Saturday, February 27, 2010

A full frontal attack...

I recently went to the local restaurant/bar in our community in the middle of the afternoon with our SMP vicar for a drink and to study the Word. After a week of visits, internal workings, meetings, etc, we decided to try to go where the "people" were.

After three and a half years in our community, it is a struggle at times to know where people hang out. Our village is a bedroom community of Milwaukee and often people are driving all day and end up just sleeping and working on their homes on the weekend. So where does a church go to be among the people and be witnesses? The answer: the local bar.

A confessional pastor I respect once said, "The church needs to be a on full frontal attack of the neighborhood in which it lives (schools, gas stations, restaurants, and bars). Until then, the church will always be outsiders." This is very true in our post-church culture. Often the church hangs out in the church building to be religious and discuss God, but once in the culture that surounds them, God/Jesus/Faith/Hope is strikingly quiet.

This is where we all need to realize as baptized children of Christ, we are the frontline of God's army. We are to be in the midst of our neighborhoods, restaurants, and bars. Not to indulge in the sins of gluttony, immorality, or language. But living in the world as Christ was with sinners.

We pray for many opportunities to be among the people in our community and for all churches to be on a full frontal attack.

Friday, February 26, 2010

On Lectors and Such...

This is a post from Rev. Wil Weedon, St. Paul, Hamel, IL. A great discussion on some practical issue in our Synod.

On Lectors and Such

I've gotten into this discussion in more than one place on the net and often find myself on the other side of the fence on this particular question from those with whom I usually on the same side of the fence on other questions. I'm curious what thoughts the reader of the blog might have about it.

I see absolutely nothing wrong and much to commend the practice of the people of God sharing in the reading of the Sacred Scriptures during the Divine Service. The Scriptures do not belong to the ordained; they belong to the whole people of God! Granted, my own parish does not follow the practice of having lectors from the laity. Historically, we've had seminarians or vicars to fulfill that role. But I have served in a parish where it was the practice and further it was the practice in the parish where I was baptized, confirmed, married, and ordained. I know some pastors hate it - they love to read the Scriptures themselves. I totally sympathize with that, but I do think it can be very helpful for the congregation to hear the Scriptures read by more than one voice.

The appeal to 1 Timothy 4:13 as somehow meaning that only the pastors are to read in the Divine Service is a non-starter for me. I don't think that is what St. Paul is saying to St. Timothy. And in the history of the Church we've certainly had the office of lector for a very long time - since at least the days of St. Justin Martyr. Our current rite (LSB) clearly permits an "assisting minister" (defined as either ordained or lay) to read the Old Testament and Epistle readings (not to mention to bid the Kyrie, to intone the Gloria in DS 1 and 2, to bid the prayer of the church, to distribute the chalice, and to offer the post-communion collect and chant the benedicamus).

About this person, it says:

"In addition, many congregations select lectors from within the congregation to assist the pastor by reading the Old Testament and Epistle readings. As with all matters pertaining to public worship, good judgment should be exercised in the selection of lectors. Understandably, this selection should be based on their ability to read the Word of God clearly and distinctly in a public setting. Adequate training and coaching of such lectors remains the responsibility of the called pastor, who retains the ultimate responsibility for the proclamation of the Word." [Lectionary, ix]

So, fire away. Pros and cons of the laity serving as lectors for first or second reading of the Divine Service?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Suicide and its effects...

Our local community has been stricken by the horrible effects of suicide. Last week a local school experienced two suicides unfortunately in the same family. This brings up many difficult memories of my high school years where a young man on the football team committed suicide. It stops everyone in their tracks whether they knew the individual or not. These situations also bring up many questions, mostly centered on "Why?"

In our broken world, people are led to many answers to things without realizing the consequences. As we all have much on our plate, the stress, concerns, and pains can become unbearable. Yet, there is always hope. Hope in the Lord who promises that his "yoke is easy and his burden is light." The Lord who has promised to be "the resurrection and the life." The Lord who has atoned for the "whole world." A God who has died to these two individuals who committed suicide and is also with those who mourn.

With the many issues all of us are put through, there are many options of help (God, pastors, friends, prayer, counselors) and the option that is never good at any age is suicide. As the Scriptures tell us, "O death where is sting, O where is the victory?" Death also brings despair, especially in these cases. May the Lord have mercy on all of us to see the help we all have in Christ.

Keep Mandy's family and friends in your prayers.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A great confession and an opportunity for healing...

