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Bishop Michael Rinehart

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October 2009

11/1/09 is All Saints Sunday

 

Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

If you would, go to your Junk E-mail box. If there are any emails from any of us at the synod office, right-click on them, hover over Junk E-mail and select Add to Safe Senders List. This will keep our stuff from going into your SPAM folder. Unless of course you want it there.:-)

November 1 – ALL SAINTS

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 – The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God 

In our Prayers

Pastors John and Lawrence Bade, their mom and family as they grieve the death of their father Heinie Bade. 

Save the Date!

The Houston celebration of the Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion will be Sunday, January 18, 2010, 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist, Houston. Bishop Janice Huie and Mike Rinehart presiding. This takes place on the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This will be a great time to celebrate our unity in Christ.

Listserv

These emails can also be viewed at www.bishopmike.posterous.com.

New Wehdem

Today I was at St. James New Wehdem (Brenham) for their 140th anniversary. This congregation, formed in 1869, has the distinction of being the congregation where Bishop Ray Tiemann grew up. Bp. Tiemann preached. You take 290 to Brenham and go south on Texas 36 for about four miles, then turn right on County Road 36, which the locals call New Wehdem road. After a few winding miles of narrow blacktop you arrive at St. James.

While many rural congregations struggle with few young families, St. James is teeming with children. The sanctuary is larger than it looks. You can pack 250-300 in, and that’s about what they had today. Pastor Jill Vivroux has been there a little over a year.

Their “new” building (1927) has the chandelier from The cornerstone says Ev. LUTH. St. JAKOBI, Gegruendet 1869, Gebaut Sept. 27, 1927. Most of the members came from Wehdem in the Prussian province of Nord Rhein Westfalen (now Germany). There’s also a parsonage which they use for meetings now, a fellowship building, and an old school house, which was just refurbished. I’m told it’s the oldest school house in Austin County.

According to St. James’ history, in 1872 the pastor’s salary was $250. In attendance today was Pastor Bob Pfennig. His great grandfather was pastor at St. James over 100 years ago (1885-1895). He told stories of how they used to jump on the freight trains and ride them into Brenham. In 1890 some families from St. James helped start St. Paul’s in Phillipsburg. In 1895 St. James hosted the synod convention. In 1919, St. James was 50 years old. Worship and classes were still held auf Deutsch. But as some English was in use (and due to the poor treatment of Germans in WWI) St. Jakobi became St. James. In 1927 there were about 90 adult members. A vote was taken to build a new sanctuary. Mr. Fritz Tiemann was paid $.50/hour to oversee construction. It was dedicated in 1928. The $15,000 debt was paid off in about ten years. In 1936 electricity became available in the area, and the church added electric lights. In 1941 a U.S. flag was added to the chancel to demonstrate this German community’s allegiance to the United States of America.

Also in attendance were Pastor Willard Rother (1961-1970) Pastor Laird Engel (1971-1975), and a few others. St. James was Pastor Engel’s first call. When Pastor Engel arrived, a young Ray Tiemann was a senior in high school. Thanks to the ubiquitous nametags, I know that today I communed well over a dozen Tiemanns.

There are so many Lutherans in the Brenham area (more Lutherans than Catholics or Baptists), that some folks say evangelism is just shuffling the deck. Not so, says Pastor Engel, who has a passion for evangelism. Evangelism is welcoming the folks that are pouring into Washington and Austin Counties from Harris County. And of course the rapidly growing Latino population, curiously absent.

After the day’s festivities, including a turkey dinner that left us all stuffed, I stopped at the Walmart at 105 and 36 for something. I heard no German, but lots and lots of Spanish.

A Texan All Saints

I can think of nothing better to post this week than the words Pastor John Bade (Baton Rouge) wrote for his father’s funeral this past week, read by his brother Lawrence (St. Paul’s Brenham). Peggy and I drove out to the funeral which was held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Cuero, Texas.

