Monday, June 24, 2013

Our New Pastor Dresses Funny Part 4 (Bulletin Article 5)

The He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass.  And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, broke,and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.   (Mt. 14:19-21)

The chasuble is the principal vestment for the pastor presiding at the Eucharist (thanksgiving)/Holy Communion.  It is a “full” vestment worn over the alb and stole and the symbolism lies in that fullness and largeness of fabric. The chasuble points out that the feast of Holy Communion embraces all those who are baptized. It is a reminder of God’s super-abundant grace and the abundance of the feast that is laid before His baptized family.  The chasuble, we might say, is the textile version of the hymn There is a Wideness in God’s Mercy (LBW 290). Because its symbolism is directly connected to Holy Communion, it is not worn apart from the celebration of that holy meal.  

The parallels to the feeding of the 5,000 and Holy Communion are not only in that many are fed at both, but also in the words used describing both events.  As he took, blessed, broke, and gave the loaves and fishes to the multitudes, every time we gather for Holy Communion, Christ again takes bread, blesses/gives thanks (eucharist), breaks and gives it to us (Mt 14:26).  At the meal the wideness of God’s mercy is extended to us, through Christ’s body and blood eaten and drank in bread and wine.  In the meal we are forgiven.  So far as the east is from west so far has he removed our sins (Ps 103:12).  Such is the lavish grandness of God’s mercy and this vestment in particular is a visual reminder of that very richness of God’s love.         

Almighty God, you provide the true bread from heaven, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Grant that we who have received the Sacrament of his body and blood may abide in him and he in us, that we may be filled with the power of his endless life, now and forever.  Amen.    – Prayer after Holy Communion, LBW p48.  

Pentecost 5 C/Luke 8:26-39- Sermon

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

          A few weeks ago I was at a pastor's retreat in Valerymo, CA.  As I came to find out many had never heard of this tiny little town and for good reason.  I can't tell you exactly how to get there, but it is on the other side of a mountain in the desert, north of here.  I had to use the map app on my phone to lead me to the Benedictine Abbey/ retreat center where we would be meeting.  And it did that fairly well.  I got off the main highway and was told to zig-zag my way across desert roads for the last 10 miles or so.  Being a country boy, comfortable with back roads, I followed. No questions asked.  Of course it was shortly after I had gotten the main highway and ventured a couple miles into the desert that I heard the singular sound that every motorist fears.  BING.  Accompanied by a red light in the shape of a gas pump.

           In that moment a fear that I hadn't felt in quite some time slowly began to fill my heart.  The desert surrounded me with even greater force as no signs of life were in immediate view.  Adding to my distress, my mind was flooded with every movie that I had seen which began this way and none of them ended well.  And for good reason, even scripture likes to remind us the desert is the place of demons and devils. It is in the desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil and it was into the desert where Legion drove the man.  The desert is the place of isolation, abandonment, and terror.  It is the place of ultimate uncertainty and despair.  Where one is completely and totally vulnerable to both to the elements and the spirits that dwell there. Fortunately, I had a monastery filled with monks praying my van all the way to the retreat house and I made it with gas to spare to find the local station. Unfortunately the demon-possessed man's only solution was to be bound with chains to keep him out from that barren place.  Though kept out of the harsh afternoon sun and bitterly cold evening of the desert, he was no less alone dwelling among the tombs with only the unlucky man who had to keep watch over him that day to keep him company, until another would take his place.

           And another would, though the changing of the guard would not be one of the Gerasenes' own, but an outsider.  A Jew.  A man who carried with him the presence of God, causing the demons to shudder and fear.  Being from Iowa, (where we have 3x as many pigs as people) and last serving a congregation with several hog farmers, I was always a bit nervous when we got to this point in the story.  Though I did remind them that if those pigs happened to be their neighbor's herd, that the price of their pork would have gone up.  Hearing the demons' plea, Jesus acquiesces.  He doesn't send them to the abyss, permitting them instead to the bottom of the lake.  Just the sheer presence of Jesus is enough to send the demons away, no word spoken, no special command uttered, and not even an ounce of offensive spiritual military power from Jesus spent.  He simply stands there in the full power and glory of the God and the man who was under the watch of the town, tied up like the wild junk yard dog, is now under the watchful eye of another.  As the psalmist envisions, He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.  The man now clothed, seated and in his right mind dwells securely under the shelter of the Most High and abides under His shadow, sitting at his feet.

