Saturday, December 11, 2010

Invitation to Faith Lutheran Church

Check out this invitation to Faith Lutheran Church from a real character.

Seeing the Face of God and Showing It

The video of a Flash Mob linked below in “Flash Messiah” depicts the singing of one of the most often heard pieces of music in the Christmas season, The Hallelujah Chorus from George Frederick Handel’s “Messiah”. There are several misconceptions surrounding this piece.
Handel was German, but lived most of his active composing career in England.
It has been associated with the celebration of Jesus’ birth, though it was intended to be performed during Lent and Easter as a telling of the complete story of Jesus, to his coming in Judgment and the end of history.
The piece is known as “The Messiah”, though its actual title is simply, “Messiah”.
The portion known as “The Hallelujah Chorus”, was titled, “Hallelujah”.
One thing not misunderstood is how it can affect people.
One traditional story about its composition describes the time in which it was composed as a dark one in Handel’s life. He had achieved popularity but was in debt and depressed, yet he composed the piece in his characteristic rapid fashion in 24 days.
His work space had fallen silent for a time. His assistant went in to check on him. He found Handel with a sheaf of music in his hand, weeping. Handel held it up and said, “I have seen the face of God.”
I feel the same presence of God, breaking into lives through the flash mob in the food court. When the singing is finished, everyone sits down and goes back to their meals and shopping, as if nothing has happened. But, it has.
In this long “Great Depression”, when many are in debt and depressed and wondering where God is, God still comes, unexpectedly. How has God broken into your work, your school, your home, or your family with unexpected joy? How are you showing it this Christmas?
In what way does God seek to open your heart so that you might see His face, and seeing it, show it in yours?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Flash Messiah

I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter to a video of a “flash mob” (this one seemed better rehearsed than the normal flash mob) popping up in a food court to sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from his composition “Messiah”.
It’s very inspiring and it seemed to be received well by the unsuspecting shoppers/eaters.
You can see it at or by searching for Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See! on YouTube.
Many onlookers seemed to be disoriented and pleasantly surprised.
It was an invasion of the gospel in a temple of consumerism of materialism. Guerrilla Evangelism. It was light breaking into darkness.
Like Christmas.
Christmas comes unexpectedly. The reality of God breaks into Creation and becomes incarnate. Human.
Why? Why? In order to suffer. In order to die.
Why? Why? For love of you and me, and a desire for a personal relationship that makes us whole.
Christ comes unexpectedly in his first advent, as he will in his second for Judgment. We are, and one day will be, disoriented and pleasantly surprised.

Friday, October 29, 2010


There’s a lot of interest in the dead these days. TV shows like “Medium” and “The Ghost Whisperer” still have followings. Current movies like “Hereafter” and “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” raise questions about “the beyond”. They all question not only what happens but how we can know the truth about what happens after we die.
“What is truth?”, Pontius Pilate famously asked when he was trying Jesus before his torture and crucifixion. (John 18:38)It was a good question. It is a good question.
Pilate might have guessed the answer as it was staring him in the face.
Jesus, well before his “trial” had this exchange with the apostle (aka Doubting) Thomas about what happens after we die, and how we can know it: Jesus said, “And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:4-7
The truth is not a proposition, when it comes to the afterlife. It is a person.
Our eternity is not based on what we know about Jesus, it is Jesus known in our relationship with him, our savior. Jesus is the gospel, the good news.
As we approach the 453 anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, that is an important truth to know. “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9b-10
That is THE truth about what happens after we die.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sin Stinks

