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Showing posts from 2009

This Far By Faith

This year has been sparse in my blog. I stopped my posts about the 50 most essential Biblical passages, I hardly acknowledged any saint's days and I never really commented on what was going on in my life. In the past 12 months, I spent 8 full months pregnant, my husband left for Iraq on Good Friday, I had a C-section, a very close friend left me right after my son was born (and hasn't spoken to me since) and my husband missed the first four months of our son's life. When I am really having difficulty dealing with situations, I can't even write about them. It takes almost all my energy to actually deal with what's happening and so I can't bring myself to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Many people offered to help me and many people did help. There are several people without whose support- I might have pulled the covers over my head and refused to get out of bed. Recently, someone suggested to me that I was trying to be perfect or that I might be d

A Poem

After Psalm 137 by Anne Porter We're still in Babylon but We do not weep Why should we weep? We have forgotten How to weep We've sold our harps And bought ourselves machines That do our singing for us And who remembers now The songs we sang in Zion? We have got used to exile We hardly notice Our captivity For some of us There are such comforts here Such luxuries Even a guard To keep the beggars From annoying us Jerusalem We have forgotten you. "After Psalm 137" by Anne Porter, from Living Things Collected Poems . © Zoland Books, 2006.

Pastor, Talk to me about...the Second Sunday in Advent

Malachi 3:1-4 1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. F 13 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Luke 1:68-79 68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he s

Stranger! Stranger!

In Anchorage, there is a gentleman who visits churches and writes up his experiences for the Anchorage Daily News. He recently visited our sister church, Central Lutheran. You can read his warm and positive review here . When he visits churches, he looks for warmth and friendliness to visitors as well as an organized service, Bible-based preaching and meaningful music. Do we offer these things? What kind of review would he give us? What kind of review would Jesus give us?

Pastor, Talk to me about the First Sunday in Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16 14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness." 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your he

Pastor, Talk to Me About...

I've been thinking about sermon writing lately- my process and congregational involvement. This website has been somewhat helpful to me. It offers people the chance to look at the text's for a coming Sunday and ask the questions that come to mind. If I'm not answering your questions (with the help of the Spirit) about the text, God, life and death- then what am I doing in preaching? Of course, it's not always about answers, sometimes good preaching leaves you wrestling with questions (I hope NOT "What was she talking about?"). So I thought I would try this for a couple weeks. I'll post the texts for the coming Sunday here, though you can find them in many places. You can ask questions publicly by commenting on Facebook or on the blog site. Or you can email or message me with private questions. I will try to answer all the questions even if I don't do it in the sermon. Daniel 12:1-3

Friday Five: Our Favorite Music

The Friday Five come from here . Martin Luther said: "I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor." On this Friday before Reformation Sunday, let's talk about music. Share with us five pieces of music that draw you closer to the Divine, that elevate your mood or take you to your happy place. They might be sung or instrumental, ancient or modern, sacred or popular...whatever touches you. 1. My favorite hymn is "My Life Flows On". See my sermon about it here and another post here . I love this hymn and it brings me great comfort to hear it or to sing it. 2. Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" is one of the pieces of music that relaxes my mind and body. I think I listened to it, looped, for a couple hours once when I was very

Reliquary relinquished

I recently read this article about the return of relics to the Roman Catholic Church (or to some RC churches). Within the piece, the author has this to say: After all, these spiritual accoutrements were a large part of the Catholic experience for well over a millennium. But a quiet groundswell of Catholics won't give up this time-honored tradition of praying to a saint's bodily remain. Pope Benedict XVI reinstated the Latin Mass. So why not bring back an emphasis on relic veneration as well? A French priest is currently touring the United States with the supposed bones of Mary Magdalene, and the faithful are flocking to pray in front of them. In September and October, the relics of a 19th-century nun, St. Therese of Lisieux, went on a 28-stop tour around Great Britain. If the thousands of devotees who came to witness these lovely bones are any indication, the faithful are hungering for a less sterile form of religion. While there's no scholarly consensus on when relic ve

Serving the Children (10/18/09)

Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45 “Hey, I want you to do me a favor.” When I say that to you, how do you respond? Are you inclined at all to say, “Sure” without hearing what the favor is? That’s essentially what James and John asked of Jesus. “Hey, Jesus. We want you to do us a favor.” Despite all that Jesus has revealed to them about the coming of the kingdom of God and the miracles they have witnessed, James and John are most concerned with their reward. They are essentially asking Jesus to tell them that they are the greatest among the disciples (and you better believe they’ll make sure the others hear about it). James and John have heard Jesus’ message, but they haven’t listened to it. When Jesus asks if they are up for the sacrifices they will have to make to have such a reward, the brothers eagerly assure Him that they are. However, Jesus says, “You may be able to make those sacrifices and you will. But the seats at my right and my left a

