Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis

Pastor’s Posts

Discernment

Discernment

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”  ~Psalm 130:5-6 Discernment /di’ sǝrnmǝnt/  noun.  Perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. “My soul is overwhelmed,” the Teacher said.  “Sit here while I pray.  Keep watch.  Wait.” (Mark 14:34) Not long ago, I was in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, noticing the surprise of my fellow awaiting-patients as their names were called.  One by one, they awakened from the glow of their iPhones, put down their magazines, and snapped to as if they’d forgotten why they were here to begin with.  Of course, when my name was called, I found that I too had to awaken from the strange social experiment that had captured my attention so fully.  It was as though we’d all won a prize of some sort. Waiting is a truly disciplined endeavor.  A deliberate state of inaction.  A posture of non-doing while we watch diligently for something to happen that’s beyond our control.  Waiting will not split time with another activity.  It refuses to be multitasked. Jesus asks of Simon, “Are you asleep?”  The disappointment in His voice palpable; His tone both familiar and unmistakable.  “Could you not keep watch even for an hour?”  The answer returned in the disoriented yawn of one awakened from deep sleep.  It’s hard

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A Small Magnificat

A Small Magnificat

Forgive me a deeply personal reflection. Our three-year-old Sage said it best. It’s like he’s been here before. My wife – Melissa, having weathered childbirth like Super Woman – asked him, “August, what do you think of all this?” His stoic response, “I don’t know, Mommy. It’s actually pretty weird.” The more I think about it, the more I realize I have a conflicted relationship with the Book of Job. Sure, it’s a beautiful treatment of the mystery of suffering; an undeniable defense of God’s unknowable depth, but the ending. The ending, in the words of my son, is a little weird. In chapter 1, Job loses absolutely everything. His money. His property. His children. Forty-two chapters later, the Bible says, God blessed the latter days of Job’s life more than the former. v.13, “And he also had seven sons and three daughters.” A case study in restoration. Our spirituality is bathed in restoration. So deeply it permeates that anything other than the hope of it deafens us to the reality that God is Both. And. All in All. And so, thrown into a sea of a thousand conflicting emotions, what floats to the surface as I hold my newborn daughter is the echo of another from the great Cloud of Witnesses. The prophet Jeremiah who sings not of restoration, but of reclaiming. Of rebuilding. “Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, for so great is His unfailing love,” he says, surveying the desolation of Jerusalem. So few are

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Coersion

Coersion

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” ~ John 6:66-68 There’s a quiet gentility to fishing. A loneliness. It’s hard to fish in a crowd. As I sit the morning by the water, three fishing lines fly delicately over the lake, each hitting their mark without much notice and back again ever so quietly, ever so gently. A wonder, these fishermen who fail and fail over again without a hint of frustration and without going away. It takes patience to fish. I wonder how Jesus felt as He watched the crowds dissipate the second He was really vulnerable with them. Was it the eventuality of it or some longing disappointment that drew Him to ask the disciples, “The crowds have all gone. I suppose you’re leaving me too, then?” What do we do when the crowds go? When it becomes clear that following Jesus is a lonely business. An isolated walk. Can we stand to acknowledge our loneliness, or is it possible that our fear of solitude moves us, not to follow the crowd as it goes away, but to coerce it, if not oppress it, into staying. And not entirely for their sake, but for ours. After all, it’s easier to walk in company with Jesus than it is to walk

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This Faith is Mine

This Faith is Mine

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:17 This faith is mine. My own and no one else’s. It looks different than maybe yours does. Feels different. What speaks to me leaves you confused. What strengthens you leaves me empty. This faith is mine. My own and no one else’s. About a week ago, as my three-year-old son and I were re-arranging the track on his train table, I caught myself overstepping. As a master architect of track, bridge and depot, surely I could transform this hodgepodge of pieces into something spectacular; something more spectacular than it would be otherwise. But then it would be my masterpiece. My brainchild.  It would reflect the sum of my experiences and not his. And where’s the fun in that? No. Somewhere in the depths of my spirit, I know this to be true. That “better” is a matter of preference; not of objectivity.  So we built what I would not.  Set bridges where I would not. Ramps where settles his spirit. We built what at some point ceased to be ours and becomes only his. His design. His vision. The object of his construction that at last achieved perfection and understanding if only in the eyes of its author.  Brought out by guided expression of his own creativity. Why do we teach the faith if not for this? That the faith may become your own. That at some point,

