Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Let there be mercy

Tonight we began our Wednesday Lenten series at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth. We began this series with the emphasis on the theme "Let there be mercy". We are drawing this theme from a song written by Ben Kyle called "Mercy". The song sings of issues and realities of life coming time and again back to the hook "Let there be Mercy, Mercy, Mercy".

We sing this as our closing song after we have sung a gathering hymn, heard the word, sung one of the great Lenten hymns of the tradition and praying a prayer of confession and hope (see below).

Tonight our scripture was Matthew 9, the call of the tax collector Matthew. We heard these words and were challenged to think about what Jesus meant when he said he came to call sinners, not the righteous. To learn what it meant when God says "I desire Mercy, not sacrifice." These are profound words for us especially, I believe, when we recognize Jesus' most important statement of mercy to Matthew. For when he called Matthew he said nothing about sin, death or Matthew's own situation. He simply expressed mercy to him by saying "Follow me."

Mercy is an invitation. An invitation into Lent. Into disciplines and repentance not because God is angry or demanding, but because God is merciful and inviting. Like the pharisees we question Jesus' invitation to Matthew. He is but a tax collector and sinner. But he is also a human being. Is he not worthy of mercy? Of the invitation to discipleship?

Sometimes in Lent we get so caught up in the rules (I have largely given up meat for the season) that we forget the purpose. We have been offered an opportunity to experience mercy. To recognize our sin, our guilt, and our need for repentance in community. To receive the invitation to mercy and to follow Christ.

The most profound moment for me this evening was after the service ended. The community left in silence and in the pews were two friends. These friends were praying together. Uninterested in those in their midst, focused on prayer together and mutual consolation. Mutual mercy. I have no idea what they prayed for tonight, but I pray that they received from God the invitation to mercy.

So this Lent I pray for you and for all. Let there be mercy. You are invited.


Prayer of Confession and Hope
P: In the scriptures we are reminded that God calls us to repentance. That when we acknowledge our sin God graciously hears our prayer. So we come now with words of confession, scripture and prayers for forgiveness. All praying that God might show mercy, forgive our sin and reconcile us to God and our neighbor...
C: Let there be mercy

P: From First John: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and God's word is not in us.
C: Let there be mercy

P: From Psalm 32: Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
C: Let there be mercy

P: From James: Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
C: Let there be mercy.

P: Let there be mercy on us O God. For all of our sins we have committed against you, our brothers and sisters and your earth. For our wastefulness, for our greed, for our indifference to others suffering.
C: Let there be mercy.

P: Let there be mercy on us O God. For all of our sins that come from our failure to act. For standing by in the face of injustice, for prejudice and unkind thoughts about our neighbors, for our lack of generosity with your abundance.
C: Let there be mercy.

P: We confess our sins before you O God, trusting that in you we have mercy through the son Jesus Christ. Cleanse us, free us, and send us forth into the world to serve you, grow as your disciples and proclaim good news in Christ's Name.
C: Amen. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Alright, Alright, Alright" and "L-I-V-I-N"

Last night, unbeknownst to me because I didn't watch the Oscars, Matthew McConaughey won the best actor prize for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof in "Dallas Buyers Club". This movie was about a straight man who contracted AIDS in the early 1980's and became an advocate for alternative drug therapies, opened his mind to be compassionate to others, and spent years fighting the FDA for the right to import alternative drugs.

I didn't see the movie, and I frankly didn't know anything about McConaughey's speech until I heard it in a clip on ESPN radio here in DFW Monday Afternoon. Since he is both a graduate of The University of Texas and a local celebrity, they were discussing his speech and its significance as it related to who his "hero" was.

Some have called his speech a "rambling discourse" which didn't really say or mean anything. However, what he did say I believe has significance and value. Basically, McConaughey said that when he was asked at the age of 15 who his hero was, he didn't have an answer. Finally he claims he stated his hero was who he wanted to be in 10 years. Who he would be at 25. Then when he was 25 he was asked again and he said his hero was who he would be at 35. Ultimately he said "My hero's always 10 years away...I'm never going to attain that. That keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing."

The debate on ESPN radio and in other places was whether this was just more self-adulation from an over-hyped star. And indeed McConaughey is known for being a bit of a goof (some of us in Austin remember a naked bongo incident in Tarrytown post-Dazed and Confused fame). However, I think his thoughts have real value.

