Thursday, September 10, 2009

missio Dei

It's been a long time since I wrote on here, I will post some of my papers or discussion postings on here for people (other than the fellow ivory tower students) to read and comment upon. Give whatever feedback you care to leave, I won't be offended, nor do I expect any. I actually expect fewer followers of this blog because of this (!).


"How do you characterize the missio Dei as it relates to the Bosch’s and your definition of mission?"

Mission is and has always been a troubling word for me. The "mission" I've seen has been a false sincerity, a "winning heathens for Christ" sort of mentality instead of the genuine appreciation and love of the Gospel.

Churches in America are turning into amusement centers for people, especially children. One can stop in, get entertained, take a class, ride a roller coaster and head on out into the sunset without a thought about what God, Church, Religion, et cetera actually mean. I think this stems from the baptism via fire hose mentality that Dr. Chung mentioned in class. The intention is wrong; we, Christians, are set out to convert the masses, instead of the true missio Dei, spread the Gospel of Christ.

It seems that Bosch reads the mission as a sharing of the Gospel, as opposed to the harassing of heathens when he writes the steps of evangelism in the Introduction of "Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission." There he writes that "Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in him, calling them to repentance and conversion, announcing forgiveness of sin, and inviting them too become living members of Christ's earthly community to begin a life of service to others in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Bosch p.10). It seems that we, again Christians, usually skip the proclamation and jump right into the calling to repentance.

I am certain that once we stop trying to convert, we will fulfill our primary function of proclaiming the Good News of Christ's salvific action.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sermon - July 6, 2008 --Hector, MN

This is close to a sermon I preached at First Lutheran Church in Hector, MN. I, of course, ad libbed for sections and delivered a different sermon, but this is the gist. Please feel free to comment on this--it is the only way I'll learn to get better.

Thank you,


Good morning! It's really great to be here on such a lovely day. Pastors usually ask a seminary student to come in on days where the readings offer tough lessons that the actual shepherd couldn't or shouldn't deliver. It's really nice of Pastor Keith to give the opportunity to a seminary student to work with a text that's more manageable than some of the others and not wait until the toughest texts before scheduling continuing education.

Let us begin with a word of prayer:

O Lord, open my lips and let my mouth proclaim your praise, grace and mercy. Let all that comes from the pulpit today be your saving Word. This is asked in Jesus' name. Amen

We didn’t sing the Psalm today, but there are some things in it that will be discussed in the sermon, so if everyone would please open their RED BOOKS to Psalm 145, it’s just after the last red tab. We will sing the Psalm, without accompaniment, I will sing the even verses, you sing the odd. We’ll sing verses 8-14.

8The LORD is gracious and full | of compassion,
slow to anger and abounding in | steadfast love.
9LORD, you are | good to all,
and your compassion is over | all your works. R
10All your works shall praise | you, O LORD,
and your faithful | ones shall bless you.
11They shall tell of the glory | of your kingdom
and speak | of your power,
12that all people may know | of your power
and the glorious splendor | of your kingdom.
13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures through- | out all ages.
You, LORD, are faithful in all your words, and loving in | all your works.
14The Lord upholds all | those who fall
and lifts up those who | are bowed down. R

Thank you all. That was beautiful.

Back to the Gospel, Jesus here is quoting children in a marketplace, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn." He takes one idea, that of dancing and rejoicing, and places it in juxtaposition of another idea, mourning and wailing. One group of children is calling to the other, I imagine the girls saying to the boys, "What's going on, silly boys, couldn't you hear our dancing music? Are you too chicken to come dance?" While the other group, again, I imagine the boys’ response, "But we are in mourning, can't you hear our dirge and wailing? Do you not see us covered in ashes?" The next thing I picture is us, the whole Christian body, sitting in between the two groups. We now hear both groups shouting for us to come and join them. Now remember this image, we’ll come back to it, I promise.

The first reading, from Zechariah, was quite a bit easier to hear . Some of us in the congregation may have remembered hearing this in Handel’s Messiah. The soprano soloist in the Messiah was telling us to REJOICE! Not to mourn. In fact, the music behind that text couldn’t even be remotely construed as mourning. The Zechariah reading is out of a prophecy, an oracle saying that soon your King will come. Soon, your King shall have dominion over all the nations. So, REJOICE!

