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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where We Live and Work

We hope this message finds you in the best of God’s blessings. We write to you for a couple of reasons.

First, we are now living in Tinley Park, Illinois. Our address is 8441 168th Place, Tinley Park IL 60487. You can contact us via email or social media by simply replying to this message.

While we resettle, we also see our grandchildren, Emma Jade and Levi Ryan. Travis and Pepper explore new trails and sidewalks. Buddie and Winnie find new places to rest and hunt.

Cindy explores her options while she resumes training with Travis. Paul now works for Multiplication Network Ministries as a Regional Advancement Officer. He is enthusiastic about his work.

Multiplication Network Ministries (MNM) equips local leaders who understand their culture, language and social networks, enabling them to share the Gospel more effectively than someone from another country and culture. We "train-the-trainers" for entire denominations and associations so these workers can, in turn, train the church planters. This approach allows us to reach many more people with our training and to multiply strategically.

In July, Paul will witness MNM’s training in Ecuador. When he returns, he will tell you more through his blog

In September, MNM celebrates its 15th Anniversary. Watch this short video now. Click here.

Paul and Cindy Cwynar

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Persons, Pentecost and Post-script

God’s grace, peace and mercy be with you. … My focus is Acts, chapter two, where Peter addressed the men of Israel.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, the psalmist wrote, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”[i] Now that our feet are within your gates, we rejoice to hear your Word. As we listen, may your Spirit enlighten our minds and move our hearts to love deeply as Jesus loved. This we pray to you, Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
Anthony de Mello tells of a pastor whose ship anchored at a remote island. Since he only had one day there, the pastor was determined to use the time profitably.
He strolled along the seashore and came across three fishermen, mending their nets. In broken English, they explained to him that missionaries converted their village to Christianity. “We Christians!” they proudly proclaimed. The pastor was impressed. In talking some more, he discovered that they had never heard of the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor was shocked. “What, then, do you SAY when you pray?”
“We lift eyes to heaven and say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.’”
The pastor was appalled. This would never do. In fact, it sounded almost heretical. So, he spent the whole day teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. Even though the fishermen were slow learners, they were finally able to struggle through it before the pastor sailed away the next day.
Months later, the pastor’s ship happened to pass by that same island. The pastor paced the deck, recalling with pleasure the three men who were now able to pray, thanks to his patient efforts. While he was lost in his thoughts, he happened to look up, and notice a spot of light to the east. The light kept approaching the ship and, as the pastor gazed in wonder, he saw three figures walking on the water. The captain, too, was amazed and he stopped the boat so everyone could see. When they got within speaking distance, the pastor recognized the three fishermen.
They exclaimed, “Pastor! We see your boat go by the island, so we come to see you.” Awestruck, the pastor asked, “What do you want?” “Pastor, we are very sorry. We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father, in heaven, holy be your name….’ Then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”
With a quiet voice, the pastor answered, “Go back to your homes, my friends. And each time you pray, say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us.”[ii]
Have mercy on us. Most pastors like to skip Trinity Sunday because people expect them to explain the Trinity in simple terms. So, in addition to the story of our three amigos, let me outline it for you – Persons, Pentecost and a Postscript.
First, Persons. We often use symbols to explain the Trinity – from Patrick’s clover to geometric designs. We find symbols of the Trinity in our church – the equilateral triangle and overlapping circles. Mathematicians and engineers may prefer triangles and circles, but they are static. If you want to understand the dynamics of the Trinity, you really have to observe and live the family experience. Families are dynamic. Think of any family – the First Family or the Royal Family, your in-laws or your neighbors. Based on your observations of the outer dynamics of any family, you determine the breadwinner and the spender, the problem solver and the troublemaker. You surmise their mission in life and predict where the children will be in 20 years. You rely on them for assistance or aggravation. We base our assumptions solely on what we know as outsiders.
Hollywood tries to give us an experience of the inner dynamics of family life – be it the Robertson Family, aka, Duck Dynasty or the Dysfunctional Housewives of Any City in America. However, reality TV has limits. You cannot live the experience of that family. The only way one grasps the inner dynamics of any family is by living in it.
So it is for Jesus – as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He knows the Father. The Father knows him. Together, they dwell with the Spirit. John tells us that Jesus revealed himself to believers. Over the past few weeks, we heard Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit. In today’s passage, he discusses the Holy Spirit with Nicodemus. Jesus claimed, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[iii] Perhaps Nicodemus needed an infusion from the Holy Spirit to accept this teaching.
As believers, we accept the truth from Scripture that there are Three Persons of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit. We observe their outer dynamics – creation, redemption and sanctification – all performed with loving-kindness. We surmise that the inner dynamics of the Three Divine Persons is strong enough to overcome Satan, sin and death. We rely on their love.
From Persons to Pentecost, my 2nd point. Today’s passage picks up where we left last week – Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Pentecost was an agricultural feast where Jews celebrated not only the harvest but also the giving of the Torah. It was known as the Shav – u’ – oth or the Feast of Weeks. This festival was celebrated 7 weeks or 50 days after Passover. It brought farmers from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Asia, Egypt, Libya and Rome to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot. They came to thank God for the harvest and for the Law. To them Peter made a fundamental presentation of the Gospel. And while Jesus could not convince his hearers, by preaching Christ crucified, Peter stirred the hearts of some 3,000 that day. Scripture tells us that he converted and baptized 3,000 people. Through baptism, Peter brought them into the inner family. They observed the community of believers from the outside, and then experienced it from the inside. Peter baptized the people who heard the Gospel as members of the Church, a believing community, a dynamic community of people that reflected the loving relationships of the Holy Trinity in their inner and outer activities.
Believers are members of a believing community, a Pentecost community. … Are we members of a Pentecost community? Are we a Pentecost people? … We are. … Turn to Roman numeral x in your Lutheran Service Book and read the lower right hand corner: “The Time of the Church – The Season of Pentecost.” From now until Advent, our corporate worship reminds us that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. Hence, we celebrate the Sundays of Pentecost.
Like the first converts, we too were baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We received forgiveness of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Because we are attuned to the Holy Spirit active in our lives as a faith community and individual believers, we are a Pentecost people.
Are we a Trinitarian community? … Well, if you turn to Roman numeral xxi, you will find that these Sundays are also Trinity Sundays. They remind us to focus on the dynamic power of all Three Divine Persons of the Trinity active in our lives. Therefore, according to our worship, we are members of a Pentecost and Trinitarian community.
There is another way to know if we reflect the loving relationships of the Holy Trinity in our inner and outer activities – by asking outsiders what they observe. … This week, ask some outsiders how they see us. Do they see us as Spirit-filled people? Do they see us as a dynamic community? Would they say that we reflect the loving relationships of the Persons of the Holy Trinity? Does our living proclamation of the Gospel stir their hearts to the degree that they are kicking in the doors to enter our church? Think about that this week, and really ask someone. Ask anyone. If we are a Pentecost people, a Trinitarian community, it should be easily observable.
That brings me to my third point: Postscript. … Cindy and I enjoy camping. We enjoy it so much that several years ago, I purchased Cindy the perfect birthday present any Christian husband can buy his wife – a camping stove. Camping is an activity every Christian should embrace.
Camping is Biblical. Abraham and Sarah lived their whole lives in tents. Moses and the Israelites camped 40 years. When David decided to build God a fine house, God revealed His preference for a tent. So, guys, buy your wives camping stoves.
We read in the Gospel of John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[iv] Many Scripture scholars interpret the verse this way – He pitched his tent among us. Cindy and I thank you for inviting us to pitch our tent here and live among you. We have enjoyed our time here.
Throughout our time here, God placed many gifts before us. Above all, we appreciate the people He placed in our lives. We appreciate all that you did to make our stay here welcome. We now pack up our tent and camping stove and trek north to be closer to grandchildren. Thank you for your kindness and prayers.
One last request, brothers and sisters: Pray to the Holy Trinity for the grace to be grateful, especially to the people closest to you. In Jesus’ Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

