Monday, March 28, 2011

Why I admire the United Methodist Church. (Sometimes)

I am about to attend a meeting with a number of denominations discussing poverty in our local area and how the churches can help out. It is a striking issue in the St. Cloud, MN area. In a local school district over 85% of children qualify for reduced lunch. Statistically when a school district is over 60% it can no longer support itself. This is a justice issue that can not be ignored.

**Just so everyone knows, I am not about to start an ecumenical worship service, open communion, or promote different denominational superiority. However, this is an issue that we as conservative LCMS congregations need to at least talk to people about ways to intervene.

What is particularly unique about my discussions with leaders of this endeavor is that they were surprised that I even called back. They said, "We usually only hear back from the Methodist." They indicated that often it is the lay people that drive justice issues, especially help for the poor. Isn't that amazing. We Lutherans have a tough time attending a meeting and the Methodist are first in line. Wow!

I admire the energy and support the United Methodist Church has for things like poverty. It goes without saying that I disagree with their views on the authority of the Word of God, understanding of place of men and women, and views on the Lord's Supper, but in this case I admire them. Have you experienced something similar?

Monday, January 10, 2011

What makes a Lutheran merciful?

Welcome to another installment of "What Makes a Lutheran?"! Last post we discussed what makes a Lutheran so Hungry, hungry for life and salvation through a little bread and a little wine in the Lord’s Supper. This post we will continue with “What Makes a Lutheran-Merciful?” By means of the cross, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what makes a Lutheran serve his neighbor wholeheartedly without asking for anything in return?

“Serve?” my friend asked with a quizzical look. “Oh, no I do not serve. I’m Lutheran. We are saved by grace!!!” This was a conversation between one of my friends who was a lifelong Lutheran and a non-denominational church attender. My Lutheran friend responded confidently when asked how he serves the church and the world. Unfortunately this reaction gives a false impression on what it actually means to be a Lutheran in the realm of merciful service to our world. We will most commonly use the “saved by grace” card in an attempt to overlook our laziness and lack of care for our neighbor. This line of thought is not only against what it means to be a confessing Lutheran, but more importantly is counter what God has revealed to us through Holy Scripture.

As God’s people we are called to serve! Scripture continually points us to merciful service to all people at all times. As He tells us in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and with greatest commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12). However, service does not begin with us, but it begins with the gifts that He gives through worship. As He works on us through the worship service, transformed by His Word, washed clean through Baptism, and strengthened by the Lord’s Supper, He throws us out to have mercy on our neighbors in their time of need. Christ continually showed mercy to people during His life on earth and in return we in the Christian community are sent out to be on the frontlines of service to our neighbors.

Most often the question then arises, “O.k., then who is my neighbor?” My next door neighbor? my fellow Sartell resident? my fellow U.S. citizen? or the little child in Africa? The simple answer to this question is…EVERYONE! Your next door neighbor, the Sartell resident, the poor man under the bridge, the rich man in a mansion, the starving children in Africa, and the child who is still in their mother’s womb. They are all your neighbor.

If this is our calling, where do we begin this seemingly impossible endeavor? It is actually very simple: it begins in worship receiving God’s gifts through Word and Sacrament. It extends to our family members, our church family, our physical neighborhood, Saint Cloud, our country, and to the world. We look around us and determine through prayer whom we can serve the best, not to be saved, but BECAUSE we are saved by the precious blood of Christ.

Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Epiphany Greeting from President Harrison

Blessed Epiphany and New Year from President Harrison from VimeoLCMS on Vimeo.

In government we trust?

The other day I was having a discussion with someone concerning gay marriage. In the discussion the individual made the argument that it wasn't up to us to stop someone from doing something unless it hurt someone else or took away their rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). At the end of the discussion, it was determined that he would be against making drugs illegal, rules on marriage, or anything that had to do with individual choice even if it was hurting that person.

Now, what I realized was that the god for this individual was solely the government ideology. Evidently he would have to change that ideal if he lived in another country, but the government gave him the standards and the rest was up to him. I wonder how many of us as Chrsitians live the same way. Yes, we would admit we believe in God, but ultimately we live by the rules of America more than Him. To this point in history, American and Christianity were very similar so it wasn't a really big deal. However, when the government starts to change, what will the 21st century Christian do? Follow the government or follow God? What if the government proclaims gay marriage as o.k., continues with abortion, tells churches that they no longer can proclaim sin, etc? Are we to just accept it or live differently?

All of us as Christians need to step back and really evaluate what it means to be a Christian? What does it mean to believe in a living God that gives us life and breath and what does that faith mean when the government (even Republicans) goes against them? Are we going to trust in God or the government? Something to think about.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Makes a Lutheran So Hungry?

Welcome to another installment of "What Makes a Lutheran?" Last post we discussed how Lutherans get “all-wet.” Through the water that hits our head in Baptism, God brought salvation and a new life. This post we will continue with “What Makes a Lutheran So Hungry, hungry for life and salvation through a little bread and a little wine in the Lord’s Supper.

In discussions with people from other church bodies one of the first things that they desire to discuss (or better put, argue) centers around what we believe in the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately the conversation turns from what one believes to an ex curses on what all different denominations believe. In the mean time, we forget the great things that God does through this sacrament for our daily walk in the Lord.
So what is it that we believe? Lutherans believe that Christ is present IN, WITH, and UNDER the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. These three prepositions emphasize the fact that Christ is actually there in the bread and wine. The elements are at the same time bread and wine and body and blood. Jesus is actually in the meal!

Most will say, but that doesn’t make any sense? Which in all reality…it doesn’t! However, God’s Word, being our sole guide in our faith and practice, points us to that understanding. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper he said, "This IS my body given for you; do this (eat the bread) in remembrance of me...This cup IS the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:19-20) Jesus says, quite plainly, that the bread and the wine are his body and blood. Paul backs him up on this when he says, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" (I Corinthians 10:16). The assumed answer to these questions is "Yes!" Paul says we are participating in the very body and blood of Christ, in other words, we are eating and drinking his body and blood in the bread and wine!

So what? What does it matter if we are actually receiving the real body and blood of Christ anyway? The point is this, we are going to struggle with sin our whole lives, therefore we are in constant need of transformation through forgivenes. Each time you partake in this gift, the living Christ lives in you and grants that forgiveness. Every time the sacrament is offered we should be running to the altar, yearning for the great gift God has given, and pray that with the Holy Spirit’s help we shall be changed until He returns again! Lord have mercy.