Friday, January 26, 2007

Uncle Frank's Favorite Gift Of The Year Award 2006

Well, just a little bit of house keeping today. I was negligent in my duties last month and forgot to announce my Uncle Frank’s Christmas present of the year. I had camera “troubles” Christmas Eve and for one reason or another, I kept putting it on the back burner.

The coveted prize for 2006 goes to……….. Valerie, my niece, for the second year in a row. Valerie got me the Passing The Peace Protection Packet from the Old Lutheran website.The packet is advertised as “for safe and sanitary handshakes!” the packet includes the following:

1-Peace Passing Protective Mask
1-Hair Net
1-latex Protective Glove
8- Peace Passing Cards
1- Post Peace Passing Sanitizing Towelette

Valerie won this award because she understands her uncle. She understands that her uncle does not like to be touched. He doesn’t want hugs or pats on the back, and he doesn’t want to shake your hand. He most certainly doesn’t want to shake your hand right in the middle of the Divine Service’s liturgy. Valerie’s uncle just looks at this whole passing of the peace thingy as one big interruption to the liturgical service. Uncle Frank doesn’t want to hear about how much fun he missed at Men’s fellowship night. He doesn’t want to hear about how your cousin Lucy is doing after her colonoscopy. Truth be told, during the Divine Service, he really doesn’t care. He’s just hoping that Sven, two pews over, will shut up about how good the evangelism programs in Sweden are so he can receive the blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist sometime before dinner!

And Uncle Frank has a little bit of news for all of you, who for whatever reason, think shaking hands during the Divine Service is Biblical…it’s not! Saint Paul in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 doesn’t tell the readers of the epistles to greet each other with the holy handshake, he tells them to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” Saint Peter echoes Paul in 1 Peter 5:14 with “greet one another with a kiss of love.”So, unless you want to start doing what the Bible says to do and start puckering up to a slack jawed (and very furry) yokel, keep away from Uncle Frank during the Divine Service.

So, in closing, Uncle Frank is well understood by his niece. And she clearly deserves the coveted Uncle Frank’s Christmas Present of the Year Award for 2006. Uncle Frank plans to put the Packet to good use this Sunday, as He will be visiting a parish an hour south from his normal stomping ground. The reason for that, is yet another post…..

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The 30 Hour Fiasco

One of the benefits of chairing the Bored of Education is I get lots of junk mail for all sorts of “causes”. Last night I stopped by the church office to clean out my mailbox and there was a big honking package waiting for me. Inside was a free t-shirt and promotional material for the 30 Hour Famine. What’s a 30 hour famine you ask? The website promoting said famine described it like this;

“youth group members raise money through donors and sponsors to help the millions of starving and hurting children in some of the world's poorest countries, offering them a hope they could not otherwise have. The groups then go 30 hours without food, so that they can have a real taste of what hunger is like. During this time they engage in different activities, from community service projects to volunteer work to study, depending on how each group plans their own event. Afterwards the money raised is sent in to World Vision, and we put it to work in areas like Kenya, Sudan, and here in the United States.”

Now, according to the packet that came with the shirt, the little ragamuffins can enjoy not eating, living in cardboard boxes for a night, and even participating in a game of “tribes” where decisions are made about what to do with not enough resources for their different groups.

I liken this nonsense to Hollywood movie stars sleeping on the street to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. Of course, the same stars always seem to be dressed in thousand dollar suits and dresses before we see them again at the next red carpet event. If they really wanted to help they would give Matt Harrison at LCMS World Relief a buzz and donate something other than a can of cream of mushroom soup that had been sitting in the pantry for eight years aging to that ripe old age suitable enough to be used as a generic Botox.

Anyhoo, one of the things that just had me just rolling on the floor was a testimonial that stated;

“The 30 Hour Famine has given our youth group the opportunity to expand their horizons through activities and events within our community. This event gets the youth to step out of their comfort zones at least once a year, which allows them to be vulnerable to the Lord.”

Yep, they really said “vulnerable to the Lord”. No kidding and no joke. I don’t know what that means, and I don’t want to. All I do know is that this “Christian” organization conveniently forgot to mention Christ. And since any good work, without Christ is nevertheless likely to be a mortal sin. (Heidelberg Disputation, theses 3) and to also say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God, (Ibid, theses 9), I'm pretty sure no children in my congregation will be going hungry or living in a box anytime soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hobos, Ivy Leaguers, And The Priesthood

Too often I’m accused of “just being critical” of my beloved synod, the LCMS. So taking the advice of a reader, I’ve prayed for a rather extended period of time before commenting and came up with this solution for the pastor shortage that I’ve been told we have. And truth be told, this post is really an extended response to synod unleashing their EVAT strike teams.

I don’t often agree with synodical leadership, but this time they are hitting the nail on the head. We in the LCMS have a problem with church workers not understanding their “station” in our society. We’ve all known for far too long that the priestly caste just can’t seem to live within their means. Eustolio Gomez, CPS director of education speaking on church worker indebtedness states succinctly and profoundly “financial planning goes beyond "not getting paid enough." He says, "The real answer is in learning how to deal with expenses."

What the heck do these people spend all the money we give them on? Are they blowing all that money on rent, electricity, food or clothing? I know more than a couple that actually fill up their BMW’s with premium gasoline, which only goes to support Muslims (who I understand don’t even like Christians). Where do these people get off?

Did Jesus have a nice apartment or big house on that north side of town where all the best schools are? No he did not. Did he drive a nice M3 around the mission field? No, he walked everywhere! If walking was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t the priestly caste make a better effort at emulating the Savior of the human race?

