Monday, September 28, 2009

The Monday After

As a vicar, the Monday morning after preaching a "sermon" can be either a big relief or a day when you realize that what you preached on Sunday may not have been very good at all.

The first comments come right after the service (a few actual examples said to me):

"A wonderful message, vicar."
"I enjoyed your sermon, Pastor."
"I'm proud that you call a spade a spade. Not many want to do that these days."
"When you said that, you really made the older members of the church lean forward to hear what you were saying."
"I'm glad you added that part about the rowdy kids vicar."
"I like the way you handled the text."

The second comments come later and are more helpful:

"Your delivery was good, but it seemed like there were three different thoughts that weren't finished."
"You could have focused on X,Y,and Z to make it better."

As a vicar I know I am here to learn. I know I do not know how to articulate the word of God in such a way like many learned pastors can. But the fact is, from the feedback I have been getting, this was a crappy "sermon". Now I know that the question to ask when evaluating a sermon is "Was I faithful to the text?" I thought I might have been. At least, in my thought processes in coming up with what to write, I thought I was faithful. But from the comments I have to question myself.

First, the latter set of comments.
Does the manner in which you present the text affect faithfulness to the text? I think yes. If you do not articulate clearly then you cannot convey the correct meaning of the text. It, as was the case with my sermon, was too disjointed to be understandable. Thus, in that respect I was not faithful to the text.

Secondly, the second set of comments deals with something that has troubled me.
I know the law needs to be preached. The way things are needs to be presented in the way things really are. But if you look at my comments, it seems the law won the battle in the minds of the people and I'm not sure what to make of it. Did I not preach Christ? Did the Gospel not predominate in my sermon? I worry about such things. Or was it simply that the Holy Spirit chose that they dwell upon the law and understand its significance, even in the light of the Gospel? I don't know. That is my hope. I hope that I wasn't a preacher of works without Christ.

And this is my struggle. Hopefully, I was faithful. I fear I was not. But then again, perhaps I put not enough trust in Christ. Perhaps I am the weak in faith that I spoke of on Sunday. Perhaps God did see me faithful to His Word and was using it to accomplish His purpose. How much responsibility do I take? How much do I trust and leave in the hands of God despite my failings? God sustain me in this task, because I'll be paralyzed to speak Your Word should You not.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Friday, September 18, 2009

September 18

It was four years ago today that my Grandpa Morris fell asleep in the Lord.

It was really early on a Sunday morning, probably around 2am. I was sleeping and Betsy came and woke me. Apparently mom had called and said that Grandpa wasn't going to live much longer. Then the phone rang and it was either mom or dad telling Betsy that grandpa has passed away. All I can remember is that I wasn't really affected by it then. So, I went back to bed.

I went to church the next morning by myself, Craig might have gone as well. I don't remember exactly. I think it was just me. And it was hard listening to the liturgy and hymns because it wasn't simply rote singing. It was true. Don't ask me what the hymns were, I don't remember. But the liturgy was either page 5 or 15 from The Lutheran Hymnal. There's something special about confession and absolution after a loved one dies. It sinks in a little bit more. The singing of "Lord, have mercy upon us" has a truer ring when your heart is torn by a loss. And a pronouncement of "On on earth peace, good will toward men" makes men mindful of the peace God gives even in the midst of such turmoil. I cannot tell you what the reading for that Sunday were, nor what the sermon was about. And we must have had communion (so I guess pg 15) because I remember the Nunc Dimittis so very well:
"Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word."
Then I can remember that I was an usher that day. But, I felt bad because that was the day we also welcomed Sasha and her husband (whose name escapes me at this time, sorry!) to the church as members, yet everyone was so intent on saying how sorry they were for my loss that I felt as if the new members were being overlooked. I think it would have been best had I not ushered that day.

I went back to OU that evening. I had classes the next day. It also happened to be my birthday. I don't remember much about that day, except that I went on a quasi-date. It probably wasn't a date, but it was nice to have her around. Her name was Shirley. I was living at Campus Lodge then, and we went for a walk. There is this small wooden bridge that sat out on the frisbee golf course that was next to the apartments. There we sat, talking and chatting. She just listened sometimes, and I think that helped. - My Grandpa's viewing was that night, and I wasn't able to go.

The next morning I drove home for the funeral. And we gathered at Uncle Tracy's house before the service. Kurt Sharp was the man who was working for the funeral home. He was a family friend. I'm not sure what made me cry more: Kurt seeing our family and tearing up when he was trying to tell us procedure on how things were going to go, or when Grandma had him cry on her shoulder. We went over to Ladusau-Evans funeral home for the service. I could literally feel all the emotion in the room. Then I saw Grandpa and I cried. I don't think I've cried harder in my life. It was humiliating, with all the family friends gathered near. But I didn't care. This wasn't supposed to be this way.

