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Archive for August, 2013

The Church and mercy and losing our minds.

Gilbert_Chesterton G.K. Chesterton, was a political thinker who cast aspersions on both Progressivism and Conservatism, saying, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”.  I can see that all around me, in politics and in the church.  Conservatives, despite what the press and Liberals say are usually too nice to try and correct the mess that progressive liberal policies and actions have done to the church and the world.

But Chesterton was also a bright lay theologian and creative Christian writer.  The Church is, according to Chesterton, “the trysting place of all the truths in the world.”

A trysting place is where lovers meet.  Chesterton was in love with the truth.  He was constantly searching for the truth, and as someone has said, to pull this off you have to actually live in the trysting place, which means to live in the truth, which means to live in Christ, which means to live in the Church where Christ has promised to dispense the means of grace.  Christ who is the way and the truth and the life dwells with sinners and dispenses to them the means of His grace and mercy in the church.

So I have come to the conclusion that the church is the place where we go to “lose our minds” to be in the truth.  Luther said the mind “is the main target of all evils and the one trysting place of sorrow and every ill”.  Our minds are the places where the two lovers,  sorrow and ill’s meet.  We exchange that meeting place for the truth when taken out of the thoughts of ourselves because of the one who gave everything for us.  We can live in the truth because Christ who is our life takes us out of ourselves and into him.  He does this by gathering His community, His body and bringing to it His gracious presence and forgiveness.  When Christ who is the truth has sway in our life we are granted the gift of “self-forgetfulness” .  We can paraphrase 1 John3 and say “Even if our minds condemn us, God is greater than our minds  and knows all things.”

This doesn’t mean that we are anti-intellectual” or willfully ignorant.  It means that we have a healthy respect for what our minds can and cannot do.  We could paraphrase 1 Cor 2 as saying “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”   But we get a glimpse of them in church with the gathered community of Christ’s Body in the Divine service.  We enter a transcendent place with “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven”.

So when I hear someone say “it is not our job to plant or establish or create a church or to do mercy in connection with that church; it is our job to talk about Jesus”, I wonder if this is a progressive mistake that we conservatives are going to prevent from being corrected, or is this an example of losing more than our minds, but the “mind of Christ”?   (Phil 2)

 

 

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Paul’s evaluation of his “call” and mercy.

 

pastor interview

 

Galatians 2 –

2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.

I have always been fascinated by this portion of the letter to the Galatians because it give us a glimpse into the mind of Paul and also the workings of the early church and the conflicts and difficulties that it had.  Tow things stand out as noteworthy.

1.  Paul received his call by direct revelation from Christ.  He was called by Jesus immediately just like the other Apostles, but he was never with the 12.  Yet he is willing to have that call evaluated.  He is actually asking them if he is doing the right thing.  If Paul can be evaluated by others why can’t some of us in the clergy?

2.  It seems to me that here the work of the church pretty easily and comprehensively explained – preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles and remember the poor.  Why make it anymore complicated than that?

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Orphans and Mercy – One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

syrian orphans

 Syrian Orphans in a Refugee Camp

We partner with 1001 Orphans to try and alleviate some of the issues that take place in our partner church in Kenya.  Our partnership has hit a few rough spots and some of us are irritated with the time it takes to build a center, or the amount of Orphan support that gets through, or the measure of cleanliness, or the lack of mosquito nets especially since we are trying to partner with Lutheran Malaria Initiative, or whatever.  There is a lot of grumbling about capacity and who is in charge of what.  Some have called into question some of our partners abilities to sustain these efforts.  Every time we talk about these issues I think of the situations that we and our partners are dealing with.  Political instability, factions in the church, donor demands, accessibility  and things to numerous to mention.  We sometimes act is if our partners, both here and in the emerging country and partner church are not as responsible and active as they could be.

Then I think of some other stuff like –

“We, meaning all of us through our government promised Vets that we would take care of them after their service .  70000 Vets cannot get the benefits they were promised including healthcare, and meanwhile the same folks that have accomplished this shameful act now are willing to destroy the insurance of 80 million people in order to cover 30 million.  It gets better.  They, not we,  want to be in charge of seeing that everyone gets health coverage.  Does that include Vets.  Oh and by the way they have opted out of the plan that they are going to force on us.

Watching a government that takes people that have failed miserably at what they were doing and instead of firing them giving them paid leave or raises and promotions.  Some are even going to have made for TV movies about them.

Living in a country that has been transformed into a third world nation because we are afraid to be the world’s largest exporter of oil.

The guy that made the video making fun of Islam that was not responsible for the attack at the outpost in Benghazi is in jail, while the guys that are responsible for actually doing the deed are wandering around the bazaars of Tripoli and other places in Libya.  Reporter can get interviews with them but the FBI can’t find them.  By the way the FBI Chief doesn’t know if FBI is investigating the IRS issues either so, go figure.  By the way the FBI is the greatest investigative organization in the word – just ask them.