           At the presence of Christ demons tremble, shackles are loosed, and kingdoms are exchanged. Both for the man possessed by legion and we who have our own varied demons.  At the presence of Christ the demons tremble in our very lives as He draws ever closer to us, in word and sacrament. That which seeks to possess us is found lacking to the glory and splendor of Christ.  The shackles of sin that cling to our flesh are loosed, we are set free from guilt and punishment by The presence of His sacrifice given to us in Holy Communion.  We are absolved and healed.  And because of that there exists in our own lives a changing of the guard.  The old has fallen and a new Man takes his place.  We are delivered out of the kingdom of sin, death, and the devil, and brought into the Kingdom of God.  In Christ we are made to sit at his feet, clothed with his righteousness, and at least some of us in our right minds.  No. All of us by faith are given a new and right mind, not formed by the world, but transformed by Christ.  We live now by faith under the shadow of the Almighty and sit at His feet as we gather together in this sacred place. We too, are given a message.  Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you

           Fed, forgiven, and set free by Christ, we too are given a share of His work.  Though it would have been great to continue with Jesus, he rather gives the man the work of the Kingdom to do in his own place.  Though the demons drove him into the isolated wilderness babbling madness, Christ sends him home for the first time in a long time with a sound mind and a clear word to share: the goodness of God in Christ Jesus.  Not some foreign or difficult thing, but simply sharing God's mercy given to him, healing him from his affliction and restoring him to humanity.  Here is the simple work of true evangelism, not found in church growth schemes, programmatic steps, or rehearsed dialogue, but simply sharing the Goodness of God in Christ Jesus.  And as we heard earlier this morning from the temple talk we have seen that Goodness of God in many ways here.  For receiving Christ in word and sacrament we have everything we need and more.  Because of all that Christ has done for us and for Reformation, my brothers and sisters, He has given us an awful lot to talk about, at our homes and in our community.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Our New Pastor Dresses Funny Pt. 3 (Bulletin Article 4)

Receive this stole as a sign of your work, and walk in obedience to the Lord Jesus, serving his people and remembering his promise:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me: for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  (Rite of Ordination, LBW Occasional Services p.197) 

The next vestment worn—over top of either alb or surplice—is one that is reserved purely for the clergy.  Seminarians (after entry into candidacy) may wear the traditional black shirt and collar, any one serving at the liturgy may wear an alb, but only those who have been received into the Office of Word and Sacrament ministry through the laying on of hands at ordination may wear the stole.  It, more than anything else, is the chief symbol of the pastoral office.  It signifies that the one who wears it has had the yoke of Christ’s ministry placed upon him and he now bears it among His people.  It is the visible sign and reminder that a pastor is not lord over his flock or is free to do anything he wishes, but rather one under the authority of another.  As the bishop makes clear to the ordinand “Before God Almighty to whom you must give account and in the presence of this congregation, I ask…”  

It also serves as a visible reminder to the people that God has raised among them, a fellow forgiven sinner, to serve as an under-shepherd in His stead.  One who, as the Catechism teaches, is to “deal with us by [Christ’s] divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation, and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.  (Small Catechism–Office of the Keys). 

Stoles, like chasubles (which I will talk about next week), are worn in the appointed color of the day or season.  It is unnecessary for them to be further decorated with additional symbols (though most are), because the stole itself is the symbol.  The stole has been in use in the Church since about the 5th century.  

