150 Years of Being Jesus’ Sacrament

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Ok, so you won’t live to be 150.  Unless medicine greatly morphs.  But your congregation might.  St. Paul’s Lutheran in Decatur, IL just celebrated its 150th.  150 years of being Jesus’ sacrament for the community.

Have you ever thought about blessing a community for that many years?  Ever asked your congregational leaders what that would look like?  "150 years from now, the community would look like ____________ because of our blessing."

What about simply blessing it for as long as you live there?

Radical sacramental insight:  Knowing Jesus is present in me AND acting on that knowledge doesn’t just change me; it changes my community.  Jesus-present-in-me should lead to Jesus-present-in-my-neighborhood through me.

A sacrament brings the presence of Jesus and all of His gifts into the touchable, taste-able realm.  It parts history and imparts grace.  If the presence of Jesus lives in you through your baptism, he desires to live in your community through you. 

City implications?  Global implications?  Perhaps the next great evangelistic movement will explode more through demonstration than proclamation.  Show me (the Jesus) money.  

Sadly most congregations’ blessing has a half-life like the Wicked Witch and water: it dies a quick death outside the brick.

Which leads to a Western Church more known for Word instead of works.  Not talking works-righteousness, here.  Just talking James’ concern about invisible faith.

If Christ is present in you — if you are His sacrament — then what does your sacramental presence look like for your community?  How is Jesus asking you to live out His presence with the young family whose dog keeps digging under your fence?  With the grocery store clerk who obviously expended all of her patience before you arrived?  With the business owner who is trying to start a real estate company near your church?   Do you know her name?  Have you listened to her story?  How are you helping her succeed?

This isn’t about a theological position as much as it’s about a life position.  It’s a stance that reflects God’s transforming love in me, freeing me to be a sacrament of His love to my community.  Freeing my ministry to be a sacrament for the neighborhood.

Where does Jesus want to make a difference in your community through His presence in you?  Think you’ll be in the game 150 years from now?

Share your thoughts below.

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This Makes Me Mad

Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Blog | 10 comments

I was on a church's website the other day.  Large, happening place in San Antonio.  Scurried to the "We Believe" page.  Curious.  They listed eight chief parts of faith.  They didn't call them chief parts, but for my sacramental brethren, you get it.

Each part had three sentences max.  Nice, tight, commercial-snippet savvy blurbs.  Fair enough. 

But for part number 8, there were paragraphs.  And scriptures.  Three columns of scripture passages.  A variety of verses so that you would fully grasp the subject.  

This must be important.

The faith topic?  Fasting.  Yup.  Fasting.

Now, please, no hate mail.  I'm not contra-spiritual disciplines.  Quite the opposite.  

But I think we'd all agree fasting is not a matter of salvation.  Not even close.  I can be a great, God-fearing faster but know not Jesus and Satan, fix me a bed.

I guess I expected more fleshing out of Jesus instead of fasting.  Just seems bass-ackwards.  Kind of like focusing on the little overhead light instead of the 4.2 liter, super-charged power plant that takes you from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.  Now that's cool.

After simmering some, I decided to check out their click-through baptism statement.  At level two they had nice paragraphs about who and what and how.  

Nice symbolic, non-powerful understanding. "Nothing new to see here, folks.  Move along."

But then I stumbled on this and Mr. Farenheit climbed a little. 

What Is The Meaning Of Baptism?

It illustrates Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…”(1 Corinthians 15:3–4) “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12)

My wonderment here flows from using a scripture passage like Colossians 2, which speaks so mysteriously about how in baptism you were buried with him, in those wonderfully passive Greek constructs, like a dead man being buried by someone because, you know, he can't crawl out of the coffin himself and do it.  How and why would one draw that conclusion — that baptism symbolizes Jesus' death and resurrection but not that it ties you to Jesus' death and resurrection?  Help me here.

Mr. F took off, though, with this one:

In the Bible we find parents bringing children to Jesus. He held them and prayed for them and told us to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell anyone to baptize them. 

Please.  At least treat me with some respect. "Jesus never baptized children nor told anyone to." So roll credits and tie a bow on it? 

