Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If We Could See

Last week I stopped to have lunch at Panera Bread. I found a corner to have my bowl of soup and sandwich and work on my sermon for Sunday. Focused on the task at hand, I didn't notice the man who stopped in front of me immediately. When I looked up, the distinguished man wearing a suit and tie said, "I just wanted to let you know how much I like your t-shirt." At first, I thought it was odd that this well-dressed man would be complementing me on my casual attire. Then I had to think, "What about my t-shirt? What shirt am I wearing today?" I had to glance down and see that what I had on for the day was my "Lutheran Aerobics" t-shirt.

He was not the last one to comment on my shirt that day. We talked for a few minutes, and I came to find out that he is an Episcopal priest, and he could relate to the shirt as well!

T-shirts have a way of conveying messages about us to others. When we headed to camp last week, most of the Epiphany crowd had green "Epiphany Goes To Camp" shirts on. Many of us bought shirts at the camp and will wear them to promote the camps and as a reminder of our great week there. We wear shirts that promote our favorite teams, our alma maters, even our political opinions.

In some ways, shirts help us to know something about the people we meet along life's way. But so often, we hide behind the clothes or the masks we put on. The reality is there are many shirts we could wear that would tell others our hopes, our dreams, our pains and our sorrows. To wear a shirt like that would leave us exposed more than covered up, wouldn't it?

The Gospel lesson for this coming weekend is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with a meager meal of a few small fish and a couple of bread loaves. We call it a miracle. And that it is! But so often our view of this story ends there. We just see the surface of it, and focus on what Jesus did. If we go a bit deeper, we see WHY Jesus did this - because the people were hungry, and Jesus had compassion on them.

Jesus models for us compassion. Caring for the other. He looks beyond the surface and reaches to our hearts and souls and lets us know that he cares. He does not abandon us, but walks with us on the mountaintops and in the deepest valleys. And he calls us to do the same.

This video was produced by the Cleveland Clinic. What would it be like of we could see the heart of our neighbor?

Open our eyes, Lord. Help us to see!


Pastor Charlie

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Prayer For Peace

If you have watched the news, read the paper or listened to the radio in the past few days, you have heard of the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Some have asked me if we are still planning to go to Israel this fall. The answer is that is our hope. We pray that the conflicts will subside and there will soon be an end to the fighting that will be sustainable. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. 

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has been in contact with Munib Younan, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) who asks for our prayers. Bishop Eaton has written a letter to Bishop Younan and requests that the letter be shared with our congregations. She is asking that congregations throughout the ELCA to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), that peace might come to Palestine and Israel. I would ask we pray for all who are in harms way, and to guide those who have the power to negotiate peace. 

Here is Bishop Eaton's letter.  

July 17, 2014

The Rev. Dr. Munib Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land P.O. Box 14076
Muristan Rd.

Dear Bishop Younan,

On behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I am writing to express profound concern for you, our sisters and brothers in Christ. Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. I want to respond directly to your call to us earlier this week to participate in interventions and actions “to create hope in a hopeless situation”.

The steadfastness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) is a reminder of this hope we have in Christ Jesus. The church’s strong witness for coexistence grounded in peace with justice permeates every level of congregational, educational, and diaconal service. Our faith is strengthened by knowing how, even in the midst of great difficulties, the Body of Christ is working in Palestine and Jordan for the good of all communities.

Along with the witness of your pastors and lay leaders, your witness, Bishop Younan, has strengthened our confidence that peace can indeed be achieved among the two peoples and three religions that share the Holy Land. Your statements, speeches, and sermons have been a model for promoting both political and interreligious coexistence, along with your strong support of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which you helped found. 

We are grateful for your continued uplifting of the voices of moderation and against extremism and support to you in these efforts. We appreciate the long-standing work of the ELCJHL schools in demonstrating the importance of education though a curriculum based on peace, nonviolence, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of civil society for the benefit of all communities. We understand that this present crisis has further hurt the financial wellbeing of the ELCJHL schools, as many parents are now unable to pay tuition. We encourage ELCA members and congregations to assist the ELCJHL by making contributions through the ELCA.

