Wednesday, June 30, 2004


River was baptized this last Sunday. Below I've posted the prayers and exhortation from the rite.

(Before the Baptism)
Almighty and eternal God, who through the flood, according to your righteous judgment, condemned the unfaithful world, and according to your great mercy, saved faithful Noah, even eight persons, and has drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh with all his army in the Red Sea, and has led your people Israel dry through it, thereby prefiguring this bath of your holy baptism, and through the baptism of your dear child, our Lord Jesus Christ, has sanctified and set apart the Jordan and all water for a saving flood, and an ample washing away of sins: we pray that through your same infinite mercy you would graciously look down upon this your child, and bless him with a right faith in the spirit, so that through this saving flood all that was born in him from Adam and all which he has added thereto might be drowned and submerged; and that he may be separated from the unfaithful, and preserved in the holy ark of Christendom dry and safe, and may be ever fervent in spirit and joyful in hope to serve your name, so that he with all the faithful may be worthy to inherit your promise of eternal life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

In this morning's sermon, we considered the continuities and discontinuities between the Old and New Covenant with regard to liturgy. Contrary to some Protestant traditions, Jesus did not teach that the New Covenant would dispense with rites, signs, material substances, and physical actions in worship. That is not what Jesus meant when He spoke of "Spiritual" worship. And one great sign of that, as I suggested, is that we do perform rites using material substances and physical actions - the rites of baptism and the Supper. Every time we baptize, we are declaring our continuity with Israel of the Old Testament.
Paedobaptism says even more, and says it more emphatically. Baptizing babies says that the boundaries of the church are in the same place as the boundaries of ancient Israel, the people of Abraham. We are saying that we are still the same people, and the same kind of people, as Israel was.
But baptism also declares our differences from the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, the mark of inclusion was a cut in the flesh - the foreskin of the child was cut off. The rite of entry into Israel was a rite of severing, and this not only pointed to the threat of being "cut off" for covenant unfaithfulness, but also pointed to the fact that Israel was herself "severed" from the rest of the world, distinguished by clothing, food, and other customs from the Gentiles. Further, circumcision was a kind of sacrificial rite, in which a body was cut into two pieces and blood was shed. That was fulfilled in Jesus, and we no longer perform a rite of separation, a rite of cutting, a rite of severing, a sacrificial entry into the church. We instead perform a rite that symbolizes the inclusion of Jew, Gentile, slave, free, man, woman, white, black, Hispanic, and whoever in one body in Christ. A child entered Israel through shedding blood; blood is a sign of life, but pouring out blood is a sign of death. But in the NC, we no longer live under the ministry of condemnation and death; we live in the covenant of life, symbolized by the living and life-giving water of baptism.
For you, Toby and Jenny, this means that River's baptism should be a constant reminder that you live under the New Covenant, not the Old. The Old Covenant came with great promises, the promise that Yahweh would dwell among His people and be the God of His people. But Hebrews tells us that the second covenant comes with better promises. The second covenant declares that the Son has come to tabernacle among us in human flesh. The second covenant announces that the Father is seeking worshipers to worship Him in Spirit and truth. And the second covenant comes with the promise of the Spirit, as Peter said at Pentecost: the promise is for you and for your children, and to all who are far off. Toby and Jenny, remind yourselves often of the meaning of baptism as God's pledge to you and to River; and teach him to trust this promise of God, the promise of the new covenant, the better covenant, the covenant of water not the covenant of blood.

(After the Baptism)
Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that he has been engrafted into the new life of the church through your holy baptism, that he has now been incorporated into your beloved Son, our only Savior, and is now your child and heir. Grant, most loving and faithful Father, that Toby and Jenny might prove our thankfulness for your great grace, faithfully bringing up this your child through all the situations of life and that we with this child as well, might more and more die to the world and be joined to the life of your Son, our Lord Jesus, and daily grow in grace, that we might ever praise you and be a blessing to our neighbor. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and with the Holy Spirit, one God, age after age. Amen.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Ninja Creature

I look at my son. He flings his arms up and down with a knotted brow. I look at him and wonder who I am. He’s a ninja. He needs not see the world to sense the enemies at hand. I poke him in the gut, and he flashes flayed hands, ready to strike. I don’t know what to do so I just keeping poking and watching.

I know he is another person, but I somehow feel that I am looking down into an enchanted pool staring at my reflection. Who am I? I did not know three weeks ago, that I was a father of a son. I did not know this about myself. I did not know my son was named for the veins of the earth. I did not know my son was a ninja, or that his eyebrows furrowed like sand dunes. And now as a result, I feel as though I know myself even less, having learned these bits. Who knows what I might find out next? Who knows but I might do something terrible. If I might be the father of a tiny creature like this, what sorts of other powers might I have?

