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Archive for July, 2013

Disrobing Ourselves from the Appearance of Divinity.

baptism clothed with ChristThis is part of a sermon preached on July 11, 2013 in the International Center Chapel by The Rev. Dr. Leopoldo (Leo) Sänchez, Associate Professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and director of the Center for Hispanic Studies. The text for the sermon is Philippians 2:5–11. The concept of divesting ourselves or disrobing – taking off our self serving ways and putting on Christ is a concept from Paul.  Galatians 3

27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

You see, Christ does not exercise His power by claiming it, even though He has it all as the Lord of heaven and earth. Instead, Christ Jesus manifests His power by becoming our Servant. Through the cross, Christ redefines what lordship is. We learn that lordship is displaying whatever power we have been given not to make claims over others but by sacrificing for them. One lives under the lordship of Christ by dying to self in order to make room for the neighbor, by giving up seeking a name for oneself in order to worship the only name that counts, the name of Jesus alone. This divesting of one’s claims to greatness is what Paul calls having “the mind of Christ,” the mind of the Lord who, as Mark says in his Gospel, did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life for many.  Luther describes what it means to have the mind of Christ in one of his sermons on Phil. 2: “Service was, with him (i.e., Christ), something assumed for our benefit and as an example for us to follow, teaching us to act in like manner toward others, to disrobe ourselves of the appearance of divinity as he did.” What a great way of putting it: “To disrobe ourselves of the appearance of divinity.” Luther goes on to explain that Christ, who is God, disrobed himself, divested himself, of the form of God, of the “God attitude” as it were, in order to serve us. What His life means for our lives is evident. How much more then should we, seeing what Christ has done for us, divest ourselves of the “God attitude,” which we cannot even claim for ourselves, in order to serve the lost, the poor, the lonely, the widow, the infant, the alien, and all the needy in our midst! To serve others, Christ has given us not “the appearance of divinity,” but the form of His servanthood. That’s the right attitude, the right mind for us, as we approach every person and every task. The form of a servant: That’s what our Lord has given to us, all we have to work with as we meet our neighbor.

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Mercy and Perspective

perspectiveI snapped this picture in St. Louis.  I thought it was an interesting work of art or whatever, but when I got home and looked I realized how huge this thing is.  See the little people trying to crawl into that massive body?

Well it is not that big.  Somehow I got the picture lined up in such a way that the perspective looks as though people about a block away are right there trying to enter the body of this sculpture.  Perspective is an interesting thing.  We are obviously not seeing what we think we are seeing, or we are seeing the truth from a different angle.  Mercy work is like that.  Depending on your perspective it is a good thing or an awful thing to help people like we are trying to do with Project 24.  How much help are we actually offering?  Some would say that we aren’t accomplishing much and others would say that we are making a genuine difference.  It all depends on where you stand.

My perspective is the words of Jesus after he told the story of the “Good Samaritan”.  He didn’t run a cost benefit analyses of the life of the beaten man after his rescue.  He didn’t tell us that the man became a believer and so all the effort was worth it.  He didn’t go into the metrics of mercy.  He simply said, “you go and do likewise”.  Pretty straight forward.  Hard to parse those words to mean anything more or less than what they say.

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The Wait Staff Has Been Notified.

maitre d

Someone asked me to post the Sermon that I delivered at the convention for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on July 22nd – the text was Acts 6:1-7 –* At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.a 2* So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.* 3Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, 4whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6b They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.* 7The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Here it is………………………..

So I went to a restaurant and someone took me to my table and I wanted water and they said, “your server will be right with you.”  I went to another restaurant and they took me to a table and I asked for  water and they said ” the wait staff will be notified. ”

I was ticked.  I was upset.  Are you so compartmentalized, unionized,  task oriented, set in your ways,  or just plain lazy that I can’t even  get a glass of water?  Are you so set in your little silos or labor   allocations that I can’t get water? Or is it the title thing?

You are maître d’ – you have a title and you can never condescend to bring  me water because that would place you with the waitstaff,  with the  servers and , well, with people like me.  You have a title and never let it be said that someone with a title will condescend to wait on or serve on the likes of me.