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Disruptions

Disruptions

“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  – Isaiah 40:7-8 Disruptions. The water moves and the reflection is distorted. Moment by moment it moves, interrupted by the current the origin of which is entirely entirely irrelevant. The mirror marked with impermanence. Some ripples are hopeful, the elation of newness and possibility. Some are momentary disruptions, some the illusion of new permanence. None good, none bad, they simply are and become themselves in the pool as it moves up and down. Up and down. Up and down, clouding the reflection. The one constant above the reflection, high above. Where no newness affects and no mirror distorts. It stands unchanging, though the view from the water hides it’s true character. Following the ripples, the eye can never see the tress reflected, but retreat to the permanent and the ripples pass almost undetected. They become small, insignificant, passing. We behold them for what they are. Impermanent disruptions that pass and settle as the stream. God Himself, transcendent and permanent, towering in the reflection of baptismal water. Let pass the ripples and disruptions. Let settle the hopes and illusions. The trees aren’t going anywhere. ________________________________ About the Author Josh Hatcher is the Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, an open and caring, distinctly Lutheran, deeply sacramental and sometimes eclectic ministry in the heart of Downtown Memphis. Like

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Beneath Muddy Waters

Beneath Muddy Waters

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20 You have to look really close. But if you do, you’ll see swarms of little fish below the murky surface of the water. Life. But you have to look really close. There’s a life that swarms beneath the surface of our perceived selves. The ones we think we know so well. To reach into the depths of the self, and to know our sacred center is to reach below the mud that the rest of the world sees so clearly. That often enough we ourselves are not able to see past. Mistakes. Sorrows. Struggles. Trauma. Sins and unkept promises. The murky surface.  Look closer. Recalibrate. Look with new eyes at the sacred Life beneath. Life created and recreated by the Author of all Life. Once you see it, you won’t be able to see anything else. You’ll know it’s there. The Spirit of God that tabernacles within you, calling you to Life; always to Life. Calling you to recognize itself within the other as well. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to Spirit, Jesus says (John 3:6). Recognizing the Spirit of the Living Jesus in the other, you won’t be able to see anything else in her either. Look closely. Closer still. Hidden beneath

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Lent and the Return to the Sacred Self

Lent and the Return to the Sacred Self

Here it is. Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. He had lost nearly everything he had by the time he painted it. Nearly broke, he would die two years after its completion. I think about Rembrandt’s magnum opus near the beginning of every Lenten season. Its themes leap off the canvas: Repentance, Sonship, Love, Forgiveness, the list goes on. But the one that stands out most to me, as we begin this Lenten journey to the Cross and the Empty Tomb, is Identity. Sacred Identity. Have you ever wondered why the ashes imbedded on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday – you know, the ones that accompany that jarring promise, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return – have you ever wondered why such a morbid sentiment forms itself in the shape of a Cross? I’m sure there’s some deep theological and historical precedent for this, but for me it calls to mind the chasm that stands between the “me” that will inevitably return to dust when I die or when Christ comes again – the shells of our temporary identities that won’t seem to matter much in the Kingdom – and the me that has Risen with Christ, our sacred selves that at last will reflect the glory of God. There are two men kneeling at the feet of the Father in Rembrandt’s painting. On the surface, they appear one in the same, and in

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The Rust of Memory #TBT

The Rust of Memory #TBT

Look at this kid. It’s 1982, and things couldn’t be better. At least for me. My mom had those rockin’ glasses and I had my bear. To me, 1982 was as good as it gets. I’m the oldest of four brothers, which means that, at least for another little while, I had my parents all to myself. Sesame Street hadn’t sold out quite yet, and I had plenty of G.I. Joe’s to keep me entertained. Things couldn’t have been better. At least, that’s the way I remember it. In Physics, the Hawthorne Effect refers to the changes that occur in any situation once an observer is introduced into the equation. For instance, when you use a pressure gauge to measure the air in your car tires, measuring that pressure actually releases a small amount of air and lowers the pressure. It’s also why there’s really no such thing as a true “Reality” TV show. People tend to naturally improve or modify their behavior when they know they’re being observed by someone else. Nostalgia tends to work that way as well. The reason that the early 1980’s were so great isn’t because it was an objectively more peaceful, settled time. In fact, to hear my parents talk about it, it wasn’t anywhere close to that. 1982 was the year my Dad lost his job at International Harvester after the fourth largest worker strike in US history. There was a nationwide Recession, and money was tight – real tight – around the

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Is This True?