Going to the Post Office and being told that the clerk couldn’t mail 200 CD’s of mine because, she said, “I would have to stand here all day and run off the stamps?

What if went to my local brake repair man and told him I needed new brakes?  Do you suppose he would say to me, “you need to go somewhere else.  I would have to be here all day installing your brakes”?

The NSA collects all kinds of data from our computers and phones.  Supposedly every key stroke that I make right now is recorded by them so guys, if you are listening or looking or mining or whatever you are doing can you answer me a question – with all of your data and a warning from the Russians how is it possible that you missed the Tsarnaev brothers?  You don’t have to tell me but you might want to explain it to Boston.

Listening to one political party accuse another political party of a “War on women” when that party right now has three, count them, three high officials that have been accused of sexually harassing women.

Listening to the Vice President  say on national TV that “St. Mary’s Hospital down the street is not going to be forced to pay for the abortions or the contraceptives of the workers, and that is a fact”, while the fact is that the Catholic Church and Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are suing the government because that is precisely what we will have to do.

What is exactly a fact?

Before we start looking at the deficiencies of folks that are trying to help we might want to address those who make matters worse.  We might want to question those that are always trying to do for others what they can do for themselves and causing more and more dependency without demeaning those that are trying to help those who really can’t help themselves.

Here is fact –

UN agencies say the number of children forced to flee Syria has reached one million, describing the figure as “a shameful milestone”.  The helping class in this country could have done something two years ago.

The UN’s refugee agency and Unicef say a further two million children are displaced within the country.  The helping class on the international scene is as bankrupt and immoral as the ones here at home.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

One step forward, two steps back.  I talked to the folks at 1001 Orphans and they said the 1 orphan is to remind us there will always be another, always one more.

Here is a fact – because of the stupidity of Governments, here and around the world, the duplicity and venality of politicians, the world and our flesh and the devil, there will always be one more orphan.  Pray God that we have will, the stomach and the compassion to keep trying to do something about it.

Instead of wringing or hands about what we should do we might want to remember what Paul saw as the function of the church and of preachers – preach the Gospel and care for the poor.

More on that later.

 

 

 

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Mission and Witness and Persecution.

coptic church

We have some interesting conversations about whether Luther had a theology of world missions.  Ingemar Öberg, Luther and World Mission: A Historical and Systematic Study, writes, “ After all the disappointments, in the middle of all the fears of the disciples, it occurs, and despite all that Luther had said about the church of the patriarchs, the Holy Spirit is poured out and Christ’s universally oriented church is founded. The age when God’s reign will be offered to all through the Gospel has dawned. Its message is something different than Sinai and the Law. One preaches that the Crucified One is risen and lives. The mission of the Church has its start in this first “Christian” Pentecost and continues until Christ’s coming again. Now there is no longer any need to fear. Indeed, one is ready to accept martyrdom if only God’s salvation can be preached in the entire world. Now the Spirit of God roars and whistles in the hearts of those true to Christ and in the hearts of the apostles, says Luther.”

And then there is this ……………….

There were a lot of Resolutions passed at the Synod Convention.  Rev Hartwig the Synod Secretary wrote that his favorite is  Res. 1-09A “To Prepare LCMS Congregations and Pastors for Defense of our Christian Faith.” He writes,”its first whereas paragraph strikes me as one of the most timely and important paragraphs adopted by the convention three weeks ago: “Christ foretold that Christians throughout the world will suffer persecutions for Christ’s name (John 16:33).” It brings to mind and prayer Egypt and those Coptic Christians burning to death in defense of their burning churches and their Christian faith. We watch from (for now) a safe distance, but we also know that such reaction to the Gospel, when running wild, would be no gentler or kinder on this side of the globe.

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The sermon

sermon prepFor some reason I have had a chance to listen to a lot of preaching this summer and although it is my job to put the best construction on everything most of what I have heard was pretty sad.  Sorry that is just a fact.  Part of the problem with being a Pastor is the inability to sit and let someone else preach the Gospel to you.  I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the sermon that should be preached rather than the sermon that I am hearing.  That problem is compounded when the preacher never gets to the Gospel.

Luther once said, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Luther was of course polemical.  He was defending the Gospel all through his life and this concept of “professing Christ” versus “confessing Christ” is important for today.  Where is the devil and the world attacking when the preacher preaches?

