What we're reading (April edition)...

It is hard to believe, but we're nearing the start of the 4th quarter of our school year! April means a new edition of "What we're reading..."and as always, we hope that you enjoy this selection of writings that we have found to be interesting, inspiring, or otherwise thought-provoking over the past few weeks. 

In this month's review, we take a look back at our recent journey through Lent and Holy Week with a great sermon for Palm Sunday by Immanuel's Pastor Esget, as well as a couple of reflections from ILS Music Teacher, Miss Marie Landskroener. Additionally, this month's articles include an examination of collectivism versus individualism, a podcast on bourgeois culture, a thoughtful exploration of marriage, a look from our friend Dr. Gene Veith on the first image of Christ on the cross, as well as a video examining the amazing construction of some 18th century Russian churches made without nails. Finally, we include a couple of books we've been enjoying that you may also find of interest!

As we approach the end of the year, please continue to send us anythings that you've enjoyed reading lately! We always love to see those as well.

“I do not know the Man!” Those words of Peter, spoken in fear and cowardice, become my own words, every single day. Every moment I live for myself, I am saying, “I do not know the Man!”

“I do not know the Man!” Those words of Peter are also your words. Every boastful word, you join Peter in saying, “I do not know the Man!”

Every selfish act, you join Peter in saying, “I do not know the Man!”

Every lustful thought, you join Peter in saying, “I do not know the Man!”
— Pastor Christopher Esget, Sermon for Palm Sunday

One church musician cancels her piano lessons during Holy Week. Another decides not to travel to visit family during spring break because Holy Week is coming up too soon. The looks and brief conversations between church musicians during this time admit an exhaustion that accompanies this premier week of the Church Year.

It is ironic that busy times of the Church Year—times that are designed to help us focus more on the life and saving work of Christ—are often themselves the cause of distraction. I know that many times I have felt that I simply have too much work and cannot possibly take time to contemplate Christ and His work. In the midst of all the activity, how can we as church musicians keep our focus on Christ during Holy Week?
— Marie Landskroener, "How Church Musicians Can Find Rest During Holy Week

The one and the many is perhaps the oldest problem of human experience. In social thought, this problem manifests itself in the tension between collectivism and individualism.

Collectivists and individualists can be distinguished by the value they each put on individual goods relative to the common good. To put it simply: collectivists prioritize a flawed conception of the common good at the expense of individual goods, while individualists emphasize the importance of individual goods over and against the common good, sometimes even to the extent of denying the common good as a coherent concept.

We can see the dangerous extremes of these two ideologies in the writings of Madeleine L’Engle and C.S. Lewis, who show that a Christian perspective treads a constructive path forward between these two dangers.
— Jordan J. Ballor, "Madeline L'Engle, C.S. Lewis, and Christianity"

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. Featuring: Amy Wax on how our society’s abandonment of bourgeois norms and values has resulted in widespread behavioral dysfunction.

Typically the first experience that piques a child’s interest in becoming a musician is hearing good music. If we, as church musicians, can provide that experience every week in church, there is a chance that the children of the congregation will want to participate in that music-making. And as one of our tasks includes directing a children’s choir, we can encourage the participants to further pursue music if we provide them with a good experience in that setting.
— Marie Landskroener, "Training Kids to be Church Musicians

What is marriage for? As cohabitation and singleness are on the rise, we increasingly struggle to answer that question. In 2010, 39 percent of Americans said they believed marriage was becoming obsolete. Those who do marry often cite “love” and “companionship” as their primary reasons for doing so—but why go through all the work to plan an expensive wedding when cohabitation no longer bears the social stigma that it used to?
In Christian societies, marriage became something more than mere contract: it was a covenant, wedded deeply to faith, virtue, and community. It was about more than two people and their caring for each other. The liturgical marriage vows (still occasionally used today) emphasize that the participants are “gathered here in the sight of God and in the presence of these witnesses.” Marriage was something to be witnessed—not merely for sake of celebration, but because of its deeper meaning and purpose. That purpose was (and is) deeply communal: Christian households were meant to be part of a larger church community, one that the apostle Paul called a “body.” The church body was required to tend and care for the health and wholeness of all its members, to live in constant fellowship and care.

Although Aristotle suggested that the household (oikos) was the core and beginning of community, he never said the household was sufficient for human community or happiness. Instead, he argued that individuals cannot perform their proper functions outside of a larger community. Households were not to exist in isolation, but rather to band together in service, community, and virtue. Married couples and their children need the polis—just as much as the polis needs them.

Thus, the relationship of a married couple to their larger community (be it familial, spiritual, or neighborly) is reciprocal: without larger context and support, nuclear households do not have the support they need to flourish. But without the integration and involvement of smaller households, communities do not have the “hands and feet” they need to care for their own.
— Gracy Olmstead, "Marriage Takes a Village"

Just as some liberal Bible scholars have claimed that belief in Christ’s divinity “evolved” over some centuries of tradition, some have claimed that the emphasis on the Cross of Jesus Christ, along with the atonement and everything else it represents, only developed after the time of Constantine. They say that because Christian visual art did not depict Christ on the Cross until the 4th century. Actual evidence, however, shoots down both assertions from the “evolution of doctrine” school.

We have exploded that first claim, about Christ’s deity, in our post about the second-generation Christian testimonies to the deity of Christ. Paul McCain sent me some research from a few years ago about the centrality of the Cross among second-generation Christians–that is, Christians who were converted by the apostles or their contemporaries. It also addresses the issue of visual images of the Cross.
— Gene Veith, "The First Image of Christ on the Cross: The Staurogram"

As the recently arrived Lent spurs Christians to reflect on their mortality and sinfulness, to give up vices, and to contemplate the suffering of Christ, we begin looking forward with great eagerness to Easter. While Lent may be a beautiful and necessary part of the Church Year, the solemnity of this time can sometimes turn discouraging. This year, I have turned to Paul Gerhardt’s text of “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” (LSB 438) to seek comfort, assurance, and confidence in the hope of the resurrection.
— Marie Landskroener, "Reflection on "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth""

These 18th Century Russian Churches Were Constructed Without Nails
This outdoor museum on Russia’s Kizhi Island—which sits in the center of Europe’s second largest lake—is a testament to the master woodworking skills...
— National Geographic