Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I sit here in the wee hours of Christmas morning. This is my time. I am a morning person. I can't stay up late but I can get up early. Everyone else is sleeping, but I can look at the tree, listen to quiet music, consider, think, ponder, relax. Last night was so hectic. So much to do between getting ready for church, entertaining guests, packing up, picking up a shut-in for church, not being able to get to church because the highway exit ramp was closed due to an accident, getting there late, rushing to set everything up in time for the service. So many things to think about.

But not now. Now is quiet. Now is peaceful. I think of my sins. Why do I get so agitated and angry? I want things to be right. I want things on time. I want our visitors to see a church that knows what it's doing and has its act together. Vanity? The Word is proclaimed, in Word, in music, in sermon. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. That's the important thing. And how I need a Saviour! Christ born for me. The forgiveness of sins. That's the message to preach today as well, and to receive in my Saviour's Body and Blood.

There's a siren outside - what's happened? An accident? An illness? A death? No "merry" Christmas for that person and their family. But still a blessed Christmas. The birth of our Saviour! The Word became flesh. God has bared His holy arm. He has spoken to us by His Son. That's what we'll hear today. Wonderful words. Peaceful and peace-filled words. Words I need.

At least this morning, arriving at church, the church will be set-up and all ready to go! No moving and shifting and hauling all our stuff up from the closet. How often I am jealous of those who have a church building! Just arrive and it's all set to go. Not quite that easy I know, but not all the set-up every week. But I wouldn't trade my church for another. This is where God has put me. And the people are wonderful. Peaceful. United. We had a visitor last night from another church. They have a building but no peace. Trouble and turmoil and hurt. Sad that darkness.

So just like Mary and Joseph receiving the Son of God in a borrowed place, we receive the Body and Blood of the Son in a rented place. Perhaps a reminder that this is not our true home. That's coming. Because the Son of God made His home here for awhile, our home will be there forever.

Ah, Christmas! I remember the Christmases of my childhood. It's different now - not only as an adult but as a pastor. Better? Worse? Neither. Both. Different. Different worries, different joys, different thoughts. Same Saviour! Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever. A constant in a changing and hectic world and life. A life of accidents and turmoil and hurt. A life of anger and anxiety and vanity. A life of early mornings and late nights. But an unchanging Saviour, unchanging forgiveness, unchanging promises. How good.

Merry Christmas to you all.



Monday, December 24, 2012

Words Matter

I am listening to the live broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. We will do an adaptation of that in our Candlelight service tonight. But I am struck by this: after each reading, they no longer say: This is the Word of the Lord. It is simply said by the lector: Thanks be to God. How sad. Why this change? Is it because they no longer believe this is the Word of the Lord? Then why are they giving thanks to God? Not for the word; maybe for the birth? For the holiday? And I wonder how long have they done this? Words matter. Christmas is the Word become flesh. The Word that God spoke to us His love.

How sad.

Screwtape Letters on Stage

I took my sister (as her Christmas present) to see the Screwtape Letters on stage in Washington, DC yesterday afternoon. A very enjoyable show. The 90 minutes flew by and it was over before I knew it. It was a one man show (the under-demon Toadpipe was on stage with him, but in a miming role only), and Max MacLean did a very good job. After the show he held a 10 minute-or-so Q&A with those who wanted to stay, which was also interesting. If it comes to your town, I'd recommend it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Keeping Score

Well, the Mayans were wrong. Go figure. Here's the score:

Jesus: 5,628,573
Date setters: 0

Friday, December 21, 2012

Is Today THE Day?

This is a little thought I sent out yesterday to one of my e-lists. I thought I would post it here also:


Well, if the Mayans are correct, tomorrow - December 21st - is the end of the world. As Christians, we believe that means that would be the day Christ returns and takes His own to their heavenly home. What a great day that would then be!

As I was thinking about that, I thought of words the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian Christians:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
~ Philippians 1:21

I think that reflects the proper attitude of Christians toward any predictions of the end of the world, whether it be of the Mayans, or Harold Camping, or whoever else will be next. If the end does come, it is gain for me! I will be in heaven with my Saviour and receive the goal of my faith. But if the end does not come, then I live on in my earthly vocations, as Christ to my neighbor, loving, forgiving, serving. 

Either way, I am under His love and care each and every day. 
Either way, I am safe and secure in His forgiveness. 
Either way, I need not fear, for Christ has taken care of my past, my present, and my future.

So don't worry about tomorrow! But today, there is much to do. Proclaim the message of Christmas, hug your children, forgive those who sin against you, be God's blessing to others. And rejoice! Rejoice in your Saviour, who we will celebrate this Christmas - either as the babe in the manger, or as the Lamb on the throne in heaven. Either way, it will be a Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Note to Publishers

To: All publishing houses
re: Solicitation calls the week before Christmas and Easter

Gentlemen and Gentleladies,

I know you mean well, and perhaps the week before Christmas and the week before Easter is the best time to catch pastors in their studies, but please know that this is NOT the best time to call me and ask me to buy Vacation Bible School materials! I am NOT thinking about these things now, have a lot to do, and really don't want to chat with you and hear how great your stuff is right now. I really don't. And this is really not helping your cause. When you call at such time, you make me LESS want to buy from you, even if I really want what you are selling.

So please, stop. Please wait until after the high Holy Days. Thank you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Really?

The President spoke at an interfaith prayer service in Newtown, CT last night, and in his remarks said that he would use whatever power his office held to protect the lives of our children. Really? I wish it were so. But the reality is that millions of our children will continue to be slaughtered while still in the womb, and our President will support it and advance it, even requiring health insurers to pay for it.

Here is an interesting reflection on our society becoming more and more violent. Something to think about, pray about, and repent about. This isn't finger-pointing; none of us are guiltless. But it is because of just such times and events that we have Advent - that we await our Saviour who came to redeem us, who comes now to forgive us, and who is coming again to take us home. Come, Lord Jesus! And until then, help us to protect and value ALL human life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Shooting

More shocking news today. A whole classroom of children. What sadness. Please pray for those mourning in Connecticut after this school shooting. I cannot imagine the pain they must feel, the pain I would feel if my dear Joanna were not to come home from school one day. Here are some prayers and readings to help, posted by our President Harrison.

Kyrie Eleison.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Could They?

I was speaking to one of my Elders recently and joked that if the congregation ever got hard up financially they could just drop my health insurance and pay the $2,000 Obamacare tax/fine/assessment/penalty or whatever they are calling it this week, and save a lot of money! To which he remarked: unless they wouldn't cover me unless I preached and taught a certain way.

