Celebrating the Mystery

I wanted to share that I just had a phone conversation with ******, one that really made me smile. The reason it made me smile is because a few Sundays ago, he and his wife, **** caught me before the Divine Service and shared with me that they would be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and with that, I was so happy for them. In fact, I suggested that they consider celebrating the wonderful event for all that it is as a gracious gift of God by renewing their vows in the Rite of Affirmation of Holy Matrimony, which can happen as a separate event on a different day, but is certainly most appropriate during a Sunday morning Divine Service. In fact, the Lutheran Service Book Agenda, which is the book we pastors rely on for the various rites and ceremonies in the church, suggests the Sunday morning Divine Service as perhaps the best option.

Well, they talked about the idea and have decided to do it! And the date they’ve selected is Sunday, June 10 (which is also Graduation Sunday, so it will be a rather full day of celebration)!

This means that the Divine Service will begin that day as usual with the tolling of the bells during the procession of the cross and assistants. But then right after the Invocation, in place of Confession and Absolution, I’ll call ***** and ***** forward to the altar where they’ll be flanked by those who stood as their best man and maid of honor, and they will participate in the brief rite. As it is when we have a baptism, the rite of Confession and Absolution will be set aside, but not because it is negotiable, but rather because the Baptismal Rite is already chock full of Law and Gospel, all of which acknowledges our sin while at the same time preaches to our hearts the forgiveness of Christ. It’s the same with the reaffirmation rite for marriage. The rite itself communicates Man’s truest nature in sin and God’s merciful love expressed through the gifts He gives. In an age of confusion, one in which the sanctity of marriage is so often lost and the institution is more and more despised, this is an opportunity for the whole congregation to acknowledge and celebrate marriage as the gift of God that our Lord intends it to be—one that serves as a direct reflection of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5).

As you can see, I’m excited to have this happen. My hope is that it will serve all of us well, and that perhaps it will spark an interest among other couples to do the same when the time and milestone opportunity arises.

A Christian Leader

I saw the sun this past weekend! I love the sun! Did you see it, too? I was pretty excited by it, that’s for sure. I’ve read about the sun in books, but living here in Michigan, I’ve rarely caught a glimpse of it. It sure made my day to see this cosmic phenomenon that others talk about so fondly. I even saw a sunbeam on dry pavement. Dry pavement!  Can you believe that?! It didn’t have any snow on it!

Okay, so I’m being a little facetious. The point is that the warmer weather has finally poked through the pall of a long Michigan winter, and with that, some relief is upon us.

Besides a big and brightly beaming sun casting its happy light upon us, do you know what else I love? The leaders in in this congregation. And why? Because they truly do fit the Biblical depiction of what it means to emanate Godly authority in the church. In other words, they see themselves as both responsible and accountable.

With regard to accountability, the Word of God is pretty clear that anyone serving in a sphere of authority over others will ultimately give an account to the One who is the source of all authority (Luke12:42-48; 20:9-16). And we know who that is, right? Read Matthew 28:18 if you don’t. But if you guessed Jesus before reading Mathew 28, then give yourself a high five, because you’re right. All authority in heaven and on earth is His, and so even the authority that leaders in the church and world wield, they do so, technically, as stewards in faithfulness to Christ.

With regard to responsibility, believe it or not, the scriptures suggest that Godly character is essential for anyone seeking to be a leader.  Maybe you have heard the phrase “Character is your true self when no one is watching.” In the Bible, the traits of Godly character are almost always intimately paired with “truth.” Even more interestingly, character is treated as a fruit born from conviction, which is at the heart of the positions we hold on certain issues in accordance with truth. A leader with character seeks after truth—God’s truth—and wants it to be communicated to the people he or she is leading. (Prov. 6:16-19; Psalm 1:1; 1 Cor. 11:1-2; Romans 5:4; 1 John 2:3-4; John 6:67-71; Prov. 22:1; Prov. 8:14; 2 Thess. 2:14-15; James 4:8; Eccl. 7:1; Phil. 4:5; Eph. 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:17)

In Titus 2:15, Saint Paul takes time to point out how a Christian leader’s authority is founded on character. Paul encourages: “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Now, Paul does not mean that Titus ought to flex the muscle of his authority as a leader in a way that shows he’s the boss and folks had better understand that he’s the boss, but rather a few verses prior, Paul explains how Titus’ authority would be established, displayed, and subsequently acknowledged and accepted: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Titus’ authority is substantiated not just by his official title, but by a life that displays worthy character that seeks after and is set upon Godly truth. This instruction from Paul is not just for Titus. Paul gives the same encouragement to young Pastor Timothy: “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

So, in other words, Godly character commands respect, and the chances are good in any particular congregation that a steward of such Godliness who holds respect will also end up serving as a leader with certain measures of authority.

