Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How refreshing!

When researching a topic on the internet, it is easy to get side tracked. But sometimes there's a perfect storm--a coming together of what you were thinking about 30 minutes ago, with the topic you're researching. In my case, I was looking up the medallions in the library at Prague that depict John Huss, John Wycliffe, and Martin Luther. I came across the web page of The La Vista Church of Christ, located near Omaha, Nebraska. Two things impressed me. 1) An easily navigated web page that instantly brings up the information--my huge, wealthy Lutheran church with experts and staffing out the wazoo hasn't been able to achieve this in 8 years of trying; 2) what the church is about.

"The church has no bowling league, no softball team, nor does it sponsor a Boy Scout troop. We have an air-conditioned building with several rooms for Bible classes, but there is no kitchen, no banquet hall, no gymnasium, or party room.

Perhaps you are wondering what kind of church is this, or what does the church offer the community. Quite simply, we are a church that follows after the pattern of the New Testament. We are not a social club, nor a civic organization, nor a political forum, nor a welfare institution. While the influence of the church and its members are felt in all these areas, the church, itself, is none of these things. The church is a spiritual institution, which administers to the spiritual needs of its members and the community."

I've gone no deeper. We may be a few miles apart in theology--I know we are on the role of women in the church. But isn't this refreshing? A church that doesn't let its programming get in the way of its message about Jesus!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

When the gospel of Christ is not preached,

those who are suffering in their sins are told by this exclusion that their hope is not to be found in the church. Instinctively, people realize that they are lost. I would go so far as to say that people know in their own hearts that they are spiritually dead. Why else would we advertise revival meetings and why do new teachings arise? As a church, we have a responsibility to lift up no god but the one true God. The one who is a savior to all who believe. We need to lift up Christ in our teachings and our sacraments at all times and remind people that there is life beyond the death that we are born into. Coffee Swirls

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Our hope

In the Baker's Dictionary of Christian Ethics, (1973) Hope is defined as
    "the conviction that God will judge the evil of the world and create a new heaven and a new earth with righteousness. The Old Testament prophets tell us that the whole of history is divinely ordered, and interpreted even the most hopeless hours in the light of the coming victory of God. A new age will replace the present one and end all woe and sin."
I suspect that isn't the direction Barry and Mama Obama are taking us.
    "The New Testament takes up the theme of the Old Testament idea, but elucidates, sharpens, and specifies it at the same time."
Is this where Obama comes in?
    "Jesus through his life, suffering, death, and resurrection laid the basis for that final intervention of God in history and human experience. Christian hope is concerned with the future of every human being, but it does not end there. The overarching concern encompasses the new humanity or Christ's church."
So the hope is the Kingdom of God? Seems to be some disagreement even among Christians about "what is our hope?"
    "The theologians of hope want to rewrite theology in terms of categories of change--a total restructuring takes place where God is seen as part of the changing process."
Hmm. Did this guy write Obama's theme speeches? Hope, future, change? This might be the most religious guy we've ever had running for the White House! Oh, wait.
    "As promised in the Scriptures, [hope is] demonstrated in the resurrection of God's Son, and experienced by Christians in the past and present."

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Cross posted by Collecting My Thoughts

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A leap of faith

into the arms of Jesus.

Evel Knievel (1938-2007) gives his testimony of how Jesus grabbed and hung on.

HT Random Responses.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A template for pastors

Our congregations (3 locations, 10 services) are reading/preaching through the New Testament. This week we start Romans. I was struck by what a wonderful template it is for pastors--both in outline and topics. Always begin with the gospel. Paul goes on to remind the Christians in Rome of many other points--don't conform to the world, be joyful in hope, pay your taxes, bear with the weak, keep your bodies holy--but he starts with the gospel. It won't make any difference what else you've taken as your topic of the day or Sunday School lesson, if you don't ground it in the gospel, it isn't love and it's a clanging cymbal.

One of our pastors, Jeff Marian, has received a call from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minnesota (Minnesota's next to heaven for good Lutherans, I've concluded--at least in the USA). UALC sends him out with love and regrets--he has a large following here, and his oratory is magnificent (I'm sure there's a better theological term, but it escapes me at the moment). So from the book of Romans, here's my send off (modified letter from Paul) for Pastor Jeff:

Jeff, a servant of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle
set apart for the gospel of God,
the gospel God promised us beforehand
His prophets in the Holy Scriptures
His Son Jesus,
who as to his human nature was a descendant of David
who through the Holy Spirit
was declared with power
to be the Son of God
by his resurrection from the dead.
Through him and for his name's sake,
Jeff has received grace and apostleship
to call the people of Minnesota
to obedience that comes from faith in Jesus Christ.
And we also, here in Columbus at UALC,
are among those who are called
to belong to Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Do you need a score card for Lutheran bodies?

Pastor David Jay Webber of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Scotsdale, AZ maintains many website, and one is this list of Lutheran bodies, some in fellowship with each other, some not. I've enjoyed looking through his websites. It's easier to read his Ukrainian Lutheran site than it is ours, which is a turn key system that is so complicated, even those of us who know what we're looking for can't find anything. The Ukrainian site is even translated into Russian. I wonder if he hires out?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Easter is really early this year. Our Lytham location had 3 services--early a.m., noon, and 7:30. My husband and I served communion for the evening service. In the morning at Panera's almost everyone I saw had the gray cross on their foreheads. The ashes are from last year's Palm Sunday, I've been told. One family of five that I recognized sat near by and the father prayed over their bagels--and it was a long prayer--I think in his language, although the three children speak beautiful English. It was a beautiful way to start the Lenten season.