A full church and four-part singing witnessed to a life of faith. The cemetery a few miles away was behind a church where Lawrence was ordained. Heinie was a Sager, a descendent of Christoph Adam Sager and the other Sagers that came over from the Chrischona school to found Lutheran Churches in Texas.

After graveside, we went to John and Lawrence’s mothers home, out in the country, over blacktop roads with generations of history, to old dairy farm the seven children helped maintain.

All saints Sunday we remember all those who have gone before us. We remember those who passed the faith on to us parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, mentors, friends. This brought tears to my eyes. I pray it does yours too.

“Let’s Return Thanks”

Celebration of Hope and Love

Heinie Bade 1917-2009

October 21, 2009

St Mark Lutheran Church, Cuero, TX

As our friends and family

gathered on this day to celebrate the life of Heinie Bade

and the promises of life eternal which he now knows in full,

I want to include you in on a family ritual that I think is unique to the Bade family.

(I haven’t heard of it being done anywhere else.)

 

It’s a ritual that occurs around the dinner table.

 

After enjoying a wonderful meal …

of brisket

grilled over live oak and mesquite coals

and coated with a homemade sauce that Dad concocted

with an “add- ingredients-according-to-taste” recipe …

 

of vegetables

harvested just a few hours before the meal from the garden …

of the melt-in-your-mouth flavor of Mom’s homemade rolls

dripping with homemade strawberry jelly and pure butter

(not any of that “I Can’t Believe-it’s-not-butter” pretender ….because it isn’t) …

of the sweet taste of Dad’s home-brewed wine

extracted from the Bade wine cellar

(also known as the crawl space under the house) …

mingled with homemade green grape pie …

 

(Are you hungry yet?)

 

After all this,

our hunger having been satisfied,

our palettes delighted,

and our needs and our bellies filled to overflowing …

 

Dad would say three simple words

which would invite us to remember the true source of the meal

and all that we had just enjoyed.

 

He would quietly say,

“Let’s return thanks.”

 

And we all would bow our heads and together pray this prayer:

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”

Today,

as we gather as family and friends

and with the saints in glory seated at the heavenly feast which never ends,

I invite you to join me in this family ritual.

 

As I say, “let’s return thanks,”

would you pray with me,

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”

 

Let’s try it …

“Let’s return thanks.”

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”

 

We give thanks to the Lord …

for the gift of creation

and the joy and calling of being stewards of it.

 

For beautiful, tended meadows of coastal Bermuda grass,

framed by groomed live oak trees …

For fields of bluebonnets and wild phlox …

For rows of sweet corn, strawberries, and okra …

For bouncing baby calves

and protective mother cows ….

For bold Brahma bulls

and belligerent outlaw steers that refuse to stay in their pens …

For the precious gift or building clouds

and life-giving rain ….

 

“For the beauty of the earth …

Lord of all to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise,”

we sing today.

 

The story is told of a South Texas farmer

who was walking one evening in the pasture,

having a conversation with the Lord.

 

As the man was marveling at the beauty of the burnt-orange sunset,

the multi-colored landscape,

and the well-tended fields and crops,

God said to him,

“Ahh, the work of my hands. Sure is pretty, isn’t it?”

 

The farmer nodded,

then looked at his own hands,

scarred and calloused from years of hard work on the farm.

He was quiet for a moment,

then he said to God,

“It’s pretty, all right.

But you should have seen it before I started working on it.”

 

Like that farmer,

Dad delighted in the beauty of creation

and he took seriously the privilege and responsibility of being a steward of it.

 

He employed all his strength and wisdom

to the care of the land and livestock under his care;

and through his work in conservation,

through his delight in all things living,

through his daily work on the farm,

he taught us to do the same.

 

So today,

as we give thanks for the gift of creation

and the calling of stewardship,

 

let’s return thanks:

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”

 

 

We give thanks to the Lord this day

for the gift of family ….

 

69 years of partnership with Mom ….

7 children … 14 grandchildren … 19 great-grandchildren …

 

Anyone who has children whose birthdays span 18 years …

18 years of changing diapers,

countless PTA meetings,

the challenge of raising a teenager 7 times over ….

the expense of college tuition for 7 children …

 

Anyone who has done this in his lifetime

must be endowed with a particular kind of parental love and patience.

