Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Advent will soon be upon us and coming up is the last Sunday in the church year. Advent is a time of preparation, to get myself ready once again for the coming of our Lord to earth as a helpless baby. Each year brings new depth to this great remembering of that world changing event. Even though is a penitential season, as church, we are not fasting. Instead we are feasting and having fellowship on Thursday evenings. I am somewhat sad that we will stop celebrating Matins for a period, but thrilled that throughout Advent, we will have daily Eucharist services. It is daily confirmed that I made the right choice in joining Redeemer. I wish that I could close on this house so that I could buy furniture and really celebrate Christmas in the way my parents taught me. Next year for sure.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home At Last

After forty-five years, I think I'm finally (back) where I belong. I took so much for granted growing up that I thought after seventeen years I was ready for the world away from my church cocoon. I was very wrong, not prepared at all and maybe I am one of those people who should never stray too far away from the influence of my church. I became convinced some time ago that I should have gone to a Lutheran college. Anyway, over the past years I have been edging back to where I started and it feels good.
I ran across a letter I started a year or so ago and think I should post it:
This is a plea to all the liturgical churches: stop hiding your light. Stop trying to be the mega-church around the corner. Recognize your rightful place within the bride of Christ. I am both sickened and saddened by the direction of modern Christianity. Its almost exclusive focus is on the self, the individual. It's in the sappy music. It's in the pap filled Christian book store around the corner. It's in thousands of Christian pulpits. And, it's driving me crazy. Not only have these churches co-opted the the historical term "evangelical", they have convinced the world that their often heretical brand of Christianity is the main stream of Christianity. This self-help style of Christianity is not only unbiblical, but often no Christianity at all.
I know, I know...other than that, how do you feel?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Church

It's been since Easter that I've written anything to the blog and so much has happened that I should have posted. I left Oregon on a wild drive to Indiana that included almost running out of gas sixty miles from anywhere and a breakdown in Wyoming. My oldest son, Jeremy, came out to Oregon and drove back with me. So now I am in Fort Wayne, the city of my birth and first seventeen years. But it is forty-five years later and things have changed. I am in the house that I am buying, the closing keeps getting held up, so I am paying rent until the close. In the meantime, I have been holding off buying furniture, so the house is largely empty. On the other hand, it's warm and dry.
After some church shopping, I have joined Redeemer Lutheran, part of the English District of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. It is a church I have been looking for for some time. I have long felt the LCMS was a liturgical jewel and couldn't figure out why they weren't touting that instead of chasing the church growth movement. Redeemer is a church that is all about liturgical worship in the Lutheran tradition. I have know about it for since I was in high school with "Liz" Lindemann, daughter Redeemer's pastor at that time. The current pastor, Rev. David Peterson is committed to Lutheran worship in it's finest form. I have started going to Morning Prayer daily at 7:10, which I assume we'll keep up until Advent, when we start having daily Eucharist at that time. I feel very blessed to be part of a church community that so honors the Lutheran tradition.
I haven't really made any friends, yet, but I think that is largely my fault. I tend to isolate, instead of joining groups of folk with similar interests. With God's help, I can change all that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Post Easter

The week after Easter, is always a time for me to catch my breath. Lent builds to a climax, a nadir of emotions on Good Friday followed by the high of Easter's joyous celebrations. It's like the catharsis in Arisotle's definition of a good play. Anyway, I am glad to sit back for a second and have time for a less intensive look at the past weeks.
My relocation plans are on track. The inspector I hired found little wrong with the property, although the non-working doorbell was almost a deal breaker. The few small items he found, the seller has agreed to repair. Now, I'm trying to be in contact with the lender so I have no cash surprises at closing. I may have found a buyer for my fifth wheel. I had hoped to be able to give it away, but I think it would be financially imprudent to do so. Realism once again rears its ugly head.
For the first time in 62 years, I am starting to worry about my health. Most would say its about time. I finally realized that I want to enjoy my new home and the many activities available to me. In many ways, I have been in the desert and returning to Fort Wayne will be a rich oasis. Oh, I realize, it's not all that, but compared to where I've been the last fifteen years it will be astonishing. Oregon is amazingly beautiful, but so is the Midwest in a different way. Honestly, I have never really felt at home here. Maybe I won't feel at ease there either, but I must try. I know it will be closer to the way I've lived for most of my life and the community religious atmosphere will be more comfortable than here. There is both a large Lutheran and Catholic presence here, so worshiping in the historic liturgical tradition is not regarded as unusual. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that schools, government and many businesses still observed the practice of closing on Good Friday at noon and most churches held services at noon, many with ceremonies extending till three p.m.. I am now praying daily for both wisdom in my health and the successful outcome of my relocation plans.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Holy Week, 2010

