At the end of the last football season, the coach of a professional football team used a word to describe the state of his team after it had just been eliminated from the playoffs. (Yes, we’re talking about playoffs, Mr. Mora.) Talking about the inevitable disappointment that comes from such a loss, he said that it had been tough, but we’re a...here it comes...family.
At our church during this season of Lent, we’ve been working through a series called “Behold the Man!”. It’s based on the words of Pontius Pilate when the soldiers had dressed up Jesus as a king, intended to mock Him (but ironically dressing Him in an expensive purple robe, which actually was fit for a king!). When Jesus is brought out before the crowd after being flogged, spit on, mocked, and dressed in the robe and a crown of thorns by the Roman soldiers, Pilate says to the crowd as he’s trying to set Jesus free, “Behold the man!” (John 19:5).
You might know that the church body I belong to—Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC)—has been rocked in recent years by a scandal involving a collective fund (called the Church Extension Fund, or CEF) that was set up in my District of LCC almost 100 years ago to help congregations with building projects. In January 2015 we were informed that the fund was insolvent. Then we learned it was insolvent because most of the fund was used to provide for the development of one gigantic church/school/housing project which, basically from its inception, was in trouble.
Two weeks ago, we had a reading from 2 Corinthians 5:1-17 in our worship gathering. It's a jam-packed reading, and we focused in more on the end of the reading, where the Apostle Paul describes the new creation that we are in Christ. Last week we read from 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, and I referred to 5:18-21 to "fill the gap" in the system of readings that we have that didn't include those few verses.
There's an oft-repeated phrase in some documents that are hundreds of years old: "believe, teach, and confess". The documents are a collection of statements about what some Christian churches in 16th-century Germany were doing. And quite often the introduction to these explanations was, "our churches believe, teach, and confess...".
In June 2017, I led a session at a pastors’ retreat about the history, theology, and practice of Confirmation in the confessional Lutheran Church. I’ve now prepared the presentation into more of a shareable format on paper. I invite anyone who’d like to use this to save it, share it with a workers’ meeting or other small group, and have some discussion on it. I’d love to hear back from you after you work through it, with any feedback you have.
In my sermon this past Sunday I mentioned, almost in passing, that the time between the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost was a time of active waiting for the Church. It's something that stuck out to me while preparing last week, and is something that I haven't seen a lot of reflection on: that after the Ascension, the Apostles went about their work while they waited. I didn't have time on Sunday to explore that thought much more than simply saying that it happened, so I want to do that here where we have more time and space to reflect on this "little" point.
It seems like it should be easier to take a breath, doesn't it? As a pastor, the time before Easter is an extra-busy one, with more worship gatherings to plan and lead, more events to coordinate, and more people to connect with. "I'll need to take a look at that after Easter" becomes a default answer to requests that come in, especially during the couple of weeks prior to Holy Week (which starts Palm Sunday and runs through Easter Sunday).
What follows is a re-post from the time when I was writing during my then-2-year-old son's cancer treatments. It came to mind today because I had myself the first Shamrock Shake of the season, and because it's apparently ThrowBackThursday. So it all comes together to allow me to publish something when I don't have a lot of time to actually write.
If you're interested in the journey our family was on, here's the site that documents that journey.
The season of Lent is an extra-busy one for a pastor in a Lutheran church. We have more worship gatherings than normal (feel free to come worship with us at Concordia!), and we've got some new efforts being developed along with starting to look ahead to the fall for our school and preschool.