 

For the gift of family …

For the model of a loving parent, grandparent,

brother, friend ….

 

Let’s return thanks:

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, And his mercy endures forever.”

 

 

We give thanks to the Lord today …

for the gift of faith.

 

As Dad struggled over the past months

as his health declined and his pain increased,

it became increasingly difficult for him to do his normal daily routine.

He couldn’t get comfortable in his chair …

He had trouble sitting at the table …

his eyesight wasn’t clear …

his strength was limited.

 

But one part of his daily routine remained constant.

 

Every day began with daily devotions, with scripture and prayer.

Every Sunday included worship,

even if it was participating in the worship service on TV.

 

Faith … and the gift of the church …

were central to Dad.

 

His involvement in the local congregation …

His service on synodical boards …

His participation in national church conventions …

His daily discipline of prayer and the reading of the Word ….

All bore witness to the importance of his faith in his life.

 

It served as a compass for him in his decisions.

It guided his life and his work.

It was a touchstone in times of joy.

It gave strength when times were tough.

It gave him consolation in times of grief and love.

 

 

In the last few months,

as his strength ebbed,

he found it more and more difficult to say good-bye after visits with family.

 

In one of our farewells a few weeks ago,

as Dad took my hand, drew it to his head, and clung to it,

I whispered softly to him through my tears,

“Hang on to the promises that have sustained you.”

 

Hang on to the promises …

promises of God the creator,

who fashioned the world and all that is in it and who said of it, “That’s good.”

who made and claimed Dad and each of us as God’s own children,

so that we will always know of a loving Father

who names us his own,

who provides for us a place in his loving embrace,

who like the father of the prodigal son

waits for us at the end of the road

with open arms, and a word of forgiveness,

and a place at the banquet table.

 

Hang on to the promises of God the Savior,

who died and who rose from death,

so that we don’t have to face death alone …

who has gone to prepare a place for us ….

who serves as our pilot in the restless sea …

who is the resurrection and the life …

and in whose name you were baptized

and in whose life you were confirmed.

 

Hang on to the promises of God the Comforter …

whose presence sustains us when the journey is difficult

who reminds us that we are loved

who joins us to others and makes us one family.

 

Hang on to the promises ….

 

 

And so, as we gather today as family and friends,

we give thanks.

 

We give thanks for Dad’s life and witness

and for the promises that sustained him.

 

 

We give thanks for the gifts of creation

and the privilege of caring for it.

 

We give thanks for the gift of family

and the joy of loving relationships.

 

And we give thanks for the gift of faith

which guides, comforts and sustains us.

 

 

For all these gifts,

let’s return thanks:

“We give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.”

 

– Written by John Bade

– Proclaimed/Spoken by Lawrence Bade

In loving memory of their father

Heinie Bade

Peace,

Michael Rinehart, bishop

 

10/25/09 is Pentecost 21B

Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

October 25 – REFORMATION SUNDAY

Jeremiah 31:31-34The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah: law on their hearts.
Psalm 46The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Ps. 46:4)
Romans 3:19-28
No one will be justified by the law. Now, apart  from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed.

John 8:31-36 – You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.

In our Prayers

·         Pastors John and Lawrence Bade, their mom and family as they grieve the death of their father Heinie Bade, age 91. Mr. Bade died today (Sunday, October 18) at his home in Cuero, Texas after a long illness.  Last week he and his wife Frieda marked their 69th wedding anniversary; Thursday, Oct 22 would have been his 92nd birthday.  Funeral arrangements are pending. Looks like maybe Wednesday.

·         Betty Hildebrandt, wife of Pastor Walt Hildebrandt, hospitalized

Listserv

These emails will be going out on Monday mornings for a while until we completely switch over our listserv. Remember, you can visit them at www.bishopmike.posterous.com.

