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Keynote Address


"I Have a Dream"

Thank you, Ben, for that introduction. I'm trying to remember how Art Holtz, the NFL line judge said it, it feels real good to have all those nice things said. It's sort of like a baby wetting its diaper. It doesn't show on the outside, but it sure gives you a warm feeling on the inside. I appreciate that.

Before we get into too much more hilarity, our fearless leader, Wayne, had a good suggestion. Don't get up -- it's crowded enough. But brothers and sisters, would you pray with me that prayer to the Holy Spirit: "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Oh, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Indianapolis. What a beautiful place to be, isn't it? I didn't notice until today, after I came back, following a short night after a short nap it got warm. I'm one these Vikings who whistles down the street at 40 below and at 80 above I begin to complain. It sort of is like coming home for me to be back in Indiana. As a young lad, my father, a parish pastor, served north of here, just south of South Bend near Plymouth at a little town called Donaldson. I think it was Immanuel Lutheran Church. I've been through on Highway 30 a number of times and checked out that old sight where I was some 48-49 years ago. It was between age 6 and age 13.

One year ago, you honored me by asking me to share a keynote address and if you haven't worked with Wayne, you've missed a real privilege, because Wayne is very concerned that things be done right and that preparation be done accordingly. Wayne made it very clear to me that the keynote address is supposed to be inspirational. So number one, I want you to know that this is not designed to be a sermon, although sermons can be inspirational, (Or a Bible study), but a "keynote address". If you think of political conventions and other things and other events like that, it's supposed to fire up the troops. Normally, that kind of firing up comes on the opening evening. Now how do you fire up the troops at a convention like this? After hearing the presentation of the bishops, and of many other things, including the workshop we had this morning, it's kind of tough to be the keynoter after all of the good stuff that's happened.

I was excited, however, and honored to be asked to do this again after sharing with you last year and I want to assure you that my shirt isn't ragged this year. That kind of set up a tough goal for me -- a tough standard to reach, because I tried to come up with something, Ben, that would catch them like that ragged shirt. I almost had something, but I chickened out.

I asked the first Cursillista who came out of Augustana church in Minneapolis. I said, "What do you do after the ragged shirt?" He gave me a suggestion but I didn't quite have enough moxie to do it.

He said, "You ought to come down there with a nice lace hanky in your lapel. And then, as you're going through you talk, and it gets kind of warm, you pull it out and wipe your brow and it turns out to be a pair of your wife's lace panties. Just couldn't quite get myself up to it.

So, tonight, I'm afraid you're going to get straight talk about Via de Cristo/Cursillo and why I'm excited to be a part of this marvelous movement. I've seen Via de Cristo changing the face of the church, just in the short time that I've been a part of it -- since 1984. I've seen it in two congregations now -- changing the feeling within the congregation and here I am in a church in Minneapolis that's about 400 adult members and we just discovered as it was announced the other day, we have 73 people -- about 15 of them inner city moms with no husband and four or five children -- who have been part of the Cursillo. It's done a marvelous job of building their self-image and making them realize that God loves them just as they are. It's changed the face of the church, but it's changing the heart and soul of the church by changing the hearts and souls of our people.

But, for tonight, I want to share with you a "dream". Not a take-off on Martin Luther King, Jr., although I love that speech. But I want to share with you a dream that I read about some years ago in a rather loose poem by John Stodt. John Stodt is pastor of All Souls Church in London, England. And I want to share with you a dream that comes out of the poem that he wrote.

But first I want to say nostalgia runs high among people I find. They love that old hymn: "Give me that old time religion. It was good enough for mother, it was good enough for father and it's good enough for me." I notice the people that sing that song don't drive up to church in a Model T. I notice that they don't go to an outhouse behind the building. I notice that they don't live in a sod hut. But there's something about that old time religion that appeals to us.

