Colin Kaepernick a Confirmed Lutheran

The quarterback who started the movement to kneel during the National Anthem was confirmed in the Lutheran Church and understands his actions and philanthropy as part of his Christian witness.  His faith and concern for black justice are discussed in religious media but I have heard nothing about his faith in the secular media.

Reformation Services

Thank you to all who helped with this year's Reformation Sunday services. 

I hope the enthusiasm coming from the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will continue in coming years.  Most of what I have read about Luther and the Reformation this year has been positive.

Trunk or Treat

Thank you to all who participated in the school's trunk or treat last week.  The weather was beautiful and all had a good time. (I write this on Halloween as rain is falling.)

I hope more members of the congregation not directly involved with the school will participate next year.

Lutheran/Catholic Book Read

I finished reading From Conflict to Communion just before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation October 31.  This book shows the wide agreement Lutherans and Catholics now have on many of the issues which divided the church in the sixteenth century.  The book would be of primary interest to church leaders and I do not intend to use it for a book study here.

FSHNC Service Before the Funeral

I suggested the graveside service for Joe McFarland at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery be held before the memorial service at the church.  When the time assigned for the graveside is early in the morning, I see no need to expect elderly drivers to confront rush hour traffic and school zones to get to a funeral on time.  This was not the first time I suggested this change and in both instances the change seemed to make sense.

My First Parsonage in Texas

Our first parsonage just outside Austin is in a neighborhood which has changed dramatically.  The house next door is now a used car lot with cars in the front and back yards.  The house next to it now has a card  and palm reader.  The housing across the street is now vacant and fenced off.

Churches were wise years ago to consider housing for pastors other than church owned parsonages.  Neighborhoods can change rapidly and a suitable setting may become unsuitable in a hurry.

My Five Talents

In the parable of the Talents, one person has five talents.  With the current political atmosphere in the country, I am aware of five attributes I have which seem to get me preferential treatment.  I am white, male, heterosexual, Christian, and a citizen.  Since people like me are having it comparatively easy time these days, people like me need to be on the front lines to defend those who are not white, male, heterosexual, Christian, or a citizen.

What can Christians do to help all people be treated equally?

Tax Reform and Clergy Housing Allowances

Churches and clergy watch all efforts toward federal tax reform to see what might happen to clergy housing allowances.  A recent court ruling in Wisconsin has also raised some concern.

If the housing allowance is ruled to be taxable, clergy will be paying higher taxes and congregations will probably have to pay more to have a pastor.  In some instances, this may be what forces congregations to go to part-time pastors.

Retired pastors may also be involved since they are also allowed to designate some of their income for housing.

In general, various advocacy groups for the poor are hoping tax reform will proceed long enough for people to know and discuss what is being proposed.  Trust in Washington is near all-time lows these days and legislators and constituents need to know what they are voting on.

More Concern for Animals than for Humans?

Kevin Ott recently observed he thinks people today are more concerned about mistreated and hungry animals than for mistreated and hungry human beings in their neighborhoods.  I have observed several entrees in social media recently about hurting animals, but I have yet to see anyone express concern for a neighbor who may be in need.

Do you observe people being more concerned for animals than for humans?

Cry for ELCA Military Chaplains

The military faces a severe shortage of ELCA and other denominational chaplains who will minister to a variety of faiths,  The number of ELCA federal chaplains is only a fraction of what it was a generation ago.

Unfortunately the gap is being filled by religious groups which have teachings on theological and social issues which vary quite a bit from what we teach. 

Pray for more mainline Protestant pastors to become federal chaplains.  The mainline Protestant chaplains are being missed.

St. John's Lutheran Church of Austin

Yesterday I visited the congregation I served before coming to San Antonio.  While I was there over twenty years ago, the business next door sought a liquor license and the congregation got involved because of the proposed restaurant's proximity to the church.

Now the restaurant has become a bar and the bar extends to the property line fence with the church.  The church can now name itself St. John's by the Bar, if it so desires.

Seeing the bar next to my former church reminded me of another church in Austin which found itself located between a bar and a gentleman's club.  The church was affectionately called locally "the church between the boobs and the booze."  For a while worship attendance spiked because of the novel location of the church.  However, the church members soon became discouraged when they realized most of the worship guests had absolutely no interest in becoming disciples of Christ.  After a while, church attendance plummeted but the parking lot always had plenty of cars.  The remaining members claimed they had no idea who was parking in their lot.  For the rest of the community, the mystery was easy to solve.

 

Advent and Christmas Sermons on Hope

My Advent and Christmas sermons this year will focus on the theme of hope.  I am reading that hope may be the greatest gift Americans need today, especially in light of the political quarrels and natural disasters we have been experiencing recently.  During the Advent and Christmas seasons, I will be preaching from Isaiah.

If you are interested in knowing what I am preaching on in advance, I encourage you to check the "sermon themes" section of this blog.  I write the outline as a paragraph and try to keep about two months ahead.

Rev. Martin Elsner, S.J.

I read recently Father Marty has retired and moved to Louisiana.  He is being missed here.

Father Marty is a Jesuit priest and he was the person to seek out if someone needed to do business with the Society of Jesus, the formal name of the Jesuits.  I roomed with him once on a COPS/Metro trip to Houston and had a deep respect for him for his passion for the poor.

Father Marty often wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper, but he would never sign a letter with his title.  Catholic religious have to get any public communication approved by the archdiocese before it is published.  He would submit substantive letters and simple sign them as "Marty Elsner."  Those of us who knew him knew he was a priest.  This way he got his material published.

Standing and Sitting at Funerals

Those of you who attend funerals regularly know practices about sitting and standing are in flux .  At the funeral of Joe McFarland, I saw a diversity of practice.

With the publication of Lutheran Book of Worship, specific instructions were given about standing and sitting.  Some felt those instructions were too rigid.

In Evangelical Lutheran Worship, there are no instructions and presiding ministers can make the call.  At funerals I conduct, I consider the health of the next-of-kin.  If the closest relatives of the deceased are able-bodied and nimble, I will suggest people sit and stand more often than if the next-of-kin have more limited mobility.

A good guide is to follow what the presiding minister does.  When she or he strands, do the same.  That way if something is done wrong, you cannot be blamed and you can blame the presiding minister.

The Politics of Hunger

The political controversies in Washington are spreading to places like San Antonio.  The immigration debate is affecting local food charities.

I have learned some local charities will provide food to hungry undocumented people and other charities will not.  Congregations and their leaders now have to decide which kind of charity to support with their food drives, especially prominent around Thanksgiving.  

This is the first time I can remember having to make this decision.  This is another example of how the political situation in Washington is affecting local decision making.

I wonder if all of the people at the Feeding of the 5000 were in Israel legally.  I also wonder if their immigration status mattered to Jesus.

2903 Nacogdoches Rd.     San Antonio, TX 78217    phone: 210-824-7135  fax: 210-826-5146