Friday, September 28, 2012

A Prayer for this Weekend
By Pastor Scott Seidler
We’ll sing the words.  Some of us may know well the tune.  But in the end, it is just (JUST!) a prayer…so before we word it and sing it, let’s ensure we’re ready to pray it at:

Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ending, Call for songs of loudest praise; While the hope of endless glory Fills my heart with joy and love, teach me ever to adore Thee; may I still Thy goodness prove.

Here I raise my Ebenezer (I Samuel 7:12), Hither by thy help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.  Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.(Hebrews 13:20-21)

Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be; Let that grace no like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee; Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. (Revelation 21)

I look forward to singing and worshiping with you this weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Help, I Need Somebody!
Numbers 11:14
Rev. Dr. Scott K. Seidler

Moses said, “I cannot carry all these people by myself.”

The Beatle’s taught an entire generation to cry out, “Help, I need somebody…HEEELLLLLPPPPPP!”  It’s a great sentiment for our season of ministry at Concordia as well. 

While call committee’s search for future ministers of the Gospel, now is a great opportunity for us to step up and take the mantle of leadership which properly belongs to the people of God.  One of my dear colleagues who leads a congregation much like Concordia in the suburbs of Chicago is fond of the axiom, “God’s people serve God’s people.”  At Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, IL, Pastor Mark Schulz keeps his staff size very small in order to ensure that the work of the saints is very great.

I think we can learn and re-learn a lesson here.

First, in this season of ministry transition, I’ll be challenging our leaders where in our ministry we can increase the work of the saints over and against the work of the salaried and benefited. 

Second, let this be a reminder for our Christian homes that in family ministry, our congregational value is that ministry takes place first in the Christian home and is supported by the congregational ministry program. 

When questions about leadership capacity and direction arise among God’s people, our God is always present to inspire, encourage, challenge and call a broader shoulder of leadership than we might have even thought existed.  He does this so that our journey to the promised land of our salvation and deliverance, in Christ, may not be impeded.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Who’s on First?
Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler,  Senior Pastor

“He must become greater, I must become less.”—John the Baptist

Abbott and Costello humored audiences through many movies and comedy shorts in the 1930’s-1950’s.  Youtube “Who’s on First”, Abbott and Costello, and you’ll instantly see why. 

Their play on words is hilarious.  The question for Christians, though, is no joke.  Who is on first in your life?  Can you name that person?

Today’s quality-control check is an assessment of sorts, an invitation for us to evaluate the places in our life where the Son of God and Savior of the world sits.  There are always opportunities for growth.  That’s the beauty of serving our God, He doesn’t ever expect from us a time of initial perfection. 

Through Christ, He redeems us from the power of sin so that we can constantly, relentlessly “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” knowing that more will be added to our plate of opportunity as His servants.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Predictive Maintenance
Rev. Dr. Scott K. Seidler

“…because He was teaching His disciples.  Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.”—Mark 9:31

One of our congregation members at Concordia, Kirkwood, Joe Ramseyer owns a company that specializes in predictive maintenance.  His job is to contract with really big companies to help them maintain and anticipate the maintenance of their high-dollar, high-stress machinery.  He gets paid, in a sense, to be a mechanical prophet and thwart mechanical failure by knowing how stuff falls apart before it does.

Our Lord has a pretty keen aptitude when it comes to predictive maintenance for the human soul.  Even as He predicts his death and resurrection, He knows where the heart of spiritual failure lies:  doubting the capacity of God to do the miraculous for our well-being.  And so, anticipating the flight of the disciples from the shadow of the cross only five chapters later, Jesus tells them (predicts) the very work which will ultimately keep them safe.  He cares for the machinery of faith before it ever reaches maximum stress.

Our Father through His Holy Spirit doesn’t deviate from that same predictive work today.  We are told he creates in advance the works in which we are to walk (Ephesians 2:10).  We are His temple in which the Spirit dwells and does His groaning, prayerful work on our behalf (II Corinthians 4-6).

