And Now for the Real Beginning

I’ve been Senior Pastor of Grace Lutheran for eight months and sixteen days and have now come to the end of my honeymoon. I got the first real complaint, though it was minor, and really more about the past than the present. But it was there and I am so glad I received it.

Glad? Certainly. First, because the person with the concern called me first, voiced his concern and listened to my response. Second, he said “others” agreed, but named names! Third, when it came up in a meeting, the person listened to my response, appreciated my assurance I would re-evaluate and look into the issue, and then said words I’ve heard rarely in my ministry: “Ultimately, you are the spiritual overseer of this congregation and your decision will be respected and followed.”

Wow. That makes me really want to work toward a good solution and compromise!

But the real reason I was glad? Because it means people are growing comfortable with me. Comfortable enough to bring complaints. Comfortable enough to show true colors. It’s like the first fight with a girlfriend, or the first fight after the (real) honeymoon. It is the reality of sin and the necessity of patience, of forgiveness, of listening and seeking understanding, of bearing with one another, of submitting to one another, even in matters of great importance, and of restoration and cooperation. It shows the relationship is real, and worth the work. A pastor who is never opposed is as fake and plastic as a wife who never fights with her husband, or children with their father.

I have been so very thankful for the relatively peaceful transition to this office, and now I find myself appreciating and loving this congregation all the more, and thanking God for His mercy and generosity to me, one unworthy of it all.

A Confused and Tottering Faith

Let us consider those others of whom Christ said, ‘And those upon the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, and they have no root. These believe for a while and in time of temptation depart away.’ There are men whose faith has not been proved. They depend simply on words and do not apply their minds to examining the mystery. Their piety is sapless and without root. When they enter the churches, they feel pleasure often in seeing so many assembled. They joyfully receive instruction in the mysteries from him whose business it is to teach, and laud him with praises. They do this without discretion or judgment, but with unpurified wills. When they go out of the churches, at once they forget the sacred doctrines and go about in their customary course, not having stored up within themselves anything for their future benefit. If the affairs of Christians going peacefully and no trial disturbs them, even then they scarcely maintain the faith, and that, so to speak, and it confused and tottering state. When persecution troubles them and enemies of the truth attack the churches of the Savior, their heart does not love the battle, in their mind throws away the shield and flees.

Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42

Weekly Eucharist

I love, love, love having the weekly Eucharist at Grace. Not just on Sundays, but also at “Grace Night” –our Wednesday night Spoken Mass.

I love seeing the children come forward, hands out, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. I love seeing the faithful file forward in silence being fed. The Brute Squad must ignore this–but I also enjoy the use of the side chapel which has no pulpit, and preaching and hearing my Associate Pastor preach among the people (though have a statue over there like near the main chancel would be cool).

Those of you who don’t experience (gasp!) or receive this truly do not know what you are missing. To you who value this at Grace, thank you.

We’re all Glory Hounds

I’m having a great morning, getting things done, making phone calls, attending to pastoral duties. Church attendance was pretty poor yesterday, as were the other statistics of congregational health (let the reader understand), but we had threatening weather, so not even that fact will make me sour. I’m in a good mood. Things are going right. The kids are well, the dining room is painted, I’m working on my dream fishtank build at home. We’re closing on our house here at the end of the month, God willing. Life is good.

Then I read this, written by Martin Luther:

“”If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and count on having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies [Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9]. They will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted, or believed and produces fruit, there the holy cross cannot be missing [Acts 14:22]. And let no one think that he shall have peace [Matthew 10:34]. He must risk whatever he has upon earth—possessions, honor, house and estate, wife and children, body and life. Now, this hurts our flesh and the old Adam [Ephesians 4:22]. The test is to be steadfast and to suffer with patience [James 5:7-8] in whatever way we are assaulted, and to let go whatever is taken from us [1 Peter 2:20-21]” (Large Catechism III, 65).

