Monday, July 30, 2007

no post today


I'll be done with it Wednesday

no post today


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bold Vision for the church required.

What's your vision of the church:

  • A relevant body boldly proclaiming Christ to a world mired in sin.
  • A refuge from the world where life in the risen one is celebrated even in the face of death.
  • A people on a mission bringing Jesus vision and values with them into all places.
The body of Christ is made up of people; and people come together in the church in surprising and often unexpected ways. One of the boldest statements of vision that I have seen for the future church comes from Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church. Driscoll has offered a vision. I don't agree with him on all counts. I disagree with his view on women in leadership and with his overly harsh reading of statistics. I disagree with his interpretation of how many have portrayed Jesus as to weak. But I can admire his passion and his zeal. He is speaking boldly to a church that needs to focus on mission. See what you think for yourself.

I'd love to see a response to Pastor Driscoll. Is he offering a needed challenge to us in the church who need to see ourselves as fighters and not as soft and easy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Prayer and a relationship with God Luke 11:1-12

Jesus prayed, it happened over and over in the Gospels, most especially in the Gospel of Luke. We can read in Luke of his prayer from the 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry all the way up to his death. It was obvious that communication with the Father mattered for Jesus and that his friends saw how much prayer mattered and wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus.
Luke wrote that Jesus taught them simple words. The Lords' prayer isn't a magic formula for a perfect life; but model of key used to open the door between heaven and earth. Prayer doesn't bring us out of the earth rather it helps us reach to God from this earth so that we can not only hear God but be known by God.
At the heart of the Christian faith is a wonderful relationship between God and each Christian that depends not on our choice of words, as wonderful and beautiful as they might be, but on the simple faith that they are heard.
As a pastor one of my great joys is teaching prayer; but this past few years it has also become a great struggle. The congregation I serve has many young people who come to confirmation not knowing the Lord's Prayer or ever having heard about the love of God for them; their parents and often times Grandparents, believe that a church telling them about God will make them better people; but in truth we only add to the confusion if we don't teach the relationship that lies behind the words of a prayer.

Martin Luther wrote in his small catechism,

“Our Father who art in heaven.” What does this mean?
Answer: Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.
Tappert, Theodore G. The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.
The challenge is not to have a 7th grader memorize this prayer enough to parrot it back and spit it out; but to help them glimpse the audacious love of a creator God who wants each of us to return love to him as children return love to their own earthly father.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Something worth laughing about...

Just in case you need a little something to laugh about today I've come across two great items worth watching that will get your attention for certain.
First up: an old favorite: Homer takes on the Apocalypse crowd wonderfully getting to the question of God's absence in our lives.

Second is a great show from Canada. No US Network has had the courage to license it yet for domestic consumption. Little Mosque on the Prairie. It's a great image of Muslims in the modern world as real people.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just sit in the glory: Collosians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42

The Apostle Paul, in a letter to the church in Collosae, wrote boldly about his relationship with God and our relationship with God. Paul said that up until meeting Jesus we are God's enemies (Collosians 1:21). Honestly, even after meeting Jesus, we still kick and scream fighting against God, but that's beside the point. In Jesus we meet God who transcends our fighting so that He can do something completely new with us. God's glory was hidden from most of the world's people before Jesus. Paul word to describe the situation (Collosians 1:26 & 2:2) as μυστηρίου literally God's glory was a mystery or a secret just hidden from view. Some of God's glory was revealed to ancient Israel; but the rest of the world's people knew only God's care for all the world, not God's personal care for each individual creature. But in Jesus the secret is out; God's glory is revealed and its personal. God intends for that very real glory to shine in each of our lives. God's desire is to bring us back into the fold so that he can use us to transform creation.

In Luke 10:38-42 two sisters are bickering about what to do when they Jesus came to visit. One worried about serving the guest, and the other one worried about sitting with Jesus. The serving sister, Martha, complains, “Come on Jesus, make her help.” Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen better. Mary was sitting with Jesus, taking in his glory. Martha was up fussing.

