Small Groups continued…

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After talk, discussion, wrong speaking on my part in some cases (which is common) I think I have a grasp on what small groups mean.

I am not in favor of small groups over chapel time.  I was in a discussion which revolved around “what is chapel anyway?”  When I think of chapel I think of Matins, Morning Prayer, Office of Prayer and Preaching or the like, hymns, prayers, Scripture, and preaching perhaps.  I think of the Divine Service on Thursday with  Eucharist.   I do not think of bible study in small groups all over campus.

I will say I am in favor of Bible Study, of getting together to do Bible Study with brothers and sisters, devotional reading and the like.  I am just not in favor of breaking into small groups to do Bible Study over the designated time for chapel at the seminary and here are a few reasons why:

  1. The reason chapel time and the Eucharist were moved was for the purpose of gathering a larger collection of the community together in one place for chapel.  (Granted that these small groups are happening once a month)
  2. While seminarians might be trustworthy to discuss Biblical issues and texts we are at the Seminary for a reason, to learn how to do just that, read and teach the Scriptures rightly.  Now, if each group had a faculty advisor I might think differently.  I am not interested in who thinks what about a text, I am interested in “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  I am not getting in a pulpit on Sunday saying, this is what the text means to me, this is what I THINK it is saying, I am getting in the Pulpit and “Thus Sayeth the LORD.”

Those are the two biggest reasons why I am a little hesitant to be excited about small groups as chapel.  I do also have a radical different opinion about what might be nicer and more beneficial for the community.

  1. Make all morning classes sixty minutes.  There would be classes from 8-9, 9-10, and then at 10 sound the chapel bells.  There would then be a mandatory class  in the chapel called, “Reading the Scripture and the Confessions.”  It would be led by faculty members 4 days a week, perhaps only 2.  There would be discussion, time for argument  with everyone present and faculty to help.  Perhaps the faculty could  hammer out some of their differences too and teach us students how theological discourse happens outside the Blogoshpere.  Then we would roll right into chapel: prayer, preaching, singing chapel.  Lunch, then afternoon classes.

I like the sound of that.

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My Conversation with an Anglican

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Changes at the seminary.  Today there is no chapel, but small groups.  I do not know what that means.

I spoke at length with an Anglican man this last week.  He was attending the symposium.  We entered into conversation when I noticed him milling around one of the end of the day mixers without anyone talking to him.  I went over, introduced myself, and we began talking.  I went in with the usual, (sadly too usual) mindset toward liberal anglican church types.  I was shocked after a few moments.

Now the man held a theology much like the one held by the men who walked out of the Seminary.  However, that did not seem to interfere with our conversation as much as I thought.  There were four areas of which he spoke with which I resonated.  I do not know if I will remember them all, but I will try.

  1. He was amazed that the Synod is not supporting the students of the Seminary with full tuition.  He was then even further amazed at our “screening process.”
  2. He was shocked that our entire school day was not oriented around the prayers of the church in the daily offices.
  3. He could not believe that there would be any other man other than the pastor who would officiate over the Lord’s Supper.  (We talked about this when I stumbled onto the fact that there are churches and pastors who authorize vicars and laymen to preside over the Eucharist.)
  4. I do not remember this one.  Perhaps it will come to me later.

Changes at the seminary?

Needless to say I believe there is a great interconnection between some of these points, the first two specifically.  The prayer life of the men at the seminary is to be one, in my opinion, that is a beacon to the church.  However, chapel and the prayers in certain cases is despised, no matter what camp of the worship wars you fall into.  Just sad.  However, I must refrain from attending chapel certain days because my family needs support from me.  I need to work.  So I have a job on campus and a few others which make ends meet.  If I am not worried about tuition cost, perhaps my wife and I are living on campus, participating in daily prayer…  If there were to be a more rigorous admittance policy and not one based on the fake necessity for more pastors, I think that might help also.  Limit the men coming in a focus on the ones you admit.  There are obviously other veins that can be thought through. Those are my thoughts on what my Anglican Conversation pal and I spoke of.

The Bride of Christ

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The Whole Church throughout all the World is being conformed to the image of Her Husband.  At the Cross:  that is where we fall.  That is the scary, dumbfounding place where we flee.  We disciples as individuals are bound to do so.  However, after the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost courage comes with Him.  Conviction is granted to individuals, and the church.  We are brought together in the knowledge of the Truth.  The Truth being that Jesus Christ, the Captain of the Vessel the church and the Husband of His Bride has defeated our enemies.

He is the New Adam.  He does not shirk His spiritual and physical care of His Bride as Adam did.  He is no feminist Dr. Louis Brighton might say.  He does no lay aside the role in which He was placed.  He is the Good Husband.  We, the church, are the Whoreish wife.  Shall we be content with our whoreishness?  I would pray not.  I would pray we fight knowing the victory over our sin is ours by our Husbands doing.  As individuals we are called by our Baptism, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to fight against sin and die to it daily.  Like our husband be raised to a new life.  Live in that new life by the Power of the Spirit in submission and constancy.