At this time of great uncertainty, we join you in your call for a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Hamas and a return to direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law. We wish to convey our solidarity with you and the members of ELCJHL congregations, joining with you in prayers for peace. I encourage all ELCA congregations to participate in a minute of silence as we together pray for peace in the Holy Land.

While I lament that my plan to be present with you and with the leaders and members of the ELCJHL later this month has been postponed, I look forward to our time together in Jordan and the Holy Land. We deeply regret that the most recent round of negotiations have not reached a successful outcome that will lead to peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike. We reaffirm our pledge to work diligently with you and all people of good will to urge political leaders in the United States and around the world contribute to ending this conflict by addressing its root causes so a sustainable peace is possible.

May God be with you, your church and all the people of the Holy Land. 


Elizabeth A. Eaton Presiding Bishop

I invite you all to pray for peace.  

Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Will and I Ask God to Help Me

There was a celebration at Epiphany Lutheran Church this past Saturday. We gathered for the ordination of Sean Barrett to be a pastor in the Lutheran Church. As a member of the Epiphany for the past 15 years, it was a great opportunity for us to gather together with him to celebrate with him in this next journey of his ministry and faith. Sean has been in seminary for the past four years, including three years of classes and a year of internship in Vandalia, Ohio. The past few months, Sean has been helping out in leading worship at the Epiphany's Austin campus.

Sean has received a call to St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Salisbury, North Carolina. After years of discernment, training, study, and hard work, this day had finally come. We gathered with members of Epiphany, Sean's classmates, family and friends, neighboring pastors and more to celebrate this day. Bishop Dillahunt presided and Dr. Rick Berger of Trinity Lutheran Seminary preached an incredible sermon to say the least. 

As a participant in the service, I was reminded of my own ordination many years ago. Hearing again the words asked Sean this he takes on the yoke of ministry, the service became a time of reaffirmation of call for me and my colleagues as well.

Bishop:   Before almighty God, to whom you must give account, and in the presence of this assembly, I ask: Will you assume this office, believing that the church's call is God's call to the ministry of word and sacrament? 

Sean: I will, and I ask God to help me. 

Bishop: The church in which you are to be ordained confesses that the holy scriptures are the word of God and are the norm of its faith and life. We accept, teach, and confess the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. We also acknowledge the Lutheran confessions as true witnesses and faithful expositions of the holy scriptures. Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance with the holy scriptures and these creeds and confessions? 

Sean: I will, and I ask God to help me. 

Bishop: Will you be diligent in your study of the holy scriptures and faithful in your use of the means of grace? Will you pray for God's people, nourish them with the word and sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and holy living? 

Sean: I will, and I ask God to help me.

Bishop: Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God's love may be known in all that you do? 

Sean: I will, and I ask God to help me. 

Bishop:   Almighty God, who has given you the will to do these things, graciously give you the strength and compassion to perform them.  Amen.

This was a powerful reminder to me about what it means to be called to be a pastor of Word and Sacrament. It was an opportunity for me to center again and what I am called to do and to be. 

I believe baptism services are similar to this for us as well, as we hear the promises made at the font. The promises to learn about God, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed and the 10 Commandments, to read the Scriptures, to come to worship, and to remember the promises God makes us to the waters of baptism that we belong to God. We need to be reminded of the gift of God's love and grace, and the call we ALL have to ministry. 

God calls us all to ministry. May we be bold enough to respond to God's call saying, "I will and to ask God to help me."


