News broke a few months ago that the religiously unaffiliated now make up about a quarter of the US population. New Gallup research suggests that religious people with no congregational membership make up another quarter of the population. Put another way, nearly half of the American population lacks a congregational affiliation. Whether they identify with a faith tradition or not, they may as well be “Nones.” Continue reading “Decline and Resurrection”
A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Great Shepherd who sends us out to tend to the flock. Amen.
Christ is risen, has sent Mary to proclaim this Good News, appeared to the apostles, and even to Thomas. So – as many pastors have asked – now what? Or, in concretely Lutheran terms, “What does this mean?” Continue reading ““Tend My Sheep””
A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out to fish for people. Amen.
When I was younger, I loved fishing. Or at least, I thought so.
On summer days, my sister and I would hop in the truck with our grandpa and drive out to a local pond to try our hand. Even in the July Georgia heat, we would beg and beg and beg to go fishing. Mind you, neither my sister nor I were very good at it; my sister recalls that we went fishing more than we went catching. And like any small child at the pond, we were loud, quick to pester each other and unlikely to leave our lines in the water for even a second before re-casting. But my grandpa was never one to scold us for our impatience or being loud enough to scare away every fish within five miles. And growing up, our Gospel reading today connected with those memories of summer days with grandpa, sitting under the tree. Fishing for people? Sounds great. Continue reading “Gone Fishin’”
A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has come to proclaim freedom to the captives. Amen.
The lectionary has dropped us today in the middle of a chapter and in the middle of a story already in progress. Think back with me to a few weeks ago. We read St. Luke’s account of Christ’s baptism where the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the form of a dove. And then – well, then Luke interrupted the story with a list of Jesus’ ancestors. But the next event, which starts our present chapter, follows closely on the heels of Christ’s baptism. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus endures these demonic assaults, and Satan “departed from him until an opportune time.”
“Then,” as we read last week, Jesus, still “filled with the power of the Spirit” began teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee. He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, and read from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He gave the scroll back to the attendant, sat down, and gave one of the world’s shortest sermons: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And this brings us up to date for today. How did the people react to such an odd sermon?
It’s remarkable to sit back and think about this past summer and the historic wave of women elected to the episcopacy within the ELCA. In less than fifty years (forty-eight this month), the mainline Lutheran tradition went from not ordaining women to going six-for-six on new bishops.
Let that sink in: fifty years ago, women were not ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Now, they make up just over a quarter of our Conference of Bishops.
Question: What exactly do you do?
Most parishioners see their clergy for two hours once a week. What is it that we do with the rest of our week? What do pastors do when they aren’t in the pulpit? What do deacons do when they’re not setting the Altar?
As one person asked me, “What is ‘work’ for you?”
I’ve gotten this question from a lot of people — but strangely never any members of my own parish. It’s almost as though folks are nervous to ask their own pastors but really, really want to know.
Before we dive in, though, some caveats:
- Every pastor or deacon will have a different answer based on areas of expertise, theological perspective, and setting. Someone called to youth and family ministry will answer differently from a solo pastor who will answer differently from someone on a synod/diocesan staff. An Episcopal priest will have a different answer from a United Methodist elder. A priest serving in downtown Manhattan will divide their time differently from the pastor serving three churches in rural South Dakota.
- I serve a part-time call. This necessitates that I delegate more work than a full-time pastor or deacon.
- I’ve been at this for just about a year now. I bet I’ll have a different answer in a year and in five years and in a decade and when I retire. Or at least, I’ll probably have different wording.
So, what is it that I do when I’m not in the pulpit?
Short Answer: “Additional Duties as Required”