Bishop Michael Rinehart

2018 Fund for Leaders Scholarship Recipients

For the first time in many years, some Gulf Coast Synod seminary students were honored to receive full-tuition, 4-year scholarships. We celebrated with Bishop Eaton, the 65 synod bishops, seven seminary presidents, some churchwide staff and 56 scholarship recipients, the most ever. Over $2 million was distributed this round, from the $56.4M fund. $15M has been given in scholarships to date.

We currently have about 18 people in some stage of Word and Sacrament candidacy, and four in TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries).

This year, Gulf Coast recipients (and some friend of the Gulf Coast Synod) are:

  • Cody Miller, from Kinsmen, Houston is studying at Wartburg.
  • Cassandra Nagle, from House of Prayer, Houston is studying at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
  • Yu-Jen (Evangeline) Dai, from Faith Chinese Fellowship, Bellaire is studying at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.
  • Nicholaus Chove, from UMOJA Swahili Church in Houston, is attending Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. He is in candidacy in the North Texas North Louisiana Synod.
  • Mary Button (Pastor Mike Button’s daughter, Metro New York Synod) is attending United Lutheran Seminary.
  • Cassie (center) with her LSTC roommate Maeve (right). Cassie was a Spanish major, and she lived in Argentina for a while:
  • Nicholaus (center) with Florida/Bahamas Bishop Pedro Suarez (right):

    L-R: Cody Miller, Cassie Nagle, Mike Rinehart, Evangeline Dai:

    Mary Button with her father, Pastor Mike Button:

    L-R: Bishop Jon Anderson with Mary Button and Mike Button, who was Jon’s internship supervisor:

    Another awesome creative leader in the church, Jonathan Rundman:

    The women of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. (Missing is Idalia Negrón of the Caribbean Synod.):

    Pentecost 19B – September 30, 2018 (Proper 21B, Ordinary 26B)

    Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22 – Haman is hung on the gallows prepared for Mordecai.


    Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 – Murmuring motif. Manna whining.

    Psalm 124 – Had the Lord not been on our side, when our enemies attacked us, we would have been swallowed up.


    Psalm 19:7-14 – The law is perfect, pure, better than gold. The commandment of the LORD gives light to the eyes. (Ps. 19:8)

    James 5:13-20 – Healing text. Are any of you sick? Elders should pray and lay hands on you.

    Mark 9:38-50 – Whoever is not against us is for us.


    We are in the final week of a five-week series on James.

    EPISTLE OF STRAW: A 5-week Series on James

    • LISTENING – September 2, 2018: James 1:17-27 – Be quick to listen, slow to speak. Giving. Slow to anger. Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Pure religion: Care for orphans and widows.
    • WORKS – September 9, 2018: James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 – Don’t show favoritism to the rich. Faith without works is dead.
    • TAME THE TONGUE – September 16, 2018: James 3:1-12 – Not many of you should
      become teachers. Tame the tongue.
    • CONFLICT – September 23, 2018: James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a – Why do conflicts arise among
    • HEALING – September 30, 2018: James 5:13-20 – Healing text. Are any of you sick?Elders should pray and lay hands on you.

    Here is this week’s text (James 5:13-20) in its entirety:

    Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

    16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. 19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.


    Are any among you suffering? Well, yes. In any gathering of people, there will be many in the group that will answer in the affirmative. Know this, when the question is asked. It’s not necessarily a rhetorical question. The congregation will lean forward.

    Pastors and deacons know this. We look out over the congregation each Sunday, seeing the suffering, knowing the things that have been shared with us in confidence. One family is suffering from alcoholism. Another family from abuse. One family is grieving the loss of a loved one. Another is battling cancer. One lost a job. We must keep in mind that people are often suffering with a host of unspoken maladies. Some are physical, some are mental, some are social, some are spiritual, and some are a combination of any of the above.

    Is your church a place of healing? Do people get better here, or is the atmosphere such that things get worse? Some communities retraumatize. If there is so much unmanaged conflict, those who are suffering will stay away, for survival. What is your strategy for being a community of healing? Jesus’ preached the good news of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God and carried out a healing ministry in the community. What is your plan for a healing ministry in the community?

    They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. (Mark 6:13)

    Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Lutheran Service Book (LSB) are the first Lutheran hymnals/service books to have a service for healing in the pew edition (ELW p. 276).

    Healing service

    Why? What is going on here? The Spirit is doing something.

    Many congregations over the last ten years have been adding healing services either as a part of Sunday morning worship every once in a while, or as a separate service after worship or at a separate time. More and more congregations mention healing services in bulletins and newsletters. It seems the crafters of the hymnals are responding to something that the Spirit is already doing in the congregations. As Mark Strobel says, “Rites not only reflect what’s going on in the culture, they also shape the culture.”

