Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
From the Gettysburg Seminary President's Office
by Michael L. Cooper-White
Over the years I have made several promises, to avoid patterns and behaviors found annoying in others when repeated to excess. I will seek to avoid waxing eloquent about the “good old days,” in which, of course, I played a major leading role. I will confine to a bare minimum any comments on the state of my health, especially should some dire disease or perilous condition befall me. I won’t even ask friends and associates if they want to see pictures, slides (do these even exist anymore?) or videos of my most recent travel adventures. And, I will avoid excessive bragging about the accomplishments and attributes of my children and grandchildren.
Now I must confess that keeping the latter self-pledge is the most challenging in this moment when our family has just welcomed the birth of Marina Grace Ramirez Cooper to parents Melissa and Aaron, the Chicago contingent of the Cooper-White clan. She is, quite simply, one of the finest little ones God ever created! My recent Chicago trip for the ELCA Church Council meeting afforded me the opportunity to meet and hold this wonderful new baby. As so many other grandparents have testified, it’s a unique and awesome experience embracing a newborn child of one’s children.
In Marina’s name itself—meaning “of the sea—is a reminder of the ever-flowing tides of life, its cycles and seasons. The great Isaac Watts hymn, “Oh God, our Help in Ages Past,” reminds us that time is indeed “an ever-rolling stream,” which far too quickly “bears us all away.” And yet, in every moment of never-ceasing and fast-escaping chronological time, there is the possibility that God’s kairos-time might just break in.
Included in a Bible study I was asked to lead for the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was a reminder of this twofold nature of time reflected in the distinct words employed by writers of the New Testament—“chronos” and “kairos.” Chronos—clock time, marches onward and indeed bears us all away. But kairos—often translated as “God’s time” or the “fullness of time”—connects this world with the eternal and unending, with a time-beyond-time where clocks either grind to a halt or are completely irrelevant.
“What time is it?” I invited members of the Church Council, churchwide executives and other advisers to ponder. Amidst their prolonged discussions of budget shortfalls and reactive anxiety abroad in the church as a result of ELCA decisions to allow for the ordination of gay and lesbian baptized brothers and sisters in publicly accountable, monogamous lifelong relationships, council members and others suggested the times are turbulent, filled with anger, and threats to divide the church in some quarters. Others commented that it’s also a time for new opportunities to expand our church’s mission and faithfulness.
Holding the precious gift-bundle of flesh and spirit Marina’s parents and God have bestowed upon us all, my own answers to the question point in the following directions: It’s time to get on with building and being a better, more welcoming church than we have been heretofore. It’s time to get more serious about a “green tomorrow” and steps both large and small, which give hope that a hospitable planet will endure for our children, grandchildren and generations thereafter. It’s time for forward-mission-movement despite the economic challenge of scarcer resources. More than ever, it’s time to be both faithful and fervent in fielding theological education that equips current and future church leaders not to just endure but embrace all the challenges that lie ahead as denominations may reconfigure, congregations find new forms, and the “profession” of ministry grows in directions we can only begin to imagine.
And for now, it’s time for me to carry around the little folio with this granddad’s collection of Marina photos . . . I’ll only show them when asked, and I promise they won’t bore you!
Monday, November 23, 2009
On Crashing Planes and Faithful Preaching
From the Gettysburg Seminary President's Office
by Michael L. Cooper-White
In this venue and elsewhere, I’ve confessed to a fairly typical troubled relationship with “history” during my grammar, high school and college student days. Memorizing dates, learning about past events that didn’t hold much interest, and looking backward in general just didn’t much “grab me” as a schoolboy. Also shared before has been my growing interest in history as I’ve come to appreciate not only bygone events, but their interpretation and how the past holds meaning for the present and offers guidance for the future.
Rarely do I use this P.O. musing space for book reviews per se, but a historical autobiography of sorts that I’ve been reading of late seems to merit the occasional exception. In “Down Around Midnight,” (Viking Press, 2009) author Robert Sabbag reveals his personal journey into a painful past moment 30 years ago when he was among the survivors of a commuter plane crash short of the runway at Barnstable Municipal Airport on Cape Cod. Sabbag explains how he recovered quickly from the traumatic event and went on his merry way for over a quarter century, having no contact with others aboard that ill-fated aircraft flown into the trees on a foggy night by an overstressed pilot who had already made 14 previous landings during a long summer day in 1979. As Sabbag systematically contacted and interviewed other survivors, his understandings of the horrific landing and its aftermath changed dramatically. Things he had never understood—including his own actions and shock-shrouded conversations—began to fall into place.
