Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,

Prayer List – Prayers to include in your private prayers and prayers of the church.
Lectionary readings have been updated. Review the fall.
Back up your Stuff! As we move into the most serious period in hurricane season, make sure you’re completely backed up, and your parochial records are safe.

October 24 – Global Mission Festival. Living Word, Katy.
October 28-November 2 – Proclaiming the Christmas Cycle with Dr. Craig Satterlee, LSTC Homiletics Prof will present a method for preaching, using the Advent/Christmas A cycle. 9:30-3:30. $30. Order the Proclamation Series A.

  • Thursday, October 28 at Salem, Houston, TX
  • Friday, October 29 in Brenham, TX
  • Tuesday, November 2 at Peace, Slidell, LA

January 24-26 – 2011 Tri-Synodical Theological Conference, at Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center in Galveston, TX. Marcus Borg, presenter: Then and Now: What the First Century Can Teach the 21st Century Church.

Fall Leadership Gatherings
The Fall Leadership Gatherings are a chance for council presidents to gather, as well as treasurers, pastors and so forth. Friday is for rostered leaders. Saturday is for everyone. The Brenham and New Orleans events were well attended. Synod VP Evan and Secretary Arthur met with council presidents. Synod Treasurer Paul and Bookkeeper Melissa met with treasurers. Workshops were held on worship, evangelism, stewardship, youth ministry, small group ministry and more. The Houston event is September 10-11 at Zion in Houston. REGISTER NOW!

Think of this next weekend, and Advent I (November 28) as bookends.

There are eleven Sundays in between the two:

  • 3 in September (Luke 15-16)
  • 5 in October (Luke 17-18)
  • 3 in November

The first Labor Day

in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Later, in the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers during a strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland helped rush the idea through Congress.

for all who shoulder the tasks of human labor-in the marketplace, in factories and offices, in the professions, and in family living. For the gift and opportunity of work. For all who long for just employment and those who work to defend the rights and needs of workers everywhere.
Hurricane Gustav

hit Cocodrie, LA on September 1, 2008, then meandered up south central Louisiana, between the damage caused by Katrina and Rita, hitting Baton Rouge hard. Billions of dollars of damage. Liturgical resources can be found here and here and here.
The lessons

offer lots of possibilities. Jeremiah 18 is the potter’s house. “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, what the potter has done?” Deuteronomy 30 is “Choose life, that you may live.”

is nearly the entire authentic letter of Paul. I’d read the whole thing, only a few verses more. Paul’s enjoins Philemon to receive his escaped slave Onesimus as a brother. Paul’s ominous, “Prepare a guest room for me” warns Philmeon: I’m coming to check up on you to see if you followed through with my request. This letter proves that when Paul says there is no longer slave or free (Gal 5:28-29), he really means it. He doesn’t mean: Let’s just pretend these real-world distinctions don’t exist when we’re in church. He means a very real upheaval in relationships in the very real world.
Luke 14
This is the hate your family text again. Jesus emphasizes the commitment and cost of discipleship in his typical in-your-face, over-the-top, if-your-eye-makes-you-sin-cut-it-out kind of way. Take up your cross and put on your game face. Finish what you start. Discipleship is like building a tower or going to war. Take stock of the cost before you jump in. It’s all or nothing. Does your community need to hear this time-to-get-serious war cry?

Drew Brees’ Book
“Coming Back Stronger” is an easy read, and worth your time. He shares his own journey through injury (the dislocation of his shoulder and tearing of his rotator cuff that should have cost him his career) to the Super Bowl. I’m amazed at the level of focus and commitment it takes to play at that level. He reminds us that high expectation organizations get high results. Low-expectations organizations get low results. I don’t know about you, but when I read Jesus, especially in Luke, I sort of get the impression he’s a high-expectation kind of guy.

Cheap Grace
Our Lutheran commitment to radical grace and alien righteousness is a gift to the whole church. But our Achilles’ heel is cheap grace. We can too easily make Christianity easy. Jesus has done it all. Nothing left for you to do. We proclaim a passive Christianity. Bonhoeffer is an important corrective to this. Christianity without discipleship is dangerous.

I think of the men in our church. Men are wired for battle. Sports are the healthy oulet for many. Most men are action oriented. A gospel that asks nothing of them, will not appeal. If the action we are requesting of them is simply to come and sit for an hour on Sunday morning while a pastor in a dress stands in front of flowers and leads us in singing, then they will stay away. They will hunt. They will fight. They will seek a war to win.

So give them one.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12
Engage them in spiritual warfare. There is a battle to be won, a spiritual battle against hatred, injustice and slavery of every kind. Shed light on the scandalous realities of our world and put them to work on it. As T. D. Jakes said recently in a continuing ed event a number of us attended, “Comrades are those who are against what you’re against. They are wired to fight against something. If you don’t give them something to fight against, they will fight against you.”

So draw the battle lines. Forget the politically correct fear of using warfare language. Instead redirect it. Assess your communities passions, and their gifts, and pick a battle that they can win. Or maybe one they can’t, so you can see the power of God at work. Give them a mountain to climb. Let them know that God has a mission in this world, and they have been saved by grace, so that they can be conscripted for God’s mission.

No, we’re not saved by good works. We’re saved for good works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Ephesians 2:8-10

You were created for good works. Do you want men in your church? No, you need men in your church. You are incomplete without the whole body of Christ. So don’t shy away from the serious conversation about slavery. There are more slaves in the world than ever. Human trafficking is out of control. Children are being sold as sex slaves around the world. There are slaves within a few miles of your church. What are you doing about it? Where is your anger? Where is your righteous indignation? Don’t shy away from the hard conversation about real discipleship, which is a costly business. Dig deep, people of God. And buckle your seatbelts, because if you set out on this journey with your congregation, it will take you to places you can’t even begin to imagine, and you will have the ride of your life.

Michael Rinehart, bishop