So when Peter told the crowd "the promise is for you and for your children" then proceeded to baptize 3000 people that day, or when Paul answered the Philippian Jailer's "What must I do to be saved?" question with "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household," and scared Jailer Man that night got baptized with his entire family, so they were wrong?  Because Jesus never said (that we know of) baptize children?  C'mon.  Even though at age 8 days old, the male Jewish child would receive the sign of the convenant upon his body, and Colossians 2 compares baptism to that same circumcision rite?  "Well, Jesus never did it so neither should we."  Please.

How much better — how much truer — to at least say "There are a number of passages where entire households were baptized, and in that culture, since even the slaves belonged to the owner of the house, chances are everyone — every, last, one — of the people, of all ages, would have received this washing."  That would at least show you know your history.

Bottom line: best to stay away from passages like Colossians 2 and Romans 6, where crazy, mysterious trans-location stuff happens when water and Word are joined over a spiritually dead, "let's bury 'em" person.  

Yeah.  Avoid those.  It will make me happier.


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6(66) Ways to Not Be A Bad Christian On Halloween

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

I come from a long line of Halloween celebrators.  I was born a poor Lutheran boy — well maybe not poor, poor, but we ate hamburger helper by the case and used powder milk "to save money," so there was definitely an austere element.  Halloween, therefore, was by no means an expensive affair.  But it was an affair.  A dress up, candy-seeking, quasi-terrorize the neighborhood affair.  We knew how to celebrate it.  Went all out.  (Mind you this was before Christmas lights went all orange and migrated back two months to Halloween, but that's a whole other rant for later.)

I meet many Christians unsure how to treat Halloween, especially when the doorbell starts ringing.  Halloween has changed over the past few decades.  No surprises since we've moved beyond "Christian" to "Post-."  But the fun part still exists.  So let me suggest living out the fun side of Halloween with your next-door neighbors.  Show them some respect and see what bridges you can build.

Here are 666 :>) things you might consider as you do Halloween well.

1.  Buy great candy.  Don't buy the cheesy, no-name stuff.  Buy Almond Joys and Twix bars and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Buy Twizzlers and full-size bags of Skittles.  Halloween is synonymous with candy.  Reinforce the connection so that the kids double back to your house.  Throw sugar caution to the wind.  Be THAT neighbor.

2.  Get yourself a costume.  Something fun.  No need to freak out the little preschoolers.  But get into it.  Pretend you're back in highschool.  Become the cool neighbor who always dresses up for Halloween.  Work it.  Go lightly on the blood, perhaps, but heavy eyeshadow might suit you.  Work it.  If you're one of THOSE KIND of people, you could even get something for your pet.

3.  Stay home.  Some of you want to skip out and go elsewhere.  "I hate those little kids." No you don't.  You're just confused.  You think children are made to torment you.  (Maybe it's because you need to lighten up so God routinely sends under-age tormentors?)  Seriously.  Stay home.  And don't go hide in your entertainment room and watch Jason Bourne kill people or some Real Housewife of Beverly Hills spend $1,000 on a hairdo.  (Like that's Christian entertainment.)

4.  AND LEAVE THE FRONT PORCH LIGHT ON.  Thought you had me there, didn't you?  "He said all we had to do was stay home, Joyce, and we'd be good little Christians."  Turn on the light.  Send the signal you're ready and waiting.  Even set up a chair on the front porch.   Make yourself known.  Be present.

5.   Give out lots of candy.  Don't be stingy.  Christians aren't stingy.  If you are, then slap yourself.  Go find your baptism certificate.  (If you don't have one, ask your pastor why not.) Grace is our middle name.  Should be.  It's your God's middle name.  Be generous with the candy.  Give out so much they need help lugging the bag off your porch.

6.  Compliment the costumes.  Find something nice to say.  "Wow, your zombie makeup looks real.  Oh, you ARE real!"  "Wow, I didn't realize we had pirates in this part of town.  Nice peg leg."  "Whoa, now that is one scary ghost.  Nice sheet."  Treat them like they're your spouse fishing for a compliment and you want the evening to be a great one, so you give it…even if you have to make it up.  Seriously.  What's it going to cost you?  End result: your zombie goes home with a word of encouragement in her re-born head.   

You've been sent to your neighborhood.  Be a good neighbor.  Be a Jesus neighbor.  Don't rain on your neighbor's Halloween.  Let the weather do that.

You might even hang up those tacky Halloween lights.  

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