4th Sunday after Pentecost Sermon/ Luke 7:36-8:3

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

      Jocks.  Nerds.  Geeks.  Of course there is a difference.  Subtle, but to those in the know a distinction exists. The Populars.  The clowns. The undesirables.  And there were the ones like me, the squares.  I was funny, but never bold enough of to be a clown. I tried my hand at athletics, but found I enjoyed refereeing better.  My grandfather, Chuck, was the jock, who excelled at athletics. He played baseball and football, back in the day when helmets were made of leather and were optional.  I was smart, but to my teachers continual dismay, Ian never "applied himself".  I was on good terms with the social superstars, but always at arms length. Never invited to the parties I kept hearing rumors about. Being an only child, I assume because I had no older brother to teach me how, I never got into trouble.  Well rarely got into trouble.  I followed the rules, kept my nose clean, and thereby earned my entry into the squares.  And that didn't change much in college, as for my birthday of birthdays—#21, my mom and grandma went out that night and got back later than I did.   I was home by 10. They were out til midnight. True story.

           I've always found it remarkably profound how quite naturally and instinctively we break off and classify ourselves into different groups by reputation. My graduating class from high school was only 42, yet we found ways internally to distinguish ourselves from one another. The jocks, nerds, squares like me, and even the undesirables were all to be found within our class.  Though everyone "got along" for the most part, we were none the less separated, divided.  Broken up by our patterns of behavior, our abilities, and the labels we gave to one another.  

            Luke gives us no background, no introduction into who she was, only that she was a sinful woman.  And that her sin was well known to everybody.  She had walked the streets in her shame as all who knew her, knew of her wickedness.  Though not adorned with Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, she might as well had been.  It was common knowledge, even Simon the Pharisee knew of her reputation.  A man who would have gone at great lengths to avoid her—at least publicly to keep himself clean—now finds this woman of ill repute under his own roof, at his very own table.  Her sin couldn't be missed, not by the commoners of the town and not by a prophet worth his salt.  Her reputation was there for anyone and everyone to see, except by the One who saw none of it. 

          At His feet He sees a woman who looks more like David, than what Simon describes. An incarnation of the 6th Psalm, as her weeping used to make Jesus'  feet wet finds its only counterpart in the psalm. O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD-how long? Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. As David "drenches" his couch with tears, she "drenches" Jesus' feet, raining down her repentant tears upon Him.  In eyes anguished, hair matted, lavish kisses given, and myrrh outpoured. What everyone sees, Jesus misses.  And what Jesus sees, no one else does.  Thanks be to God.

          They see nothing of her but sin and Jesus sees nothing but faith. Jesus does not condone the woman's life, but rather seeing into the depth of her heart, He perceives the faith and hope that are alive inside of her. A faith which takes her into a forbidden place to touch a forbidden man carrying nothing more inside her than a word that He is the one who can forgive sins. One who can bring the psalm's lament to completion in her own life, just as He did in David's.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.  All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. 

          Needless to say her enemies are put to shame, as Simon receives noting but shame in his own house. At the dinner in honor of Christ, the Magnificat is fulfilled, The Lord has cast down the mighty from his throne and has lifted up the lowly. For being forgiven, she is sent away in peace and Simon is left with a "come to Jesus" moment, from Jesus himself.  In order that he too might be lifted up, that he might see as Christ has.  That he too might have faith, receive his own forgiveness, and be at peace.

         We gather at this meal, in honor of Christ with our varied backgrounds, our sorted pasts, and our own reputations. We come as sinful woman and Pharisee.  Yet we come to this place with the word of hope, that Christ not only sees our sins, but that he too will see our faith. Faith which deplores our state and weeps over our transgressions.  Faith that moves us to seek him out where he has promised to meet us. Faith which offers our sacrifice of love and praise to Him. We come with hands out stretched and hearts open to receive from Him a Word and a Touch. This is my body. This is my blood. Give and shed for you. And by that very same faith we are healed. By faith we receive what He lavishly bestows upon us, mercy and forgiveness. We come as individuals, but at His holy table we are all made one. One with His Body, to be One body. Indeed our very life in the weekly liturgy is lived in the very story of the sinful woman. For as the woman left the meal and departed to her own home forgiven, we hear the very same words spoken to us as we depart.  Go in peace.  Serve The Lord. Thanks be to God. 


Monday, June 10, 2013

Wise Words

As I've been reflecting towards the issues that face parishes these word from the Rev. Dr. James Crumley former Presiding Bishop of the LCA have been ruminating in my mind.

