your Church’s Facebook Page

If you’re like me, your involvement in your church or organization is a big part of your life. And, if you’re active on Facebook, you’re likely to share much of that part of your life online. However, it can be a bit of a challenge to share pictures from your personal profile on your organization’s Facebook page, especially if you’ve made your personal Facebook settings restricted to friends or only certain groups of friends. Additionally, most people who like your church or organization’s page will not see the photos if you simply share them on your page’s wall. To increase chances that your photo will be seen by people who like your church or organization, you need to post the photo to your page as your page, not as yourself.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Make sure that the photo you wish to share has “public” sharing permissions. Find the photo you wish to share in the photos section of your profile, click on it, and then click the globe at the top right corner of the message box next to the photo. Make sure the permissions are set to “public.”
  2. Next, go to your church/organization’s page. If you are the page’s administrator, near the top of the page a notice should tell you how you are “posting, commenting, and liking” – as your personal profile or as your page. For example, on my page it says, “You are posting, commenting, and liking as Chris Duckworth – Change to Grace Lutheran Church, St Paul.” You should click the highlighted text so that you can post to Facebook as your page. The page will re-load, and the notice will now let you know that you are interacting with Facebook as your page.
  3. Now, return to your personal profile and find the picture you want to share. Click on the picture, and then click on “share” from the options that appear at the bottom of the photo. A dialog box will appear, with a drop-down menu at the top. The default setting for sharing photos is “On your own timeline.” Click that, and from the drop-down menu select “On your page.”
  4. Above the message area the name of your page should be displayed. If you administer multiple pages, click to select the page to which you wish to post this picture. At the top right side of the dialog box, a notification reminds you that you are posting as the page. If that says “Posting as yourself,” you did not properly change to interacting with Facebook as your page. Go back and do Step #2 again.
    Write a brief message about the photo in the message area, and then press the Share Photo button.
  5. Now, return to your page to re-set how you interact with Facebook. You are still posting, commenting, and liking as your page. Click the highlighted text to “Change to (Your Name).” The page will reload, and your settings will be back to normal.

Sharing photos on your Facebook page is a great way to share what is happening with your church or organization. And, sharing appropriate photos from your personal Facebook profile does not require that you have the photo on your church’s hard drive or saved on any church device. Use these steps to share your photos on your page, as your page, and you’ll have a more dynamic and lively Facebook page for people to interact with and share with their friends.

Tomorrow’s Sermon, Today

Though I often finish the first draft of my sermons on Fridays, I usually work on the sermons through Saturday evening and even into Sunday morning.  But this week I'm done earlier than usual. Tomorrow's sermon is available today, over at my sermons blog, The Lutheran Zephyr: Sermons (which, if you're interested, has its own RSS feed and email subscription). 

In this sermon I continue a theme from my previous sermon, looking at the new things that God is doing in our Bible texts, and wondering about the new things that God is doing in our lives.

Liturgy, Copyrights, and the Internet, revisited

Two years ago I was denied permission to publish an edited version of Responsive Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) on my blog, and was forced to take down the order of prayer that I had been posting for several months (see past post, Daily Prayer Permission Denied – note that some links in that two year-old post are now broken). 

I chose to use Responsive Prayer, with slight amending, because that order of prayer largely follows Martin Luther's instructions for morning and evening blessing in the Small Catechism.  I amended that order to include a recitation of the Ten Commandments, in order to conform to Luther's instructions in the Large Catechism drill oneself in the catechism daily (an instruction echoed elsewhere, including in his letter to Peter the barber, A Simple Way to Pray). The form I used for the Ten Commandments came from the Book of Common Prayer, which has no copyright protections and thus is free for any to use and publish online.  The order that I posted at the time included attributions and links to sources.

Recently I wrote back to Augsburg Fortress Publishers, who administers the copyright for the materials in ELW (copyright is actually held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, however), asking them under which circumstances liturgical material from ELW could be published online.