    Healing rites became almost embarrassing in the post-Enlightenment Western world. Western Christianity saw these rites as vestiges of animism and magical religion, reminiscent of incantations and superstitious witch-doctor rites. They all but disappeared. So why are they resurfacing?

    Perhaps the rising cost of medical care and health insurance have caused us to look at other means of finding health and wholeness. Perhaps the increasingly impersonal way we deal with the end of life has caused us to yearn for a new definition of healing. There is more the health and wholeness than HMOs. Whatever it is, we seem to be returning to a more holistic understanding of salvation, and reaching out for a high-touch, tactile approach to faith and healing.

    Laying on of Hands

    In James we read about the way the early church lived out this healing ministry:

    Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

    James offers no liturgy for this, but one undoubtedly existed. Fortunately ELW does. It’s not complex. It involves scripture, oil, touch and prayer.

    There is growing evidence that there was widespread use of women as deacons for the anointing of the sick in the first centuries of Christianity, but by the 8th century, the blessing of the oil was only an episcopal function of a nearly all-male clergy. Only bishops could bless oil. And only priests could anoint. Lutherans would reject this special “power” for a bishop.

    In 1519 Luther wrote A Sermon on Preparing to Die, encouraging the dying to confess, be absolved, receive the sacrament of extreme unction, then die cheerfully. In 1519 Luther still held anointing with oil at the time of death in very high regard. He saw it as a “visible sign” and “promise” of the gospel.

    Salvation is complex. It is not just physical; not just spiritual; not just emotional. It involves the whole person. Salvation is shalom: peace and wholeness. Healing is restoration of wholeness. The church offers care, not cure. Jesus offered healing to many of those he encountered. He even raised Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus. They all died at some point. All earthly healing is provisional.

    Today, and probably always, illness is isolating. It seems people don’t have time for the sick. At one conference, Martin Marty asked the question, “What do I have to do today that is more important than visiting with my friend who is dying of cancer?”

    Liturgy makes us feel less alone. We are drawn into community, a fleeting commodity these days. We experience touch. Music and architecture elevate us. Again Martin Marty: “Elevation is the service of the service.”

    Good liturgy induces an altered form of consciousness. Illness does too. Liturgy can disrupt the everydayness of life. Silence is a liturgy of disruption.

    Let us not abandon the opportunity to bring healing into people’s lives through liturgy. Let us offer the comfort of Christian community to those who are isolated by illness or hopelessness, that they may know God’s healing grace.

    It is interesting that in his manual on Christian living, James included these passages on prayer, anointing of the sick and confession. Clearly, he sees these as indispensable parts of the Christian way of life.

    What is the Good News?

    Jesus brings healing of mind, body and spirit, which are, at the end of the day, one. In these passages, James invites us into prayer, anointing and confession. These are liturgical actions that can bestow comfort and grace. These are actions by which we invite the healing grace of God to be present through one another. Something always happens when we do. It doesn’t mean that our problems and diseases will magically go away, but it can bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. The love and attention of the community, along with liturgies of healing can drive away the darkness and loneliness brought on by illness.

    So what?

    Consider including a service of healing on this final Sunday. Honor the text. Make time for it. Perhaps you trim other parts of the service so that this can have the time it needs to not feel rushed. It could also be a station during communion distribution.

    Carefully train those who will be laying on hands. Either give them a blessing to memorize, or, if you want them to pray for specific needs, choose your “elders” carefully, and instruct them on how to pray for the sick, so that they don’t say things that hurt or heighten the sense of isolation.

    Expect things to happen. This is powerful. Prayer and anointing always moves people. Expect the Spirit to do something.

    Be sure to incorporate a confession. There are some healings that need to take place that have nothing to do with physical maladies. You may never know all the things that take place.

    Listen to people’s stories. Talk with them about the experience. Consider doing this on a monthly basis.

    Know that modern medicine is blessing. Know also, that there is more to healing than pills and surgery. Without love, without belonging, without community, without hope, we lose the will to live, which is essential in any circumstance.

    Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.

    The Ordination of Ariel Williams, September 16, 2018

    Immanuel Lutheran Church of Wiedeville,Brenham, Texas

    Immanuel was founded in 1871. They are being served by Pastor Ken Weiss, since March 2018.

    This is Oscar, at Immanuel. It’s his 94th birthday his weekend. A lifelong member of this community, Oscar told me he feels his age. “Two years ago I was vaccinating a calf and I got knocked down by a cow. Haven’t felt the same since.” Impressive. No one in my family has made it to 90. I can’t imagine vaccinating a cow now, much less at 92. One of nine children, all the boys are veterans. He said 24 from Immanuel served in WWII, and all came back, though all were also affected by it. I appreciate listening to the stories, history and impressions of those who have seen so much. Here’s to Oscar.

