Sunday, August 16, 2009

Holy Cow!

No, this is not a post about legendary Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray. It's a quick note about last weekend's congregational council retreat. We spent the day at The Branches, an unique Lutheran and Presbyterian mission site north of San Antonio. It was a relaxing place for us to think about asset-based leadership and our congregation's ministry. We also got to see their fun sign, and I bought a cantaloupe at the farmers' market on the grounds.

I will udderly refrain from cow jokes.

I saw the sign

I'm not usually a fan of cutesy church signs, but in recent weeks, I've started to have us use our outdoor sign more. We had a Homer Simpson-like saying the week we had fresh bread baking in the sanctuary as people walked in. We then used that bread for Communion.

I've been shamelessly trying to plug our Blessing of the Backpacks for the weekend of August 23. It will be a fun way to prayerfully kick off a new school year. On Friday, I called in to a local talk show to mention it during the morning community announcemnt time. Also, on that same Sunday, we will have special guest storyteller Phil Ruge-Jones in our midst to share some creative biblical narrative with us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Churchwide what?

As Lutherans prepare for the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis next week, I'd like to revisit my June newsletter column.

(Originally published as my "Pastor's Pen" column in the June issue of my congregation's newsletter).

Greetings Amazing Grace Community,

Our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is in the process of approving a social statement on human sexuality, as well as the possibility of changing ministry guidelines that currently prohibit persons in same-gender relationships from serving as pastors and rostered leaders. I anticipate Lutherans gaining some national news attention regardless of how these matters are decided at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly at Minneapolis in August.

As a heterosexual, white, college educated, North American male, I speak from a point of privilege in so many ways. I try not to judge people. I do not understand other people’s homosexuality just as I do not understand my own heterosexuality. I know that we are all broken in some way. We live in the world as it is and await the world as it should be. We acknowledge our own fallen world, but celebrate the beautiful diversity that is the Body of Christ.

The Bible contains about seven verses that in some way allude to homosexual behavior, mostly in the Hebrew Bible, and none from the mouth of Jesus. On the other hand, over 3,000 verses of the Bible address issues of wealth, poverty, and hunger. I know those texts from Leviticus that are often used as Bible bullets against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I also know that nearby verses also condemn eating shrimp, wearing cotton/wool blend clothing, and combining meat and dairy. Good-bye, double cheeseburgers. Definitely goodbye, bacon cheeseburgers. We know that we can’t simply pick and choose what part of the Bible to take seriously, and what not to, but truthfully, that is what we do all the time.

As Lutheran Christians, we look at the Bible through lenses of the Gospel—through lenses of love. This love of Jesus calls us to love even those people with whom we disagree. This love calls us to pray for our enemies. This love of Jesus calls us to trust the work of the Holy Spirit. Love is so often a very hard thing to do.Our Church faces much conflict and conversation in these months ahead with many difficult questions with no easy answers. Who can get married? Who can be a pastor? What does the Bible say? What does it actually look like when we try to love our neighbor?

I don't know what will happen in August. I do know that some people will be disappointed. Some will be angry that a consensus is not reached. Others will be concerned if the ELCA continues to ignore the gifts for ministry in many talented leaders. I know that we in the ELCA (and at Amazing Grace) will never fully agree about human sexuality. I do know that we are all loved, guided, strengthened, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, no matter where we are on our Christian journey.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Take me out to the ballgame...

On Thursday, I threw out the first pitch at the San Antonio Missions game for Lutheran Night at the Ballpark. I saw it as an opportunity for a "ministry of presence." It was a pastoral act that isn't in my little green prayer book. It was pastoral in that I was making Amazing Grace's presence known in the community. It was also a lot of fun.

I found it ironic when I got invited to throw the pitch because I'm not very sporty. I was worried that I wouldn't get the ball the catcher, and that it would just stop in the dirt. I was afraid that people would think I am the wimpy pastor who can't even throw a baseball. The mighty spheroid did, however, get to the catcher. It was high and outside--very high and very outside, but it got there.

The night at the game was also a great fellowship opportunity. It was fun to sit in the stands with fellow church folk and enjoy a beautiful night together.

Here's a picture of me out on the pitcher's mound. Does that mean I'm out standing in my field? :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ridin' on the city of New Orleans...

It’s now been over a week since returning from the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. I’ve had time to catch up on emails and sleep. Our youth our going to be sharing stories from their trip during worship this Sunday. They will have powerful witness of God’s presence. I’m looking forward to it.

Here are some highlights of the trip:

Cleaning, organizing, and sweating during our service project at a furniture bank.
Morning worship with rapper Agape.
An evening concert with Lost and Found (I heard them at the ’97 Gathering in NOLA).
Seeing old friends and making lots of new ones.
Riding a bus for 11 hours (twice).
Riding New Orleans streetcars.
Seeing Bishop Mark Hanson come on stage riding a bathtub.
Lots of interesting speakers. Our group really liked Viola Vaughn.
Receiving Communion with 37,000 people puts the Feeding of the 5000 in a whole new perspective.
Seeing what was once a place of horrible sorrow and human pain (The Superdome) become a place of joyous worship and faith-filled proclamation.