As a pastor I am often called upon to help people navigate a cloudy future.  Disappointingly, I can’t predict much.  Thankfully, we all call on One who readies our tomorrows and whose grace is new every morning.  And that’s not a prediction, that’s reality right now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Last Sermon at Concordia
Mark 9:35
Rev. Dr. Scott K. Seidler

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

I won’t be cruel.  This weekend will NOT be my last sermon at Concordia.  It will, however, be my “last” sermon at Concordia.  I offer this tongue-in-cheek humor given all the farewells we’ve had.  In fact, this weekend I look forward to capturing the heart Jesus has for our constant demotion in the eyes of others—our increasingly becoming last so that others may be more first.

Preaching messages which further the cause of our becoming last in the kingdom is the constant calling of every pastor.  For many, the value is making people “feel good” and offering an “uplifting message”. 

The joy of the Lord may be our strength, but the character of our discipleship gets marked by our place on the human totem pole.  Being last and feeling last are not the same.  Sacrificial service for the sake of others brings great spiritual and emotional reward.

Consider in closing the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews.  “Consider Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the Father.  Consider Him who endured such opposition so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Jesus Christ not only serves as our premier example, but offers is sin-destroying death and resurrection as the source of such sacrifice-inducing energy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Finishing Touch
Rev. Dr. Scott K. Seidler

Greet one another with a holy kiss.  Romans 16:16

29.  At least.  That’s the number of folks recognized by name as the apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Roman church.  By doing so he reminds us that the church ceases to be church when the church ceases to be human.  When God calls us to belong to Christ Jesus, to be holy, we don’t leave our humanity at the doorway of faith.  All the trappings of being human come with us into the communion of saints—saying “hello” included. 

When Paul draws on the common and customary greeting in Roman culture to plant a kiss on the cheek, he does so fully aware of the unique greeting shared in the church.  Not just any kiss, but a “holy kiss”, given and received by God’s holy people.  We are a people who by grace have been set apart for God’s purposes.  As we greet one another, share faith together, engage in mission to the world, we do so as men and women and children whom Christ has claimed by grace to be His hands and feet. 

Christians don’t leave their humanity at the doorway of faith.  God’s judgment for sin is what’s left at that door, at the foot of Christ’s cross.  All glory to God!

Help me not lose touch with the lives of those who hurt and need healing, O Lord, the Great Physician.  Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Calling Considered
Rev. Dr. Scott K. Seidler

…[you] are called to belong to Jesus Christ.  Romans 1:6

A classic 1970s game show had contestants wagering how many notes it would take them to name a particular tune.  The contestant able to identify the song in the fewest notes would win.  The apostle Paul invites his readers to name the tune of his letter to the Romans.  Instead of notes, he uses words.  Instead of prize money, the reward is eternal life and a more faithful kind of Christianity.

No less than four times does Paul sound the same note:  called.  Paul is called to be an apostle.  He is charged with calling all nations to the obedience of faith.  He writes to those in Rome who are called to be holy, reminding them they are called to belong to Christ Jesus. 

You, too, are among those called to belong to Christ Jesus.  You, too, are called to be holy.  You have a calling that comes directly from God and is a life-changing gift.  This call to holiness is one which God accomplishes in you through faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not manufacture it.  Rather, God provides it to us freely.  The call of God truly is music to our ears.             

Great Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, confirm us in the faith that You know us, love us and call us by name.  Amen.   

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Pastor Monte Haun
Acts 20:17-38
By Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler, Senior Pastor

“What grieved them most was that they would never see his face again.  Then they accompanied him to the ship.”—Acts 20:38

This weekend at Concordia, Kirkwood, we will bid farewell to a pastor as dear to our congregation as Paul was to that congregation so long ago in the Greek city of Ephesus.  Pastor Monte Haun, who has served at Concordia since his days in seminary almost 15 years ago will preach his final sermon throughout all five worship services this weekend.  Many tears will be shed, including some from my own eyes as I express gratitude to him on behalf of this congregation and in honor of all the ways he has shown friendship to me as a young senior pastor in a very unique congregational setting.

That said, I think Luke in recording St. Paul’s final farewell may go a bit too far—or perhaps those warm-hearted Ephesian leaders did.  Certainly, saying goodbye to someone so spiritually significant does stretch our soul’s strength and emotional energy.  However, as Pastor Haun will remind us, we will see each other again.

Obviously, we will see each other in heaven.  Check!