One cold and dark Saturday night in the country, when I was growing up in Wisconsin, our extended family drove out to some event, probably a wedding. I was about 8 at the time, and whatever it was didn’t impress me.
What did impress me was what happened afterward.
I was happy to be driving home with my grandparents on my father’s side, Olaf and Myrtle Berkedal. Wind-driven snow flurries had started before we left, and we knew we needed to get right home. The weather whipped up in the darkness, and snow blocked what the darkness didn’t.
We slid off the road into a ditch.
We were all fine. As an accident, it wasn’t much and the car seemed fine, but we couldn’t get out. There was no traffic on the road the way we had gone.
So, having landed in a place where we could see the lights of a farmhouse, we got out and started to walk.
The people in that house welcomed us, let us get warm, let us use their phone to tell my parents we were OK, but that they should not come after us. We would spend the night.
My grandparents were given a room, I think, and I was assigned the couch with some blankets in the living room.
I woke up sometime around midnight. I heard the hiccupped song of a cuckoo clock, and I saw the lights from the adjacent kitchen. The farmer and his sons, or maybe his help, were up enjoying a late-night snack of whole sardines between soda crackers.
I shuffled in to see what was going on and they offered me one.
I took it back to the couch and I look at that thing looking back at me. There was no way I was going to bite the head or any other part of that thing so, being too polite to return the gift, I dropped it behind the couch and went back to sleep.
Secrets like that do not stay hidden for long.
The family in that farmhouse, or maybe one of the cats, would be let by their noses to the scene.
That is what sin is like.
The Bible says that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. We can try to hide our sins, but the word of God, “is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12-13
Nothing is hidden from God. Sin stinks. The separation from God that is the consequence of sin, the condition that is expressed in our sins, stink.
And yet God comes to us as a suffering servant and calls us to repentance and, by God’s grace, to take away our sin and our sinfulness. John 3:16
God did not come to deodorize them. He came to wipe them away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Want Jesus

One of the things that changed my mind about when young people can start receiving Holy Communion was what occurred one day when I was doing my Internship at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa.
The bishop of the Iowa district called a bunch of us interns together for a day of debriefing, retreat and learning. We met at a Lutheran home for severely developmentally disabled children and young adults.
The children and young people served there were, for the most part, infantile. There was some question of whether they were aware even of their own existence.
We asked the chaplain, over lunch, what he did there. He replied that a lot of his work was with the parents, dealing with issues of God’s plan and of personal guilt over institutionalization. But, he said, he also interacted with the residents and led them in daily worship.
What, we wondered, was worship like?
“We have holy communion every day,” he said. That really got our attention.
“How could he give communion,” one in our group wondered, “to children who may not understand that they themselves exist, much less what happens in holy communion?”
Some understanding of what takes place in holy communion has been a traditional requirement for receiving the sacrament through the centuries, sometimes involving up to three years of instruction.
“Well,” he said, “I don’t know if they understand anything I say, but I do believe they all understand eating and drinking. God speaks to us all in ways we can understand and, for these children, holy communion is probably the way God speaks to them. They come to know God in the forms of bread and wine.”
One Sunday, as I was serving the elements of bread and wine, the blessing I give to children too young to receive Holy Communion in our congregation was not enough for one child. As I moved down the line, I heard him say, “I want Jesus!”
How much more does one need to know? He was not far from the Kingdom of God, or from the path God walks with anyone who receives Him, or the knowledge that, in this sacrament we receive the certainty that in Jesus our sins are forgiven in this uncertain world.
He wanted what I want. I want Jesus.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How Big Are We?

When people ask me, “How big is Faith Lutheran Church?”, I answer, “Well, I measure that by the average number of people who actually come to worship in a week.”
My hero in church development, Lyle Schaller, recently reported that 30% of Protestant congregations in America have a weekly attendance greater than 120 people.
With an average weekly attendance of about 150 persons, growing now that we are out of the summer months, we are near the top. We are also at a level that many church development specialists believe is as far as a church is likely to grow with one full time pastor.
How will break through this growth barrier? How will we realized our mission to introduce people to new life in Jesus Christ that grows into enthusiastic Christian living?
There is another way to measure our size, and that is by the size of our faith. It is a gift and a response.
I believe that the church only truly grows one way, and that is by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is how faith flows. And, that same Holy Spirit is at work today in the hearts of the members of Faith Lutheran Church.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rally Day 2010

Our Rally Day services, the beginning of a new ministry year and the start of Sunday School, were a powerful reminder of why we are here.
Our Rally Day Picnic helped us understand, again, that we are a Christian community. That we belong to Christ and, because we belong to Christ, we are bound to one another in the Body of Christ. We are who we are because of whose we are.
Many people have come up to me since Sunday, or emailed or sent Facebook messages, and communicated what a wonderful spirit of mutual support and community we share at FLC. Click here for a 90-second video on the event: Rally Day 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Jesus Stick

