The Next Phase

November 26, 2008

I was going to title this post “Time of Transition”, but I’m developing a strong aversion to that word.  Therefore, I’m putting it in the lockbox of banned words / phrases that are over-used in my life.  (Including, but not limited to, “outside-the-box”, “process”, “postmodern”, and “unprecedented”.)  This week has brought a convergence of new phases in the three major realms of my life – family, church, and writing. 

The behemoth writing project from the big publishing company has moved from creating cool leaflets for 5th & 6th grade students to now creating lesson plans for the teachers.  I’m way excited to see what the finished product looks like…and also looking forward to being done with this PHASE of writing.

My mom’s side of the family is moving to a new PHASE after the death of my grandfather, Vearl Schuldt.  His wife, Mary, died 8-1/2 years ago.  Vearl and Mary’s four children (my mom and her three older brothers) are now the oldest generation of the family.  They are now the grandparents…the ambassadors of the traditions and values that Vearl and Mary instilled in them.  It’s worth mentioning that Grandpa Vearl is also in a new PHASE now.  I remember the day before Grandma Mary died, he leaned over the bed and told her, “I’ll meet you at the foot of the cross”.  It took him longer to get there than any of us imagined…but I believe that he’s with her there now…and they’re both happy.

Life at church is also entering a new PHASE, with the recent resignation of my long-time friend and short-time pastor, Eric Carlson.  He is going to be an assistant to Bishop Michael Burk in the SE Iowa Synod.  This new calling is the perfect use of his gifts and interests.  I have been surprised at how shocked / afraid / sad / confused the people of our church have reacted to this news.  This is the third pastor to resign since my coming (I’m trying to not take it personally), so I’ve just assumed that it’s business as usual to enter into the “T” word.  In fact, the past 2 years have been the longest stretch of time that we’ve been fully staffed.  We were probably due for another shake-up.  It is with cautious optimism that we enter this new PHASE of our church’s life and ministry.  I’m sure I’ll use this space to share more about this in the coming weeks and months.  Eric’s last day is December 7.


So, as I (along with friends and family) move into some new PHASES, I’m reminded (oddly enough) of seasons of the church year.  Those of us who do the Liturgical Calendar are moving from Pentecost into Advent; a time of fire and passion into a time of waiting and reflecting.  This is the time to “be still and know that God is God”.  It’s good to remember that God remains present through the various PHASES of our faith journey.


Single Issue Christian

November 20, 2008

If you followed the presidential election circus, you likely heard pundits talk about “single-issue voters”.  Often times, for Christians, the single issues that get the most traction have to do with abortion and gay marriage.  Tony Campolo, my favorite Baptist, appears to be a single-issue Christian…but on a decidedly different topic:


The fact is there are 2,000 verses of scripture that talk about caring for the poor.  I don’t care what else you’re into, but if you ignore what the Bible is really about – helping poor and oppressed people – you’ve missed the message of Jesus.


The only description that Jesus gives of judgment day is how we treated the poor.  On that day, he’s not going to ask you theological questions.  It’s not going to be, “Virgin Birth: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree.”  Here’s what it’s going to be – the 25th chapter of Matthew.  “I was hungry…did you feed me?  I was naked…did you clothe me?  I was sick…did you care for me?  I was an alien…did you take me in?  What you failed to do to the least of these, you failed to do unto me.  Because I’m not up in the sky somewhere, I’m waiting to be loved in people who hurt.  When you relate to people who hurt, you’re related to me.”


There is no Christianity that doesn’t tie us up with the poor and the oppressed of the world.


More from Dr. Campolo:

Ethnic Lutheran Groupings

November 20, 2008

Am I anti-ELCA or (worse) racist if I agree with this article?

Used To Be

November 20, 2008

I ran across Lost And Found’s “Early Years” boxed set earlier tonight and unearthed this forgotten treasure:


Superman was killed in Dallas.  

There’s no love left in the palace.  

Someone took the Beatles lead guitar.  

Have another Chevis Regal.  

You’re 12 years old and sex is legal.  

Your parents don’t know where or who you are.


It used to be the hero of the ballgame would take the time to shake the loser’s hand.  

It used to be that failure meant you didn’t try in a world where people gave a damn.


Great big wars in little places.  

Look at all those frightened faces.  

But don’t come here, we just ain’t got the room.  

Love they neighbor’s wife and daughter.  

You cleanse your life with holy water.  

We don’t need to bathe we’ve got perfume.


It used to be a knight in shining armor didn’t have to own a shiny car.  

Dignity and courage were a measure of a man, and not the drugs he needs to hide his scars.


Can your teacher read and does your preacher pray and does your President have soul?  

Have you heard a real good ethnic joke today? 

Mommy took her speed and Daddy ran away, but you mustn’t lose control.  

They say the kids are wild we just can’t tame ’em, but do we have a right to blame ’em?


We’ve fed them all our indecision and we’ve raped their minds with television.  

But what the hell, they’re too young to feel pain.


But I believe that love can save tomorrow.

And I believe that truth will make us free.

Someone tried to say it, and we nailed him to a cross.

I guess it’s still the way it used to be…


They sang it at Church Youth Fest a few weeks ago…I forgot how much that song means to me.  Now I can’t get it out of my head.  “Used to Be” and “Goodbye” are currently the two songs that have the best chance of making me weep these days.  As always, I remain grateful for the music and ministry of Mike & George.