I stop poking him because I don’t know what I might do. I just stare, silently wondering if I might bore holes into face and make his eye brows slide across his face and sink into oblivion. I wonder who he is because I wonder who I am. I am what my son is and will be. He is who I am and will be. Do I know and live with a mountain climber? Do I change the diapers of an orator? Do the fingers of an artist grip my thumb? He arches his back and looks with wild eyes at me. Don’t you know who I am? He seems to ask. You did this, how can you not know? I can only shake my head.

All I know is that you are some part of me that I did not know existed. I try to explain this in as simple of terms as possible. But he’s looking away. He’s looking at the wall. Of course there is some sense in which everyone I know makes up who I am. But this new person lives with me. His arrival seems more dramatic than even my wife’s. Maybe that’s because I knew my wife for six years before we were married. River only gave me nine months notice. I was changing as fast as he came. I was becoming him as quickly as he was becoming me. I poke him again.

He kicks and flails. His head rolls back and forth on a universal joint. His mouth is open. I try to guess, You’re a bird! He keeps moving. He didn’t even seem to notice my guess. I’m not the father of a bird. I almost feel relieved. He threatens me again with his ninja stance. His eyebrows burry his eyes and his cheeks turn pink. There’s a moment of silence and still, broken immediately by his crackling voice.

I am the father of a crying baby. That’s who I am. I made a helpless ninja creature, who cries when I tell him he’s me.


Thursday, June 17, 2004


I generally enjoy reading World Magazine, the weekly cultural and political standard from a Biblical and conservative point of view. But the boring small mindedness of their political endorsements is regularly annoying. Admittedly, it fits hand and glove with the timid defeatism of American voters in general. I also cringe at the sputtering, red faced invocations to vote. One Southern Baptist writer wrings his hands pleading with his fellow churchmen to register to vote. Less than half of the denomination are apparently registered. He pleads with the masses. He pleads. But I hum loudly and stop my ears. Not that I don't think people should vote. Go ahead, do the deed. In fact, I think a Christian ought to. But I will not plead with you. I will not wring my hands. I will not stammer or beg. As a good friend once said, voting is like taking out the trash: it certainly needs to be done, but there are more important things to do. But this handwringing is not a little unlike someone being really concerned about a tree with poisonous apples. If we all pitch in, he says, and pick an apple, they'll all be gone and the tree will be safe. Someone ought to explain to the man how trees and fruit work. And likewise politics. Civil and familial governement are two of the trees that grow out of the soil of the Church. Economics, arts, and entertainment are other such trees. These trees ought to grow, but certain kinds of soil produce certain kinds of trees with certain kinds of fruit. And until this baptist brother and all our friends realize that the fruit is inevitable unless the soil is changed, the tree will go on producing lethal products. No amount of voting, legislating, or campaigning will change the fact that the American Church is the problem. We are the cause, we are the infection, we are the target that God is aiming at. If the Secularists were really on their toes, they'd start deporting Christians. We are the Jonahs that are causing this storm. We have run from God by offering our children to the idols of our nation often killing them in their mothers' wombs. We have bought and sold forgiveness like a comodity, we have stolen the tithe, and dishonored His day. We have not only put up with immorality, but we have condoned it by ordaining bishops and clergymen who share pasttimes with such infamous characters as Michael Jackson.

And another thing: Why do we insist on playing the media's stupid games. Why do we buy their two party system? Why do we even play by their rules? Why don't we just stop paying attention to their little gimmicks and not settle for anything less than good. We operate, as Christians, in an entirely compromised way. We are so sure of defeat, that our sole motivation is based on 'the lesser of two evils'. We do our politics on the basis of who we don't want in office. And this is usually based entirely on selfish motivations. If I have a choice between someone hitting me with a two by four and mace, which do I chose? But politics just isn't like that. We are first responsible for our vote before God. He sees our hearts, our intentions, and our faith. If we vote out of fear, worry, bitterness, or simple cowardice then we are not voting in faith. But if God is our God, then we cannot be shaken. We must vote for who we believe would actually rule in righteousness. Righteousness. Not half-hearted, plastic smiling righteousness. Real God-fearing, greed-hating righteousness. We as country do not deserve such a leader. We deserve the sadistic triumverate of Stalin, Hitler, and Nero turned lose and ticked off, nukes at their disposal. That's what we deserve, but we ought to vote in faith, praying for mercy. And if there is no worthy candidate, it's still legal to write a name in.

