Prologue Blessed be the Holy Trinity, God of relational connectedness: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen. This is a way to live on mission for God. It is designed for those who have discerned both an inward and outward call to serve God in rostered ministry. It may be useful to others as well.
Chapter 1 – Start with Why God’s mission is our mission. We are created anew in our baptism and are born into a new mission. Being joined to God in baptism, we are called to help others be joined to God (2 Cor 5:17-21). In reality, all people are already joined to God, even though they may not realize it. Even in small, unnoticeable ways, all people bear the image of their Creator (Gen 1:26). Our mission becomes to help people wake up to their preexistent connection to a God that loves them (Rom 8:38-39). Every thought and action should start with a purpose or mission. Every thought and action should find its origin in God’s mission. God’s mission and purpose is best observed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Chapter 2 – Word and Sacrament
The words that we share with all people are rooted in the Word, Jesus Christ (John 1:1-2). The message that we preach to people is Jesus, the Living Word. The actions that accompany this message are baptism and Eucharist, the means of grace. These are the tangible signs of God’s proximity to all people. In baptism and Eucharist, we enter into the pattern of Jesus’ life (Mark 1:9-11, 14:22-25). Word and Sacrament are the center of our assembling together. They are the elements necessary to make us church.
Chapter 3 – Neighbor Ethic Because we are Christian, following Christ in word and deed, living out our baptismal vocations as citizens under God’s reign (Eph 2:19-20), we are bound by a neighbor ethic. That neighbor ethic says that we should always seek that which is best for our neighbor, just like Jesus taught and did (John 13:34-35). We show our love for God by loving our neighbors (Matt 22:37-40). “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). This ethic is the central concern of all missional living. Other ideologies like consumerism, colonialism, nationalism, sexism, and racism run counter to this ethic. To have a neighbor ethic is to genuinely wants the best for your neighbor. Either Jesus is King, and what’s best for our neighbor matters. Or the Emperor is King, and what’s best for yourself is all that matters. All people are our neighbor, especially those whom we might find most offensive (Luke 10:25-37). You can’t force anyone into having a relationship with God.
Chapter 4 – Your Wellbeing You will not get rich off of living a missional life. Nor should you endeavor to try to get rich by serving God’s mission. However, you should look out for your own wellbeing. Try to live a simple life, not acquiring an endless amount of possessions. Stay away from debt and predatory lenders. Advocate for a comfortable salary, benefits, and retirement. Be generous with your income, sharing with those who have need. Invest some of your income for the future. Try to maintain healthy boundaries in your ministry. Do not sacrifice the wellbeing of you or your family for the purpose of ministry. Your life does not belong to the church, or other people. It belongs to God and God wants you to be well.
Chapter 5 – Conclusion and Blessing “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:1-2). Living a missional life is above all about living in love. Love is the highest ideal and who God is (1 John 4:8). Glory to the Triune God, who was, is, and is to come. Amen.
Yesterday I realized that I have read 12 books this summer. I have a few weeks left to squeeze in a couple more. I’m currently on What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell. Here is a look at what I’ve read so far:
Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus
I started this *before* I knew Bob was coming to Sugar Land in October.
In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J.M. Nouwen
For Fall seminary class. The second time I’ve read it.
#NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line by David and Lauren Hogg
These kids have some wisdom to share.
Is Nothing Sacred? by Marie M. Fortune
Also for Fall seminary class. This story has interesting parallels to the story coming out of Willow Creek.
Mentoring for Ministry by Craig T. Kocher (ed.)
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally by Marcus J. Borg
Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation by Andrew Sung Park
This was a book I read for a paper on atonement theories last semester.
Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today by John Shelby Spong
Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too by Louie Anderson
If you haven’t seen “Baskets” on FX you need to.
A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone
I bought this book like a week before Dr. Cone passed.
Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau, Leon Whiteson
The Four Gospels on Sunday: The New Testament and the Reform of Christian Worship by Gordon W. Lathrop
Vacation – Kate and I traveled to Calgary in Alberta, Canada during the month of June. We had a really wonderful trip. It was the perfect vacation for us. It had a really careful balance of hiking and getting lots of exercise, watching lots of TV, trying out the local food, and seeing the incomparable Banff National Park. There is not another place on earth like this. The weather was cool and we kept our jackets on most of the trip. One of the things that make a vacation complete for me is disconnecting from email. I was able to unplug my brain from all the normal things that grab my focus on a day to day basis.
