Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Baptismal identity put to the test

Today my family begins a new journey: raising four children completely on our own. Tonight as my mother in-law goes home we are left with an endeavor that will be exciting, scary, and emotional all at one time. I think we are both trying to put it all together in our minds of how we will make it through this time period. Currently we have 4 kids (the oldest being 4 years old) and we are simply two sinful parents trying to mold these kids in the ways of Christ.

This points me back to two realities of my sinful existence: 1) I will make many mistakes as a sinful father and the only saving grace is forgiveness, and 2) Since I am baptized into Christ and had the honor of receiving the Lord's Supper on Sunday, I have Christ living inside me. Therefore, it is no longer I that am doing this, but Christ who is at work.

I covet all of your prayers and at the same time I will be praying for all parents of young children as our lives turn upside down in this glorious vocation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Close Communion beyond an announcement

This Sunday was an amazing time in worship. Not only was I on a high because I was able to announce the birth of my daughter, but it also was the first time I was presiding over the body and blood of Christ "for you."

There is no greater honor as a pastor to repeat the same words as Christ over the bread and wine and distribute these gifts with the words "for you." I think we as pastors need to spend more time reflecting on the wonder and miracle we are part of.

I am a firm believer in taking the Lord's Supper very serious. In my church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) we believe in close communion. This means that we believe from passages from Acts and I Corinthians that the Lord's Supper should be taken only at altars that one has fellowship with. In practical terms this means that a LCMS member should not be communing at other altars and vice versa. This is more of a simple doctrinal stance.

Yet, I experienced on Sunday how close communion is also a physical reminder of how "close" one is to be with those surrounding them. Two older blessed women of faith, were standing next to one another as I announced, "Welcome to the Lord's Table." At that moment, one gal noticed the other becoming unstable and instantly grabbed her hand in order to keep her upright. Throughout the distribution they held onto one another and physically showed one another and the whole congregation that they were not only in doctrinal unity, but also going to hold each other up beyond the Supper. What a witness to me.

We all should think about this before we partake in the Lord's Supper wherever you attend. It makes me wonder about communing at other LCMS churches. When I stand up there, I'm not only saying that I believe in what you believe, but also saying that I will be there for you when in need. I'm not saying that therefore only commune at your home church, but I am also thinking that there are times one would not commune because of that very reason. One should ask will I help this guy next to me if in need as I am part of this close communion?

May we serve one another beyond our time in worship and may Christ who lives in you through His means empower us to do so.

Lord have mercy

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Working hard for nothing

Yesterday I was shopping at the local family own grocery store, Coborns. A sign indicated that if one buys $50 of food, then they will have 5 cents off every gallon for their next gas purchase. For a culture driven by cheap gas, I was one that wanted to spend $50 just for the heck of it. Why not? To save any money on gas would be an outstanding deal since prices will probably do nothing but go up.

The problem is that if I bought my groceries and the cost ended up being $45 I would automatically buy junk I do not need (ice cream, soda, candy). So in essence my hard work to get to $50 would end up in a $4.40 loss. If one actually did the math, 5 cents off a gallon for our car would equal a savings of .60. THAT IS IT? I thought to myself. I believe many people work hard in the realm of saving money when actually all the hard work gains them nothing but more in debt.

This dynamic is much like our faith life. We hear and see new ideologies that give us the idea that if we just work harder, serve on this board, give more, and go on a missions trip that we will gain more and have that spiritual experience to lift us up higher towards God. This is the ideologies that Paul warns against in Colossians 2:6-15. In those cases Jesus becomes a grocery store that promises great blessings by just doing this or that. However, in the end all the work, all the hope, all the service ends up setting a person back in their faith life. They never get ahead and lose more than they gain. I have been there in thinking that if I just did this or that, I would finally reach a spiritual uptopia and everyone would admire me.

God doesn't work that way. He tells us simply to be "rooted in Christ" and to be listeners to His grace (Luke 10:38-42). And when those things are in place, we serve in mercy to our neighbor. However, that service is done not for our gain, but for the gain of our neighbor and to listen to the commands of Christ. This reality of the Christian life is not really exciting, it doesn't promise great blessings on this earth, but it does promise something greater: God's kingdom.

