Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forgiveness service to end our Wed. night services this summer

Tomorrow evening we will end our Wed. night services this summer with a forgiveness service. It will be very simple. We will meditate on each of the 10 commandments in silence, a few Scripture readings, followed by by the sweet words of forgiveness. What I have found is that when we go through confession on Sunday mornings, we tend to "zone" out and not focus on our sins, and how many of us look to every commandmnet? This is a chance to really look at our sinfulness for what we really are: terrible sinners.
But tomorrow night will all be about forgiveness. Not only will people be able to bring their sins forward to be posted on a cross, but also to receive individual proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.
I am really new to this kind of service and am open to any suggestions. I know it will be a powerful night by the great news of Christ.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Forgiveness needed from others, not only from Christ

Ever had a moment you reall messed up and you realize that NOTHING you can do will take anything back? I'm not talking about infidelity, but talking about forgetting something very important. When we forget, we break trust, friendships, and teamwork in the future. Unforunately for the one who forgets, it isn't intentional, but hurts as if it was. I had that kind of moment recently and I realize that I can't do anything to make it up and will suffer the consequences from it. I don't deserve forgiveness nor do I ask for it. But it does make me realize how serious and hurtful it must be for our Lord when we forget Him, not once, but ALL the time. May we remember our Lord and at the same time ask for forgiveness when we mess up!

Lord have mercy

Get your butt to God's gifts...no excuses

Did I sleep well last night? nope. Do I feel real good this morning? nope. Could I be doing a number of different things? Yep. Are there politics in the church that make me NOT want to be part of it? Yep. Are there people whom I do not mesh with real well and don't mesh with me? Yep. Do I always WANT to be in worship? Nope. So why do I always end up going? Simple!

God's Gifts of forgiveness and life. To hear the precious words of the Gospel and to receive the precious sacrament. Everything else falls into place when these things are at the center.

Christ have mercy

Friday, July 24, 2009

Transformers...More than meets the eye

A blast from the past this evening. I went to watch the new Transformers. The graphics were awesome, storyline o.k., and the memories of the cartoon was striking. There is nothing better than seeing a simple truck turn into a powerful transformer.
Not much different than us Christians. Just simple sinners transformed in Baptism. We are united with the powerful Christ who conquered death. Given faith, given salvation, and welcomed into the kingdom of God. Awesome.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prayer/Needs walk II a big success...

Beginning with prayer and a trust in the Lord, we did our second round of prayer/needs walks around North Prairie. We ended up visiting 32 homes and having some very good conversations. Yet, one group had a guy send out his dog towards our people. Needless to say, they didn't join the church :-).

Our main goal is to get a feel for what people see as the need of our community. We also ask for prayer requests. Thus far we have found most people see a huge need of connecting everyone together and providing activities for kids and families. How we as a church address these requests? Not sure. We are going to start cottage meetings at our church to get a feel for what the people of St. John see God directing us and then see if they match up.

The whole time, we are first and foremost about Word and Sacrament. Nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Yet, God is leading us towards mercy ministries. What kind is yet to be determined.

Prayer/Needs walk II coming tonight

Tonight myself and whomever God brings to North Prairie will go on our second phase of prayer/needs walks around our community. Our goal is to reach out to the community without being too impeding. We simply go door to door and ask if they have any prayer requests. We try to make the people the experts and we are the servants. Then after the first response, we ask what they perceive to be the greatest need of our community. It is very simple, but has been a great success thus far.

We are hoping to get many homes done tonight. From our findings, we will not only pray for everyone in worship, but also evaluate the best way for us to show mercy to those surrounding us. As the church is meant to be a Gospel place AND a place of service to our neighbors, we unfortunately tend to stay within our own walls. Pray for a chance to tell of Jesus, and also to find new ways to serve our community with mercy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prays for all who suffer with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)

This last week I sat with one of our beloved members who is suffering with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). He is a man who has a strong faith, but as many people who have suffered with ALS, he is having a tough time. He recently had a feeding tube surgically placed. He looked at me yesterday after surgery and said, "3 nails + 1 Jesus =Forgiven." Obviously, tears came down my face because of the gift of faith God has given.

This summer Major League baseball held the ALS day on July 4th, 70 years after Lou Gehrig's retirement. Over the years, almost NOTHING has been found to slow the disease and it terrible results. However, we pray for the doctors and scientists to use ehtical ways to make this disease a thing of the past. Pray for all ALS patients and especially our friend and brother Ed (also his lovely wife, Rita).

