Wednesday, May 22, 2019


This morning I had coffee with my sister-in-law, Jess.  She pastors in a different context and in a different denomination.  She is in town visiting Becky and our family.  This was the first I got to visit with her since I returned from 1383 mile round trip visit to Two Harbors, MN for retreat.  A little bit of Coffee and a Whole Lot of Jesus (see previous post).  Jess and I sat and chatted about life, family, ministry, and more importantly.....Jesus.  Jess took the Amtrak to Milwaukee.  We even reminisced about her taking me to the Erie, PA train station, only to stop at a local Perkins Restuarant meeting a guy who gave himself a nickname Tbone. (Quick wisdom: you are NEVER allowed to give yourself a nickname.  Nicknames are earned from other people.)

As Jess and I chatted, I began to tell her some of the wisdom of my retreat, not all of which I have processed, prayed about, or even written about here.  One of those bits of wisdom that I am still wrestling is Anna sharing the Ore boats coming into harbor, the horn that blows when they get out of line with where they are intended to be.....she called it 'knowing that to which you are tether."  In other words, the christian life is as much knowing to whom we belong as anything else, and yet we tether ourselves and our churches to things that are not necessarily things that belong under the category of Jesus is Lord.  And with all of that, Jess unloaded this terrific and wonderful gem of a phrase; 'What you win them with is what you win them to.'

This phrase says so much about no particular context or tradition but it flew right in the face of tradionalism.  Tradionalism is the what and the how we do things as a church, not to that which we are tethered.

Her point was if we win people with pizza parties and bowling, we have won people to pizza parties and bowling.  Jesus is somehow missing.

Her other point that she didn't have to make is that if we win people to Jesus following, then we have made disciples.  Jesus is definitely what we are tethered to.

Winning in a post christian culture cannot be determined by pizza parties and attendance in whatever awkward social structure past results have determined successful.  Winning, if there is such a thing, must be seen through the lens of how we invite people to follow the one with we are tethered.

6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Monday, May 20, 2019

the nature of humility

I spent a good part of today walking nature paths and riding 75 miles for a promised 'best burger ever 'through some of the best twisty roads there are in northern Minnesota.  The burger was good but not best ever.  The nature scenes, however, were stunning.  In the book of Job, Job finally gets his audience with God following several theological discussion with his 'friends.'  God's response is not something we expect God to say to a man who wants an account for the suffering he has experienced.

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom
    with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
    because I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
    and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
    and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
    as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
    and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
    limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’ -Job 38:1-11
So that is the nature of humility, to see the enormity of God's creation brings us to an awareness of how very small we are in the grand scheme of the universe.  This is not to say we are insignificant, it is to say we are humbled by God's creation.  In the book of Job, wisdom begins with humility.

Marva Dawn reflected on the accomplishments of Christ in pastoral ministry. "God's perfect purposes and impeccable intentions are not thwarted.  Why do we ever think we are necessary for that?  How is it that we think we are essential for whatever needs to happen in our congregations?  Why are we afraid to take a Sabbath day because our churches need us so badly?  The world got along fine without us before we arrived.  Ephesians 1:11(Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.) sets us free again to revel in all that God is and does." (The Unnecessary Pastor pg. 56)

In other words, Marva Dawn is inviting us to explore the idea that paying attention to what God is doing among our congregations and us is a pure gift of God.  Sometimes this translates when people tell us 'great sermon, pastor.'  Our best response is to thank God, for it is at best God's words being used by us.  Or when I compliment Deacon Marcia for any part of her amazing ministry, she normally points up (thanking God).

Wandering around Lake Superior or seeing the small coast of such a vast body of water from the hill descending home truly humbled me today, and that is the beginning of wisdom.  

Let us pray: Triune God, creator, redeemer, and advocate, send us forth from your Word overawed with the immensity of your grace and eager to respond - to the praise of your glory. Amen!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

This little light of mine

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. - Colossians 3:15-17
I missed church today.  It wasn't for a lack of motivation or desire.  No, instead it was the snow that dropped on Two Harbors, MN in the middle of May.  I decided to stay safe instead of risking the ride.  Nicodemus has done snow before but he tells me he is not really fond of it.  What's a pastor to do?
I lit the candle that was given to me by the people of St. Mark's to remember them in prayer.  So I prayed for them as they worshipped, their extended candle lit in the sanctuary.  And I communed with these people in a far off place to pray together.  And I sang, "this little light of mine."  It was quite joyful.  As a preacher, I miss the pulpit.  Instead, I got to listen to God's funny voice through the snow falling to the ground, I rested in the pure grace to feel the spirit's movement by the flickering of this small lighted candle. Finally I remembered the words from Paul to the Colossians above, letting the message about Christ fill our lives, in all of its richness.
The following was a powerful moment in our sabbatical blessing.
PA:  I leave you with this candle.  Light it when you gather for worship each Sunday and when you meet.  Pray for me while I am gone.
C:  We will pray that you return renewed and energized for ministry.
L:  We leave you with this candle.  Carry it with you.  Light it and pray for us while we are apart.  Pray that we will be renewed to serve in God’s name.


This morning I had coffee with my sister-in-law, Jess.  She pastors in a different context and in a different denomination.  She is in town ...