The Pastor Challenge

The Pastor Challenge

The Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk-Run-Ride for Life is coming up in May and this year I am challenging myself in order to challenge all of you! I am challenging myself to ride a "Metric Century" (100 kilometers) in four hours, and if I can ride farther than I ever have at one time before, I challenge all of you to support me more than ever before. I set my goal this year at $5,000, and our team (Lutherans for Life) at $7,500! If I can do it, you can do it. Assist helps so many mothers and babies, and they are expanding their facility to help even more - and so need our help more than ever, especially coming out of this pandemic. So please help! CLICK HERE to go to my sponsor page to sponsor me, or you can sponsor anyone else who joins the team, or the team as a whole.

Will you step up to the challenge??

Monday, April 30, 2012

Preaching Challenges

Well, it happened again. I was not pleased with my sermon yesterday. I say again because it seems like I have trouble every year with Good Shepherd Sunday. Which seems strange to me. You'd think this would be an easy week, but for some reason, I don't ever feel comfortable or satisfied with my sermons on this week. There are other weeks in the year when it seems I am consistently happy with my sermons - the First Sunday in Lent and the temptation of Jesus comes to mind. But there are other weeks that I often seem to struggle with. Maybe it's like that for other pastors too. I know that God will bless the Word that was preached and proclaimed, not just in the sermon but also in the readings, liturgy, and hymns. It is a great blessing to know that and rely on it. Still, I pray the Lord help me get better every week in my proclamation of His Word. And as I have often said, one of the good things about preaching every week (though I get this coming Sunday off because Dr. Wenthe from the seminary will be preaching for me!) is that you never get to obsess about how good or bad you think your sermon was - you have to move on to the next week and the next sermon. That's good. It helps me to rely more on God and His Word and Spirit and promise to work through even a sinner and a pastor who often falls short, like me.

Maybe I'll write tomorrow about some of the challenges I think come with preaching on Good Shepherd Sunday . . .

Monday, April 23, 2012

Team Athanasius

Here is our bike team from church to raise funds for the Assist Pregnancy Center. (We are missing one who came after this picture was taken.) Our team raised almost $1,500! Thanks for all your generosity, and to those who rode. It was a very nice event and we had a lot of fun, so I'm sure we'll do it again next year!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

School and Thoughts on Vocation

Well, one down and one to go! I finished one class yesterday, my class on Sacramental Treatises. It was interesting, as we read Tertullian, Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem, Aquinas, and then Trent. My paper was: An Examination of Three Early Writings on the Sacrament of Penance by Martin Luther from 1517-20 in Their Historical and Theological Context." (Long titles do sound more scholarly, don't they?) I think I did okay on it. We'll see when the grade and evaluation comes in . . .  :-)

In other news, I was also thinking about vocation the other day. I often make a distinction between who a person is and what a person does. It seems that in our world today, the emphasis and value is on what a person does - what they can give back to society, and who they are matters little. Yet with God, it's the other way around - who a person is (a child of God, by grace through faith) matters more than what a person does. From this we see that all people, no matter their age or ability, are important and valuable to God.

Yet it occurred to me the other day that there are some places where these two things meet, or are at least much closer together. For example, the vocations of mother and father. That is both who you are and what you do. Husband and wife would be the same. They are quite different than, for example, computer programmer - that's a vocation I used to do, but it was not who I was. So it seems that not all vocations are created equal. Not that some are more important than others (though maybe they are), but there seems to be an intrinsic difference. What say you? Any good thoughts on this?

That also led me to thinking about being a pastor. Even how I phrased that gives you a clue to how I think of this vocation - that being a pastor is not only what I do, but who I am. In that regard, it falls into the realm of vocations like parents, not computer programmers. But there are pastors who do not agree with me on this, and think of being a pastor strictly as what he does, but not who he is. I think that matters. I'll have to think about this some more . . . Can you think of other vocations where being and doing are tightly connected? Does it matter? Am I off my rocker?  ;-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sponsors Needed

I am riding in a bike-a-thon on April 21 to help support a local crisis pregnancy center. I thought I'd post here to see if any of the few people who read my blog might like to sponsor me!  :-)  Click here to go to the online donation page, click "GIVE" and then search for me by my last name: "DOUTHWAITE." My daughter my also be registered. Thanks!

Who Is Easter About?

Who is Easter about: Tim Tebow or Jesus?

I'm sure most of you have heard that Tim Tebow was "preaching" at a Texas megachurch on Easter Sunday. They were expecting 30,000 that day - it was like an outdoor rock concert, with a large stage set up in a big field. Turns out they got "only" 15,000. Hmmm. I wonder . . . did they get that many because of Tebow, or that few because of Tebow? From interviews I saw on the news, many came to hear him; but did others stay away because of him? Because they knew Easter should be about someone else . . . ?

Well, turns out that Tebow didn't really preach after all - he was interviewed by the pastor for about 20 minutes. I didn't hear the whole thing, but what I did hear certainly didn't focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sad. Then the news cast mentioned that after the Tebow interview, many of the thousands began leaving . . . before the pastor preached his sermon! I guess for them, hearing about Jesus' victory and resurrection wasn't as important as hearing from Tebow? (Assuming the pastor's sermon was about the resurrection, which I will assume, to put the best construction on it.)

