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