They Should Have Called It, “Divine Service for Dummies”

They Should Have Called It, “Divine Service for Dummies”

The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has seen enough of the worship wars. One side believes there is only one way to “do church,” and that is orderly and formal. The other side believes that there is a freedom to do worship. There will never be a uniting of these two camps.

In my pastorate, I’ve become one that sits somewhere in the middle of both sides, where orderliness is necessary while allowing freedom to sing and “do church” a little less formally. In fact, most pastors and churches fall into this camp.

Below is an excellent video from Gottesdient Online explaining a more orderly and formal Divine Service. My favorite line is how they describe the celebrant as he turns to face the congregation before the corporate confession and absolution:

“His words are measured and clear. He does not rush.”

I’m just saying that we here on the coast don’t rush. It just seems like we’re rushing because we usually just talk very fast.

Church Meetings

Church Meetings

I believe if you ask a pastor what is the most important part of their ministry, the word “meetings” will not make the list.

Meetings are those things pastors and laity put up with because church constitutions mandate them to be held. Whether they are strictly or loosely formal, meetings can get bogged down in minutia. It is the minutia that gives meetings a bad name.

Today, my congregation held their monthly Voters’ Meeting – think church council meeting. It went well as no major divisions came up. But as I’ve written before, sometimes we worry and focus on issues that have very little to do with the ministry of the church. And it is not just St. Matthew’s, but every church has these moments.

But I am coming to believe that is what these Voters’ meetings are supposed to be about. They are purposefully the arena in which everything slows down. They focus on the money and the budget. They ponder the actions of the committees. They plan future capital spending.

In effect, they are like the US Senate, a body that slows every point of legislation down to make sure things are done properly.

While Voters’ Meetings slow things down, our Vision Team is spending time working on the ministry of the church. Their attitude is simple: “It’s Jesus first.”

  • We wanted to upgrade our worship experience, adding visual and audio – they did it.
  • We want to raise money for our Veteran’s ministry – they’re in the middle of planning our first beefsteak dinner.
  • We want to make a splash at our borough’s National Night Out to tell the story of the Gospel – they’ve outlined a good plan for that night.
  • We want to make our Prayer Team more effective – they’re doing it.
  • We wanted to make the back of the church more inviting by installing better lighting – they made sure it got done.
  • We wanted to make our doors nicer by painting them – they got it done.
  • We wanted to upgrade our website and mobile experience – they got it done.

In the fall, our Voters’ meetings are going to go through a little bit of a reformation. We’re going to focus on specific church issues each month. This will minimize the time we spend talking about some issues but will maximize the effectiveness of our time together and focus our work on building St. Matthew’s for the future. Combining with the work of the Vision Team, St. Matthew’s is set on a good foundation for the future.

The Happy Church vs. The Broken Church

The Happy Church vs. The Broken Church

What do you say to someone who hasn’t come to church in a while?

“Nice to see you,” is one of the more traditional responses that is usually followed up with remarks about the person’s lack of church attendance, unless the phrase is spoken snarkily, which is almost all of the time.

I think the story of the Prodigal Son is important when assessing one’s in-church ‘hellos’ to those who haven’t been in church for a while. Ask yourself: Who would you rather be? The father who is excited that his son has returned home or the brother who isn’t thrilled that his brother is home?

If you choose the brother, then you’re the snarky one. You are the one who speaks with acid and anger on your tongue. “Oh, it’s great to see you! Your kids have grown since the last time you were here!”

If you choose the father, then you are what Your Lord wants – one who is happy that someone has come home. You’re the one who makes things comfortable for the returning friend. Smiles abound rather than snark. You will be the one who sends a card to the family saying how it was wonderful to be with them in worship. And you’ll tell them that you are praying for them.

The happy church follows the path laid out by the father. The broken church follows the path of the brother.

