Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blessed by Absence

Mark Little, my neighbor colleague at Stockholm Lutheran church was kind enough to start the groundwork for baccalaureate when I was going to be gone during the preparation phase in Lithuania. Later, by divine design, the work was shifted to youth director Nate Bendorf, soon to be a seminarian. Traditional baccalaureates are planned by clergy and, as such, are sometimes more formal adult-flavored events. This year, we had a change. I did my best with a message based on First Peter 5:1-11. The highlight was the youth director "band." Nate did a great job of coordinating things with our high school principal. As I began my message, I stated that the baccalaureate worship is not an official school function, but is sponsored by the clergy association. But the clergy had very little do do with it. Here's some feedback from after the event:

Steve and Nate... Awesome job last night! Thanks so much for your message - our students are being preyed upon every day and I am so thankful we have a strong church body that lifts them up in prayer every day! Nate, the service was tremendous. Thanks for all of your efforts and coordination. I believe the praise band really set the tone with our students - and it is for them that we do this! Great job to Nate, Ben and the band! In my opinion I would like to see the praise band become an annual tradition included in the service. Do you think this is possible? Again, thanks so much to each of you and the entire ministerial. You are a tremendous pillar of our community and the chief reason Dassel and Cokato are special communities! Could you please forward this message to the other pastors as well?

I did forward the note, but what needs to be said SOMEWHERE is how the Lord works blessing in absence. I was in Lithuania when much of the planning took place. The Lord worked during that time as Nate started to wonder why the youth directors weren't more involved in baccalaureate. When I returned, Nate expressed that, and I said, "go for it!" and in about week a new style of baccalaureate was born. This was born not of human effort, but of God's spirit, working in my absence, and in our conversation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Here's a note sent to some of our staff in regard to worship. The question arose as to whether it's time to change to the First Setting of the Lutheran Book of Worship order (beginning on page 56) and whether we should use the "Kyrie" and "Hymn of Praise" during the Sundays of Pentecost. Deb mentioned that a book she has says they are omitted during this season:

Thanks for the setting 1 bulletin. We'll follow local tradition.

As regards whether to use the Kyrie and Hymn of Praise on the "Sundays after Pentecost," my own preference would be to skip them. But that's only because I personally am very "low church," meaning I am for simplicity and brevity in worship. Left to my own devices, I would do as little what is normally called "liturgy" as would be tolerated.

But, I know that I am not alone. As worship leader for this congregation, it would be unprofitable for me to make unilateral or dictatorial decisions according to my "low church" preferences. So, I choose to follow local tradition. If the local tradition has been to use the Kyrie and Hymn of Praise on Sundays in the season of Pentecost, that's what we'll do.

I am open to change. I would be glad to help the congregation through a study of worship practices. Some would like to change to the new red book. I find the hymn section of that book to be a very good thing. The liturgical section has good aspects, also some issues that I don't appreciate. But that is true with every book ever produced.

I think the congregation has been used to pastors who just "decide" these things. I think that keeps the congregation, including the worship committee, in the dark as regards trends and emphases that new worship books and resources may bring. We end up slipping along with the rest of the wider church without awareness of theological or practical issues. This does not mean that the ELCA is wrong and that I am right in my "low church" way. I just think it's better if a representative group of the congregation study the issues and make decisions with the pastor, rather than just being told what to do. This is more difficult in the short run, but would bring fruit for posterity.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Teaching the Metanarrative

Nate, Paul and I saw part 6 of "The Truth Project" today, focusing on history. God is in charge (ultimately). In some way, all that happens is a part of His grand plan.
As we learn the Bible's story, we learn the outline of that plan. Part 6 of the Truth Project had a section in it that covered much of the Bible's outline in about 5 minutes from creation to revelation.
For years I've thought it is important for people to learn the Bible. Now I know why. Knowing the Bible and its stories helps us put our own story into a bigger context. Our sins, joys, failures and successes become understood as larger than we are. We are a part of a bigger (true) story.
A comment came in connection with confirmation. Someone thought we should be learning more from the catechism. I've always found it more important to focus on the Bible. Now I know why.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Economy

Yesterday at the second hour of worship, I invited people to mention what they are worried about. I did this as a way of entering into prayer. L said "the economy."
Connecting with yesterday's sermon (Mt 6), God cares for us (so we don't have to worry) by bringing us together in his Kingdom (seek ye first/strive first). So, the way God answers L's prayer is by connecting her with others. God may not provide generously so that we are always comfortable, but God will provide what we and all the other people of the earth need so long as each of us does our part in using our talents (working) and sharing.