Hmmm. Could it get to that point? Right now (in my somewhat limited understanding of all this) there are "health exchanges" set up with private insurance companies. But will that last? Will health care really become government coverage? And if it does, will they use health care as a weapon like this, trying to squash and control teaching against what is politically correct? Or, could they prevent pastors who speak against certain issues from participating in the exchanges? I hadn't considered that before, but I wonder . . .

I already have said that I thought churches who won't do gay marriages would eventually lose their tax exempt and charitable status. How else could the government try to control what churches teach and preach? It is an interesting question. It should not change anything - the church teaches the truth, no matter what the consequences. But is persecution like this coming? Maybe.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some Weeks . . .

Some professional golfers consistently do well on certain courses. They say that the course just "fits their eye." I think the same is true of pastors, at least this one. There are some Sundays in the church year that I seem to have an easier time preaching on than others. I wonder if other pastors feel the same way . . .

Saturday, December 1, 2012

This is Cool . . .

As a Ph.D. student who has spent some time looking at old manuscripts (though I am by no means a paleographer!) I thought this was cool. Some student were able to decipher some old notes by Roger Williams in an old manuscript.

In other school news, I have basically finished the paper for my class this semester - my final class! I had to finish it now since I will be traveling a bit next week and then have to turn it in. So I have a few days to sit with it, edit it, and improve it a bit. But it's basically done! I am quite excited that this phase of my schooling in now done. Next, I have some exams to pass, including my comps. Next semester I will begin to prepare the reading lists for my comps and do the reading. I plan to take the comps in the Fall. Then if I pass, I will officially have candidate status! It's a long road, especially part time.

But now with school done for the semester, I am quite looking forward to Advent and Christmas. Things don't look too hectic at this point. I hope it stays that way . . .

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Atlantic City Relief Work

Here are a few pictures from our relief work in Atlantic City on Saturday. We helped gut an elderly woman's house after she got a few feet of water.


My son starting to take apart the kitchen cabinets to remove them.


Had to remove the bottom three feet of all the drywall in the house, and remove all the floors.


Prying up the floor in the kitchen.


Lots of debris!


A tired group of workers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Heart or Scripture?

Was reading through some blogs the other day and ran across a comment that said "The Lord laid it on my heart to pray for our president." Hmmm. Silly me. I thought the Lord laid that in the Scriptures (1 Timothy 2:1-2):
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
Give me Scripture over mine - or anyone else's heart - any day!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Arlington


Interment of a saint at Arlington National Cemetery. It is always an honor for a pastor to escort one of his saints from this life to the next.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Bishop Omolo


We were very privileged to have Bishop Joseph Ochola Omolo from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya and his wife Ruth as our guests this weekend. Bishop Omolo has been in the United States about 5 weeks, thanking supporters, attending the International Lutheran Theological Conference in Atlanta, and gathering support for the church in Kenya, and especially Matongo Lutheran Seminary (of which he is the president) and his work with widows and orphans. We had a nice day walking around Washington, DC on Saturday so that he and Ruth could see the Capitol and the White House (though it was pretty windy and cold!) and then we were blessed to listen to him preach the Word of God for us as we celebrated All Saints Day. [Go here to listen to the sermon.] I looked forward to perhaps going back to Kenya to teach with Joseph again, should God so will. We will also soon have links, information, and opportunities for you to help the church in Kenya on our web site. Watch for updates!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Little Fun for Halloween

I was thinking of the Reformation today . . . and the great seller of indulgences, John Tetzel . . . and I wondered . . .


If John Tetzel was to be reincarnated in our day and age, who would he be?

Can any of you who read this blog think of any other good reincarnations? Who would they be today?  :-)

Today's TDP Writing

A good writing by Luther in the Treasury of Daily Prayer today. Here's part of it. (When Luther speaks of the "son of a king," I think of the ruckus in the media whenever Princess Diana or Prince William go to other countries and help causes.)

There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins. It would be spectacular and amazing, prompting all the world to open ears and eyes, mouth and nose in uncomprehending wonderment, if some king's son were to appear in a beggar's home to nurse him in his illness, wash off his filth, and do everything else the beggar would have to do. Would this not be profound humility? Any spectator or any beneficiary of this honor would feel impelled to admit that he had seen or experienced something unusual and extraordinary, something magnificent. But what is a king or an emperor compared with the Son of God? Furthermore, what is a beggar's filth or stench compared with the filth of sin which is ours by nature, stinking a hundred thousand times worse and looking infinitely more repulsive to God than any foul matter found in a hospital? And yet the love of the Son of God for us is of such magnitude that the greater the filth and stench of our sins, the more He befriends us, the more He cleanses us, relieving us of all our misery and of the burden of all our sins and placing them upon His own back. All the holiness of the monks stinks in comparison with this service of Christ, the fact that the beloved Lamb, the great Man, yes, the Son of the Exalted Majesty, descends from heaven to serve me.

[Treasury of Daily Prayer, p 867]

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Storm Update

The storm is pretty much over for us - maybe just windy today. Never lost power! Last night we had some pretty good wind, but (my guess) the really bad "derecho" storm we had the end of June got rid of all the weak trees and limbs so there was less for this storm to knock down. In any case, I'm thankful. Many, many others aren't so fortunate. Fires, floods, storm surge, blizzard. We'll be praying for them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy So Far

Well, so far there's been steady rain - nothing torrential, really - and lots of wind and some pretty good wind gusts, but so far, no real damage from the hurricane. As you can see, we still have power and things have been pretty good. They say the worst winds are still coming tonight, so I still expect we'll lose power sometime, but we'll see. But so far it's been good here in the DC area.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What He Said

Haven't been blogging much lately . . . just haven't felt like it. Maybe soon. But in the mean time, here's a good article for you to read: 10 Questions Never Asked. But CAUTION - there is a very graphic picture that begins this post. It is good to see, to remind us what we are fighting for, but very graphic and sad at the same time. Click here to go and read.