This is an image making the rounds on social media. It has gained a wide acceptance as an utterance of profound truth. It is a reminder of the words of Christ, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” St. James writes, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” In fact, the Bible is filled with admonitions to be kind, loving, and supportive of one another. At the same time, we read in Proverbs: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” We don’t usually think in terms of God hating, after all, God is Love. However the Bible never hides the fact that God abhors sin and evil of every form. But who of us is without sin? It is our sin

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How to Worship When You’re Just Not Feeling It

How to Worship When You're Just Not Feeling It

This post is actually a few weeks behind, but I thought I’d share some left-over thoughts about worship and the Apostle Peter and our own tendencies to sleep in anyway. So for this edition of “The Cutting Room Floor, rewind to Sunday, August 10th, and Matthew 14:22-33. A few weeks ago, one of our folks gave me a t-shirt that I’m looking forward to wearing to our church picnic on September 7th. It’s a long list of things commonly considered wrong with parish churches – filled with hypocrites, boring worship, cliques, closed-minded, that sort of thing – followed by a pledge to get out of bed and actually go on Sundays, because, as I have to remind myself on some Sundays, “I am their pastor. I am their pastor. I am their pastor…” I love that joke! I’m reminded of this every time I hear a baby screaming in the pews during one of our worship services (No joke. A sure-fire sign of a church alive and growing). That baby’s not crazy! Would you want to sit still for an hour on a Sunday morning if you had that much energy? And so my hat’s off to all of you parents who teach your kids how to worship the Lord and try to keep them from jumping clear across the sanctuary while trying to get something (anything!) out of worship. Maybe they don’t want to be there, but the Spirit is still working on them and we’re glad to have

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How Jesus Totally Ruined My Golf Game

How Jesus Totally Ruined My Golf Game

Last Wednesday, I shot the round of my life at Overton Park Golf Course.  I’ve played that course since I was a little kid, and despite the now nearly unplayable greens and spotty hazards the likes of untended grass and loose car batteries, it’s still my favorite place to play.  So last Wednesday, after nearly 30 years of spoiled walks through the woods, I finally shot a perfect round of golf. As I’ve done nearly every second or third Wednesday all summer, I walked into the Clubhouse around 7:00 and paid for the Round.  My golfing buddy and I were about to step out onto the first tee when an unnecessarily angry little fellow with a clipboard and a leaf blower announced in what seemed like a highly rehearsed tone of voice that there was a tournament on that particular morning – one, incidentally, that I shot a 35 in years ago in Elementary School; a proud moment to say the least – and that we’d have to come back another day.  And there it is.  Call Guiness.  I shot a Zero. Golf is a weird little game.  You can’t really win so much as you can play better than you did the time before or shoot lower than the other people you’re playing with.  Because the game is so ridiculous, each course has what it would consider a “Par” that people tend to shoot for.  At best, it’s what a good golfer “should” score, at worst – and as is the

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Cutting Room Floor: The Never Ending Search for God, Part 2

Cutting Room Floor: The Never Ending Search for God, Part 2

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares Matthew 13:24-30, 26-33 July 20, 2014 (Listen to the Sermon) Read Part 1 of “The Never Ending Search for God, Part 1” It’s an issue the faithful have argued hotly since the Reformation, each side (as if, in 2014, we’re somehow still on opposing ones) loading their debate revolvers wth several very pointed chapters and verses on the topic of Election, Predestination, whatever you want to call it.  In Matthew 13, It seems to me that Jesus offers us another way to look at this little piece of the theological puzzle. These three things, I know for sure: 1. We’re Saved Because Jesus Found Us, Not the Other Way Round. I probably have as much chance of finding Jesus, and discovering in Him the key to eternal life as my keys have of finding me (Seriously, if anybody knows where they are, please shoot me a text). The overwhelming scope of Scripture makes it pretty clear that we, who belong to Christ, should spend less time patting ourselves on the back for our enlightened reason, and more time praising God for rescuing us from ourselves. This comes in particularly gnarly during those crises in the night where I wonder if my belief is strong enough or my life is holy enough to keep me in the faith; which incidentally they probably both aren’t.  It’s the sign on the back of the front door that says, “By the way, you’re here because I

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