Last week, Luther Seminary hosted an event where 300+ leaders gathered to Rethink Confirmation. I wasn’t there but others were. Below is just a collection of tweets from participants. Hopefully these thoughts will help me to rethink confirmation too.
I attended last week’s ELCA Youth Gathering. This massive event, with 30,000 youths, invaded Detroit to worship God and live our faith out loud. Part of the event involved a giant convention center filled with interactive things to do, including re-enacting Da Vinci’s the Last Supper. We (Christ Lutheran Church) joined Good Shepherd, Glen Rock and created this:
Look at that hair.
Every Sunday, I stand in a gap in our communion rail to proclaim confession and forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what style of worship (contemporary or tradition), I’m always there, declaring the absolution of sins. It’s a tradition here at Christ Lutheran Church and one that I’m glad we do. Somedays, I need forgiveness before I lead worship. On other days, I know people in the pews who need to hear God’s love for them before the readings begin. And then, sometimes, my eight month old decides to chime in during the declaration. Here’s how it went last Sunday.
Me: Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ out Lord.
George: Tbbbbbbbbbppptttttt!!!!!! (he’s busy blowing raspberries in the back)
Then, a few moments later:
Me: In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake God forgives us all our sins –
George: HEEYYYOOOOOO. Daddadadadadada.
Me (continues): As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority (George: *raspberry*), I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father (George: *raspberry*), and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
This might end up as a sermon illustration at some point.
One of the gifts being pastor of Christ Lutheran Church is the annual Trash & Treasure & Clothing Sale held on the First Saturday of May. This is a beast of an event. Volunteers work for a month cataloging clothing, cleaning pieces donated from the wider community, and sorting and pricing an amazing amount of items. The church building is taken over, an army of volunteers is fed by another army of volunteers, and, in one day, we’ll raise $15,000. This is the most professional and well organized church sale that I have ever seen. Most of the money will be given to organizations outside the church, from our local food pantry to ELCA Disaster Response. It really is an amazing event and I can’t believe the energy, talent, gifts, and skill the volunteers have to pull this off. And since I’m helping as I can (and I’m in the building most days), I have first pick of what comes in.
So, to whomever donated these Star Wars actions figures: thank you.
I’m going to be fooled on April 1st and this is a little embarrassing. I mean, I know April 1st is coming. Pranks are going to happen. And, every year, someone gets me. Like clockwork, a fake news story, false press release, or a post on Facebook hooks me and I fall for it. I immediately send messages to my family, pointing out the amazing things I just saw, and every one write back: “Do you know what day it is?”
The devotional book we’re using this Lent, Grace & Peace, shares Ephesians 3:7-8 on April 1: “Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ.” As Lent ends and we walk together through the final three days before Easter, we’re reminded of these boundless riches. On April 2nd, Maundy Thursday, we share in the Communion and wash feet, participating in Jesus’ continuing acts of service and love for the sake of our relationship with each other and with God. On April 3rd, we stand at the foot of the Cross, living in the paradox that a dying savior destroys death. And, on Easter morning, we wake up to a new day knowing that, through Christ, we are continually being raised up by God to love and become who God calls us to be.
The end of Lent and the beginning of Easter carries a sense of foolishness and mystery. There’s little about the Cross that feels like victory. Jesus, dying to reconcile us to God, doesn’t match our experiences of power and strength. Death and weakness is something we run away from. Yet, through death and weakness, God brings about love and hope. This is a season of the unexpected. God’s work is unexpected. Jesus’ experience is unexpected. And God’s boundless love for us and the world is unexpected too. But God’s love is just what God does. God continues to go out, engaging us in our lives and in our world, giving grace and faith so that we can love just as God loves. We’re changed because Jesus does something foolish in our eyes. We’re loved because God felt we were worth dying for. Each day is God’s day. We awake, renewed and cared for by this foolish God who holds us close, pouring love, grace, and mercy into us, and asking: “Do you know what day it is?”
See you in church!
We’re hearing a lot about the wilderness this Lent.
On the first Sunday in Lent (February 22), we find Jesus in the wilderness (see Mark 1:12-13). His baptism by John in the Jordan saw the Spirit descend onto him, and that same Spirit pushed him into the uncivilized and undomesticated outdoors. He’s been pushed away from cities, people, and the land of Israel. Like the Israelites who spent 40 years in the wilderness after Moses led them out of Egypt, Jesus is now spending 40 days in a place where he is totally dependent on God.
When was the last time you were in a place totally dependent on God?
Part of our Lenten journey is recognizing our dependence on God. This isn’t always easy to notice. I know I tend to put my dependence in other things or people. When I have a good job, financial security, a happy family, and great health, it’s easy to not notice what I have and instead strive for what I don’t. And when things get rough, my sense of dependence turns elsewhere. It’s easy to kick God to the curb, throwing ourselves towards who, or what, we believe is in power or control. God can feel so distant or unreachable; we don’t even put God into view.
I invite you this Lent to intentionally examine your dependence on God. Find a place in your home, away from what you need to do, and take a moment to sit with God. Sit with Mark 1:12-13. Pick an area of your life (work, school, family, etc.) and unpack how God matters in it. Get into the details and the nitty-gritty because God is there. God is present. And you matter so much to God; there’s nowhere God won’t go.
See you in church!
Here’s how the church looked on Christmas Eve at our 11 pm service.
I was formally installed by the Bishop of the New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Woodcliff Lake on Sunday, November 30. The first Sunday of Advent and at the start of the year where our gospel lessons focus on the gospel according to Mark.
A sermon on the installation of me as pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Woodcliff Lake. Preached on the First Sunday of Advent, 2014.
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