Are there any circumstances under which the text of a liturgy (not the music) from ELW could be posted online, such as Responsive Prayer or Morning Prayer?  To what extent can collects or litanies be posted online (with attribution, of course)?  Would it make a difference if these texts were posted on a personal blog or on a congregational website?  We have such liturgical riches, and it is a shame that they stay under copyrighted lock and key rather than be freely shared via Facebook, email and blogs in a congregation's ministry.

I received a quick response, saying that my questions have been forwarded to their worship team for discussion.  So, we'll see, I guess.

However, there are some things I can post online, thanks to the less restrictive copyrights of the daily lectionary (held by the Consultation on Common Texts) and the copyright-free material found within the Book of Common Prayer.  In the coming week or so I will repost an order of prayer, based on Luther's instructions, and including readings from the daily lectionary and liturgical texts borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer.

I’ve Done This Before

It's been just over a year since I was ordained and installed as a pastor.  I am no longer a "rookie" in the technical sense, though in many respects I continue to bump and feel my way through this ministry as I have for the past year.  I've heard it said that it takes 18 months to get settled into a new job (don't ask who said that – I have no idea).  Perhaps that is true.

But for the first time in my ministry I can say "I've done this before," in advance of a particular annual event.  This first struck me as I saved my sermon for the 4th Sunday in Advent,
and I saw in my computer's sermons folder that I preached on the 4th Sunday in
Advent last year, too.  

Christmas Eve?  Done that.  Annual Meeting?  I was there last year.  I'm now asking fewer questions and moving forward more confidently, even as I continue to grow into the nuances and unique patterns of ministry at my congregation.  And for this I'm excited.  It's been a great first year of ministry, and I look forward to many more to come.


FYI, I've changed the manner in which I post my sermons.  They now appear on a separate blog with their own feed and email subscription.  If you want to get my (more or less) bi-weekly sermons, visit my sermons blog (linked in tab above), and scroll down to the "Subscribe to Sermons" box in the right hand column.

Blog Updates, and an Anniversary

My sermons now appear on their own blog, The Lutheran Zephyr: Sermons.  For you who subscribe using a reader such as Google Reader, it has a separate feed from my main blog's feed.  If you care to subscribe to the feed, simply visit the blog or the direct feed.  I hope to get snazzy gadgets, such as an email subscription option, up there soon.  Not sure that I'll populate this blog with older sermons, however …

I haven't wanted to post my sermons as ordinary blogposts on this blog, and instead I put each sermon on a dedicated blog page.  I linked to the sermons then on a sermons page.  It was a labor-intensive, and lame, way to keep the sermons organized.  Perhaps this will be better.

Also, today was the first anniversary of my ordination.  Here is a blogpost I wrote a few days after my ordination and first time presiding.

A blessed Advent to all!

As the Blog Fades …

If there's one type of blog post I don't really enjoy reading, it is the post that dwells on the task of blogging itself.  As if personal blogging in and of itself isn't narcissistic enough, blogging about blogging certainly is.  You put yourself out there on a blog, write on a regular basis, get some response.  You bookmark the blogtracking website, and you begin to get interested in your blogging stats.  Perhaps you even begin to time your writing and posting so that it hits the readers when they're likely to be online, rather than on Saturday night.

But then, for whatever reason, the blogging slows down, and aware that there might be 40, 50 or even a few hundred people out there who have noticed your blog, you decide to write about blogging.

Over the past four years I've followed that track and have arrived to this place where blogging seems increasingly     irrelevant to my life.  So add this post to the list of posts I've written about the task of blogging (click on that link at risk of falling off into a boredom-induced stupor), and the various posts I've written about the end of my blogging career (including this one back in May, this one last December, and this one in April '08, among others).  Oye.

Blogging for me was an outlet, a way for me to dabble in issues of church and pastoral ministry while I was on the outside looking in.  But now that I'm on the inside of parish ministry – ordained and serving a congregation since December – I find that my desire to blog has plummeted.  For me, blogging was a prelude, a preview, an appetizer. 