Friday, October 12, 2012

More Fun Stuff

This is hilarious! (From NBC Sports Web Site):


If you recall from Monday, Tim Tebow sent out the following tweet as the Jets prepared to meet the Houston Texans:
@TimTebow
Looking forward to giving God all the glory in tonight’s 666th Monday Night Football Game. Romans 8:37.39.
We had some fun with that, noting that 666 is known among some religious folks as the “mark of the beast”, and the Bible passage Tebow listed made reference to angels, demons, and the power of life and death. We closed by wondering, what does it all mean? We also slept with the lights on that night.
Then we got a look at Mark Sanchez’s post-game passing stats (thanks to reader myopinionisrighterthanyours for the heads-up).
Following Monday’s loss to Houston, Sanchez had 6 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, and a net yards gained per passing attempt of 6.0.
*Begin ominous music*
His longest pass of the season went for, you guessed it … 66 yards.
*Music swells. Beads of sweat form on writer’s brow*
And Sanchez’s passer rating is now … no, it can’t be …
*Music stops. All is quiet*
… 66.6.
*Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! (/door slams shut by itself. Laptop levitates)*
It’s all right here if you don’t believe me. I still don’t know exactly what it means, but I’ve blocked Tebow on Twitter and am currently stringing garlic throughout the house.
*That’s for vampires, you idiot*

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Breaking News

Today, it finally happened . . . Teddy won the President's race during the Washington Nationals game today. He has never won before. Click for the video.

In case you've never seen them before, here's a photo of the presidents:



Monday, September 24, 2012

Say What?

"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"  [1 Corinthians 15:55]

I read those words yesterday afternoon, sitting beside a man being kept alive by all kinds of life-support equipment. What audacity! Mocking our great enemy death and defying it, even as it was taking the life of one of my dear sheep. But that is the confidence we have in Christ. Even at such moments of sadness, we have great confidence in Christ's resurrection and victory over death. That monster did not win yesterday, life did. THE Life did. Christ did. Mike's baptism was fulfilled and he was taken home. Yesterday, Mike did not live a life that ended in death - he died a death that ended in life.

And so we sang yesterday, too. A lot. What wonderful comfort is in our hymns! We talked about which to sing at his funeral and came up with a list of about 20! All of which proclaimed Christ's victory over death - His victory that is our victory in Holy Baptism. Including this one:

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith's assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine
To make life immortal mine.  [LSB #594 v. 4]

One last thing, Saturday, September 29th, is the commemoration of St. Michael and All Angels. How cool a day would that be to have our Michael's funeral on? And to read these words: "And they have conquered him [satan] by the blood of the Lamb . . . " [Revelation 12:11]

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Noble Task

It is one of the greatest privileges and honors of a pastor to be with and escort one of his flock at the end of his or her life from this world to the next. It is also (for me) one of the hardest.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Replacement Refs

Replacement refs voting on a call?
I got to watch the Eagles-Ravens game yesterday, won by the Eagles! It was an exciting game, though greatly marred by the ineptitude of the replacement referees. They were simply terrible! I do not think they slanted the outcome of the game one way or the other - I'm talking about simple things, like, where to spot the ball. There was one point in the game that just got absurdly comical. The Eagles intercepted a pass and following that was a personal foul against the Ravens. The refs had to discuss at length where to place the ball - do they add on 15 yards from where the Eagles player was down, or from the spot of the personal foul?? I knew the answer to that in Elementary School! As a result, they spotted the ball in three different places before finally letting play resume. Good grief. Then there was not knowing how many yards offensive pass interference was, that holding close to the end zone is not the full distance of the penalty but "half the distance," and more. Simple stuff, but they kept messing it up, having to discuss, change, stop, restart . . . I'll bet they added 20 minutes to the length of the game going through all this. Terrible. Please, Mr. Goodell, bring back the real refs. Please.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just For Fun

The Commodification of Children

I heard it again on the radio the other day - that it costs so much to raise children these days that therefore many people are not having children. I've heard that before, lots of times, but this time it struck me: that's how we talk about TVs, and cars, and computers, and things like that. They cost too much so I'm not getting one. And so (in a way) children have become just another thing to "have." That saddens me. How far we have fallen from the Biblical thought of children being a gift from God when we simply think about whether we can afford them or not. Financial considerations are important, but it seems they have become the tail that wags the dog. I wonder if this is the result of abortion or a contributor to it. The thing is, most folks always find the money for the stuff they want and the vacations they want, but children . . . hmmm.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Let Me Translate That For You . . .

Ever hear the old saying "Deeds not Creeds?"

Here's what that means: Law not Gospel.

That's deadly.

'Nuf said.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Death, School, and GMU

How's that for the title of a post?  :-)

The death was the death of my computer. My trusty (or formerly trusty!) MacBook died Monday afternoon. I took it to the Apple store Genius on Tuesday who could not get it to boot no matter what he tried. Probably the logic (mother) board, he said. I really wanted a new computer,but opted for the cheaper repair option - a flat rate to fix all that needed fixing. BUT, I agreed to this because the "genius" assured (but did not promise) me that I would get it back later that week - Thursday or Friday. To me, the time without it is more important than the money. So I said okay and off it went. But I still don't have it back and I'm very annoyed and frustrated at him. I really hope I get it back today!

Not having it made last week quite difficult as I had to find and port many things over to our new church laptop and use it for my computing needs. I am fortunate to have it and be able to do this, though it slowed me down greatly as it is a Windows machine. Just meant a busier week than normal.

Last week was also the start of classes at GMU which means the start of our Campus Ministry for the Fall. We had our kiosk there Monday and Wednesday and will begin Evening Prayer services on campus twice a month starting this Wednesday night. It is a ripe field, but one that has been quite difficult for us to crack.

My school also started last week. I have only one class - my last class! - this semester. There was really nothing being offered that I was really interested in, and since I had already fulfilled all my requirements, I opted for a history class: Topics in Medieval Spirituality. No professor was listed and none of the topics that might be covered were given. So when I went in on Thursday, I found out that it was a brand new professor (always a question mark) and the one and only topic was: St. Bernard and the New Monasticism.  :-(  Not really what I was hoping for. St. Bernard is last 12th century and I was hoping for topics closer to the time of the Reformation. But as I sat there doubting whether I wanted to stay in the class for the semester, I thought that maybe I could make it work since Bernard was one of Luther's favorite fathers. Also, we will be reading some of Bernard's sermons on Song of Songs, which should be interesting. So maybe it will be okay . . .

Finally, had our church Labor Day picnic yesterday. Though it threatened rain most of the day (keeping attendance down a little) we had no rain and a lot of fun. I was good and tired getting home last night! And you know, I like holidays - the problem is that by taking Monday off, I am now behind for the rest of the week!

Well, here's hoping that this week is better than last . . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Back, Part II

Traveling to Florida one day after returning home from vacation was difficult, but it was good. I traveled down for my first meeting of the Lutheran Haven Board of Trustees, of which I am the newest member. It was a more intense and vigorous meeting than I expected. Lots of important decisions being discusses at this time including the hiring of a new CEO and redevelopment. I was impressed by the people on the Board - some of which I knew and some which I did not know. They knowledge and passion was evident, and they were not afraid to speak and make their opinions known! I felt like kind of an outsider, listening in and trying to catch up on things. So I kept silently mostly, and listened a lot, offering my 2 cents only now and then.