Pastor Charlie

Monday, July 7, 2014

I Love A Parade

This past Friday, the Fourth of July, we participated in the Centerville Americana Parade. What an absolutely beautiful day for a parade - not a cloud in the sky, temperature about 70 degrees, and a light breeze. Perfect! Dick and Jane Lane and I loaded up the hay wagon with the float pieces and flyers and candy, and headed to our spot in front of the High School. There we were met by Andy Addy, Gary Hedge, Jimmy Basner and Jason Hamen who helped put the float pieces together. Last year, Gary Hedge made a beautiful float design of our logo that fits together like a puzzle. Thanks to Gary for his vision of how to make it and putting it into a great design. We had some flower blankets used at Alter High School's production of Children of Eden to add to the float that made it look that much nicer.

Banners for the side of the float, along with a banner at the front of the group, followed by cast members from this summer's musical made for a great presentation. We put a speaker in the back of Dick's pick-up truck to share some of the musical's music with the crowds along the way.

We were ready to go by 9:30. The parade started at 10. We didn't move until 11 am! But we were able to watch the beginning of the parade route as groups were released in order. We were #112. That is a lot of groups and floats ahead of us.

Once we got going, we were moving at a good pace! Thanks to everyone who cheered us on as we went on our way. It was great to see Epiphany members cheering their church float. Thanks for calling out and greeting us along the way. It was also great fun to see the people along the way dancing to the music as we passed by.

It was just a good day! Everything went so well, and everyone seemed to be in a festive mood - it was wonderful. I am proud of the presentation of Epiphany in the parade and the positive responses we received along the way. As we headed down the road for the parade, I thought to myself, "We have come a long way to where we are today, and where we are is a good place to be."  I am confident that God has good things in store for us down the road as well!

Thanks to all who made this possible! Here are some pictures from the day.


Pastor Charlie

Monday, June 30, 2014

Welcoming A New Pastor

As you likely have read in the newsletter, the Call Committee has recommended a candidate to the Church Council for consideration for our next Associate Pastor. There are still several steps that need to happen before the official call is offered and accepted, but the good news is we are getting closer! I am excited about the prospect of a new colleague on board, and I know many of you are as well.

It was about two years ago at this time that I was on the the other end of the conversations and interviews, so it is all still pretty fresh in my mind. Much of it is a still a blur. It is an exciting time, but also an anxious time - did I say the right thing? Will I say the wrong thing? What does that facial expression on that call committee member mean? Is this where God wants me? Is this where God wants my family and me? How can I be sure? How can the church be sure?

There is a lot of time devoted to prayer and discernment and conversation with loved ones, colleagues and friends. It is a big step to make, and a substantial commitment on everyone's part. Some have equated it to a dance, or even courting. There is give and take, getting to know you, learning each other and finding out what the other is really like. Yes, we put on our best and do our best to present ourselves in the best possible light, but we also seek to be honest with each other, so in the end there are no surprises. I always figured when interviewing that the congregation was going to learn who I am sooner or later, so it was always best to be honest and up front about everything.

So as we hopefully see that the end of the process may be coming soon, I would like to offer some words of encouragement and guidance in welcoming a new pastor to our church. How we welcome that person and family into our lives in these first months will shape our future together. These are some suggestions I gleaned from others, including Mark Fenstermacher, Lead Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana and Pastor Ron Edmonson, Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Pray for your pastor daily. Truly, there is no greater comfort for a pastor than to know people are praying for him/her.
  • Honor the pastor's family. Especially if there are still children at home, they will need more family time at home, not less. The family is stretched and stressed, out of their comfort zone and pulled in so many directions. Let the family time be honored as much as the church time. 
  • Tell the pastor your name … again. And again. And again, if necessary. Learning names may be the hardest thing a new pastor has to do. Give the pastor ample time to learn yours. Remember there is one of them and 2000 of you!
  • Don’t prejudge. This pastor will make mistakes. Remember, grace abounds, and forgiveness is a gift we receive and are called to share!  Yes, look at the new pastor with the eyes of grace. The new pastor will not be a duplicate copy of the former pastor, or current senior pastor. Pastors have different ways of preaching, different ways of leading, and different ways of thinking. I would work hard to let the new pastor be who he or she is created by God to be – not demand he or she match my expectation of perfection.
  • Encourage the new pastor to stay well. That means taking a day off, keeping the Sabbath, eating well, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, exercising, knowing it is okay to say a loving “no” when parish expectations are unrealistic. Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So I would want my pastor to take good care of him- or herself.
  • Speak directly with the pastor if I have a concern. I would want to say what I say with love, not huddle with friends in the parking lot following a meeting to discuss the pastor’s strengths and weaknesses. The New Testament way is to be direct with one another.
  • Be patient. Vital, life-changing ministry happens with time. Ministry is a long distance run and not a sprint.
  • Love the pastor and family. I would want to ask myself if my relationship with my pastor is shaped by what the Apostle Paul has to say in 1 Corinthians 13 about love (am I being patient and kind, not keeping a record of wrongs but rejoicing in the truth).
I imagine you can offer others to the list, but this is a good start. 