And, we will see each other periodically in St. Louis because of family visits and other circumstances.  Check!

But more than that, I pray we “see” each other because of the influence and impact each of us have on God’s kingdom in the places (new for Pastor Haun) we are called to serve.  I pray that Pastor Haun’s mission-driven leadership in Wisconsin trickles south toward us in some evident way.  I pray that our mission-minded activity in “the Lou” bubbles up evidently toward the land of cheese curds and cheese-heads.

Pray with me for Pastor and Cheryl Haun’s next adventure in Christian ministry.  May God grant that in every way, but especially in the way of the shared mission we have from Christ, we may see each other’s face again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Peace?
By Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler, Senior Pastor

For He Himself is our peace, who has mad the two one and has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility.--Ephesians 2:14

Peace takes many forms in Scripture.  Getting the piece of peace that is being emphasized is important.  And, knowing what piece of peace is not being highlighted is helpful, too.

In Ephesians 2 Paul is rejoicing that all the ethnic-religious boundaries that divide humanity come crashing down when Christ dies for the sins of the whole world.  No longer does one’s status as Jewish, Greekish, Barbarianish, freeish or slavish count for anything.  A person’s connection to Jesus Christ is all that counts from here on out.

The Son of God brings peace to all these disparate, separated people.  In Himself, in other words, there is no more hostility needed.

I imagine, however, another piece of peace here.  This is the peace that comes when the argument is over, the battle done, and the theatre of war silenced.  This peace is not the peace BETWEEN me and someone else, this is the peace INSIDE me—the rest that comes knowing I can stop fighting and simply (SIMPLY!) trust God has taken care of business.

I think this mixture of peace pieces is evident in the story of the mother in Mark 7:24-37.  An outsider so outsider-ish that Jesus could hardly speak to her.  But, because He cannot but be peace always and everywhere, Jesus knocks down the dividing wall between Him and her—by pure grace.  Then, this mom goes and finds her demoned daughter well again. 

I can only imagine the sleep this mom had that night knowing that Jesus is truly peace for us whose lives are falling to pieces.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review

The Power for Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz(New York:  The Free Press, 2003)

Interval training matters as much in life as it does insports.  This is the straightforward conviction contained in this book about finding fulfillment in life and leadership.  Our ability to expend and import energy in a such a way that we are neither sapped nor over-supplied is critical to maintaining balance in life. 

Starting with physical energy upon which emotional energy supports mental energy by which ultimate spiritual energy is imported and exerted, Loehr and Schwartz build a case for self-care I have not found in many other leadership books.  This is a great read.

As for me, I am putting the physical energy principles to work.  Eating smaller, regularly-interval-ed snacks throughout the day to keep my blood sugar and caloric energy count consistent (no more wild metabolic swings).  Additionally, taking time every 90 minutes or so for a walk outside or some stretching keeps my mind engaged and fresh—more elastic to the pressures of pastoring a congregation the size of Concordia, Kirkwood.

I’ll have more to say in weeks to come, but for now, go out and get the book…it’s quick and easily digestible with lots of stories to match the power of the ideas offered.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hearing “Yes” When All You Hear is “No”
Mark 7: 24-37
By Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler, Senior Pastor

Was the word “no” in Jesus’ vocabulary?

Yes and no, depending on where things stood with you.

Try and prevent the Lord from moving toward the cross and bodily resurrection, you were liable to get told no and labeled as Satan at the same time (Matthew 16:16-25)

Try to turn God’s house into a den of robbers, you were likely to have your wares overturned and your backside tanned. (Mark 11:12-19)

On the other hand, come as a pauper to the king of heaven, reach out in faith for gifts no human being deserves, and trust that He will ultimately give gifts beyond our wildest imagination—to such as these Jesus hollers “YES!” from the top of the mountains to the valley of our sins below.

Chris Rice had a great song, “Untitled Hymn”, several years back.  “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die, raise your head for love is passing by.  Come to Jesus…and live”

Come in faith and repentance and here God in Jesus Christ say “Yes!” to you and your desire to be renewed by Him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dealing with Shingles
Mark 7:24-30
By Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler, Senior Pastor

I’ve had chicken pox.  I understand shingles are much worse.  These are not the shingles I want to talk about.  Nevertheless, the shingles I have in mind can be equally burdensome and painfully itchy.

