Month: May 2015

In the Shadow of Giants, I Stand

The view from the percussionist during the last rehearsal

The view from the percussionist during the last rehearsal

It was the last time.

For the last time, he lifted his baton and looked over the orchestra. Bows lifted at the ready over so many violins and violas. Brass players inhaled. The percussionists readied to strike cymbals and drums. For the last time he gave the downbeat. For the last time he brought forth music from the mob. For the last time he tamed the high schoolers he had taught for so many years and caused them to create a singular sound. For this final performance so many joined – former students flooded the stage with their instruments. Before the downbeat, the call had to go out: more chairs! There’s not enough room for everyone! Colleagues from the professional symphony he played in. Friends and fellow teachers.

And me.

For the last time, I played under my father’s baton. For the last time, I held mallets to strike the drums. For the last time, I followed the rhythm he set. (more…)

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I Wait for the Trees to Sing

On that day, every tree in the forest will sing for joy.

You walk the dirt path through the forest. Ferns reach out to cling to your legs. Sunlight streaks through misty air. A voice calls out: The hearty soprano of a rich pine. The bass of an oak tree provides a foundation for a chord. Willow altos and maple tenors fill in the remainder.

Do you join them? Does your voice rise with the trees as all creation calls out in joy as their Redeemer returns?

As your Redeemer returns?

Today God provided all I needed. I rode out with brother pastors to a Pastors’ Conference. This quarterly event aims to give pastors a chance to feed on God’s Word without having to worry about feeding others, grow deeper in understanding some subject, and share each other’s frustrations and joys. Personally, I was looking forward to getting away from ministry for a day.

We began in worship. And oh, how I needed this. Tears came to my eyes as we sang the opening hymn, “Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire.” Behind me a bass rumbled the bottom line. I joined in. We confessed our sins, and I heard the absolution declared to me: “As a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Understand: I know I am forgiven. But to hear the proclamation? This is a joy, this is the opening of lungs after asthma clenches them shut, this is the Sabbath rest I have longed for. (more…)

The Goal of Outreach: Kill the Congregation!

Maybe I just want my congregation to die after all.

We’re starting something new. The idea first came to me years ago, but it didn’t take then. I’ve let it wither. A few months ago at an evangelism workshop I attended with a few other members of the congregation, I shared it again. Suddenly, we had buy-in.

The basic idea is that people, in particular Millennials, get more out of conversation and back-and-forth than “sit down and shut up.” And let’s face it, most standard worship of the liturgical variety, when taken uncharitably, can be simply, “Sit down, shut up, say what I tell you to say.”

I want to be clear: I’m not attacking the liturgy here. We’re going through a Bible study on Sunday mornings that walks through why the liturgy is the way it is, and how valuable it is. There is great reason that we begin with an invocation, move immediately to a confession of sins, hear the announcement of forgiveness in the absolution, and burst into a song of praise. The progression is logical.

If you know the story. (more…)

Pastor looks to get something for service, shamed by congregation. More at eleven.

Well, I guess that reveals my rotten core, huh?

It started simply enough: with a compliment. Our alderman, whom I’ve had a few encounters with – never negative, mind you – sent me an email. “I know your congregation is trying to get out into the neighborhood. A few blocks from you, an elderly couple is under orders from the city to paint their house exterior. They can’t do it. Would your congregation be interested in helping?”

Well, I thought it was a fine idea – great publicity for the congregation, as well as just a great chance to serve together. Absolutely! I brought the idea forward after worship one week.

Within five minutes, we had about ten volunteers to paint, a man willing to purchase paint, a man willing to purchase all the equipment needed, and another willing to donate lunch. Well, I guess we were in! (more…)