Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pentecost 13 C 2013

Audion can be found at [ ]

The Text Follows:


This past week this congregation was joined by the entire church.  We have been working at the task of determining who we are as a congregation for almost 10 months.  We know that we are on the way to the process of selection of a new Pastor.  But this week the entire church went through a process similar to ours.
Voting members of the church wide assembly were chosen over a year ago at the 65 synod assemblies.  These 952 voting members of the assembly have been receiving information about the nature and the status of the church for the last year.  In the past the total information gathered prior to an assembly would fill a 3 inch binder.  This year for the first time the information was loaded on IPod’s which were used by the voting members for the duration of the assembly, just think about the amount of paper they did not use…
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a theme that you will see on the pews.  “Always being made NEW: 25 Years together in Christ.” This theme is for the church and a lead in to the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing the 95 theses on the Church Door at Wittenberg in 1517.
Bishop Mark Hanson has led the church for the past 12 years.  His official first day in office was November 1, 2001, but we all know that September 11, 2001 called all of us, church officials included, into a new way of thinking about ourselves and the world we live in.  This past week the ELCA moved in a new direction with the election of a New Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who currently serves as the Bishop of Northeast Ohio Synod.  In many ways her election is a continuation of the theme for the ELCA of Always being made New. 
This congregation is moving into the second stage of the selection of a new pastor by finishing the description of who we are a congregation, and the appointment of a Search Committee.  I want to remind you that their process is to be done in confidentiality.  We are not supposed to quiz the members about who is being considered, or how the search is going.  They will be asked to give us regular reports of their progress.  Not unlike the progress reports we have received from the congregational profile committee.
I suppose that the year the assembly members spent in reading materials and reports of the church were not unlike the process that we are going through as well.  There were some observers who were surprised that the ELCA elected a woman as our presiding Bishop, but we are not the first to do that.  The Canadian Lutheran Bishop Susan Christine Johnson has been serving since 2007.  The ELCA at its assembly elected a new Secretary Rev. William Chris Boerger.  In addition the church adopted a statement on Criminal Justice and set the works in motion for a church wide major fund raising campaign.  The goal is to raise funds to support new ministries and to support the education of leaders.  This one item alone could reduce the debt load that new pastors and church leaders will have at the end of their education.
That seems to mirror the needs of this congregation as we seek to sustain the building that serves us and to reduce our internal debt so that we will be better prepared to greet a new pastor.   Perhaps the Old Testament passage for the day from Jeremiah 23:23-29 may have some words of encouragement and challenge for us today.
23:23 Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?
23:24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.
23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!"
23:26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back--those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart?
23:27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.
23:28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the LORD.
23:29 Is not my word like fire, says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
Living a life that is Always being made new, means that we are not static in our living.  Change is inevitable, challenges are always forthcoming.  That in many ways is the lifestyle that I have experienced while being here.  You might expect me to say that I pray, but I truly do pray to a God who is nearby, for the people, the ministries of this congregation, the strangers and the familiar folks who come into our doors are not only in need of worldly items of support and nurture, but they are also in need of spiritual support and nurture.  I am only one source of supply, but I know that I can find other supports and supporters within the congregation.  While Pastor Myra and I may do the bulk of the visitations, I know that on occasion I see others from the congregation being the family of God in visiting with each other in times of celebration and trial.  In multiple ways at Christ Lutheran, God is not far off.
Some of us have hidden our trials and challenges, we only want to share our celebrations and joy, but family is there for the low times in life as well as the high times.  On occasions I have seen you be present on both occasions.  There are occasions when we say no.  This past week, someone asked if we had AA or NA.  We don’t, but then I went through the list of what we do have starting with food and children and knitters and prayer shawls, and emergency supplies, second language, Bible study, job corps, educational opportunities, etc., etc.  Not every prophesy can be fulfilled within the walls of this building by the members of this congregation.  Yet there needs to be people and a space and time to discern what prophesies can be a part of the ministry here.  What needs that are unmet in our neighborhood can be met by the energies of people who find themselves called to a new ministry.
Just like our new Bishop who did not travel to Pittsburgh to be the Bishop of the ELCA, for she had just been reelected as the Bishop of Northeast Ohio, she was open to the guidance of the Spirit who spoke to her and the voting assembly that God wants you to be a part of the leadership team to Always being made new in the ELCA.  That same spirit I believe is living in this church and congregation, for Christ Lutheran is not the same congregation is was 21 years ago, or 15 years ago.  There are some ministries that have changed, there are other ministries that have grown, there are some ministries that have been curtailed.  Yet when we listen to the Spirit, We can always be Made New, in the service of Christ our Brother and our Lord.  AMEN.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon for Pentecost 12

