Friday, May 31, 2013

Supporting Life

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life is a big deal in many towns. It seems like a great organization, a great opportunity to get out there and walk all night to raise money and search for cures for cancer. I'm all in favor of cancer detection, treatment, and prevention. I'm in favor of life.

The American Cancer Society supports human embryonic stem cell research, a branch of research which not only has never found a cure for anything but which requires destruction of a human, albeit a very young human, each time it does an experiment. This is not in favor of life.

The American Cancer Society provides grants to Planned Parenthood, suggesting that they engage in cancer screening. In fact, Planned Parenthood does not do any cancer screening, they simply refer people to other organizations. Planned Parenthood is, however, the major provider of abortions in this country. This is not in favor of life.

Guess I can't participate in the Relay for Life. Despite the good that an organization may do, when it turns around and supports evil by providing funding and referrals for destruction of human life, I can't get onto that bandwagon.

Authority for Ministry

Neuhaus chapter four, “Authority for Ministry,” brings us back to the image of a minister as an ambassador of a disputed sovereign. Often the Church is seen primarily as an organization. This idea has been confused with the idea of the Church as an institution, that which was appointed by God. So the “institutional” Church is viewed rather as a human organization than a divine mission. Neuhaus observes that we have a divine mandate to proclaim Christ. That is the heart and center of the institution. It comes from God, not from social acceptance or from our business savvy. While some of the attributes of professionals can be applied to ministers, the Christian minister serves Christ and the community. The profession serves his own particular clients. These are fundamentally different concepts, which must be remembered.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Choice of Models

In Neuhaus chapter three, “A Choice of Models,” we face the task of finding our identity. Neuhaus observes that there are at least three facets to our identity. We are the Church as we view ourselves. We are also the Church as viewed by different elements in our community. Yet the community itself is at the same time that which we see, that which it identifies, that which exists with the Church present, and that which may exist without the presence of the Church. All these patterns are real. All have some validity in the way we approach all our ministry. All must be respected. Ultimately, without a clear identity, we will be rejected by our community and prove ineffective in ministry. With a clear identity we will be able to proclaim the reality of Christ boldly.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ministering by Hope beyond Apology

Neuhaus chapter two, “Ministering by Hope Beyond Apology,” brings out an interesting conundrum. We move beyond facts which exist, but never actually contradict fact. In God’s creation not all that is factual is in existence. Our preaching, teaching, and actions shed light on God’s kingdom, which, though often unseen, is entirely real. Neuhaus urges his readers to bring the presence of Jesus, the first century Jesus, boldly into today’s culture. Jesus himself will show that he is the Lord of all.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Thus and So-Ness of the Church

Neuhaus’ book, Freedom for Ministry, builds a philosophy of ministry in which the theological and sociological elements of pastoral care are balanced. From the outset, the idea of the pastor as an ambassador of a disputed sovereignty emerges as critical. The boundaries of the Church are thus drawn in theological terms, i.e., what we believe, teach, and confess, and in sociological terms, i.e., how we conduct ourselves in the world in light of those beliefs. Neuhaus considers it critical that we realize our beliefs will not be accepted or embraced within the greater culture, yet that we remain consistent in actions which are governed by those beliefs.

In chapter one, “The Thus and So-Ness of the Church,” Neuhaus focuses on the particularity of the Church. It is not acceptable to consider the Church as an institution that runs like any business. We do not exist to meet cultural felt needs. We look to the reality of the Gospel, though that reality is often unseen. When we become confused about our identity or our purpose we fail to be the Church.

Freedom for Ministry

Neuhaus, Richard John. Freedom for Ministry. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.

Summertime Reading?

I confess that I don't understand the concept of picking extra books for summertime reading. Just because sunrise is earlier and sunset is later doesn't mean I have more time to read. If anything, quite the opposite. Compare the amount of time I spend shoveling snow (a winter activity) to the amount of time spent weeding the garden, picking and preserving foods (a summer activity) and it seems time should be shorter in the summer.

I used to read really fast. I mean really, really fast. I wasn't convinced that I retained information very well, but I could whip through a book in very short order. Nowadays I've noticed I tend to read slowly, only a little faster than I read aloud. My mind tends to wander and I question whether my retention is that good.