    Below are some of the congregation’s Confirmation photos, to give a window of history.

    Eben Ezer of Berlin, Brenham, Texas

    In 1851, the St. Chrischona School sent their entire graduating class of six. Among them was Johann George Ebinger. Ebinger sailed on the Franziska from Bremen on September 2, and arrived in Galveston on November 5, 1851, at a time when immigration was completely open, except for the occasional mobs of thugs who would scare away whoever they thought were the wrong kind of people.

    Ebinger was present for the organization of the Texas Synod on November 10, 1851, Martin Luther’s birthday. The day after the synod assembly, Ebinger headed to Rose Hill, now Tomball, Texas.

    On December 24, 1954, Pastor Ebinger conducted the first Lutheran worship service in Washington County. Then, on July 5, 1955, Eben Ezer, the first Lutheran Church in Brenham was organized in the Berlin community.

    A conflict arose between Pastor Ebinger and the leaders at Eben Ezer in 1956. So Pastor Ebinger and a few members went three miles south to “the prairie,” where they formed Salem Lutheran Church.

    Today Eben Ezer is served by Pastor Ken Weiss, who served them while in candidacy, starting January 1, 2010. He was ordained February 17, 2013. Although Eben Ezer’s attendance is stable and has even grown a bit, this year (starting March of 2018), Ken agreed to also serve Immanuel of Wiedeville in Brenham, at the encouragement of Assistant to the Bishop Blair Lundborg.

    Eben Ezer has been served by many pastors in its 163-year history.

    Below are some (not all) confirmation photos, hastily taken, to share some perspective.

    Pentecost 18B – September 23, 2018 (Proper 20B, Ordinary 25B)

    Proverbs 31:10-31 – A capable wife who can find? She is more precious than jewels.
    Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22 – Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.’
    Jeremiah 11:18-20 — But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!”

    Psalm 1 – How blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked… he will be like a tree planted by streams of water.
    Psalm 54 – God is my helper; it is the LORD who sustains my life. (Ps. 54:4)

    James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a – Why do conflicts arise among you?

    Mark 9:30-37 – Who is the greatest? Be a servant.

    EPISTLE OF STRAW: A 5-week Series on James

    • LISTENING – September 2, 2018: James 1:17-27– Be quick to listen, slow to speak. Giving. Slow to anger. Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Pure religion: Care for orphans and widows.
    • WORKS – September 9, 2018: James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17 – Don’t show favoritism to the rich. Faith without works is dead.
    • TAME THE TONGUE – September 16, 2018: James 3:1-12 – Not many of you should become teachers. Tame the tongue.
    • CONFLICT – September 23, 2018:  James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a – Why do conflicts arise among you?
    • HEALING – September 30, 2018:  James 5:13-20 – Healing text. Are any of you sick? Elders should pray and lay hands on you.

    Here is this week’s text (James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a) in its entirety:

    Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

    Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

    4Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

    7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.


    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the framers of the lectionary omitted a section out of this. Why omit verses 4-6? I have included them above, but put them in blue, so you can see the section left out. I know the Epistle of James is organized chaotically, but it is his letter after all. Shouldn’t we just let it speak?

    In the first section, wisdom is mentioned several times. You will recall from your Old Testament studies that Wisdom is very important in Hebrew literature. It is even personified. She is even feminine. Some equate it with the later New Testament understanding of the Holy Spirit.

    I’ll also remind you that Robert Gundry calls James a “manual of Christian conduct that assumes a foundation of faith” In his Commentary on James, in Baker Academic’s Commentary on the New Testament Books, copyright 2010. The Kindle version of this commentary is only $1.99.

    Wisdom surfaces quite a few times in this short letter.

    James 1:5 says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”

    James 3:13: “Who is wise among you?”

    James 3:15: “If you are envious, that kind of wisdom does not come from above, but from below.”

    James 3:17: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”

    Paul also speaks of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, 2:1 and 2:7-8. Wisdom in the Greco-Roman world is the wit to conquer, be powerful and wealthy. For Paul, the wisdom of God is Christ crucified. It is revealed in a mystery: us sharing the likeness of the image of God’s Son. God’s wisdom is foolishness to the world. Following the despised and executed Christ leads to glorification. This is the wisdom of God. If we suffer with him, we will share in his glory.

