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.


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


From today's Gospel reading, the Passion according to St. John:
Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.    St. John 18:4-6 RSV
St. Augustine writes:

With no other weapon than his own solitary voice uttering the words "I am," he knocked down, repelled, and rendered helpless that great crowd, even with all their ferocious hatred and terror of arms. For God lay hidden in that human flesh, and eternal day was so obscured in those human limbs that he was looked for with lanterns and torches to be slain in the darkness. "I am," he says, and throws the wicked tothe ground. What well he do when he comes as judge, who did this when giving himself up to be judged? What will his power be like when he comes to reign, who had this kind of power when he came to die? And now even at the present time Christ is still saying through the Gospel, "I am." And . . . the resut is the same, as people go backward and fall to the ground because they have abandoned what is heavenly in favor of what is earthly.

From Tractates on the Gospel of John, as found in the Ancient Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IVb: John 11-21.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

A Big Day

My March 4-5 went something like this:

1) I got the keys for the townhome I'm renting in Godfrey. My place is, by looking towards the back door, the left-most of the units of the four-plex. I spent the night.

2) As I was arriving at a local restaurant for a Fat Tuesday pancake breakfast (I elected to not celebrate Pancake Day at the International House of Pancakes}), Sebastian (my 2002 VW Golf
TDI) reached 200,000 miles. Breakfast was delicious.

3) I signed up for cable TV -- I've never paid for TV before -- and internet, so I've now got all the home utilities ordered. Hopefully everything not yet on -- water and heat were already a-ok -- will
be installed by Friday. So it's back to Peoria to continue packing. But I'm not leaving the new place completely empty. And, since the Seraphs won their Spring Training game, beating the Cubs 9-2 in warm Tempe, Arizona, the Angels bobblehead legitimately gets to show his face in joy.

Here's to new ventures in 2019!

Friday, March 01, 2019

Thank You for Shopping at Sears? :-(

With boxes and boxes of books and the rest of my possessions to move, I'll need a hand cart to carry them to-and-fro. So off to Sears (we still have one in Peoria) I went to get a good one. While it's not the department store it once was, Sears is still what first comes to mind for quality appliances and tools. So I walked into the hardware department (thinking "Division 9" -- it's amazing how many detailed memories stepping into a Sears evokes) and started looking.

I quickly found one "hand truck," a bit bigger than I thought I wanted, but that seemed to be it. No price tag was visible, nor were there any others or anything else that looked like a similar tool. So I started looking around the floor. The nicely-dressed man by the cash registers wearing a Sears badge acknowledged my presence, but he and a couple of not-so-well-dressed Sears employees were engaged with other customers, so I went exploring, but found nothing. Heading back towards the register, the salesman was still conversing with other customers so I went back to the hand truck and moved it on its shelf to see if I could find a price tag. Ah, $79.99. Did I really want to spend that much?

So I walked through the mall to see if Penney's or another store might have a similar tool. Nope. I looked up "hand trucks" on my iPhone, and discovered the price at Sears was in line with what I wanted to buy. And a few minutes later I was back at Sears, where this time I found several fold-up trucks in a display box. They were definitely smaller than I wanted. So I approached that well-attired salesman, now not serving anyone else.

"Do you have any other hand trucks than the one over there?" I asked, pointing in the direction of the one I'd looked at earlier.

When I worked for Sears, one usually hired into Division 9 working the cash register, where you'd begin to learn the merchandise and, if you were alert and ambitious, work that into a sales position that paid a small commission. This gentleman looked the salesman part, frankly better than I've seen of most Sears employees for years. But "hand truck" didn't quite ring any bells until we walked over to it. No, that was the only one he knew about. I noted the price on the shelf, to which he replied he'd need to check on that. That took a few minutes, as none of the registers would accept the stock number he kept inputting. Meanwhile I had pulled my Sears Card out of my wallet.

After re-checking the stock number, he finally got a price: $89.99. He seemed to expect the shelf price to be inaccurate. I wasn't ready to pay that, so I put my Sears Card back in my wallet and thanked him.

A few minutes later, I walked into Lowe's (where the former Sears brand Craftsman® tools are on display), and I found a small selection of that same hand truck, except painted red over the black. Price: $89.99. I took the nicest one I could find, rolled it to the register, and paid for it with my Discover® Card (another former Sears brand). Driving home I sadly pondered by my latest experience "shopping at Sears."