To try fixing this I'm going to try doing some reading and writing summaries of what I read. Maybe posting it on my blog will help me feel somehow accountable. And maybe I can push myself to read faster, retain information long enough to write something about it, and get it posted. Some retention of more reading might be better than some retention of less reading.

I'll open a book with a bibliographic reference and will tag the post. Future chapters will not have the complete bibliographic reference but will have the same tag, so it should be possible to put the whole book together.

Sermon for 5/26/13 Acts 2:22-36

Sermon “Unshaken” (Acts 2:22-36)

Port of Huntington, very busy place, lots of barges of coal going down the Ohio River.
Peculiar type of tough people, guiding those barges.
don’t know the parallel in corn country, but you do
Series of pictures – another day on the river
headed downstream, can’t stop with a mile or more of warning
drawbridge doesn’t open
release barges, backwater as fast as possible
hit bridge, tow boat rolls onto side
force of blow turns tow boat upside down as passing under bridge
ballast rights tow boat other side of bridge
engines restart, pumps flinging water out of every open hatch
hurry downstream to catch up with barges
just another day on the river
Are you shaken when something goes wrong? Likely so, and all right.
How to apply a Psalm like Psalm 16, expressing trust?
not about us
about Jesus, the one whose life we live
Where’s confidence? Not in us, in Jesus’ security in the Father’s love.
Today, Trinity Sunday, we remember God, one God, in three persons.
one God
no shadow of change
no decay
no degeneration
no reason for fear
always perfectly secure
This is the God who has adopted you and me as we trust in Jesus.
This is the unshakeable God.
This is the Lord who never fails, who never falters, who never drowns in the river, who never is overwhelmed in a grain elevator accident, whose victory over death is complete, who shares his glory with us, those he has adopted as sons.

What does our life do? Has life thrown a closed drawbridge at you? Has life thrown accusations at you? Maybe you’ve been shaken. Maybe you’ve been knocked down. Maybe you have even despaired of forgiveness, life, and salvation. What hope do you have?

There is one God, only one God. He is in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And he has managed all your needs. He has felt all your grief. He has endured the weakness that belongs to you so he can give you his strength. He has endured all the hatred of this world, all the accusations of the Devil, so as to rescue you and present you safely to himself.

Who is it that can shake you? You belong to Jesus. As he is unshakable, so are you, by faith in his name.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sermon for 5/13/13 John 17:20-26

Sermon “One in the Love of Christ” John 17:20-26

Here’s how my life in social computing works. My daughter sends me a message. “Where’s Mom?” Then she sends her mom twenty messages, asking her questions. Mom is the one who seems to hold our household together, to bring sanity and organization to our lives.

It gets more complicated when we bring in another member of our family, the grandchild in another state.

Where’s Mom? Off with the grandbaby. EEEEK!

But after a little while we discover our equilibrium, often before she returns home.

What happens here, after the ascension, with the disciples?

Jesus is gone!
We thought he was gone when he died, but he rose again from the dead.
But now he’s gone! He appeared to us and then he left.
What do we do with this?
Where is our hope?
Where is the one we can trust?
How are we going to continue?

What did Jesus pray for his people?
For those who believe through their witness?
What did he pray for us?

Acts 1 – unity, prayer, recovering equilibrium
result? - the world may believe
Acts 2 – where we go next week at Pentecost
God the Holy Spirit poured out upon us
Ready to be mobilized as the people of God?
assurance - Jesus has given us the glory of God.
What more do we need?
How are we the expression of God's glory? - FORGIVENESS

This weekend our world celebrates Mother’s Day. And often in families it is the Mom who pulls everything together, who gives us stability, equilibrium. It’s a noble occupation.

But even more noble, let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation, the one in whom all things hold together, the one who has gone to the right hand of the Father, the one who will send the Holy Spirit. In just a week we celebrate the day of Pentecost, the birth of the Church. We know the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses, to be one as the Son and Father are one, to bring that Gospel witness and the assurance of Jesus’ love to our world.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sermon for 5/10/13 Funeral of Marian Harms

Sermon “No Longer Alone” John 12.23-26

Suffering, groaning, hope
These three seem to govern our lives, at least as we read in Romans 8.
Do we get stuck on the suffering and groaning? Where’s the hope?