"What criteria are used to measure the church's effectiveness?  The criteria that are used may be a clue to the problem.  They may be in terms of institutional or organizational effectiveness, such as loos or increase in membership, financial stability, growth, the solidity of the church's turf in the public sector, the church's influence in political or economic policy, the church's 'image,' authority, and/or whether one can trust the churn as an institution.  The conclusions as to the health of the church are derived from statistical studies and projections, sociological analyses, or management goals, and the ability or inability both to set them realistically and to meet them successfully.  It is possible to gauge the church's performance solely in terms usually applied to organizations or social entities."

"I contend for a different point of view at this fundamental starting place.  The church is a human organization, yes, but at the same time it is divine, a communion of members with God and with one another.  The church possesses the signs by which it is defined, word and sacrament.  For this reason the primary question is not "What works" but "How can the church be faithful?"

"Therefore, we must use a different set of criteria to measure the church's vitality.  The question of self-identity is paramount.  What is the church, and what is it expected to be by the One who gives it?  What does the Lord of the church expect the church to do?  What is its mission?  Such questions are in a different category from the organizational ones that I have mentioned.  While it is true that the church is an organization and needs to be effective as such, its reason for being is in another, higher place.  Whether the church is in trouble or in decline must be determined not primarily in terms of organizational effectiveness but in the church's being true to itself and thus to its Lord.

"The greater problem today is that we are not clear about the church in precisely these dimensions.  We exhibit a loss of nerve by becoming servant to everyone's expectations.  We are tempted to lose the theological and ecclesiological foundations for our existence, our life, our vitality.  Yet these foundations must undergird all that the church does.  Even in matters such as personnel practices and policies, the church ought to act like the church and not ape the corporate model.  Church structures are under both the law and the gospel of God.  In the life that the church lives during the week, it must not deny what is proclaimed from its pulpit and received at its altar on Sunday.  If word and sacrament "constitute" the church, then they are in the very warp and woof of the church's fabric.  Any other approach divides the church into those things spiritual and those material, and that dichotomy does not work theologically for the church any more than it does for the individual person."

Braaten and Jenson, Either/Or: The Gospel or Neopaganism.  Eerdmans Publishing, 1995.  p113-115.

Third Sunday after Pentecost- Sermon 6/9/13- Year C

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

           Some of you know that I grew up in a rather small family on a small, by today's standards, farm in rural Iowa.  Having parents that divorced after their first child, me, and having no step brothers or sisters to converse with my days were usually pretty quiet. The usual guests for most family gatherings and holidays consisted of myself, my mom, her parents and her aunt, my grandmothers sisters.  On special occasions we might have had my cousins in and their parents. On total it was usually 5 and not more than 9.  Though conversations were usually happening all around me when we gathered for holidays it was pretty quiet for me, being the youngest. Even everyday life was pretty quiet during the nightly routine of dinner round the table, a little TV followed by bed time.  Silence was good and it was normal.  There's nothing more   It's why to this day, I've never been much of a talker.  I know a pastor not being a talker is as last week's sermon—oxymoronic. 

           It wasn't until really high school that I learned that not every family operated in the same fashion as mine. We had a foreign exchange student one year from Brazil, Fernanda was her name.  Fernanda and I became good friends during her year in small town Iowa and as a result she invited me to visit her in Brazil after she returned home. So I did what every 16 year old boy does when a beautiful girl from Brazil invites him to visit.  I got on a plane, by myself and went!  I still to this day can not believe my mother let me go.  Needless to say going from the tiny town of 900 people to the seventh largest city in the world left quite an impression on my 16 year old mind.  Not only are brazilians some of the most beautiful people in the world, they are some of the noisiest as well. God bless them. They talk and they talk fast. They talk fast and they talk LOUD.  They not only talk with their mouths but with their hands as well!  So much so the old joke could have applied.  How do you get a brazilian to stop talking?  Tie their hands behind their back.  Needless to say I was a bit overwhelmed by so much non-stop talking, but it was an amazing thing to watch!  Of course I've since learned we have Americans like that as well, just didn't have a whole lot on the farm in Iowa. 

