29 September 2002

The Celtic Classic was a lot of fun. We also had bought a digital camera several days ago, so I was able to take some pictures at the festival.

The first group we heard in the morning was DanĂș, a traditional Irish band from County Waterford, composed of seven young guys, very loyal to traditional music. Here they are in the midst of a reel:



Later in the day we really enjoyed Slainte Mhath (pronounced "slawncha va"), who were great fun. They are also a very young group, from Cape Breton in Canada, and combine very traditional Celtic music (mostly Scottish) with contemporary sound, bringing together bagpipes, fiddle, mandolin, and bodhran with electric guitar, keyboards, percussion, and electronica. Here they are complete with a highland bagpipe decorated in smiley faces:



In the evening we finished up with Clandestine, a four person Celtic folk group from Texas, who will stop touring after this year. We had enjoyed them a lot in past years and they didn't disappoint:


Of course, we had Claire along with us, now six weeks old. She seems to have enjoyed the music and festivities quite a bit, even managing to overcome her serious nature and smile a wee bit:



We also all very much enjoyed watching the Irish dancers from Maureen O'Grady School of Irish Dance:



If you click on the image you'll be able to play a short video clip of the dancers, also captured on the new camera (mpeg format). I'm only going to leave the video up a short time, though, since it eats up a lot of my server space.

27 September 2002

This Saturday we are headed up the Celtic Classic in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It is the largest Celtic festival in the US and is celebrating its fifteenth year.

The festival is free and includes four stages with live Celtic music (Scottish, Irish, Welsh--traditional and contemporary), highland games, Irish dance and highland dance, a border collie demonstration, a pipe band competition, a Gaelic worship, historical recreations from both the Society for Creative Anachronism as well as a Civil War re-enactment group, Scotch tasting, a Celtic fiddle competition, and all kinds of vendors selling Celtic goods and music as well as traditional foods ranging from corned beef with cabbage to haggis.

Musical groups this year include Slainte Mhath, Wolfstone, Gaelic Storm, the Glengarry Bhoys, Raglan Road, Clandestine, and our own local Blackwater.

We will be there, with Claire wearing a nice tartan. As for me, I'll be sporting my utilikilt, a post-modern urban take on the tradition.

18 September 2002

An excerpt from Calvin's Sermons on Deuteronomy (Sermon 53, Saturday, 3 August 1555), regarding election from the perspective of the covenant:Now then it is of God's free election that we have his Word purely preached unto us and that we have his Gospel and Sacraments. And therein we have reason to confess that he has shown himself generous to us.

For by what title is the Gospel given to us, rather than to others who make greater account of themselves than we do and who are not inferior to us in the eyes of the world? Why does God pass over great kingdoms and principalities and nations of renown and choose a little nook and a small number of people so that his Word will be preached there? When it rains upon us and all the rest of the world remains still in drought, is it not to be concluded that God has the liberty to do good to whom he wishes?

And is this not of his love, to which we are then beholden? Yes.

So then, when the Gospel is preached in a place and it has the warrants that God gives men salvation--as when we have Baptism and the Lord's Holy Supper ministered uncorruptly--we may say it is an election of God.

But yet for all that, in the meantime he holds to himself those he so wishes in order that people should not trust the outward signs except by faith and obedience, knowing that although we have been chosen to be of the Body of the Church, yet if we do not make that election to our profit, God can well enough cut us off again and reserve a final number to himself.

And though there may be a great multitude of us who confess all with one mouth that God has chosen us, yet we cannot therefore say that he confirms us as his children unless we live in pureness of faith and have thus ratified that covenant God has made with us.

And so let us understand that God's generosity shows itself in all kinds of ways to us, and that therefore we have all the more reason to love him more and more and to yield to him all praise.

Do we have his Word? It is free grace to us, where he has bound us to himself. Do we have his sacraments? They are the badges of his fatherly election. We have not deserved these things...

17 September 2002

As Laurel noted on her blog, Claire was baptized into the covenant on Sunday! What a blessing and she was such a good little girl throughout. One of the other kids gave quite a yell, but that, of course, is just the devil coming out.

We had a nice party afterwards at which my father (who is a PCA pastor), prayed the following words of thanksgiving and blessing from the 1566 Dutch Reformed baptismal rite: Almighty God and merciful Father, we thank you and praise your name for having forgiven our sins through the blood of your dear Son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for uniting us with Christ through your Holy Spirit and adopting us as your children, and we thank you for sealing and confirming these blessings to us and our children in the sacrament of baptism.

We pray, O Lord, that you will always govern this child by your Holy Spirit. May she, through your guidance, be so nurtured in the Christian faith and godliness as to grow and develop in Jesus Christ. Help her see your fatherly goodness and mercy which surrounds us all. Make her a champion of righteousness under the direction of Jesus Christ, our chief teacher, eternal king, and only high priest. Give her the courage to fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion. May her life become an eternal song of praise to you, the one only true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I only wish the PCA rite of baptism in the Book of Church Order were as well-written.