And really that is why I was upset.  Because I believe that I should be waited on and served whenever I want to be waited on and served.  I also believe the  whole world should wait on and serve me.  I believe I am the center of the universe and it bothers me when someone won’t acknowledge how great I am.  And you are the same. You believe that you’re the center of the universe too. It’s hard for folks like us to fear love and trust in God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves because we think of ourselves pretty highly.

So you know  how I felt when I read this text.  How did you feel? The apostles act like uppity maitre d’s. We got hungry widows? Inform the wait staff.   Sorry ladies your servers will be right with you as soon as we find some.

I felt something like that when I read about one who spoke with authority.  He had authority over demons and diseases.. He healed the sick, raised the dead, made the blind see  and lame walk.  He had a name Jesus.  Savior.  He had a title – Christ –
the anointed one and he was anointed to be my prophet priest and king.  This titled one had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd and one day on a lonely hillside after he preached and the day was long and hot and the crowds were hungry the same disciples who would one day appoint the seven to serve heard him say “you don’t have to
send the crowds away – you feed them. You serve them. You wait on them.  There may be no food to feed them, there may not be enough money in this entire crowd to buy  enough food, but you serve them”.   The wait staff  has been notified.

He took some bread and fish And prayed and broke it and  from those simple gifts all were blessed. Hungry people, confused dumbfounded and some would say just plain dumb disciples were fed and served.

He preached, equipped, and he blessed. And he waited on those disciples for three long years. He waited on them to get it. He waited on them to  understand that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them but it would not be like that with them.  Instead the greatest among them would be a servant, a waiter.

He waited on  them for years to get it. Understand that the least of his brothers even the little children were greatest in the kingdom. He waited on and served them and even on the night when he was betrayed he waited on them. He waited on
them to understand what he was doing when he took a towel and washed their feet. He waited on them to get it when he served them his body and his blood; he waiting on them to watch and pray.

He waited on them even while he was dying. He served them and us.  He  served his mother and gave her another son. He served a thief  inviting him into the life everlasting. He serves his heavenly Father a broken body and shed blood as an offering that would take the sins of the whole world away. He dies. His life an offering of service as he waited for all to be accomplished.

Even after the  resurrection he still served. He makes breakfast for them on the beach.  When he is about to go back to heaven he still serves. The great commission is about serving and waiting on.  Go and baptize and teach. That’s serving. Baptizing them in the name of the Father who gave them a Savior and gives them all that they need for life. Clothing and shoes, meat and drink, household and all the things we need for life in this world and the world to come.  In the name of the Son who served them by
dying on a cross to take sins away.  In the name of the Spirit who serves them by bringing them in the family of God.  He calls gathers  enlightens and sanctifies them and offers them gifts. Jesus tells those disciples “you don’t have to send the world away – you feed them.  And I will  be with you like I was on that mountain to multiply blessings. You don’t have to send the world away you feed them.”

He waits on us to come to our senses to get back to our right mind like the prodigal son came to his senses and ran back to the waiting father.  He waits for us to come to our senses like Paul tells us to do. We should have the same mind in us as Christ Jesus who being the very nature God did not think the equality with God was something to be grasped or flashed in front of everybody’s face and say” don’t you know who I am ” but He humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a cross.  The suffering servant.

God wants us to have a the mind of  one who said “I came not to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many – I came not to be waited on but to wait on and I’m waiting on you.  Waiting on You this moment to understand what your baptism means, what you were baptized for and it is service.

He is waiting on us to come to our senses and realize it is not about getting gifts, being served, and hoarding everything for ourselves. It is not about us thinking we are the center of the universe and we want to be served, but realizing that the center of the universe served us poor, wretched, blind, beggars and made us the center of his universe so that we can serve in his kingdom in everlasting righteousness and innocence and blessedness.

Back at the beginning I was wondering about those apostles. Did they think preaching and administering the sacraments was better than waiting on tables ? No. For it was all of a piece like Jesus seamless robe. We need to be as smart as those soldiers under the cross and not divide this garment -shouldn’t gamble for it either. We shouldn’t gamble on getting it by our own reason or strength but keep it together.