         Whether occasional talkers or non-stop talkers, talking itself is a rather vital piece of humanity. So much so we worry about a child who doesn't start to mimic sounds and begin to form words in the stages of development. Such silence could be symptomatic of problems, such as hearing loss.  Even the quiet teenager is suspicious to us, when she keeps to herself and her journal.  We do so, because talking itself—no matter the quantity—is an important sign of health and life.  Just as the physician Luke reminds us in his narration for us today of Jesus miracle.  The dead man not only sat up, which even Frankenstein could accomplish, but he sat up and began to speak.  Luke gives us no insight into what he had to say, likely more questions than anything else, but only that speech poured forth out of his lips. First undoubtedly to his mother, but also to The Lord who returned him to his mother.  Signifying not that he was merely back from the dead, but healthy and normal.  That he truly was alive!  One who again had the breath of the Creator breathed into him.  

          Not only does the dead man show is healing through speech, but so to does the crowd. In a moment of what would have been deafening gasps followed by sheer silence—as Jesus transgressed the cleanliness regulations by touching the dead man's stretcher—the crowd to is brought to life. Mourning turns to joy as lament turns into praise.  A great prophet has risen among us!  God has visited his people!   The silent horror of Jesus interruption of the funeral procession gives way as a new breath fills their own lungs. A refreshed breath of praise, acclamation, and adoration witnessing Christ speak a life giving word to a dead man and return him to his mother.  Seeing such a miracle who could refrain from talking!

          Though miraculous, what Jesus does in Nain is not uncommon.  As we enter through these doors, carrying our own death that clings to our flesh, Christ comes to meet us on the road, the path of life.  He like in Nain meets us and with a jarring word that stops us mid stride. Mid sin.  Mid death.  Each of us no different than the lifeless man on his stretcher.  Dead in the sin that we have committed throughout the week. The murder of our neighbor through our words.  The hardness of heart, though required for driving in California, is no less a sin.  We by the law are without breath, unable to speak to say anything but prove our disease, unable even to sit up let alone stand.  To us lifeless, Christ this morning and every time we gather breathes into us again the breath of the Creator.  Speaking to us that life giving word, you are forgiven!  It was there in holy absolution. It is here again as Christ's gospel makes us to arise as he is risen!  And we will hear and receive it once more in the Eucharistic meal.  Christ makes us this day and everyday we gather in His presence under His name to sit up, to stand, giving us a word and good news to proclaim, so that he might, like the widow's son, return us to our parent, our Father who art in heaven.  

          Therefore let the crowd's praise ever be our own. For at 15750 Magnolia St. A great prophet has come into our midst.  Here God through His only Son has come again to help his people. In Word and Holy Sacrament Christ continues to bring the dead to life and to make the silent, even us introverts, to speak the great goodness of The Lord.  Showering us with Hs mercy and compassion, preparing us to be handed over to our everlasting Father.  My brothers and sisters let this goodness and this report about Christ be spread throughout the whole of our congregation.  Throughout the whole of of our lives and let it fill our houses and may it by God's grace in us be spread to Westminster and all the surrounding region. 