These particular shingles are the ones which figuratively hang on the side of our lives.  Having these out invites others to come in, sit a spell, and unload their burdens upon our ears and hearts.  As human beings, we have to be especially self-centered not to have at least at times “our shingle out.”  The very fact we are community-based beings requires us to be sympathetic to others and their tales of woe at least some time.

But what about when you are tired of having your shingle out?  What about when you need to find a shingled soul who will listen to you and help you unburden the weight of your worries?  What about when the person calling on your shingled status repulses you, even if their particular problem isn’t really that problematical?  Or, what about when you’ve tried every way to put someone off, but they just keep coming back to you?

In Mark 7:24-30 a repulsive shingle-seeker came questing for Jesus.  Her daughter was sick and Jesus was tired.  His shingle was shuttered for just a bit as he caught up on some much needed Sabbath.  To no avail.  The mom just kept coming and coming until finally Jesus acclaimed her faith and spoke healing to her daughter.

Two points to keep in mind.  Jesus’ shingle is always out inviting us to come and unload on Him.  Repulsive as our sin makes us, we nevertheless have full access to Him and His power because of His grace.  His death and resurrection are our entry fee to his shing-ular service. 

More, his invitation enables our shing-ular mission to touch people with Jesus Christ for healing and for service.  We can leave our shingle out longer, and tolerate even the most repulsive of people in light of how Jesus perseveres with each of us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Was Worship this Weekend?
John 4:23-24
By Rev. Dr. Scott Seidler, Senior Pastor

Consider three types of people.

The first type consists of those whose hearts were bent toward God this past weekend in Christian worship.

The second type consists of those who attended a worship service in a Christian church, speaking and doing all the right things, but whose hearts never were truly bent in devotion toward God’s Son.

The third type consists of those who are a combination of some aspects of the first two.  These are the ones who neither attended a Christian worship service nor experienced the bending of their hearts toward God in faith.

Question:  Which of these three is to be most pitied?

Some might say group one, those whose hearts were bent toward Christ.  For though their hearts were bent, their fellowship with other Christians is not evident.  Corporate worship—worship with other believers—is a mark of Christ’s church.

Others may identify group two as especially sad.  Taking our cue from Mark 7, we note lips that utter God-honoring sentiments, yet without the deep conviction of the heart.

Finally, group three may be most pitied because they neither know Christ nor shared time with His children.

In John 4:23, Jesus said, “A time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The fact is, God could find fault with any of our worship, including the worship of this pastor.  By grace through Jesus Christ, God accepts us our deficient worship, qualifying us to stand in His presence and give glory to Him with our lips and the hearts which stand behind them.  The point is for us to strive and struggle to match our lips and hearts as perfectly as humanly possible.  Then, we leave the rest to God who in Christ more than makes up the difference.  This God-given faith in His Son is the truest form of worship we can experience.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review  

Food Rules:  An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, (New York:Penguin Books, 2009)

Metabolism is such a fickle friend.  In my teens and twenties the amount of food—any food!—I could pack into my 150 pound frame was quickly, easily, and efficiently digested with no apparent poundage left behind.  My thirties were all that—everything that a man’s thirties are supposed to be and what I heard.  150 turned quickly to 160, then 170.  Now at the dawn of my forties my metabolism has come full circle, does nothing, as my frame learns to manage 180.

Twenty years ago, food really didn’t matter.  Now food matters more than I ever imagined.  This short, humorous and insightful book helpfully challenges people to live by some simple food consuming rules—about 64 of them.  Written in a “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” style, the goal is for the reader to adopt the ones which are most “sticky”, as Pollan says, a handful of them at first.  The thesis is that living by even one of these rules will change our eating habits and consequent life for the better.

Take for instance Rule #2:  “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  Consider her picking “up a package of Go-GURT Portable Yogurt tubes--(without a) clue what this plastic cylinder of colored and flavored gel could possibly be.”  Humorous, simple and best of all forgiving of our sweet human disposition.

If you want to make a dent in your diet and ever so slightly tilt the method by which you satisfy your hunger, Food Rules is a great tool in your health toolbox.