"Lots of beer and hot women"

I recently took an item to a local repair shop and noticed a number of Christian symbols throughout the shop and assumed the owner was churched.  When I picked up the item the owner said,"I hope you are blessed with lots of beer and hot women."

Of course, I had to tell the owner my occupation.  He said he did not go to a church but had found in San Antonio that religious symbols in his shop attract more customers than they repel so he puts up lots of crosses and the like because it is good for business.

As I left, I reflected on the challenge of proclaiming the gospel these days when so many see Christianity as  way to make money, even if they are not believers and adopt a lifestyle not in agreement with the Bible. 

Unfortunately, too many television evangelists also feed that perception.  We live in challenging times.

Tax Cuts Threaten Progress Against Hunger in the United States and Abroad

The most recent newsletter from Bread for the World begins as follows:

"The tax bill passed by Congress at the end of 2017 is expected to make progress toward ending hunger in the United States and around the world much harder to achieve.  hunger and poverty are likely to increase as the tax bill takes effect.

In addition, the tax bill's repeal of the individual mandate for health insurance is projected to raise expenses for many low-income individuals.

Opportunities to use the tax code to provide real help to low-income working families with children were largely rejected.  The child tax credit did increase by $400 a year but is not fully refundable.  Thus the increase will not help many low-income families.  For a mother with two children, working full-time at the minimum wage, the child tax credit increase would be only $75.

The tax bill also changed the way inflation rates are calculated.  Low-income, elderly, and disabled people will see the spending power of their benefits decline in future years.

The tax cuts will increase the federal deficit by roughly $1.4 trillion over the next decade.  Some in Congress are now calling for cuts to safety-net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), that are a lifeline to people experiencing hunger and poverty.

David Beckmann, Bread for the World's president, described the legislation as a one-two punch.  He noted that Congress has announced plans to follow the tax cut with a 'big push to cut more than $2 trillion from the social programs for low- and middle-income people.'"

Because of the tax bill, I expect the ELCA to oppose vigorously any major cuts to programs for the poor.


My First Goal for 2018-2019

My first goal established by the personnel committee is to "focus on a year-round stewardship program, including financial stewardship and stewardship of time and talent."

The Rooted and Growing campaign led by Rev. Kathy Haueisen gave us an excellent foundation for further stewardship work.  Because of the Rooted and Growing campaign, our annual stewardship program this spring will be less aggressive.

Deacon John Dellis is working with our council to  improve the work of our endowment fund.  Sheryl Bierstedt will be helping us make it possible for the endowment fund to make a more significant contribution to the mission of our congregation and school.

We have discussed time and talent sheets for years and may want to include more about use of time and talents away from our campus.

In addition, I expect we will be hearing more sermons about stewardship themes at times other than during stewardship campaigns.

The goal will be to keep stewardship concerns before the congregation during the entire year.


Urgent Needs at Christian Assistance Ministry

The pastors of the Alamo Conference met today at CAM and were told the agency always is in need of used bras, jeans for smaller men (waist 30-32), and underwear for men.

In our conversation, I discovered  administrative personnel who had never heard of Agape on Austin Hwy.  A couple years ago when I spoke to administration at Agape, they had never heard of CAM. 

The two agencies do virtually the same things and the lack of coordination and communication between them is typical of San Antonio.  The city's new Faith-Based Initiative should help bring together agencies such as these across our city.

Jamie LaFuente represents us at CAM.

ELCA Presiding Bishop to Participate in Rally to End Racism

The following is from the ELCA:

"In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will join ecumenical and inter-religious partners for Act Now: Unite to End Racism April 3-5 in Washington, D.C.  The focus of the three-day event will be a rally April 4 on the National Mall.

The event, organized by the National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, will bring together many ELCA members from across the country.  The ELCA is a founding member of the council."

District 121 Republican Forum

Carlton  Soules, Matt Beebe, and Keith Allison attended the recent event in our fireside room.  The other three candidates did not participate.  I heard positive feedback from those present and would be willing to host a similar event in the future.  Questions asked came from concerns expressed in house meeting in COPS/Metro and the San Antonio Sponsoring Committee.

Stated Positions on Gun Control

In the years I have been in San Antonio, I have not heard gun control come up as a major concern in COPS/Metro or the San Antonio Sponsoring Committee.  Apparently the issue is not primary at house meetings. 

The ELCA supports common sense gun control but I have read little about what that really means in our current context.  In response to the recent Florida school shootings, Bishop Eaton said the problem is both mental health and guns.