Go to the Cross and do not be afraid.  From there you will be dragged out of death into life by the powerful arms of God.  You will not do it on your own, so God does it for you.  If by Faith you die, by that same faith you will be raised.   A faithfulness that is Christ.  A faith inspired and encouraged by the Spirit of Truth who bears witness about Christ in you.  By living a life in Christ you learn you are no better than Christ.  You will grow to know Crosses well.   For if they hated Christ and killed Him they will also do the same to you and me for being en Christos.

It is easy to fear.  When you see in the world around infidelity, divorce, and the decay of family.  It is easy to doubt that your husband will remain with you when you are so unfaithful to Him.  Do not be afraid.  He is nothing like earthly men.  His heart is not swayed by beauty around Him.  His eyes have no other object but you.  His beloved bride is His entire desire.  Not others infatuate Him.  He loves you perfectly without equivocation.  He will never walk away from you.

It is hard for us to imagine a husband remaining with an unfaithful woman.  It is perhaps even harder for us to imagine a woman would remain with an abusive husband.  If the man or woman goes back to their spouse again and again in love and forgiveness we scoff.  “What a fool”  Indeed what a fool Christ looks to this world.  Returning to us again and again.  Out of pure love without ulterior motives.  We whore around, we beat the face of God, we abuse His Grace and yet again and again He comes to us.  Wipes away the sin and again raises us to be perfect and white clothed in righteousness.  His wisdom, His ways, are nothing like ours.  Thank God for that.

Do not Abandon your Tradition and Heritage

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When I think about what it looks like to abandon families there are many images that come to mind. I think about many of our children’s desire to get out of Staunton.  Perhaps they want to go to school in St. Louis or wherever.  The desire to go to school is not what disturbs me but ulterior motives.   They do not want to have anything to do with farming, a trade, being a housewife, or anything their family has done for centuries perhaps.  They are discontent with the family because it is not an image of the glamour, progression, freedom, fun, and happiness the world displays life to be; that we as individuals in a “free” country are entitled to enjoy, so they desire to leave all behind.

I think this sort of thinking may be applied to several issues we face.  This disturbs me.  Our children, and many of our lives, are ones of discontent.  We are always looking to the future, but not for judgment and restoration as is the Christian hope.  The devil so easily bewitches us, all of us-both young and old, with the glory of the world and all

it has to offer, and how that glory comes through shedding the past that holds you back.  However, do not abandon your tradition and heritage.

You have been placed into a family, your family.  You received this blessing from God without your knowledge, you were chosen, elected.  You have been given to your family and them to you to form your faith, thinking, spiritual and physical health, and how you enter into relationship with one another, there is nothing you can do to separate them from you.  Why try through distance or lifestyle to abandon what you have received from God because you desire a future the world images?

Your family has walked a faithful path through history.  It seems nowadays we are more prone to imagining some path to the future that can be completely independent of the one our family has blazed.  My future starts with me.  Am I saying we ought not to have goals or visions for our futures?  No.  But I am challenging the basis for our vision and goals of the future.  Is it Christ and the future He has accomplished and prepared which is given us by our families through baptism?  Or is it the future of the world, which is selfishness and death?

The same vein of thinkingmay be applied to church.  Do not abandon your church.  You have been born into this community also.  No doubt many of your families and the way they speak, think, and act are based on the faith they have learned in this Church.  Therefore, for many of you this Church is an inseparable part of your familial identity too.  However, just like in a family orphans may become children so too many orphans are brought together in the church and made kin.  Whether your family has been Lutheran since the Reformation or you have just been baptized today you are here in the same family, the congregation, the Church.  This is the election of the Father too.

Now, we speak a great deal about our heavenly Father’s work, but who is our Mother.  The Church is our Mother.  It is her we come to for care, protection, and love.  She is the one who God is given to us to care for us while we are here on this earth.  Shall we as the children of God in the care of our mother the Church abandon this family?  The church seems to hold onto the old, traditional ways, the ways that were given to her by God when they were first married.  The ways all of her children have been brought up in are now being called old, outdated, dusty.  Shall the children become emancipated minors?

We perhaps know what it is like to have stubborn parents.   They will not change for anyone.  They will not get cell phones, big televisions, cable.  They still want to walk instead of sit in a scooter.  They want to live in their homes rather than a nursing home or retirement community.  They will not let anyone come in to clean their home that is not family, sometimes they will not even let family.  They are stubborn, non-understanding.  At least this is the verdict of us children looking in from a perspective of our lives and needs.  The strains we have and places we need to be.  We have our futures in view.  Our stubborn parents must fit into our schema of life based on that future.  However, we children are born into families, not the other way around.

You are born into your parent’s past.  By that, you are also born into their future.  If we are truthful with ourselves, there is nothing we can do about that.  Is our real desire to abandon all our family for the sake of the future we hope to have?  Or are we content with the future that is made for us through the history of our family?   Here I am speaking of both families and sets of Mothers and Fathers.  Shall we as Children attempt to wrangle the past and future our parents have borne us into?  Or shall we be content within them?

