Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Church and Politics and...Advent?

Today is election day, November 4th. By the time most of us go to bed tonight, we should know who America's next President will be. Whether you cast your ballot for Senator Obama, or McCain, your participation in the civil realm is pleasing in God's sight.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a pre-Advent preaching conference. This was a conference in which we would study the Old Testament readings for the season of Advent, with an eye toward preaching them during Advent, maybe even in a sermon series. The guest presenter was Dr. Tim Saleska, OT Professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and we were all hoping that he would give us one of those catchy titles to be used as a theme for our midweek advent services. You know the kind: "Attributes for Advent--Faith, Hope, and Love," or "The Prophecies of Christ." Imagine our surprise when he dropped the following title on us, as a suggested theme for an advent sermon series: Church Politics.

Now, don't get me wrong, I could certainly see why this title might have been suggested. Certainly the events of this day (election day) would still be on the minds of our parishioners in December, as the inauguration of our next president would still be forthcoming. And if a provocative title was our desire, this would certainly qualify, but I must confess, I was a little apprehensive about this suggested Advent theme.

What did the anticipation of the incarnation have to do with Church Politics? Was the baby Jesus coming to save us from the result of this country's election? How would a series entitled Church Politics lend itself to preaching Christ? Was the birth of Christ some sort of divine power play?

Without putting all my cards on the table, allow me to put aside any fear that Mt. Calvary will be kicking off its Christian Zionist movement beginning in December. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Yes, the title is provocative. But even more than that, it's ingenious--and I'm excited!

Too often we associate the word politics with self interests and power plays, and as a result, we are leery of politics making their way into the church. But as William Willimon points out in Shaped by the Bible, "the Bible is "political" in the classic sense of the word politics--the forming of a polis (city), the constitution of a people through a discussion of what needs are worth having, what goals are good."

So, I have chosen to use Church Politics as the theme for Mt. Calvary's midweek Advent services this year. And I invite those of you in the San Antonio area to join us on Wednesday evenings, beginning December 3rd, @ 7:00 p.m., as we explore how God's Word shapes, and forms the church as a people, a community, of anticipation during this Advent season. And those of you reading from afar, don't forget to check out our website where all of our services will streamed live, and then later archived for your convenience (http://www.mtcsa.org/).

May we be formed as God's flock of faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Incarnate Word of God--Jesus Christ--is proclaimed!

Friday, October 31, 2008


The Gospel reading for the observation of Reformation Day was John 8:31-36. Here, Jesus tells the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The latest devotional resource from Concordia Publishing House has arrived, and in my opinion, you won’t find a better one—anywhere. The challenge of flipping from one book to another has been removed, as the Treasury of Daily Prayer is “one stop shopping” at its best: psalmody, full Old and New Testament reading, devotional writing from the Church Fathers, hymnody, prayers, full liturgies, and more!

Quoting from the box in which it came: “Whether use by individuals, families, or small groups, the Treasury embraces the centuries-old practice of daily structured devotion and prayer. Thus this conversation with God, rooted in His Word, becomes again for His people a means to sanctify and mark time, placing our minutes and days in the context of eternity.”

I encourage you to check out the Treasury of Daily Prayer here (http://www.cph.org/cphstore/pages/resources/tdp/index.asp). This resource will keep you rooted in the Word of Christ, where truth is made known, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ will set you free from the yoke of slavery.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Pastor as a Gift

I teach a morning Bible class in which we are going through the different topics covered in "The Lutheran Difference" series by CPH. The current topic: Law and Gospel. Today's lesson talked about the application of the Word--Preaching, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. I was trying to make the point about the Pastor as a Gift, the whole "Gospel Guy," or "Absolution Man" idea. This is the idea that God has given the church pastors to ensure that God's people would be given the Word, that is, Christ.

So here's my question: How do you teach this without sounding like you are blowing your own horn?

One approach is to affirm my senior. But there I am, trying not to talk about myself, but to focus on the office. But then, there I am, the guy (or one of the guys) in the office in this place, and it is difficult not to sound like I'm puffing myself up.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.