Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,


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.



 In our Prayers

  • The family of Pastor Laurie Juull, visitation pastor Faith Dickinson (former pastor of St. Stephen’s Pearland) who died shortly after midnight this Saturday morning from pneumonia and complications related to lung cancer. Funeral will be Wednesday, December 2, 10 a.m. at Faith, Dickinson. Graveside at Mt. Olivet in Dickinson. Luncheon reception following the graveside service. Visitation is at Crowder Funeral Home on Tuesday, December 1, 5-7 p.m.  In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Faith, Dickinson.Please pray for his wife Adrienne and family.
  • Pastor Cheng His Pan as he grieves the death of his mother, who died peacefully Saturday morning (US time). Pastor Pan (former pastor of Chinese Lutheran, Houston) went to Taiwan last Sunday (11/22) to visit his 92-year-old mother, who had been ill for a while.
  • Pastor John DeYoung (Holy Trinity, Houston) as he grieves the death of his brother Bob.
  • Pastor John Boldt (Hosanna, Houston) recovering from surgery.
  • Ben Lake, son of Pastor Chris & Katherine Lake (Tree of Life, Conroe) is recovering well at Children’s Hospital from his second open heart surgery on Wednesday. Ben may come home tomorrow.

The Pope and JDDJ

Note the documents by Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Kasper which are pasted in full in my previous post, after this post, below.


"We are received and redeemed by God; our

 existence is inscribed on the horizon of grace, it is guided by a

 merciful God, who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life

 following his Son; we live from the grace of God and we are called to

 respond to his gift; all this liberates us from fear and infuses hope

 and courage in us in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety and suffering."


 The Pontiff noted how his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, called the day of the signing a "milestone in the difficult path to reconstitute full unity among Christians."


 "This anniversary, therefore, is an occasion to recall the truth about

 man’s justification, testified together, to come together in

 ecumenical celebrations and to reflect further on this and other

 topics that are the object of the ecumenical dialogue," Benedict XVI

 affirmed. "It is my heartfelt hope that this important anniversary

 will contribute to make us progress on the path toward the full and

 visible unity of all the disciples of Christ."


Pope Benedict XVI, on the anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation.


"I hope that there can be even more movement for the unity of the Church, the cohesion of Christianity and for common witness…"


Cardinal Walter Casper, interviewed in Wittenburg on 1 November while attending a ceremony seeking closer ties on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming in 2017.


Books You must read

·         Sticky Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series) – This book connects natural, organic evangelism with spiritual growth, through small groups that deepen relationships and conversation.

·         Living Together As Lutherans: Unity Within Diversity – This book, written by the three presiding bishops of the ELCA outlines the vision and history of Lutheran unity.

·         Beyond Cheap Grace: A Call to Radical Discipleship, Incarnation, and Justice – This book bemoans cheap grace and an armchair version of Christianity, showing why faith and social justice cannot be separated.

·         Luther and the Hungry Poor: Gathered Fragments – This book highlights many of Luther’s not-so-often-read works on the economy. Torvend discusses the economic implications of the Reformation and the church’s bilking of the poor through indulgences.


 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, a great time to celebrate our unity in Christ.




People will summarize your life in one sentence.

Write it now. (John Maxwell)


Malachi announces that the Lord is coming, and a scout will be sent ahead to prepare the way. The Hebrew word for “messenger” is “malachi” (מַלְאָכִי). And if we interpret this to be “angel,” we must consider all those passages in the Bible in which surprise visitors end up being divine messengers. We must also realize that Malachi/messenger/angel, is part of the gospel: evangelion. And evangelism: to be messengers, to bring good news.


 But before you get too excited, read what Malachi says:


2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.* (Malachi 3:2-3)

Why won’t we be able to endure the day of his coming? Read on past the appointed lesson:


 Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:5)


Ouch. Sorcerers, adulterers and liars. Then, those who oppress the poor, widows, orphans and aliens. How we treat aliens (legal or otherwise) matters to God. So important, in fact, the word “alien” appears over 100 times in the Bible (about ten times as often as another topic being debated these days). For more reading on Malachi, check out A Valentine for Those Who Fear Yahweh:  The Book of Malachi.  By Ralph W. Klein (LSTC):


Presumably then, the way we prepare for the Lord’s coming is to not be in the sorcerer-adulterer-liar-oppressor zone. John, whom we interpret to be messenger, bears this out. After multiple ways to ground these events squarely in human history (Tiberius’ 15th year, Pontius Pilate governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, etc.) Luke tells us John comes on the scene saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”


In next week’s gospel reading (vv. 7-18) people will ask him what he means. “Was ist das?” Or more pointedly: “What should we do?” His advice: Share your stuff. Don’t cheat people. Be happy with what you have. Don’t get caught up in materialism.


Advent is the beginning of the church year, but it comes at the end of the calendar year. It’s ironic that John’s warnings about materialism fall in the middle of the holiday shopping season. As we hear about last things, it’s a great time to think of life and ministry with the end in mind.


People will summarize your life in one sentence.

Write it now. (John Maxwell)


A worthy use of devotional time is reading Luke and then asking the same question they asked John the Baptist: What should we do? God, what are you asking of me?


A worthy use of prayer time is to read Malachi and contemplate: How am I preparing the way of the Lord? What sentence do you want people to use when they summarize your life? Are you living it?


And for those of us who are ministry leaders: What sentence would you like people to use when summarizing your church’s ministry, when all is said and done? No wait, how about just for 2010? What would you like them to say about your congregation in 2010? What are your greatest hopes and dreams for your congregation next year? What are God’s hopes and dreams for your congregation? Time to dream. Vision is the rudder of the ship.


I  invite you to pray about your goals for your congregation in 2010. Then next week, I’ll do a survey in which you can anonymously post your top three goals/hopes and dreams. It will be interesting to see what the consensus is. Our job in the synod office is to help you get there. I have a pretty good idea of what we’ll hear. It’s been pretty consistent. But let’s consider this a test.


Then, let’s spend 2010 preparing the way of the Lord.


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

December 13 – Advent 3C

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 27 – Christmas  1C

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

Wednesday, January 6 – Epiphany



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