Month: January 2016

Not Their Shepherd

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I didn’t have to deal with the flock I shepherd this morning, and it was marvelous.

Another church in town, a sister congregation, is down from two pastors to one for the moment. In an effort to help them on the in-between and to get a little pressure off me time-wise, my church council offered (with my blessing) for that pastor and me to switch pulpits once a month. Today was day one of that.

My congregation has one traditional worship service every Sunday morning, and then our discussion-based worship in the evening. This other congregation as a service Saturday night and three on Sunday morning. That means my weight more than doubled, as I didn’t give up my own evening worship service at my congregation.

This morning, I left for the other congregation before anyone arrived for worship at mine. And… and it felt good.

I didn’t have to deal with anyone. (more…)

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Sing the Impossible

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Jesus pointed. “You need to be better than them.”

And the people looked. Better than them? No way. Impossible.

But Jesus didn’t stutter. “Unless you’re better than them, there’s no way you can enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless your righteousness surpasses theirs, you have not a chance.”

No way. Impossible. Who could be better than a Pharisee? They always helped the poor. They were always memorizing the Bible. They were kind people!

And it’s still true today. Unless our righteousness surpasses theirs… we don’t stand a chance. (more…)

Mara Morning

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It wasn’t practice any more. I stood before the congregation. Here they were, the people who called me to serve them with the Gospel. The people I struggled with, to help them grow in Jesus, to turn away from idolatry of church, self, tradition.

My anger had not cooled. In fact, unlike normal, I’d done all I could to avoid human contact before the service. I wanted nothing to do with anyone. Frankly, I was done with the entire morning group. Well, maybe not all. But most of them.

A friend posted to me on the last post,

The morning will bring the confession of sins. It will bring the comforting words of the absolution. The morning will bring proclamation of the Law and of the Gospel. It will bring God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. It will bring Jesus’s presence among you – “For where two or three have gathered in my name, there am I with them.” It will bring an opportunity to praise God, together, for all of his blessings. It will bring an opportunity to thank God, together, for the hopes and dreams that you have. It will bring an opportunity, together, to ask God for the strength to carry out his will.

He was right. (more…)

Mara

emptychairs

No visitors today. Good.

I pressed my lips together. Now is not the time for tears. I stood in front of the congregation, gazing out over the faces I had come to know well.

Back in October, we made the decision to change where we enjoy after-church snacks and coffee. The idea was to try it for four or five weeks and then evaluate. Well, four or five weeks after we started, we were struck with Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and frankly, I didn’t even think about evaluating. I was busy pursuing ministry, reaching out with Jesus, instead of pondering where we put our butts after we conclude the worship service.

We switched spots because, in the opinion of a group of people including myself, it served visitors better. It better connected them with our people, it forced our people to spend time with visitors instead of congregating in their little enclaves, it was a better place to ‘catch’ visitors, and it was simply more aesthetically pleasing. In other words, it served as a better place to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus, connect them with our people, and enable us to serve them better.

I have heard little but complaints about the switch. When I asked why you didn’t like it, I was told there was no place to sit. They’re the exact chairs we had in the old location. There’s plenty of places to sit. When I was told that there was no place to store juice, I pointed out the fridge in that new room. When I heard the complaint that then we’d be forced to stay for Bible study because it’s in the same room (and what a terrible thing, to stay for Bible study!) – I prepared to move Bible study so that those chatting would have the better room. But that’s not good enough. Because those complaints were all smoke screens, apparently. The issue is:

You’re not willing to move where your place your butts after worship for the good of those who don’t know Jesus. (more…)