The Audio can be found at:

The text follows:

I’m sure that 12 months ago, as it became clear that your pastor was retiring, no one said to you, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”  If it had been said, I’m willing to bet that you would not have been able to see into the future to see what life would be like today.  Oh there are some things that you would expect to happen.  We would still have an 8:15 service and a 10:30 service.  We would still have children’s church, we would still have the church picnic, and there would still be the ESL classes, the after-school program, the summer day camp, the visitations to the sick and the shut-ins.  The food bank would still be available for emergencies and on Fridays.  You just didn’t know who would be the pastor.
No one expected then that the furnace would slowly die during the middle of winter.  I found out this week that it was installed in 1988.  Twenty-five years of intense use by a seven day a week operation.  No one would have expected the kitchen stove to be replaced, even though there were those who knew that we had to plan for its replacement.  So there was a fund created to do some remodeling in the kitchen.  There is no doubt that we have been challenged.  But challenge does not necessarily lead to fear.
A long time ago, I came to the realization that I really didn’t control much.  The one item over which I had major control was my time.  I would waste my time, I could give it away [that is be a volunteer], I could sell it [ that is an interpretation of getting a job and being paid], but whatever you do with the one commodity over which you have control Time can be a statement of what is important to you.  Just a couple of weeks ago we heard the story of the Good Samaritan.  This gracious person took not only the time to care for a wounded person, but he shared his resources [the money she/he earned to support the injured during his recuperation.
 God has shown the way to be a giver.  Sometimes we take it for granted, but while the words may come easily out of our mouths, we have to remember the God did send his Son into the world to give new meaning to the phrase God is with us.  Even in our lessons for today we hear of the way that God continues to give “for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  We in turn are asked to be givers in the context of today’s lesson in the next verse,   Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Specifically, there seems to be a call to give to the poor.  Collectively we do that.  I loaded 9 boxes of food and supplies this past Thursday that were taken to the local food bank.  We have volunteers who serve those who come desiring food and supplies for their current needs. Then the following day the line started at the drive way and wound all the way back to the beginning of the steps to our main door for those seeking help from Philabundance.  I suppose I should have not been surprised to get a call asking for food and financial support.  The call got a little strange, when I asked where the caller lived.  After a couple of minutes of continuous description of his immediate need.  He said that he was in the panhandle that includes Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  I shared with him the fact that there had to be someone closer to him than Upper Darby, PA. 
I know that our reputation goes far and wide, but we do try to concentrate our activity within walking or driving distance of the church.  But that does not mean that we will not receive challenges that seem beyond our means.  All the questions that have been asked of you over the last few weeks are an attempt to gather some impressions of what you believe we can handle, what we need to handle and most especially, what might we be open to do in the future that stretches us again, for our time and our talent and our resources.  I believe that our purses are made well, we know that God says that they should not wear out.
For much of the time in the seeking of a new pastor is looking at ourselves.  For the congregation, we the people are the center of the ministry.  The pastor will be a central part of the leadership, but it is the people of God who are the power behind the ministry.  Each week we prepare ourselves for a visit, but it is not often that we consciously think about Jesus coming to each of us in the meal we share at the table.  Each Sunday Jesus is present with us in the word and the sacrament.  As a friend of my says, coming to the table  means receiving his coming to us”.
Whomever the congregation finds as a new pastor will be joining a congregation that is already involved in both finding themselves and connecting with God and Jesus, through prayer, worship, and the sacraments of the church.  Giving of yourselves in those environments, leads to giving of yourselves in the new challenges that will face the congregation as we move into the future, as God’s outpost on Walnut Street.  To God be the Glory in All we do….  AMEN.
Thanks to Brian Stoffregen for assistance.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Rangel gets racial: Tea party a bunch of 'white crackers' - Washington Times

 Why this Saturday?  It started out so well. When a seemingly mature young white male rides down the 6700 Block of Germantown Avenue in his grey pickup truck with his window down and shouting quotes from Riley Cooper, why do I a mature adult older black male feel an urge to quote Rachel Jeantel as she describes Trayvon Martin’s unflattering description of the man who was following him.  Or maybe I just want to quote Rep. Charles Rangel.


Rangel gets racial: Tea party a bunch of 'white crackers' - Washington Times