Monday, August 31, 2009

Sermon: Pentecost 13 - Year B

“ doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves,” the apostle James tells his parishioners.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Warms the heart of every Christian who wants to see churches living and active. It lights a fire underneath us when we get spiritually lazy.

“ doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

But Martin Luther HATED the letter of James. And there was a reason that Martin Luther HATED it. And when I say, “hate” I mean a viscous, hostile, anger towards this part of holy scripture. Martin Luther called this letter “the epistle of straw, whose only good is to light my fire.”

Tearing pages out of the bible and using them for kindling isn’t exactly what pops into our heads when we think of the great church reformer, the great defender of the bible, the one after whom we name our “Lutheran” church.

But he did say this. And he wasn't joking.

“ doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

Luther was worried that folks would hear this passage and become confused. After all, Luther staked his...(whole thing here)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sermon: Pentecost 12 - Year B

Today's OT reading is about the climax of Solomon's reign – his crowning achievement. The temple is finished and the ark of the covenant – the ark where the tablets that held the 10 commandments while the people of Israel journeyed through the wilderness - is laid to rest in the temple’s inner sanctuary after a long journey.

It is a treasured moment. And yet, for all that God's people have achieved, for all that God had done for them, mixed emotion probably ran through the crowd.

Yes, FINALLY, they are like other nations. They have a strong king, a thriving capital city (Jerusalem), and a temple in which to worship. They had arrived.

And yet – at what price?

They have a king – but like all other kings, this king kills his enemies a bit too freely. This king lives a lavish lifestyle on the backs of his people.

They have a capital city and strong infrastructure - as well as the headaches that go with that: excessive taxation, centralized governing authorities who protect their own interests rather than the peoples' they are supposed to serve.

They have a temple in the centre of the city. A church. A Cathedral. A house in which to worship their God. But God's house was built with forced labour. Slaves. And adorned with gold while the people went hungry.

It's like the people of Israel had forgotten their past. It's like they'd forgotten who God is and how God wants them to live.

And, although Solomon comes off in this story as a fully devoted servant of the Lord, we know that that's not always the case.

He is wise – yes – but so often he's...(whole thing here)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Unity or Conformity? A Mission Question

When the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) came out in 1978, I’m told the idea was to create unity (conformity?) in worship among Lutherans. By which I mean that a Lutheran could walk into any Lutheran church in Canada (or the US) and have the same worship experience - hear the same liturgy, sing the same hymns. This, I was told, was meant to foster cohesiveness among Lutherans.

But I wonder if that was a worthy goal to begin with.

In seminary when we complained that using the LBW was too boring because it was too static, we were told to “look at the rubrics. There’s lots of ways to play around with the service to deal with the monotony.”

Rubrics, h’uh?

Now, it seems the wind has shifted. Lutherans now use a variety of resources to create worship experiences that meet local needs. I guess God is more interested in people using their creativity than in making sure we’re in lock step.

But more than that, part of being Lutheran is the freedom to chart our own congregational course, with the Holy Spirit’s help. Especially in worship. Luther, apparently, encouraged congregations to create their own liturgies, lest the liturgy itself became a “work” or “law.”

That’s why I was a little concerned when the Evangelical Lutheran Worship came out. It seemed to me to be another grasp at conformity. Which, in a way, I guess it was. 2/3rds of the hymns can be found in the LBW. So, clearly, it was meant as a replacement to fulfill the same function as the earlier book.

But it looks to me now, that churches are using it as one resource among many. I know that’s how my congregation uses it.

However, we have a divided church. Much more divided than the ELCA. At least that’s how it looks to me (yesterday, the ELCA passed their Social Statement on Human Sexuality with a super majority of 60%. Only a third of elected delegates voted against it. The number would be higher in Canada.).

But I think what binds us together as Lutherans is our Christian freedom, the semi-autonomy of the local congregation. That is our strength.

It’s also why we fight.

But if we’re to re-claim the mission of the church, then we need the freedom to engage our own contexts in local ways, using local means. Just as God made each person unique, so God made each church. So, I think that God wants us be in mission in our own unique ways.

This may mean that some of institution will die. Our organization as a church body will change. Our roles will shift.

And this will hurt. But whoever said that God’s mission would be easy?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Overheard at our house

Our Seven-year-old: Look, daddy! I'm wearing mommy's clergy shirt!

Me: Looks good. Are you practicing for when you become a pastor?

OSYO: No, I'm practicing for when I become a PIRATE! They wear the same clothes!

