Rally follow up

Well. I suppose I miscalculated (big understatement) on my previous blog post concerning the Freedom of Religion rally! I usually have about 15 people read my blog who know me (i didn’t expect anyone else to read it, fool that i am!)

Now, if you did know me you would know I really am a nice guy and I love the Lord and his people. I really don’t relish being on the “outs” with folks (especially fellow christians) and I am not one to purposely be nasty. But if you know me you also know that I do like a good and happy debate and I usually tell things like I see them – without taking myself or any issue too seriously. I am not right all the time. No doubt about that! That is why I love being a Christian – a forgiven child of God.

Anyway. Thanks for reading my blog. I thought maybe I should take my previous post down if it causes offense. I certainly could have been more generous towards the speakers. I know everyone’s intentions were good and I do ask for forgiveness if anyone is offended. But I hold my ground on the issues I put forward. You don’t have to agree! And if you think that I was mean spirited I would ask that you don’t feel you have to be the same back! Believe me – I am on your side! 🙂

You can find the text of what I had written to speak in one of the comments of the previous post.

Thank you and may God give us much wisdom and even more charity.

Worn out by a Freedom of Religion Rally…

BEFORE YOU READ THIS POST, PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A FOLLOWUP POSTING.

A couple days ago I got a call asking if I might speak at a freedom of religion rally downtown Scranton that was being coordinated with another 130 rallys across the country. The president of our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has been a key figure in objecting to the HHS guidelines that the Obama administration has been proposing as part of the new national health plan. Of course I have a problem with these guidelines and I think we need to work to change the way things are headed, so I said I would speak.

So this morning I spent some time researching and wrote about 3/4 of a page of considered words that I wanted to share. I showed up and there was a decent (not huge) and quite happy crowd in front of the federal court house downtown Scranton. I put money in the parking meter to cover 1 hour. “That should be enough time” I thought. I couldn’t imagine it lasting longer than that, since each speaker wasn’t supposed to speak for more than 5 minutes…. (you are supposed to start laughing at this point!)

OK, so things started off a bit differently than I thought with some effective opening remarks by a Baptist pastor. He really covered a lot of ground and said it all very well in 10 minutes – and it would have been great if everything would have ended right there. BUT then they had invited him to pray the opening prayer – which he did in the name of Jesus (as a Christian must). Grrr… You know, sometimes it just ISN’T appropriate to pray! This seems to be one of those times. We are supposed to be trying to defend the rights of people of ALL religions. When you are trying to be inclusive of ALL religions – it ISN’T a good idea to pray! Praying to a specific god separates and offends. So the thing that really bugged me about this whole event was that it ended up to be a Christian pep rally. I am all for Christians having a pep rally – but not cloaked as a religious freedom event!!!!!

The second speaker was a local doctor who really only talked out against contraception – which we were all informed NOT to speak on. I don’t understand why smart people like doctors can’t read the directions. The topic was religious freedom, not contraception.

The third speaker was the highlight of the event. And he was a Pagan Priest! (Sorry, I don’t remember names.) As a former military officer he related how he fought for the high ideals of our nation and took an oath to defend our constitution. He spoke of how the communist and fascist governments’ goals of stripping religion and religious values from the people was so that the government could then take the place of God and determine the values and thinking of the people. Excellent stuff, although he was proof that even Pagan Priests have trouble shutting up. But no one minded listening to this fellow.

From then on it was pretty much downhill. There were the annoying political tirades from a crazy Tea Party activist, the performance of the nice Christian song which didn’t have anything to do with religious freedom, sung by the obligatory pretty young girl, and the hysterical screaming of a hispanic minister who must have thought everyone was 100 years old and needed hearing aids (I think most people did need hearing aids AFTER his turn at the mike). There was a reasoned speech by the Catholic Priest, but it was at least 10 minutes too long too. So what started out as a nice event had finally worn everyone out completely after an hour and a half. I was SO, SO glad that the organizer called up the priest to say the closing prayer – having forgotten to call me up!!!! She saw me afterward and was so mortified that she had forgotten me, but the reality was that no one would have heard anything of what I had to say anyway.

