An Address and Prayer for a Call Service

These were the opening remarks and prayer given as the Circuit Visitor at a congregational meeting to call a pastor. They struck me as both a good remembrance of Reformation Day which the meeting was held on and how Reformation Theology is God’s grace for all of us.

It is worthwhile reminding ourselves in more than a utilitarian way what we are doing here.  God typically works through means. Rarely he will work immediately like a Damascus Road experience, but normally through means.  He promises himself present for grace in the sacraments, through the means of water, bread and wine.  “This water is not simple water only, but the water combined with the Word.”  But he also has promised us “all that we need to support this body and life.”  And he works his providence for us through means – through the means of our various vocations.

One of those vocations is a pastor.  Our founding confession the Augsburg confession reminds us in article 4 – the central article – that our justification comes by grace through faith.  And then it moves onto article 5 and tells us “So that we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God …”. The primary means of the gospel and faith is the preaching office.

How is someone placed into that office?  Augsburg article 14 tells us that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be rightly or regularly called.”

That is what this assembled body of Christ is doing.  You and me, today, this hour, we are the means that God is using to place a right call.  (Or depending upon your deliberation and discernment to hold off, the spirit blows where and when he wills.)  This body is a means of the providence of the Father for our good.  There have been other means this is accomplished, but this is our polity.  The congregation issues the call.  The church – represented here by me – acknowledges that it is a right one.  That the man called is qualified.  That the congregation did not call flippantly, and the call extended is “right”.  So when we telephone and send him the paperwork, the man he can be confident not just that it is of human order, but that it is a divine call.  That God has used this body as His means of calling.

In a utilitarian sense we are checking boxes.  And people are maybe upset that they had to come back.  But you came back to be a means of grace.  To be the means that God is working through for the good of the church and this congregation.    

So in that sense it is right that we should open with a prayer.  Please join me.

Heavenly Father, you provide for us in both body and soul.  You have sent your son Jesus as our savior, and so that we may attain and remain in that faith, you have established the office of ministry.  Your body is now gathered seeking that continued blessing, that the Kingdom might come to us also and that your will be done among us.  Let your spirit preside over this call meeting.  And bless the deliberation and results.  In your son Jesus’ name we pray. [Amen]

Definitions are Important (Christ and the Cross)

Biblical Text: Matthew 16:21-28

We live in a time that definitions of words can’t be taken for granted. People use the same word but often have radically different meanings. That is the case in this text for the idea of Christ. Jesus and the Father have a definition that centers on the cross. Peter’s Christ can’t include the cross. That must be sorted out. Likewise understanding was The Cross means for Jesus and what it means for his followers is important discipleship stuff. This sermon attempts to make clear what Christ and the Cross mean for the Christian.

Beef on Weck – 10/3

What: Beef on Weck, The World’s Best Potato Salad, Coleslaw, Brownie & Pickle

When: Saturday, October 3rd, 4:30 PM – 7:00 PM (Or whenever we are out, even making a lot more we ran out about 5:30 last time.)

Where: Here @ St. Mark’s

How Much: $10

Carry Out only this time! Drive Thru!

Yeah, I’m biased, but this is good eats!

Pastoral Letter #2

I wanted to give an update on church and virus related things, and to share a short meditation.

Church Related Info

After meeting with the council last night (3/18) there are a few more actions that we will be taking for the time being.

