Tag Archives: Lutheran

Seeing the Word

Among the many presenters at the Festival of Homiletics this week, Barbara Lundblad is one that I wanted to hear.  She is one of the first women preacher to develop a national reputation as communicator of the gospel.  She is also a Lutheran and has ruffled many feathers with some of her controversial statements. 

She gave a workshop Tuesday called “Seeing the Word.”  Barbara is a professor of Old Testament and she focused on the Advent scripture texts from Isaiah.  She encouraged us to see the significance of using visual metaphors to help the congregation not only hear the word, but see the word as well.  She asked us to engage the artists and designers in our congregations to create visual symbols that help the congregation fully enter the story of the texts.  

Barbara then told a humorous story about a young intern pastor spending nearly the entire annual budget for worship in her congregation on a long bolt of clothe.  He then ruined the church kitchen sink dyeing the fabric blue.  For Sunday worship, he rolled the blue cloth from the altar down the center aisle, through the narthex and out the church door and into their neighborhood.  He preached on Ezekiel 47 where the prophet describes a river of water flowing from the temple in Jerusalem into the Dead Sea.  The river was a symbol of life for Ezekiel and for us.  The intern’s  blue cloth symbolized the congregation becoming a God’s river of life in their community.  

forgiveness logI was reminded of last fall when our stewardship team encourage me to use some visual symbols as part of our “Fuel the Flame” stewardship theme.   Members of the congregation created logs that captured some of the words of faith and we used them in worship.   Later the logs became part of a congregational bonfire.  The logs became symbols of how our faith can catch fire with God’s love and in turn we can share the fire with others.

I am thankful for all that I can learn from some of the outstanding preachers in our country.

Lord Jesus, you are the Word made flesh for us.  Open our eyes to see your Word for us.

Is Baptism Required?

Yesterday, after preaching on Jesus’ baptism, a confirmation student asked, “Do you need to be baptized to go to heaven?”   My quick response is that baptism is a gift from God for us.  God’s grace is not limited or restricted to baptism. It is not required. Rather baptism is a way for God to show us his love for us so why not be baptized?  

In college I was active in a multi-denominational Christian fellowship with Roman Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians and others.  We all shared a love of Jesus and God’s Word.  We studied, prayed and shared life together without rancour until my senior year when a new student arrived with a different message.   She believed that the only true Christians were those who followed a set pattern of conversion and baptism.   A person needed to confess Jesus as Lord, be taught certain doctrines and then baptised in a special way to be a true Christian.   Her teaching pulled people out of our collaborative fellowship group and caused painful conflict within our Christian community.   I believe she took what was the gift of baptism and turned it into legalistic ritual.  She took the gospel and turned it into law. 

Still, even as a gift, baptism has a harsh quality to it.  The reluctance of cats to be baptized is a metaphor for our reluctance to die to our old self and live for Christ (Romans 6:6).   My old self does not want to die, but rather control life, religion, family, even God.  Yet that rebellious part of me, the old Adam, needs to die and be reborn: today, tomorrow and into eternity.  As Martin Luther says in the catechism,  our baptism is a daily reminder to repent of our sins and rise up to live before God.   I rejoice in that promise of God’s grace at work in us.

Does your baptism still hold meaning for you today?