Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis

Pastor’s Posts

Adapting to Change

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. ~ Isaiah 42:16 Change forces us out of our comfort zone and into the discomfort of the unfamiliar. And while it can turn your world upside down, it makes you face your greatest fears and deal with the things that steal your joy, peace, and confidence. Change can be your friend or foe, depending on how you use it. Running away turns it into an enemy; embracing and learning from it makes it one of your greatest allies. C. Neil Strait said: ‘Change is always hardest for the man who’s in a rut for he has scaled down his living to that which he can handle comfortably, and welcomes no change or challenge that would lift him up.’ When you are facing the unknown, instead of automatically going into resistance mode, ‘…Fix your eyes on what lies before you…stay on the safe path’ (Proverbs 4:25-26). Ask yourself: What is God trying to teach me? How can I become stronger and wiser? What opportunities does it hold? John Mason says: ‘Correction and change always result in fruit…One change makes way for the next, giving you the opportunity to grow. Every time you think you’re ready to graduate from the school of experience, somebody thinks up a

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BHM Spotlight: Cross of Calvary Lutheran School

BHM Spotlight: Cross of Calvary Lutheran School

“The difficulty in all this is that the pull of the old will want to intrude on the new,” Rev. David Callies, district president, warned black and white congregations who left familiar arms of tradition Sunday to embrace each other. “There will be attempts to get us back to the old ways of prejudice, selfishness, indifference,” Callies told the members of two local Lutheran churches as they united to form one church. Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Whitehaven and Calvary Lutheran Church in South Memphis. A predominately Caucasian congregation and an African-American congregation became one under the eyes of an overflowing crowd of about 300 that filled the aisles of the new “Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church.” Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church became the first intentionally biracial church in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. This newly formed faith-based union adopted and renamed its child “Cross of Calvary Lutheran School and Daycare. The program included three year old kindergarten through 8th grade. Later it expanded to include infants. A quality Christian education was the tunnel vision of the school. Mrs. Donna Gable was the first principal of the school. On Sunday, July 3, 1994, Mr. Aaron Dickerson of Dallas, TX was installed as the “School Administrator” During his tenure as principal, teacher, coach, and athletic director, Cross of Calvary became well known throughout the City of Memphis and the Parochial School Community. Mr. “D” touched the minds, hearts and souls of 125 students and their parents. The children of the school

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BHM Spotlight – Immanuel Lutheran College

BHM Spotlight - Immanuel Lutheran College

In celebration of Black History Month, TableTalk will feature a series of guest posts about the Lutheran Church’s historic and continued dedication to diversity and the Civil Rights movement. Immanuel Lutheran College Greensboro, North Carolina 1903-1961 For a majority of the twentieth century Immanuel Lutheran College was the training ground for Black Lutheran teachers and pastors. Immanuel, started by Rev. Niels J. Bakke, opened its doors in the city of Concord, NC March 2, 1903 with five young men. It was located on the second story of a school house. This second story served as both classroom and dormitory. After the North Carolina Synod pledged funding for a school to educate and train Black ministers and teachers, the school was moved to Greensboro in 1905. The school grew and in 1907 left the temporary facilities and moved into its own permanent building on a thirteen-acre campus. That same year Immanuel celebrated its first graduates. Immanuel began to regularly graduate Black teachers and ministers and, by 1927 sixteen members of the Church’s mission board were Immanuel College alumni. The school boasted a seminary, college, and high school. This school that trained Black pastors and teachers was of great benefit to the Lutheran Church. In North Carolina alone, the new leadership led to new congregations and the revival of old ones. In 1927, there were 1300 Black Lutherans in the state of North Carolina, the most ever up until that time. In the course of time, the school would be considered progressive

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On the Hosanna’s of a Diverse Heaven

On the Hosanna's of a Diverse Heaven

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” ~ Revelation 7:9 A little boy once fell into a hole from which he was unable to climb out. A farmer heard his cries for help and brought a rope, hoping it would be long enough to rescue the boy. It was not. The farmer called a friend over to help. He also brought a piece of rope, but it too failed to reach the bottom of the hole. The two men were at a loss, wondering aloud what they should do, when the voice of reason called from the depths of the pit, “My friends… May I make a suggestion?” It was All Saints’ Sunday in 1956 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King stood in the pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and left a cumbersome truth to linger in the minds of generations to come. “You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and “Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind,” you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America.” Behold the elephant. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, only 14% of American Churches are considered diverse, up