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! The ancient words announcing the empty tomb. Today it is Easter. Our church was overflowing. Hallelujah!
Holy Week was a long one with a bad cold in the early part of the week. Maundy Thursday, my church did a Seder meal and I fixed lamb, roast vegetables, and the charoset for thirty people. This was followed by our Maundy Thursday service. Pastor had asked me to come up with a liturgy for the service and he surprised me by deciding to use it, so had to do a lot of reading that I didn't feel up to. I will hate to leave this little church in Sutherlin, it is full of dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
I will be moving back to the city of my birth and early years, Fort Wayne. Although, I've been planning it for a while, it seems like it is happening all too quickly. It will be interesting to be back in the land of Lutherans and Catholics, both of every stripe. Fort Wayne, as a community still observes Good Friday closings and most churches had services from noon to three. Yesterday, I had a minor anxiety attack about the upcoming house buy and move. Why can I never seem to accept that it is all in God's hands? I have so many doubts.
Learned yesterday of a new oratorio which sounded very interesting. It probes the more human side of Mary, especially. We don't know much about her, but if one thinks about it, even if she freely acknowledged Jesus as God's son, she must have wrestled with her anger over his crucifixtion. "Why my son"? Because He was her son, too. I have never thought about this too much, but how she must have struggled. She must have been proud to know that He was the Chosen One, but what a price for a mother. And though Jesus knew what He must do, to see His mother in anguish, must have been especially horrible.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I threatened to put up my homily for the next to last Wednesday in Lent, so here goes.
In the words of St. Paul, "Grace, mercy and peace be unto you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Tonight we are at the end of our slow and solemn walk to a most sacred time in the history of the world, the awful fulfillment of God's promise of salvation. This walk started back in the garden when Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world. He promised to send a Messiah that would crush the serpent's head and immediately sacrifices an animal, maybe a lamb, for the skins that would cover Adam and Eve, a covering for their sin. So we learn early on that there is no redemption without sacrifice. We see this throughout the Old Testament with Abraham and Isaac, with the Passover miracle in Egypt that we remember next week, and now we are at the point of God's ultimate sacrifice for our redemption, that of his only son, Jesus, the Christ.
The priests and their mob have spoken, "We have no king but Caesar," and Pilate, anxious to maintain order sends Jesus to be crucified. Jesus is stripped of the mocking robe, dressed in his clothes and is marched off to be crucified. As was the common practice, He is forced to carry the heavy crossbeam that soon he will be viciously nailed to. He is pushed through the angry crowd, many of which had hailed Him with joyful hosannas only a few days earlier. We humans are pretty fickle, like Peter praising Him one day, denying the next. Yet, Jesus continues in His love for us, going forward in the ultimate act of love and sacrifice and so pushes forward to the place of his death.
The common location for crucifixions in Jerusalem was outside the city, known as Golgotha, the Skull. In their efforts in maintain order in the far flung empire the Romans punished violently and obviously. They wanted those punished to be seen and to be examples, so a hill by a road was a perfect location. The cross, if you will, a gory signpost advertising the power of Rome. Often these signposts were labeled, on Jesus' cross would be nailed a multilingual placard reading "The King of the Jews". Passersby could read this title in Aramaic, Greek, or Latin. Was this part of God's plan? I think so. Even at this point of despair, God used Pilate to proclaim the truth to any who would see: this truly was the king of the Jews, their long awaited Christ, if, as Jesus often said, they had eyes to see. The Jewish priests were not happy, though and protested to Pilate. His answer, a rather childish, "What I have written, I have written." And so, this minor Roman official, perhaps the most famous judge in history, passes from the scene, otherwise hardly a footnote in the history of man.
The gospels tell us that Jesus stumbled, unable to carry the beam upon which he would spend his last moments as a man. Is it any wonder? After a long night of prayer, and beatings and humiliation, his body gave out. The ever efficient Romans grabbed a passerby, a Simon, not even from Jerusalem, probably in town for the Passover, to carry the grisly crosspiece up the hill to the killing place. We don't know if this Simon knew anything about Jesus. I doubt it, I think his choice was do it or face immediate Roman punishment. It's amazing what you can do with a sword at your throat. I like to think I would have pushed through the angry mob and offered to help our Lord, to give Him some little honor in His last moments, but, honestly, I don't think so. I think I probably would have been hiding out with the other disciples, scared, thinking all is lost, my Lord is doomed.
The grisly parade continued...John spares us the details and simply notes that he was crucified, meaning he was affixed to the cross until His death. History has given us the details of this terrible punishment. St. John does mention that the soldiers divided up his clothing. It was the custom, probably considered a benefit of these soldiers' detail. When they came to his undergarment and found it to be seamless, rather than rip it up they drew lots to see who would get this prize. John reminds us that this fulfills an ancient prophecy from the 22nd Psalm, "They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." Jewish readers would also be reminded of the seamless garments that God commanded the high priest to wear. Jesus is our high priest, offering this one last living sacrifice, Himself, for our salvation.
We don't know all who were there at the killing ground that day, but John tells us that he was there with Mary, Jesus' mother and the other two Marys. These few, for sure, stayed with Him through his final hours. But what of those others, His disciples, the crowds , that followed him and hung on Jesus' every word, where were they? I know that I much as I need to get close to the cross, I also want to turn away in shame, it should be me up there. It should be my sins being punished. Yet, Jesus, this spotless, sinless lamb is hanging there instead of me. I don't know what to think, I am ashamed, I am in awe, I am once again reminded of my helpless humanity in the face of God's plan for both our judgment and our redemption. Even at this point, Jesus last moments, he reaches out commanding John to take care of his mother, Mary; she to adopt John as her son, and so establishes a caring Christian community on earth, carrying out His great commandment to love one another. It's kind of where were at today, struggling to love one another. It's hard because we're not that attractive, we've got a lot of warts and rough spots, we're mostly pretty selfish people, not really wanting to put ourselves out too much, yet it is our sacred obligation to love one another as He has loved us. Look around you, here, in your family, in community, in our nation, the truth is only through Jesus can we truly love one another.
John tells us that then He accepted a drink and declared, "It is finished."
Fortunately, for us, we know the rest of the story, but did John and Mary, did the rest of the disciples, the many other followers who watched on that dark Jerusalem afternoon? They must have been devastated. We know that in only a few days, Jesus would reveal himself as the Risen Lord having crushed satin once and for all. Once and for all, redeeming those who believe in Him, defeating death and restoring God's plan for our eternal life. It's a full circle, the new Adam takes us back to the garden, home to paradise, home to eternal life with God.
Tonight brings us to the end of this horrible and wonderful story from Gethsemane to Golgotha and fortunately, we are right where we belong: at the foot of the cross. Thank God! Amen.
Now, as we ponder Jesus last moments on the cross, may God's peace which exceeds all understanding keep our hearts and minds on Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and Messiah Amen

