A very fine pastoral conference this year up at Pere Marquette. We were blessed to hear Pr. William Cwirla and Prof. Jeff Gibbs hold forth. Cwirla gave us the art of dying. Gibbs challenged us on the resurrection. I think Gibbs' presentation was quite similar to what he delivered at the worship conference but this allowed for greater expansion of his thought and it was well worth it. Random thoughts and ahas that came along:
* The "intermediate state" better describes the state of all creation between the beginning of the Resurrection in our Lord and its completion at His Appearing than it does merely referring to the blessed dead during that same time.
* The substitution of the meta-narrative that has prevailed through so much of Christianity - where "heaven" is the goal and death is just the gateway to heaven, and can stop the story without reckoning with the Appearing of our Lord and the joy of resurrection on that day - is perhaps the main culprit in the loss of prayer for the dead among us. We forget that the dead await the Resurrection - and the martyrs under the altar impatiently! "How long, O Lord?"
* To overemphasize the continuity or the discontinuity between old creation/new creation will equally land you in truncating of the Biblical witness. The key word is that we (and all creation!) will be "changed" at that moment, rendered incorruptible, immortal.
* Starck's Prayer Book has the whole Ars Moriendi totally covered from a Lutheran perspective; cannot recommend its beautiful prayers and comforts highly enough.
* I am irritated when Romans 6:23 is continually interpreted as though: You sin, so God serves you the wage of death; yet God's free gift is eternal life. The genitives are parallel in construction, and the whole image is of slavery. Paul's point is simply: You want to be sin's slave? Fine. But you realize what wage Sin delights to pay out to those who serve him: DEATH. Much better to be God's slave, for He doesn't dish out a wage, but a free gift of eternal life. The wage sin pays vs. the gift God gives.
* At one point Gibbs noted that in the snippets we have of preaching in Acts, the death of Christ does not appear to be particularly salvific, rather, the emphasis is on the Resurrection. That's true. But it's also of interest to me that (I believe) it is only in the Jerusalem chapters that we have the accusation hurled: "whom YOU crucified." Once they move outside Jerusalem, this becomes "whom THEY crucified." No attempt to portray collective guilt upon the human race for the death of the Anointed One. Quite in contrast with "I caused Thy grief and sighing by sorrows multiplying as countless as the sand."
* If you have a salvation that is finished with death (either Christ's or our own), you do not have the Biblical salvation. For it is finished when the dead are raised: Christ, the first-fruits, and then us.
* I think that St. Paul probably is referring to the NEW creation when He calls Christ the firstborn of all creation - the firstborn out of the old and into the new and incorruptible and immortal.
* Cwirla highlighted at one point the fine German funeral hymn: "This body in the grave we lay." I love the hymn, but the intrusion of the alternate metanarrative at the end of verse one has always made me scratch my head a bit: "to mount triumphant to the skies." Just checked it out and it is quite different in the original German: "it [this body we're burying] will on the Day of Renewal (the Last Day) arise and appear without corruption." What a shame that we didn't get that fixed for LSB!
Those are just some random thoughts I had in reaction to these two fine presentations. Any thoughts from you all?