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The Midnight Protest: A Reflection on the Incarnation

The Midnight Protest: A Reflection on the Incarnation

“The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer Where do you come from? In John chapter 19, Jesus is standing trial before Pontius Pilate. The people He came to save were gathered in the Praetorium courtyard demanding His crucifixion. Pilate, who was growing more fearful by the minute, comes to Jesus and he asks Him, “Where are you from?” That’s the question of Christmas, isn’t it? And while Matthew and Luke both give us some great insights into the human origin of the incarnation of Christ – that beautiful story of Mary and Joseph; the baby Jesus lying in a manger – I’m just not sure that’s what Pilate was getting at. St. John’s is more what we might call a “Cosmic Infancy Narrative.” His Gospel gives us a Heaven’s eye view of the Incarnation. For John, the answer to the question of the origin of Jesus goes back a little further than just His birth in Bethlehem. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world…

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On the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

On the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna… …to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” ~ Deuteronomy 8:3 I’ve spent the last few weeks meditating heavily on the Forty Day Temptation of Christ in the Desert, particularly in the account of Matthew chapter 4. I’m struck by the incredible strength of Jesus; how filled He is – though hungry (1) – with the Word of God, and the deep spiritual benefit of the discipline of Fasting. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “When the flesh is satisfied, it is hard to pray with cheerfulness or to devote ones self to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation” (2). This Scriptural call to modern asceticism (in moderation, of course), disciplines us in a ton of different ways. Here are just a few: 1. Fasting Trains the Body to Not Get What It Wants It is a rejection of the hedonistic indulgence of the world which teaches us that if we want something, we should have it immediately whether it’s good for our soul or not. In its place it leaves for us a true freedom from the enemy that rivals that great adversary, the Devil; our own selves (3). Fasting teaches us that we don’t have to get what we want (4). 2. Fasting Instills Humility & Selflessness It is the full-on abandonment of self-reliance. By withholding from ourselves that

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Front Porch Theology : Why I Am a Lutheran

Front Porch Theology : Why I Am a Lutheran

“Go, and be not silent. You are not the only one to be saved.” ~ Martin Luther Last night I spent the better part of an hour in the photo department at Walgreens talking with my new friend, Kevin, as he peeled the edges off of our family Christmas Cards. It’s a much more complicated process than I once thought, the printing of Christmas Cards, which left us plenty of time to talk over one of exactly four topics I can actually hold a decent conversation about. Theology. It’s a question that comes up often here in this Southern Buckle of the Bible Belt. “What exactly is a Lutheran?” And while it’s usually a soft invitation to an intense theological and idealogical debate, I got the sense that for Kevin, his was a genuine question about God. I’m certain we all run across these open doors as the Holy Spirit puts people in our path to whom we might give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). My answer (which I was later, by the miracle of a backspace key and with the benefit of another hour of reflection and prayer, able to clean up a bit) focused on six points I’ve come to treasure as devout Lutheran. For the occasion of the open doors in your journey, here they are… 1. We Are All Sinners It’s our nature. In other words, we aren’t sinner because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners. None of

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Songs of Thankfulness & Praise

Songs of Thankfulness & Praise

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Allow me a moment of vulnerability. I find it very hard to be thankful this year. There, I said it. What do you expect? I’m a sinner who hides behind the same Christ I proclaim. I am, as I’m sure many of you are, lured constantly by the devil to equate thankfulness with blessing, blessing with happiness, happiness with the virtue of joy, and so on and so on. In other words, the trap is set for us to be thankful only for those things which make us happy. This, I’m sorry to say, represents yet another major departure that further separates the Christian from her culture; a departure that convicts me mightily of my own worldliness every November. Here’s the thing: Christians aren’t called to a spirit of happiness. We’re called to a spirit of joy. Happiness is the byproduct of circumstance. Many people spend their whole lives chasing happiness by altering circumstance, hoping one day to hit upon that one magical combination of events and environment that will finally allow them to be truly happy. At least for a few minutes. As many have discovered – and as Solomon laments in Ecclesiastes chapter 2 – happiness as so-defined is at best a moving goalpost, and at worst a fool’s dream. Joy, on the other hand, is the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit despite our circumstances. This is