Toward the end of the book, survivor Sabbag reflects on returning to the Cape Cod crash site, where new meanings were derived from his courageous delving deeply into long-past events most of us would fear to dredge up again. And he observes our ambivalence about the past, especially sad and tragic occurrences: “Here we lay twenty-eight years ago . . . I remember little of how the time passed. And the things I remember are among those things I continually have to remind myself to forget. Quite a thing, as someone said, for a summer evening on the Cape.” (p. 211)
Beyond my interest in all things aviation-related, including sad tales of planes, pilots and their passengers who never make it to the gate at an intended destination, I think the reason “Down Around Midnight” so captured my attention lies in what it may have to teach about the nature of “history,” including the “history of salvation” recorded in Holy Scripture. As I read Robert Sabbag’s autobiographical account of his quest to grasp new meanings from a long-ago traumatic scene, I couldn’t help thinking of the New Testament authors who sought to “write an account” decades after the death and resurrection of our Lord. Unlike Sabbag, the gospel-writers apparently had little if any opportunity to engage in dialogue with eye-witnesses or those who experienced Jesus’ life and ministry face-to-face. And even if some such eye-witnesses were in fact still around, like Sabbag’s fellow travelers, they were groping to recall details of both joyful events and traumatic incidents that occurred decades before.
Pondering the nature of the biblical historians’ work gives me all the more admiration for the Scripture authors’ courageous efforts to preserve for all time the events and words by which the Word—Jesus—is preserved and propelled forward. My anxiety about the task of faithful proclamation (including preaching) was also ratcheted up considerably in pondering just how awesome a thing it is to engage ancient texts, seeking to discern not only what they meant “there back then” but what they mean “here and now.” My comfort comes in being surrounded by a host of others—including colleagues here on the Seminary campus—committed to the historical search for “what really happened” and the hermeneutical task of “making meaning” for our hearers and for ourselves.
THEOLOGIAN PUBLISHES INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN ORIENTATION TOWARD WORLD RELIGIONS
No Mere Dialogue: Engaging World Religions by Lawrence Folkemer
Folkemer, a Systematic Theologian, traces his quest into the realm of world religions guided by classic Christian sources and theologians who were foundational figures as Christians began to encounter interreligious dialogue. The study first treats the theme Proclamation and Dialogue in ten theses underlining the communication of the Gospel and the significance of interreligious dialogue. Second, he examines selected biblical passages as the ground for understanding the theme of Christian proclamation and religious dialogue. Third, he treats some of the Christian theologians in the patristic period of Christianity who in their theological formulations dealt with Greek and Roman philosophy and religious thought. Finally, Folkemer discusses four major issues in interreligious encounter, namely, God and the world, textual sources, incarnation and Christology, and salvation.
(Gettysburg, Penna.) Dr. Lawrence Folkemer, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg published a new book designed to help Christians understand and engage Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Entitled No Mere Dialogue: Engaging World Religions, the treatise serves as a general introduction to world religions and the religious pluralism of the modern world.
The book, published by Thomas Publications, goes on sale on Wednesday, October 28th at the Lutheran Theological Seminary Bookstore on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg, PA for $15.
The book offers a Christian point of view by a Christian Theologian who for many years had engaged in the study of world religions and taught the subject in universities and theological seminaries in the Unites States and India. In addition to his teaching at the Gettysburg Seminary, Folkemer taught at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the University of Madras and United Theological College in Bangalore, India. Folkemer traces his quest into the realm of world religions guided by classic Christian sources and theologians who were foundational figures as Christians began to encounter interreligious dialogue.
The study first treats the theme Proclamation and Dialogue in ten theses underlining the communication of the Gospel and the significance of interreligious dialogue. Second, he examines selected biblical passages as the ground for understanding the theme of Christian proclamation and religious dialogue. Third, he treats some of the Christian theologians in the patristic period of Christianity who in their theological formulations dealt with Greek and Roman philosophy and religious thought. Finally, Folkemer discusses four major issues in interreligious encounter, namely, God and the world, textual sources, incarnation and Christology, and salvation.
Folkemer, 93, is a graduate of Gettysburg College and Gettysburg Seminary and completed his PhD degree at Hartford Theological Seminary in 1946. As a pastor and theologian, he founded the Religion Department at George Washington University, Washington, DC (1947-1954) and served as senior pastor of Reformation Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC before teaching at the Seminary (1960-1985). He was also a founder of the Washington Theological Consortium and first director of Gettysburg Seminary’s Lutheran House of Studies in the nation’s capital. He retired in 1985.
FESTIVAL CHORAL VESPERS FOR ADVENT TO LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS NOVEMBER 29
Music includes Bach, Schütz, Eccard and more
Music, Gettysburg’s! Schola Cantorum will begin the season of Advent and light up the winter darkness with a festive choral setting for vespers on Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 7:30pm. in the chapel of the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The one hour festival choral setting for evening prayer is free and open to the public.
The Schola Cantorum of Gettysburg, under the direction of Stephen P. Folkemer, will augment the evening prayer liturgy with Bach cantatas for Advent, Wake Awake! (Wachet Auf) and Come Now, Savior of the Nations (Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland) and the lovely early choral setting of the “Magnificat” by Heinrich Schütz, musically set psalms, and hymns.
The full list of music to be performed during the hour long vespers includes Johanne Eccard’s German song “Over the Hills, Young Mary Hastes,” a traditional Advent hymn Fling Wide the Door newly arranged by Stephen Folkemer, a medieval setting of Psalm 146 newly arranged by Andrew Rosenfeld, and more.
Mark Calendars now for “O Little Town: An American Christmas”
Music, Gettysburg!’s Christmas Offering, December 20th at 7pm.
Sent by John Spangler