Got home Friday night and then Saturday was spent preparing for the Divine Service. It was good to be back with my flock. I've said it before, but I'm always amazed at how just two weeks away makes my voice weaker. Not terribly so. No one else probably noticed. But I can notice. Now, lots of phone calls to make and e-mails to write and get caught up on things and get the ball rolling for all the Fall activities at church!

In other news, my flight to Florida was on jetBlue - I highly recommend them! They were cheap, but they have the most legroom of any plane I have flown on. I chose a middle seat for both flights just so I could be closer to the front of the plane and get off quicker (I hate waiting forever to get out of the plane)! But it was quite comfortable! My knees didn't hit the seat in from of me, and it seemed wider to me as well. I will definitely use them on all my trips to Florida now! They also have free TVs at every seat, so you can watch stuff. I didn't - had plenty along to read, but nice to have the option.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And We're Back!

Yes, the family and I are back from a nice two week vacation. No computer, no e-mail, just time with the family, traveling, swimming, reading a couple of novels, crossword puzzles, and visiting family. Our journey took us first to Dayton, OH where we primarily visited the Air Force museum (which was great and far too much to see in only one day!). From there we traveled to Champaign, IL for the wedding of my nephew. Then on to St. Louis for a quick stop. Attended the Divine Service at Messiah in Lebanon, IL with Pastor Brian Holle - great! Saw the Arch and went to a place called the "City Museum" in St. Louis. If you're ever in St. Louis (and have kids), go there! It was like a giant climbing, crawling, and sliding playground - on massive steroids! The guy who created this gather old stuff from all over the city and put this together. So much fun! (Tough on the old knees, though!) Monday was a long travel day up to Michigan to spend the week with my in-laws and visit some other family. Went to the Divine Service at Calvary in Parma, OH (just outside Cleveland) and had brunch with some old friends - the former DP and his wife. Then from there to just outside Pittsburgh to visit with my brother-in-law and his family, and then home yesterday. So a LOT of driving, but had a good time. Today is a catch-up day for e-mail and snail mail, pick-up my new glasses, try to get things in order for my school classes (which begin next week), and maybe even work on Sunday's sermon a bit before heading to Florida tomorrow for some meetings!

As for the novels I read on vacation, they were two of Jeff Shaara's trilogy of historical fiction on WWII. Excellent. The first was about the D-Day invasion and the second about the taking of Okinawa and the dropping of the Atomic bombs. He retells the story from the point of view of a few characters - both American and German/Japanese. I highly recommend them. He also has books like this on the Revolutionary and Civil wars. I've read a bunch of them and have never been disappointed.

So good to be home! Looking forward to being with my flock on Sunday. :-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vacation

Why is it always so hard to go on vacation? So much work to cram in before leaving, so many arrangements to make. It almost seems not worth the effort sometimes. It is worth it, of course. I need the time away, the time with family, the time to rest. I just wish it were easier . . .

So, no postings for the next couple of weeks! See you all when I return.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Morning Thoughts

#1: Due to the generosity and kindness of some members of my congregation, my family and I got to go see my Phillies put a whuppin' on Steven Strasburg and the Nationals on Tuesday night, 8-0. Included in the feast was Juan Pierre stealing second, then stealing third a pitch or two later, an error on the throw and an easy walk home. Pitcher Cliff Lee stealing second and then scoring on Jimmy Rollins inside-the-park homerun. While at the park, also made sure I tried a Ben's Chili Bowl half smoke chili dog. Ben's is a Washington landmark, so I wanted to try it. Result? Eh. Nuthin' special in my opinion.

#2: Glad the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day went so well yesterday. I wanted to eat there, but already had a lunch meeting scheduled in a town which didn't have one. I'll go soon. So tired of the intolerance of the "tolerant" . . .

#3: In the TDP reading for today, David is sent to fight Goliath. What struck me today is the faith and courage King Saul showed - not in the Lord, but in David. Earlier, Goliath's challenge had been a one-on-one fight with the result being that the loser's country would enter into servitude. So it was not only the life of the combatant that was on the line, but the fate of the nation. That King Saul would agree to let this young man go and fight with all that on the line . . . ? Saul's last words to David: "Go, and the Lord be with you." Striking in contrast to the words that Samuel had not too long ago spoken to Saul, that the Lord had rejected him and was not with him. Just found this interesting this morning . . .

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Giving King

The reading from the Treasury of Daily Prayer today was from 1 Samuel 8, where Samuel tells the people of Israel who are clamoring for an earthly king so that "we also may be like all the nations" what that king will do. He will take . . . he will take . . . he will take . . . he will take . . . he will take . . . he will take. What a contrast to their true and right King, the Lord of hosts, who doesn't take, but gives! Do they really want to be like all the other nations? Do they really not want to be God's special people, His special possession? Do they really want to live under a king who does not give but takes? They think they do. They say yes! Can't you hear their heavenly Father sigh . . .

Yet don't we do the same thing when we make sin our king? Sin which takes but does not give us what we want. There is still and always will be only one King who gives and, in fact, gave Himself for His people, even to death on the cross. That He may give us not only life, but forgiveness and eternal life. That He may not only give us food, but the food of eternal life - His very Body and Blood. That He not only give us what we need as servants, but adopt us as His sons in Holy Baptism. What a wonderful King this is - a giving King.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A God Who Bleeds