Most people's heroes are other people. Folks who achieve great things and we aspire to be like them. That is great. However, you can never be another person. You are who God has made you to be. You are uniquely gifted as you are gifted. I wanted to be a great NFL Offensive lineman growing up and idolized Anthony Munoz, Erik Williams and Joe Jacoby. Yet I could not be them. My body, my mind, my being, are a unique gift of God and I was not to be them.

McConaughey hit on this in his speech last night, intended or not. He made a profound statement about being who we are called to be. A profound statement as we head into Lent. On Wednesday many of our tribe will gather to receive Ashes on their foreheads and acknowledge that they are dust and to dust they shall return. In so doing they will read the words of Psalm 51.

Reading this Psalm we will confess many things and yet have hope that what God wants is not for us to be something else than what we are, but to truly be who we are..."For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

God doesn't need us to be more than who we are. We are broken sinful beings. We aren't superstars. But neither were Moses, Aaron, Peter, Paul or Thomas. God wants us to be who we are. To confess the brokenness. To embrace possibility. Who can we be if we live into this? Can we be our own hero?Be the one to whom we aspire? Let go of trying mimic a hero. You aren't Gene Upshaw or Mike Webster or Matt Birk, deal with it. But can you be the person God is calling you to be in 10 years?

This is why I believe in the ministry of Coaching. It is a ministry that calls us to be who we are. To encourage us to think about who we might be in 10 years. Can that leader, teacher, pastor, custodian, lawyer, maid, medical tech, doctor, financier, nurse, engineer, mother/father/uncle/aunt/step-parent/god-parent/grandparent etc... ad infinitum be our hero? I think they can. And I think they should. But you will need a guide along the path. A friend, a coach, who can help you discern the markers for your journey.

I end with a quote from a great Gen X philosopher.

"Let me tell you this, the older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N."

Be who God is is calling you to be. Confess, be free and live into that. L-I-V-I-N

Friday, January 24, 2014

"What would you say you do here?"

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook.

"Listening to an interview on Fresh Air with an author turned book store owner. She's asked if she ever buys books online. "Of course not" she says "and neither should you!" Terry asked "Well what if you don't have the book I want?" She says "I will order it for you." Seriously? You will order it for me? Sounded like Office Space. "So you physically take the design specs to the engineers?" "Well no, my Secretary does...""

The post generated a good amount of traffic about whether e-books were good or not, small bookstores vs. big bookstores and the importance of value added customer service.

This is fascinating to me because none of that was my point. I love small independent book shops. When I lived in Somerville, MA a favorite place to visit was an old used bookstore. They added real value with knowledgeable clerks and small touches like being surprised to find a book I never would have bought, but it was on the shelf next to the one I came to find. All of these and other points were lifted up by folks in defense of the book store owner in the story.

However, that completely missed my point. The point was the ridiculous notion that for some reason a person should go to a bookstore to have them order a book they don't have. This notion that one would go to order a book from a bookstore hearkens back to days when only a book store would have the catalog from the publisher. They held the keys, the knowledge and the credit to get a book shipped. It is a quaint notion and a completely outdated one.

Why in 2013 would anyone need someone to order them a book? I can do that on my phone faster and probably cheaper than they can. While I value the ambiance their store provides and I will frequent their shop the need for an intermediary to order the book is ridiculous. If they don't have the book that I want I don't need them to order it, and neither do you.

It reminded me of the 90s movie Office Space. In which a couple of "consultants" (reallly just downsizing experts both named "Bob") are interviewing a character Tom. Basically, he does nothing and they figure this out. But he argues he is needed because he has "people skills."



His ranting and raving of course shows Tom has no real people skills. But he wants to hold onto his job even though he provides basically no service. Just like the author turned book store owner in the interview arguing we shouldn't order books online. Why? So she can order them online for us? I hope she has a better business model than that.

So why does this matter to me and why should it to you? Well the first part is, if you do something that basically someone else can do for themselves, you better watch out. Your job is not long for the world.

The second is this is essentially the same argument the church made before Luther and often still tries to make. "You need us to get to God. You can't do it on your own." Luther blew this up in his day and the revolution we are seeing in the rise of the "nones" demonstrates it today. People have figured it out, they don't need church to give them God. If that is our business model, we are toast.