    James also sees wisdom as something other than the world’s definition of power and success. Note, however, James’ concept of wisdom is different than Paul’s. It’s not cunning, cleverness or intellectual/academic acumen of the world. It’s not Paul’s concept of mystery (a word that James does not use in his letter). For James, the wisdom of God is peace, gentleness, a willingness to yield (bend?), mercy and good fruits without partiality or hypocrisy. It is egalitarian. It values rich and poor. And this kind of wisdom comes from God, free for the asking. This wisdom from above is being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1). James is painting a picture for us of the Christian life, from his viewpoint. Can you hear it? Let those with ears hear.

    Fighting and quarrelling

    James does a little digging now. Where do fighting and quarrelling come from? Before going on, invite your folks to ask themselves this question: What is the root of most quarreling?

    You’ll likely hear a lot of different answers:

    • Ego
    • Frustration
    • Pain
    • Disappointment
    • Misunderstandings

    We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others
    as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.
     – William Hazlitt

    This is very relevant topic. Everyone quarrels. Every couple. Every parent with multiple kids will have to be a referee. Pointing out the humor and quirkiness of our family fights will bring everyone along with you. Share a personal story of a stupid fight you have had.

    The irony is, our fights usually make things worse. We take a frustrating situation and then we add to the frustration by creating even more conflict, and saying hurtful things we don’t mean, or sometimes we do.

    James would have us believe they come from our ego (the Greek word for “I”). It is self-centeredness that leads to such. Quarreling, according to James, comes from our cravings, the war within us. We want, we crave, we must have, and so we go out into the world and demand. Our greed is at the heart of every quarrel. We want to win, so we can get what we want. He can’t be wrong. He’s pointing to our pride, our hubris, our avarice. So, life in Christ, is letting go of the ego, our self-centeredness.

    In every argument, big or small, it often ceases to become what it’s about, and instead becomes about winning, not losing face. Every little win tells us we are winning in life. Every loss makes us feel like we are losing in the game of life. We feel we can’t afford to give an inch of ground. James is pointing to this reality, whatever we want to call it, as the root of the problem. 1 Timothy points to something different, but similar also in some ways, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) This also points to greed. But, at the end of the day, greed and money are also about winning.

    What is the Good News?

    The good news is we have a diagnosis for many of the little problems in our lives, and the big problems in our world. If we can take an honest look at things, we can actually identify the source of the problem: our self-centeredness.

    The good news is if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sin, and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Do you believe that God can actually alleviate some of this greed problem?

    The good news is God has provided an antidote to all of this. Putting our faith in Christ, putting all of our trust and hope in God (not progress, power, success or money), frees us from worrying too much about money, winning or even death. Jesus offers us an alternative focus. Grabbing on to Christ allows us to let go of having to win (beat the other) all the time. Knowing that life is not a zero-sum game, where others must lose for me to win… knowing the big game is in the bag, we can even feel good about losing a few. We can apologize, fall on our swords and maybe, just maybe let our spouses, kids or coworders win an argument.

    Faith brings with it a sense of joy, because we are no longer carrying around our need to win. Drinking from this well, eating from this bread, envy begins to melt away, selfish ambitions are revealed as futile, and are replaced with peace, gentleness and other gifts of the Spirit, or wisdom from above as James puts it.

    So what?

    What congregation has not had conflict?

    “We have never had any fighting or quarrelling over anything,” said no congregation ever.

    This lesson is for every person, every congregation, every nation. Even our wars grow out of fear of not having enough: safety, oil, prosperity. We want to win, don’t we?

    What family has not had conflict? What workplace? Do we believe that dying to ourselves and becoming Christ-centered might change things on the ground?

    Invite people to write down a word or draw a picture that represents a conflict they had. What caused the conflict? Where were their own insecurities at play? Who won? What apologies need to be made? If I dwelled constantly in the peace and joy that comes with the confidence of faith, how might I have gone about this differently? How will I go about it differently in the future?

    Conflict is inevitable. What matters is how we handle it. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. He acknowledges there will be conflict, and invites people to engage it in creative ways that disrupt the cycle of violence, physical or verbal.

    Consider for yourself, preacher, the conflicts in your own congregation. How are you involved? What investment do you have in the outcome? Why? What’s at stake for you? What’s the worst case scenario? What’s the best case scenario? How can you be open about your opinions and yet also open to others’ opinions? How are you creating a culture of cultivating creative conflict at your church? How can you encourage your leaders to share openly and courageously their ideas, and learn to speak the truth in love when necessary?

    To live in the wisdom from above, to let go of our need to win, we need to return to this faith well often. We need to confess weekly, maybe daily. Greed and envy resurface belligerently. Hearing the word of hope that grounds us in something bigger than ourselves is critical. Daily prayer to strengthen our faith, gives us the joy to be at peace.

    Are you willing to dive into the deep waters of faith and trust?

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