Wednesday, March 22, 2006

340 Attention Lutherans

Do you know where your church is?

"Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say the denomination is at a "tipping point, a critical juncture" for "full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities" and so are asking for major donations as part of a four-year campaign.

Based on an email sent out by ELCA ministers in and near New York City to potential donors and synod pastors, three pro-gay, -lesbian, -bi-sexual and -transgender support groups are working together to raise $2 million to further their cause for change in the denomination.

They have already garnered $1 million in pledges."

From the WordAlone newsletter, March 9.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

339 Make a joyful noise

Last week for Thursday Thirteen at Collecting my thoughts I wrote about 13 things I like about singing in the choir. What surprised me were the warm responses the readers posted about singing in church choirs when they were young and how they miss it. Today I came across an article in Catholic Online where the writer, Mary Regina Morrell, tells about looking through an old children’s hymnal published in 1895--over 110 years ago.

“Flipping it open I came upon the Editors’ Preface. It read, in part: “In a Hymnal intended especially for the use of young people, the brightness and happiness of youth should find full expression; hence . . . the Editors have been selected only those hymns and tunes which they know, from personal experience, to be thoroughly singable, enjoyable, inspiring, and worthy to be cherished in the hearts and memories of children.”

The last phrase stuck out: “worthy to be cherished in the hearts and memories of children.” Thinking back to the media and the proliferation of baseness to which our children are subjected, I reflected on how wonderful it would be if our culture and our adults had as much concern for the welfare of our children.”

How different she says, are the images our media presents to children: the American idols of fame, money, power, perfection, and having the competitive edge.

She summarizes as she finds an old favorite: “One of my favorite hymns, “When Morning Gilds the Skies,” included these soothing words: Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised: Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised. The night becomes as day, When from the heart we say, May Jesus Christ be praised: The powers of darkness fear, When this sweet chant they hear, may Jesus Christ be praised.”

When, as adults, we regain the wisdom of replacing our American idols with prayer and praise of the One who loves us most, then perhaps we can begin the healing process for our children by leading them to Christ.”

Obviously, things weren't perfect for families and children in the 1890s. Children were exposed to many horrible realities then also. But in any era, children deserve beautiful, sound hymnody to help shut out the noise of the world.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

338 When the youth leader stopped the fun and games

As Christian tells it, the new youth leader, Wayne, stopped all the shallow stuff and threw the youth group into the deep end of the pool, with word by word Bible study.

"Within a matter of weeks, attendence dwindled to 2 or 3 of us hardy souls who where willing to endure potential embarrassment for the sake of learning how to study the Scriptures. As you might guess, parents in the church were in an uproar because their kids refused to attend. But they couldn't fire Wayne, because a) they hadn't hired him in the first place, and b) no one else wanted to lead the youth group (for all their spiritual disinterest, the kids in our group were serious pros at burning through volunteer youth leaders as if they were substitute teachers).

So even though just about everyone in the church was seriously dissatisfied (except for the 2 or 3 of use who actually wanted to learn how to study the Bible), Wayne stayed on.

And then something truly remarkable started happening, something no one expected.

Kids started showing up. They didn't go to our church (many of them didn't go to any church). A lot of them weren't Christians. But they were fascinated to hear this Wayne guy unpack God's Word in a way that challenged everything their lives were about.

So they came. And they brought their friends. And those friends brought their friends. And within about a year and a half, we had over 100 kids showing up every week for an hour and a half Bible study."

Read the rest of the story here. It doesn't always turn out as you would expect.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Turning the other cheek

If you've ever had a problem with the persecution for Jesus' sake verses (and who hasn't), you'll need to read LaughWrinkles blog about being public in her faith in India (she's a missionary) where she experiences the persecution trifecta--she's a woman, a westerner and a Christian missionary. One of the best I've read on this difficult topic.

She reviews all the "blesseds" and then asks herself if it includes ignorance and bigotry:

"But how am I blessed by some ignorant people believing and telling me that I'm a bigot and a prostitute? And what practical good would "turning the other cheek" do here, anyway? Women's rights, the abolition of slavery... all good things are thanks to strong people who did and said strong things (am I starting to contradict myself?) I won't ignore it! It has to stop! For the sake of Indian women... for the sake of a good gospel message who's reputation is in shambles. After all, the text does go on... "And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you..." The point is to show your opponent the generosity which faith has placed inside of you-- to speak well of God. How does the reign of ignorance speak well of God?"

She writes very well, is 21, a prostestant, Canadian, and is living with Catholic nuns, so I look forward to reading more entries in her diary. HT, Ginger, Joyful Woman.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

336 Baptizing adults in the Lutheran church

Our pastor announced at the Ash Wednesday service that he hoped for 100 adult baptisms next year. At least I think I heard that correctly--something about the period of Lent set aside for catechumens. I googled that, and found a reference at a Roman Catholic site, but not much for Lutherans--actually nothing. Like many large churches (we have 3 campuses and 11 services) ours takes in a lot of transfers, and even the "unchurched" new members were often baptized when they were infants or very young, but had parents who didn't bring them up in any faith family.

I've seen one or two adult baptisms and a few teenagers in my 30 years as a member of this church, and of course, many infant baptisms, always a lovely service. Lutherans don't rebaptize since it is a sacrament and believe that we don't get "do-overs," when God has done something. Your pleas that you don't remember, or that you want to "experience" something will fall on deaf ears in our new member classes.

Other denominations do it differently, and getting rebaptized is sort of like restating your marriage vows for your 25th anniversary. This certainly adds to their adult baptism roles. Our local Grace Brethren Church would probably want me to be rebaptized even though that denomination is a "granddaughter" of the Church of the Brethren where I was baptized at age 12. The word "anabaptist" the label for that faith family means, "rebaptized."