So what value do you add? What service do you provide? What do you create? Why should anyone come to your shop, office or church?

For the church, the danger in this is that we try to become a service provider for peoples needs. Felt-need Bible study, small groups so people can have like-minded friends, sunday school that is essentially free daycare, worship that is simply entertainment and not proclamation. That is a false value added.

What I hope we offer is a connection to God with real community and an invitation to discipleship. Small groups that center on prayer and mutual support. Worship and preaching that proclaim both Law and Gospel. A people sent in service and proclamation of God's word of hope to a broken and sinful world. The outside voice that speaks the truth of the Gospel saying "Christ is given, broken FOR YOU." And having heard that word a charge to "go and do likewise." Real community, real service, real discipleship. That is the value of what I hope we offer.

That is something you can't order off Amazon.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Goals

A couple days ago I posted about 2014 goals and what you wanted to put into your Christmas Stocking. What do you want to open up in December 12 months from now and see if you have achieved. Have you gotten where you wanted to go?

Well, perhaps even better than putting notes in your stocking is to make public, or at least make accountable with a friend, a coach, what you want to achieve. What are your goals, plans, dreams for the coming year? Put them out there and see if you accomplish them. As my previous post noted, you probably won't achieve everything. I certainly didn't. But it is good to say what you would like to do and make it noted.

So in that spirit. Here is my sheet for 2014. This is by no means everything we are going to do in the coming year. But these are points of emphasis for me. Things I really do want to make sure I emphasize and encourage myself to work on. To do so, I am putting it out publicly. This will hold me accountable. In addition, I should get a coach. This is the service we offer at nGage Coach Network. A group of folks who are willing to take on your goals and dreams and help you achieve them. So if you are interested, give us a call. And tune in over the course of the year to see how I am doing...

                                                             2014 Personal Goals

Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-Friday Lunches
-Have 3 Friday Lunches/Month with wife
May 2014

-Meat Free Mondays
-One day a week eat a meatless diet
Dec. 2014

-Swim once a week.
-Provide alternative cardio/strength exercise with lower impact
Habit formed by Mar. 2014

-Weight loss
-Weigh 210 pounds
July 2014




2014 Professional Goals
  
Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-Build Coaching Practice
-Grow online presence and coach 2-3 individuals
December 2014

-Grow Spanish Language Competency
-Increase ability to converse and comprehend the language. Especially liturgical Spanish
December 2014

-Prepare for and develop tools for Comps study
-Pass Comprehensive Exams in August
Aug 2014

2014 Trinity Goals
  
Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-2017 Vision Work with TLCC, Landscape, Latino Outreach
-50% completion of landscaping, 50th Anniversary of TLCC. Plan for starting Spanish Language outreach
Landscape June 2014
Dec. 2014

-Grow Stewardship
-Increase number of pledging families by 10%
Dec. 2014

-Increase community connection
-Host 2-3 community events at TLC
Dec. 2014



Monday, December 30, 2013

What are you putting in your Christmas Stocking?

My wife told me tonight about a family she heard about who take a moment at the end of the Christmas season to write down their hopes, dreams and goals for the next year. They then take those papers and put them in their Christmas stockings when they take them down and pack them away. The idea being that next Christmas, when they open the box with the stockings, they will also be reminded of their dreams for the coming year and they can discern if those came true.

I think this is a great idea and we will do it with our kids this year. I love it because it is something I have long argued for folks to do each new year. As a coach (one of the hats I wear) I believe in the essential nature of this intentional goal setting.  In fact, last year I posted about my annual goal setting work on New Years Eve and it gained a little Facebook traction. So I shared my goal setting worksheet and encouraged folks to use it if it was useful for them. This is about personal transparency, what do you wish to do/achieve and do you accomplish it.

And the reality is, you won't. You can see below my Goalsheet from 2013 (I break it out into Personal, Professional and then Organizational Goals). Some were achieved, some partially, and some didn't even get close. That is the deal. You won't achieve everything you plan. But you should still plan.

