August 2004

Low batteries

I empathize with the pastor whose letter appeared in the June “Pressure Points” column.   If I may offer some advice in addition to that offered by Dr. Bruce Hartung, it would be as follows:

First, be assured that you are not alone.  There are many, many pastors whose batteries are running low.  Though we are very talented at producing and putting on a good front for the sake of others and the ministry, in truth we far too frequently fail to feed our own faith.

Second, while there may be physical causes contributing to your “ministry fatigue,” I believe the cause is primarily a spiritual issue.  One of the best things that can be done is to deliberately set aside (and jealously guard) significant portions of time for yourself each week to be used for prayer, meditation upon God’s Word and reading.

Finally, consider a sabbatical leave.  My congregation graciously granted my request for a sabbatical, and it made a huge difference in my ministry.  Speak to a trusted member of the congregation and then to your elders about this possibility.  Even Jesus took time away to pray.  I would be happy to speak with you, or any other pastor, about my sabbatical experience.

Rev. Ralph Patrick
Las Cruces, N.M.

Fast food at the altar?

The Commission on Worship insert with the May Reporter included an article on communion every Sunday.  I recognize that many theologians today believe that this is the ideal and the tradition of the apostolic church.  However, this cannot be demonstrated as an indisputable historic fact.  It raises several concerns.  Dr. Peter Toon discussed some of these in an article in Mandate, the journal of the Prayer Book Society.

In “Reducing Holy Food to Fast Food,” he says that “the way in which virtually all members of the congregation troop forward to receive the ‘food’ or the ‘gifts’ of the Eucharist, without due preparation before the Lord, is painful to behold.”

He suggests that receiving the sacrament by the people has become a matter of rote as the proper thing to do.  “Thus, to be present and not to receive is to become the target for being questioned as to why not!”  Just recently, I was told by a member of our Synod that this is precisely the question he was asked after attending a worship service in one of our congregations.

Toon also states that the emphasis on “celebration” results in ritual that loses its meaning.  Thus, ” in the ‘passing of the peace’ they [those in attendance] take part in a congregational act of self-affirmation.”  In the post-apostolic church, the exchanging of the kiss of peace that preceded the offertory was a time for personal reconciliation before receiving the body and blood of the Lord.  More than one of the church fathers cites Matt. 5:23, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, first be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.”

The emphasis on more frequent communion over the past 50 years is a salutary emphasis.  However, the emphasis on preparation to receive the blessed body and blood of the Lord, to which our catechism directs our attention in “Christian questions and their answers,” prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the sacrament, is almost completely ignored.

Thus, the question for us also: Has that which is Holy Food also been reduced to fast food for us in our churches?

Dr. George F. Wollenburg
Billings, Mont.

Dr. Wollenburg is president of the Montana District. — Ed.

President Bush at Mequon

I was appalled to learn that President Bush was invited to speak to a Concordia University graduation (Reporter, June ’04).

Most galling were his remarks that what America needs most from the new graduates is their “efforts and energy in the fight against poverty and despair!”  Since when has this been a religious value in his administration?  Regardless of what he said at the commencement, most of the president’s actions during his first three years in office have been to serve the wealthy, not the poor, and to continue to reduce supports and services for those in need whenever possible.

It took a lot of nerve for the president to stand in front of those kids and ask them to do what his administration rarely practices.  Worst of all, the church officials who invited him seem so proud of it.  What a shame!

Bernie Schaeffer
Goleta, Calif.

“Letters” may be sent via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295.  Please include your name, postal address and telephone number.  Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Posted July 30, 2004

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