And I would say, "Yes, God does not change, but you and I have -- and do, and we can't forget that." I had a seminary professor who talked about that "Give me the old time religion," and he said, "That's marvelous, but most people who say that don't want to go back far enough. They don't want to go back to Amos and Hosea and Isaiah. They want to stop back in 1930 or 1920." And that kind of nostalgia causes me to think, "what the church might become if instead of looking back, we look ahead." And if we think about the way that this beautiful movement can affect the life of your congregation and of mine. With the help of renewal and support movements like Via de Cristo, and thinking of what they can do, I ask you to dream along with me.

Let me share with you that poem by John Stodt:

I have a dream of a church which is a Biblical church:

Loyal to the revelation of God in Scripture.

Whose pastors expound Scripture with integrity and relevance, and so seek to present every member, mature in Christ.

Whose people love the word of God and adore it with an obedient and Christ-like life which has preserved from all un- Biblical emphases.

Whose whole life manifests the health and beauty of Biblical balance.


I have a dream of a Biblical church.

I have a dream of a church which is a worshipping church:

Whose people come together to meet God, to worship Him, who know God is always in their midst and bow down before Him in great humility.

Who regularly frequent the table of the Lord Jesus to celebrate His might act of redemption on the cross.

Who participate in the worship with their musical skills.

Who believe in prayer and lay hold of God in prayer.

Whose worship is expressed not only in Sunday services and prayer gatherings, but also in their homes, their weekday work and the common things of life.

Yes, I have a dream of a worshipping church.


I have a dream of a church which is a caring church:

Whose congregation is drawn from many races, nations, ages and social backgrounds and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God.

Whose fellowship is warm and welcoming -- never marred by anger, selfishness, jealousy or pride.

Whose members love one another with a pure heart fervently -- forbearing one another, forgiving one another, and bearing one another's burdens.

Which offers friendship to the lonely, support to the weak and acceptance to those who are despised and rejected by society.

Whose love spills over to the world outside -- attractive, infectious, irresistible -- the love of God Himself.

I have a dream of a caring church.

I have a dream of a church which is a serving church:

Which has seen Christ as servant and has heard His call to be servant, too.

Which is delivered from self-interest, turned inside out, and giving itself unselfishly to the service of others.

Whose members obey Christ's command to live in the world, to permeate secular society, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Whose people share the good news of Jesus simply, naturally and enthusiastically with their friends.

Which diligently serves its own parish -- residents and workers, families and single people, nationals and immigrants, old folk and little children -- a church which is alert to the changing needs of society, sensitive, flexible enough to keep adapting its programs to serve more usefully.

Which has a global vision as in constantly challenging its young people to give of their lives in service and constantly sending its people out to serve.

I have a dream of a serving church.

I have a dream of a church which is an expectant church:

Whose members can never settle down in material affluence and comfort because they remember that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth, which is all the more faithful and active because it is waiting and looking for its Lord to return.

Which keeps the flame of Christian hope burning brightly in a dark and despairing world.

Which on the day of Christ will not shrink from Him in shame but rise up joyfully to greet Him.

I have a dream of an expectant church.

There you have John Stodt's poem as a stepping off place for some thoughts I want to share with you tonight. As a Biblical church, a worshipping church, a caring church, a serving (and I would add witnessing) church, and an expectant church. Such is my dream, and Via de Cristo and Cursillo are a very significant part of that dream as I share it with you tonight.

I have a dream of the Biblical church. The scriptures are God's autobiography -- the love story of God with His people, and as such they've become a touchstone for all that we are, and all that we believe. I don't have the dream of a "Bibliolatrous" church that worships a book, and I want to make that clear.

When I was a young man in seminary, just a few years ago, there was a pastor who went out two years ahead of me, to a small parish not far from here in Illinois. When he got out there, he taught his confirmation class, and he wanted them to understand that we don't worship the book -- we Lutherans are accused of that. Somebody else has a pope in Rome and we have a paper pope -- you've heard it. And so, he took his Bible and he put it on the floor and he jumped on it to prove to them that they didn't worship the book.

