Friday, November 16, 2007

An old goodbye...

Going through an old computer this morning, I found the letter I wrote to my former church. I think I wrote it one year (5-5-04) after leaving Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. I hope I sent it. I honestly don't remember.

I am writing to formally notify you that our family has joined King of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Golden Valley. This church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I hope that you will be interested in knowing the reasons for our desire to leave Calvary Lutheran Church and the ELCA.

1. The lack of depth of the youth confirmation program. I greatly value the true confirmation program I participated in under Pastor Nelson in the 1970’s. As a confirmation leader two years ago, I was shocked to learn that we would never formally study Luther’s teachings or memorize key scripture and confessions.

2. The very blatant anti-war sentiment put forth by the pastors, especially Pastor Lynn and the refusal to pray for our local and national elected leaders and citizens serving in the military;

3. The ELCA stance on many matters, including exploring the acceptance of homosexuality and women serving as pastors.

4. Calvary’s pronounced leaning toward evangelical and reformed doctrines through seminars, congregational programs (Maxwell, Schueller, Hybels and others) and Sunday school curriculum.

I am no pastor and would not be able to adequately debate any of these issues with you. I can only tell you that I have searched for a scripturally-sound Christian church for the past 20 years and have finally found a true home in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

This decision was at least two years in the making and I had many conversations about it with several pastors and leaders. Calvary was my home since 1972 and I shed quite a few tears at the point I knew I had to separate myself from your teachings. I am quite sure that, beyond a polite “We will miss you.”, our family will not be missed because Calvary is headed away from biblical truths and into a state of constantly fluctuating beliefs not founded in inerrant scripture. I personally know of two other families who have left for these very same reasons and one other that is currently considering leaving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reformation Sunday

I love Reformation Sunday! I walk in and see the large red folder containing the outline of the familiar long service. Everyone knows to allow an extra half hour. The music is concert quality, though always God-focused and not focused on the performers. Our Senior Choir and Handbell Choir always present something wonderfully beautiful and liturgical. The basic service outline is familiar, though a little longer than usual: invocation, hymns, responsive reading, confession and absolution (my favorite!), various readings, children's message, a good law and gospel sermon, offering, prayers, blessing. Each hymn is tied in to Luther somehow, which is fitting for the day. The sermon ties in Luther. Again, all normal to me. Although I love this service, I must confess that I don't understand why we do some of the things we do in a worship service.

The mention of the Reformation in prayer makes me slightly uncomfortable, but its really not inappropriate. I guess I figure that although God was definitely honored in Luther's Reformation and His church was most definitely reformed, I can't picture God focusing on the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. I mean, I think every day should be reformation day. In the Confession and Absolution, we read aloud Luther's Explanation of the Ten Commandments. Yeah, the whole thing just like your confirmand did. Now, as a confessional Lutheran I love it, but part of me wonders what a visitor would think. Shame on me! But are we done? No! After the each lesson, we state Luther's Explanation of the Apostle's Creed. Again, the whole thing. After the Lord's Prayer, we recite Luther's explanation of it. The whole thing. Very educational, but it just doesn't seem worshipful to me.

Despite my reservations, I do enjoy our church's Reformation Day service. I even willingly went twice this year - on Sunday morning and again on Monday night to bring my working nephew to God's Word. I just think that we should put signs up on the door advising visitors advising that we only do this once a year. I just can't shake the impression that it is very un-Lutheran to focus on Luther throughout the service. We only do it once a year, so I can live with it.

King of Grace Reformation Day Service 2008

The Invocation
Opening Anthem - Thy Strong Word (Senior Choir)
Responsive Reading
Anthem - Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word (ELH #589)
Confession and Absolution
Anthem - Built on the Rock (ELH #211)
Old Testament Lesson - Jeremiah 31:31-34
Epistle Reading - Romans 3:19-28
Gospel Reading - John 8:31-36
Children's Message
Sermon Hymn - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (ELH #250)
Sermon - Our Lutheran Heritage - Our Christian Heritage (based on John 8:31-32)
Offering and Registration while Handbell Choir plays Variations on Ein Feste Burg
The Lord's Prayer
Closing Hymn - God's Word is Our Great Heritage

Sermon highlights:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31 & 32

Hold to my teaching:

  • King of Grace has been in existence for 38 years, longer when you factor in the two congregations who joined to create it.
  • Consider our ancestors who passed on Christian heritage to us.
  • Much of modern Lutheranism bears little resemblance to what we teach and confess in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. For the future, it is up to us to maintain sound doctrine for future generations.
  • Luther himself didn't want others to call the church "Lutheran", but the name stuck anyway. Luther merely returned the church to its roots - we are dead in our sins and salvation comes by grace alone through truth alone. He made it clear to others that the doctrine was not his and that he had not been crucified for anyone
  • Lutheran heritage and Christian heritage are equal; they are the same.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

What did you see when you looked in the mirror this morning? Did you see a sagging face, gray hair, no hair or even hair in the wrong places? Do you still feel, like I do, that you are that 18 year old looking in the mirror and wondering what in the world happened? What changed? When I look in the mirror, as a child of God, I see the robe of Christ's righteousness wrapped around me.

I've always hated changes. At least that is what I've always told myself. What I hate, or dread (a more accurate term) is anticipating change. The actual change isn't usually as bad as I dreaded...and sometimes is actually fun or exhilarating. Then afterward, there's the typical thought, "Well, that wasn't so bad." or "I'm so glad things changed."

My life this past year has been so full of changes. A year ago, I had a (seemingly) healthy back, a sick body, 30 extra pounds of fat, a child who walked way too close to the line (actually stepping over the line would be more accurate), an illusion of freedom from sin...the list goes on and wouldn't make sense to many. Now, one year later, I am mostly recovered from surgery, coping with moderate back concerns, 30 pounds lighter, witnessing a child making some really good choices, and now very aware of my sin nature (though fully clothed as a saint thanks to Christ).

I'm am fully moved into the stage of life where I feel very vulnerable to unexpected changes. So many people I know have failing marriages, failing dreams and failing health. I'm only 47! What will it be like when I'm in my 60's? Yet, despite all that I could worry about, I have so much to be thankful for. For most people, its not death we fear; we fear life. I was reminded this morning that we don't enter the cemetery to stay there. We merely pass a tunnel.

Today's sermon was about thankfulness and sainthood, based on Psalm 30:4. Pastor Ekhoff asked, "Did you see a saint in the mirror this morning?" He reminded us that we are saints through Jesus Christ, along with those saints already in heaven. We saints are one fellowship. That's a comforting thought.

Psalm 30

1 I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.

4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his;
praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said,
"I will never be shaken."

7 O LORD, when you favored me,
you made my mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 "What gain is there in my destruction,
in my going down into the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me;
O LORD, be my help."

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.