I find the whole thing very, very odd. I don't agree with interviewing folks in church or focusing on celebrities - but even if you do that, why in the world on Easter? Do it some other Sunday!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday Morning Thoughts

A wonderful weekend, the Holy Triduum followed by our Easter celebration. Singing Easter hymns with a shut-in. Lamb for Easter dinner. Sleeping in Monday morning (well, what is sleeping in for me!). I like getting up early and getting work done in the quiet, pre-dawn hours, but not this morning. This morning was for rest.

My post-Easter tradition has been to take Monday off and go play golf, but can't this year. Two large school papers due soon and I have to push the accelerator to get them done. So back to the grind later this morning. But not yet. A little quiet and reflection this morning.

How were your services? I love the Triduum. Holy Thursday and the gift of our Lord's Supper. Smaller attendance than I hoped for at the service. My children played violin for the hymns. Beautiful. Especially the last one, O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

Good Friday. Great and Holy Friday. Noontime meditations on "The Way of the Cross" as we call it. Sort of a modified "Stations of the Cross." We do this at a local adult care community where one of our members lives. This service has grown on me over the years, and I look forward to it. Very different than the Tenebrae service in the evening with the Reproaches and the darkness. Yet the Christ candle never being extinguished. For the second year now, we have concluded the service as Bach concluded his St. John Passion, by singing these words:

Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abr'ham's bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end. (LSB #708, v. 3)

A great way to end Good Friday - by focusing not on the sadness of Jesus' death and feeling sorry for Him, but what it really means. Pro me.

Then the Easter Vigil. Quiet, calm, reflective, baptismal remembrance, a taste of Easter joy. It is the perfect bridge from Good Friday to the full-throated joy of Easter morning. Larger attendance than I expected! Many folks are still not used to this service, but I hope it becomes a favorite for them as it is for me.

And then the morning! Alleluia! Christ is risen! The very first words that sound forth in the service. A full-blown festival Divine Service. The great joy.

Now, back to the grind. But leave Easter behind? No. How could we? That will be my sermon for Wednesday Evening Prayer. The apostles went back to fishing, but they did not leave Easter behind. Everything was changed. Peter's reaction is the witness to that. Come listen if you're in town! But so too for me. Back to school work, reading, writing, papers, languages, questions, struggles. But not the same. Never the same. One never leaves Holy Week the same way you enter. The Word of the Lord does its work. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; 

for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
from: Easter sermon of St. John Chrysostom

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

Quiet. Rest. One last sabbath rest before the dawning of the eighth day, the day of eternity, when Christ breaks out of death and the grave and all the world breaks forth in song and joyful acclamation.

But not yet.

It is difficult to imagine what today must have been like for the disciples. The fear, the doubt, the questions racing through their minds. All the shouldas, wouldas, and couldas. The grief and pain. How long this day must have been for them. While the Jews around them celebrated! Yes, they were celebrating the Passover. Salt in the wound? We thought He was the One . . .

Tonight is the Great Vigil of Easter in our church. Though I probably should not have favorites, this is one of my favorite services of the year. The quietness and calm, the anticipated joy, all the OT Scriptures, the baptismal focus and remembrance, "God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness." Tomorrow will be the full throated shouts. Tonight is the calm, confident joy of our Lord. Wonderful.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Great and Holy Friday

I tend to like icons better than other kinds of paintings, though there are exceptions. For icons tell the story without getting overly dramatic or romantic.

I found this modern-day icon (from the Coptic church) that I thought was interesting. It shows the usual things - the three crucified, the women and John at the foot of the cross, angels - but I thought this had more focus on the soldiers than other icons I have seen. The spear is there, the sponge with sour wine given Jesus near the end, and the soldier on horse back who proclaimed "Truly, this was the Son of God!" But the most striking feature is the light coming from Jesus. Here, on the cross, is the Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the world. If you want to know God and His love, here it is. You will not see it more brightly and clearly than here!

That, I believe, is the message of this day. Do not feel sorry for poor Jesus on the cross. That is the temptation. See the great price of your sin, yes; but see even more the love of God for you that is greater than you can imagine. The angels were at the ready around Jesus. Like He said in the Garden of Gethsemane: a word from Him and they would be there in full force, fighting for Him and rescuing Him. In this icon they are there . . . but no word from Jesus. He will not. He speaks, but not for Himself. He will stay and pay, He will redeem us and save us. Nothing else is on His mind but you. Your good, your life, your salvation. Not His own. Today He dies so we might live.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

Today begins the Triduum - the final three days of Lent - in which we remember and celebrate our Lord laying down His life for us.

Today, Holy Thursday, has two foci: Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and the giving of His Supper. The two are not unrelated. A close reading of the foot washing text from John 13 reveals that Jesus is doing more than washing feet - He speaks of cleanness and uncleanness in a greater way. He is teaching His disciples about forgiveness and the ongoing washing away of sins that is needed. He speaks of bathing only once (baptism), but the need of the ongoing washing of the dirt collected from everyday life (absolution). He says "not all of you are clean" because He knew who would betray Him. He also says "if I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Clearly, these are all statements of a washing not just of feet, but of sin. So what Jesus is doing here is a kind of "living parable," not unlike what the prophets in the Old Testament would often do - act out the words of their teaching.

Then Jesus gives them His Supper, the preeminent way this ongoing forgiveness would be given by Him through the service of the disciples who would now become apostles - sent ones, sent to do what Jesus has done: serve, love, forgive, and lay down their lives for the life of the world. Through them, and those who would come after them, Jesus will continue to serve His people and wash them and feed them with the forgiveness, life, and salvation they need.

So having taught and given all this, Jesus now goes to accomplish the forgiveness that will be given through these means - He goes to the cross.