At today's press conference featuring the confession of Tiger Woods, he did an outstanding job of giving his fans and people a chance to forgive him. He did not try to excuse his behavior, make it about his "sex addiction", or blame the media. These simply words, "I'm sorry", begins the chance for anyone to start the healing process. However, it is not until the words, "You are forgiven" are spoken that healing truly occurs.

This is the essence of the Christian faith. God moving our hearts to confess our sins, and by the command of Christ and by His death and resurrection your pastor saying, "You are forgiven." Totally forgotten and healing begins.

May we all it in their hearts to forgive one another and when we wrong others to say the difficult words, "I'm sorry."

Keep Tiger in your prayers (especially with his lack of faith in Christ)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Christ for mercy" begins today....

This Lent our congregation will be following the theme, "Christ for mercy" from LCMS World Relief/Human Care. The theme is based off of Luke 4:16-21 where Christ proclaims how He is the fulfillment of mercy told in Isaiah 61.

While looking into this theme, I am amazed at our need for mercy. Throughout our days on this earth, at many different stages, we ask the Lord for mercy in everything. The baby asks for it when they cry, the teenager asks when asking about their future, the college student when tempted, the parent when their children are sick, the worker losing their job, and the elderly when moved into a nursing home. At every stage, we all plead for the greatest need of all: forgiveness. This is our focus this Lent, that at every stage, our Lord Jesus, grants us mercy that not only gives us forgiveness, but also mercy for the other needs.

A number of pastors and one lay person have written devotions for the theme and we are organizing a number of mercy ministries throughout Lent (food pantry competition with other congregations, Spaghetti Dinner to help a man bring his family over from the Congo, and a day of service at a resale shop that funds a pregnancy crisis home in Milwaukee).

There is much mercy needed to be given, may the mercy of Christ be our lead.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

About Canada or the Olympics?

Olympics commence with joy, sadness at opening ceremony
Starting Saturday, the XXI Olympic Winter Games are about the athletes who have sacrificed, trained and prepared for four years to sled, slide and skate to the very best of their abilities. On Friday night, it was all about Canada. Milwaukee Journal

Watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics was an incredible sight. The frills, thrills, theatrical, and special effects were incredible. But when you sit back and think about it, why? Why do all of these things? Why put on a big show? Is this what Canada is all about? It was a display simply to highlight Canada, NOT the Olympics.

How often have we done this in the church. We have a wonderful message to proclaim and promote, but we usually make it about us first. The precious message of Christ and His atoning work is the news, however, often when people ask us about faith, first it is all about the church's programs, the worship style, the nice people, and how fast they are growing. Christ many times gets the back seat. It is a highlight about the church proper, NOT Christ and Him crucified.

When was the last time you heard someone describe their church as the place where "we receive the forgiveness of sins" or "where we enter into the presence of God?" May we all renew our focus not on the church, but on Christ.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Passing the torch for Vancouver

While eating breakfast this morning I watched many people pass the torch of flame to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. It was amazing to see the emotions of everyone involved; the tears, excitement, and opportunity to represent their country if only for 300 meters of running. It made me think about how cool it would be to carry the torch at some point for any Olympics and how proud I would be to represent my own country.

I get a similar emotion every night. It is when I put my kids down to bed, after the prayers, after a story that I make up, and as the lights go out, I tell them, "Daddy loves you, but who loves you more?" "My children answer, "Jesus."

As a parent their is no greater thing than to pass on the flame of faith to your kids. Through the waters of baptism and the daily dying and rising with Christ is the greatest privilege in the world. May we as parents, especially fathers, take that role seriously.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What a week...ministry in today's world is a lot of fun

This last week, along with my normal visitations of members, chapel for the school, and leading Bible study, included engaging and getting to know various people. It started with discussing the faith with someone who has no faith background at Perkins, it continued with talking about faith at the coffee shop to someone who is United Universalist, and then meeting with various families who are excited for God's Word and have had very little contact with a church.

Our culture is highly Biblically illiterate, yet people are excited to learn more. The frustration for me is that in the old church model typically you could gain "members" with little work (be nice, proclaim how you are better than other churches, and new music). However, today, much of the work is very intense: teaching the basics of faith, getting criticized for strong views of doctrine, and answering many questions with often no membership. Needless to say, tough on the ego. The typical membership swell due to transfer is a thing of the past and all of us in the church really need to step up in our understanding of God's Word and how to communicate the story to our community. Lord have mercy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is true power? Control or pardon?

Recently I was not able to sleep, so I decided to begin watching "Schindler's List." Which is four hours long and very intense. Yet, well needed for our society to always remember how far human beings can go with injustice when they deny the truth of God's Word and the natural law.

One particular scene in the movie was quite telling and at the same time very Christ-centered.