Well, the main event, the feature presentation, the main course has arrived.  What I used to do on the blog I now do via email and in person with parishoners, at conference meetings with fellow pastors, every other week in my ministry of preaching, and in the planning and preparations for the ministry areas for which I am responsible.  That is, the theological and ministry dabbling that this blog allowed me do I now do elsewhere … in my call as pastor.

And though I love to write, I'm finding that I do plenty of writing in the course of my job, and don't need a blog to scratch that itch.  I've been writing for my work within the congregation, and also some for Augsburg Fortress and the ELCA.  It's been fun – a bit overwhelming at times, actually – but has also crowded out the blog.

Finally    , I can see nothing but bad things to result if I were to blog about my parish.  Broadcasting parish news on my personal blog, or referring to parish situations (even if I were to change some of the circumstances for the sake of the innocent) seems to be a violation of a pastoral trust that must exist between parish and pastor.

So, whatever … this post is now annoying me.  Perhaps this is a love/hate thing, one of those "it's not you, it's me" kind of break-up things, or simply an overly narcissistic thing that needs to end here and now.  Whatever it is, this might be the end of it.

Until, that is, I have something else to share with the world.  😉

Lutheran Blogs

The Lutheran Zephyr 2.0 was listed among a handful of blogs named in the most recent issue of Seeds for the Parish, "the resource paper of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America." Seeds for the Parish is sent to all ELCA congregations and church leaders six times each year.  

Getting a shout-out in Seeds for the Parish is a nice recognition of this blog, for sure.  But this article is also a nice recognition of the many Lutheran blogs that contribute in a variety of ways to the church's life.

Reprinted below, entirely without permission, is the column from Seeds for the Parish about Lutheran blogs.  Of course, you can access this column and the entire issue of the Seeds for the Parish in convenient pdf format here, or at the Seeds for the Parish website.

Please note that even though these blogs appeared in an official ELCA publication, "not all the resources and program ideas listed in Seeds for the Parish have received official ELCA review or endorsement."  This blog has surely not been officially reviewed or endorsed by anybody … please, don't confuse this blog with anything official. That might hurt my reputation!  ;-)


Lutheran blogs (reprinted from Seeds for the Parish, page 5, July-August 2009)

A quick Google search returns more than 51,700 results for “ELCA Lutheran Blogs.” There are bloggers from all walks of Lutheran life, from the 2009 Bishops Academy to a “Sarcastic Lutheran” in Denver. There is no doubt that Lutherans are blogging in unprecedented numbers. Listed below is a sampling of what is going on in the blogosphere.

The Lutheran Zephyr 2.0: “The semi-regular reflections of Chris Duckworth, a 30-something rookie pastor encountering God, faith, and mission. . .all over again.” http://www.lutheranzephyr.com

A Pastor in the Parish: “A Lutheran pastor seeks to reclaim the role of pastor as theologian. Excerpts and reflections meant to generate discussion and devotion are posted.” Blogger Brian Bennett is an ELCA pastor serving the congregation of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Morgantown, West Virginia. http://intheparish.blogspot.com/

One Mission Blog: Reflections on the ELCA’s Ministry of Publishing—Augsburg Fortress—from president & CEO Beth Lewis. http://www.augsburgfortress.org/blog 

Music at Bethany: Maintained by the organist at Bethany English Lutheran Church in Cleveland. Focuses on Lutheran hymns, musical heritage, and liturgy.  http://music-at-bethany.blogspot.com CORRECTED!

Grace Notes: Lectionary poems and daily meditations along with other thoughts and reflections of Pastor Dan Bollerud, from Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, Anchorage, Alaska. http://www.coslcgrace.blogspot.com

Protestant Blog Ethic: Lutheran singer/songwriter Jonathan Rundman reflects upon the media, show business, family and church life at http://jonathanrundman.blogspot.com.

The Seminarian’s Sojourn: A blog from the Office of Vocation, Admissions & Financial Aid at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, written by LSTC seminarians. http://www.seminarians-sojourn.blogspot.com

Sarcastic Lutheran: The cranky spirituality of a postmodern gal—written by Nadia Boltz Weber, the mission developer for House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. http://www.sarcasticlutheran.typepad.com