We as Christians have a Savior, our Lord Christ, who leads us by example.  Who, even though tempted by the devil to take hold of the riches of the world and all its power and glory, was faithful to His Father and the path laid before Him based on the history of promises His Father made.  Jesus knew what lay before Him.  However, He held firmly to the past promises of His Father.  He knew His future not simply because it was His ability as God, but because He knew His Father’s promises and history.  He knew where He came from.  Because He knew His Father He knew His Future.  This is Faith.  We live this faith in the care of our Mother.

Now we are bound to fail when held up to this example.  We are sinners after-all.  We are bound to stray from families.  I am not giving license because of sin, because our Father and Mother do not.  We are bound to desire the deadly future and its present glory, rather than a deadly Baptism and its future promised glory in Christ.  However, remember your Heavenly Father and how He received His Son.  Do not forget your Father is one of forgiveness and your Mother one of love, care, and tender mercies.  No matter how stubborn they seem to you no doubt it is for your own good.  Do not abandon them.  You are theirs and they are yours, what riches more do you desire?  Do not abandon your tradition and heritage.  In Peace and Contentment Amen.

Cardinals Baseball

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I am not sure why I am drawn to being a Cardinals fan.  I was never a very supportive Rangers fan while in Texas.  Baseball has never been a favorite of mine.  For some reason there is nothing I would rather do now, especially on a day like today, than watch a game.  Perhaps it is the summertime conclusion.  Baseball ushers in the summer months.  The warm, muggy, non-winter-like, summer months.  I like those months.  Baseball, Bar-B-Q, coolers, pools, and friends, I like all of those things.

Politicians or “Public Servants” for Breakfast

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This morning right in the middle of what is usually a very relaxed and light-hearted breakfast with elders Politicians came through the doors.  We should have known something was wrong when there were several women with political shirts on streaming through the door.  Soon, I think since we were some of the only men in the place, we had two gentlemen come with their political speaking.  

I do not know what to make of American politics.  I am skeptical of “public-servants” living in their own community and not the communities they say they serve.  I am wary especially of anyone whose desire is a Christian State.  I do not understand that thinking at all.  God’s desire is not to make America a new Israel.  If that were the case anyway we ought to let this current political system fall apart completely, and return to Monarchical Reign.  This might be one reason why I think our “founding fathers” were morons.

The entire basis of this country and its constitution as I see it is the individual secular autonomous  moral man.  Kant, Descarte, and Sartre are so proud.  My personal freedom-of religion-is the most important thing to me…look where that has got us.  A government apathetic to the actual needs of the population and “freedom” ( perhaps not completely but close),and serving to sustain the institution, and apathetic Christianity obsessed with political reform and a diminished desire for unity and commonality but desiring growth, prosperity, influence and power in the world.

We can bastardize Scripture to bolster political work too.  I was told today, “faith without works is dead” when one of these guys got fed up with me.  My faith without political works for good is dead is basically what he said whether he knew it or not.  I did not get into the fact that he totally misused scripture.  I am sure that is what he has grown up with.  Scripture being a guide for politics and guilt driven morals.  Not the revelation of God’s formation of a separate community of faith over-and-against civil politics.

Uhhhhhh…I just had to get that all out.  I hate having all that stuffed up inside of my brain while I am trying to Spiritually prepare to preach this weekend and learn from wise men later this morning.

The Small Congregation and the Sacrament

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The Rev. Matt Harrison has a great little article directed at small congregations.  He praises the oft overlooked and maltreated small rural congregations in our LC-MS.  I have been thinking about some other matters.

Here is a matter on my mind.  I feel uneasy about large congregations with multiple services and their celebration of the sacrament.  The first reason is this: there is too much opportunity for sin to remain unrepentant.  If there is sin between brothers, the two individuals, or groups, can remain separate in Spirit and harbor animosity toward one another and just switch services so they might never run into one another as often, they can remain strangers.

In small(er) congregations, particularly those with one service in which the Sacrament is celebrated,  the Pastor seems to be more able to oversee that mystery.  It is hard to keep anger, animosity, division, from a watchful Pastor in a small(er) church in my opinion.

The Sacrament is not just something in which individuals are transformed and conformed to the Faith and Flesh of Christ, it is the Place where the church is kept, formed, made-again, in the image of the Divine Christ through the forgiveness of Sin.  I am worried about the souls of the people.  It is unhealthy for them to remain divided and unrepentant and yet act, eat, and drink, all the same in unity, just in different places and times in the “same congregation.”

The second reason: why not start a completely different congregation when a church is large enough?  Certainly there are many factors here.  Think about the care of the church as a whole.  What would our church body look like if this were all the case?  When the Pastor had cared for his people so well they were ready to add another service.  However, rather than sacrifice care and the Sacrament to the wallet; a new congregation is started and a new Pastor comes to care and celebrate the Sacrament.  That sounds rather nice to me.

Come Lord Jesus is all I can pray, Come!

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