Category Archives: Light

Three Goats

It has been reported that John Wayne once said life is hard, it’s even harder when you’re stupid. I can’t cite the quotation, so maybe he didn’t really say it, but he should have. Our entire system of education is based upon this general principle. I remember when I was young, everyone was supposed to go to college to get an education. Success in life was supposedly based on this ideal.

When I grew up and had children, the big push was to get your children into a good preschool because preschool was the first step toward educational success which meant going to college. I began to doubt things though, for I did go to college and graduated. I also credit the Christian college I attended as God’s way of directing me away from my career path toward his (it took many years beyond college to figure this out).

However, I did not go to an educationally intense preschool. In fact, I distinctly remember kindergarten was more about playing, painting, sometimes eating paste, and having a snack and a nap every day. All of this took place in half day trips to school. Kindergarten was when I was first introduced into the world of socialization with others my own age and entering those many painful years to follow of making and losing friends, trying to make it in the circle of “cool,” and being fairly consistently chosen last for sports.

With all of that as my rite of passage into education, I made it to college. In truth, I made it beyond college to graduate school, twice (or was it three times?). Looking back on it all, I would much rather go to institutions of upper education that work as there is much less pressure there. Nevertheless, I survived. And I learned one very important thing: most people who graduate with a college degree do not end up working in their original field of study.

In my day, computers were just becoming a thing. I college I had to pay someone to type my papers for a dollar a page. Within a few years, young women and men were attending college to train for fields in computer sciences that passed them by long before they graduated. In the end, though, I discovered that there are basically three principles by which anyone could get a job, keep the job, and succeed in the job. I taught them to my children as best as I could. They are:

  • Be willing to work hard no matter what you do.
  • Be honest in all that you do.
  • Expect to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Not to difficult and I have never seen anyone fail who followed these three rules. My grandfather taught me another which is to avoid the water cooler. For those who don’t understand real socialization beyond emails and texts, the water cooler was the place employees would gather to complain about their work, their boss, and their co-workers instead of honestly working hard. I confess that this last rule was probably one of the most difficult, but that is because my generation grew up without all of the modern conveniences that replace actual human contact. (I still can’t get over how easy it has been for people to buy into the oxymoron of “social distancing” as if that is even possible.)

My wife and I never required our children to go to college. We did not try to prevent them from doing so, but we pointed out that there are many honest and honorable professions in which one can serve God, his Kingdom, and the world without a college degree. I am thankful that all of my children are good, honest, hardworking citizens with or without college degrees.

Today, I am even more convinced that college is not necessary for success in the world. I am also convinced that the system of Universities in America which were very good at one time, are often a hindrance to those who seek a real education. I know that many of you will say, “Oh, that’s just your opinion.” Yes it is. Yet it is not why I believe it to be true. Here is my evidence:

  1. The Bible does not deny the potential value of any education. However, the highest priority placed on education in the Scriptures is the requirement of fathers teaching their children to know what God commands and to obey him in all things. When it comes to his Law, we are to know it well enough that it is “bound to our foreheads.” I consider this to mean what David wrote, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee,” and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.”
  2. If the knowledge of the Scriptures is the primary focus of education, then I believe it follows that all education is subject to the Word of God. This has implications for those who suggest that the Bible has no place in public education and accreditation tends to force the removal of Biblical education. Maybe it is right that the Bible has no place in public schools, but then that becomes an argument that “public” education is no real education and should be abolished.
  3. If it is true that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, then any education relating to anything must in someway reveal the true nature, sovereignty, and love of God. When we study mathematics we enter the organized reason of God. When we study the arts, we enter the creativity of God. When we study the sciences we enter the vast incomprehensibility of God. When we study history, we enter the providence of God. Furthermore, anytime we study any subject outside of the person of the Creator, Sustainor, and Redeemer of all things, we do violence to him and to his creation.
  4. Finally, can we really fail to take notice that much of the social upheaval today and the irrational fight against reason is being done by liberal college students who have not learned any real truth about the world, not given the tools to discover truth. Education should not be about what to think, it should be about how to think, how to listen, process, discern.

So what does any of this have to do with three goats. Well, they are not just any goats. They are the Three Billy Goats Gruff of the famous Norwegian tale ( yes, the story appears in many of the norther European countries but since I am Norwegian, I will blindly lay claim to the story.)

If you have not heard the story, or forgotten it, there are three Billy Goats Gruff: little BGG, middle BGG, and great big BGG. Crisis befalls them when they realize that they have eaten all the grass on the hillside upon which they live. The only grass left is in a meadow across a river. There is only one bridge across the river and that bridge is guarded by a troll. Bottom line is that the three BGG come up with a plan to get across the river with each one, beginning with the smallest, crossing the bridge by deceiving the troll that the next goat is bigger, fatter, and a better potential meal. When the biggest goat crosses the bridge, he simply butts the troll into the river, who we are told is never seen again.

Life is hard, and it’s even harder if you are stupid. I have searched the internet and asked the question of many, but no one has offered any real answer to my conundrum. Why didn’t the big goat just go first and solve the problem right away? By sending the other two expecting the troll to be more stupid than they are seems to me to be a huge risk. I have concluded that this is not really a good children’s story, though it is a fun one. But the point of the story appears to demonstrate that greed and gluttony are disastrous attitudes in the end, whereas I can’t get beyond an equally valid point that the goats did not use much in the way of reason to evaluate their plan.

Before you say that I am making much about nothing, the goats’ plan was one motivated by the same greed and gluttony we condemn in the troll. Granted that it is easier to judge the troll because he is ugly, smelly, boisterous, and mean. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that the goats are sneaky, deceitful, and willing to take unnecessary risks. None of the characteristics are laudable. The three goats made life harder only to demonstrate quite clearly their stupidity.

