Sunday, March 22, 2020

When You Can't Come to Church

It's been an, uh, interesting Birth Week thanks to this coronavirus. At Tuesday evening's Council meeting while eating ice cream and other treats for the Pastor's 61st birthday, after having already taken actions over the past week to minimize the risk of infection, we did everything but completely shut down Resurrection. And then Thursday afternoon the Governor ordered everyone in the state to stay at home, except for "essential business," from Friday evening through Tuesday, April 7. 17 days Yes, we can shop for food and medicines -- toilet paper had already disappeared from the shelves -- and there are other "essential services" that continue (the list includes "licensed medical cannibis dispensaries and licensed cannibis cultivation centers; reproductive healthcare providers"). But basically everything is shut down.

So how does one pastor a flock when, to try to prevent the spread of a disease for which there is no known treatment, he's not supposed to be in others' presence? Especially when most of the congregation is people who are considered most vulnerable -- the aged (which in the US is 60+ -- so that includes me!), those living in close proximity to others (such as senior communities, all of which were already closing to "outsiders"), etc. -- while many of the "younger" set work with them.

Our most visible step is for me to live stream daily prayer. For the beginning, that's Morning Prayer (Matins) at 10 o'clock in the morning, Evening Prayer (Vespers) at 7 in the evening. Every day. Started Friday evening with Facebook Live from my page. I'd played with that before, but it actually works rather easily with the iPhone app. Even as we were making the decision to do this Thursday evening, I took the first steps to do this on my YouTube Channel, since lots of folks aren't on Facebook. I've not broadcast live there yet, but I have uploaded the last three. Here's tonight's Vespers:

You are welcome to share these links with others.

I'm learning that it's one thing to pray the offices in the church my myself, it's another thing to pray them in the church with a (small) congregation, and it's yet another to pray them by myself while on camera. But I grew accustomed to the first two, so I should become accustomed to the third. Though hopefully not too comfortable.

Once upon a time in the face of grave danger people flocked to churches. Today even those who want to aren't able to do so. For the short term I think that's okay; this gives our health officials, scientist, and the medical profession (yes, I'm avoiding a now-common description) time to get some sort of handle on the spread of this disease. For the moment, streaming congregation-less worship services is a starting point for the Church to keep its connections. But it's only a start, particularly for a Faith where "he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man."

At the heart of being a pastor is being with the flock I've been called to. That happens when we come together, on the Lord's Day, on other days. We can offer "virtual" or "remote community" for a short while. But many in the Church are unable to access even that. What do we do for them to remain among us?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Prayer for Steadfastness in Affliction (1917)

A Prayer for Steadfastness in Affliction from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

Almighty and most Merciful God, Who hast appointed us to endure sufferings and death with our Lord Jesus Christ, before we enter with Him into eternal glory: Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Thy holy will, and to continue steadfast in the true faith unto the end of our lives, and at all times to find peace and joy in the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead, and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer in Time of National Distress (1917)

A Prayer in Time of National Distress from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

O Lord God, Heavenly Father: We humbly confess unto Thee that by our evil doings and continual disobedience, we have deserved these Thy chastisements; but we earnestly beseech Thee, for Thy Name's sake, to spare us; restrain the harmful power of the enemy, and succor Thy suffering people; that Thy Word may be declared faithfully and without hinderance, and that we, amending our sinful lives, may walk obediently to Thy holy commandments; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer in Time of Great Sickness (1917)

A Prayer in Time of Great Sickness from the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1917 --

Almighty and most Merciful God, our Heavenly Father: We, Thine erring children, humbly confess unto Thee, that we have justly deserved the chastening, which for our sins Thou hast sent upon us; but we entreat Thee, of Thy boundless goodness to grant us true repentance, graciously to forgive our sins, to remove from us or to lighten our merited punishment and so to strengthen us by Thy grace that as obedient children we may be subject to Thy will, and bear our afflictions in patience; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

Friday, September 13, 2019

27 Years Ago Today...

It was 27 years ago today I received "the power and authority to administer the meal, publicly before the altar from the other pastors with prayer and the laying on of hands," as Dr. Martin Luther describes it in a 1531 letter to Johann Sutel (see Luther, Ministry, and Ordination Rites in the Early Reformation Church, by Ralph F. Smith). You can watch the laying on of hands and presentation of a stole at my ordination on this clip from the video of that service.



The place was in the Chancel at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Canoga Park, California (now Faith Lutheran Church), about 20 feet from from where I had been baptized 33 years, less one week, earlier. I took a few moments today to listen once again to the words from the rite, and invite you to do so also.

Presiding at my ordination was the Rt. Rev. J. Roger Anderson, first Bishop of what is now called the Southwest California Synod, ELCA. My parents presented the stole to the Bishop.

Also speaking the charge to the newly ordained in the rite were the Rev. C. David Olsen, of blessed memory, then my pastor at Resurrection; the Rev. Jeffrey Frohner, a seminary classmate who had been ordained a few weeks earlier and was serving in Santa Barbara; and the Rev. Brian Eklund, who was then pastor at St. Mark's, Los Angeles, where I had served my cross-cultural experience in January 1990.

Also committing the office to me were (in suits, from left to right) Pastors Jack Lundeen (St. Luke, Woodland Hills), John Stump (then retired, and Dave Olsen's predecessor at Resurrection); and Bryan Woken (Shepherd of the Valley, Canoga Park).

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Why the United States of America?

Written 243 years ago, the Declaration of Independence is more than stirring words. As the Bill of Rights Institute notes,
The declaration contained 3 sections: a general statement of natural rights theory and the purpose of government, a list of grievances against the British King, and the declaration of independence from England. More than 20 years later, the Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution would contain prohibitions against the government to prevent the same forms of tyranny as were listed as grievances.
We read it today — and I like to post it on this day — not only to recall the nation's founding, but to see how well the nation continues to live by the principles by which she was established. That "general statement of natural rights theory and the purpose of government," is
the key to this nation of states -- one that is routinely abused in so much of our current political discourse.
Reposted from Independence Day 2017, 2016, 2015, 2011, and 2009 this day on
Pastor Zip's Blog, and originally a dozen years ago on my 21st Century Whig blog.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America


When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Behold, the Cross!

Behold, the life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.
Oh, come, let us worship him.

Resurrection Lutheran Church
Godfrey, Illinois, USA