Now with the Zechariah text, the Psalm makes more sense. Using the two of these texts side-by-side, one can see why we are to rejoice. It’s not only because our King is coming, but also because our King, who is coming, is gracious and full of compassion. It’s a much better idea than the tyrannical king we read about in History books and Fairy Tales. This King comes to save us, this King is our Savior.

So, then why do we have a Gospel reading that has mourning and dancing? If the King is coming, shouldn’t the flutes be playing a song of dance? Well, let us look at the Gospel text again. When Jesus is speaking, he says the comment about the children playing flutes, but then he immediately talks about John the Baptist and himself. John the Baptist, if we remember from last Advent, comes and shouts, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2) But Jesus, when he comes, does not to say, “Repent,” but rather, “Come.” There is a big difference in those two words. Repent is to turn away, but to come is to go towards.

I think Jesus is comparing those children to himself and to John the Baptist. John the Baptist was wailing and mourning, but Jesus was calling for a dance. And the important thing here is order, John came first, he called for repentance and mourning but after the repentance came the dancing and that call to follow. Why was Jesus calling for dancing? Because he knows that the kingdom of God is here, John preached that it was upon us, but Jesus IS the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God IS here now! We have already repented; we continue to repent daily. When those of us who are baptized were baptized, either WE were asked, or those who SPONSORED us were asked if we reject the forces of evil, the devil and all the devil’s empty promises. In other words, to the best of your ability, do you turn away from sin? Do you repent? And we did, and we do.

Jesus then calls us; we turn from our sinful self and follow Jesus. It is not easy, the work is sometimes hard, but we can rest in the LORD. We are part of the Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, for we have repented, and continue to repent, daily. We repented today; I heard your confession. And at the end, your sins were forgiven. Notice how I stood at the baptismal fountain during confession and forgiveness? I stood there to show that it is through this baptism and the repentance that we show daily that our sins are forgiven.

And they are forgiven because the Kingdom of God is here and now. Your sins were forgiven 2,000 years ago when Christ died on the cross. Your sins were forgiven when Christ rose from the grave. Your sins were forgiven when Christ ascended into heaven. Your sins are forgiven, because Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Your sins are forgiven because of your baptism, and most importantly, your sins are forgiven because the LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Christ has called you his own.

Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest, for the LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Of Chairs and Art

On Wednesday, Marty Haugen came and spoke with a group of us. I'm not a huge Haugen fan, but I love the idea of what he does. He writes religious music for the masses, as in throngs, as well as masses, as in worship services. Some of his music is flat, but a huge chunk of it is singable and most people I've spoken to like it. Again, it's good for what it is.

I do however, truly, 100% respect him. He does nothing without thinking about it and has reasons for it. I may not agree with his logic, but at least it's there.

One comment he made was that Liturgical music or arts, unlike some other arts, is closer to making a chair than creating a sculpture. He says that one can create the most beautiful chair ever created, but in the end, people have to sit in it. If it doesn't serve that purpose, it ceases to be a chair. What good is a chair that cannot be sat upon? Likewise, what good is congregational song that the congregation cannot sing?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

cleaning up sermons

So, a few years ago, my campus pastor was leaving, this was in 2004. We gave him a send-off and I preached. My first attempt. He coached a little, but I don't remember if he helped write anything. I'm posting it here, just 'cause. I would change a few things, but I think that it has potential. Please do tell me what you think. I have some friends who know rhetoric and some who know theology and some who are opinionated, so I'd love all of the comments



<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><

Before walking the hallowed halls of MSU, I walked the not-so-hallowed halls of Normandale Community College. There I studied many things, mostly how to pick my nose, but one of the better classes I took was Intro to World Religions from Professor Stephen Donoho. We studied Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism, I learned is a non-theistic religion, meaning that there is no deity required. Granted some sects do worship Buddha as a god, but as a whole, and in its pure form, Buddhism is non-theistic. There are four main tenets of Buddhism, or the “Four Noble Truths.” These fascinated me and I never forgot them.

1. All life is suffering. Simple enough, straight forward. Every aspect of life is a form of suffering. There are pains in day-to-day life. From the moment you are born, you get closer to death. It’s a little morbid, but I can see some truth to it.
2. Desire is the root of all suffering. Hmm. That one needs a little further explaining. Desire. I guess if I desire to become the best golfer, that’s going to cause some suffering. I can’t golf. But what about everything else. If I desire to be young, I suffer—I can’t be young forever. If I strive for something else, and even if I get it, the striving is suffering—the longing for something else, something different. I can dig it.
3. Eliminate desire and you will eliminate suffering. That’s logical. But if I do nothing but sit at home and play game cube, I am still alive and thus still suffering, right?
4. You eliminate desire by following Buddha’s Eight-fold path.