12 September 2002

The most recent issue of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion (Number 34), had a thoughtful editorial on Thomas Kinkade and his art, by publisher and editor Gregory Wolfe.

Wolfe begins by noting the difficulty of writing about sentimentality and popular culture--after all, a certain kind of artistic elitism can take a bit too much pleasure in beating up on the likes of Kinkade with his sugary, misty scenes of softly lit cottages and gardens. But Wolfe notes that popularity and sentimentalism are not necessarily linked, for example, in the popularity of unsentimental Shakespeare. And, while always difficult to define, sentimentality is deadly serious business involving, as Mark Jefferson notes, a deliberate misrepresetation of the world in order to indulge certain emotional states.

Wolfe notes that Kinkade's artistic world is a problem not so much because of the emotion it seeks to elicit or the "inveterate prettyifying" of nature it induges. The danger is more subtle and more political and theological. Kinkade claims to be a painter of "memories and traditions," who, in his own words, attempts to "portay a world without the Fall."

A certain kind of conservative nostalgia lurks here, with a highly selective memory and interest in only some peoples' traditions. Worse, however, may be the theology that is assumed. As Wolfe notes,The Bible, as a narrative, seems fairly explicit about there being a Before and an After. Moreover, Christ's message was not to pretend the world isn't fallen but to take up our crosses and follow him through suffering and sacrifice. To create a body of work illustrating a world with the Fall is, for a Christian, to render Christ superfluous.Jesus was not a sentimentalist and, if anything, when others around him were tempted towards sentiment, he subverted that turn. Wolfe observes,To the announcement that his mother and brothers have arrived at the edge of the crowd--a Hallmark moment if there ever was one--[Jesus] replies that only his disciples are his mother and brothers.In criticizing sentimentality one can become over-zealous, of course. Greeting cards and address labels are relatively harmless in their respective spheres. Yet the artistic mediocrity embodied in sentiment is not without its consequences. Wolfe quotes Henri de Lubac: "There is nothing more demanding that the taste for mediocrity." And as Wolfe goes on to suggest,Perhaps, at its best, sentimentality strives for something approximating the theological virtues of hope and love. But in refusing to see the world as it is, sentimentality reduces hope to nostalgia. And in seeking to escape the ambiguity and the consequences of the Fall, it denies the heart of love, which is compassion.Compassion, of course, requires suffering with the other, and to do so in that otherness. The sentimentalist in the end is, as Oscar Wilde quipped, "one who desires to the have the luxury of emotion without paying for it."

09 September 2002

From Calvin's 200th Sermon on Deuteronomy, preached Wednesday, 15 July 1556, a sermon on Deuteronomy 34, particularly verse 9, "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the Spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him"--an excerpt:
...the same is to be seen all the more in the Sacraments of which the Scriptures speak, more than in all other signs that are to be had in the world. I have spoken before of the sign of a feather or wand being given as a pledge to one who purchases an inheritance. But there is still much more in the Sacraments. We must go one step higher. For in them our Lord works by his power, that which humans cannot do.

It is true that [in the case of the feather or wand] when such a ceremony is once done and performed, that the law will consider a person in possession of the thing that he has purchased, but in a sacrament that is not all. For (as I said before), God performs by the secret power of his Spirit whatsoever he shows and witnesses to the eye.

So then we must ever come to this point, that the Sacraments are effectual and that they are not trifling signs that vanish away in the air, but that the truth is always matched with them, because God who is faithful shows that he has not ordained anything in vain. And that is the reason why in Baptism we truly receive the forgiveness of sins, we are washed and cleansed with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are renewed by the operation of his Holy Spirit.

And how so? Does a little water have such power when it is cast upon the head of a child? No. But because it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that the water should be a visible sign of his blood and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore baptism has that power and whatsoever is there set forth to the eye is forthwith accomplished in very deed.

Ok. So it's been a while since I blogged anything. A new baby, the beginning of the school year, visitors, an article I need to finish, and our computer's phone line going down are all partly to blame.

One of these days I hope to finish what I began blogging about nominalism and the modern. But that will have to wait for a little while still. In the meantime perhaps I'll just post quotations I find interesting.

01 September 2002

We don't own either a scanner or a digital camera, so this has taken a little while. I'm also terrible at remembering to take pictures. But this afternoon we had dinner over at my folks and they have a scanner. Here, then, is a picture of baby Claire Elise, taken on August 17 when she was only about 12 hours old:



The name "Claire" means "bright" or "clear." It was also the name of Clare of Assisi who was a companion and follower of St. Francis, founding a religious order of sisters sharing his vision. "Elise" is a French transformation of the Hebrew name "Elizabeth," which means "oath of God" or "consecrated to God." It was also the name of the mother of John the Forerunner and cousin to the Mother of our Lord.

"Claire Elise" is, of course, also a variation upon "Clara Elizabeth." The relevance there is that baby Claire's great-great-grandmother was Clara Elizabeth Schnable McWilliams. Here is a picture of her, taken around 1900: