A Protestant Thinks About the Blessed Virgin Mary

Talking about Mary can feel dangerous, especially if you are a Protestant who adheres to Protestant orthodoxy. Sure, we sing about Mary at Christmas, feel her pain on Good Friday, and maybe even read a little about her in the gospels. But for most American Protestants, almost any other interaction with Mary is borderline Catholic. So we don’t talk about Mary, we don’t engage with Mary, and we don’t think about Mary. Life seems easier that way. But in truth, this approach is historically and theologically problematic.

Some Protestants are aware that there is more to the story of Mary than American Protestantism often lets on. Some might know that the Protestant reformers, for example, held views on Mary different than most Protestant churches today. Martin Luther affirmed Mary’s divine motherhood, perpetual virginity, and immaculate conception. Likewise, John Calvin affirmed the perpetual virginity and espoused (with qualifications) a view of Mary as the “mother of God.” Although these Reformers did not advocate the same robust Marian theology that Rome and the East did in the 16th century, these perspectives are nonetheless quite different than those of their spiritual descendants.

To assume—as many Protestants do—that everything the Church has always believed about Mary should be excoriated as a “Catholic corruption” is simply an error. We must take seriously the biblical and historical insights on who Mary is—and how she is to be approached. Modern Protestants cannot simply be content to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Continue reading

On Beginning

Everyone experiences new things. By nature of who we are and the world in which we live, no one lives a completely sedentary life. From new jobs to new cars, from getting married to buying a house, from having kids to moving across town, we all encounter newness.

While many new experiences are joyful occasions, not all are. Sometimes new things are sad, uncomfortable, or even depressing. A new job, for instance, could indicate a step forward in a person’s career; it could also represent a changing career field that is now fraught with uncertainty. Likewise, a woman who has been married for fifty years experiences many new things after the death of her husband, few of which will bring her any joy.

Even when an experience is new and exciting, it can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety and loss. My first semester of college, for example, was a wonderful time, full of adventure, excitement, and opportunity. But it was still difficult to transition from the comfortability of home and the routines of high school that I knew so well. Yet even in their discomfort, new things can stretch us, helping us grow and learn not only about them but also about ourselves. Continue reading

The Worrier’s Prayer

I came across this prayer several weeks back, and while the emphasis is clearly humorous, don’t miss the larger point: how often do we pray in these ways to our Lord?


Dear Lord,

Help me to relax about insignificant details, beginning tomorrow at 7:41:23 a.m. EST.

Help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them are hypersensitive.

Help me to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions, even though they’re usually not my fault.

Help me to not try to run everything – but, if you need some help, please feel free to ask me.

Help me to be more laid back, and help me to do it exactly right.

Help me to take things more seriously, especially laughter, parties, and dancing.

Give me patience, and I mean right now!

Help me not be a perfectionist. (Did I spell that correctly?)

Help me to finish everything I sta…

Help me to keep my mind on one thing … oh, look, a bird … at a time.

Help me to do only what I can, and trust you for the rest. And would you mind putting that in writing?

Keep me open to others’ ideas, misguided though they may be.

Help me follow established procedures. Hey, wait … this is wrong …

Help me slow down andnotrushthroughwhatido.

Thank you, Lord.

Amen

Mourning with Those Who Mourn

In what may be his most practical stretches of writing, Paul admonished the Roman church to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” in Romans 12:15.1

Modern Christians, as a whole, do a pretty good job with the first part of this verse. In just the past year I’ve celebrated birthdays, marriages, weddings, births, anniversaries, job promotions, home purchases, sports victories, and a whole host of other events with my Christian sisters and brothers. It’s pretty easy to rejoice with those who are happy, and the Church generally does a good job with celebrating the joys of life.

But what about the second part of Paul’s exhortation, to “mourn with those who mourn?” Continue reading

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.” He has blessed me with gifts beyond measure with many good things that I do not deserve.

For my wife and daughter—brings or joys, lights of life—thank you Lord!

For my family and friends—those you’ve placed in my life to guide, grow, and come alongside me—thank you Lord!

For my work and school—for the opportunity to learn and love you with my mind and hands, to contribute to your purposes in the world—thank you Lord!

For your Church—your communion of saints through space and time who have been faithful witnesses and for the local body of the faithful you have blessed me with—thank you Lord!

For opportunities for growth and maturity—those situations and events that force me to rely ever more fully on you—thank you Lord!

For all of your blessings and good gifts—especially the gift of your Son, whom you did not spare but offered up as a perfect sacrifice and through whom you offer forgiveness, life, and the restoration of all things—thank you Lord!

Amen.

Sermon-less Church: A Thought Experiment

“If you took away the sermon from your worship service, what sort of theology could you construct from what remains?”

Sometime back, a Facebook friend shared this quote from Pastor Mark Jones and it got me thinking. What would a sermon-less church service look like? What messages and theology would it convey? Would we attend? Just how central is the sermon to Christian worship? Continue reading

The Lord’s Prayer Rewritten

Papa God,

Your reign above all of creation, you are beyond our capacity to approach.

Let your power and reign come into our world, into our lives; let you plan and desire become our plans and desires; let our world become good, true, and beautiful like your paradise.

Bless us beyond our wildest imagination, Papa God; give us all that we need and more.

Hold not our wrongs against us; don’t punish us where we go astray, but empower us to live out your mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness in every aspect of our lives.

Papa God, protect and preserve us—save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; let evil and wickedness have no place or power in our lives.

For yours, Papa God, are all good things—all power, all goodness, all praise, all majesty, all glory, and all beauty—your truly are all these things, now and forevermore.

Let it be so.

A Prayer

Papa, you reign above all creation, you are beyond my capacity to approach.

Let your power and reign come into our world, into our lives; let your plan and desires become our plans and desires; let our world become as good, true, and beautiful as your paradise.

Bless us beyond our wildest imaginations, Papa; give us and others all that we need and more.

Hold not our wrongs against us; don’t punish us where we go astray—but empower us to live our your mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness in every aspect of our lives.

Papa, protect and preserve us—save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil; let evil and wickedness have no place or power in our lives.

For yours, Papa, are all good things—all power, all goodness, all majesty, all glory, and all beauty—yours truly are all these things, now and forevermore.

Let all these things be so.


Based on the Lord’s Prayer.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

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Lord, so often times, as any other day
When we sit down to our meal and pray

We hurry along and make fast the blessing
Thanks, amen. Now please pass the dressing

We’re slaves to the olfactory overload
We must rush our prayer before the food gets cold

But Lord, we’d like to take a few minute more
To really give thanks to what we’re thankful for

For our family, our health, a nice soft bed
Our friends, our freedom, a roof over our head

We’re thankful now to be surrounded by those
Whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know

Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed us beyond measure
Thankful that in our heart lives life’s greatest treasure

That You, dear Jesus, reside in that place
And we’re ever so grateful for Your unending grace

So please, heavenly Father, bless this food You’ve provided
And bless each and every person invited

Amen!

Adapted from a prayer by Scott Wesemann