These “truths” were quite hypnotic; I tried following them for a while. I eliminated desire for a while, but I eventually lost all hope of ever reaching Nirvana. So, if you’ll stay with me, here you are now, I’ll entertain you with my new equation. I call them the Four Noble Ideas.

1. All life is suffering. I know it’s unoriginal, but why wreck a good thing.
2. The cause of suffering is sin. Yes, I said sin. The stuff that we ALL do. The things that we don’t tell Mom and Dad about, but they know, because they sin too. The judging, the arrogance, the hypocrisy—but enough about me, let’s move on. Shall we?
3. Eliminate sin and you eliminate suffering. Do you see a pattern?
4. You eliminate your sin by, wait – Christ eliminated sin. Period.

In Acts, the Jailer asked what kind of precepts had to be followed in order to be saved. Paul replied that the only thing you need to do is know Christ is the Lord. Believe in the Lord and you and your household will be saved. And the jailer and his household were baptized without delay.

Judging from the blank expressions and the fact that I have put more people to sleep than Chris normally does, let me put it this way: We are prisoners. Our life without Christ would be less than satisfactory. We are prisoners by our sin. Let me say what you already know, we are prisoners by our sin.

What are your prisons? Greed? Laziness? Apathy? Judgment? We all have at least one prison. I’d start sharing mine, but there is no couch to lie upon and there isn’t enough time just to talk about today.

Paul and Silas, in the Acts reading, had their prison. Granted theirs was physical. But there was a metaphorical prison too. To tell you the truth, I had never read this story until I was preparing for this message. I had heard it, partially, in a song of course. I always liked the idea of two guys, incarcerated, laughing and singing their praise to God. I didn’t understand it. I kind of pictured a scene from the Life of Brian. “Always look on the bright side of life.” I think that what it is, is that they knew that their bonds in jail were less than their bonds of sin, that and the fact that Paul and Silas knew God would release them from the jail.

What was that? They knew God would release them from their bondage to the jailers. They must have also known that Jesus had already released them from their bondage to sin. “We know that we are in bondage to sin and can not free ourselves.” We say that phrase in the “traditional” confession. We cannot free ourselves. No one can free a slave except the master. They can escape, but they are forever a slave. We were freed by our Master.

One other item: Paul and Silas, knew God. That’s important. They knew God called them. If they know God, then as we learned from the Gospel reading that they were called. They were sent by God. The paraphrase of the last section from the Gospel is that the world does not know God, except for Jesus and the people God sent to Jesus.

Let’s look at that passage: the world does not know God. That is quite obvious, look at what is going on in the world. Prisoner abuse, beheadings, shootings of floral shop owners and even the riots at MSU last November all show the world’s lack of knowledge of God. Humanity continually forgets God, and God’s presence, but God continues to be present. God is present in the world through this ministry, through things like Habitat for Humanity as some of us found out on Thursday. God continually shows us what God is and what God wants from us, but we turn a blind eye. We lose sight of what is important for tomorrow in the busy-ness of today.

The other day, Pastor Chris showed me an email he received. You know those stupid forwards that people send to you? Sometimes one of the extraordinary ones will catch your eye. This one goes like this:

A classroom of children was assigned to come up with their current list of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” When the students had finished, they took a vote of the wonders and came up with a list:
The Grand Canyon, The Taj Mahal, The Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, The Great Wall of China, The Empire State Building, and The Golden Gate Bridge.
Then the teacher noticed that Sally in the back of the room was struggling with her answers and not really contributing. The teacher asked Sally, “Sally, are you all right? I noticed that you were having trouble. Maybe the class can help you with your answers.” Sally replied that she was having trouble. Her answers weren’t like everyone else’s. Then she stood up and read her list, her voice trembling slightly with nervousness, “The Seven Wonders of the World are: to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to smell, to laugh and to love.”