Isaiah reminds us of God’s adoption
adoption – special challenges
not accepted by all the world
special struggles
special victories
makes a real family

In this real family in our sinful world we are in the process of laying down our lives, in small ways and in large ways.
allowing others to serve

Sometimes we get so busy laying down our lives we forget Jesus’ words. We don’t get beyond the suffering and groaning.

What did Jesus say?
Lay down life
Bear much fruit
Keep your life eternally

Friends and family live and die, they come into our lives, they change us, and they eventually move on, as will all of us. But as these grains of wheat fall into the ground and lay down their lives they bear much fruit. It’s eternal fruit. And we rejoice in those, like Marian, like all her family here, who lay down their lives for one another.

Sermon for The Ascension Ephesians 1

Sermon for The Ascension 5/9/13 – Ephesians 1:15-23

Open eyes! Look for the Lord’s coming!

The hope to which he has called you
living hope
abiding hope
hope in something real but unseen
our eventual resurrection & ascension
The riches of his glorious inheritance
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body
Innumerable brothers and sisters
The Holy Spirit guarding and guiding
His incomparably great power
salvation by grace through faith
forgiveness, life, and salvation
Word and sacrament
reality of baptism
reality of communion
all empowered by the Holy Spirit Jesus promised

Where do we look? Not staring at the sky like the apostles in Acts 1. Rather, engaged in this world
vertical relationship
horizontal relationship

Lord, open our eyes!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sermon for 5/5/13 "Ask Away!"

Here's another sermon from 5/5/13, "Ask Away" built on Jesus' statements in John 16.

Sermon for 5/5/13 Is It a Vision or Is It Real?

Sermon Is It a Vision or Is It Real?

We know in part and we prophesy in part
When Jesus calls us to him in that last day we will know fully
For now we have partial understanding
How to deal with that?

1) Jesus uses circumstances, including the Scripture, people, job opportunities, all sorts of circumstances to call us to the place where he wishes to use us.
Compare Paul and his decision to go to Macedonia – his perceiving the call brought the Gospel into Europe. What did he do there? The same things he would have been doing wherever he was. God used him in his circumstances to bring the Gospel to those people.

2) Sometimes Jesus gives us a vision that we don’t fully understand.
heavenly blessing
the nature of eternal life
his mercy shown upon us as we receive the Sacrament
the great patience he has
his forgiving nature
the way he gathers all sorts of people from all sorts of walks of life to make one body

We might understand some of it but probably not all. For instance, in Revelation, when we read about final judgment, notice that those whose names are written in the book of life, everyone who is trusting in Jesus, those people are perfectly safe. All who are trusting in Jesus receive his blessing, life, protection, comfort, joy. Do we understand? Not at all. We face struggles and trials every day. But he has given us his blessing. What of the end of the world?

build a case for amillennialism? at least guard the public nature of the resurrection and the security we can have that Jesus has called his people and they will not be in danger.

3) Whether it is a vision, a highly symbolic passage of Scripture, or a bold promise of Jesus, we still need to accept it by faith, trusting the Lord. Jesus tells us to pray in his name, trusting his promises and that he will care for us.
We don’t pray like we should.
We wonder if Jesus’ promises are true.
We wonder if we are really forgiven when we confess our sins.
We trust the Word of God but then we look for security and affirmation somewhere else.
We wonder if Jesus is really there for us.

As we turn our attention to communion, I remind you that, as Dr. Martin Luther said, every time we come for communion it’s a time of our confirmation. We confirm our faith. We are reminded that Jesus gave himself for us. And we remind ourselves and our neighbors that we believe that, that we confess Jesus is present, that Jesus is the one who forgives us all our sins. Is it a vision? Is it a difficult teaching? Is it a promise that we don’t fully understand? Yes, all of the Lord’s mercy is somehow difficult to see in this life. But it doesn’t mean it is not real. In fact, it’s so real that we can’t see it clearly. It’s so brilliant that it would blind us to look at the reality of Christ face to face. So we know in part and we prophesy in part, we see through a mirror dimly. It’s ever so real. Jesus has given himself for us. He calls people from all nations to himself. He promises to care for us in a way we could never care for ourselves. And he gives us that care by giving us his name, his authority, his blessing, that if we ask in his name it will be done for us. Thanks be to God.