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WORSHIP – ALWAYS THE BEST

I have a confession to make. I skipped worship this morning. I’ve been travelling for Thanksgiving, but I could have worked a service in. I just didn’t want to be disappointed.

First, let me say that I know the center of worship is being present and letting God work. But I am also an administrator, and want the best for our our congregations; so, too often I find myself ¬†assessing instead of worshiping. So…my reluctance.

I remember the conversations about “low Sundays” – those certain days that you can count on a lower attendance. It’s so easy to think all our congregations need is enough to get by and to save the effort for days with larger attendance. But it cannot be our mindset as pastors and worship planners.

It is an honor to be called to guide our congregations in their worship. Those who gather on Sunday, no matter how many, gather to worship our Living God to the fullest. This calls on us to plan the fullest of spirit for every worship. Wouldn’t it be great if every week those who missed worship heard they had missed something special, something important, something spirit filled, something inspiring?

Our God brings the fullness of God to each gathering of God’s people. I am so thankful when our leadership makes the connection.

As the psalmist cheered, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. ” (Psalm 122:1)

Thanksgiving

A Christian, a Muslim and a Jew get an email…

I’m part of an interfaith support group. As we support each other, we care for our neighbors.

A member of the group posted the need for more volunteers to serve the community Thanksgiving dinner. He posted the link for volunteers. Within minutes there were three posts: one from a Jew, one from a Muslim, and one from a Christian. All had tried to volunteer as soon as they heard the need. Each learned the volunteer list was now filled. One said they’d be attending anyway, it’d be good to hang out with people being filled.

Which one is going anyway? Does it matter?

I am thankful for those whose lives witness to our loving God. I am thankful for people that act.

*****

Recently I forwarded a post. Many have told me they will act.

The idea is a reverse Advent “calendar.” Instead of counting down to Christmas by opening doors on a calendar, put out a box. Each day of Advent add a food item to the box. When Christmas comes, give the box to a local food pantry.

I am thankful for people who act.

Since the Election – Part 2

TWO WORDS FOR PASTORS:

Compassion & Perspective

 

1) COMPASSION

Fear is fear. When people have the courage to come to us to share their fear, it is an honor. It shows respect for our work. It shows hope. We are called to respond with listening ears and compassionate hearts.

“You’re being irrational,” is not helpful. I repeat, fear is fear.

“Just get over it,” is not helpful. As I said, fear is fear.

And, worst of all, “I lived through it when Obama was elected,” is not helpful. You felt loss four and eight years ago. I understand. But were you afraid? Has any prior campaign in your memory demeaned women and their rights? Do you remember a presidential candidate threatening to deport an entire race or register all adherents to a religion? Has any other elected president campaigned with a promise to revoke past actions which could result in the loss of your marriage?

Fear is fear. Fearful people need to be heard. Prayers are called for. Hope in God needs to be offered. And promises need to be made. Pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can assure the fearful that our church is working for women’s rights, providing assistance to refugees, standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslim neighbors, blessings marriages of LGBTQ people, and more and more and more. If you don’t adhere to the practices of this church, you owe it to those in fear to connect them with a pastor who does (and you owe it to your church to speak with your bishop).

Care for those who fear.

2) PERSPECTIVE

When we preach we are not looking out on a huge number of people who voted like us; nor are we looking at a bunch of people who voted against our candidate. National statistics tell us that about 46% of eligible voters did not vote. About 4% voted for third party candidates. About 25% of the population voted for Hillary Clinton. So Donald Trump was elected by about 25% of voters. [Perspective: This is not a mandate.]

So when we preach we see the people we saw last month – Democrats and Republicans, those who love their neighbor and those who want them deported, those who fear Muslims and those who want to know their neighbors better, and on, and on, and on.

When we preach we see a mission field – just as needy as the world outside out worship space. We see people who need the Gospel. We name for them the fears and worries of our world and we proclaim the Good News. And we pray that it will lead to hearts that work for the wholeness of our world.

Since the Election – Part 1

It will take more than one post to respond to the presidential election of 2016.

I voted in the morning on election day, then boarded a plane with three other representatives of the La Crosse Area Synod to attend the ELCA Latin American Consultation for Companion Synods in Lima, Peru. During a layover at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, we watched the polls close in three time zones. Few states were awarded as many were too close to call. It was serious. And we boarded our jet for Lima. We landed at 6:30 in the morning and learned that Donald J. Trump would be elected by the Electoral College as the next president of the United States of America.

It was interesting to spend my first week with this news in Peru. Friends, members of our synod, and colleague bishops were filling social media with fears for the future – some most real, some yet to be seen.

If President Trump is true to his campaign rhetoric, I have fears for my LGBTQ friends, for the female leaders with whom I collaborate, for my Muslim neighbors, and for those who do not have the “privilege” that comes from having white skin. Already there are stories of hate speech on our Lutheran college campuses, of Latino/Latina workers asking for their pay and leaving Wisconsin farms, of documented immigrant children going to sleep each night with their documentation papers under their pillows, and on and on and on.

How I live in this new reality and how I lead as a bishop will take more than one blog to discuss. I aim to do so.

For this page, I am a Christian – a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – the elected and called bishop of the La Crosse Area Synod. I must be the person this synod elected. I am called to preach the word of God and to care for those in need – the marginalized, the poor, the abused, those different from “the norm.” I pray those who elected me will continue to support me as the person I have been doing what I am called to do.

I follow the one I know to be the Living Word, Jesus the Christ. I know the reality of Christ through the written word in the Bible. And so… I will lift up the poor – Jesus tells me so. I will welcome the stranger and alien – Jesus tells me so. I will not fear – Jesus tells me so.

This is where I start. [On to Part Two…]