Ah. That’s disappointing. Trouble is around the corner. Not to sound like Chicken Little or Eeyore but I should expect this not to last. Who knows what disaster might fall? Perhaps the sin of a random stranger, perhaps in my household. Perhaps I will do something so incredibly foolish and prideful and bring all kinds of trouble on my head. Controversies at the next meeting, at the school, who knows. It’s all going to crumble. So much for the good life.

But this exposes the lie: we ought not glory in those worldly things like worldly success and prosperity, like smooth sailing at work and home. These are not permanent, and they are under our enemy’s cross hairs. ” If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) Our hope and glory is not in this life, but in the life to come–in the Resurrection. Right now we walk the way of the cross, following Christ to the grave, but also to our resurrection.

Before I read that quote from Luther, I had fallen into that old theology of glory trap of measuring goodness and peace and joy in temporal, external, worldly things. After all, in our heart of hearts, we’re all theologians of glory. We expect and dream of peace and success and joy at every turn, and the news that this life is dangerous and the cross of Christ is over and in front of us–and our own crosses too–exposes our leaning toward false glory.

Elevation of host and chalicInstead, the Word calls us to true glory, to lasting peace, to the Host and Cup lifted high, proclaiming the Peace of God found in Christ Himself, in the blessings of the Eucharist, that sacred offering of God for us. Our glory is in Christ, lowered into the Jordan and anointed with the Spirit. He is our glory and peace. Not those things that are created, but in Christ our Lord.

St. Utopia –from Pr. Peters

Pastor Peters is becoming a favorite blogger, and I’m afraid I’m becoming a ditto-head. Read this post in its entirety at his blog about dissatisfaction, wish dreams and the like, and the reality of the Gospel and life together. Here’s a sample:

The cause of Pastor and people is not the perfect church.  If it were, as they used to say, you would not be allowed in.  Even more to the point, when we spend our whole time lamenting what is wrong, we fail to see the work of God in our midst.  As much as we yearn for a perfect church, God, in His generosity and mercy has always worked among imperfect people and structures to do His perfect will. …

Discontent breeds only discontent.  Dissatisfaction that shows itself in complaint leads only to misery — a misery in which we are far too comfortable.  It is always easier to complain about what is wrong than to work for what is good, right, true, noble, beautiful, and of God.

Four Thoughts on Lang and Lent

“Throughout the season of Lent, the following traditional customs may be observed: the Collect for Ash Wednesday is said after the Collect for the Day in every service of the season.” (Paul Lang, Ceremony and Celebration. CPH, 1965)

First: who knew besides the liturgically-minded from Tridentine Rite practice?

Second: This book is out of print.

Third: This book being out of print is both a symptom and cause of the liturgical disorder among us.

Fourth: CPH–republish this book!

That is all….For now.


The Build Begins!

So my gracious wife consented to “giving” me a 125 gallon used tank for Christmas. I found it on Craigslist not far from my house. The owner was selling the reef-ready tank, stand, acrylic sump, return pumps for $250. He threw in some circulation pumps and sand and helped me load the beast as well.

Right now its sitting on my garage floor. The stand was in worse shape than I thought, so that will have to be rebuilt. I need to clean it, paint the back glass and then water-test it again. I’ve also got to paint the wall where the tank will go. Then I’ll be ready to move it in.

In the meantime, I’m saving my “allowance money” and waiting for some warmer weather. I’ll post pictures soon.

Changes and Fish Tanks

I made a few changes to the blog and wanted to introduce them.

First is the expanded categories and pages at the top. Second, is the addition of the “Fish Tank” category. I plan on using this space to journal my 125 gallon reef tank that I got for Christmas. If I set this up right, then those posts will appear only there, not cluttering up the topics most of you come here to read–the theology and “pastor’s life” stuff I usually post…when I feel like posting.

If you’re interested in the ups and downs, the technical data, discussions on reef-keeping and aquatic husbandry, then by all means read the new page. Otherwise, here’s to 2013!