Monday, August 26, 2013

Professors Who Return to Parish Ministry

Another professor is returning to parish ministry.  Dr. Reed Lessing will be leaving a position at our seminary in St. Louis, where in addition to teaching various course offerings in the Old Testament he was also director of the graduate school.  These transitions facinate me.  After being in parish ministry for so long one has a tendency to think that positions such as Dr. Lessing's are seen as 'higher' than the common pastorate.  After a seeming 'promotion' to teaching future pastors, and that at a graduate level, you wonder what would move a man to go back to the parish.  Having known nothing other than the parish, I am admittedly at a loss to relate.  I realize that academics has its own downside.  One can probably feel a bit 'cut off' from the real world of the Church, left dealing with a somewhat artificial world instead of the flesh and blood people a pastor has to minister to in real time.  Perhaps one misses the relationships formed in the family of a congregation where the bonding between pastor and people brings untold blessings that cannot be duplicated in a classroom.  I'm not sure.  However, I am encouraged.  Too often I have coveted the opportuntity that Dr. Lessing is leaving.  I have not appreciated the tremendous honor given me as a parish pastor.  Thank you, Professor, for letting me see again the priviledge I have!
As his biography will no doubt be removed soon from the seminary site, I will reproduce it below.  Dr. Lessing, it will be noted, did enjoy about 13 years of pastoral experience before going to the seminary.
Dr. Reed Lessing was born and raised in Denver, Colo. He was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry on June 29, 1986 at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, West Monroe, La. Reed served as the church’s pastor until March of 1990. From March 1990 to August 1999 he was the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Broken Arrow, Okla. In September of 1999 he was installed as assistant professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Seminary. In May of 2005 he was advanced to the rank of associate professor. In August of 2007 he became the director of the Seminary’s Graduate School. Reed is married to Lisa (nee) Radke and their marriage has been blessed with three children: Abi (24), Jonathan (21) and Lori (17).

Luther Academy

My congregation was blessed yesterday by a wonderful message from the Rev. Dan McMiller, executive director of Luther Academy, who came as part of our annual mission festival.  His sermon and presentation following the service provided us with a true tour de force in presenting the extensive work of his organization in international mission efforts.  Luther Academy is a small organization with a big mission and worthy of our support.  Pastor McMiller serves as the only paid staff, serving the many needs internationally by a team of very qualified volunteers.  They fill a unique niche in mission work by providing several annual pastoral conferences to pastors throughout the world who would otherwise not have this valuable resource which we in this country take for granted.  I would encourage you to check out their website and review their various projects and the teachers and presenters they employ.  Luther Academy was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Preus, the president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne where I studied for the ministry.  I also had the honor of taking a few classes with Dr. Preus, an exemplary theologian with an international vision.  His son, the Rev. Daniel Preus, currently serving as fourth vice president of the Synod, continued the work of his father and enlarged the vision.  Luther Academy, like many small organization, is facing financial challenges in meeting the increasingly growing demands for its services.  Consider supporting their work and maybe even sponsoring one of their projects as a worthy mission effort!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Changing the Verses in Hymns - Or Not

In our increasingly politically-correct culture coupled with an incredible ignorance of biblical truth, it should not be surprising to hear of those who are offended by even the most simple hymns.  But they are.  In the article "Hymn Writers Won't Change Lyric for Presbyterians" we read that those who are responsible for the new hymnal in the Presbyteriann Church (USA) will not include the popular hymn "In Christ Alone" because of one verse.  They asked the authors if they could change it.  The authors refused.  Good for them!  The verse in question was: " "On that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied."  Apprently substitionary atonement is out of vogue now with Presbyterians.  They preferred instead: "the love of God was magnified."  As the article's author notes at the end: "Bringle writes that most committee members didn't want the new Presbyterian hymnal to suggest that Jesus' death on the cross was an atoning sacrifice that was needed 'to assuage God's anger' over sin."  So God isn't angry about sin?  That's new.....