That is how God is shown daily. That is how we know God. In the things we take for granted. We know God through God’s big things, like the Grand Canyon, the 104,000 homes Habitat International has built since its inception; but more importantly, we know God through the loving embrace of a friend, through the incessant questioning of a young child, and through the ultimate sacrifice of a Son on hill in Jerusalem.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Self-Conscious Worship

Today I realized that I'm a self-conscious worshiper.
I was getting ready for morning prayer, had the book out, the bulletin and I put the kneeler into kneeling position (I felt the need to kneel beforehand). Then a friend came over and sat with me. It's Ok, I like this person, hence, "friend." Something inside me changed and I no longer wanted to kneel. I knew I could have, he didn't care what I did, but I suddenly felt self-conscious about how I worship.

I'm a self-conscious worshiper.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Apostles' Creed Hymn Sing

Here is the preliminary Draft of my Apostles' Creed Hymn Sing, enjoy!

In the Lutheran Church, there are few statements that hold as much weight as the Apostles' Creed. Martin Luther wrote that The Apostles' Creed "sets forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in short, it teaches us to know him perfectly." [Martin Luther, "Large Catechism," ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert]. It is rumored that Saint Augustine once said that the one who sings, prays twice; then to sing the creed is to proclaim it and pray it—twice. I propose to craft a hymn sing centered around the text of the Apostles' Creed. The goal of this Hymn Sing is to illuminate the creed in a way that a sermon alone could not.

The format of said Hymn Sing would be to read a segment of each article of the Creed, then sing it. The proposed format is such:

Opening Hymn Come Join the Dance of Trinity ELW 412

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,

Praise to the Lord arr.Distler

(Chantry 264)

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten ELW 295

Verse 1, Solo; 2-3, choir; 4-5, All

I believe He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Ah, Holy Jesus arr. J. Ferguson

AFB Choirbook

I believe He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.

Out of the Depths arr. Schutz

Luther C-114

I believe He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Ride on King Jesus arr. Hogan

St. Olaf C-1984


Crown Him with Many Crowns ELW 855

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

Come, Holy Ghost, G. P. Palestrina

Our Souls Inspire The Parish Choirbook

Luther B-4 (p.62)

I believe in the holy catholic church, and in the communion of saint

For All the Saints ELW 422

Verses 1-4 Ferguson’s Setting

(On Order)

I believe in the forgiveness of sins,

Wondrous Love arr. P Christiansen

AFB Choir Book

I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Panis Angelicus E. Barnum

Photcopied Manuscript


Hallelujah, Amen (Judas Maccabeus) Handel

CLC Library

Sending Hymn We All Believe in One True God ELW 411

Verse 1, Choir The Parish Choirbook

Luther B-4 (p.62)

I also propose that a Psalm be sung or read in between the second and third articles with prayers of intercession. Exegetical homilies will occur before each petition and may include the reading of Martin Luther's explanation of the article.

It is imperative that a Confessing Christian learn the Apostles' Creed, but it is more important that each Christian understand the creed in light of other material. Without the another point of view, faith becomes stagnant.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Justice and Peacemaking: A Hymn Festival

I was going through my posts and realized that this was not posted, just saved as a draft.  I apologize, I originally wrote it late on January 11, 2008.  Enjoy!

Tonight, I went to a Hymn Festival at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. David Cherwien, of Mt. Olive was the Organist (and presumably the organizer) and Marva Dawn presided over the reflections. They had help from the National Lutheran Choir (NLC) (see Cherwien's link).

The service was spectacular, Cherwien (my former composition professor) did an outstanding job of introducing the hymns and, for the most part, playing appropriate accompaniments to the congregation's singing. However, Cherwien is long-winded at many places where brevity would have been sufficient. The person with whom I went to this hymn festival said to me before a hymn started, "Is this intro going to be 5 minutes or 10 minutes?" I didn't have the heart to tell her that the organ was the point, but a little more variety could have been nice.

The program was well planned and had a great variety of hymn styles and stanza selections. I could have used more harmony singing, but can understand why one my not have had as much in this program. Allowing harmony takes away from some of the improvising one can do on the organ. Cherwien is a great improviser.

I won't recapitulate the program to you, but I will show you some of my favorite highlights. The NLC sang beautifully on their Rachmaninoff pieces, as well as the others, but the Rach were great. My favorite was the Hebrew piece, since I am now a student of Hebrew.

That was all I wrote, I don't remember where I was going, but I wanted you all to have that information.  Peace