At a funeral I would suggest that the devil and the world attack at the point of our old self righteousness.  Did the deceased do enough, were they good enough, did they make heaven, was God punishing them or the family, why now?  The world gives the platitudes – it was a blessing, it was untimely, and on and on.  The truth is that every death is an abomination that God never intended for human beings and apart from Christ a death is a nightmare of what if’s and why?  Talking about how wonderful the deceased was is foolish on the face of it.  If they were so wonderful why are they dead?  Simply professing Christ sometime in the sermon makes it worse.  The job of the preacher is to bring Christ to the point of attack and proclaim the fact that for this sinner Christ died and rose again.  For this sinner Christ carried the burden and bled and died to remove the power of sin.  For this sinner Christ was born and suffered and died.  To paraphrase the Nicene Creed the preacher needs to preach that Christ, “Who for this sinner and their Salvation became man”.  For this one Christ made this death a gateway to life everlasting.

At weddings the point of attack is the selfish nature of our desires.  Most people today live together before marriage.  They don’t understand the nature of what marriage is.  It is the giving of Gifts.  God gifts this couple to one another.  The families gift their children to one another.  The couple gifts themselves to one another and Christ gifts them himself and makes the two one.  We have to bring Christ to that point of attack and “confess” that this couple sinfully took all the gifts when they decided to live together and now they are getting married because they want more gifts.  The only hope for their life together is Christ and his gifts of forgiveness.  To simply “profess” Christ somewhere in the sermon is execrable.

Every Sunday the point if attack changes and that’s why the greatest preparation is living.  Preachers are living in the same world as the people they serve with same struggles and problems.  To profess a Christ that you hope exists, rather than confessing a Christ that does and comes through word and Sacrament is not just a “disgraceful flinch”, it is a deadly delusion.

 

 

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Things Your Pastor Won’t Tell You

 

pastor

Found this while looking for something else.  It is a list of things that hard working Pastors don’t tell their parishioners.  I was looking for something Pastors that spent 8 hours a day on the computer actually say to their parishioners but couldn’t.  This is pretty much fun reading though.

 

1)      You know how your doctor, lawyer and dentist had to complete years of grueling training and had to face numerous credentialing bodies before practicing her or his profession? Me too. In most cases I have completed a four-year undergraduate degree, a three-year professional degree, completed internships and clinical training. So when you assume I’m an idiot who just doesn’t understand, I’m gritting my spiritual teeth and remembering Christ’s humility. I’m smiling, but only on the outside.

2)      Your offering is not a tip for a good sermon, nor are you paying for services rendered. Your stewardship, bringing your tithes and offerings to the community in which you worship, is a spiritual practice that comes right out of scripture. The people Jesus taught and healed lived in grinding poverty. And then there were the taxes, enforced by a brutal occupation army. Remember Matthew the Tax Collector and all those centurions running around? They weren’t there for a parade. Yet Jesus still presumed the Hebrew practice of tithing. Failure to give appropriately is a spiritual problem. I know, and I am praying for you.

3)      You probably think I only work an hour a week, because that is how often you see me. But that one hour a week took hours of preparation. I also managed to visit several people who were sick or homebound, and had to call the plumber and the dumpster company. I also represented the church at a civic function, and took three long phone calls telling me last week’s sermon was “too political” because I pointed out that Jesus insisted we care for the poor. It’s been a busy week, but I kept it down to under sixty hours, so that’s good, right?

4)      Oh, and about Sunday morning… I have been “on,” like rock concert “on,” all morning. I’m smiling and being social, but I’m actually fried.  You know that important thing you needed to tell me as you shook my hand and headed off to brunch? I forgot it, along with the important things eight other people told me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to, but you better write it down, send it in an email, or leave me a message. I think it is important because you think it is important, but I’ve already forgotten it.

5)      I work for God. I know it sounds insane, but that’s it, flat out. Every other level of authority, bishop, vestry or church council, is just middle management. I didn’t accept this call to make money. I accepted it because I couldn’t say “no” to God any longer. That means I’m not always going to preach what you want to hear. Sometimes I’m going to challenge you, in fact, sometimes I’m going to piss you off. I don’t do it for fun. I do it because Jesus told us this following thing was going to be hard, and that we needed to do it with a good team behind us. And I’m on your team by choice. If I stop challenging you, you’ll know that I am either exhausted or scared. Neither is good for you or the church you love.

6)      Speaking of scared, I’d like to keep my job. I may have a spouse working in the community, kids in the local schools, and I most certainly have student loans that will follow me to the grave. It’s a razor’s edge up here, trying to please God and middle management and every person sitting in the pews. I need your prayers, and possibly a good therapist…

7)      I care more about the regulars. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do. You know, the one’s who show up in the pouring rain, there for every fund raiser and Bible study. When a perfect stranger shows up demanding the rites of the church and treating me like I’m an unfortunate prop in their personal movie, it’s a problem. She may be your granddaughter, but she hasn’t been inside of a church, except as a bridesmaid, in years. She may promise to raise that child as a Christian, but you and I both know she’s not going to get up on Sunday morning. I’m having serious theological qualms about this, I’m just not telling you.