The basis of the movie is a business man named, Oskar Schindler is taking advantage of the requirement of Jews having to move to Krakow by starting a business for the Nazi party. He becomes incredibly wealthy very quickly. Schindler ends up having a changed heart and hiring Jews in order for them not to be killed.

One scene is where Oskar Schindler is shooting the breeze with a Nazi Leader of the Plazcow concentration camp after a long party filled with drinking and debauchery. In the discussion, the Nazi Leader, Amon Goth says to Schindler, "You are never drunk. You are in control. You know that control is power." Schindler laughed as he drank and told Goth, "No, control is not power. Power is when you have the chance to control, but you don't use it. You pardon those whom you could control. That is power." Goth obviously did not agree because control was the essence of what he thought made him the most powerful man at that concentration camp. Yet, he eventually realizes that his control was not so powerful and led to his eventual hanging.

This power is the same as our Lord. He has the chance to control us, take us down, or punish us with an unquenchable fire, but he doesn't control for power, but gives us pardon/forgiveness from our sins through Christ. The pardon that we don't deserve and a new life with Him. Amazing grace.

I suggest you watch Schindler's list if possible. Schindler saved over 1,300 Jews during his time, ended up broke, and now his work has saved the lives of over 60,000 people. A great testament of mercy for the least of these.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Anti-abortion or pro-life?

"At the Presidential Prayer breakfast was also Tim Tebow who has caused controversy with his anti-abortion add to air on Super Bowl Sunday." USA today posted today online.

Notice Tim Tebow is not seen as former Heisman Trophy winner, national title winner, or even a real nice guy, but as a promoter of an anti-abortion commercial. Is it not interesting that it is advertized as an anti-abortion add instead of a pro-family or pro-life commercial?

Why does media portray someone who is uplifting his family, the wonders of life, the possibilities of letting people live, as a controversial thing? Unfortunately, the liberal bias in many newspapers demonize individuals who are simply promoting things that work: life and family.

I pray that we as Christians continue to take the high road when criticized like Tim Tebow. Love your family, value life, and love one another. That's all we can do. Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Regeneration II-Brookfield, WI

Last fall I attended a conference in St. Louis called Regeneration. The focus of this conference was to discuss theology and the distinctiveness of Lutheranism in our current culture.

We are looking at Regeneration II which will be here in Milwaukee Area (Brookfield Lutheran) on April 18 5:30 through April 20 at noon. This gathering is centered on discipleship and the roles of pastors, commissioned ministers, and the laity. The cost is ONLY $30, which is an amazing deal.

The presenters are made up of pastors and workers that are working in unique ministry situations (city, emergents, young adult, and multi-cultural). What is the most refreshing part for me is that everyone there wants to make sure the center is on being Lutheran. Not to look like Evangelical and like Baptism a little more, but working with an unabashedly Lutheran way.

More updates to come. Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

LOST, idolatry, and theology

It has finally arrived, the last season of my favorite idol: LOST. Kate and Jack, Sawyer and Juliette, Islands, Jacob, and who exactly is Locke? Gotta love it. I have enjoyed my time away from this idolatry, but also covet the last season and what will come.

What I find interesting about these types of shows is that the ending and twists represent a wider cultural value. Shows that were popular 20 years ago are different than now. 20 years ago, TGIF was huge (Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Step by Step). Family oriented, clean humor, ending with a moral to the story, and addressing real issues in families. That symbolized a different time of desiring things to get back to the way it was (or at least perceived to be).

In today's shows, little is discussed about family, current issues, or clean humor. It is about suspense, thrillers, and always wondering what will come next (LOST, 24, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and a plethora of sci-fi shows). What does this mean? I'm not exactly sure. In my opinion it probably leads to a generation looking to the future with many questions, many fears, and enjoying the journey. More less, they are not real confident of what comes next, but they are enjoying the time they have.

What does this mean for the church? We have confidence of what is coming next: "Jesus will be with us." Christ has promised to bring blessings in the middle of despair, He has promised to do things for the good of people, and for the church to be there for us. And best of all that there will something better when this life ends. How about we start proclaiming of this confidence in a very unstable world.

God fils in the pieces

Last night while I was at confirmation our home had a "God moment." While Amy was putting our son to bed, the light fixture in our kitchen came crashing down for no apparent reason. Thankfully, our daughters were in the other room. It is a reminder of God "filling in the pieces." I realize that He doesn't just fill in the pieces, but there are times He reveals Himself that way.

When our prayers lead toward Him filling in the pieces, He usually reveals His mercy by near misses. Lord have mercy