But for all this I've written, I assure you that I'm smiling. We are ants. We are gnats. We are warring tribes of bees buzzing in a passioned frenzy. And I smile. I smile and play frizbee. I go bowling, and I sip kool-aid with my pinky in the air. I occasionally pass the time with a good popsicle. I really like grape. We must see our sin, and we must confess and forsake it. But forgiveness is real, and the huff and puff of the World is an ice cube on the sidewalk.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Summer Reading List

While the sun is shining bright and the evenings are for sweatshirts, I hope to dive from that large, overhanging branch called Spring and find myself submerged beneath the following pages. And I will do this amazing bit of acrobatics with a cherry popsicle in my hand and red smears on my cheeks.

I'm in the middle of Light From Old Times by the Bishop JC Ryle as well as Holiness by the same. I've also started, but have neglected to finish Law and Liberty by Mr. Rushdoony. The Everlasting Man of Chesterton is bent half way, but I've not yet seen the other side. Although I cannot place the entire blame on a sometimes reading group, Barth's Doctrine of the Word of God 1.1 is patiently waiting for the resuming of said reading group. I've also been picking my way through The Letters of Tolkien, an enjoyable exercise to say the least. There are of course other books that have not been finished, but my integrity as a reader requires discretion at some point.

I also hope to read some if not all of the following: From Dawn to Decadence by a fellow named Barzuk, a history of western civilization in a more consciously journalistic vein than most histories. Undaunted Courage, a story of the Lewis and Clark expedition and exploration of the northwest is also at the top of my list. And if I have my way, several titles on the War Between the States will find their way to my desk, one somewhat related, The Real Lincoln, I have already been encouraged to read.

In the fiction department, I hope to take in a bit more of the Wodehouse, although truth be told, my wife and I are still plucking our way through Right Ho, Jeeves. But no worries, the summer is fat for the picking. I will overcome, I will conquer, or I will survive at any rate. Walker Percy has long been awaiting my perusal, The Last Gentleman and The Moviegoer are mocking me from my shelf. I also continue work on the second book of the Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, although it is difficult to construe that as 'reading'. Summer time is also the perfect setting for several Flannery O'Connor short stories. It is my goal to read a good bit of Mr. Billy Collins, a poet who from all heartell deserves my time. I read several bits of him this morning, in fact, from one of his more recent collections.

The Atlas Humanities class works through a three year cycle, and this Fall, as you may have gathered, we will be studying modern history from the Reformation to the present. Probably the toughest part of this class will be condensing the possibilities of study into the actual amount of time that we have. Not only are there innumerable books to read, but battles and philosophies and discoveries seem like a firehose and I'm the teacher who's expected to fill a Dixie cup and share a little with my students. Alas!


Noble Liturgy

Modern Christian men are the recipients of two great evils here at the beginning of the 21st century. We live in a nation that is full of effeminate churches and watered down beer. And the two are not unrelated. A friend has pin pointed the World Wars and the subsequent increase of women in the workplace as the cause of the diluted beers, and while it may have certainly contributed to the problem, the roots are a bit deeper than that. Sentimentalism and sappy piety are our plague. Scrawny pastors with broken, mournful grimaces pouring over their congregants like luke warm syrup Sunday after Sunday are the cause of our plight. When salvation became a teary-eyed, emotional roller coaster, masculinity began its exodus to Sunday football and fanatical lawn care. Obviously these alternatives have their perversions as well, but for the man, they at least have the pretense of being masculine, while Church services unabashedly demanded their men to act like craven women, sharing their feelings and pouring out their hearts, a weekly castration for any conscientious male.
Of course sin has its roots in Adam and apart from Christ is hid deep in the recesses of the human heart. But this malady like every sin finds its genesis in a perversion of worship. This emotionalism and sentimentalism were carried in parasitic fashion on the back of liturgical deformation. Revivalism swept through many churches bringing with it the free for all, spirit-lead-ism that still engorges the Church today. The bold joy of the high liturgies: confession of sin, sung creeds, chanted psalms, prescribed prayers, and Scripture lessons centered around the eucharistic meal were eclipsed by sappy choruses and chaos on the one hand and in supposed reaction: stuffy, lecture halls on the other. But the high liturgies of the Church attack both tendencies which are the same at heart: seeing true religion as a feeling or a thought (internalized in either case) instead of incarnate gratitude. Of course these emotion driven services are not true femininity any more than they are true masculinity. But the nobility of high worship is part of the answer to both deficiencies. May God be please to give us repentant hearts, courageous leaders, and thick, dark beers.


Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Son To Me

Well there's no doubt about it. River is the coolest kid I know. He's not real big on conversation yet. But he lets his hopes and dreams be known. His coordination is still a little flimsy, particularly in the neck and head region. He's kind of dangerous with that thing. But he's trying. He really digs the swing. He can swing for hours. And then, he can swing some more. I've given him several tours of the house, a short geography lesson on the continents and major oceans, and I introduced him to the titles that live on the top of the first book shelf. That leaves thirteen shelves to go before I've covered each one. Like every boy, he's taking to eating and sleeping with a general merriment. He even gets along with Porter, who apart from the occasional slobberfest is quite pleased with the new addition to our home. He's already concerned for the well being of River and whines whenever River is unhappy.

What about the name? Ah yes... a river is one of God's central pictures for showing his strength and might, his joy and peace, and life and salvation. Isaiah 66, Ezekiel 47, and Revelation 22 are good starts. A river is quite literally 'living water'. It is living life. It flows and whirls, sings and dances, and rushes along with wild joy and exuberance. River is our exuberance.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Paul’s explanation of our bodies as temples as related to sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6 fits nicely with the Hebrew picture of such immorality in the Old Testament and with sodomy in particular. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul lists a number of kinds of sinners who are “unrighteous” and will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Among the list are adulterers, effeminate, and sodomites. He goes on to explain that while some of the Corinthians had been these very kinds of people, Christ had died and rose again so that they might be free from those very deeds (v. 14). But Paul goes further and explains that the chief reason for the inconsistency is that their bodies are members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit. The word for sodomite in Hebrew is QODESH which literally means ‘holy’ or ‘devoted’. It is the same word used hundreds of times to describe the people of Israel, their tabernacle, and their God, Yahweh. But this word describes the necessarily religious status of homosexuals. Not that there is any human status that is truly ‘unreligious’. But this word’s particular usage makes it all the more pointy, particularly with Paul’s explanation in 1 Corinthians. While we today do not have pagan temples built with wood or stone in our lands any longer, our bodies, as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians are temples. They are necessarily temples filled with the Holy Spirit or temples filled with demons. This is of course not simply a statement about heterosexuals vs. homosexuals. This is a statement about believers and unbelievers, the faithful and the ungodly. Our bodies are holy. We are devoted. And the sodomite, the atheist, the adulterer, the thief, and the liar have devoted their bodies to the service of demons. But we were bought with a price.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

All Ryled Up

I've been reading Ryle's Light from Old Times. It's always enjoyable to read history from a pastor. The book's subtitle is Protestant Facts and Men. And the book is just that. He outlines the history of the English Reformation, the major principles, the major players, and the consequent reign of Bloody Mary which sought to undo its progress. While, Ryle is never bitter, he is unceasingly brutal to the Roman Church, holding it responsible for the judicial murder of those executed during those turbulent years. He, writing in the nineteenth century, can imagine no greater atrocity than for the English church to give any ground back to the Papists.

A couple of brief thoughts:

First, Ryle pin points the center of the English Reformation in the doctrine of the Eucharist. Ryle maintains that heart of the Roman doctrine sought to put Christ (in any way) in the bread and wine (he calls this the doctrine of the real presence), while the reformers, he contends, held that Christ was only present in His people. He calls those in the English church who he believes to be secret papists 'extreme ritualists'. He particularly condemns the 'ritualists' of his day for attempting to undo the very things that the early English reformers died for. Ryle is not willing to go anywhere near this real presence doctrine as he sees it as the heart of ritualism and ultimately the papist church. He goes so far as to condemn those who make a distinction between 'natural' and 'supernatural' presence or carnal vs. spiritual. Christ is only in the Eucharist in so far as Christ is in His people. It should be noted that this is what Ryle says concerning the early Reformers, though based upon some quotations he supplies, I'm not sure it's quite as cut and dried.

Second, nevertheless, I'm stirred by the courage and fortitude exhibited by those men who were burned at the stake for what many now consider trifles. And while I may well differ in some particulars, I am challenged. These faithful men prayed and sang psalms while flames scorched their legs and arms. Some were partially burned, when wind or rain subdued the flames, and they waited patiently for new fires to be ignited. These men stood firm while evil men did their very worst, and they blessed their executioners and forgave their enemies. That noble band of martyrs, who scorned the grave and mocked the flames, did not spill their blood in vain. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and we are the direct descendents of the English Reformation, here in America.


Monday, June 07, 2004

River Edmond

Our first descendent was born this last Friday evening, June 4 at 8:22pm. He weighed 8lbs and was 21 3/8in long. Mom and son are doing very well. God has been very kind.