Rerooting with the Police Department

This is for the sake of connecting, and also for the sake of safety. Some recent events have caused us to emphasize the following. But these are also good things to do to establish a relationship with local authorities. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. Learn from them. Be a well-rooted, vital member of the community.

It is well known from many tragic incidents that a determined gunman cannot be stopped from causing harm.  Nevertheless, here are a few things that congregations can do to try to prevent their churches from becoming the sites of crime:

1) Prevention Steps — Leadership & Local Authorities
   — build a relationship with the local police and ensure that they have current blueprints and photos of the church building, including interiors
   — in consultation with local police, develop an emergency contact list and distribute it to staff
   — arrange to have the police regularly patrol the church property and notify them of upcoming special events
   — when traveling to other locations, try to do so in pairs and keep cellular phones handy for emergency calls
   — do call the authorities as soon as possible during or after any incident; don’t wait

3) Prevention Steps — Staff & Volunteers
   — develop an emergency plan to address threats of violence, including a building evacuation plan
   — communicate plans to key staff and the congregation
   — make sure First Aid resources are available and offer First Aid/CPR training
   — instruct ushers and greeters to establish eye contact with all who enter the church and report concerns
   — watch for strangers and monitor persons exhibiting strange or suspicious behavior, including persons with bulky clothing, trench coats and the like
   — make sure all ushers have cell phones and are able to call police/EMS immediately in the event of an emergency or unusual circumstance
   — recommend that people arrive and depart the church in pairs or groups, especially after dark

3)  Prevention Steps — Building & Grounds
   — trim hedges and clear any obstacles to eliminate places a perpetrator could hide
   — ensure all outdoor lighting on building and in parking lot is bright and operating properly
   — limit number of entryways into the church and have ushers continuously monitor entry activity
   — ensure that all exits are clearly marked, unlocked, and well lit
   — secure any potential access windows and nonessential doorways

For further discussion of possible precautions, see these websites:
http://www.churchmutual.com/riskreporter/index.php?id=9
http://www.churchmutual.com/admin/store/downloads/crime.pdf
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/february/16.21.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/special/pdf/1001churchviolence.pdf

Advent

Advent is only six Sundays away if you can fathom that. Advent I is early: Nov 29. We start a new church year, a Lukan year. I’m tempted today to pontificate John 8’s focus on the freedom we have in Christ. I’ve also of late been pondering how we listen to God’s Spirit in the letter of the Bible, and in the viva vox evangelii. Prayer is indispensable as we ponder what God is calling us to do.

God has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  – 2 Cor. 3:6

But Advent calls. Some of the earliest observances of Advent (as it originated in Gaul and Spain) had little to nothing to do with getting ready for Christmas: Christ’s birth. It had to do with the harvest and with eschatological fulfillment. Pope Leo the Great’s Advent sermons (5th century) have nothing to do with the Nativity, even on Christmas Eve. The focus was on judgment day, the end of time, the second coming (not the first).
Accordingly, Advent I picks up apocalyptic images. I frequently took the opportunity to talk about the cheery topic of the end of the world and Jesus as the telos of history, though not in those terms. One of my favorites was getting people to think about craters, like the one on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico that some scientists believe caused the global extinction of the dinosaurs. Or Barringer Crater in Arizona that they say must have been like a gigantic nuclear explosion that would have destroyed all life for many miles. Statistically, it’s just a matter of time till it happens again. People love this stuff. Feeds their paranoia. If you use projection the photos are spectacular. They drive the point home in a second. I’ll dig it up for you when we get closer. But the point is to point beyond the material, not to freak people out. So…

Of course that doesn’t spell the end of time. Just the end of us. But it gets people thinking about ultimate matters. And even if they can’t get their mind around the end of the world, it doesn’t hurt to remind them it doesn’t matter. The end of their world is even closer. We’ll all be standing before our maker in a few facades or sooner. It’s a time to think about being ready. What ultimately matters. What constitutes "ready." it’s about life’s trajectory.

