22 May 2008

Old Joke that I'm Still Laughing About...

...someone told me this the other day:

What do you call a Catholic who really knows his Bible?


A Lutheran!

Okay, just couldn't resist.

Truth is, most Lutherans are as abysmal as any Romanist when it comes to Biblical content, and many a devout Baptist or Presbyterian could run rings around either one! And that's a tragedy indeed. Oh, not just culturally (though that too - I mean, how can one read and appreciate the literature of the Western world if one doesn't know the almost constant stream of Biblical allusions that fill it?). I mean above all spiritually.

We come to know God in and through these words, these stories, these wonderful types and antitypes that are filled to the brim with the good news of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, death, resurrection, and glorification for our salvation. We need to KNOW them, because in knowing them we can come to know Him, to love Him, and to receive from His Spirit a true forming of the "mind of Christ" within us. It's one reason I'm very committed to the praying of the Daily Office - which provides an orderly way for us Christians to become intimately familiar with large chunks of God's holy Word.

Right now we're ploughing through Song of Songs in Matins and John's Gospel at Vespers. It's a great and wonderful adventure - a table of appointed readings is found in LSB 299-303 with a Psalm Chart following for the daily Office. Let us learn again to LIVE in and from the precious Word of God written so that the silly joke I began with might at least stand a chance of being true sometimes!


Scott Larkins said...

A Scots Presbyterian? yu' stole mi' thinder Weedon.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

I have some Catholic friends with a good sense of humor who will have to hear that one. ;-)

The passage in John from daily lectionary for today and tomorrow is what eventually led to my becoming a Lutheran. It was those same Catholic friends who pointed it out to me, though the outcome wasn't quite what they intended. lol

I hope you don't mind a shameless plug here, but for those interested, this web site has the daily readings in calendar format.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

There are times that I am kind of thankful that I spent time in a nondenom church and a Baptist church before I became Lutheran again. I really got to know my Bible well.

I think having readings in the bulletin have hurt us. A lot of other denominations (or non-denominations etc) get to know their own personal Bible. They read it, mark in it, absorb it, take it to Bible Study with them, use it in church where the sermon usually takes them through the text. I love our pericopal system, but in every Lutheran congregation that I've been in, the text is in the bulletin or people just listen; if they need a Bible for class, they get one of the pew Bibles. Other churches are more than willing to give a Bible to someone to keep who doesn't have one, but everyone else brings their own and they use it.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

You make some great points. I was raised in such churches, and I appreciate the familiarity with the Bible that my upbringing made possible.

On the other hand, many (or most?) of these churches have fallen into the trap of making Bible study a form of works-righteousness. Of course they would never express it in those terms; but when people are taught to measure the quality of their spiritual life by how much Bible reading they achieve each day, that's what it becomes in practice.

One of the things I love so much about the Lutheran Church is that while expectations are high, we are not measured. So much of American evangelical culture is about whether you can measure up, and so Bible study becomes a way of earning brownie points toward your own personal "closer walk."

Have Lutherans gone too far the other way? Maybe. But I've seen the other side and the harm it can do, so I hope you'll understand why I cringe at the thought of us becoming more like that.

Doorman-Priest said...

I came from the Anglican tradition, evangelical via radical and I agree with the rbellious wife abot the readings in the leaflets. Do you use "Celebrate"? I hate it.

The preprepared prayers also take away individual creativity. It's O.K. to say that you don't have to use them but it has become the easy way out for too many folk.

Christopher Palo said...

As much as you deride the RC for being Biblically illiterate, you conveniently forget that the Daily Offices (or Hours) which include large parts of Scripture, particularly the Psalms, is an inheritance from the RC church, modeled after the monastic practices to be found in the East.

William Weedon said...

Interesting comments. Some thoughts:

RPW: Drives me crazy when people READ along with the readings either in their own Bibles or most commonly by following the bulletin. A whole new dynamic enters when the readings are just LISTENED to - for that is how they were written to be experienced. Still I appreciate your point, and what I do is encourage our folks to read the appointed readings at home prior to coming to Church (in their own Bibles!) as part of their preparation for the Sunday Divine Service. But the Sunday readings - rich as they are - really can't be made to substitute for daily Bible readings. Rather, the more we are familiar with the whole of the story, the richer the Sunday readings become for us.




Yup, I've been around those circles too. One of the things I appreciate about the lectionary for LSB is that it doesn't try to run through the whole Bible in a year (which can be done, but does leave many people frustrated at not being able to keep up). And the key is to remember that the Bible reading is NOT a work you do for God, but a GIFT God gives to you, opening up for you the treasures that are yours in His Son.

DP - No Celebrate here, though we rarely vary the appointed prayers on Sunday.

CP - Oh, no denying that wonderful heritage at all. Sadly, though, it was for most RC and I think for many to this day regarded mostly as something "the religious" have to do - the monks and nuns and priests. What the Lutherans (and Anglicans) did was to take that heritage and insist that at least as far as Matins and Vespers went, it belongs to the PEOPLE and thus it became more of a common heritage among us. Rome, for the devout who attend daily mass, gets a BOATLOAD of Scripture read in the Mass itself, and that's where the "read through" of various Biblical books takes place, more so than in the Daily Office among them.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

Doorman-Priest, that sounds like *exactly* what I was talking about in my last comment, except applied to prayer instead of Bible reading. Today, discourage the use of prepared prayers; tomorrow, sit in a prayer circle and require everyone to say his own prayer out loud so the rest have the chance to critique his performance. I'm telling you, the non-liturgical path is poison.

Susan said...

1. Gotta agree about the listening instead of the reading along. What you get out of the readings is quite different when you're using your ears instead of your eyes (or eyes and ears), and even more so if your ears are listening while your eyes are on the crucifix.

2. Pr Weedon wrote "many a devout Baptist or Presbyterian could run rings around either one!" That may be true when it comes to the stories and the facts and the data. But I think that "knowing your Bible" is intimately linked to knowing your sin and knowing your Savior. Can one "know the Bible" as long as he thinks it is a guide to holy living and good works? Doesn't "knowing the Bible" essentially come down to seeing Christ throughout it all, and knowing that it is about His work to redeem sinners?
(I am NOT belittling the knowledge of the stories. I mean, hey, I've got books to sell that help people delve into the Bible stories and see Jesus and His sacraments throughout those precious and all-important stories. But having the focus on Christ instead of on me is probably the most important part of knowing the Bible.)