[i] Psalm 122
[ii] I changed bishop to pastor.
[iii] John 3:3
[iv] John 1:14

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nashville Farewell

He pitched his tent among us.

Cindy and I enjoy camping. We enjoy it so much that several years ago, I purchased Cindy the perfect birthday present any husband can buy his wife – a camping stove. (LOL now!) Camping is an activity every Christian should embrace.

We read in the Gospel of John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). Many Scripture scholars interpret the verse this way – He pitched his tent among us. Cindy and I thank you for inviting us to pitch our tent here and live among you. We arrived here in August, never having been to Southern Illinois.
We enjoyed our time here. We appreciate the beauty God created in Southern Illinois. The plethora of parks, lakes and hiking trails is amazing. You are so fortunate to have so many of these within an hour’s drive.

We appreciate that we could walk on Grand without concern about traffic. We appreciate that we could leave our front door unlocked and our garage door opened without concern about intruders. We appreciate not having to listen to traffic reports each morning.

God placed many gifts before us, but above all, we appreciate the people He placed in our lives. We appreciate the people who live in Southern Illinois and the members who worship weekly at Trinity Lutheran. We appreciate all that the elders, church council, committee members, teachers and their families did to make our stay here welcome.

In a particular way, I am grateful for everything that Pastor Wietfeldt and Cheryl Zapp did to make my stay here enjoyable. They and their families have become our friends.

We now pack up our tent, camping stove and other belongings and trek north to be closer to our first grandson, Levi Ryan Gregg, and our granddaughter, Emma Jade Gardner. We know God put them in our lives and so close to us. We appreciate how good God is.

On June 8, I begin working as Regional Advancement Director for Multiplication Network Ministries. Our temporary address is 8441 168th Place, Tinley Park, IL 60487. You can also contact us via social media or email (  Thank you and God bless you.