On Advent II we start in on Luke 3 (1-6). In all three years of the Revised Common Lectionary John the Baptist is the theme for Advent II and III. On Advent III we continue in Luke 3 (vv. 7 ff.).  John calls his congregation snakes. Not the Pharisees in Luke’s gospel. Tois ochlois. Few if any are exempt.

The Psalm is Isaiah 12:2-6. Musicians will consider the popular First Song of Isaiah by Jack Noble White for choir and congregation. It’s a bit schmultzy, but tuneful, singable and a crowd-pleaser that they will song all the way home. It can be done really well with organ, piano or band. But there’s barely time to orderr it, get it and learn it. This is why we are talking about Lent already (just four months).

Advent IV is Luke 1: Mary and Elizabeth. This is the only Advent gospel that actually precedes the birth narrative. The Psalm is Mary’s Song: The Magnificat. In the upside-down kingdom of great reversals, a peasant woman becomes the Queen of Heaven. This has been set to music more than just about any other piece of Scripture. The version from Marty Haugen’s Evening Prayer is the one I hear used the most in congregations. Like The First Song of Isaiah, it’s accessible, singable and popular. Get a young woman to song the intro/solo.

Perhaps our best clue for getting ready" for the parousia is with John the Baptist. Baptism of repentance. The crowds (including tax collectors) are right with God because they are baptized with water for repentance. The Pharisees are not right with God because, even in the midst of their moral uprightness, they don’t repent. Oddly, they are not right with God precisely because they think they are. Their self-righteousness is their unrepentant sin. Humility, like that of Mary, of Jesus, is of ultimate importance.

God cannot fill what is already full. (Mother Teresa). The more full of our own righteousness we are, the less room there is for God’s righteousness. We can have nothing but humility before the One who brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalts those of low estate.

A lot to chew on.

שלומ سلام Peace,

Mike Rinehart

                                             

Michael Rinehart, bishop

The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

12707 I-45 North Frwy, Suite 580

Houston, TX 77060-1239               

281-873-5665

www.GulfCoastSynod.org

Time after Pentecost 2009

November 1 – ALL SAINTS

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 – The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God

or Isaiah 25:6-9 – On this mt God will swallow up death. No more tears.
 Psalm 24 – The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. They shall receive a blessing from the God of their salvation. (Ps. 24:5)
Revelation 21:1-6a – Holy city coming down. No more tears.
 John 11:32-44 – The raising of Lazarus

November 8 – Pentecost 23B

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17Ruth and Boaz have a child together.

or 1 Kings 17:8-16 – The widow of Zarephath
Psalm 127Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

or Psalm 146  – The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:7)
Hebrews 9:24-28 – More high priest stuff

Mark 12:38-44 – Widow’s mite

November 15 – Pentecost 24B

1 Samuel 1:4-20  – Barren Hannah goes to Eli the priest, then returns and conceives Samuel with her husband Elkanah.

or Daniel 12:1-3 – Michael, the great protector of the people is coming. Everyone whose name is written in the book shall be delivered.
1 Samuel 2:1-10  – Hannah’s song, source material for the Magnificat.

or Psalm 16 – My heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body shall rest in hope. (Ps. 16:9)
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25 – We have confidence to enter God’s sanctuary through the blood of Jesus.

 Mark 13:1-8 – The end is coming. Not one stone will be left upon another.

November 22 – CHRIST THE KING?

2 Samuel 23:1-7David’s last words: He has made with me an everlasting covenant.

or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14Daniel’s apocalypse: the son of man comes in the clouds to the Ancient One and is given dominion and glory and kingship.
 Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)O Lord, remember David’s hardships and his faithfulness.

or Psalm 93  – Ever since the world began, your throne has been established. (Ps. 93:3)
Revelation 1:4b-8 He is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him. I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord.
John 18:33-37 Jesus: My kingdom is not of this world. I testify to the truth. Pilate: What is truth?

Wednesday or Thursday November 25/26 – THANKSGIVING

Joel 2:21-27 – Don’t fear O SOIL. Your threshing floors will be full. Your vats will be full with wine and oil.
Psalm 126 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. (Ps. 126:4)
1 Timothy 2:1-7 – Pray for public leaders.
Matthew 6:25-33 – Don’t worry about your life… God will provide.