Jesus challenge to us is to always pick one good thing from many. Mary's personality isn't easy to replicate if you've always been concerned about what you're doing its tough to sit down and just listen. Martha was frustrated by the details simply giving and giving but not sitting when she needed too. Jesus glory is the greatest thing. Freedom just to sit in it is here; but we'll often just get lost in all the oughts and shoulds that we think matter.

From Luther's Table Talk No. 274: Dog Provides Example of Concentration
May 18, 1532

When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”

Behold, the heart of the pious dog was also lacking in this, that he could not pray without thoughts.117

116 Luther’s dog Tölpel is mentioned again and again in the Table Talk.

117 The last sentence probably represents the writer’s (i.e., Veit Dietrich’s) observation.

Luther, Martin. Vol. 54, Luther's Works, Vol. 54 : Table Talk. No. 274: “Dog Provides Example of Concentration.” Page 37-38 Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann. Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1967.

Brother Benedict, you are always welcome.

Last week I posted a particularly strong response to the Pope Benedict's definition of churches.

The presiding Bishop of my particular denomination, the ELCA, Mark Hanson, wrote a far more measured and rational response to Pope Benedict's statement. But one thing I felt was lacking. A simple invitation to all our brothers and sisters to come to the table.

Today I'd like to take as stab at making this kind of invitation. I am not retracting what I said only trying to make the real the point that may have gotten lost in my blather clear.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, of all churches regardless of denomination, including our Brother Josef Ratzinger, now called Benedict. I would gladly join you at Christ's table along with millions of others on any Sunday. I would gladly join you as a fellow beggar unworthy of a scrap; yet ready to be healed because Christ's body and blood, given and shed for the sins of the whole world which present in the Eucharist of our churches, is sufficient.

Brother Benedict, and all brothers and sisters in Christ, I would gladly break the bread which is Christ's body with you any Sunday. I would gladly share the cup which is Christ's blood with you any Sunday. I would gladly receive you as a brother or sister in Christ regardless of your denomination or church membership. Please come with there is always room for one more at Christ's table.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brother Benedict: What are you trying to say?

There's a sad thing about the state of the post-modern church: it's all the divisions. In recent days the Pope simply restated his view, and what he believes is his church's view, of these divisions. Sadly what our errant Brother in Christ, Benedict, restated is a view that many hope will just disappeared. The current pope, our Brother, reminds us, sadly, that the divisions haven't ended and that to him they still matter.

As a cradle Catholic serving today as a Lutheran pastor I must sadly agree with my Brother Benedict on one account. The church is broken. And it is, as evidenced by his writing, beyond the reach of human repairs. Let us not be naive about sin and its power to corrupt all institutions, including the church and its leaders, even the ones who think they've inherited the power to be above debate or error.

Brother Benedict isn't saying anything new. He is simply restating a limited view of the church that is not based beyond one verse in scripture, practical experience, or plain reason; but in a reified ecclesiastical structure. I say this not because I seek to separate myself from the rest of the body of Christ but because we can not be forced into uniformity in order to create unity. The true church, the Body of Christ, can not be created by humans. We can only be brought together by God working creatively as Father, redeeming sinners as son, and binding us together in the Spirit. Christ's blood is the source of our unity, Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Our confession of Jesus Christ alone as savior is enough to make us one.

Brother Benedict, and others like him, are seeking safety from the modern world in ecclesiastical and liturgical fundamentalism. They believe that defining truth in something other than Jesus, like a human made liturgy or a human made curia, can keep them pure in a world in which everything is up for debate. These forms fundamentalism are no different in effect than biblical fundamentalism: they seek a source of certainty in an uncertain world other than Christ; they seek to end debate with a trump card that God never gave them or any human being.

What my brother in Christ, Benedict, who has been redeemed by Christ's blood, has missed, sadly, is that Christ is present in both our churches. Christ is present in the Word of God proclaimed boldly and preached boldly. Christ is present when 2 or 3 gather in his name. Priests are not required for Jesus Christ to be present. Sometimes, errant Brother Benedict, they get in the way of spreading the Good News that the Kingdom of God has come near.