Continue to pray for the Call Committee and the process itself. May we do that which is pleasing in God's sight!


Pastor Charlie

Monday, June 23, 2014

Seeing is Believing

I was on vacation last week. I posted a few pictures on Facebook and Instagram to share some of the beautiful views of the Gulf Coast we experienced all week. I am not sure everyone enjoyed seeing them as much as I did in sharing them. I love to take pictures and enjoy all the more sharing them with others. The intent was not to make my friends jealous, but to capture the moment and let others experience the beauty of God's creation. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it). Below are some pictures I took last week.

In the Gospel of John, seeing and believing are often tied together. In chapter 9, we hear the story of the young man born blind. Jesus heals him, and as he regains his sight, he also grows in faith. At first, he knows Jesus as only the one who healed him. By the end of the chapter the young man sees that Jesus is his Lord and Savior, and he bows down to worship him. Later in John, after Jesus has risen from the dead, he appears to most of his disciples - Thomas is not present. When the disciples see it is really Jesus, they believe. Thomas is told by the others what they saw, but Thomas will not believe until he sees it for himself. Jesus does appear again and grants Thomas' wish. Thomas responds with the strong words of confession - "My Lord and My God." Jesus then says, "Blessed are those who do NOT see and yet have come to believe."

While in Florida, we found out that friends of ours from a previous congregation were nearby for a business trip. We made arrangements to join them for dinner at a place between our two locations, and had a great dinner and wonderful conversation. We got caught up on one another's families, and reminisced about a dear friend from the church who recently passed away.

When the meal came, my wife gave me the "Hey, Pastor, don't you think we ought to have a prayer" nudge, and so I offered. As is my habit, I bowed my head and closed my eyes, and I prayed for the meal and offered words of thanks for the time together. When I was done, I opened my eyes to see my friend, Bill, eyes fixed on me and a smile on his face. Bill is deaf. You wouldn't know it in passing. He has the gift of reading lips, and focuses intently on those speaking to him. He would always sit in the first pew and want to make sure he had eye contact with the pastor and leaders. St. Paul writes that faith comes through hearing. For Bill, faith comes through seeing.

I was touched once again by Bill's attention to me when I spoke, and catching his eye at the end of my prayer touched me deeply. How intently do I listen? Where is my attention? What do I look for and what is it I am listening to? Maybe I need to pay more attention.

Yes, seeing is believing. I give thanks to God for the beauty of creation, found not only in the sea and sky and plants and trees, but also in the faces of those who share God's love with me.


Pastor Charlie

Dinner with Friends

Breakfast at a favorite spot 

A morning sail

Lisa and Me at Father's Day Dinner at a nice restaurant

After a morning walk on the beach

The view the other direction on the beach

A 360 degree panorama of sunset

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blog Takes a Vacation

My weekly weblog is going on vacation for the next two weeks. When the blog returns, I will give you an update on the call process for the Associate Pastor position. I CAN tell you that things are moving along, and I am optimistic about what will transpire in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 We will be back to post more on June 26th. In the mean time, feel free to read some of my older posts - and a song to put a smile on your face - by one of my favorite groups, Straight No Chaser!


Pastor Charlie