May we all listen and keep to our roots in Christ. With that in place we will be blessed and have the peace of salvation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

God's miracle born July 22nd

On Thursday morning, 12:31 a.m., Xavia Alice Finnern was brought into this world at 7lbs 12oz and 20.5 inches (by the way she was 3 weeks early and would have been the size of a truck if going full term!).

I can not even explain how one can see a glimpse of the original creation when you first lay eyes on your child. Here is a child that was not part of our world 10 months ago and now is a manifestation of the oneness of my wife and I. She is just amazing and as beautiful as her mother.

Our excitement and emotions are sky high as we feel that this will be our last child (I think I have an appointment to the "vet). It has been an amazing journey starting in 2005 and comes to fruition with the tiny hands and feet of Xavia. It brings to light the joys that the Lord reveals to us and the transitions we all need to make. Not only are the transitions emotional, but they are a healthy manner by which God prepares us for the next stage.

Please pray for Xavia as we eagerly await her arrival into Christ's kingdom in August and our family for strength to raise our children in Christ.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mercy and the local hospital

All the craziness these past days has brought much anxiety and frustration. At the same time, there are nuggets of joy and comfort. When we arrived it was surprising to me that the only hospital in the St. Cloud area is Catholic. As we walked the halls, we saw pictures of all the CEO's of the hospital and from 1886-1968 it was always a sister from the order of St. Benedicts.

Affiliation is different than current practice (just ask Valpo and Notre Dame). This kind of history is very typical of many hospitals/college that have "Christian roots" but have lost those roots due to monetary and secular pressure. This appears to be true at St. Cloud Hospital, BUT their mission statement blatantly points to the mercy of Jesus: "As a Catholic regional hospital, we improve the health and quality of life for the people we serve in a manner that reflects the healing mission of Jesus." Another plaque from the 1950's said, "To serve as if we are Jesus Himself."

This focus centers right to the heart of what we are to be as Biblical, Christ-centered Christians, "MERCY." We are called through our Baptism to love our neighbor and live as if we are serving Christ. In my life, I have seen this come to fruition through the vocations of the doctor and nurse. They extend not only a helpful hand, but comfort you through words and actions. Their love and care for each person is an extension of the mercy of Christ (even they don't have faith) and is a model for all of us when we work within our vocations.

Christ's blessings to all nurses and doctors who care in His name and for the Catholic hospitals that live out their original mission.

Lord have mercy.

p.s. Amy is 5 cm and just received an epideral, hence the reason I can write on this blog.

Baby is coming...

We received the news yesterday that the fluid levels were low and baby will be coming sooner than thought. We have been under monitoring overnight and now starting the induction. God has truly worked through all of this. We are semi-settled in our house, started at the new church, and have family help in the meantime. This all shows God's timing is above our own.

Pictures will be coming, pray for my bride and baby, and may the Lord have mercy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Call, New Home, and assurance

Greetings everyone. It has been awhile. My apologies. On May 15, I was blissfully settled at St. John Lutheran in North Prairie and loving my calling there. Then God threw me for a loop and now only two months later, I am serving Messiah Lutheran Church, Sartell, MN. On top of a call we have had to pack up, unpack, reorganize, bought a house, and dump the kids off to someone (mostly grandparents:-). What an amazing ride.

Over the last two months much has happened; my hometown was blasted by a tornado, the Twins fell from first and are now coming back, Brett Favre still has not announced his decision, and Rev. Matthew Harrison was elected President of the LCMS. I am amazed and humbled by the journey my wife and I have gone through.

One thing has struck me since becoming a homeowner and having to organize all the amenities we are to enjoy as an American family: the need for assurance. To buy a house you are to buy homeowners insurance, title insurance, flood insurance. This is after you change your car insurance, health insurance, disability, life insurance, and umbrella policies. Holy cats. We spend TONS of money on feeling assured that we will be o.k. in the midst of tragedy. Yet, how many of us think about the assurance of eternal life and the need of others to have that same comfort. The amazing thing is that this assurance through the blood of Christ is free, forever, and simple. May we as a church bring that assurance to our communities and point them to the true assurance in all things.

Lord have mercy