I was a big fan of the TV show “Lost” through to the end. I liked it because it took fundamental issues of philosophy, theology and physics seriously and made them into an engrossing mystery.
One of my favorite characters was “Mr. Eko”, who became a Nigerian warlord to save his younger brother. His brother became a priest and, when he was wounded and flew out of the country trying to help Mr. Eko during a drug deal gone bad, Mr. Eko took on his brother’s identity and lived as a priest, later serving in Australia.
As a plane crash survivor on the “Lost” island, he carved Bible passages and Biblical language on a staff. Another character called it his “Jesus Stick”, and another a “prayer stick”.
When I saw that an online auction of “Lost” memorabilia was going to be held in this summer I wondered if there was something up for sale that would want.
I looked up the pre-auction publicity online and found that the organizers estimated that the stick would probably sell for $1,000.00 - $1,500.00, with the “lightweight stunt version” going for a bit less (sticks have stunt-doubles?).
I thought about how much money I would be willing to spend for this item. I wondered how much I could spend and retain the support of my long-suffering non-Lostie wife Sally.
I decided I was not willing to pay the estimated amount and, as it turned out, the “Jesus Stick” sold at auction for $8,000.00, with $4,000.00 paid for the stunt version. I counted the cost.
Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:27-28
Who is able to pay the cost to follow Jesus? Who is willing to give everything to the service of Jesus Christ? Who will make Jesus, not the most important thing, but everything in their lives?
All fall short (Romans 3:23). But, the good news is that Jesus carried that cross for us. He died to take the punishment we earned. He died so that I don’t need to earn our way, but to know peace and live the joyous, abundant life in response to what Jesus did.
The only Jesus stick that matters is the one on which he died. That’s what I want. I want Jesus.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Are What You Eat

Our family and a friend went to the Los Angeles County Fair last weekend.
When I go to the fair, it's all about the food, and I wasn't disappointed! There were many tasty, exotic and reasonably healthy alternatives. There were also lots of food-like substances. But, who would eat them?
We'll OK, the four of us in our group shared an order of chocolate covered bacon, and some of us, not me, sampled the fried Klondike bar. I found that one can eat about anything if it's covered in chocolate.
But, deep fried White Castle hamburgers? Deep fried avocados? A Krispy Creme donut chicken sandwich? Do people really eat those things for any other reason than to say, “Yeah. I did that.”?
Holy Communion is even more revolting to those outside the faith. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” John 6:35ff
Yeah, that requires a bit of an explanation.
Christ is present in the forms of bread and wine in Holy Communion. If you took those forms to a chemist, he/she would say, “It’s bread and wine.” But our belief is that Christ is literally (not symbolically) present in those very forms of bread and wine.
St. Paul writes, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
That’s why it’s Holy Communion. When we receive the bread and wine we commune, that is we have “intimate communication or fellowship” (Merriam-Webster online), with Jesus Christ. We experience the real personal presence of Jesus and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins when, as Martin Luther reminds us, we believe the words “for you.”
If you are what you eat, that’s what I want. I want Jesus.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mosquitoes & The Coast

One of my nieces, who also happens to be a goddaughter, a mother, and of course is beautiful in every way, posted a comment on Facebook about how aggressive and effective the mosquitoes are in Wisconsin this year. A stream of friends agreed.
I, living in California naturally commented, “What mosquitoes?”
Did I mention that my niece is also clever? She replied, “Whatever, Uncle David :) What earthquakes?”
Now, I could mention that earthquakes are the most survivable natural disaster we face in the United States, but they are still pretty daunting to people who don’t experience them frequently.
You’ve got to wonder why Noah didn’t swat those two mosquitoes, which we do see even in California from time to time, though. Maybe the birds needed them for food. Or, maybe they remind us that the world is not what it was created to be.
Every area has a disaster to which it is prone. And every life has trials and calamities to which it is subject.
How do we live when our lives contain daily challenges and even the earth is not firm beneath our feet, figuratively if not literally?
We don’t do it on our own. We are connected, one with another. We are built upon a foundation that cannot be shaken. We are built upon Christ, the cornerstone, forever.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.” Ephesians 2:19-22

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baseball Clinic Video

Here's a slideshow\video from the Jose' Mota Baseball Clinic sponsored by FLC for the youth of our community in August.