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Vested: Why I Won’t Preach Without a Robe

Vested: Why I Won't Preach Without a Robe

Behind the alb, the stole, and the crucifix hide men who desperately long for Christ. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Pastors feel inadequate. At least the ones I’ve come to look up to feel inadequate. I don’t mind telling you in this season of vulnerability that your pastor certainly feels inadequate. We are convicted by the very Law we preach, and comforted by the same Savior we all receive through Word and Sacrament. We’re sinners who long for Jesus. In his sermon on John 4:9-10, Martin Luther preached these words: “I hear the sermon, but who is speaking? The preacher? No indeed! You do not hear the minister. True, the voice is his; but my God is speaking the Word which he preaches or speaks.” To those unfamiliar with the practice of wearing vestments, the white robe and proper stole may look like they’re meant to set the preacher apart; to elevate him somehow and make him look ornate. Frankly, their purpose is quite the opposite. Behind the alb, the stole, and the crucifix hides a man who desperately longs for Christ; who feels and is inadequate. Don’t look at him. Don’t look at me. Look to the Savior whose name I’m preaching, because that’s exactly who I’m looking to. That’s who I’m hiding behind. And that’s why I won’t preach without a robe. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have

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The @Church #Authentic

The @Church #Authentic

Sometime fairly early in His ministry, Jesus comes across a Samaritan woman sitting at a well in a town called Sychar. I was going to retell it myself, maybe spice it up a bit, but John’s version is funny enough on its own. Here it is… ‘He said to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. ‘What you have just said is quite true.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet.’”… … “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward Him.” ( John 4:16-18; 28-30) This kind of thing doesn’t really happen anymore. Gone are the days when we could hide our true selves away in a box somewhere to be opened only in the safe company of our family and closest friends; preferring most of the time to mask our nature behind a sterilized caricature of the way we wish we were. When I was in college, I worked at an Executive Recruiting firm; I was a headhunter, helped people move from one job to another. This was back

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All In, Part 1

All In, Part 1

It’s time to go all in. When we first sat down as what would become Trinity’s Vision Team, we were on a back porch in early July of 2011, talking about real parish growth, congregational dynamics and discipleship; and this was just a blip on our radar screen. Through prayer and thoughtful consideration, we felt the Lord was leading us to consider – when our weekly worship attendance outgrew the capacity of our worship space – to explore adding a second Sunday worship service. Considering prayerfully our Call to reach the Lost, to disciple the Found, our God-given strengths and our ingrained shortcomings, at the time, we thought this process would most likely take between five and seven years. We were wrong. It’s time to go all in. God has blessed our congregation with tremendous growth – both spiritually and numerically. Since that Saturday afternoon in July of 2011, God has brought us 62 new members, our average worship attendance has increased 29%, and most importantly, our collective spirit of discipleship has grown tremendously. I firmly believe that God is calling us together to respond to His grace by expanding both our mindset and our capacity to be the Church here in downtown Memphis. He’s calling all of us – collectively – to go all in. Here’s what I mean… Some statistics and patterns: Our sanctuary is built to hold right around 119 souls comfortably. Our parking lot, according to the same statistical model, reaches capacity at 112 souls. In

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Four Cathedrals

Our lectionary at times is a cruel and unmerciful sniper. It rests the Scriptures into a well-calibrated weapon of war and fires them directly at the heart. That is, after all, what we need isn’t it – the hope of Christ to hit us where it matters; where the Word of God actually affects the way we process our earthly journey. For the last two weeks, the 3rd and 4th Sundays after Pentecost, our Scripture readings have centered around three forgiven sinners, each of which have suffered the death of their sons – the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-24), the widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), and finally, as a consequence of his own sinfulness, King David (2 Samuel 12:13-22). For two of them, God met their sorrow with immediate hope – He raised their sons on the spot. For one of them, the hope of resurrection would have to stay just that – yet unrealized hope. As these Scriptures convict my heart, even as hearing them read aloud made me weep in my pew, I feel led to share with you some reflections on how God’s work in the lives of these three forgiven sinners affects the way I process my own earthly journey; how His work might affect the way you process yours as well. I know God seems completely random sometimes. Sometimes He meets our sorrow with immediate hope – answered prayers, inexplicable miracles, things like that. Other times, and these are the seasons when our faith

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