I knew about that because a friend of mine and myself ended up over there as students pulpit-supplying after they sent him down the road. I wouldn't even jump on a book of Shakespeare, let alone our local telephone book. I don't think that shows much respect for a book, but his point was appropriate. But sometimes I find parishioners worshipping that book. The church sees that Bible that we hold as the cradle in which Christ was laid. I have a one-year-old grandson he doesn't use a cradle any more -- he's almost outgrown that Swedish crib we have that's not full-size, but when he's around, we don't worship the bed. We look for the child when I come around in the morning and he's standing there waiting for Grandpa to peek around the corner.

I remember so well way back in seminary when Dr. Carl Matson at a time when synod conventions had the right to put all of the seminary ordinands in front of them and ask them questions on their theology -- any mechanic or newspaper editor or farmer could stand up in the audience and ask a question. Somebody asked the question, "What is the word of God?" For some reason, Carl Matson answered the question. He said, "In my hand I hold the word of God," and everybody cheered. Then he said, "When I stand up in that pulpit and preach, I preach the word of God." He was making an important point. The word of God isn't bound to a volume. That word comes to us -- a living word in the presence of the living Lord, Jesus Christ.

That book is a deep mine of grace waiting to be worked and our Lord Jesus Christ waiting there to be discovered and shared with the world. I have a dream of a Biblical church.

I have a dream of a worshipping church. Worship interest varies among us, among the different generations and I've had some experiences lately that have made me aware of that. We have a folk liturgy that I've been a part of for years and we've started using it in this old Swedish cathedral I serve, about eight years ago. The grandmas and grandpas have learned to love it and it's a very simple one that you can learn the first time that you do it. That's part of why they like it -- with familiar tunes. But some of the younger folks are saying, "We need something new. This is getting too familiar to us."

About two weeks ago, I sat in the pew with my wife while the intern preached, and my associate did the liturgy. Behind me was Matthew. Matthew is the cutest little boy. Every one of us would like to have adopted him, stolen him away from the day he came with his folks to church. He's now about three or four. And Matthew stood in the pew behind me with his mother and dad and sang the pastor's part of that liturgy all the way through in a nice, clear voice. I thought, there's something valuable to having something familiar that one knows as part of worship.

On the other hand, I remember this woman out of our church who happens to be one of those who came through the Moms' Cursillo, who has four children, lives in the middle of a rather dark and dreary neighborhood in the inner part of the city and I remember her coming to church on Christmas morning. Some of you out of old Augustana tradition remember a word called "Julotta." That's that Swedish service at 6:30 in the morning. The only thing is, I have 130 members out of the 400 over age eighty, so we do it at 8:30 Christmas morning. This woman, who has her university degree now has five children, a newborn baby just a few weeks ago. I think she's 43. This woman came to church on Christmas morning to that service. She's a Polish woman of Roman Catholic background and she's married to a native American and so she told our women at their LCW meeting that my children are "Papooskis". She came to that early service and sat through that completely Swedish service and I looked back and I saw Deb there and I thought, "Oh, we didn't tell her this was not in English." And so, afterwards, I rushed up to her to apologize about that and she said, "Oh no, I loved it. I didn't understand much, but I loved every minute of it."

A worshipping church. A church that's a family that enjoys standing in the presence of God. And Cursillo brings that to us. It's a delight to stand in the presence of God and worship happens not just when we're formally gathered in the sanctuary, but worship happens even when we're gathered in our sessions and as we share together and bring glory to His name.

I don't know how it is today, but at one point 35% of our average congregations worship regularly. A little over 1/3. I thought about that in terms of the Cursillo movement. That sounds small, but I wonder how many of our folks that have made a weekend continue to serve. It's maybe about the same, depending upon the number you have. Christian invest themselves in that experience of worship. They put themselves into it. They come eagerly expecting something to happened and especially you folks; Cursillo people are trained and opened to do that. Invest yourself.