A Good Day for the Body

The Bible's principal metaphor for the Church is The Body of Christ. That is, that the Church is the body with many members (in fact the original meaning of a "member" is "a part of the body") and that Christ is the head.
"For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another." Romans 12:4-5
Last Saturday was one of those days when the full impact of what it means to be a Christian, a member in the Body of Christ, hits home.
We had a wonderful event for the youth of our community with Jose' Mota bringing a baseball clinic followed by him signing autographs and taking individual and team pictures until everyone was satisfied. What a big-hearted and generous guy!
And Faith Lutheran Church members came in droves to set-up, prepare the field, provide goodie bags with church pen and pencil, candy, event brochure and a baseball for each participant for autographing, including all the members of the San Dimas High School Varsity Baseball Team who volunteered to help mentor the youth. All of this was provided free to the youth. Our members came out to do registration, cook and serve lunch and drinks, again free to the kids. It was a tremendous act of service.
In the afternoon we celebrated the life and mourned the death of our brother in Christ, Bert Smith. Again, Faith Lutheran Church members just stepped up to make sure things got done for the viewing, the funeral and the reception. Scores of details were planned and cared for without any fanfare. It just was done. The family was surrounded with the love of Christ in the many members of Faith Lutheran Church.
In the Body of Christ, the Church, there are many members, each one gifted for some particular task.
We show the characteristics of a Christian community often, but last Saturday we really shined.

Friday, August 6, 2010

More Light, Less Heat

Christianity Today magazine released a sobering article online (click here to read it) about the decision of U. S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker regarding Proposition 8 and its implications for Christian expression, and religious expression in general, found in the full text of the ruling.
What the ruling seems to say is that only opinions shaped by secular wordviews have any place in public discourse. In this respect, however, the ruling seems to be following what is a growing public point of view, that Christians have no right to allow their beliefs to form their opinions.
The outcome of the ruling, however, is what most people will be thinking about as the battle continues to work its way through the legal process.
In that regard, what I have read is that the “sides” on this issue are polarized and that there little, if any, middle ground.
I don’t think that is true.
An article in the online edition of the L.A. Times (Aug. 4, 2010, Gay marriage foes vow to appeal Prop. 8 ruling [Updated] ) includes the following portion of a statement by“Edward E. Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, with which I think everyone can agree: “Homosexuals certainly have every right to the love, companionship and support of another person…”
However, he goes on to say, “ -- but the courts do not have a right to distort the meaning of marriage.”
Let’s just focus on the first part of that statement. Christians have been painted as being “anti-gay” in this debate. I don’t think that is accurate or fair, and it is part of what polarizes a discussion. It’s what makes us talk at stereotypes and not with people as they are, and it happens from both “sides”.
Christians believe that all people are created in God’s image, that all sin and fall short and need a savior, and that all people are loved by God.
I think there would be a lot more light and a lot less heat in this debate if we could start with that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Wedding Banquet

We asked Faith Lutheran Church members who liked to cook to volunteer their talents and some time to produce a dinner for the families and staff of our Vacation Bible School. It was to be held at 6:30 p.m., just before the closing program.
They did a fantastic job. They filled two long tables with Italian food, including a dizzying variety of pizzas. Not only was is delicious, but it was timely as, along with learning Jesus’ parable of the sower during Vacation Bible School (Matthew 13:3-9,18-23), the children had also learned to grow their own pizza toppings at home in their own gardens.
At 6:30 p.m. everything was ready. We had about a dozen cooks, helpers and VBS leaders, and about three people from the community to eat all the food!
So, remembering what Jesus said about a similar situation, I walked to the door and yelled at the top of my lungs, “FREE PIZZA!”
I don’t think we had anyone come in the door in response to my yelling but, suddenly, cars began to fill the parking lot. Families began to flow in the door. The Parish Hall filled up and people sat down at tables and were fed. In the end there was still enough food to take to our local fire station where the firefighters accepted it with gratitude.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was like that in the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:2-14).
God invites people to sit at his table. But if we don’t respond, the invitation goes out to somebody else, to anybody good or bad who accepts his invitation to come and enjoy the feast God has prepared.
How do we get into the banquet? Through accepting the invitation; that is, through faith. What clothes do we need? Only a baptismal garment.
How long does the banquet last? It starts now and lasts forever.
Best of all, it’s all FREE!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Wedding Dress