ADVENT – Year C

November 29 – ADVENT 1
Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

December 6 –  ADVENT 2
Baruch 5:1-9

or Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

December 13 – Advent 3

Zephaniah 3:14-20
 Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

December 20 – Advent 4
Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:47-55

or Psalm 80:1-7
 Hebrews 10:5-10

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)

Happy 60th Pastor Moore!

10/18/09 is Pentecost 20B

 

Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

 

October 18 – Pentecost 20B

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: Gird your loins and I will question you.

or Isaiah 53:4-12 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken by God and afflicted.
 
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35cYou stretch out the heavens like a tent.

or Psalm 91:9-16 – You have made the LORD your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)
Hebrews 5:1-10   – More great high priest stuff
 Mark 10:35-45 – Make us to sit at your right and left in the kingdom of heaven.

Or October 18 – St. Luke

Isaiah 35:5-8  – Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped…

Psalm 124 – If it had not been the Lord on our side, the flood would have swept us away.

2 Timothy 4:5-11 – Luke is the only one who stays with Paul in his distress.

Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53 – Luke’s reason for writing for Theophilus. Jesus’ resurrection address to the disciples.

In Our Prayers

Betty Hildebrandt, wife of Pastor Walt Hildebrandt, hospitalized

Healing: Pastor Manuel Morales, home from the hospital

Listserv

I don’t know if this will go out on Sunday. We’re having trouble with our listserv, so we may change companies. We’ll keep you posted. If it doesn’t go out Sunday, Lucia will get it to you Monday first thing through the database. Note: you can go to these reflections anytime now at bishopmike.posterous.com.

 

10th Anniversary Celebration of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Last week 65 ELCA bishops worshipped with Roman Catholics and Methodists at Old St. Pat’s in Chicago to commemorate JDDJ, a statement that withdrew condemnations and affirmed a common understanding of the doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith. You can view photos at http://photos.elca.org/ELCA-News-Service/2009-Joint-Declaration/9818269_dsCye#667451273_hmabT.

 

St. John’s in Ellinger 150th anniversary

Today was a day of firsts. I’ve never been part of a polka liturgy (attached, if you dare). I’ve never polkaed during worship. I’ve never sung Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus to the Beer Barrel Polka. I’ve never worn cowboy boots to church as a bishop. I’ve never been part of worship held in the Chamber of Commerce Town Hall.

 

St. John’s was started in 1859, the same year Billy the Kid was born, just a few years after the founding of the Catholic Church at Live, Oak Hill in Ellinger and the Ross Prairie Czech-Moravian Brethren Church. At that time Rutersville College was the largest in the state. Fayette County had been formed in 1837 in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution. The church was started by Pastor J.C. Roehm. We have this information thanks to a history lovingly assembled by Karl Johnson. Various pastors were called along the way, including a Pastor Herms in 1874 who was paid $300/year. Pastor August Wenzel served them from 1889-1891. The church had 42 members at that time.

 

During WWII, worship and Sunday school shifted from German to English in Fayette County due to anti-German sentiment. One member recalls the pastor saying he slept with a gun. It was dangerous to speak German in town.

 

Even as late as 1950, worship attendance at St. John’s Ellinger was only 25,  in the post-war church boom, attendance grew to 53 by 1953, and 62 by 1955. The building was struck by lightning three times, and was a wreck. By their 100th anniversary in 1959, worship attendance was 71.

 

In the 60’s worship attendance fell back into the 60’s and eventually in the 50’s. In the 70’s the congregation was served by Pastor Walter Probst and Pastor Lee Eschberger, both of whom were in attendance at today’s 150th anniversary service. Ellinger and Rutersville were a two-point parish. By 1980 worship attendance was 34. The population of Ellinger was 211. By 1995, worship attendance was 15. Karl Johnson was called in 1997. In 2001 Shared Lutheran Ministries of Fayette County was formed, consisting of St. John’s Ellinger, St. John’s Rutersville, St. John’s Warrenton, and St. Paul’s Fayetteville, with Pastors Laura Olson and Karl Johnson as co-pastors.