Pastor Paul and Cindy Cwynar

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Diploma and Commencement

 God’s grace, peace and mercy be with you. ... My focus is the Gospel of John where we read, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. For their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in the truth.”[1]
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, the psalmist wrote, “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”[2] Now that our feet are within your gates, we rejoice to hear your Word. As we listen, may your Spirit enlighten our minds and move our hearts to love deeply as Jesus loved. This we pray to you, Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
Through 28 years of ministry, I spoke at various graduations – preschools, kindergartens, grade schools, high schools, technical schools, colleges and universities. Until now, I gave little thought to how those closing words in our Gospel relate to two words used in tonight’s activity: diploma and commencement.
We define diploma as a document that shows a person finished a course of study or graduated from a school.[3] The English-speaking world used diploma in academics only since the 1680s.[4] I earned my high school diploma by attending classes for four years. I earned four others by completing academic programs at college, seminary and universities.
Most sources tell us that the origin of diploma is from the Latin word meaning passport, or from the Greek word meaning folded paper or to double.[5] However, today we are not issuing passports or folding sheepskins, but, like a passport, your diploma is a public document.
Competent authorities issue public documents that confer certain rights and privileges. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White issued me a Driver’s License that permits me to drive motor vehicles. Although I am one of four people who signed diplomas for Kelton, Jenna, Chase, Hayley and Bailey, “for having completed in a satisfactory manner the prescribed course of study for elementary education,” I do not know what rights, honors and privileges we confer through it; but a diploma is a signed public document conferring them.[6] I think it means that if you hold your diploma in one hand and cash in the other, you possess the right, honor and privilege to purchase a Polar Pop at Circle K. …
Now, to be honest with you, I did not give much thought to the meaning of a diploma until recently when I came across this passage from a book written by Douglas Boin, Professor of Archeology at St. Louis University. Boin wrote Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire.
In one chapter, Boin describes Marcus. Marcus was Syrian by birth who served in the Roman navy at a station in Italy. After 25 years of service, the emperor awarded him an honorable discharge. “This decree was etched on a folded bronze plaque, the size of an iPad today, but it did more than vouch for Marcus’ 25 years of service. It granted him Roman citizenship. That was something no one could put a price on. Romans called this certificate a diploma.”[7]
With his diploma, Marcus could live on his own terms. It gave him a sense of security and pride. With diploma in hand, Marcus possessed the same rights, honors and privileges of any free Roman citizen. This was a small victory for a man who could be mistaken for a runaway slave. Let me freeze Marcus for a moment and examine commencement.
When we use the word commencement, we mean the ceremony for conferring degrees or diplomas.[8] The word, commencement, is a late 13th century French term that means beginning or start. In 1850, we started using the word to mean a school graduation ceremony.[9]
Given that the word means beginning and you are receiving your diploma today, think of this day not as the end but as the beginning. Early Christians like Marcus, who received his diploma after 25 years of service in the navy, had the rest of his life to live as he pleased. You have the rest of your life to live as you please … with some restrictions, of course. Early Christians who lived freely as Roman citizens counted their freedom as a small victory. It would be another century before Emperor Constantine signed an edict permitting Christians and all others to worship as they wished. Considering that Christians comprised only 10% of the population of the Roman Empire, this was quite significant.
Our Gospel tells us that Jesus sent his disciples into the world.[10] Today, He sends you into the world. As Christ’s disciples, what small victories will you count?
Unlike Rome’s early Christians, you will not have to worry about freedom, but you can become enslaved. Though freed by Christ, you can still be enslaved to Satan, the world and your sinful self if you are not vigilant. So, what small victories do high school students count?
Apart from victories in the classroom and on the court, among friends and on the field, where do young Christians count victories? Although some news sources like to trot out those students censured for their high school graduation speech[11] or denied admission to college because they profess faith in Christ,[12] it is probably not going to happen to you, at least not in Nashville, Illinois.
I encourage you to count as small victories in our culture those opportunities to profess and witness your faith to your high school classmates. Count as small victories those opportunities to invite a friend to Sunday’s Divine Service. Do not place them on the same plane as Christ’s victory. But perhaps your small victory would be to thank our Lord daily for His blessings.
On Sunday, I spoke of how Martin Luther taught people to pray. In essence, he said that God will grant us anything, but we must order our prayer according to how Jesus taught His disciples. Daily, begin your day with prayer, and know that Christ sends you into the world every day. On those days when the world is against you, know that He has sent others with you. So, rely upon Christ’s presence and rely upon your brothers and sisters sent with you. Pray daily as you were taught over these past 8 years. Ask God for guidance in all you do.
For this, pray in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen. … May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.[13]

[1] John 17:18-19
[2] Psalm 122
[7] Douglas Boin, Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire. New York: Bloomsbury Press (2015), 57.
[10] John 17:18
[13] Philippians 4:7