But I decided to not post on this as a follow-up to my earlier Sears blog entry until I opened my e-mail. There from earlier in the afternoon was one from "Sears Card Issued by Citibank":
You've reached 39 Years as a Sears Mastercard® cardmember!

On this special occasion, we want you to know how much we appreciate your loyalty, patronage, and your ongoing support.
I was so proud when I was able to get a Sears charge, my first credit card shortly before my 21st birthday, as a Sears employee. And I had really wanted to use it today to buy what I needed. But it was a very different store then. It was a different retail world then, too...

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Checking Out? Checking In?

So yesterday I step out of my hotel room to check out (attired as in this photo) and the maid is cleaning the room across the hall.

“Yes, I’m checking out now,” I reply to her greeting. She's glad, because now she can clean that room next.

Then she asks, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes, I am. In fact I’m going to be the new pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey.”

A brief conversation follows -- she hasn't found a church here yet, but wants one where she and her boyfriend (a mixed race couple) can feel welcome -- and she asks for my card. Don’t have one yet, but I write down Resurrection's address, worship times (alas, she works Sunday mornings), and my name and first Sunday there. And the Wednesday evening Lenten services that start next week...

What a great way to conclude this short visit to Godfrey/Alton!

Slightly expanded from a Facebook post from yesterday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It's Official: My Second Call

Yes, I posted the news on Facebook a week ago Sunday, so lots of folks have heard the news. But the official notice didn't arrive in the mail until this morning: Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey, Illinois, meeting on February 10, 2019, has called this unworthy servant as Pastor. I intend to officially accept the call as soon as I find a place to live and we determine a start date. Having played in Peoria for more than 26 years, I'll be moving on.

Godfrey, Illinois, is a village right next to Alton, Illinois, along the Mississippi River in the northern suburbs of metropolitan St. Louis. Resurrection is, for this part of the country, a rather young ELCA congregation. It formed in 1976 when, in the midst of turmoil then happening in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the pastor and several families of Faith Lutheran Church in Godfrey left to form a new Lutheran church. It would be the first southern Illinois congregation to join the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, but with the decline of Alton's economy in the early 1980's, the congregation had to sell its property and came very close to being merged or closed.

Not accepting either option, the congregation instead chose to redevelop as a mission. With support of the Lutheran Church in America's Division for Mission in North America and then the (new) ELCA, Resurrection was able to grow enough to purchase its current property in 1988, and dedicate a brand new church building in 1992. In 2019, the congregation faces the same challenges of most North American churches -- how to continue proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to and with the neighbor in a culture that no longer defaults to supporting churches, and to grow (or even maintain) when the church's upcoming generation is both smaller and less committed to the church than previous generations.

I'll admit to not having looked forward to departing Peoria. But I am looking forward to challenges in a new place with a new flock called (like the congregation where my faith and vocation were formed) Resurrection.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

It's Done

The clock in the Lower Parish Hall says 8:25 pm. Everyone has finally gone home.

On the table there are the worship furnishings and sacramental vessels that were carried out of the church in procession as Zion's final Mass (which began at 2 pm) concluded: the Processional Cross and Torches, the Altar Book, the bowl from the Baptismal Font, the Chalice and Paten, the Lectern Bible.

Zion was packed as members, former members, neighbors, and friends -- all people whose Christian faith had some tie or connection to this congregation. The ushers reported an attendance of 219. Some were even standing in the balcony to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed, to sing and speak words of our Christian Faith, to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, to share in His peace. And to say, sometimes tearfully, good-bye.

No, it was not over 6 hours of worship. There were also food and fellowship, presentation of some gifts to Zion's pastor of 26+ years, and some clean-up before I was finally alone to take this photo.

I never, ever want to do this again. Nonetheless, it has been a Glorious Day. Alleluia!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The End of an Era

Zion's final Holy Communion is tomorrow, January 27th. It begins at 2 pm, and all are invited to join with us. (We chose that time of day so pastors and members of other congregations could celebrate with us.) The weatherman's not been very co-operative, but we've cleared the snow and ice, and it will be warm inside.