As I reflect and a few of those emotions come back I think that that was not how God intended the way for it to be. he did not intend for the life he created to be destroyed. He did not want the relationships that he had established severed. But it was, all on account of sin. Now, I don't recall everything in the sermon, but I know that the Gospel was preached. Grandpa would not be that way forever. He would be resurrected as would we all, because of the death and resurrection of Christ. We would be reunited with him on the last day. It was true, but just hard to hear.

Wonderfully hard to hear.

Melvin "Dwayne" Morris
August 13, 1927 - September 18, 2005
Baptized and Redeemed

+Kyrie Eleison+

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Having Children

I read this article concerning women who have lots of babies. I thought it did a fine job detailing the risks involved with having so many children, while also addressing the possible health benefit. (Although, naturally, it mentions nothing of the fact that children are blessings.)

What really bothered me was not the article itself, for it was surprisingly less biased than I expected, but rather the comments that followed. The majority of them were rather critical of women who had large families. I found more often than not there was a concern over money and who was going to support these women and their children - most claiming the family irresponsible and freeloaders off the government.

Talk about the hold money has on a person. It's clear that money is valued more than children from the numerous comments. And it really saddens me.

I applaud mothers who take on the responsibility of a large family and I mourn with those who have trouble or cannot conceive. But to me it seems, life is life. If the woman is blessed with many children we should not scorn her, but love her all the more for the cross of motherhood that that God has given for her to bear. We should not think her odd for having many children, but embrace the gift of life that God has given.

Honor your father and mother.
And thusly you, "Let your father and mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice." Proverbs 23:25

+Kyrie Eleison+

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is God "Green"?

This is an interesting question and one that at least need to be considered in the light of three things 1) God's actions, 2) God's actions in light of sin, and 3) the implications for man.

When we think about God, we do understand that God indeed does take care of his creation. It is his earth: "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 24:1). We are told to "Consider the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet Your heavenly father feeds them... the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these." (Matthew 6: 26, 28b-29) God himself takes care of all things. God takes care of and preserves all his creatures and his land. We understand that all first article (of the creed) gifts come from and are preserved by God.

Yet, think on sin and its consequences. Did not God, who takes care of all things, destroy the earth in the flood? It's a harsh reminder that the world we live in is fallen and after the fall, sin had to be dealt with. God's plan of salvation had always been one of sending a redeemer to reconcile all the earth to himself. "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:20-21) And truly the earth will be created anew in perfection on the last day. But until then we live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is falling into chaos, not merely because of what man does in polluting the environment, but also because it too is a fallen creation.

But, finally, how does this effect man. Man as we know was commanded by God in the garden to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over... every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28) We also know that man was created as the capstone of creation. No other creature was made in the image of God, nor was the command to subdue creation and have dominion given to any other. We are the stewards of God's earth. We are not equal with the other creatures, nor are we even subservient to them. We are the overseers of creation working and tending as commanded by God.

So the real question in all of this - concerning how God acts, the state of the world and the role of overseer that God as given us as human beings, is failing to be "green" (defined in the best sense) a sin?

As I understand it - yes. Failing to be a good steward of God's gifts is a sin. And one can follow the rabbit hole all the way down, and it will drive a man to despair that he is such a dreadful sinner deserving of hell since he cannot be perfectly "green".

But why stop there? If you look at any aspect of life, you will find the same thing - an endless trail of things to do that God desires of you, lest you sin. Yet, it seems that because it is not on the forefront of the public display, you can easily fool the mind and heart into believing it has fulfilled God's law, when it has not.

But, thus is the fallen world. There is sin there. There will always be more and more ways to do the will of the Father. And, it is too much for a sinner. He has not the strength to do it all himself. That is why Christ came, and forgave man by his blood. All this that you might live in the freedom of the Gospel not bound by the law but free to do the good works with a free conscience. That you might not be paralyzed by the greatness of your sin, but free to serve God and your neighbor... even by being "green". :)

+Kyrie Eleison

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jenga Church

What happens when we begin to remove all the theology from the church? What happens when we think that the preaching of Christ is less important than discussion of a certain text? What happens when we think living like a Christian is more important than living as one who is Baptized? What happens when we think church communion is more important than Holy Communion?

Well if you remove too many of the building blocks of the church, then you end up with a pile of rubble. And Jesus will lie in ruins at the bottom of your Jenga pile.

+Kyrie Eleison+