A sermon from LCMS Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller of Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado, whose church is not far from the sight of Friday’s movie theater massacre.
John 10
“A God Who Bleeds”
Dear Saints,
The devil comes to kill and steal and destroy. He delights in every drop of blood split, in every tear, in every heart broken, family torn in two, every last breath. The devil loves death, he loves violence, he loves darkness; he loves this tragedy that has unfolded in our neighborhood this week.
But he is never content. He kills, and he wants more. He destroys, and he wants more. The devil is not sitting back tonight, shaking the dust off his hands, content with the pain already inflicted, he wants more. He wants you wrapped up in the chains of the fear of death. He wants your mind and heart to be draped with despair.
As the dust settles around in Aurora, the devil comes to you to tempt you, to tempt you to anger, to tempt you to fear, to tempt you to despair, perhaps worst of all, to tempt you with the idea that because you are suffering God has deserted you, has left you to yourself, that God is far away.
“Where is God in all this? He must hate you, or worse, He must not care.” That, dear friends, is the devil’s voice, the devil’s temptation, and we’ve heard enough of that voice.
We are gathered here this evening to hear the voice of Jesus, your Jesus, who is not a stranger to suffering. Listen, Jesus is not a stranger to suffering. You do not have a god who sits far off, who is distant, who sits on top of the mountain, or is beyond the clouds, who is looking the other way. No, you have Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the one who doesn’t just watch over the sheep. He lays down His life for the sheep. He takes His life and His righteousness to the cross for you. You, dear friends, have a God who bleeds, who bleeds for you, who suffers with you, who hears of the death of His friends and weeps, weeps over death, and fights against death for you. Jesus stands under the devil’s torment, under God’s wrath, under the condemnation of the law, stands with you, stands in your place, and suffers for you.
And if your Jesus suffers for you, then He will certainly suffer with you. When you suffer it does not mean that God is far away. He finds you in suffering; He saves you by suffering. When your friends and neighbors are suffering it does not mean that God has forsaken them or abandoned them. He can’t. He loves them, He loves you too much.
Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” so that you never would. He prays Psalm 22 so that you can pray Psalm 23, “Yeah though I walk through he valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with with.” In the shadow of death, He is with us. In the shadow of violence, He is with us. In the veil of tears, He is with us. He cannot leave you or forsake you, He has bound Himself to you, written His name on you with His blood, claimed you as His own and promised you life, His life, eternal life.
Jesus is not far away. The One who died for you now lives for you, prays for you, helps you in time of trouble. He sends His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to comfort you with His presence and His promises, His forgiveness.
And it is His forgiveness, at last, that sets us free, even from the fear of violence, even from the fear of death. For in life and in death you are the Lord’s, your life is His, and because for you to live is Christ, for you to die is gain. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+ + +

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO

Saturday, July 14, 2012

VBS, Day Last

Well, our VBS is over for another year. I'm always relieved, for it is quite a busy week, but also sad that I'll probably not see some of these children for another year and they're really great kids and a lot of fun. My daughter (who is gifted at such things, unlike me!) made a short video of the week. I think it's too big to upload to here, so I put the file on our web site. Click here to watch it.

Also, we raised $580 for Project: Clean Water! (See below for a video on that.) Our kids were great, bringing in almost $140 in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, and then after my promised match and a generous donation from Great Falls Design and Build (Thanks!), we'll be able to send a nice big donation to help provide clean water for children around the world. Thanks everyone for your generosity!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

VBS, Day 4

VBS has been humming along rather well this year. The kids have been great and soaking up the teaching. So not much to report, other than a comment over heard by one of our helpers: "I wish VBS weren't just five days, but five weeks!"  :-)

File this under what I've written before: Things that warm a pastor's heart.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

VBS, Day 2

Not much to report - the day went normally and well. All the children came back and we are having a good time of learning and fun.

So what I will share with you today is the short video about our VBS mission project. Two years ago, we collected money for Christians around the world being persecuted for their faith. Last year, we raised money for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, to buy mosquito nets and help save the children of Africa. This year, it is "Project: Clean Water," to help children in Haiti and Cambodia have good and safe drinking water. Here's the short video about it:




Monday, July 9, 2012

VBS, Day 1

Well, it was an interesting morning at VBS! We did not get many registrations from outside the congregation this year, so we were planning on a pretty small group. But that's okay - whoever the Lord leads to us we'll teach and care for. Well, some of the children arrived and asked "Can my friends come?" (Of course!) Then a couple of children who attended two years ago showed up (unannounced and unregistered) with their cousin (c'mon in!). So we wound up with about twice as many as we were expecting! That meant we were short on some materials, but adapted everywhere else. But what a good and pleasant problem to have!

What added to our challenge this year was the presence of two young ladies from Iran who do not speak much English. Actually, we found out, very little English. But whoever the Lord leads to us . . . ! So after the opening, I made a phone call to one of my members whose father is Iranian and who can still speak some Farsi which he learned as a youth, and he came and translated for them. As soon as he came in and began speaking, big smiles broke out and their eyes lit up! It was great. How many folks have someone who actually speaks Farsi in their congregation? Think the Lord's hand had anything to do with this?  :-)

Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds . . .

Sunday, July 8, 2012

More? :-(

Just found out that we're losing another family in our congregation. They are moving to San Francisco. If you're keeping count, that's 11 people just this past month.  :-(  That's a big hit for our little congregation. They have to go where the work is though, and they will be a blessing to the church they go to, just as they were to us. And I know God will provide and lead more folks to us. I don't have to like it, though! These are my friends, members of my flock, children I baptized, an adult I baptized - I wish they all would stay!

Friday, July 6, 2012

When It's Hard To Be a Dad

So my teenage daughter wants to go to a concert. OK. Haven't had to face this one before. What is the concert? OK, that doesn't mean too much to me. Where is the concert? New Jersey (we live near DC). That's a four hour drive. It's an all day concert, with lots of bands there. Hmmm. Her friend's Dad is going to drive them. Hmmm. Please? Please?

My heart is telling me to let her go, for she really wants to go and I want her to be happy. But my father's gut is telling me no - it's too far away, I don't know her friend or her friend's father, and while I trust my daughter, I do not trust whoever else may be at that concert. So I tell her no (of course, my wife was in on the decision too, not just me). She is disappointed, but I am sad too. I don't like saying no, but I love her too much to say yes. Seems to me this falls into the category (of the olden days!) when you father would get ready to spank you and say, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." You never really believe that until your on the other end, then you realize how hard it is to discipline, to say no, to be a father.

To her credit, my daughter is taking it well. No tantrums, no yelling. I am proud of her for that. How often am I that mature when my heavenly Father says no to something I want? I hope someday she'll realize that saying no is a way of saying I love you, whether that's from me, from her heavenly Father, or from her to her boyfriend who wants to go too far. Of course, I'm still learning that, too. It's a hard lesson to learn.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Higher Things, The Picture

This is me and my crew at the Higher Things conference. We are in the courtyard of the dorms we stayed in at Wake Forest, and we are wearing the "official conference T-shirts." The youth really enjoyed their time there and are already looking forward to next year. Maybe we can get a few more to go along with us . . .

UPDATE: (Well, not really an update - more like an addenda!) Do you know how many miles it is from my house to Wake Forest University and back again? Exactly 666!  :-)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Warming a Pastor's Heart

So we're all packed and almost ready to leave Higher Things, when a young lady who attended one of my breakout sessions on Private Absolution came up to me and told me that it was her favorite session of all that she went to, appreciated it greatly, and - here's the good part - that she went to Private Absolution for the first time that night! :-) Awesome.