I guess the second commandment was just a suggestion. Among other things.

Yep, when I read the Bible, this is the picture of God that springs to mind. Who needs a cross when you have a Kalashnikov AK-47?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Carl Nielson Symphony No. 4

To cleanse your ears from the craziness below.

and Niels Gade:

The first piece I played with an orchestra. I was 15.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Creepiest Worship Ever

The first verse is a typically saccharine praise song. But wait for the second verse. O Yes. Just wait.



Saturday, August 08, 2009

Denver Musings Part 2

While I didn't learn anything new at the conference, what I really enjoyed about it was hearing about all the creative and innovative ministries happening in the ELCA.

The area of most growth seems to be in ethnic ministries, Hispanic, Somali, Korean and other Asian backgrounds and cultures, seem to be on the forefront of church renewal. And many of these missions are being developed by laypeople. Not one collar in sight. They've been commissioned and sent to form churches from within their own ethnic communities. And are being educated and trained as they go. Which was why they were there.

I LOVE this model. And I don't think it should be restricted to ethnic ministries. I don't think there should be a disconnect between doing theology and doing mission. The two should be done together because they are Which is why I think the parish should be the primary place of theological education.

Theology is God talk. An exploration into what God has done/is doing in the world. So it makes sense that theology is done primarily where people are living out what they believe God is asking them to do.Theological reflection and missional activity go foot in sandal.

Of course, the ELCA also has more traditional mission starts. And if they still work, then God bless 'em.

But I have to question the door-knocking bit. One developer said he knocked on over 1200 doors and received 3 members from these efforts, “But it was three members we wouldn't have received any other way,” he said.

The question I have is, where did he get the other 900(!) members of his church? And would he have gotten more if he used the methods to recruit those members instead of the hundreds of hours he spent interrupting peoples' day? I dunno. I'm just asking.

We heard about emerging churches, multi-site churches, house churches, churches in coffee shops, and traditional churches. Some missions are extraordinarily effective. Others are struggling to get by.

But at least they're trying new things. They gave me a lot of hope for the church's future.

The Psychedelic Furs live at the Hammersmith Odeon

Must have seen the Furs play 8 or 9 times. Always an awesome show. Just when I thought I've outgrown the '80's, this appears and cranks up my nostalgia meter.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Overqualified and unemployed.

Kate Baggott gives some tips on how to comfort (minister?) to an overqualified friend who just got laid-off.

(Full disclosure: I went to high school with Kate. But its a good article despite our St. Catharines education)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sermon: Pentecost 9 Year B

Pentecost 9B from Good Shepherd on Vimeo.


Hi Folks, since I'm on an airplane between Denver and Edmonton right now, and because you see the communion elements on the table, and no one with the word “Reverend” in front of their name here at the church, you're probably wondering what's going on.

Well, we're going to try something new. Actually, its very old. We're using pre-consecrated elements for Holy Communion. In other words, the bread and wine were consecrated – blessed – at a previous worship service for use in later eucharistic gatherings.

Before you get all uptight about this (I'm looking at you, Torben), let me say that this was NOT my idea. It was Bishop Ron's idea. So, if you have trouble with this, take it up with Bishop Ron.

I had breakfast with him at last month's National Convention and he mentioned that this was a practice that they used when he was the pastor at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Red Deer.

I've handed out an outline of his reasoning with the bulletin. I draw your attention to number 2:

We are under obligation to provide access to Word and Sacrament for God's people. We are also required to do everything decently and in order. What would "decently and in order" look like if we pre-consecrated elements for use at a future Eucharist in a congregation?

• Those who will be receiving these elements at a future time need to see them being consecrated; i.e. pre-consecration is done with the knowledge of the people and in their presence as a worshipping body.

The people who will be receiving these elements need to be witness to each of the 4 Eucharistic actions: i.e. taking, blessing, breaking, giving. I am not aware that there is any specific prohibition of taking and blessing - before the face of the people - and then a week later, breaking and giving - to those same people. They have been witness to, and partaken of, the Eucharist in its fullness.

Taken literally, only those who were here on July 19 would be allowed to take communion... since, according to Bishop Ron's suggestion that the elements need to be consecrated in the presence of “those same people” who would later receive the pre-consecrated bread and wine. Assuming that I remembered to pre-consecrate the bread and wine. Which I didn't. And the deacons didn't remind me. Shaaaaaammmmme.

But of course, by “people” we could...(whole thing here)