 

Last year, worship attendance for the congregations of Shared Lutheran Ministries of Fayette County was reported as follows:

   Ellinger: 25

   Rutersville: 70

   Warrenton: 33

   Fayetteville: 32

   TOTAL: 160

Today I didn’t see an official count, but there were clearly over 200 at the celebration, which included friends from St. Paul’s La Grange and St. Paul’s Columbus. Interim Pastor Karen Nelson presided.

One final note: St. John’s just finished their renovation. See the photos below.

Last Place

Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship;

it moved to Greece and became a philosophy;

it moved to Italy and became an institution;

it moved to Europe and became a culture;

it came to America and became an enterprise.

Pastor Sam Pascoe

 

[The student] asked such a simple question, “A business? But isn’t [the church] supposed to be a body?”

I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was, “Yes.”

She continued, “But when a body becomes a business, isn’t that a prostitute?”

Dr. David Ryser

 

Any group of people pooling their lives and financial resources are going to have business-like qualities. Even Jesus had a treasurer. So how do you know when the body has started to become more like a business than a body? More like an institution than a movement. I fear we are waaaaaaaaaaaay past that point in American Protestantism.

 

For Jesus, things turn on sacrificial love: “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism I’m baptized with?” And then: “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

 

“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” And, “As the father has sent me, so I send you.” To serve. Servanthood is one of the marks of the church that grows out of a life of love. Servanthood means we don’t come in over top of others, but we come in underneath. We treat the servants as the masters. We don’t talk down to anyone. Jesus’ instruction to his disciples is very, very practical, not theoretical. How you treat the waitress tells me something of your faith. How you treat the garbage man, the custodian, housekeeper, landscapers. How you treat those of low degree as far as society is concerned. Those without privilege.

 

In North Carolina in 1960 four Black young men walked into a Woolworths and sat down at the counter. Woolworths, like many establishments in the 50’s and 60’s, did not serve African Americans. And they didn’t call them African Americans. These four boys dared to challenge the system of privilege. Beware. When you try to change the system the system will rise up and smash you. Look at Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. I often wonder how Martin Luther got out with his skin.

 

In the movie A Time for Burning, which I showed at our Gulf Coast Synod time at the last Theological Conference, the pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha tries in the 60’s to have families from his all-White congregation simply have dinner with a family from an all-Black Lutheran congregation across town. The suggestion causes incredible consternation in the congregation. A Black youth group visits the church for worship on a Sunday morning. The following week several families leave the church. Others withhold benevolence. I won’t give away the ending, but you can imagine what happens in the end. “If you want to be a prophet you’d better look good on wood,” someone once said.

 

Next Sunday’s message to those of us that live in the world of wealth and privilege may be even more unsettling than today’s was. I’m a white, male, heterosexual, non-disabled person who makes more than the average American. It’s easy for us to think we have what we have because we’re just so darned good. But if I was black, would I have been elected bishop? Even if I was the same person, with the same gifts. If I was female in a wheelchair? Keep going. Put them all together. We are what we are by the grace of God, but what society does with that is another thing altogether.

 

Time and time again in the gospels, Jesus challenges us to pull down walls between people. He models it with lepers, women, tax collectors and all manner of social outsiders. You want to know what the kingdom of God is about? Take the last place. And he means it quite literally. When you go to a party, don’t sit down next to the host in the front. Take the lowest place. When you throw your own party, don’t invite the rich and those who will put you up to their place. Invite those down the social ladder. Because in God’s eyes, you’re all on level playing field. Learn to see people through God’s eyes, rather than through human eyes, or through society’s eyes.