When our servants serve us in baptism they Free us to live a merciful life.  When our servants serve us  absolution they speak is free so that we can speak our neighbors free and be of service.  When our servants serve us the Lords supper we get Jesus whole and entire so that we can give ourselves whole and entire to our neighbors and serve them.

This is what we’ve been baptized for.  We’ve been baptized for fellowship with The one who invites us to the banquet hall and his banner over us is love. He’s the maître d’.  He is the server.  He is the waiter who gives us the clothes we need to wear – his own righteousness and he’s the feast.  In the water and word, in the bread and wine He serves us so that we can serve others.
In His Name and for His sake.
Amen

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Those Pesky Resolutions

Baptized for this moment
Three years ago our church body underwent a tremendous upheaval called restructuring.  Those of us hanging around the Synod Inc.  part of our world believed that it was a monumental effort to get a tremendous amount of authority in the hands of a few.  We didn’t like it but it is what the church voted for.  The church also voted Matthew Harrison as our President, something the restructuring folks didn’t want.  So now the folks that wanted the restructure but not President Harrison write stuff like this…………..
“Not insignificantly, most of those resolutions concentrated significant authority in the hands of a few. That is something most of us either do or do not applaud or appreciate, depending largely upon the identity of the few and the level of trust placed in those so identified. Most in the LCMS hope and pray that such concentration of authority will be handled evangelically, faithfully and fraternally. Time will tell whether or not that is the case.”
Time will tell indeed. Meanwhile the work of mercy will continue and the proclamation of the Gospel will too.  Our prayer should be that God’s word speak on and conquer.
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Conventions etc.

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I am getting ready to leave the convention and I thought about what happened over these last days. Lots if resolutions are fluff. They are nice – commending this or that or the other, but some have real life changing, and I might say life giving power when they connect us to God’s mercy by tangible action. I think many of those were passed. The next three years are going to be interesting as well as we stand on the Words and promises of God and remind each other what we are baptized for.

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Mercy and Our Baptism

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I saw this banner at the convention and found kind of intriguing.
God’s children by Baptism into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, means we receive entrance into all that the Triune God offers as gifts because we are now God’s child.
God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It

Stanza 1

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!

He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.

Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any

That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!

Stanza 2

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!

I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Stanza 3

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!

Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.

Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,

And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!

Stanza 4

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.

Stanza 5

There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!

Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.

Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:

I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!

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The Comfort Dogs Return

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The comfort dogs have been many places. They have been to Newtown and New Jersey. They lend a bit of peace to lives in crises and turmoil. They were honored at the 65th Convention of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod today. It was nice.

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Thief River Could Use Some Help.

There is so much damage from recent storms and so many needs in disaster recovery sometimes we miss other stories. This comes from Robert Ballard, Chairman, St John Lutheran School
Thief River Falls, MN 56701. He sent pictures but I can’t find them so I will include a picture of grain bins. Whatever hit Thief River it was no ordinary storm.

wanted to reach out to the MN North office to share news about the storm that hit Thief River Falls on July 12th. St John School had significant damage from the storm to its roof and suffered a lot of water damage internally. Thankfully we have a good insurance policy and they will be covering the damages. I did want to reach out to see however if there is a way to reach out to our churches in the district to see if there was a chance we could setup a fund to help with the restoration process in the inside of the building as well as the need to help find good contractors that are not already booked for the summer to help us get the school ready for the first day of school, Sept 3rd. There are some things that wont match after the repairs and extra funds would help us replace some of the old walls, lights and trim.
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Mercy and Giving.

little boy big tree

Mindful of the fact that we shouldn’t do anything for anyone that they can’t do for themselves, (at least that what I have been told), I wonder if we should be like the away teams on “Star Trek” and only observe and not interfere.  With this “imperative” in mind why should we preach or teach over seas when they have Pastors and teachers?  We have folks over there doing Vacation Bible Schools and I have observed that the folks that live over there are very capable of wonderful Sunday School teaching?  I wonder if I did the right thing when I took a plastic bottle away from this child because he was sucking on something that had contained a caustic, toxic chemical solution that was used to clean batteries.  I am exaggerating of course, but it still begs the question where do we draw the line?  Why am I in Mission to you when you are capable of doing mission yourself.

