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Bracing

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench

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So. There’s an awful lot of people going around these days, aren’t there? Like, I just spent two weeks with allthepeople, and I’m pretty much done with them. I mean, I love people, and every single minute I was with people was worth it. No question. Standing beside hospital beds and encouraging the despairing is worth it. But let’s just say my introvert batteries are running more than a little low.

Tomorrow’s Sunday, but typically the joy of worship carries me through. It’s a chance to praise Jesus and help others grow closer to him, and that usually sustains me, at least until I get home Sunday afternoon. And then, well nap time!

But then.

This week, my church body is having a huge conference. I’m going to spend four days with allthepeople. It’ll be joyous. I’m looking forward to it, honestly. I’m going to learn a lot, see old friends, and generally have a great time.

But I’m also going in with low batteries. (more…)

Growth Happens

man sitting on black leather padded chair

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Today my church president and I argued. We each argued with a lot of passion. We did not come to agreement.

…and I’m ok.

This is a change.

A few years ago I was in a very different situation, and it would have left me not just physically shaking, but running the situation over and over. And over. To the point of physical illness. I well could have spiraled into a depressive episode. I’d be vilifying him in my mind. I would not be able to let it go.

Today was very different. When we parted ways, we were laughing. We shook hands. We hadn’t come to agreement, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to tear us or the church apart.

What happened? (more…)

Glorious Tears

Hymnal.jpg

“Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snow-clad mountains bright;
With palms they stand. Who is this band
Before the throne of light?”

And I can’t sing. The congregation is singing. I can hear them sing. But my voice won’t work. My lips won’t move. My breath isn’t functioning.

“These are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and blame.”

I preached that when we hurt at Christmas, we can look to the Child born to us and know that God knows our pain. And he doesn’t just know our pain. He has lived and died and lives again to take our sins from us. To give us heaven. To give us a home where there is no more weeping or mourning or pain.

Where this order of things has passed away. (more…)

Just answer the question.

man in white shirt using macbook pro

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I’m gonna vent here for a moment, if you don’t mind.

So, I wrote a few weeks ago about this new experiment we’re doing with Communion. Read the original post. It’s been going well; that seven of the first time was the smallest group so far.

As part of what I do for that mini-service, I share a brief devotion. It really is brief; two minutes max. It’s really there to help us all refocus on worship, and get our heads back in the game after a good ten, fifteen minutes away.

So far, the devotions I’ve led have gone well. I’ve shared Law and Gospel from God’s Word, pointing to the Sacrament.

However, I also know I want some help. I’d heard that “back in the day” in Lutheran congregations like mine, if you were going to participate in Communion on Sunday, you had to “Announce” to the pastor. Basically, you had to stop by the office and let him know you wanted Communion on Sunday. He’d use the opportunity to see how you were doing and, I’m told, share a short devotion, usually focusing on the Sacrament.

So I hied me to a Lutheran pastor’s private group on Facebook I’m active on. I asked if anyone had a book of such devotions handy I could borrow or look for on Amazon. Of course, I explained why I wanted it.

A lot of people liked the post. A number loved it. A few commented.

No one helped me find a book of devotions or gave me tips on where to look for them.

Instead, all the comments let me know I shouldn’t bother with devotions. (more…)

Sin Links You to Christmas

Christmas Easter

2 Samuel 12:1-13

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”

I want you to think up your favorite Christmas specials or movies. OK. Let’s see how many we can list off real quick. Now: How many of those specials specifically mention Jesus? Why is that? If Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, why do so many Christmas specials ignore him? Who shows up more often? Santa Claus Why is that? (more…)

Membership Perk

Man Taking Lords Supper

We’re starting a new member perk today,” I told the assembled congregation after worship today. “We usually offer Communion on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, but if you’re a member of the congregation and you desire the Sacrament more often, I’ll be offering that in my office about five minutes after worship. This is a member perk; if you’re interested in getting this perk and you’re not a member, talk to me. I’d be happy to share!”

A few weeks ago I confirmed a young man who desired the Sacrament more often. Rather than simply giving him private Communion on the “off weeks,” I decided to open it up to the congregation. Who knew who might desire the Sacrament more often?

When I got to my office, four people were waiting for me. Perfect! That’s how many little glasses were in my private Communion kit. (more…)

The Boy Sings

boy watching another kid putting icing on cookie

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In my experience, twelve-year-old boys don’t sing a lot. At least, not in places where their parents might hear them.

My son is pretty cool. He still gets excited about things. He’s not afraid to be silly in public with me. He is getting that whole eye-rolling thing down pretty well, though.

When I drop him off for school in the mornings, I’ll often say, “I love you. Jesus loves you more.”

The other day he answered, “Yeah, that’s true.”

Yesterday was Cookie Day. The furnace is out in the church basement (where the kitchen is), so fourteen of us packed into the kitchen in my home and baked for about five hours. It was wonderful chaos as people ranging in age from fifteen months to about ninety laughed together and mixed dough and went back and forth to the oven.

The dog also helped by eating anything that fell to the floor. She was very considerate.

She may have also snuck a few cookies. (more…)

The Broken Heart

man holding his face

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He was so angry, he left when I came to visit.

His life has been a mess for years. Now, sure, he’s brought it on himself through a series of unwise decisions and not a few decisions that were plain sinful. Doesn’t really matter, though. Living in the ruins of your own life can leave you very, very bitter. He was angry at God. And since I am God’s representative, it means he was angry at me.

I’d come to visit him and his wife. His wife was so apologetic for him.

It’s ok,” I told her. “You can’t control him. His actions aren’t your fault, and your actions aren’t his fault.” It’s almost like I’ve said it before to them.

We chatted more. She told me they were doing ok. “We have enough food for tomorrow,” she told me. Only enough for tomorrow. Not enough for Thanksgiving. Not enough for the rest of the week. They truly had daily bread, and that alone. (more…)

In the Assembly of the Saints

priest holding hostia

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Sunday at church I couldn’t hear myself speak, the congregation was so loud.

And it was glorious.

When we serve Communion, our members are ushered up in groups of about ten to a rail that they can stand at or kneel at, depending their preference and ability. Once everyone is that table is lined up, I say, “You are welcome at the table of the Lord.” I then motion for them to kneel and begin distributing the bread.

Sunday we sang a Communion song that has become a standard in our congregation: “Draw Near” translated by John Neale, using a tune by Steven R. Janco. It has a very simply refrain designed to be able to be memorized and sung even as people are standing at the Communion rail receiving the Sacrament. (more…)