Brother Benedict betrays his own inability to discern the Body of Christ. Jesus is present in both our celebrations of the Eucharist as he always has been. Jesus is never present because of a priest's presence. Christ's presence in the Body and Blood that we receive as bread and wine is real and true because he promised to be present in the night of his betrayal. Benedict errs greatly in denying that real presence is based not in Jesus' promises but rather in a human made church.

Brother Benedict I urge you to recant for the sake of the Gospel. I urge you to take off your vestments and to come to Christ's table as I, AND MILLIONS OF OTHER CHRISTIANS DO EVERY SUNDAY, including most Roman Catholic's I know, as a beggar unworthy of a scrap; yet ready to be healed because Christ's body and blood, given and shed for the sins of the whole world, are sufficient. I would gladly break the bread which is Christ's body with you any Sunday. I would gladly share the cup which is Christ's blood with you any Sunday. I would gladly receive you as a brother. Please come there is always room for one more at Christ's table.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Independence Day 2007

231 years ago a great experiment began as one group of men sought to separate themselves from another group of men. Women and minorities weren't invited, yet, but something big was starting.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

231 years later the nation founded with such high ideals is still trying to reach to them. Today we are a nation at war on continents far from home. We Americans are accused by some in the world of oppressing others and celebrated by others in the world as liberators. Today we are a people divided in politics, religion, culture, age, ethnicity, and even language; but we are a people united by the reach for the highest ideals.
As a father of preschool girls I celebrate Independence Day. I tell them about the over throw of a bad king. I tell them that this nation needs no king or queen, no princes or princesses. They looked shocked. They can't imagine anything greater than being a princess; thank goodness that 231 years ago a group of men decided that citizen was the very best title in the world.

So today I declare my independence from princess culture. Today I turn my back on Disney and Mattel and all the multi-national conglomerates who want girls to love princesses but who have forgotten that their customers are future citizens not just consumers spending their parent's money. Today we remember that being a citizen is the highest rank in the land. Down with kings and queens and princes and princesses. Down with the image of aristocracy. Let us celebrate today, and every independence day, that all are created equal, that none has special place above that just by birth.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What Move's you?

There are so many things to get excited about in this life. Everything from a great baseball team to a great job could be the reason that you're moved to celebrate. And there are are plenty of other reasons why we might be moved. Tough, tragic news moves us to action just as much, maybe sometimes even more, than the good news that moves us to rejoice. Our faith is about action and trust, our faith is about being moved by the word of God into the world in love for God and in love for our neighbors. Jesus sent 70 people out to spread the good news. At fist glance sending out 70 (or maybe 72) people looks like a reason to celebrate and to rejoice. 70 people went out to announce the good-news to heal the sick and to caste out daemons. But there was plenty of reason to worry. Jesus said that they would be like lambs among wolves.

The true church, the body of Christ, made up of believers in mission is not guaranteed of a future beyond faith. But by faith we know that something bigger and better is coming for us. Jesus plan for the church isn't that we be secure and certain in this life. His plan is so very different. His plan is eternal. He sent his followers out empty handed with limit instruction and training, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.” Luke 10:4. NRSV. He told them to go; and when they stopped he told the 70 to announce peace at each house. Where they were not accepted he told them to wipe the dust off of their feet in judgment.

Jesus sends the true church out into the world. He wants us to travel light. We are encumbered by all sorts of things. Jobs, homes, hobbies, toys, recreation, status can all hold us in place. But Jesus wants us to be ready to move in mission. Jesus plan for the church is for us to see incredible things happen. The 70 he sent out witnessed things that they hadn't before imagined. He said to the 70 when they returned, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:18-20 NRSV

We have a home and it isn't on this earth. We have a family and we haven't seen every member of it yet. “...rejoice” Jesus said, “that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20 NRSV

In our days we can get caught up in living and in Christ we meet God who calls us to live today not like we are here forever but as if we were each on our way. He calls us to live out his love boldly; not encumbered by this world. He sent the 70 out and he sends us out knowing, as we spread the Good News, that we belonged in the kingdom of God. AMEN.