A friend of Sally’s and mine is living with bone cancer. She reports that she was watching a show about weddings on cable TV awhile back.
In this particular show, a woman was dumped by her fiancĂ© just weeks before the wedding. She didn’t need the dress. She didn’t want the dress. But, she had spent $3,500 on the dress.
She returned to the store where, they informed her, they could not accept the return of the dress as it had been altered. They could accept it as a donation, however, in order to give the dress to someone.
Another bride-to-be had been shopping in the store with her mother, who was helping her communicate as she was deaf, but they had found nothing she could afford. One dress in particular had captured her attention. But, it too cost too much.
One day she received a call from the manager. She said that, if the young woman wanted to come down to the store, there was a surprise waiting for her.
When she arrived, there was a strapless dress with a Bolero top, very much like the one she had admired, clothing a mannequin. It had a bow tied around it.
“It’s for you,” the manager said. It was free. “Free?” the young woman replied. “Yes,” and the manager explained what had happened.
The bride-to-be was thrilled as, with a few minor alterations, the dress would be hers for her wedding day.
The Bible’s book of Revelation describes the Church as the Bride of Christ. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’.” Revelation 21:9
We, too will one day be dressed with a garment we couldn’t afford, but which was given to us to make us ready. That outfit is Christ himself. (As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27)
As the baptismal robe that some use, or the robes work by those who lead worship, it reminds us that our salvation is a gift from outside of ourselves. It is what God sees when God looks at us. It’s for you, and it’s free.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What You Want

One of Sally and my favorite restaurants is Nate ‘n Al’s Delicatessen in Beverly Hills. It’s a historic Old Hollywood venue, reasonably priced, brings food memories from our childhoods, and everything is fresh, fresh, fresh. We go there as often as we can if we’re in the area on my day off.
After lunch, we go to the counter to buy a loaf of rye bread.
We were there recently when an older gentleman who I noticed had come in earlier using a cane, his arm on another man’s shoulder, was ahead of us at the deli counter.
He wanted three pickles from the display case, the three on the left. He didn’t want them from the vat. He didn’t want the three on the right. He wanted the three on the left.
When he got what he wanted, he asked to have one of them removed from the bag. He asked that it be be cut up and given to him in a separate bag so he could eat it right away.
All the time this was going on, he was also talking on a cell phone. “Yes. Uh-huh. Yes. Right. Three hundred and fifty thousand is a good start. Yes.”
The man with him nodded for us to go ahead of him. He wasn’t in line. Sally realized it was the deal maker’s body guard. The man with the cane was making a $350,000.00 deal while ordering pickles. And, he knew what he wanted.
Paul reminds us to stay in focus. “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.
Know what you want. Make sure what you want what is really important. And, press on in every way, large and small.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life-Long Learning

One of my favorite commercials shows a sullen little girl dragging her feet next to a shopping cart filling with school supplies. She stops and, arms crossed, says, “I thought you said ‘School’s out forever.’” And there is classic shock-rocker Alice Cooper, in full whiteface and runny eye-liner, who replies, “No, no, no, no. The song goes, “School’s out for summer”. He smiles and says, “Isn’t this fun!”
An approaching new school year signals the end of freedom for some and the beginning of it for others. As we grow into adulthood, however, most of us realize that learning itself makes freedom possible, whether by expanding our awareness of life’s possibilities, building on the work of others, gaining greater economic security, or by benefiting from others mistakes.
Learning, or “knowing” Jesus, however, broadens our freedom even further. Paul writes, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
We are free from fear, sin, death and the power of the Devil. We are made ready for heaven by our faith, itself a gift, that sets us free.
Don’t fall back into slavery, Paul reminds us. Don’t go back to guilt and fear that we haven’t done enough to be saved. Live in response to what God has already done for us, freely. We are saints and sinners. We go to the school of God’s mercy and grace every day. We are all life-long learners.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Front Porch

I read the other day that front porches are making a comeback. They are an increasingly popular addition to existing homes and are one of the most commonly requested elements for custom homes.
Why? Because people crave connections with living human beings. They long to be a part of a community again.
This blog by, by itself, is part of the reason people sense that something is missing. Many people find that online community, by itself, is isolating. They want something more.
Our worship life is both the expression and source of a living relationship with the living God. That relationship is expressed in the community that God forms for all the ministries at Faith Lutheran Church and at other churches that call upon God. It is more than we could ever accomplish.
My hope is that this blog will be an expression of our community in God, a place where we can reflect, tell stories, and share our true selves while keeping an eye on the children. I hope that it is a place where we can gather and invite others to join in as well.
Kind of like a front porch.