Twelve, Day Four

The last day at our gathering was just as good as the previous three. Not as much going on. The breakout sessions are all done - just worship and the last plenary and the closing Divine Service. All in all, we are all glad we came. We had a great time and the kids learned a lot. We are looking forward to next year's gathering already, and hoping we can bring a few more. Our adventure yesterday was the drive home. All was going well until we were about one hour away - then we drove into an amazingly intense storm! At first, we saw the lightning in the distance, and then the wind and rains descended upon us. At one point I noticed a shadowy figure way up in the sky moving, so I slowed the car and then this enormous top of a tree that had broken off in the wind crashed down right in front of the lane I was driving in! We finally had to pull off and wait it all out. The weather men on the radio said there were 60+ mph winds. But we got home safely. No power when we arrived, but it came on early this morning. So all in all, a great week. It was great being with my two oldest kids for all that time, sitting together in church and at the plenary's, and all the time having fun in the car. If you read this and see them, ask them about bacon, paraphernalia, pit bulls, plenary texting, and "gambo!" :-)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Twelve, Day 3

Another busy day. In addition to the plenary speaker, there were three "breakout" sessions, or sectionals. Lots of good topics to choose from, and the kids went here, there, and everywhere, and heard good teaching on lots of things. My session went better than yesterday - also had a much larger group. It been good to teach about Private Absolution and hear from those who came to the sessions. For fun tonight there was a talent show. These kids got talent! Some really very good stuff. The winner was a young man who composed and performed his own piano piece which was simply amazing.


In case you are curious, our day today went like this:

Breakfast
Leaders meeting and choir rehearsal
Matins
Plenary Session
Lunch
Breakaway Session
Vespers
Breakaway Session
Dinner
Evening Prayer
Time for Private Absolution
Breakaway Session
Free Time
Compline

If you're counting, that's a lot of worship and learning time! But also a lot of fun. The kids are already talking about next year. Me? I'm going to bed! :-)

Tomorrow we finish up and head home. Gonna get back kinda late. But it's been a good trip. Well worth it. If you haven't gone before, go. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Twelve, Day 2

The second day at Higher Things went well. I had my first breakout session on Private Absolution. It went okay. I thought it was a little rough, but others told me they heard good things about it, so that's encouraging. I am going to rearrange a couple of things for tomorrow's session - I had too much and didn't get to some stuff. So I'm going to fiddle with it and improve a little.

As to be expected, the worship has been a high point. Also making new friends and getting together with other groups and folks. That's good to see. My two children, Robbie and Sarah, are two of the three violinists here. They played some today and will play for the closing Divine Service. Not sure about tomorrow. Sounded good today as the accompanied the choir. Not sure what else to write except that everyone's glad they came, even if they are a bit tired!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Twelve

I'm at the Higher Things Conference in North Carolina with two of my children and another young lady from the parish. Today was the first day. So far we've had the opening Divine Service, the first plenary session, and the first breakout session. I think all were impressed with the Divine Service - how many were here and the gusto of the singing of the liturgy and hymns. They were also please that they know all the liturgies we will be doing and most of the hymns. I have trained them well! Much more to come tomorrow. I do the first of my presentations on Private Absolution tomorrow afternoon, and then again on Thursday morning - then I'm done. I've never presented here before, so I'm not sure how much to prepare or how it will go. I probably have too much. I went to one of the breakout sessions tonight, which I would say was just alright. I've also seen lots of pastor friends here. I am looking forward to an opportunity to talk and catch up with them. I'll write more tomorrow, if there is time. But it's getting late and we'll have Compline soon, so I'll sign off for now.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Photo


For Father's Day, my older daughter and I went into DC for "artomatic." Every year (I believe) this organization takes over an office building that is about to be torn down and let artists display their work. They can do whatever they want to the building because they don't have to clean up afterwards - it's just being torn down. So we spent the day looking at 11 floors of various kinds of art and stuff that was called "art" but whose fitting of that definition is dubious at best. Some was really cool, some was pretty disturbing, but a good Father's Day outing nonetheless. (It was actually the day before Father's Day). Oh, and we had lunch at a really good burger joint, too!

More On the Convention . . .

Saturday: Had to finish up elections, which took longer than usual because of run-offs. Not contentious, just had to do more ballots. I did wind up getting elected to the Board of Trustees of the Lutheran Haven, our District's Senior Community in Florida. That means I'll have to make four trips a year down there for meetings. I don't think I'll mind serving, but it's just no fun traveling anymore - the airlines have seen to that.

We went over to the Lutheran Haven for lunch, and then received their reports on all their work. That was followed by the financial reports of the district, the usual lashing that we have to give more, and the proposed work program for the next triennium. Still having various mission efforts report - some good, some not so much. On Saturday evening after dinner, had a special presentation by Dr. Paul Maier on the book of Acts. He is a good and engaging speaker, but I have read his stuff and heard him before, so at the end of a long day, it was hard for me to really concentrate after a while (i.e., zzzzz).

The prayer offices have been, for the most part, well done. Nothing funny.

Sunday: The official convention service was the 11 am service. Went to Bible Study before at 9:30 - a deeper look at Jesus Stilling the Storm. Pastor Roberts did a good job. Had one more session after lunch. Finally got to present some resolutions, but not nearly as many as we had prepared. I felt bad for my committee - they took the time to work before getting to the convention, worked most of the day Thursday, and part of Friday and Friday night, and really (in the end) did much of that work for nothing. The resolutions that passed were to approve the by-law changes, support the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (and give our convention offering to this), petition the Synod to reestablish the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support, thanks to the Executive Director of the Lutheran Haven who is stepping down at the end of the year, to encourage congregations to educate and support the SELC Foundation, and to thank our hosts. The one resolution that came to the floor but was rejected was the one I blogged about earlier - about "healthy" and "dying" congregations. The committee changed it a little, with a light hand, but the convention sent it to the Board of Directors for more study.

We never did get to see the DVD of President Harrison - that was disappointing. I'll have to see if I can get a copy somewhere or if they'll post it online. One of my fellow delegates was disappointed that President Harrison did not stop by. Why? Well, he was at the Florida-Georgia convention which was meeting at the same time as us only 15 minutes away. It would not have been difficult for him to drive over briefly and stick his head in the door. But he did not.

The convention ended around 3:30. We got to the airport around 5:00 for my 6:15 flight. Security went fast, so no problems. Got home around 9:30. All in all a rather uneventful convention. Now to get a few things done and rest a little to leave tomorrow morning for the Higher Things Gathering in North Carolina . . .

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Convention Update

Well, I haven't had much chance to update on the convention, but there really hasn't been much to report yet.