"On Christ the Solid Rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Visiting the city and being blessed by the Gospel

This morning we did a pulpit switch with our sister churches in Milwaukee (Hope and Bethlehem). These churches are a unique situation of a dual parish in the heart of the city. We started a partnership over two years ago after a number of members and the pastor and I had done a number of work projects. Pastor Micah Wildauer and I switched pulpits. He came out to the "country" and I went to the inner city.

Needless to say, it was an amazing blessing. Both churches have a richness to their faith that does not depend on real estate values, lake homes, and gas prices. One gal came into church yelling, "Alleluia, thank you Jesus for being with us today." Not your normal Lutheran move. However, it showed a trust and dependance on Jesus and an ackowledgement of a very Lutheran idea, "Jesus being with us in worship."

Our partnership with these churches will continue into the future. Mainly through the support of Hope Lutheran Food Pantry. But also through work projects, fellowship activities, and hopefully a day of study and worship. I thank God for the experience today with God's people in a different setting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Living together outside of marriage is not best idea?

In a recent article on Fox News.com, they referred to a study done by Journal of Family Psychology in February studying those who lived together outside of marriage: check it out.

I will not discuss it further than to say...why do we assume that God's Word is not true. We often will look to stats, logic, and popular opinion before God. Even when the stats line up with God's Word, we still don't want to listen. We all need to repent of this mindset.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feeling far away from God...bringing us near

In 9th grade, I was lined up at the free throw line. The visiting team was shooting a free throw, we were down by two, and I was ready to grab the rebound. I was probably the most motivated I had ever been. The shot went up, it bounced to my side, I grabbed the rebound. At that moment, I should have thrown it to the outlet guy and went to score the typing basket. But what did I do? I jumped as high as possible and easily scored a basket with little competition from the opposition and subsequently scored for the opposing team. The crowd from the visitors went wild along with the opposing team, and my teamates just shook their heads. I never felt more alone, even though I was among so many people.

This Sunday I am preaching on Ephesians 2, when the Gentile people in the church were feeling far away from others in the church and in many ways God. They felt as if they had shot at the wrong basket. They were considered to be the "unclean" ones in the church, while the Jews had all the rights and privileages of the church. Paul writes "For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace" He joined Jews and Gentiles together and more importantly joined them to the Father.

In the same way, we often feel far away from God. Maybe due to a struggle, questions, or because your prayers have not been answered. But as we read these words, Paul reminds us that He is our peace, we are not alone, even though the world might deny us, due to the cross our Lord will never leave us.

Remember that next time you shoot at the wrong basket.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Whirlpools and the Holy Spirit

I love to swim in small pools, especially round ones that go no deeper than six feet. Tonight, my family went to a graduation party where my girls and I went swimming. The moment we entered the water, we started a whirlpool; walking round and round til' the current took over. After five minutes the people figured out what I was doing and they started to follow our lead. Yet, there were some who were upset that I had disrupted the apple cart. They were giving me the evil eye along with not cooperating.

As I was leading the whirlpool, I was thinking about the Holy Spirit and His Work in our Baptismal life. The Holy Spirit comes into our pool which we are drowning in and creates a current of His love, forgiveness, and salvation. After sometime more and more people fall into place with that current, while others deny that the current is even there. You see this in the church where some people listen to God's Word and do it, while some bark at the moon or try to stop the current. There is nothing better than when the Word is preached in all purity for that is the time that the current of the Gospel takes over!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Movie and popcorn...traditions are the sustenance of life

Most Friday nights at the Finnern household are made up of a movie (usually Veggie Tales), a bowl of popcorn, and relaxation. We started this tradition this winter and it has really helped us hang out as a family on Friday nights and in essence "prepare" for the weekend. This tradition emulates many traditions as a child that brought a sustenance to our relationship and my hope to bring the same to my children.

I think this is the same for our children and the worship/devotional life as baptized children of God. Most funerals I have conducted, the children will choose hymns that their parents sang while washing dishes or while driving the car. Also, they choose readings that were posted on their wall. I also had a family mention that each night their dad would recite five Psalms and the Lord's prayer. The child reminisced, "Whenever I hear the first two words of the Psalm I can say the whole thing, no matter where I am." Same thing happens in the worship service when we recite confession, the Kyrie, Hymns, and hear the Benediction. The Word lives within people and Christ is a constant reminder. May we continue with the tradition of God's Word. Through that Word, God brings a sustenance to our relationship with Him and something that will be passed on.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson Unites America?