                                                          2013 Personal Goals

Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-Play guitar 3 times/week
-Actually be able to play guitar competently.
Dec. 2013
No: played more, but not as regularly.
-Participate in Summer 5K series and run El Scorcho 25K
-Run fastest 5K in my life
August 2013
Partial: Completed El Scorcho with a PR (despite injury). Ran 23:30 5K in November (not PR)
-Swim once a week.
-Provide alternative cardio/strength exercise with lower impact
Habit formed by Feb. 2013
No: Failed to form habit. Swam more, but not weekly
-Complete weight loss
-Weigh 210 pounds
May 2013
Maintenance: Stagnant on weight loss, no gain, but little loss

2013 Professional Goals

Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-Online Coaching Presence
-Platform to advertise and grow coaching presence.
April 2013
Partial: Plan for January 2014 rollout.
-Build taxonomy of leadership study history
-Beginning preparation for comprehensive exams in 2014
Aug 2013
Yes: Taxonomy developed, comps prep underway
-Blog weekly
-Create a systematic structure and build audience for weekly thoughts on leadership/etc…
Dec. 2013
No: Blogged more, but not weekly



2013 Organizational Goals  
Goal
Anticipated Outcome
Expected Date of Completion
Completed?
-Cooperative Youth and Family ministry program.
-Do at least 4 cooperative events with other congregations
Dec. 2013
Partial: 2 events completed, one cancelled by weather.
-Sell 2017 Vision Idea, Building on culture of growth.
-worship attendance growth of 10%, 10 new members in young-adult demographic.
Dec. 2013
Partial: Worship grew 5-8%. 12 new members in young-adult demo. New small group in that demographic.
-Continue to grow stewardship and connection to TLCC
-2 new families join from TLCC
Dec. 2013
Partial: One new family. Goal for accreditation in 2014 includes more intentional work.



In working towards these goals I have had coaching friends. I am part of a new organization called the nGage Coaching Network. It is three individuals (all ELCA Pastors) who are working together to both coach each other as well as offer coaching to others. We are not a corporation or a real partnership in the legal sense. We are simply a group who believe in coaching and hope to spread the word about this important ministry.

We bring a variety of personal and educational experiences to the table. By working together we hope we can offer a couple things. 1) A variety of gifts to coach individuals and leaders through both personal, professional and family challenges. 2) Geographical diversity for the sake of either face-to-face coaching or more flexibility in time for phone/skype conversations. 

So what does it mean to be a coach or to have a coach? A coach is someone who walks alongside others to help them achieve their goals. Coaching is not consulting. The coach doesn't need to be an expert in the field. They simply need to have the skill set of listening, reflecting and then holding accountable the individual they are coaching for their goals. They help you decide what to put in your Christmas stocking and then walk with you as you try to make that a reality.

2014 will bring you many opportunities. With a coach by your side you might even be able to make it better! If you are interested in coaching, please visit our Facebook site and drop us a line. 

Oh, and if you are interested in my 2014 goals, stop by on New Years day for an update. I can use the accountability partners!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why Trinity Had Worship Today.

(A caveat: this note is in no way intended to guilt anyone who chose to cancel their church services or who chose not to attend. It is simply an explanation of the thought process of one pastoral leader for why the congregation in his charge had worship. If this induces guilt in you, I would encourage you to engage your pastor in a conversation.)

Due to a significant ice storm and multiple days of freezing temperatures many congregations in the DFW area cancelled worship this weekend. This was an understandable decision given the lack of preparedness and ability to respond to such a storm of our state and local road crews.  

However, despite this storm we had worship at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth today and it is important to understand why. First off, we didn’t have worship today because we were trying to show how tough we are or able to handle the weather. Icy roads are a danger and walking on ice can be even more dangerous. So we encouraged people to not come if they were at all concerned about that. Yet we had worship.

Why?

The first and primary reason is that Word and Sacrament is our main purpose for existence. The church has too often let its focus drift onto other purposes for existing. Some congregations are social gatherings for youth or adults in which people join to make political, business or social connections. Other congregations exist primarily to provide direct service to those in need or to host a daycare (as Trinity does). These are certainly part of the reason congregations exist. However, our primary purpose is to gather in worship on the first day of the week around Word and Sacrament. Without worship we are just another country club or social service agency. And frankly, we should leave that to the country clubs and the dedicated social agencies we support.

Secondly, it is vital we do this in community. As Lutherans, we believe that the Holy Spirit acts through the preached Word. That the means of grace confer God’s forgiveness and it matters that people receive them. And they should and do receive them in community. We cannot have communion on our own. We need someone to speak those words “Given and Shed for You” to us. The outside voice, speaking the words of Christ, matters.

Thirdly, we often say and we should actually believe that it doesn’t matter how many people show up for worship. Some congregations closed on Sunday because I believe in their business model it doesn’t make sense to have a worship gathering if a certain number of people don’t show up. This is one of the problems with the modern expressions of church in america today. Worship should not require so much technological and musical talent and tools that to have a simple service with 5, 10 or 20 people doesn't make sense. Jesus did not have this problem (Matt. 18:20).

Finally, I fear that when we do not gather for worship because of a storm but other agents of commerce continue to remain open we indicate to the world that this gathering is optional. When I went into McDonald's today to get a cup of coffee the staff there asked me if we were having church today (I go there a lot, they know me). They were shocked when I said we were. And one of the homeless men I talked with asked if he could come, even though he wasn't dressed well. I said of course he was welcome. Sadly, he didn't take me up on the invitation (I am used to being rejected in this manner), but he was invited. 

When McDonald's stays open through the storm but worship is cancelled it sends a message. All too often, especially around Christmas, there is a regularly occurring communal lament from the “Christian” community of how secular our society is. The call is made to keep “Christ in Christmas.” Yet when we have an ice storm and the church closes but the McDonald’s across the street stays open what message do we send about what is important and unimportant to our society?

I am grateful that our attendance today was only about 15% of a typical Sunday. And those who came either could walk, drive just a few blocks or had significant experience driving in tough conditions and 4x4’s to bring them. Those who didn't have those resources or just felt like they were safer staying home did so. We provided our worship bulletin online and on our Facebook page and hopefully some had worship with their family or if they live alone used the texts and hymns as a personal devotional. No one should ever feel they “have” to be in worship if they fear for their safety in traveling. In the same way we would never guilt a home-bound person for their lack of attendance. As a pastor part of my call is to teach our community this truth and reinforce it.

This isn't about it guilt. It is about the vital importance that the church proclaim that we are just as important as McDonald’s. Our business is to proclaim the good news and provide the gifts of God for the people of God. This business is Jesus’ business (Luke 2:49). And it is a vital business whether there are hundreds in the pews or just a handful gathered around the altar. As a pastor, it is part of my call to ensure this business is carried out.

So we were open today for those who came. We will be open again next week for those who desire to come to God’s table. This is God’s simple table of grace. Where in community forgiveness is proclaimed through the Word and demonstrated in the gifts of bread and wine, As always, all are welcome. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What does this mean?

Tuesday night a Facebook post on the election for presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) asked the question "What does this mean?" Good question.What does it mean (or matter), a 25 year old Christian denomination was having an election. "What does this mean?"

My grandfather was in Cobo Hall in Detroit back in 1962. 25 years before the creation of the ELCA. He was there as Lutherans of Swedish, German, Finnish, Danish and other extractions came together to form the Lutheran Church in America. A decidedly eastern flavored denomination with its headquarters in New York City, my grandfather came from the West. He was an outsider. A lay pastor in the Augustana Synod by 1962 he served as the director of a charity for homeless men on skid row in Seattle, WA. And at that convention, in Cobo Hall, an "American" denomination was born.

The LCA was a decidedly ecumenical and "liberal" (do with that label what you like) denomination. In 1967 it ordained my father and just eight years after its founding it ordained the first female Lutheran pastor in Amerca (1970). The LCA followed that with the first female African American Pastor (1979), first Latina Lutheran pastor (1979), and first female Asian American Lutheran pastor (1982). The LCA also pushed, along with the AELC (a denomination formed out of a schism in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and led by the Rev. John Tietjen) for a merger of the Lutheran churches during the decade of the 1980s. This occurred in 1987. After 25 years of existence the LCA, AELC and the American Lutheran Church came together in Columbus, Ohio. The three bishops of the church symbolically pouring waters together into a single baptismal font. From this, the ELCA was born.

