On Sunday, January 9th, Joanna was baptized into the name of the Triune God. This was also the First Sunday after the Epiphany, on which we observed the Baptism of our Lord. Since we had family in town for the baptism, we decided to have the group sing in the service. We sang Kevin Hildebrand’s setting of “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It.” The kids sang the first stanza, the adults sang stanzas two and four, and the congregation joined in on stanzas three and five. The video below is the first stanza. It was recorded from the back of church, where the piano and clarinet were playing, but you can still hear the kids singing.
Last Saturday night I had the opportunity to attend a UTEP Miners men’s basketball game for the first time. I got tickets from a member of the congregation, and so Andrew and I went and watched the Miners defeat Rice University 66-43.
Three years ago, just days after making the decision to come to El Paso, Sara and I sat down to watch a movie that had come in the mail from Blockbuster (like Netflix). Neither of us had heard of the movie before, only knowing that it was about college basketball. We were surprised to see “Texas Western College – El Paso TX” on the opening screen. The movie was “Glory Road” about the 1966 NCAA championship basketball team.
Miner basketball (and other sports) is a fairly big deal in El Paso. It’s a pretty large city—nearly 700,000—but has no big league professional sports teams. If I needed a reason to take in more UTEP Athletics, I think I found it—of all places—on my bookshelf.
Many of you know that I have lots of books. I have dozens of books on my shelves that I have never read. I have a shelf that is just translations of the Bible, several shelves of grammars and lexicons and dictionaries. Of course, Luther’s Works takes up a few shelves and then there are my Luther biographies. I had read most of them, but for years I have had one volume that I never read, but always thought it sounded interesting. I don’t even remember where I got it. It is a book on Luther’s life, in German. Half of the book’s cover is torn off, and hand-written on the binding is “Luthers Leben—Mathesius.”
Until this past week, I didn’t realize that this Mathesius is the Johann Mathesius who was the pastor in Joachimstal. Joachimstal is the Bohemian town which was the subject of the book “Singing the Gospel” by Christopher Boyd Brown, which I read this fall. This is quite an interesting and enlightening book about Lutheran hymnody, especially in the home, and how the singing of hymns among Lutherans kept the Reformation alive.
“Luthers Leben” appears to be a series of sermons which Mathesius preached on the life of Luther—which is interesting, considering that Mathesius was just twenty years younger than Luther. I presume that much of it is drawn from content which he heard Luther speak at the dinner table in Wittenberg (Mathesius is one of those who recorded what we know as Luther’s “Table Talk”) On the opening pages there is a drawing of Luther, followed by this drawing of Mathesius. It’s a similar image to the one in Brown’s book. But do you notice what Mathesius has in his hand? In his right hand he has a book—that makes sense. But in his left hand? A miner’s pick.
Joachimstal was a mining town. “The silver recovered by the Joachimstal miners was minted into the standard silver coin of sixteenth-century Germany, the Joachimstaler or simply Thaler, whose name lives on in the modern dollar” (Brown, p. 26). Because so much of the town was involved in mining, the people sang songs and even hymns that referred to mining. Pastors like Mathesius referred to mining in their sermons. And Mathesius may have even had a personal interest in the mining as a mineralogist. But certainly he never had to carry a pick and work in the mines. So why is he pictured with it?
I suspect that it simply identifies him with the people he served. I’ve remarked before about how much of a privilege it is to serve people in such a way that I am allowed into their lives at its most critical moments. As a servant of Christ, the pastor carries the business and affairs of the people he’s called to serve on his own heart. And when he serves among them, with time he begins to understand more and more the cares and concerns of his flock—even if he never actually steps foot into the mines.
So as I do this work—which is essentially no different than Mathesius’ work in the 1500’s—I figure if that pastor can be called a Miner, so can I.
The beginning of a new year is a typical time for people to make resolutions and set goals for the upcoming year. For me, it’s probably not so much that it’s the end of the year, but in the weeks following Christmas I find myself actually having a minute or two to think about things. This year I was thinking specifically about how I can better use my time in the new year. So, I’ve set a few goals that I would like to take on this year. Some are ongoing things, and things I’ve been trying to do some time. So, here are the things I’m thinking about today:
- Spend more time in sermon preparation. It’s probably easy to make this happen in the month following the Christmas season. During the month of December I prepared 10 sermons. I only preached 15 times my whole vicar year. Obviously, when the services are as frequent as they are in December, the amount of available time for study and preparation declines. But I really need to carve out more time in the new year to dedicate to preparation. That may mean that some other things don’t get done, but it should be time well spent.
- Learn Spanish. I’ve been telling myself I need to do this for years—since even before we moved to El Paso. But I’ve been here for almost three years and it just strikes me as ridiculous to not make this a priority. I know it will be process that will take longer than just one year, but I need to get serious about it.
- Post to the blog once a week. In 2010, I published 27 posts to the blog. I don’t think I can commit to posting every day, as some are aiming for, but I if I could post once a week, I would double the number of posts. It seems to be attainable. Only time will tell if it’s a worthy use of my time.
- Limit Email and Facebook. I know that these can be time-wasters, especially when I have it available on my phone at all times. My goal is to limit the number of times I check both email and facebook to just a couple times per day. Facebook should be easier than email, since I get lots of email. But if I limit myself, I know that I need to deal with my email when I’m in email mode, and not be watching emails stream in all day long. Occasionally someone will try to reach me by email and need an immediate response, but most often it can wait at least a few hours. I’m hoping that this will not only save me the time I waste by checking it and reviewing all the messages that I haven’t done anything about yet. But I hope that it will also allow me to focus my attention on other things which need my attention. Say, like goal #1.
Last year I posted a list of books that I read during 2009. This year I created a separate page where I will keep a running list of the books I am reading. You can find this page under the “Reading” tab at the top of the page. As I look at this year’s list, it’s a bit more eclectic than in years past. I actually managed to get some fiction in there. There are a few books that I wouldn’t recommend to others. There are a few on the list that I have read multiple times, which I never tire of reading (Lutheran Confessions, Hammer of God, Law & Gospel).
I would have to say that this year the most interesting read was Christopher Boyd Brown’s Singing the Gospel. I’ll have much more to say about this book in an upcoming separate post, but for now I’ll just say that any book that is about the Lutheran Reformation, music and hymnody, and the home, family, and children is going to be right up my alley.
I still have my reading pile, and it’s probably still over a year long. But I’m looking forward to getting into some of the titles on the top of the pile, and the books on the bottom of the pile also keep me motivated to someday get to those as well.
Would you share with me the top two or three books you read this year? Leave your answer in the comments section.