District 10 Meeting

I attended the meeting February 19 where Dr. Brian Gottardy gave the following statistics for the Northeast Independent School District. 

The percentage of disadvantaged students in the district has increased from approximately 20% in 2000, the year my daughter Rachel graduated, to approximately 48% today. 

The current student body has the following breakdown: 60% Latino, 25% white, 4% Asian-American, and 11% African-American. 

The district has 66,000 students.

Financial support is as follows:  67% local, 25% state, and 8% federal.

The graduation rate is 91-93% and the state rate is 89%.

We also heard about an apartment project on Judson Rd., an update from the San Antonio Food Bank, an update on San Antonio's Tricentennial Celebration, and an update on District 10.

I find these meetings worthwhile and encourage you to attend if you live in District 10.

The Meaning of Jerusalem for Jews

Jerusalem has deep meaning for the Jewish people.  According to Churches for Middle East peace, "In 1 Kings 8:10-13, we catch a glimpse of the dedication of the First Temple, built by King Solomon.  Although the temple has since been destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again, this passage captures the significance of Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.  It is for this reason that the Western Wall has become the holiest site in Judaism today, as it is the closest Jews are able to get to the Temple Mount, particularly the Holy of Holies where the Presence of God dwelt.  It is generally believed that praying at the Western Wall, either from the Jewish prayer book or by placing prayers in the cracks of the wall, is especially efficacious because of its proximity to the site of the Holy of Holies."

Ms. Pierce and Ms. Krueger

At the forum for the Republican candidates for District 121, all of us were reminded to use formal language instead of first names.  In an informal congregation like this one, I had to be careful what I said.

I have discovered formal language is also used in grand jury proceedings.  It is unusual in our culture to find 60 year-old men saying mam to women who are half their age, but that is what happens in grand jury proceedings.  

In what other settings do you experienced formal language these days?

Death of Billy Graham

I attended three Billy Graham Crusades.

The first was in the new Astrodome in 1965, the first chance for many Houstonians to see the new domed stadium at no expense.  It was at that crusade Graham dubbed the Astrodome the Eighth Wonder of the World.  The Lutheran pastor who had confirmed me the previous year gave the invocation at that crusade.

The second crusade was at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul while I was a student at Luther Seminary a couple miles away.  Luther faculty had mixed feelings about Graham but some of us went to hear him anyway.

The third crusade was here at the Alamodome in 1997.  I was a member of a small planning committee along with one other ELCA pastor.  Several people were referred to MacArthur Park for follow up but none ever attended worship here.

Graham has no real successor since his son has become more controversial with his ideas about gays and Muslims.  Conservative evangelicals like Graham have a worse reputation than they did when Graham was active.


San Antonio Safe Cities Program

I attended a meeting with Councilman Rey Saldana regarding efforts of San Antonio and other large Texas cities to be safe cities for immigrants.  These cities are calling themselves safe cities instead of sanctuary cities because the term sanctuary city has never been well-defined and the term is used negatively in several quarters.

The City of San Antonio uses a small portion of its budget to provide legal help to indigent immigrants who are in danger of deportation.  Statistics show those immigrants with legal counsel have a much better chance of staying in the United states and navigating our judicial system than those who have no legal assistance.

When I meet in a couple weeks with Councilman Clayton Perry, I will encourage him to support this program.

Thank You to Congregational Members

I want to thank Mark Hansen, Brenda Krueger, Suzette Price, Jean Schriever, and Jeanette Pierce for attending the Alamo Conference meeting at Hope Lutheran Church February 25.

My biggest surprise of the meeting was when the chair asked for comments on my public witness report and I received no comments.  I had written, "I cannot remember any high-profile actions or proposals of the Trump administration last year which Lutheran leaders endorsed because the actions or proposals were consistent with the teachings and social statements of the ELCA and worthy of Lutheran support."  I had expected some pushback but only received appreciation after the meeting for what I had written.

The Forgotten School Mass Shooting

In all of the recent conversation about the Florida high school. Columbine, and Sandy Hook, I have heard no one discuss the shooting several years ago at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.  The Amish handled the tragedy differently and received praise at the time.  Why has that shooting been forgotten today?

Juliet Abigail Ziese

Juliet was born February 26 and arrived at eight pounds, one and a half ounces, and twenty inches long.  She is our fifth grandchild, fourth granddaughter, and the third daughter of Timothy Aaron Ziese and Felicity Ann Brown.  All are doing well and came home from the hospital today.

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