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


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


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


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               




Time after Pentecost 2009


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.