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Time For Change
What a fickle fellow I am ! In a few short months, I have altered my future plans in a significant way. I woke up one day thinking, "this town doesn't even have a dry cleaners". Now, I don't even own anything that currently needs dry cleaning, but it became a symbol of the immense lack of goods and services in my locality. This then morphed into "what am I doing here"? My late sister's two sons and their families live here, but, honestly, I seldom see them. After my typical several days of brooding, I actually made a map of people in my life and it turned out to be a narrow strip running from Chicago to the Atlantic. I started investigating cities with the following criteria in mind: it must have a decent college or university, it must have decent public transport, and, of course, it must have a dry cleaners. After several weeks of looking, lo and behold, my choice became the place of my birth, Fort Wayne, Indiana. So, here I sit, closing in on a house and planning a move. My financial situation has improved and am now recieving both a pension and Social Security. Although I'm not, I feel quite rich!

In the midst of planning my move, I just put together a liturgy for Maundy Thursday and am halfway through a sermon for our last Wednesday night Lenten services. Since our pastor is less than full time, Wednesday services therefore are entirely run by the laity. I have spent much time in prayer and contemplation over this, which is good.

The liturgy class which started out trying to answer the question, "does liturgy shape doctrine or does doctrine shape liturgy?" I'm not sure we ever got a satisfactory answer, my gut feeling is both with a little more emphasis on the former, i.e. if Lutherans start to have services resembling the modern neo-evangelical mega-churches, it is my belief that they will eventually start to think like them. I find my self telling Lutherans who got on the Rick Warren bandwagon, "my problem isn't lack of purpose, my problem is sin". Is that a bit smug, I suppose so, but it is my gut. Tomorrow I will post my "sermon".