I'll be singing Matins at 10 am, because I want one more time to ring the bells to call the neighborhood to prayer at our regular Sunday morning hour. The doors will be open for whomever wishes to join me.

Here's what I wrote for the Sunday Bulletin:

This afternoon’s service concludes the life of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria as a worshiping community. Our story began in 1882 when St. Paul Lutheran Church, Peoria, established a parochial and Sunday school for German-speaking residents of the South Side. They rented this northwest corner of Easton and Hayes, and built a schoolhouse that was dedicated that fall. Soon afterwards an Assistant Pastor at St. Paul’s, who taught at the school, began preaching here Sundays. The conditions of the neighborhood, and thus the school, were difficult for several years, but in 1890 St. Paul’s and the Iowa Synod re-committed to both by purchasing a lot one block over on Faraday Street and moving the schoolhouse there.

In 1893, Seminarian Wilhelm Schmitt, interning at St. Paul’s and also the school teacher, was ordained and called to establish a congregation on the South Side. The Easton and Hayes lot was purchased and the mission congregation began to build a church. Die Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Zions Gemeinde organized on Reformation Day 1894. The Kirchenbuch (Parish Register) lists 87 souls at Zion’s beginning. The church building was dedicated January 26, 1895.

English language worship was introduced for Sunday evenings in 1897 by Zion’s third pastor, Emil H. Rausch, and in 1900 Sunday School began being conducted in English. While Zion was still on mission support herself, her fourth pastor, C. August Decker, established the mission in Bartonville that in 1909 would organize as Bethel Lutheran Church. Under Zion’s fifth pastor, Sebastian J. Altpeter, the Zion-Bethel parish became self-supporting in 1912. Confirmation classes switched to English in 1915, and twice-a-month English services began on Sunday mornings. By 1920 Zion’s main Sunday services were in English; German services continued to be offered twice-a-month until Good Friday 1935. Also in 1920 Bethel independently called her own pastor. “Reverend Altpeter” remained at Zion and would serve her for thirty-one years, 1911-1942.

Plans for a new church had begun, and in 1922 the basement portion of the current church was constructed and dedicated for worship. Construction re-commenced in 1926, and the “New Zion” was dedicated April 24, 1927. The Parish Hall and new Parsonage were dedicated in 1956, and the parking lot was made in 1968.

In addition to Bethel, Zion joined in the organization of Faith Lutheran Church, Washington, in 1947, and Peace Lutheran Church (now Grace and Peace), Peoria, in 1982. Zion was among the founding congregations of the Lutheran Home of Greater Peoria in 1963, and has continued to support it in its expansion to Lutheran Hillside Village. Thirteen pastors have been called to serve Zion, along with an Associate in Ministry, Karen Wong, who was Missionary to Prisons 2008-11. At least seven sons and daughters of the parish have been ordained as Lutheran pastors. The 3-volume Parish Register records 1957 baptisms, 1591 confirmations, 1141 marriages, and 1775 burials. The stories of Zion are countless, and her legacy continues through Zionites across Central Illinois to the ends of the earth. Soli Deo Gloria!! (To God alone be the glory!!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When I Was a Scholar

[Originally posted in May 2017 on the Pacific Coast league 1930-1960 Facebook group, responding to this photo of the original editions of Richard E. Beverage's books on the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. spt+]

The Stars book I bought in the early '80s directly from Richard Beverage through the mail, but when I inquired about the Angels book, it was long out-of-print and he had none available. Occasionally I'd inquire at used book stores in the San Fernando Valley, but no luck. In 1988 I headed up to the Lutheran seminary, which has graduate student privileges at Cal.

So in a University library one day on a lark I looked up "The Angels" and, sure enough, they had one copy -- at the Bancroft Library. That's a non-circulating, research library. No checking out books. You can't even go in the stacks to see it. One of the librarians gets it for you. You aren't allowed pens or pencils, even to make notes (they will make copies for a fee), and you don't leave until you return it. And they don't do this for just anybody, even a graduate student, holding a Cal library card. No you have to first register as a researcher, completing a form that remains on file declaring to the Bancroft who you are and your field of study! Gee, I just want to read something about the team my dad fell in love with when he was a boy.

Then it hit me -- I'm a divinity student at the Graduate Theological Union. And so I put down that I was researching angels. And I got to read the book.