I love the story of the younger black pastor who left his home church and became a pastor somewhere else. In honor of his great success, his home church invited him back at an anniversary to speak to their family. He was excited and he took his ten-year-old son along, and he gave them a very stirring message, and he loved every minute of it. Afterward the older pastor came up and said, "you know, we'd like to pay you something for coming back, but we just don't have any money to give you."

"Oh," the young pastor said, "forget it," (as any of us would say), "it's my privilege to be back. I loved it. Don't worry about it." He and his son walked through the sanctuary, and were about to go out the door and the little boy saw this box on the wall and said, "Dad, what's that?"

He said, "that's the poor box."

"Well, what's that for?"

"Well, you put money into that poor box and then some poor family will benefit from it."

Just to prove to his son that he meant that, he pulled out his wallet, and pulled out a ten dollar bill and dropped it in the box. They headed out the door and down the street. They had gone maybe fifty feet and all of a sudden the old pastor came tearing out the door with a ten dollar bill in his hands. As he brought it over, both the son and the father recognized that there was a corner torn off. It was the same ten dollar bill that he had put in the poor box. The pastor said, "I found this money that we have and I want you to have it."

The young man didn't have the heart to refuse it, so they walked on together after thanking him. He turned to his young son and he said, "Son, did you learn anything from that experience?"

And the young lad said, "Yes, Dad, if you had put more in, you'll get more out." If you put more in, you'll get more out. And in worship and in the Cursillo experience that's also true. We have to invest ourselves. I love Via de Cristo because folks enjoy being in the Lord's presence and as we sing, "there's a sweet, sweet spirit in that place."

I have a dream, not only of a Biblical church and a worshipping church but I have a dream of a caring church. It's a special privilege to serve where I do in a congregation that primarily through the help of Via de Cristo has found itself serving somewhat of a rainbow coalition. It's only started, but it's so neat to see that, as a part of the family. Sometimes I get a feeling that it's unusual -- that because it's so easy to serve those who are like us -- who can give back in return. It's a unique family because of the unity that's there amidst the diversity. The black and the red and a few yellow and the rest of us of northern European ancestry -- and I said with the woman who came to the Julotta service -- they experience the cultures that have been important to one another. Cursillo lends itself to be a warm, accepting fellowship.

A friend of mine who served with me in Minnesota -- the spiritual director for the Minnesota Via de Cristo -- told me about his move to the cities and he came to a church. He said there were two groups in that church that were vying for his attention. The one was a Charismatic group of people, the other were the Cursillistas, the Cursillo people. He said he really watched and listened and examined what was going on for awhile. Finally, he said, "I want to go to Cursillo."

"Good," I said, "what led you to decide to do that?"

He said, "The one group was so busy standing around taking the spiritual temperatures of everybody in the church that they had little time to do anything else." He said, "these crazy Cursillo people just wanted to love and love and give and give. That's the group I wanted to be with."

Cursillo, you see, allows love to spill over as Stodt wrote in his poem. It's infectious, it's attractive, it's compelling if we don't violate it and make it something else.

You heard before of the "Mothers in Transition" Cursillos. We're thrilled that that's brought a number of these mothers into the family to make them servants. They're teaching Sunday School now instead of coming every week with their hands out. But the amazing thing to me is the rector of that first weekend -- what is that, four or five years ago? -- the rector of that first weekend hasn't missed a Wednesday in five years -- coming back to continue the fellowship with those moms in their mothers morning out experience. Several others continue to do that. Now this woman with her husband is ready to retire and is ready to sell her house in the suburbs would like us to find a six-apartment unit near the inner city. She and her husband would like to move in, take in about three families -- mothers with three and four children, who have trouble knowing how to handle life together, how to pay the rent, how to keep up the house, and they would like to take them in for one year and then move them into a next step and enable them to know how to care for life themselves. A halfway house for single parent families.

A caring church works for justice among all people. It's a church filled with peacemakers, not peace-lovers (we're all peace-lovers). It's a different thing to be called to become a peacemaker. I dream of a caring church.