Thursday was the meeting of the Resolutions Committee most of the day ('til we got brain dead looking at all this!). Thursday night was the Opening Service. It was a good service, nothing weird. The sermon was a bit disappointing. The preacher was one of the VP's of the Synod, and the sermon was very engaging, interesting, and informative, but there was no Law and Gospel - so it really was more of a lecture than a sermon. It has been good to make contact with folks again and to see old friends.

Friday morning were our Circuit Forums. I couldn't stay for the whole thing as I had to drive to the airport and pick up our lay delegate. The part I was there went . . . very . . . sloooowly . . . yawn. I did not get elected as a delegate to the national convention, so no worries about that!

After that, at 11 am, the convention officially opened. The Synodical President's report was not given as the DVD we were supposed to see either never arrived, go misplaced, or lost. We might get to see it again later. Conspiracy theorists would, of course, have a field day with this, but I don't think so. But I do hope we get to see it later. In its place, the VP representing the Synod fielded questions - that wasn't bad.

In the afternoon, we had to adopt by-law changes to bring our District by-laws into conformity with all the changes the Synod has made. And then elections. Our DP was running unopposed, and the 1st VP was re-elected, but the rest of the Board of Directors (or at least most of the rest) were replaced. This wasn't a coup - a lot of them stepped down and declined to run again. Was this at the request of the DP? Some think so. In any case, I think it's good we got some new people in - I've been advocating that for years.

We've heard most of the same old mission reports - nothing new under the sun, even though it's all supposedly new. The food has been very good, and I had the chance to sit down with a fellow pastor last night and talk for a good two hours about all kinds of things, which was very enjoyable. It'd be nice to have more opportunities like that.

I finally slept better last night. My first two nights in this hotel were bad - something about the bed and pillows. But I guess I was tired enough last night to finally zonk out. Now we'll see what today brings . . .

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And so it begins . . .

Leaving today for my District Convention. Committee Meetings tomorrow, the convention opens on Friday. I'll try to post updates on what happens, but I don't expect anything earth-shattering. It will be good to sit down and talk with some guys I haven't seen in a while - that'll be the best part of the whole time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Churches on Hospice Care?

There is an overture to my District Convention this week which starts out good but ends up badly.

The overture begins by criticizing how we determine how church are deemed "successful" or not - usually it is by attendance figures, and that a lot of time and effort goes into training pastors for "success" in this way. But is that the only way to measure a church's "health?" Are there not other factors and indicators? It then resolves to ask that such criteria be identified and used and considered when looking at our churches. I think that part of the resolution is helpful.

However, it then goes on to look at the other end of the spectrum, and assert that there also needs to be criteria to identify "dying" churches and resolves that resources be developed to train pastors to serve on "hospice care" for such churches. That just as great resources have been dedicated to train pastors for "successful" churches, so resources should be dedicated to train pastors for "dying" churches.

I am quite disturbed by this. Do churches "die?" Well, they close for various reasons, sometimes merge, and sometimes move. But do they "die?" Is this the right way to look at the church of our Saviour Jesus Christ? The Gospel for this past Sunday talked about the seed that is sown and grows we know not how. God produces growth in His church through His Word and Spirit, and who is to say He cannot and will not in churches we think are or have identified as "dying" and to be put on "hospice care?" Such thinking seems to make worldly sense, but seems completely against the Word of God.

I know the pastor whose congregation submitted this overture, and I think I know why they submitted it - there are many small, rural congregations in his circuit which used to be in thriving areas, but which are now in small towns where the industry has closed and many people have moved away. What can we do for these churches? How can we help them? What do they need? I think his heart is in the right place, but I do not think putting churches on "hospice care" is the right and faithful answer. It fact, it is quite troubling to me indeed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Comings and Goings, Part III

Continuing from my last post . . .

So what is it that anchors our churches in who they are and tells their story when pastors and people come and go in this ever so transient age?

The Liturgy.

The liturgy remains when pastors come and when pastors go. The liturgy joins us with Christians of all times and places. The liturgy doesn't change with every passing fad and whim but keeps us anchored in the truth of God's Word. The liturgy joins us with the story of God's people from age to age. We hear and sing the song of the angels at Jesus' birth. We pray "Lord have mercy!" with the beggars in Jesus' day. We speak the same creeds that our brothers and sisters in Christ have spoken for centuries. We pray with David his psalm of repentance: "Create in me a clean heart, O God!" We join in the "Holy, holy, holy" of the angels around the throne of God, and the "Hosannas!" of the crowd as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to die. We join with John the Baptist in his "Behold, the Lamb of God!" and sing Simeon's song after receiving our Lord in His Supper. And that's just in the Divine Service. In the prayer offices we have Mary's song, Zechariah's song, and the creed-like TeDeum. And most importantly, each Sunday we gather with Christians of all times and places, in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, around the same Lord and receive His gifts.

That is who we are. And the liturgy teaches us who we are. That story is our story.

Which is why keeping and preserving the liturgy is such a priority in our day and age. That doesn't mean that everything always has to be done the same; that we have to have the same liturgy they used in Luther's day and before. No, there is room for every generation to make the liturgy their own - but that is quite a different thing than gutting it or throwing it out altogether. When the liturgy is adapted, it is still the same liturgy and recognizable as such. In our Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service settings 1-5 are different from one another, and yet at the same time have a unity about them. And as said above, these should be generational - not daily or weekly changes. That the life of the church be well-grounded, stable, and consistent.

So even as people come and go so much in our churches, the liturgy remains. As pastors come and go, the liturgy remains. As catechesis is not done as strongly as it should be, the liturgy remains. But when all of the above happens and the liturgy does NOT remain, but is sacrificed on the altars of relevance, popularity, newness, or change, what is left? The story is gone, the catechesis is gone, the anchor is gone, and the church is set adrift and often becomes a cult of personality - the personality of the pastor or programs, flashy building or coffee bars.

Is that not what we see in so many churches and places today? Yes, our true unity is in Christ - one Lord, one faith, one baptism - but we should not spiritualize this unity. For just as the Son of God became incarnate for us and for our salvation, so too our unity in Christ is "incarnated" in the liturgy. In words and water and bread and wine our Lord comes to us today for us and for our salvation, bringing His gifts of forgiveness and life. And so our unity is not purely "spiritual" (as Luther fought against with the enthusiasts) but neither is it merely physical (as Luther fought against with Rome) - it is both. The spiritual come in the physical, God using the physical things of this world to give us His spiritual gifts. And it is the liturgy that serves this end and serves us to this end.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Comings and Goings, Part II

More thoughts from my last post . . .

