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Showing posts from March, 2008

Jesus

Today I taught preschool chapel at the church where I work. This happens every Thursday and Friday for the separate, half-day preschool classes that are held here at the church. We usually have a little lesson, sing a song and then pray together.

Today the lesson was about God and rocks, or more specifically about why we sometimes refer to God as a rock (Rock of Ages, Solid Rock, etc.). As many of you have experienced, though, sometimes children are programmed for certain "answers" in certain settings: a prime example occurred today. I asked if anyone knew how old a group of rocks was and one little girl, who always has something to say, answered, "Jesus."

"How old are these rocks?"
"Jesus."

I smiled and said Jesus wasn't the answer to that question, but the situation turned over and over in my mind. I don't think this was some very, very wise child offering an answer, but an very, very eager child who likes to talk.

Yet, the mess…

April Newsletter article (Gloria Dei Lutheran Church)

Lately, I have been thinking more and more about the process of becoming a pastor. This process is called “candidacy” in the ELCA- as in, one is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. There are three main stages of candidacy and I am in the final stage now. That stage, “approval”, involves an extensive essay, several interviews and a review of my seminary education and internship accomplishments. All this information contributes to the decision of whether or not I should be ordained as a pastor in the ELCA.

However, there are other contributing factors as well, perhaps even more important and influential than those I mentioned above: the Holy Spirit and the whole church. A healthy part of Lutheran tradition is that many, many people are involved in the selection and shaping of the people who become our pastors. We ordain people to give “order” to the church, but those people do not come to that position randomly.

Most people eventually f…

Mother Superior

I was recently thinking about The Sound of Music, one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite stories. The true story of the Von Trapp family is extremely powerful and moving, if you have a chance... look up a little extra information sometime.

But back to what I was thinking about: in the movie, the characters of Maria and Captain Von Trapp are the central figures, along with the Von Trapp children. However, there is one person in the film whose role should not be underestimated. In the movie, the Mother Superior of the convent is kind, benevolent and understanding. She encourages Maria to return to the Von Trapp household, to consider that she might not be cut out to be a nun and then sings the powerful "Climb Ev'ry Mountain".

The strength and spiritual leadership of this woman cannot be stressed enough. Both in real life and in the film, this woman is tasked with the continuation of the life of faith of women within the walls of a convent. She took this job…

Good Friday Last Words: "It is Finished" (John 19:30)

In John’s gospel, Jesus seems very systematic. He knows the Scriptures must be fulfilled and slowly, in his experience, they are. Betrayed by a friend? Check. Taken before chief priests and those with power? Check. Beaten? Check. Cast lots for his clothing? Check. Sour wine? Check. Someone to take care of Mother? Check. Most of us don’t have the opportunity or the grace to die this way… with everything finished.

In fact, if you’re like me, you have a house, a car, a room, an office full of projects that you’ve started and you’re going to finish…someday. You’ve promised someone, your spouse, your child, your boss, yourself, that you will finish that project…eventually. And we are God’s projects, works that God has started and will complete. God’s beloved creation… a project God loves and longs for.

So, when God promises to finish something, it gets finished and it gets finished right… maybe not in the way we would imagine, but then we do not have the mind of God. God does not have little…

Endless Love

I'm in the midst of trying to write several sermons for different services during (this) Holy Week. My mind is wandering and I keep coming back to the thought that I have nothing new to say. This is, after all, the old, old story and many have heard it over and over again. And yet this is one of those Sundays in the church year when people show up and long for good news.

In my reading for this week I came across a Chinese saying that was new to me: "The writing stops but the meaning goes on; the brush has been put down but the power is unending."

It is true that the words of the resurrection story have been recorded. They're a little less pageant-y than the Christmas story, a little more jumbled and confused. However, the most powerful, and unquestionable, part of the story is always the same: the tomb was empty. The meaning of that symbol goes on and is the same for us today as it has been since the time of the resurrection.

No matter what words come to me …

Procrastination

A friend from high school (thanks, Ruth) introduced me to this rhyme, which was her family's unofficial motto:

Procrastination is my sin.
It brings me naught, but sorrow.
I know I ought to quit it;
Perhaps I will tomorrow.

I've been thinking about that rhyme lately as I have found myself delaying certain tasks. I always find something else that "needs" to be done "first". I hate this behavior in myself, but I do know why I do it. The deep reason is actually kind of vain and embarrassing.

Paul Scott Wilson best summarizes my reasoning in relation to sermon writing, but it can apply to anything you know you need to do and put off: "As long as the page is still clean and the sermon is not written, it is a potentially perfect sermon. Most sermons begin in the preacher's mind as potentially perfect. Even the desire for perfection in service of God is a sin, however." (Wilson, The Four Pages of the Sermon, p. 34)

I do want everything I do to be…

Something to think about...

I often write down quotes from articles or books I read and put them in prominent places within my workspace. Usually they are things I think will eventually make their way into a sermon or lesson and sometimes they do. But sometimes they don't and I continue to look at them.

This quote from H. Richard Niebuhr (a theologian) has been on my bulletin board for 5 months: "The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when somebody takes radically something that was always there."

So I've been looking at that quote and thinking about it for about 150 days. Finally, I've realized there isn't that much more to be said about it. We know the tenets of our faith (right?). What is standing in our way of taking them radically? How about radical forgiveness? Radical neighbor love? Radical justice? Radical mercy?

What could you do differently, yea verily, radically today?

When I'm not posting...

Almost every day I make a little to-do list for the day. And almost every day "blog" is on the list. I expect myself to write in this space at least twice a week, but I dream of every day. The thing, I think of things to write almost every day, but then when it comes to taking the time to do it... something always seems to come up or I just don't make myself do it.

Then I get into a dangerous cycle of embarrassment. "Oh, it's been so long now. I need to acknowledge that I haven't been writing...etc." So then my mental "mea culpa" takes up my thought process and I do not write out of shame. In addition, I don't know if people are actually reading this, so I can always assure myself that it's not like anyone is actually seeking desperately needed pearls of wisdom here (as if you would find them if I did post all the time!).

So here I am, without good excuse- just myself.

I often hear the same thing from people about coming to ch…

Speak up, speak up for Jesus

Yesterday (Sunday), I tried something new in my preaching. I offered a sermon as the mother of the man born blind (John 9). The man is healed by Jesus, but the story involves a whole host of characters: the man's parents, Jesus' disciples, Pharisees.

It's sometimes very interesting and enlightening to think about our gospel stories from different perspectives. A whole host of people moved around Jesus and were touched by his life- not just the people who were able to have their specific stories included. What was the woman at the well thinking? What did Nathaniel think when he saw Jesus coming? Why did that woman interrupt a dinner party to wash Jesus' feet?

Yes, we are speculating on what they might have said, but the author of Ecclesiastes tells us: "There is nothing new under the sun." People, since Adam and Eve had to leave the garden, have longed for acceptance, comfort and closeness with God. We can attribute emotions and reactions to the gospel players b…