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May 2013 Newsletter Article

Soli Deo Gloria 
Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass.  The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence.  Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, except that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns.  These have been added to teach people.  For ceremonies are needed for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ .  
Article XXIV, Augsburg Confession (1530)
People, whether old or new to the Lutheran tradition, have noticed a striking similarity between Lutheran and Roman Catholic worship.  Roman Catholics have often said, “Hey!  Your worship service is just like ours, only a little different.”  Lutherans reply in kind and the observations are correct.  They are so, because of our common Christian history.           
Like most things, Christian worship was not created in a vacuum or ex nihilo (from nothing).  Its earliest basic form was shaped from the Jewish prayers and liturgy of the synagogue.  The two halves of our Sunday morning service are naturally rooted in the Judaism of Christ and the apostles.  The first half of our service or “Liturgy of the Word” is modeled on the synagogue sabbath service.
Prayers accompanied readings from the prophets and from the Torah (Gen-Deut), which were then expounded upon by a Rabbi (Lk 4:16-21).  In Christian worship the Gospels replaced the Torah as the chief reading after which came the sermon or homily.  The second half of our Sunday service, “the Liturgy of the Meal” is rooted in the Jewish Passover. 
As time passed, two “rites” or ordos (orders) for worship emerged in the Church.  The Eastern Rite (Byzantine Empire-Greek Christianity), which takes at least a good three hours to celebrate, is still celebrated by Eastern Orthodox churches to this day.  One piece of which we have in our Lutheran Book of Worship is the hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” (LBW 198).  It comes from the Divine Liturgy of St. James, which some scholars date as early as 60AD.
The Western Rite (Roman Empire-Latin Christianity) also developed an order of worship. Lutherans coming from this Western tradition continued to use this order that had been in place for centuries prior to the Reformation with some changes.  Luther tweaked “the Mass” to fit the evangelical theology of the Reformation so that the clear proclamation of the work of Christ could shine through more brilliantly.  
The continuity of worship Luther and the Reformers saw as an important way not only for the congregation to worship, but also for people to hear, learn, and remember all that Christ has done for them, because in the liturgy we are constantly surrounded by His holy Word to and for us. 
  •   In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 18:20; 28:19)
  •   If we say we have no sin… (1John 1:8; John 20:23)
  •   Lord, have mercy… (Matthew 17:15)
  •   Glory to God in the Highest… (Luke 2:14) OR  This is the Feast...Worthy is Christ the Lamb who was slain… (Revelation 5:12, 13)
  •   The Peace of the Lord be with you… (John 20:21)
  •   Alleluia!  Lord to whom shall we go… (John 6:68)
  •   Holy, Holy, Holy Lord... (Isaiah 6:3) + Hosannah in the Highest... (Mark 11:9-10)
  •   On the night in which He was betrayed…(1 Corinthians 11:23f) 
  •   Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world…(John 1:29)
  •   The Lord bless you and keep you… (Numbers 6:24-26)
  •   In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 28:19)  
As these are spoken and sung the Bible becomes a life-giving part of who we are, forming us in His image according to His Word. (Eph 4:24)
+ Pastor Ian Wolfe    

Our New Pastor Dresses Funny Pt. 2 (Bulletin Article 3)

Since we’re already talking about clothing and clergy garb, might as well keep going in that direction.  This next one you are all likely familiar with as it has been a common vestment for the last 40 years within Lutheranism: the alb.  Though its history is much much older as it was worn from the earliest days until the 11th century, when the surplice began to be used more.  The word “alb” itself comes to us from the Latin albus meaning “white.”  Albino is probably the closest English word that we have with the same root.  Thus an alb is literally “a white robe.”  Yet symbolically and Biblically speaking, this “whiteness” means the purity, light, and glory of the resurrected Christ.  

We may think of the alb then in terms of Galatians 3:27, For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  It is for this reason that the alb derives from the baptismal garment as a sign that we have been clothed in the purity, righteousness, and eternal life of Christ.  The alb is not restricted to clergy, but because of its connection to baptism it is the common garment of all Christians.  Assisting ministers, acolytes, choristers, and anyone else who helps out in the liturgical service of the church may wear an alb.  I would add that it might even be most fitting if all who served on Sunday wore an alb to show that we are all made one in Christ by our baptism into His death and resurrection.  For it is our common baptism into His life by which we are even made able to stand and read lessons, offer prayers, and serve the most sacred gift of His body and blood.  At worship individuality fades away (John 3:30) as His Body, the Church, gathers together as one to pray the liturgy (literally liturgy means “a common act”).  That reality can be made clearer by use of wearing a common garment and apparently an alb is what awaits us all in the Resurrection:  

Behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   Revelation 7:9-10, 14         

Our New Pastor Dresses Funny Pt. 1 (Bulletin Article 2)

As you may remember so many months ago I arrived here to RLC in the middle of the penitential and somber season of Lent.  At our mid-week services and for Holy Week services I wore what was referred to by some as a “black dress.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t have pumps to go with it.  It’s hard to see but that clergy garment is what I’m wearing in this picture.  It is called a cassock and derives from the Middle French word casaque, meaning a “long coat”.  It is traditionally adorned by 33 buttons in a single column, one for each year of Jesus’ life on earth.  In both the West and the East the cassock was the daily “street” clothes of clergy for centuries.  