Vitae Foundation and the Kansas City Royals

Vitae Foundation and the Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals baseball franchise has been running ads in their home ballpark and on their radio broadcasts from the Vitae Foundation, a pro-life mass marketing foundation that promotes a culture of life.

Crown-Vision-Vitae-Foundation-ad_web-200x300Of course, a left-wing “pro-woman” organization named UltraViolet is attacking the Royals and the Vitae Foundation urging (blackmailing?) the Royals into dropping the advertising. Bordering on the hysterical, UltaViolet’s chief campaign officer Karin Roland said in a statement:

“The Vitae Foundation lies and manipulates the public by spreading extreme, deceptive, anti-choice propaganda not only to those seeking reproductive health care options but also to young children.”

Extreme?

Deceptive?

I’m guessing they’ve never actually seen a Vitae Foundation ad. Here are three they’ve run on Facebook that are highlighted on the Vitae Foundation website:

We should congratulate organizations like the Vitae Foundation for their work combating a culture of death in our society and the numerous pregnancy centers around the country that support life, including the Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center here in Northern New Jersey. Young women facing unplanned pregnancies are served honorably, respectably, and lovingly by the Lighthouse in their centers Hackensack, Paterson, and Wayne.

The Kansas City Royals should reject the blackmail of UltraViolet.

Why I Don’t Eat Dairy

Why I Don’t Eat Dairy

One of the most often asked questions that I receive when I tell people that I do not eat anything that comes from animals is “You mean, you don’t eat cheese?”

I don’t eat any kind of animal-based cheese. Why? I tell people that science shows that dairy is not good for the human body.

Dr. Michael Greger runs a non-profit website called Nutrition Facts. Three times a week, Dr. Greger posts short videos outlining some of the best new science regarding health. Additionally, Dr. Greger is the author of “How Not To Die,” a complete rundown of science detailing how consumption of animal products is detrimental to human health. He shows in his book how eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can virtually eliminate or make rare many diseases.

In his latest podcast, he dives headfirst into this most controversial topic (who doesn’t like a good grilled cheese sandwich every now and then?)  looking at the science behind the consumption of dairy.

Studies have shown that greater milk consumption during childhood and adolescence contributes to peak bone mass, and is therefore expected to help avoid osteoporosis and bone fractures in later life.  But that’s not what they found.  Milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture and, if anything, milk consumption was associated with a borderline increase in fracture risk in men.

And:

A hundred thousand men and women followed for up to 20 years; what did they find?  Milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, significantly more cancer for each glass of milk.  Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of death and they had significantly more bone and hip fractures too.

Men in a separate study also had a higher rate of death with higher milk consumption, but at least they didn’t have higher fracture rates.  So, a dose-dependent higher rate of both mortality and fracture in women, and a higher rate of mortality in men with milk intake, but the opposite for other dairy products like soured milk and yogurt, which would go along with the galactose theory, since bacteria can ferment away some of the lactose.  To prove it though, we need a randomized controlled trial to examine the effect of milk intake on mortality and fractures.  As the accompanying editorial pointed out, we’d better figure this out soon, as milk consumption is on the rise around the world.

A bit more:

The latest meta-analysis of all the best case control studies ever done on the matter concludes that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer.  And the latest meta-analysis of all the best cohort studies ever done also concludes that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer.  An even newer study suggests that milk intake during adolescence may be particularly risky in terms of potentially setting one up for cancer later in life.

To listen to Dr. Greger’s podcast, click over to NutritionFacts.org.

Growing Weary

Growing Weary

Grant us wisdom when we are confounded and give to us strength to walk in Your ways when we grow weary.

Today as I prayed the Wednesday morning prayer in the Portals of Prayer, the line above really hit me. The weariness factor of living the Christian faith is very real. Standing up for Christian ideals and beliefs in this world can be downright draining because there are so many people who reject the teachings of God.

It is so easy for bouts of exhaustion to wash over us and leave us with a sense of just giving up.

Jesus tells us something different:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30