I was reminded so very powerfully as to why I really dislike these kinds of events. The problem is that they tend to over-simplify the issues. Even though I am disturbed by the HHS problem, the reality is that the relationship between church and state is extremely complex. Just take THIS for instance: we could ask why we Christians are not in favor of letting Mormons or Muslims have polygamist marriages? They should have every right to it because that is what they believe in, right? It is their religion! But of course most folks don’t even notice such anomalies! It is a difficult thing to navigate the issues and nothing (NOTHING) is simple.

So in the end the thing that I was most thankful for was that there was no parking ticket on my car when I got back to it 45 minutes past its timer! Haha!

Lenten Worship?… a repost… from Dec. 2009

OK, so what IS the deal about worship? Special Advent or Lenten worship services? Why should ANYONE think even once about sharing in prayers and worship and hearing the Word of God?

Here is a repost of a post I wrote in Dec. 2009 concerning worship services in general… :

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Last night we had our first Advent midweek service, and I think that for the first time, the Bjornstad family outnumbered everyone else who came to worship.

It was bound to happen, of course. It isn’t that midweek services have ever been hugely attended. But the attendance drop at midweek services has certainly been greater than even the Sunday drop.

I certainly am happy to lead a service with one or two or three in attendance. I love these small gatherings, in fact. Especially the ones in the evenings. But I am just simply very sad that this congregation, and Christians everywhere in our land, seem to be struggling so much in their faith and life that they cannot see any value whatsoever to taking the time to worship in a special way during Advent, Lent – or more and more ANY season or ANY day.

The simple truth of scripture remains: If you love the Lord and know and love His ways – you will find a way to worship. Some way. Some time. Some how.

What does the Psalmist sing in Ps. 27:

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Of course there are no laws for attending the midweek or Sunday worship services. Everyone knows that a Christian doesn’t HAVE to attend worship. But they are misinformed as to the reason. People usually think that anything “churchy” is in fact unspiritual or, at the very least, a hindrance to being “spiritual,” that God is everywhere and we don’t have to go to church to pray to Him. Of course this is silliness and no more than a thinly veiled excuse for their unfaithfulness. If you would inquire as to the content and confession of the vast majority of “Christians” who do not attend worship regularly, you would find that they actually have no idea about the Christian “god” who they say they “worship”. They literally are “worshiping” a figment of their imagination, an idol created in their own image. And of course we all know the bad end of this worship!

The actual reason we don’t “have” to worship is that Christ has fulfilled God’s requirements for us! However, just because Jesus has fulfilled the law for us does not negate the desire of the Lord that his people gather in regular worship and praise of His name, hear His holy word, and experience a “holy communion” with God and His family. There is no doubt, for example, that heaven itself is nothing short of a joyful “congregational” worship. And what do we pray in the Lord’s prayer? Only (!) that God’s will in heaven be done here on earth. And when we read the Gospel accounts we see that Jesus himself joined in the synagogue worship on each Sabbath. Who is the fool who says that it was good for him but not for us?

This discussion could go on forever as there are many facets to the necessity and benefit of worship, but I feel that one very important aspect that is often missed in this whole discipline of worship attendance is the Christian witness it gives. I think often people feel that the only thing that matters is what they get out of worship. Sometimes the pastor’s sermon is great, other times it isn’t quite so (of course the Sacraments are always good). But true Christians are not as concerned about what they might get out of it (although this is nothing short of LIFE itself), but more about giving witness to Christ. Oh the blessing that you give to others (and even your pastor) when they see that Jesus really IS your first love – and not the bed, the TV, Facebook or even the almighty dollar if your boss asks if you want to take an overtime slot on Sunday. What a great witness to say to your boss “no thanks… I have better things to do than make time and a half. Sunday is the day that I worship my Lord and give Him the honor due His name.“

So dear friends in Christ, be encouraged in the Lord and in the worship of His Holy name! He is MOST worthy of your time and devotion. Perhaps you might ask yourself personally: ”What on this earth is keeping me from the true worship of the Lord?“ Whatever it is, repent of it! Cling to the saving Grace of Jesus Christ. Rise up in the new life of your Baptism. Take the time – any time that you can and even sometimes when you ”can’t“ – to worship Him and receive His blessing.

Jesus says that if we do not praise Him the stones will! What a pity that day will be when our lips fall silent of the praise of God.

So far I am still praising God. Join me, will you?

Lord come quickly! Amen!