Lutheran pastors serving in British colonies here on American shores continued to wear such distinctive clergy coats with tab (white) collars.  With the expansion westward and the nature of life on the frontier these became less frequent among clergy.  But at the turn of the 20th century Lutheran pastors rejoined clergy of other denominations in wearing black or dark suits with clergy rabat or black shirt and clerical collar.  Up until the 1970’s the common Sunday morning worship attire for Lutheran clergy of all stripes was cassock, surplice (white over-garment), and stole.  For those who have been at RLC during that time you likely have pictures of your former pastors dressed in such attire.  I know I saw one of them on a YouTube clip of the ground breaking ceremony of the original church building.  With the cultural changes of the 1970’s Sunday morning vestments changed as well and became what is currently in use today alb and stole with or without chasuble (all of which I will talk more about in more of these notes). 

Given the historical significance of the cassock and its more solemn and formal look it continues to be retained in use by Lutheran clergy today.  If and when you might see myself or other Lutheran clergy wearing the cassock, it would likely be when leading the daily prayer offices (Matins, Vespers, and Compline- LBW pages 131-167), funerals, or during Lent and Holy Week.  As with all types of clothing, the old styles always come back in fashion maybe they will among clergy as well and you’ll see more cassocks.  I’m just praying the neon colored clothes and zebra print pants of the 80’s stay dormant for a very very long time.         

Our New Pastor is Really Weird (Bulletin Article 1)

Having been here 8 weeks now you likely already know that your new pastor is a little bit weird.  He wears weird clothes.  He talks weird.  He tries to be funny, but often fails.  He makes weird psuedo-Vulcan Star Trek hand gestures.  He likes weird music.  He walks weird and then seems to always forget where he is, stopping mid-stride.  He does things some have never seen before and says things others have never heard before.  In other words he’s an all around weird guy.  So much so he reminds me of a typical joke from the old Johnny Carson Tonight Show, “Our new pastor is so weird.”  To which the audience asks, “HOW WEIRD IS HE??”  Johnny responding to the begged question, “so weird he’s writing something in the bulletin to talk about exactly how weird he is!”  Even weirder, he’s doing it in the third-person.   

Trying to own my weirdness and explain myself in a little bit better and regular way, I thought including something in the bulletin weekly might help get to know me.  I also wanted to share with you why I speak, walk, sing, and gesture as I do.  That is the main purpose of these little notes.  It’s one way to help me seem less strange and know that the things I do, I do out of love for our Lord Jesus and His church.  They are practices and disciplines in my life and worship of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, firmly rooted in our Lutheran heritage and identity.  They are faithful Christian practices that I have found right and salutary in my own walk with the Lord and in leading the faithful in worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth.  They remind me to worship not just with mere words, but with my whole person, body and soul.  They are reminders of who Whose I am and in Whose most holy presence we gather.  

Having a new pastor is always a difficult transition to make, because it is a reminder that what had been is in someway gone.  It is another reminder of that grief.  Because like people, no two pastors are the same in any way shape or form.  The new one will be weird compared to what came before.  For each pastor is different, with different gifts, different passions, and different styles.  Like a pair of shoes, it takes time for the new “weirdness” to wear off and become comfortable.  I hope these little notes will aid in that, but I can’t promise that at the end of them I’ll be any less weird.

Weekly Bulletin Articles

I've been including during the weekly bulletin of the parish a series of articles about the liturgical pieces of worship.  They've been lighthearted in trying to explain why I dress the way I do for Sunday and why these things are important.  I thought maybe some of you might be interested in reading these as I help to explain to my parish the traditions of the Church.  Remember these are included in our bulletin so I have a space limit of about 3 paragraphs and can not delve as deeply into things that I normally would.  Hope you enjoy them.