Cross posted at Coffee Spills

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Church of the Best Buy

In yesterday's Columbus Dispatch there was a small ad for the Best Buy Scholarship fund. I don't think I own BB stock, but I shop at Best Buy once a year for my son-in-law--it sells "consumer electronics, home-office products, entertainment software, appliances and related services through more than 1,200 retail stores across the United States, throughout Canada and in China." Volunteerism figures prominently at its corporate website. 1500 of the scholarships (non-renewable) are $1,500, but 51 are for $10,000--well worth taking the time to apply.

The ad I saw was all words, but shaped like a human, and it listed all the volunteer activities high school students might be doing which would qualify them for a Best Buy college scholarship. It was really quite clever and well done. Here's the list, and notice #14. (I added the numbers.)
    1. Worked at the local food pantry.
    2. Mentor
    3. Picked up garbage off the freeway
    4. Delivered meals on wheels.
    5. Tutored a 2nd grader.
    6. Walked the neighbor's 2 dogs.
    7. Visited residents at a nursing home.
    8. Rang the ------ (unreadable) for a total of --??--- hours.
    9. Raked leaves for elderly people.
    10. Mentor for a 3rd grader,.
    11. Mowed the lawn for a handicapped neighbor for the past 4 summers.
    12. Shoveled snow for Mrs. Jones.
    13. Volunteered at a book drive to raise money for children's literacy.
    14. Got a B+ on my chemistry test.
    15. Organized a school blood drive,.
    16. Basketball coach for 5th grade boys.
    17. Read to toddlers at the local bookstore.
    18. Children's summer program assistant.
    19. Wildlife nursery volunteer.
    20. Cooked for homeless teens on the week-end.
The only academic item on this list is a B+ in chemistry, and it is so different than the others, (it was the left arm of the figure), it almost looks like an error. The scholarship does have a grade point requirement, and obviously, the selectors are not looking for a teen who did all of this. In fact, a B+ in chemistry won't get you far in academic competitions--perhaps that's why it was included, to encourage the less than stellar students to apply.

What I like about this list is, 1) specificity, and 2) age appropriateness. They are not asking 15 year olds to go out and organize farm workers, picket abortion clinics, sleep on the streets with the homeless, or build homes for low income people. The list just by appearing in the paper shows that everyone, no matter how young, can do something close to home (and close to a Best Buy store, which is part of the FAQ). Only #20 seems out of place, considering the logistics and exclusivity of the idea (a pizza party with other teens sounds like a better idea to me rather than let-me-help you-feel-inadequate).

I think it is nice that Best Buy is a good corporate citizen, that it helps the communities from which it earns its income, and that its employees have opportunities to volunteer. However, I also believe its first commitment has to be to its real mission, to make money honestly in an ethical manner for its investors, which will in turn be good for its employees, the U.S. economy and the global economy.

This is a good lesson for youth staff of churches--as long as they keep in mind their real mission, which is to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ--his life, death and resurrection--discipling their youth to move out into the community, and not just compiling to-do lists to keep their young, affluent members busy with feel-good projects. Nothing is wasted in God's economy, so even if the project benefits no one, God can bless. But how much better to not innoculate children against true mercy and kindness when there might be a better lesson in their own school or home.

[Most of this is cross-posted from Collecting My Thoughts]

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mixed bag Sunday: music, Russian, and multitasking

Our new pastor, Eric Waters, has a degree in Russian. He even worked in Russia--Siberia, I think, and that's where the Lord tracked him down and claimed him. Now this eastern, Ivy League, former Catholic, is a Lutheran pastor. Maybe I'll brush up on my Russian and some morning (if they let him preach at Lytham Rd.) I'll just go through the greeting line after church and say something brilliant, but with a bad accent. His installation is at 3 p.m. today. The community/congregation is very excited. He's getting a doctorate in something--Bible related, not Russian.

There are some people who apparently don't know the Prelude is part of the morning worship service, and they use that time to catch up on friendships instead of preparing. As the organ music swells, their voices get louder. And more distracting. I hate to be a nag (actually, I don't), but I wanted to produce a loud SHUSH! That's the librarian in me. Or is it? How do you feel about whispering, chattering and giggling during worship?

During Advent I was serving communion with another woman. Behind us a row or two was a woman who whispered during the entire sermon--but only the sermon. I suspect she was praying in tongues, but I can't be sure. I don't know if she didn't like the topic and wanted protection or if she was praying for the pastor, but I thought my co-server was going to turn around and toss a hymnal at her.

Sometimes we think these distractions just bother us more as we age, but studies have shown that really, no one does well with multi-tasking. You're far better off to remove some of the distractions and focus on the task at hand. Even your teen-ager who truly believes she needs music blasting directly to her brain through ear buds, the TV on, her e-mail screen up on the computer, all while text-messaging her girlfriends when studying for the algebra exam, is just kidding herself.

I have nothing "noise emitting" turned on at the moment, but if I sit quietly and don't type, here's what I distinctly hear: to my left is a forced air register so I hear the air; to my right is the Compact CPU, and from time to time it pauses and gurgles; outside my room and from my husband's office I hear something that sounds like chirping, and I know that it is what his TV sounds like funneled through the stairway; on this floor in the kitchen, I can hear when the refrigerator kicks in. These are not noisy appliances and they all are in good condition. Then if I shift a little, I can hear my clothing, and then the thump of the cat as she jumps off my lap onto the carpeted floor. Boomers and gen-x'ers probably hear a lot less since they were raised on rock.

If I turned on the TV, CD player, radio, or an Internet broadcast, all that other noise would still be there. At one of our church services (I don't attend that one) the music is so amplified a jet bearing Jesus for his return could land in the parking lot and no one would hear it in the service.