***UPDATE***  Here a recording…the visual quality is a little like an acid-trip, but the audio is decent.  It the only thing I could find…

Xmas Holidays

November 17, 2008

A local radio station started its 24-7 onslaught of Christmas music on Saturday.  Allison and I spent 10 minutes looking for a parking spot at the overcrowded mall this weekend.  I’ve already been hit up by two Boy Scouts to buy holiday wreaths.  Suffice it to say, the Christmas season is upon us…to which I say “Bah Humbug!”

This is the part where a predictable person would go on a rant about the evils of an increasingly consumeristic and secularized holiday and other crap.  You’re not interested in that.  However, if there’s one thing about this whole holiday season that drives me bonkers, it’s Christians.

Let me clarify…not all Christians ruin Christmas for me…just some of them.  In particular, the Christians who get their underwear in a wad because some people choose to say “Happy Holidays” or write “Merry Xmas”.  Apparently there are some (many) who think that the heathens are, once again, out to get Christians (the largest religious group in the country) and “take the Christ out of Christmas”.  

Perhaps people would be wise to consider that the symbol “X” is actually a centuries-old designation for “Christ”.  Or that if a stranger wishes you a Happy Holidays, it might be because they are trying to be respectful of the fact that they don’t know if you do Christmas…or Hanukkah…or Kwanza…or none of the above.  Just because you are myopically Christian doesn’t mean the guy bagging your groceries is…or, more importantly, if he wishes you anything other than a Merry Christmas it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not a Christian.  Cut the dude some slack!

Every year, I’ll catch myself committing the unforgivable sin of wishing somebody a Happy Holidays or a Seasons Greetings…and then have the other person snap back “Merry CHRISTmas”, as though to prove a point that all the B.S. that surrounds the month of December actually has something to do with believing in Jesus.

Here’s a thought – if you want to honor your personal Lord and Saviour (sic), don’t buy any more lame presents, but instead, give a gift to charity in honor of your loved ones.  

ELCA Good Gifts

Do you really think that Jesus wants you to buy more junk for people that already have a surplus of surplus?  If it’s really “the thought that counts” then think of something worthwhile and meaningful.  Don’t spend hundreds of dollars and hours of stress decorating your house – buy a bunch of food, take it to the homeless shelter, and serve it to people who don’t have anything to eat.  

Ugh…I’m all worked up into a lather now…and I ended up in the predictable place I said I wouldn’t go.  I guess I’m just not ready to celebrate Christmas at the end of Pentecost and throughout Advent.  *sigh*

This guy appears pretty goofy, but I think his approach makes a lot more sense than the way most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.  

Also, if you are anti-Xmas, consider giving this a read.


November 13, 2008

I’ve really enjoyed the accountability and virtual fellowship that comes with participating in Brandon Barker‘s “Great Blogoff“.  However, much like Kramer in “The Contest” episode of Seinfeld — “I’M OUT!”

I have a couple of huge projects looming over my head.  For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to muster the focus and motivation necessary to meet the deadlines.  So, I’ve decided that until I finish the Sunday School curriculum project, I’m going to refrain from blogging.  This kills me, because I’m narcissistic enough to think that I’m letting down tens of loyal readers.  However, for the good of the church and the big publishing company that is paying for the new car I’m eventually going to buy, I need to get the shizzle done.

The way I figure it, I need about 20-25 hours to finish the job.  That means by Monday or Tuesday I’ll be back in full effect, y’all.

The Solas

November 11, 2008

Jake and I have enjoyed a healthy back-and-forth for the better part of a month regarding the idea of sola scriptura.  He is someone that have hold in high esteem, so even though we have nearly come to blows over the discussion, we have been able to preserve mutual respect for the other’s views.  He offered an article earlier today that asked the question, “Is Sola Scriptura a Help or Heresy“?  

My belief is that people who rail against sola scriptura are really just arguing with themselves; taking a 16th century phrase and bastardizing its intent by comparing it with 21st century fundamentalism.  Sola scriptura has never been a phrase that describes Biblical literalism.  It removed authority from the corrupt church and placed it in Scripture.  Luther translated the Bible into German so everyone could read it, and Gutenberg used his printing press to mass produce Bibles so everyone could come to rely on Scripture as an authority.  Just not THE authority.

Sola scriptura was also never intended to be used in a vacuum.  That’s why there were THREE SOLAS that came out of the protestant Reformation – not just one.  Bible scholar Dr. Samuel Nafzger writes on the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod website:

It is in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel that the purity of the Gospel is preserved and the three solas of “grace alone,” “faith alone” and “Scripture alone” are united.

These three entities – God’s grace revealed through Jesus Christ, our faith in the triune God, and God’s word given to us in Scripture – give us our salvational identity.  They are impossible to separate.  More from Dr. Nafzger:

But we also believe that confidence in the reliability of the Bible is not possible apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Christians believe what the Scriptures teach because they first believe in Jesus Christ. Christ is the object of faith, not the Bible. We believe that the inversion of this order compromises “scripture alone” and results in rationalistic fundamentalism, as if an accepted demonstration of the Bible’s truthfulness and reliability — perhaps a piece of Noah’s ark, for example — could provide a foundation for faith in the Gospel. The Bible remains a dark book apart from faith in Christ, for He is its true content. But when sinners are brought to faith in Him, Christ points them back to the writings of the prophets and apostles as the sole authoritative source for all the church believes, teaches and confesses.

So, to argue that sola scriptura is dead or heretical is a moot point.  Sola scriptura, as some people choose to inaccurately define it, never existed in the first place.