Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,


 November 22 – CHRIST THE KING

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

or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 Daniel’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 18:33-37Jesus: 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.






In Our prayers:

  • Ben Lake, son of Pastor Chris & Katherine Lake (Pastor at Tree of Life, Conroe) will be having his second open heart surgery on November 25th. Prayer vigil November 24th, Tree of Life Lutheran located at 3201 Loop 336 SW, Conroe, TX 77305. 4-10 p.m.

Just a note

Thank you for your ministry and collegiality. As always, I’m humbled by the faith and expanse of the church. FYI, I’m still having trouble with our new listserv provider. Let me know if anything looks funky or missing.

Houston Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion Celebration

The Houston celebration of the Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion will be Sunday, January 17, 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.


Survey Monkey on the Krentz Event

Whether you attended the event or not, please take a moment and answer these nine questions about your interest in future events:

Results thus far: 12 responses. 75% by those who attended the event. 100% of those who didn’t attend said they simply were not available. No one responded that the time was inconvenient or that they were uninterested in the topic or speaker.

  • 100% said the event was helpful.
  • 70% said the speaker was “excellent.” The other 30% said “good.”
  • 90% rated the topic “excellent.” The other 10% said it was “good.”
  • 72.2% said the location was “excellent.” The rest said it was “good.”
  • 72.2% said the cost/value was “excellent.” The rest said it was “good.”
  • 100% said they’d like to see events like this in the future.
  • There were 9 comments. Several “thank yous.”
  • One said, “This is the best theological event I’ve attended in years!!”
  • One said, “I hope that the Synod will bring folks like Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Tilden Edwards and folks from the Shalem Institute and Father Laurence from the World Community for Christian Meditation.”

The event collected $2260 in registration fees. Costs were $2270, with a $1000 honorarium to the speaker, which may be low for a week. Some folks are willing to come for free to get out of the cold for a week in Texas. But we’ll have to raise the price in the future with this kind of presentation if we want someone of, say, Joan Chittister’s caliber. We had, I think, about 6 in New Orleans, 12 in Houston and 23 in Brenham. Go Brenham! Dr. Krentz met with our Synodically Authorized Lay Ministers on Saturday too.

Christ, El Campo

Synod Council (which gathers 4-6 times a year) meets around the synod to get to know congregations. November’s meeting was held this past Friday and Saturday with the gracious hospitality of Christ Lutheran in El Campo. Pastor Jake Fain (pictured to the right, looking hip in his car) is in his first call there, only four months. They’re going from communion on the first and third Sundays to communion every Sunday next month. Jake and his wife Melissa grew up in San Antonio. They have two kids: Emma (4) and Nathan (under a year).

St. Peter’s, Gay Hill (Brenham) and First Sommerville

This Sunday was St. Peter’s 125th anniversary. St. Peter’s (average attendance 120)shares a pastor with First Sommerville (average attendance 32). Pastor Alan Kethan has a service at 7:15 a.m. at St. Peters! Then he drives 15 minutes to Sommerville for the 8:30 service. Then back to St. Peter’s for a 10:00 service. Yikes.

In the late 1800’s there was an explosion of Lutheran churches in the Brenham area:

  • Eben, Ezer (Berlin), 1854
  • Salem (Salem), 1856
  • Bethlehem (William Penn), 1860
  • St. James (New Wehdem), 1869
  • Salem (Welcome), 1869
  • Zion (Zionsville), 1870
  • St. Paul (Rehburg), 1870
  • Immanuel (Wiedeville), 1871
  • St. John (Prairie Hill), 1877
  • Emmanuel (Greenvine), 1884
  • St. Peter (Gay Hill), 1884
  • St. Matthew (Sandy Hill), 1887
  • St. Paul (Phillipsburg), 1890
  • St. Paul (Brenham), 1890

This is hard for me to get my mind around. 14 churches in 36 years. That’s planting one church every 2.5 years. Every congregation in Brenham was founded in the late 1800s, except Christ, Brenham (1964). Of course, these churches were receiving immigrants. Truth be told, many of our churches are still perfectly tuned to receive German immigrants. Beer, sausages, dance halls and Blue Bell. And good traditional life, with all the benefits and challenges that presents.

The picture above, right, gives you a feel for how traditional these long-established congregations are. This Sunday school board is in the front transept of the nave (worship space), for all to see every Sunday. There are 85 children enrolled in Sunday School. This week there were 44 children in Sunday School. Last week 59. Most urban and suburban congregations are struggling with Sunday School, but in some rural and small town communities, SS is alive and well. The offering is the Sunday School offering, a way to teach tithing to children.

Pastor Alan Kethan’s grandfather served this congregation many years ago. Pastor Virgil Pecht served St. Peter’s from 1975 to 2006, 31.5 years! Pastor Pecht is retired and helps out at St. John’s (Prairie Hill). His (3?) daughters are still members at St. Peters. Alan came in 2006.

After worship, a reception was held at the Washington County Community Center. Former Synod Council member Darrell Reimer is a member at SP. I asked him how many of these folks he was related to. He said, “Oh, about one third.” It’s also hard to imagine a church where nearly half the members are family, but this is the case in Brenham more often than not. This reception was more like a Reimer/Gaskamp family reunion. Lots of prizes for the children made it feel like a fun family event.

Rethinking Your Prayer Life at the End of the Church Year

As we draw towards the end of the church year, perhaps it’s time for a new groove.

Over the years our prayer lives morph. There are different patterns for different seasons of life. Here’s a simple pattern your could try on for size if you’re looking for something new to spark your prayer life.

Four parts:

    a. Read
    b. Silence
    c. Write reflections

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is Faith.
The fruit of Faith is Love.
The fruit of Love is Service.
The fruit of Service is Peace
— Mother Teresa

An unexamined life is not worth living.