“I may as well try and catch the wind”, Donovan sang in the 60’s and sometimes I feel like that.  I have been trying to tell anyone that will listen that one of our problems in “funding the mission” is we can’t really explain what the “mission” is?  Some one famously said in our church, “it used to be if you needed money all you had to do was say the word “missions” and the check books would open up.  It’s not like that anymore”.  I have a news flash for you.  It hasn’t been like that for a long time.  I will never forget the day in 1980 when we hosted a missionary who bravely explained that with his education, language instruction, transportation, medical care and cost of living, we the LCMS had probably paid close to a million dollars for his “mission” over ten years.    When he also bravely informed us that in those 10 years he had baptized 2 people and they were his children, one of our old saints stood up and said, “I think you owe us a refund”.

Everyday I am confronted in the mail or by phone with another fund request for something that is a “mission” yet I am never told what the mission is.  I received something asking that we support the translation of something into some language somewhere in the world and when I researched it I found out that most of the people couldn’t read the finished product because 90% of them can’t read!  Many folks that have traveled overseas come back and ask the question “what is the mission?” Pastors have to answer that question in local congregations. What is the mission?  What are we doing here?  All kinds of groups and organizations in the church have to ask the question, what is the mission?  If the answer has to do with doing what we have always done, or doing what makes us comfortable, it is not going to work.  People are getting less and less comfortable giving to the status quo or giving for something that is mainly for us.  Youth folks will tell you that raising funds for a camp because it is a good place for Lutheran kids to hang out and hook up will get you a fish eye.  Principals and teachers are having to face the fact that parochial schools are having trouble finding funding, but if you are willing to reach out to the handicapped funds come in.

The great commission is big and broad and the New Testament it seems to me explains to us what Jesus meant when he said “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”.  What he commanded us was about mercy.

 

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Mercy and Giving – Why do we Pray and Pay?

little boy and food tray

Here is a portion of a paper about funding missionaries.  It is called “Missionaries Raising Money: Genesis of the LCMS Network-Supported Missionary (NSM) Model”A White Paper of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod May 2013

Beginning in the 1960s, as the baby boom generation matured, a strong spirit of individualism arose. In contrast to the “We” generation (“the greatest generation,” as labeled by author Tom Brokaw), the new “Me” generation began severing ties of allegiance to family, faith traditions and the spirit of sacrifice that were the marks of their parents and grandparents. Slowly, and with growing momentum, charitable giving in support of the church became less about duty and allegiance and more about individual choice. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the nation’s pop culture turned to self-satisfaction and the personal accumulation of wealth as the hallmarks of success, influencing younger generations. “Greed is good,” remarked Hollywood, through movies such as “Wall Street.” One casualty was the offering plate, as the average “tithe” shrank from the common 10 percent of income to a 2010 level of less than 3 percent per household.1   Congregations were the first to feel this decline in perceived value against societal forces, and they still feel it today.  1  Source: Ronsvalle, J. and Ronsvalle, S. (2012). The State of Church Giving through 2010. Empty Tomb, Inc. Campaign, Illinois.

What if duty and allegiance was never really a good motivator anyway.  Is that “Biblical stewardship”?  Stewardship it would seem to me would be a part of that explanation of Luther about why we pray.  We give, because of our and our neighbors great need.  We need to give and they need for us to give.  2 Corinthians 8:13-14 13For I mean not that other men be eased, and you burdened: 14But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

What we are missing here is the fact that a couple of generations have passed and the new folks coming up will give of their time and talent and treasure and do it willingly and sacrificially if it is about the “other”, the meek and low and the suffering.  They have an enormous sense of injustice and unfairness that is not just about them and we ignore them at our peril.  They don’t see stewardship as re-carpeting the basement or redoing the parking lot.  They see stewardship as fairness or equality.

Mercy is huge here because these new generations hear the call of Jesus to be disciples, sent ones, and for many what he calls us to do is have an eye for His “little ones” and the “least of these His brothers”.  You want support and gifts from these folks you had better have a story about those little ones and what you are trying to do for the least.

 

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