Here is what I am thinking about this last week in January 2015:
As I prepare my stewardship series of sermons for February I find it remarkably easy to move towards commands, compulsions, and obedience. I know my heart inclines towards building actions on the basis of requirements. I must do this and I must do that… Reaching a particular dollar amount deceptively seems more possible if I would just tell people they must give. The devil wants us to incline back towards trying to stand before God on the basis of our own good works. This stewardship sermon will be an opportunity for me to speak about the foundations of the Christian life. I know that my salvation is not secured through my keeping of the law of God. I fall short of the glory of God and I cannot rely on my own reason or strength to get me right with God. I am thankful to God that He knows my sin and yet still He invites me to have faith in Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. The strength of my Christian life will not be found in becoming more self-reliant. I am amazed that the more I live my life in Christ the more I realize that I could not live without Jesus. These next three weeks I am going to share with the people at my congregation that we are blessed by God to be in need, maladjusted to injustice, and a blessing to others. So this Sunday we are going to talk about how a healthy view of blessing starts with why God makes us to be needy people.
This week I start teaching Lutheran Confessions for the spring semester at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Every week this semester I hope I am fair to the time each of my vocations require. My schedule as a husband, father, pastor, and professor is a juggling of time. Dear God don’t let me drop anything while I juggle what you have placed into my hands. When I fail, please pick me up. The last time I taught the class I piggy backed on another professor’s lecture topic schedule. I grabbed the assignment to teach that class close to the start of the semester. This time around I have had more time to get ready for the class. I hope that each class I find myself sharing the joy and wonder of God’s love with the students. Today I introduced the Book of Concord and talked about the inclusion of the ecumenical creeds at the beginning of the Lutheran Confessions.
Here are some of my thoughts about my congregation preparing to undertake some building renovations. I trust in God to provide us the resources to be His witnesses in our community and around the world. Building programs and me have not always gotten along. I want to like renovations, yet I find myself keeping this friend at a distance. I have found when I want to get along with someone, I paradoxically keep my distance. I think I allow the distance to become a buffer so I am insulated against the failure. This time is different. I know that there are many wise people in this congregation and that we will figure out a way to renovate our facility that makes sense. Facilities and church mission live in strange tension. We do not need facilities to do the work of being witnesses for Christ. On one hand we are the people of God in our community because of the power of God’s Word. On the other hand our congregation will find our ability to meet as God’s people helped if our facility is equipped to support our gathering. Hmmm. This renovation friend is a tough one but I think I am going to become better friends with it.
My birthday last week was fun. My wife encouraged people to fill out index cards with suggestions for how I should live my next forty years. So many kind and creative people wrote words to me that will fill me up for many days. There was also a special collection taken to support the building fund in honor of my birthday. I marvel at how people have given glory to God in honor of my birthday. The birthday wishes were fun, and I enjoy that yesterday my wife wished me a happy baptism birthday. My birth into this world is important. My new birth in Christ is even more important. Thank you Lord for working through your Word and water to bring me into your kingdom.