If the only prayer we ever prayed was “Thank you,” it would be enough.
— Meister Eckhardt  

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:31)  


When you wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee and find your way to the sofa or porch. Find a good place where you can go each day. If you go to the same place repeatedly, over time, just being in that place will calm your spirit and put you in a prayerful mood.

For a couple of years my place has been the living room sofa. Even the dog knows it and sometimes is waiting for me there when I arrive. When Yuliana wakes, she often comes to cuddle while I pray. It has become sacred space.

Begin with a short prayer like the one below, or write your own. In a short time it will be memorized and become part of your consciousness. Luther says to cross yourself and remember your baptism.

Almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us by your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome in adversity, and in all we do direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  


Reflect on yesterday. Examine your life. Write one paragraph starting with the word “Yesterday…”

Often I wake up with something on my mind. We mull things over in our sleep. Things rise to the surface. I consider this the work of the Spirit, and of the spirit. Listen. Capture the work. What is God saying?

This morning I woke up with a crystal clear sense that something I had been putting off, needed to be attended to today. It turned out to be true. Had I barrelled into the day without reflection this fleeting sense on the edge of my waking consciousness might have been lost. Prayer is about listening for God’s voice.

Your prayer for the new day takes one minute. This journaling part can take 5 minutes if your morning schedule is tight, but for me usually takes more. The morning I wrote this, I journaled for 25 minutes.

Don’t journal the whole day. Your goal is not your exhaustive memoirs, but attentiveness to the Spirit. Skim off the cream that rises to the surface.

By the way, I have never, ever, had a devotional life on Sunday. I’ve tried. I commend those of you who do/can. Worship is my devotion.


God speaks through Scripture. Read a portion of Scripture. At times I have let the lectionary guide my daily reading, but I prefer to have readings beyond sermon preparation. We do enough skipping around as it is. It’s nice to read a book through. Some epistles can be read in 10-15 minutes. If you have more time (perhaps a day off), The gospels can (and should) be read in one sitting. It takes less than an hour. Our fractured reading of Scripture muddies the unique plot and character development of each of the gospels.

God speaks through Scripture, though not in the literal, two-dimensional way people seem to be using the Bible in this current time. We listen not to the text only, but through  the text to what God is saying to us. After reading take some time for silence and let it sink in. Thoughts will emerge. Chase them. Questions will emerge. Go back and read it again to check your query. Sermon ideas will form. Write them down in your journal.  If you have time, go for a walk and ponder the text.

Sometimes I’ll use this to read the Spiritual Classics as well. A portion of Scripture then a passage of St. John of the Cross, or C.S. Lewis.

Write a sentence or two in your journal: what passage you read and what thoughts emerged.


Finally pray intercessions. I pray for my family and for the congregations of this synod, then for specific requests like Phil Oestreich’s family, or Ben Lake, or Kerry Nelson’s son. You might keep a congregational photo directory with your Bible at your chair. Pray a page a day. Visualize your people as you pray. Stuff will come to mind. Be prepared to write things down as they rise to the surface. You will find yourself inclined to call some of the people for whom you pray.

As you can see this could take a very long time. Luther spoke of praying for three hours at times. Don’t cheat your prayer time because you’re busy with too many tasks. Prayer will impact the tasks you choose to do, and it will shape the way you do them. Nevertheless, prayers can also be disciplined into 30 minutes. We humans are constrained by time. The bus. The office. The spouse. One minute for the opening prayer, and ten minutes for each of the other three parts makes 31 minutes. It can be done, and sometimes it must. Better to have a short prayer time than no prayer time.

Starting the day like this makes all the difference. It’s like starting a journey in the right direction.

Give it a try. Adapt it to your needs and situation. Just do it. Make time for God. We need to empty ourselves to be led. As Mother Teresa said, “God cannot fill what is already full.”

 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               




Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
   and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 
– Baruch 5


November 29 – ADVENT 1C
Jeremiah 33:14-16 – I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Psalm 25:1-10 – Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
Luke 21:25-36 – There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

December 6 –  ADVENT 2C
Baruch 5:1-9Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
   and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God.

or Malachi 3:1-4 – See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.
Luke 1:68-79 – Zechariah. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
Philippians 1:3-11 – I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Luke 3:1-6John the Baptist: As written in the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’”

December 13 – Advent 3C

Zephaniah 3:14-20 – Sing aloud, O daughter Zion… The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies.
 Isaiah 12:2-6 – First Song of Isaiah: 2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
Philippians 4:4-7Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice!
Luke 3:7-18John the Baptist: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Thoughts: First Song of Isaiah by Jack Noble White.


December 20 – Advent 4C
Micah 5:2-5aBut you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Luke 1:47-55Magnificat: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…”

or Psalm 80:1-7 – Hear O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock: “Restore us!”
 Hebrews 10:5-10when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) – Mary and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.


And the Word became flesh…


December 24/25 – NATIVITY OF OUR LORD (three choices)

Isaiah 9:2-7 / Isaiah 62:6-12 / Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 96 / Psalm 97 / Psalm 98
Titus 2:11-14 / Titus 3:4-7 / Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12)
Luke 2:1-14, (15-20) / Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20 / John 1:1-14


December 27 – Christmas  1C

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Psalm 148
Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 2:41-52


December 27 – St. John Apostle – This rarely falls on a Sunday. A great day to lift up John’s high Christology, and vision of God’s love.

Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31
Psalm 116
1 John 1:1 – 2:2
John 21:20-25 – The last verses of John. Peter’s jealousy of the disciple Jesus loved. This text appears nowhere else in the three-year lectionary but here.


January 3 – Christmas  2C

Jeremiah 31:7-14 / Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20 / Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 1:(1-9), 10-18


Wednesday, January 6 – Epiphany