My point is that just because someone has a college or higher degree, they are not necessarily smarter than many in our world who do not have the same “proof” of education. My opinion now is ( and you can judge met now) that our country, states, cities, etc. are in a real mess, and part of this mess is because we have blindly accepted the principle that highly educated people know better than the rest of us. They may. I go to a doctor trusting that her education has prepared her to care for me. Yet there are plenty of dishonest, lazy doctors in the world with low morals and high self-interest. This can be said of every profession. What a shame that so many of us work so hard to live harder.

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The Paschal Vigil

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, ESV)

What is it like to experience the transition from darkness to light? What is it like to go from chaos to creation, or in this case re-creation? What is it like to go from death to life? What is it to find hope in the midst of hopelessness?

The journey of Holy Week through the Paschal Triduum is a reenactment of this historical reality. The Great Paschal Vigil draws the Church together in darkness. Then through worship, we reach the pinnacle of Christian experience. The services celebrate God’s recreation.

The ancient church recognized the central event of Christianity is not the birth of Christ even though the Incarnation is important. However, the Resurrection is the focal point. Easter is the beginning of all things made new. Easter is the mark when we may be born again. Ancient celebrations of Easter included the lighting of the Paschal Candle which would remain lit throughout the year (until it is extinguished on Good Friday.) Easter was when new converts were finally baptized following a year or more of discipleship and learning. And Easter was the first celebration of the Eucharist following its institution.

Darkness to Light; chaos to re-creation; death to life; eternal hope. These are the things of Easter.

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
(O Morning-Star, how fair and bright)

PHILIPP NICOLAI

1599 FREUDENSPIEGEL (SEE USE BY BACH BMV 1)

Translation by Catherine Winkworth

O Morning-Star, how fair and bright
Thou beamest forth in truth and light!
O Sovereign meek and lowly!
Sweet Root of Jesse, David’s Son,
My King and Bridegroom, Thou hast won
My heart to love Thee solely!
Lovely art Thou, fair and glorious,
All victorious,
Rich in blessing,
Rule and might o’er all possessing.

O King high-born, Pearl hardly won,
True Son of God and Mary’s Son,
Crown of exceeding glory!
My heart calls Thee a Lily, Lord,
Pure milk and honey is Thy Word,
Thy sweetest Gospel-story.
Rose of Sharon, hail! Hosanna!
Heavenly Manna,
Feed us ever;
Lord, I can forget Thee never!

Clear Jasper, Ruby fervent red,
Deep deep within my heart now shed
The glow of love’s pure fire;
Fill me with joy, grant me to be
Thy member closely joined to Thee,
Whom all my thoughts desire;
Toward Thee longing doth possess me,
Turn and bless me,
For Thy gladness
Eye and heart here pine in sadness.

But if Thou look on me in love,
There straightway falls from God above
A ray of purest pleasure;
Thy Word and Spirit, flesh and blood,
Refresh my soul with heavenly food,
Thou art my hidden treasure.
Let Thy grace, Lord, warm and cheer me,
O draw near me;
Thou hast taught us
Thee to seek, since Thou hast sought us.

Lord God, my Father, mighty Shield,
Thou in Thy Son art all revealed
As Thou hast loved and known me;
Thy Son hath me with Him betrothed,
In His own whitest raiment clothed,
He for His bride will own me.
Hallelujah! Life in heaven
Hath He given,
With Him dwelling,
Still shall I His praise be telling.

Then touch the chords of harp and lute,
Let no sweet music now be mute,
But joyously resounding,
Tell of the Marriage-feast, the Bride,
The heavenly Bridegroom at her side,
’Mid love and joy abounding;
Shout for triumph, loudly sing ye,
Praises bring ye,
Fall before Him,
King of kings, let all adore Him!

Here my heart rests, and holds it fast,
The Lord I love is First and Last,
The End as the Beginning;
Here I can die, for I shall rise
Through Him, to His own Paradise
Above all tears and sinning.
Amen! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus,
Soon release us,
With deep yearning,
Lord, we look for Thy returning.

Eric Lund and Bernard McGinn, Eds., Seventeenth-Century Lutheran Meditations and Hymns, The Classics of Western Spirituality, (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2011), 278–280.

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Good Friday

When I was a child, schools closed at noon on Good Friday, and the following week was called Easter Vacation. Not so anymore. However, Good Friday services are still held in many churches. Those services remember Jesus on the cross and his burial.

In 2004, Mel Gibson released his film The Passion of the Christ. Some people loved it, some were repulsed by it, some just hated it. The film was based upon the Roman Catholic “Stations of the Cross.” I only mention it here because this is the content of Good Friday.

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,” (John 19:14–16, ESV)

The sixth hour was noon.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”” (Matthew 27:50–54, ESV)

There are many more aspects to the crucifixion. However, when Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” the work of the Lamb was done, the sacrifice for sin had been made. He was laid in the tomb as a sacrificed Lamb of God. He will be raised a Lion of a King.

There is an office in the church called the Tenebrae, meaning a service of darkness. The Tenebrae has been done on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday, depending on the tradition. It consists of 15 candles in a triangular stand. During the service, there were originally 14 Psalms read and after each reading, one of the candles was to be extinguished. The fifteenth Psalm is Psalm 53. It was not read, though, and the fifteenth candle was not put out.

The last caudle, according to Benedict XIV., is hidden, not extinguished, to signify that death could not really obtain dominion over Christ, though it appeared to do. (William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, 1887, 404.)

This, therefore, reminds us of the hope we have, for nothing can conquer Christ. Even in the midst of the crucifixion, we cannot lose sight of the love of God which, even though necessitating the death of his Son, could not leave him in the grave.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5, ESV)

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