I was ten years old when "the merger" was all the talk. My sister attended the first ELCA National Youth Gathering in San Antonio in 1988 and I couldn't wait to wear my cowboy hat at Atlanta in 1994 to be sure everyone knew we were Texas Lutherans. Over the next decade and a half the ELCA changed. Numbers declined and gravity shifted. In 1988, the ten largest ELCA congregations were in the midwest. In 2012, the midwest is still dominates but the third largest sits in Irving, TX, just 15 miles from my house in Fort Worth, and its primary language of worship is Spanish

Yet despite this change, growth, mergers and divisions something remained the same. The leaders in the pictures of the presiding Bishops. The men at Cobo Hall, Columbus, OH, Minneapolis (ALC in1960) and every assembly since were remarkably similar. Despite effort upon effort to increase the diversity of the denomination the reality was it remained largely white, middle class, relatively well educated. Our presiding Bishops were white men in their late 50's or 60's. Distinguished and learned.

After 25 years in 2013 there was to be another election for Presiding Bishop. The current Bishop, the Rev. Mark Hanson, stated that he would again stand for election after having served two terms (12 years). Bishop Hanson had served admirably in those years. Globally leading, reaching out to youth and continually calling the church to remember the marginalized in our communities. To be the church in the world. Many loved Bishop Hanson and were grateful. I am grateful. But there was a sense. Was anything really changing? Who were the new leaders? Where there any? What does this mean?

Yet by Monday night it became clear that something was happening. As my girls and I watched the assembly in worship on the live stream from our kitchen, we knew that there were new names being lifted up for Bishop. Pastors of the church, willing to stand for election as well to this role of leadership. And the faces attached to these names, did not match the faces of those pictures my grandfather would have recognized so well. 

By Tuesday afternoon things were shifting and on Wednesday something amazing happened. The Holy Spirit acted. A graciously faithful servant of the Gospel, Rev. Mark Hanson, yielded as a new face filled the role of Presiding Bishop of our church. One cannot say enough about how solidly Bishop Hanson led us through the challenges of the first decade of this century. He is deserving of our deep gratitude and thanks and no doubt will receive many accolades and thanks. And hopefully, most of all, deserved Sabbath rest with Ione.
Wednesday, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton (Bishop of NE Ohio) had been elected by the assembly. And while almost 1,000 people gathered in the assembly hall for this election over 2,500 watched on a live stream as the final tally was announced. No longer are assemblies restricted to Cobo Hall or Columbus, Minneapolis, or Pittsburgh. They play out around the world on the internet.

The next morning. My girl's mother, the Rev. Kendra Mohn (Voting member from the Northern Texas--Northern Louisiana Mission Area) was in the elevator. In walked Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop-elect of the ELCA. As they stepped off, Bishop Eaton was gracious enough to stand and take a picture.















In 1962 there were no clergy couples. In 1987 they were a VERY strange novelty. In 2013, two members of a clergy couple (Bishop Eaton is married to an Episcopalian Priest) met in an elevator and snap a picture. These are the new faces of Presiding Bishops. Faces my grandfather might find different but my girls recognize immediately. Faces of two pastors of the ELCA. One just elected to lead our hopefully increasingly motley denomination into an uncertain future. One getting her PhD in New Testament at TCU and serving as teaching Pastor at Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth. My girls watch all this on the internet and their dad stays home, playing Lead Pastor at TLC and three decades later living into Mr. Mom, so their mom can do the work of the church.

What does this mean? My answer: God is still working on us. We have a future and we will live into it. In the Summer of 2015, Bishop Eaton will no doubt address the youth of the ELCA gathered for a national assembly. Where? Detroit, MI. In the Cobo Center (formerly Cobo Hall). We will be there with youth from Trinity-Fort Worth. With a youth director confirmed by the Rev. John Tietjen, the initial leader of the AELC, who served his final call there.

25 years. What does this mean? We have still much work to do. While we work on issues of gender we still deal with race, language and especially issues of age. We struggle to be the multiplying, growing evangelical body Jesus called us to be. To be relevant and relational in a post-Christendom era. However, as the new face of Bishop Eaton addresses those youth in two summers, I pray she will remember the words she quoted for us, words carried in the pocket of a Liberian pastor from NE Ohio, in her acceptance speech on Wednesday. I pray we will remember them. From Isaiah 43..."Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you."