I dream of a serving, witnessing church -- a church that has discovered the servant Christ -- that has made a choice to walk with that one. The opportunity that comes to us to serve, to witness -- that opportunity, as someone once said, always comes dressed in coveralls and looks like hard work. That's why most of us miss it. A serving church, a witnessing church needs to be willing to risk. It isn't always safe. What you attempt might not work, but you have to try.

Many years ago a United Methodist bishop made the bold statement that if men had been meant to fly, God would have created them with wings. In that same year in December, his two sons, Orville and Wilbur flew the first heavier-than-air craft and made a liar out of him. To be willing to risk -- witnessing servants abound, I find in Via de Cristo/Cursillo and what a gift that is if it's focused in our churches.

A serving and witnessing church it has also global concern. I'm not going to stress that at great length. I think most of our churches would probably rather deal with foreign missionaries thousands of miles away than the black family or the native American family that bought the house next door to us. I think we have a harder time missioning very close to us when it affects property values and other things. But a witnessing, serving church has a global concern and I dream of that kind of church.

Finally, I dream of an expectant church. An expectant church. Some of you read in your newspapers some months back about a small town in northern Minnesota where a number of people waited for a vision of Mary. That's not so unusual. I remember for years back people standing out on the hillside waiting for Jesus to come in the same way. That isn't what I mean when I say I dream of an expectant church. I think of the old spiritual: "Goin' home, goin' home, I'm just goin' home." We're people who never arrive, but we're always on the way home. We expect that someday the God whom you love and serve here will be the God in whose presence you'll sing praises for eternity. Christians never arrive, they're always on their way home.

Christians, I remind you, are (and I love to tell people this), Christians are disillusioned people. Did you know that? Disillusioned people. You think about that word -- that sounds strange. But we are "disillusioned" people. We have no illusions. They've been taken away. So we are disillusioned. We've discovered what reality is and reality is the love of a gracious, caring God, who loves us and gives us His very best. On our weekends when we come toward the end, and I love to give that "Life in Grace" talk (#12 for the pastors) because already people are starting to think "this has been marvelous, but tonight I go back home to the old grind, to the kids and to the washing and all of these things to work with my cranky boss," and it's so easy for us to forget that that experience that we have had on a weekend of grace and love is what is real. Those other things -- keeping up with the Joneses, keeping upset with the Joneses, being the Joneses that people are trying to keep up with -- that's unreal.

The love that we experience on a weekend is a love that can continue to be shared wherever we go back home. We're watching for the Lord's return, but we're doing it though sweat-filled eyes and dirty hands, busy about the business of working with God's people. And then we don't become so "heavenly-minded" that we're no "earthly good".

I love the story of the priest who called his bishop and said, "I look out my window and I saw this bright light and I'm wondering if that's Christ returning."

The bishop said, "Well, I really can't tell you. Give me a few hours." So the bishop called the arch-bishop and the arch-bishop called the cardinal and the cardinal called the Pope.

Each one asked the other one in turn, "Do you think that's the Lord returning? Finally the answer came back to the parish priest from the Pope. "Act busy." Act busy!

That's what God expects an expectant church to do. Not to be wondering and counting and figuring out whether, as I heard on internship, we're living in the Laiodocean era, and now it's going to happen. That isn't what God asks us to do. He asks us to be busy reflecting His love to everyone around us and when He comes, He'll find us busy and take us to be with Him.

There's the dream. Now you may think it sounds pretty idealistic. And it probably would be, were it not for Via de Cristo/Cursillo and its effect upon your church and mine. For if we put ourselves to serve when we go back home, where God's body is gathering and working, then we become the answer to the problems of that church. We become the leaven in the loaf that affects the whole loaf in a positive way. That dream is only idealistic -- only as idealistic as the one who said to a man with feet of clay. "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, on this rock I will build my church."

Via de Cristo/Cursillo must remain fresh, hopeful, idealistic as we reach out doing the things that our Lord would do, being His hands and feet as we strengthen and build up Christ's body, the church. Our God reigns. Let's fulfill His dream by being that kind of church. God loves you and so do I.

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