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My New Car

It may be hard to believe but I haven't bought a car in about 7 years.  The last purchase was a 2001 Subaru Outback which I paid for outright with money I inherited after my grandmother's death in 2006.  With the exception of a head gasket repair, for which Subarus are notorious, it has been a tough and reliabe vehicle.  Purchased with 107,000 miles, it now boasts 222,000.  Since my son needs a car at college, we will be selling it to him, knowing that it will be a good dependable first purchase.  Now I am the proud owner of a 2004 Honda Accord Sedan LX. Well, I will be later today once the loan is approved and I claim the vehicle from the dealer. My wife and I researched this to death and we narrowed the field down considerablly before settling on this model.  Basically we crossed off most, if not all, domestics.  Toyotas, Hondas, and other similar makes seem to have the best track record overall in terms of dependability and longevity.   Although it has 110,000 miles, Hondas are known often to exceed 300,000 miles or more, so I know I've got this car for a while.  I could have gone smaller, but as a middle-aged man I enjoy a little comfort now, especially on longer trips.  The Accord is techically a mid-sized sedan, larger than the smaller Civic.  I also bought from an established dealer, which while I realize may have meant I paid more upfront, it also gave me more assurance that the car I purchased was in good mechancial condition. It also gave me instant access to CARFAX information, which is becoming, I suspect, an industry standard for establshed car dealers.  It's a clean and well-maintained vehicle with one prior owner and no previous accidents or problems.  Nothing fancy, to be sure, as the picture shows.  But I've never been flashy.  I just want dependability and comfort.  [Note: While I was posting the dealership called to inform me my loan was approaved and we can claim the car, which we will this afternoon.  Hooray!]  For the 'techies' who might be interested it has a 2.4L DOHC MPFI 16-valve i-VTEC I4 engine.  I've read up a bit, however, I'm still glazing over.  I guess I don't care as long as the thing works.....

My Thesis Saga

It's been a while since I posted on the progress of my thesis.  Unfortunately it's taken a while to get through the proposal phase.  My first proposal simply didn't work, and although my advisors were kind in their contructive comments, I could see that the topic was mired in a swamp of ideas and wasn't going to gain the traction it needed.  So I started over.  Practically from scratch.  A thesis or even a dissertation on the lectionary issues surrounding the Apocalypse of St. John still retains much potential, but it was too much work for what I need to accomplish right now.

I submitted my revised proposal this past spring, but with the usual complexities of forms and paperwork coupled with the inevitable confusion of changing staff, it slowed down considerably.  Finally, I was told by the advisor of my program (which has changed a couple of times since I started in 2010) just to start writing, which my thesis advisor had told me at the beginning of the summer.  And I have.  So far I'm only on the eighth page, but I am attempting to understand Massey Shepherd's work, which has taken a bit more effort than I initially anticipating (and I'm also a working pastor and circuit counselor and active father and husband....).  For those so interested, here is the final working title: "A Study of the Influence of the Church's Liturgical Forms on the Literary Stucture of the Apocalypse of St. John."  I'll keep you posted on the progress.....

Deep Survival

Back in 2008 I wrote an article on "Survival Skills," mainly commenting on some material I had read by Laurence Gonzales in National Geographic's magazine, Adventure.  Ironically, five years later, I just finished reading his book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (2003).  Like so many books I read this one was picked up from my local Good Will store (the best used book store in town, I might add).  Yet it was not purchased on a whim.  I have always been very interested in the essence and art of survival.  My library has a small, but growing section on this topic, and I continue to look for those principals that inform not just outdoor survival, but the skills and mental toughness necessary to survive the ordinary rigors of regualar living.

Survival, as Gonzales outlines in his book, is as much about the mindset of surviving as it is about any techniques or equipment one possesses, probably more.  For he fleshes out his book with several survival accounts that testify to unlikely situations where a person survived despite the odds against it.  The book delves into the science and pyschology of survival, a part which may feel slow going for some readers.  However, it undergirds the subtitle of his work, namely, the question of who lives and who dies, and why.  It's not just about technique.  It's about what goes on in your mind.

The final appendix offers a nice summary of the basic principles of survival he advances throughout the book.  They are similar to those listed in my article from '08, so I won't repeat them here.  I recommend the book for all who would be interested in the inner essence of survival, an art we all must master throughout life regardless of where we live or what we do.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's So Uncool About Cool Churches?

I've seen this blog article referenced at least a couple of times on FB, and after reading it thought it worth archiving here.  For those so interested in the failure of trying to make the church relevant for our youth, see here