As everyone who reads this blog is aware of, I strongly support the Office of the Ministry. But let’s all be honest, these members of the priestly caste don’t work but one day a week. And on that one day, truth be told, they can usually be caught sipping a little vino.

So here is a modest proposal to address our shame wrought scandal of church workers who just can’t seem to manage their money; just write off the current batch and hire a new group of more responsible stewards of the churches monies.

Where we should start is the Ivy League business schools. The caliper of people graduating from business schools such as Harvard and Yale aren’t going to work for less than a six figure salary, period. With that in mind, I’m sure we can get a few to accept employment in our pulpits. These pioneering spirits would accept the challenge of turning around our congregational budgets. The more the congregation can be encouraged to bring in the, the more the “CEO” of the parish would collect. By applying simple business models learned in those high class business schools, the “CEO” could not only turn around the fiscal situation of the congregation but the districts and the synod as well. All levels of the polity would benefit. And most importantly, these brave souls would not be as frivolous with their money as apparently the current crop does.

The second front we should attach this shameful problem is by looking to the indigent. These poverty stricken people already know how to do with less. They are already emulating Christ by walking everywhere (no BMW problem here). They are emulating Christ by living in the mission field. Jesus was a carpenter, the indigent are good at building homes out of cardboard boxes. Jesus didn’t hold a steady job during his earthly ministry, the indigent have that base covered too. And isn’t the mission to reach the unreached? The people that most of society calls “hobos” already have makeshift churches under every overpass in every city. This is a tremendous growth opportunity for the LCMS. In a story reported by the AP, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an advocacy group, is stating that there are 744,000 homeless. Just think what we could do if we just convert 10% of the nation’s indigent over to the priestly caste!

The LCMS was founded to send out missionaries and train pastors. Sure we have pulled back many of our missionaries, and sure we no longer (as a synod) support or fund the current crop of church workers at the seminaries. But this isn’t our grandparent’s synod. So the current members of priestly caste should quit bellyaching about how much it costs to stay in school for eight years, turn the heat down, go back to eating macaroni and cheese, and start learning how to manage their monies. Otherwise you should expect a visit by a synodical EVAT strike team. And rest assured, you don’t want that to happen.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lutheran Carnival XLI

Lutheran Carnival XLI is up and running at Dan's Necessary Roughness as he kicks off the 2007 Lutheran Carnival season with an American football theme, plus comments on one of his favorite Lutheran hymn writers, Philipp Nicolai. Stop by, say howdy, and be sure to tell Dan what great job he did!

Friday, January 12, 2007

EVAT Strike Teams Begin Campaign

A member of the priestly caste just forwarded me the following LCMS E-News bulletin:

January 8, 2007 .................... LCMSNews -- No. 5

Help is available for church workers with debt concerns

While two-thirds of LCMS church workers would speak to a financial professional if their debts were affecting their ministries, less than a third know that such services are available.
Such awareness -- identified in the Lutheran Church Extension Fund study of worker indebtedness -- is one of the worker debt issues that is on the agenda of the Economic Vitality Action Team (EVAT) of representatives from colleges and seminaries, Concordia Plan Services, Lutheran Church Extension Fund, and the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support (CMGS).
The team is attempting to approach worker indebtedness through the church "system," according to Rev. David Muench, CMGS executive director. "There's no one black hat, but the current condition of indebtedness is the result of actions and interactions within the system. If we begin toward resolution in one place, the impact will ripple throughout the system," he said.
To start the ripple, the team has proposed that seminaries require a basic financial literacy class for any student who receives financial aid.
A proposal to encourage the Concordia universities to follow suit is not far behind. However, the larger challenge is to build service networks and help church workers know what is available.
Among such services are seminars on financial planning and retirement planning, offered since 2000 by Concordia Plan Services (CPS). Eustolio Gomez, CPS director of education, offers seminars at church-worker conferences and other venues.
Gomez says financial planning goes beyond "not getting paid enough." He says, "The real answer is in learning how to deal with expenses." Muench observes that people tend to keep their debt a secret, which affects their desire to get help. "Shame is an important part of the problem," he added.
LCEF emphasizes confidentiality since it began offering debt consolidation loans in early 2000, according to LCEF President Merle Freitag. "We are aware of embarrassment and the fear that careers may be in jeopardy because others think a worker can't manage funds," he says. He adds that LCEF works with Concordia Plan Services to provide referrals to financial counseling.
Muench comments, "We have recruited church workers with the observation that the money issues will take care of themselves. This approach can be harmful if it is not balanced with basic principles of financial literacy."
Ministry does involve certain levels of sacrifice, he adds, but as congregations cut wages or pay low salaries to balance their budgets, a worker's decision "to sacrifice" can become a penalty.

I just received word that the first EVAT strike teams have been deployed to the Texas district to begin the “ripple”. Pacification of those who are complaining about student loans and low pay is expected to be completed before the third fiscal quarter. Clearly, this is not our grandparent's synod.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Longeyemoose Seeks Counsel

Longeyemoose, over at his blog is seeking guidance with this post on whether or not he should enter the DELTO program. Anyone, of the priestly caste or otherwise, are requested to weigh in on the issue as this carbuncle on the taxpayers looks to his impending retirement as an air traffic controller.
For those not familiar with the DELTO program, DELTO provides contextual theological education leading to ordination for men who provide pastoral service to congregations or in situations that cannot support a full-time pastor or missionary.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lutheran Carnival XL

Lutheran Carnival XL is now up at Lutheran Carnival. Make sure to take a few minutes and take a gander at all the great submissions. The next carnival will be hosted by Necessary Roughness. Posts are due by January 12th.