"Michael Jackson united America and the world" proclaimed a local paper. Interesting. I don't remember the world coming together for a Michael Jackson concert or millions of people joining hands worshipping this the "King of Pop." Was he a wonderful, talented individual? Absolutely. The amount of barriers he broke, people he helped, and his talents musicaly were unprecedented. Yet, did he unite all nations? I would have to argue no. And maybe, just maybe we have overdone his impact on the world. JUST MAYBE!

We as Christians join millions and billions of people throughout the world to worship the "King of Kings." We worship not because He had great talent to heal, not because he helped people, but due to His unprecedented ability to take on all sins by His death. That is what unites the nations. Unfortuntely, this man Jesus and His impact on the world has been UNDERDONE. And just maybe we should be overdoing His impact on the world. JUST MAYBE!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Half Marathon coming up...pray for me!

On September 5th, Amy and I will be running our second half marathon. The first was 7 years ago and was a disaster. We are better prepared this time (although a few pounds more mature!). We are up to 4.5 miles consistently and hope to get to at least an 8 mile at least once a week by late July. Keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Now a minor league junkie and a minor league pastor

On Friday night my family and other church people went to a Beloit Snappers minor league baseball game. The Snappers are an "A" affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The game was a blast. The tickets were cheap, my girls got to hug the mascot, and we were able to see future big leaguers.

Yet, it was still a minor league game. Eight out of nine players on the field will not make the big club. Their only saving grace and the reason we come to watch? Baseball. Baseball is a game that unites many people of different ages and races. There is a wonderful feeling of being in the presence of an open air stadium and to hear the crack of a bat.

I often feel like those minor league players as a pastor. I will probably never make it to the "Rock-Star" limelight of a Joel Osteen, Bill Hybel, or Rick Warren (neither do I want too!!). No, I will only be a simple parish pastor in a small Lutheran church body. My only saving grace? God's Word and Christ. That message which I proclaim unites many different kinds of people and is to mask all of my lack of abilities. When I stand up on Sunday morning, there is nothing better than being in the presence of God and hearing that precious message of Christ.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wednesday Night service a success

Maybe it is due to lower gas prices, more people wanting to see family, or simply Wisconsin people doing their summer thing, but we have noticed a slight decrease in church attendance this summer. We decided to try different things throughout the summer to help mix things up throughout the summer. For June we had a sermon series on the "Most Common Questions of the Faith", throughout July we plan on having Wednesday night services, and in August we will have a midweek Bible study on "Who is God?".

Last night was one of those great moments in ministry where I am surprised by too many people, the Holy Spirit led 72 people to the Divine Service. It was a very powerful evening, confession/absolution, Scripture, Christ, and the Lord's Supper. We had said that we needed an average of 30 people at the services throughout July in order to consider Wednesday night services next summer. God brings His surprises.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide people to His place of worship no matter the day of the week.
Christ have mercy

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stewardship, product, and growth in sanctified living

We are planning our stewardship emphasis this next October. The emphasis we are using is called, "Consecrated Stewards" from LCEF. The emphasis is outstanding. It focuses on the need of the giver to give, not on budgets. It points people to sanctified living as a child of God through Baptism in Christ. This year will be no different and the idea of stewardship is slowly being seen as part of our faith life, as opposed to something we do when our budget is low.

I have been thinking about stewardship and the church for quite some time. Mainly because for a long time I did not understand the idea of giving to church. My thought was, why? They have church on Sunday, they have an occasional gathering, a few programs that seem to be more about advertising than reaching the community. Why would one give to a church? Why not give to a group like Compassion International or Gideons that are out in the world?

This represents a major problem in the church. For too long, we have depended on people to give simply because it was what one did. Kind of like why one would volunteer in the community, it was an expectation. And too often the product coming out of the church was not much. They did not serve the surrounding community, they did not live out their faith outside of worship, and the idea of loving one another was not first on people's minds.

However, much of this has changed in mind due to many booklets written by Matt Harrison called, "Mercy Moments." Rev. Harrison speaks concerning the Christian church's role not only being about Word and Sacrament, but also mercy/service to our community. He has broken down many barriers from past views of mercy ministries being "liberal" or "unchristian." At the same time, it helps a congregational member realize that when is looking at stewardship. We give not solely because of an obligation, but because our churches are being feed by Christ and therefore go into the community with the mercy of Christ. That is a great reason to give and be part of the Church today.