I can heartily attest to the fact that the Christian leaders here at our Savior are mindful of the ultimate source of their authority—Jesus Christ—and with that, they are not self-seeking, but rather are serving all of you in faithfulness as they serve the Lord in faithfulness. And the substance of that authority is fed and owned by Godly character—character itself being fed and owned by the capacity to abide by Godly convictions built on the truth of Christ and His Word even when faced with the temptation to forsake God’s Word because their own reason appears to make more sense.

These are the folks serving here at Our Savior. You can be gladdened by this. God is very good to us in this regard, and just like the sunbeams of a springtime sun, He casts the bright beams of His love upon all of us through the diligent work of these faithful people.

A Stranger at Subway

(A Facebook Post.)

In a few ways, I think it’s very telling when you get into a discussion with a total stranger at Subway and the conversation somehow turns to how your four kids keep telling you that you should run for President, and then when you tell them that if you did, your very first act would be an executive order outlawing youth sporting activities of any kind on Sunday mornings, the gentleman two booths away says “Amen” while clapping. It’s telling because either there are others who might be supportive of the platforms of my candidacy, or the guy was just being creepy and listening in on the conversation.

#gotochurchandtakeyourkidsbecauseoddsaretheywontmakealivingatwhatyouaresubjectingthemtobutcouldverywelldieinunbelief #justsayin

A Different Endgame

I wanted to take a quick moment and relay an “in the trenches” type conversation I had this past Tuesday in Lansing with a ranking member of the Michigan House of Representatives who reached out to certain local pastors and asked for help/ideas/etc. in retaining several seats that are up for grabs in the upcoming election. According to the data he shared, several seats could be lost by a mere hundred or so votes depending upon voter turnout. In the midst of the discussion, he explained to me that one particular and somewhat liberal bill was going to be dealt with on the floor of the House very soon, and would probably pass—and it’s one that guys like me would never support—but the purpose was to garner moderate opposition support while at the same time keeping the bill off of the ballot in November because it would most likely draw out opposition voters who don’t typically participate in the larger elections. If this happens, it’s likely that the conservative majority would become the minority.

It was the purest image of political maneuvering, and while I’m well familiar with it happening, in that moment between just the two of us, it made me sick to my stomach. And I told him as much.

I reminded him that while I understand our system of government and the need to maintain certain levels of power to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, while this was the obvious intent of the conversation, simply keeping power was not the endgame for folks like me. It needed to be more. I explained that what seems to happen so often is that Christians are encouraged to do what they can support certain candidates and see that they are elected, and those candidates are sold on the platforms of Pro-Life, pro-religious liberty, and pro-sanctity of Marriage—all things that matter to the Christian church and her ability to function in a society where the Gospel is free to be preached and the Christians are able to live in peace and quietness. Big promises are made—such as defunding Planned Parenthood as soon as the elections are over and the candidates are in office, passing legislation that supports traditional marriage, and engaging with the courts to protect the Church from legal assaults against Biblical conscience. But when they do finally take to their seats for the business of governance, those thing never seem to happen—even in super-majority situations. For example, here I sit and Planned Parenthood is still having Michigan dollars directed to its coffers while at the same time receiving a cut of my Federal tax dollars—all of this even after so many conservative candidates were elected on the promise to stop this.

Anyway, the reason I share this is because I felt you needed to know that while I remain committed to engaging in this way, it really is for no other reason than to intercede with those in authority on behalf of the Church, and while doing so, to make sure that they understand that we are not seeking power, but rather faithfulness to good governance. When they fall short, they need to know. When they succeed, they need to be commended. In that particular moment, I expressed my concern and disappointment.

Nevertheless, and in the end, all of this serves to highlight that there is only One in whom trust is not wasted: Jesus Christ, the Savior of the Lord. It is by His gracious rule that we make our way in this life, humbly following His lead and seeking to remain in connection to Him and the gifts of forgiveness that He provides—gifts that preserve us for eternal life—namely Word and Sacrament.

God bless and keep you. If you have any questions, be sure to reach out and to let me know.