  1. Everything from my pastoral letter still stands.
    1. We won’t be canceling service (although we might be making a change, see below)
    2. Most small group activities (i.e. confirmation/bible study) will continue. 3-5 people are well under any limit.
    3. The other modifications to standard routine (no handshaking, offering collection plate at entrance, individual cups for communion) continue
    4. If you are in an elevated risk group, are sick, or simply don’t wish to risk, please stay home.  Also, I’d ask that you let me know.  I’d like to stay in contact, and I’m not a psychic.  (I will have one additional thing to add below.)
  2. Additional Changes
    1. Choir practice and worship spots will be put on hiatus.  This one hurts, but it seems an appropriate precaution as they are huddled close together.
    2. I’m not sure how it will work for a Sunday, but I have established a zoom channel.  I will log in and stream the service as best I can.  Here is the login link.  I can handle up to 100 people in the channel.  Unless you already have the zoom plug in or app you will have to download it and follow the instructions.  So the first time give yourself an extra 15 minutes.  This is for those in those at risk groups.  https://zoom.us/j/6458485288
    3. That same zoom link will also be active for the congregational meeting to follow service this coming sunday.
  3. Plague Schedule
    1. The official limit is 50 people in a gathering.  While our average is above that, on most Sunday’s we are right around that.  The request is to limit to 10.  We have 18 pews, although this will mean that people will have to use the pews up front.  We could sit roughly 20 people checkerboard style each in their own pew and you’d still have more than 6 feet of separation.
    2. To make a good faith effort, starting Sunday, March 29th, we will have two services (Please, please notice that is not this coming sunday!).
      1. The first will be at 9 AM, the normal Sunday school time.  What I would ask is that if you are a Sunday School/Bible class attender to plan on attending this service.   That gets us 10-12 to start.
      2. The second will be a 11 AM.
      3. For the first time, other than Sunday School folks, I’m not making any assignments.  I’m hoping we roughly divide equally naturally.  If we are unbalanced, we may ask some to move.
      4. We should be able to keep attendance at each of these around/under 20 is my guess.  Enough to be a minyan, but small enough to be prudent in time of plague.
      5. We will return to normal schedule as soon as this passes.
      6. Holy Week is coming up. We will address this in coming weeks.

Meditation

Since the kids are out of school, I’ve been starting the day at home with chapel service.  We’ve been having our own Matins service.  In part teaching the kids the Te Deum and the Venite. Two chants that every Christian for most of time would have known by heart and known when to sing them. I wish I sang better.  There is accompaniment available online, but we figured out it is just better plowing ahead bad notes and all.  The readings (and the matins liturgy) for the day have been from the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  This is a prayer book that is part of our Confirmation curriculum that we provide to students as we study the Lord’s prayer and try to demonstrate examples of an intentional prayer life.  (Here is the CPH link. https://www.cph.org/p-11350-treasury-of-daily-prayer-regular-edition.aspx ).  A physical copy is great, but there is also a digital version that you can get for you phone. (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.praynow ).

Today’s Psalm was from Psalm 106.  And like most lectionaries, you get the gospel part.  We got verses 44-48.

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46 He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. 47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. 48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

But Ellen didn’t have her own copy of the Treasury and was just using a hymnal and when she turned to the Psalms found out that 106 wasn’t there.  Which got me interested.  I know that imprecatory Psalms, those calling on God to smash our enemies in often gruesome ways, are often left out.  But that turns out not to be Psalm 106.  It was probably left out of the hymnal psalter simply due to length, but it is worth your read.  It reviews the history of the people of Israel, but unlike most histories that would focus on the glories of a people, this one recognizes its faults.  We forgot the wondrous works of the Exodus.  We forgot the manna and quail.  We exchanged the living God for a golden calf or the Baals.  That last episode brought on plague, a plague which ended when Phineas took up action against all of Israel who had yoked themselves to Baal.  Worth pondering what we have yoked ourselves to in the midst of plague. 

The gospel portion provided is a remembrance of the context of God’s steadfast love.  The LORD calls and gathers together his people not because we are so deserving, but because he is love.  He remembers his promises.  He saves his heritage.  He gathers from among the nations.  While we were sinners, he does this.  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Lord, deliver your people. 

Blessings,

Mark

Impermanance, Anxiety and the Hairs of Your Balding Head

Biblical Text: Luke 21:5-28

What do me mean when we talk about last things?  There of course is the very literal, but other than 10,000 mile stuff, Jesus really doesn’t answer that.  Because that is not what we are talking about.  What we are talking about is impermanence and our anxiety caused by that impermanence.  And that is was Jesus goes after.  Even these “noble stones” of the temple will come down.  This thing that centers our identity will fail.  All earthly props will give way.  And Jesus goes on to name them.  And then he gives us a promise.  “Not a single hair of your head will perish.” 

You have both the knowledge and the promise.  The knowledge that yes, the world is impermanent.  Don’t place your faith in it, in any part of it.  The promise that there is a permanent thing, and that you are already a part of it.  The Kingdom of God is coming with power and great glory.  So straighten up an raise your heads.  Because this is your redemption.  This is your hour.