Seminary – I completed my first year of school at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA. I am pursuing a Master of Divinity degree and am in candidacy for rostered Word and Sacrament ministry in the ELCA. I am not taking classes over the summer, which creates a nice break. My second year of school begins in September. This fall I’ll be taking courses in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Lutheran Confessions, 21st century leadership, and youth and family. One of the things that I am making a plan for is CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). This requirement gives me about 400 hours of education and clinical work as a chaplain providing spiritual care for those in need. With my current trajectory, I should enter the internship phase of my training in February 2019. One of the brilliant things about the Collaborative Learning program that Wartburg offers is that I will be able to fulfill my internship right where I am at Faith in Bellaire.
The best money-related advice I ever received was to use cash when making purchases. Dave Ramsey, the popular financial guru, shared this advice via his Financial Peace University course. When I originally heard this concept I was a little skeptical. You mean I have to go to a bank or find an ATM to buy things?!?
This seems like a really old-fashioned concept but I have found it to be really helpful in managing my expenses and keeping track of where my money goes. Money can slip through your fingers pretty easily without much thought. Morning coffee, going out for lunch, getting the car washed, and many other trivial purchases can add up before long. If you’re not careful you can spend $100 and not even remember where it went.
When you use cash to make purchases, you feel your money being spent. Literally, you feel it. You have to reach in your wallet to get the cash out. While you’re doing this you observe how many bills you have. Then you have to physically touch the cash and hand it to the cashier. Your wallet becomes thinner. That physical transfer is important for the purchasing experience. Your money was exchanged for a good or service, and now you’ll have to save up to get it back. I now have a tactile memory of where my money went.
This is in contrast to spending money online with card numbers automatically saved in the web browser. All you have to do is click once and the deal is done. Poof! Your money is spent and your item is being delivered. There is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing things electronically. I do it often because it is more convenient than making a trip to the store for an item that they may or may not have in stock. But for as many things as I can, I try to pay in cash. This helps me remember my purchases and feel the money leaving my wallet.
This has been an upside down week! Our air conditioner quit working in our house almost a week ago. In Houston, in July, that is a big problem. Our thermostat has been reporting 96 degree temps inside the house at 10:00 PM. To escape the heat we stayed in a local hotel for a few days. After that we have been graciously hosted by some of our sweet family nearby for another few days.
Despite the inconsistent schedule, frustration with the repair moving slowly, missing our comfortable home, and living out of suit cases, we are finding the silver lining. In all of the challenges and changes, God is faithful. We observe that we are provided for and loved despite not knowing exactly where we will sleep or when we will get back home.
It reminded me of the Psalm from last Sunday, and specifically the first verse. Psalm 89:1 says,
Summer is here! Hopefully you are enjoying a slower pace and taking time to relax. It really is essential, I have found, to find seasons when you can deviate from the daily grind. Maybe you are able to take a nice vacation. For others it may mean an entirely different schedule than the school year that allows you to enjoy different things. My family will be headed to Galveston a couple of times to see friends, go to the beach, and maybe a little fishing.
Here is my vacation tip (one that I need to practice as well). If you are truly trying to have a vacation, leave the work behind, all of it. That may mean leaving a laptop at home, disconnecting your email app, or turning your phone off completely. The first day is weird. It feels like you left the oven on or forgot to close the garage. Once you get over that nagging feeling, it is freeing to feel undivided. You can fully be where you are and present to whom you’re with.
For me, and perhaps for you too, this is all about control. I like to live under the illusion that I’m in control of things. I am on top of what is happening and I know what needs to be done. I sense that things are going well when I’m in control. Staying connected to my work and people who might need me gives me control. And a vacation might be the most opportune time to let go of control and join God in a Sabbath.
Summer has become a busy time for me over the last several years – go figure. This summer is no different. In July I am headed to Toronto for a week to attend the annual conference of The Hymn Society. I’ll be presenting a workshop called, “Engaging Worship and Culture: (Re)Discovering the Nairobi Statement” and talking about the work I participated in creating a resource for the ELCA. In August I will host our fifth annual Tune Up Worship Band Gathering. This year it is being held at Messiah Lutheran Church in Cypress. Tune Up is a worthwhile event where church musicians from all over the area gather for training. The week after that I will be in Atlanta for the ELCA’s first Rostered Ministers Gathering. I will be presenting two workshops: “10 Ways to Use Video Technology in Worship” and “Curating Worship for a Cross-Cultural Context.” I will also be coordinating video technology for the event.
In September I will be headed to Dubuque, Iowa for my first weeklong intensive at Wartburg Theological Seminary. I am beginning my journey toward rostered Word and Sacrament ministry in the ELCA. I am very happy about these next steps in my calling to serve the church. Fortunately the Collaborative Learning program through Wartburg will allow me to stay at Faith Lutheran and complete my degree and internship without having to leave. I am currently enrolled in a Biblical Greek course over the summer! I am eager to learn and looking forward to more school!