If more and more people are transient and not staying in one place or one place for a long time, what does that do to our churches and their identity? When you'd have generations at one church, a pastor would come and hear the story of the church from these members - what the church had been through, how the neighborhood changed, the past challenges. But without such folks to tell the story, that church is different. I know in my own congregation, which is only about ten years old, I have only a handful of people who were here at the beginning. The rest have come since and don't know about the beginning challenges and struggles. Who will tell the story?

Now, I think there is a pro to this as well. For it means that the story of the congregation would not be about the congregation at all, but more focused on Christ and His work among them. For He is the constant - not any of the members, the building, the neighborhood, or those things. That also means that good, sound - and ongoing - catechesis is more important than ever. A core of good, solid members cannot be assumed when people come and go so much. Sadly, though, I know many folks who tell me they haven't been catechized well.

That means that if our churches are losing their story because of the transience of our society these days, and our churches are losing their story because of minimal or inadequate catechesis, then the very real danger is that we will have churches who do not know who they are and are therefore open to the whims and winds of every kind of teaching and fad. And I think this can be seen in some churches today.

What is the answer? Check back tomorrow . . .  :-)

And what do you think of all this? Is my analysis correct? Off base?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Comings and Goings

In church yesterday we bid Farewell and Godspeed to another family. We are always so happy when folks come to our church, and so sad when they leave. We'll do it again in two weeks, as a young man in our congregation moves to Chicago. I know this is just a part of congregational life, that people come and go, but it still is never easy.

But I got to thinking about that - how transient our churches seem to be these days. I know it's not just mine. Folks seem to be much more mobile than in days gone by. Gone, it seems, are the days when generations of families would live in the same community. Folks now move a lot . . . and that has made it tougher on churches.

But at the same time, it seems to me that pastors are staying longer. It used to be the other way around. The pastors would move and change while the people stayed the same. Now, clergy movement has declined and the sheep move about more. Interesting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Patience

One passage I have come to greatly appreciate from my years as a pastor is 2 Timothy 4:2:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (ESV) 
Some like the verse because they especially like to "reprove and rebuke!" But why it has grown on me is the last bit Paul writes there: "with complete patience and teaching." The NIV translates that "with great patience and careful instruction." The Greek phrase is e˙n pa¿shØ makroqumi÷aˆ kai« didachØv.

It seems to me that the Greek preposition and adjective [e˙n pa¿sh] cover both nouns [makroqumi÷aˆ kai« didach] so that the meaning is "with all patience and with all teaching." Or if I may paraphrase that thought: teaching takes time and patience.

I was thinking about that as I read Acts chapter 2 again - the story of Pentecost. After the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles, Peter preaches, the hearers are cut to the heart, and 3,000 are baptized that day. But just as that day of Pentecost is not the norm, so too that is not the way our preaching and teaching usually work. We want it to! But it takes time. Time for the Word of God to sink in. Time for the Holy Spirit to work. Time for people to consider what is being said. And so pastors need to be patient, and teach and teach and then teach some more, saying things in different ways and from different angles. For the Holy Spirit works when and where He pleases. The pastor is simply to preach the word. All of it. And let the Spirit work.

I should know that because it was true for me. When I went to the seminary, I was immersed in the study of theology and the Scriptures, everyday. Yet it took until about midway through my fourth year for the light to go on in my head and for me to finally get it; to finally get the big picture of God's graciousness and the Divine Service and the theology of the cross. But once it did, what joy! And if I'm that thick and need that much time, why should I expect others to get it quicker? Or the first time I say it?

Patience. Endurance. Steadfastness. Forbearance. That's the pastoral ministry. That's a pastor feeding the flock. Paul knew it, taught it to Timothy, and now is teaching it to us.

Monday, May 21, 2012

We're Back

Had a very nice weekend in New York. Very hectic, busy, and tiring, but very good. Everything went well and according to plan.


We stayed at the historic Hotel Pennsylvania, right across the street from Madison Square Garden. That was cool. (I am pictured with my brother and sister, along with Joanna, my youngest.)


On Saturday we spent the day walking around the city and doing various things, which included a visit to the 9-11 Memorial. Very nicely done. The funny thing was, the only time I got a knot in my stomach was when we approached the square and the church a block or two away from the actual site, for that is where most of my memories are from; where I visited and spoke to the workers and police and military personnel when I served as chaplain there. That was the moment it hit me that I was back. While in the Memorial (which, of course, was just a steaming pile the last time I had been there) it was peaceful and calm. Very well done. Sadly, I did not get to go into the church that served as the rest area for the workers - St. Paul's Church. It closed just before we got there. I was really hoping to go in and see it again.


And here is the Peasant family with the happy graduate! The ceremony took place at Radio City Music Hall, so that was pretty cool, too. And hopefully in a few years, those doctoral stripes will be on my sleeves! :-)  

Friday, May 18, 2012

New York, New York

Well, the Peasant family is off to New York today to attend my sister's graduation from Fordham Law School! It will be nice to have a weekend off to just relax and have some fun.

Hers is a good story. My sister went to school for music, got a bachelor and master's degree in music education, and was a private piano teacher for many years in Michigan. But she grew tired of the business and organizational aspects of it all, so shut it down and looked to do something else. She went to Manpower and got a job as a receptionist for a lawyer in Ann Arbor. After a while, she became less of a receptionist and more of a secretary. Then she decided she wanted to move to New York and be closer to family. So she did and got a job in the small New York office of a national corporate law firm, as a secretary. From there she began learning about the law and moving up, to a legal secretary, then to a paralegal, then to the highest paid paralegal in the firm - all self-taught. The lawyers encouraged her to go to law school, and she did. So for the past fours years, she has been working more-or-less full time and going to law school at night, while the New York office grew from two lawyers, to now 30! (She will be number 30.) So we're going to have a great weekend, celebrating her accomplishment and new life. I'll post a picture or two when we get back. Until then . . .

Thursday, May 17, 2012

0-513

The title of this post is how many votes were for and against President Obama's newest budget in the House and Senate combined.

For: 0 (that's zero, nada, nil, none, null, zippo)
Against: 513

Hmmmm.


Monday, May 14, 2012

50 Miles

On Saturday, Adam (a pastor friend of mine, who is soon leaving for Concordia-Irvine and a teaching position there) and I went for a long bike ride. We rode the whole length of what is called the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, from Purcellville, VA to Reagan National Airport - 50 miles! It was a very nice ride, though I was getting a little tired at the end.  :-)  We'll miss him and his family, but he's going to enjoy his new teaching position and will be a blessing to the folks out there.

Pastor Peasant at Gravelly Point,
at the end of the main runway at Reagan National Airport.
(If you look closely, you can see a plane coming in low for a landing in the background.)

Adam at the end of the W&OD Trail.