 

In some ways, Allen Johnson’s book (that I reference in my Connections article) is frustrating. He takes the vast majority of the book to state the problem so articulately and perceptively. Then his last chapter on what to do about it is only 28 pages with not much help, quite frankly. But I have another book that has LOTS of suggestions in it. I can’t end racism. I can’t end poverty. I can’t end sexism. But I can respond to Jesus’ call to take the last place, invite in those cast out by others. I can learn to be a servant. The other day I took some ice-cold Cokes out to some workers in our neighborhood. I was pulling weeds and they were laying concrete. There was shock. Usually when people of color working in a White neighborhood see a white person marching across the street toward them they know they’re in for something unpleasant. So imagine their surprise. What Jesus proposes is so simple, and yet so powerful. This was the tiniest thing, but for a short moment in time we were just a group of people drinking Coke in the heat, and sharing in the misery of late-summer Texas heat and humidity.

 

No roles got changed. No lives were turned around, that I know of. But perhaps even an ice-cold Coke on a hot day, coupled with a smidgen of kindness across social barriers, can be small sign of the kingdom of God.

 

Take one week and treat every single person as if they were the president. Be a servant to every single person you encounter. And see what happens. Tell your story on Sunday and encourage your congregation to take a week to do the same. Have them come back and tell their stories. Who knows? Maybe it could become a lifestyle. And then people will see us a community witnessing to God, a body, not a business.

 

שלומ سلام Peace,

 

Mike Rinehart

                                             

Michael Rinehart, bishop

The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

12707 I-45 North Frwy, Suite 580

Houston, TX 77060-1239               

281-873-5665

www.GulfCoastSynod.org

 

 

Time after Pentecost 2009

October 25 – REFORMATION SUNDAY

Jeremiah 31:31-34The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah: law on their hearts.
Psalm 46The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Ps. 46:4)
Romans 3:19-28
No one will be justified by the law. Now, apart  from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed.

John 8:31-36 – You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.

November 1 – ALL SAINTS

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 – The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God

or Isaiah 25:6-9 – On this mt God will swallow up death. No more tears.
 Psalm 24 – The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. They shall receive a blessing from the God of their salvation. (Ps. 24:5)
Revelation 21:1-6a – Holy city coming down. No more tears.
 John 11:32-44 – The raising of Lazarus

November 8 – Pentecost 23B

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17Ruth and Boaz have a child together.

or 1 Kings 17:8-16 – The widow of Zarephath
Psalm 127Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

or Psalm 146  – The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps. 146:7)
Hebrews 9:24-28 – More high priest stuff

Mark 12:38-44 – Widow’s mite

 

November 15 – Pentecost 24B

1 Samuel 1:4-20  – Barren Hannah goes to Eli the priest, then returns and conceives Samuel with her husband Elkanah.

or Daniel 12:1-3 – Michael, the great protector of the people is coming. Everyone whose name is written in the book shall be delivered.
1 Samuel 2:1-10  – Hannah’s song, source material for the Magnificat.

or Psalm 16 – My heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body shall rest in hope. (Ps. 16:9)
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18), 19-25 – We have confidence to enter God’s sanctuary through the blood of Jesus.

 Mark 13:1-8 – The end is coming. Not one stone will be left upon another.

November 22 – CHRIST THE KING?

2 Samuel 23:1-7David’s last words: He has made with me an everlasting covenant.

or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14Daniel’s apocalypse: the son of man comes in the clouds to the Ancient One and is given dominion and glory and kingship.
 Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18)O Lord, remember David’s hardships and his faithfulness.

or Psalm 93  – Ever since the world began, your throne has been established. (Ps. 93:3)
Revelation 1:4b-8 He is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him. I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord.
John 18:33-37 Jesus: My kingdom is not of this world. I testify to the truth. Pilate: What is truth?

 

Wednesday or Thursday November 25/26 – THANKSGIVING

Joel 2:21-27 – Don’t fear O SOIL. Your threshing floors will be full. Your vats will be full with wine and oil.
Psalm 126 The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed. (Ps. 126:4)
1 Timothy 2:1-7 – Pray for public leaders.
Matthew 6:25-33 – Don’t worry about your life… God will provide.

 

ADVENT – Year C

Ellinger 5

Final product.



























Ellinger 4

Ceiling finished!






















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