8)      When you insist on “the way we do things in this church,” I’m wondering when you stopped worshiping a living God and started worshiping a building and its resident bureaucracy. Give me half a chance, and I’ll help you drop the average age of worshipers and give this church a future. Many thousands of churches close every year. This doesn’t have to be one of them. But it’s your choice. When you are ready to look forward instead of backward, I’ll be there to lead the way. That is, after all, what you keep telling me I’m supposed to do.

9)      Finally, I am human. Really. That nasty comment you made on your way out the door? It hurt. And wasn’t very Christian. But I forgive you, and still love you, because that’s how I roll.

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Project 24 and mercy and the churches “Raison d’être”

 

charter for church

Roger Weinlaeder  (one of the original Project 24 guys) Writes:

Sheila, my wife, and I recently visited the city of Quebec City in Quebec Canada. We were able to visit the home of French influence in North America and a chance to review the evolution of this how this Province and how they became part of Canada. The city is located on the St Lawrence Seaway where a good percentage of the agricultural goods produced in the upper Midwest is exported over to foreign markets. It is a very interesting place and I would recommend that anyone who had the opportunity would enjoy the visit.

As usual – we will visit the magnificent cathedrals and the churches that served the people in this part of the world. One church we visited was almost completely plated with gold and there was so much silver and other worship articles that were priceless – it was almost overwhelming. The next church we visited was still large and was classy but there was no gold or silver lined into the building. It was just stately, serene and wood pews and beams that were well maintained. The two churches were only about 2 blocks apart and represented a huge contrast in styles. One represented wealth and and Pomp while the other was humble comfortable. This community when first established represented a large population of people that were poor and a high percentage of the people lived in various degrees of poverty.

At the entrance to the “Humble” structure I noticed this original statement on the use of the weekly collections that the worshipers gave. I found it interesting that of primary importance was the human care element that we often talk about in this day and age. These people and this congregation knew all about this in the 1600’s. Taking care of Orphans, widows, infirm, and the helpless was primary and the first thing that was attended to.

The lesson is so blatantly clear -Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for each of us So‑

Matt 25 verse 45 Jesus says “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, You did not do for me”. This is an interesting twist, for once it is not about the bad things that we do but about the good things we do not do!

The Mission is still there no matter how difficult it is. Please find a way to Support Project 24 or another project that pays attention to the helpless, hungry, sick, thirsty, naked and lonely.

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The Marks of the church -mercy, witness and partnerships – mark 7 and Project 24.

 

DVC00209

 Mosque not far from a Project 24 Center

MARK VII: These Christian, holy people are recognized by “the holy possession of the sacred cross” (suffering).

“They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ.” Here we see Luther’s emphasis on the way of the cross vs. the way of glory as marking the path of Christian, holy people. “This too is a holy possession whereby the Holy Spirit not only sanctifies his people, but also blesses them.”

This would seem to be a conundrum.  If the “Christian Holy people” are recognized by what they suffer why would we want to build rescue centers to alleviate the suffering?  There are people even in our church who seem to think that we should not intervene in suffering but simply preach Gospel to it.  It seems to me that a fulsome understanding of the Theology of the Cross is that in suffering we see God’s glory and our salvation and under the “mask” of suffering we can live out our Christian faith in serving our neighbors need.  So as Paul says in Romans 5 –3 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”    So in suffering we rejoice and in viewing suffering we seek to help.

We have heard that some Project 24 Centers have received some persecution and threats from Muslims in various parts of the country so we believe that these Centers are a real part of the church.

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The Marks of the church -mercy, witness and partnerships – mark 6 and Project 24.

 MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

 MARK VI: These Christian, holy people are recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God.

Here Luther advocates for congregational worship in which all who gather may participate and learn: “However, we are now speaking of prayers and songs which are intelligible and from which we can learn and by means of which we can mend our ways.

Project 24 Centers were meant to be built near a church where worship could be attended and Sunday School taught.

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The Marks of the church -mercy, witness and partnerships – mark 5 and Project 24.

Whema

MARK V: These Christian, holy people are recognized by the fact that they consecrate Ministers.

God has so arranged the church that it has officers. That is, as Paul writes in Ephesians 4, though all the church is the Body of Christ, he has instituted that “competent and chosen” people should be entrusted with administering the Word, Sacraments, and Keys.

Project 24 started with the idea they would take the pressure off of Pastors who were taking care of orphans in their own homes and congregations.  Project 24 Centers were meant to be built where there would be Pastors to preach the Gospel and baptize and offer the Lord’s Supper.

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