Miss Havisham, I presume

My computer has been telling me, "You have not backed up your information in 50 days..." 51 days, 52 days, 53 days... My kitchen calendar was still on August and, I discovered this week, so was my office calendar. This past Wednesday I finally finished reading a book, my first since 17 August. I think I get bonus points because said book was neither about child development nor breastfeeding. I'm eating cold leftover steak out of a baggie and typing quickly, listening to the new sounds around which my life rotates... the grunts, squeaks, and sighs that mean I have only so many minutes before Daniel, my baby, wants something. All the familiar markers of my life are completely disordered and, at this time, unhelpful. When each day is a blur of feeding, sleeping, changing, playing, trying to go to sleep, changing, feeding, and paperwork... I don't really need a calendar or even to back up the things that used to seem so important. In a week or so, I will be going bac

Friday Five at the "Perfect Church"

I haven't done a Friday Five in a while. The prompt(s) come from here and this Friday's is: Please pardon me for talking about church in the summer when many of you may be on vacation. However, the church we are talking about today is the one you dream of. I've been thinking about this because I miss pastoring and preaching, because I am sending in resumes, and because...well...jut because. So have some fun with this. Tell us five things that the perfect church would have, be, do...whatever. We can dream, right? So, my initial reaction is that there is no such thing as the perfect church on this side of Christ's return. As we strive for wholeness in and as the Body of Christ, we also struggle with the realities of our humanness, the fallen world and the forces that oppose God and God's kingdom (see Satan). However, I am also in a transitional call and my congregation could and should ask me what I would like to see in a church, so having given this some thou

Shame, shame

Genesis 3:8-10 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Yesterday I was listening to commentary about this article in the New York Times. The author was being interviewed about how to talk to patients about weight issues when it is clear that she struggles with this issue herself. She mentioned that it isn't simply an issue of people feeling shame about being overweight. She said, "If shame would work, we would be the thinnest nation on earth." I think about shame a lot. Another pastor I know frequently talks about the loss of shame in our culture as a value and as a shaper of behavior. In recent decades, we have come to view shame as neg

God's Recreation

Yesterday, we enjoyed a little hymn sing at church. For many of the hymns I was listening to how many people were singing and enjoying themselves through praising God. We had the church doors open and it was a fantastic service. Afterwards, someone asked me about the spelling of "recreation"- as in playtime. I spelled it and then noted it was the same as re-creation. That's when the person pointed out that we sang about God's "recreation" (playtime) at the end of "Morning Has Broken". The last verse of the hymn is: Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning, Born of the one light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, praise every morning, God's recreation of the new day. Now, in my hymnal, re-cre-a-tion is drawn out just like that for singing ease. However, I suppose it could be sung either way. God is re-creating us and the new day, every day and we celebrate that each morning. On the other hand, I do like the idea of the morning as God'

Sufficient (5 July)

EZEKIEL 2:1-5; PSALM 123; 2 CORINTHIANS 12:2-10; MARK 6:1-13 When I was 11 or 12, I thought 16 was a magical age. I dreamed that when I turned 16, I would wake up and have beautiful hair that bounced around my shoulder. I assumed I would have stopped biting my fingernails and they would be long and gorgeous. I thought I would be taller, trimmer and tanner. When that didn’t happen on my 16th birthday, I figured it would on my 18th. 21st? 30th? Learning to accept how he looks is hardly the thorn in the flesh that Paul describes in today’s reading. We know from his other letters that he wasn’t a terribly good-looking guy and by the time he is sending this letter to the Corinthians- he has been beaten several times and bears the scars of those bruises. In addition to his struggles in mission work, he has been afflicted with some kind of chronic ailment that makes his life a bit difficult. Lots of hot air and ink have been used to speculate what that ailment might have been.

Disregard the Message (Sermon 28 June)

LAMENTATIONS 3:22-33; PSALM 30; 2 CORINTHIANS 8:7-15; MARK 5:21-43 There are two very interesting lines in today’s gospel text. The first come from the disciples when they say to Jesus, “You can see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” The second comes when Mark is describing Jesus’ reaction to the news that Jairus’ daughter is dead. A better translation than what we have for this verse is “Ignoring what they said (or disregarding the message), Jesus says to Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” Let’s think about the settings of those two lines for a minute. Jesus has come back to the land of the Jews after being with non-Jews. There are crowds that are waiting for him. Most likely, there are people who have camped on the lakeshore, awaiting his return. As soon as he gets out of the boat, there are people around him- full of requests, desires and hopes for what he can do for them. The crowd parts a little to allow a lead

Father's Day Sermon (21 June)

JOB 38:1-11; PSALM 107:1-4, 12-15; 2 CORINTHIANS 6:1-13; MARK 4:35-41 There’s been a lot of fighting in the news this week from here in Anchorage to the streets of Iran- people have been arguing about rights and routines. Some of this fighting has been physically violent and some of the fighting has been through strong words and emotional struggle. With this fighting in the back of our minds, we look at some of the texts for this week and think about how and why God fights and what that means for us in our life of faith. In the text from Job, God tells Job to get ready for a fight. That’s what it means to “gird up your loins”. Job, like other men of his time, would have worn a long loose robe. To prepare for battle or for a physical altercation, they would pull up the back of the robe and tuck it in their belt. Thus they would be ready for the fight. After thirty-some chapters of listening to Job’s friends explain how he must be less righteous than he thinks and listening to

Holy Trinity Sunday

ISAIAH 6:1-8; PSALM 29; ROMANS 8:12-17; JOHN 3:1-17 This may be the Sunday that you determine that your pastor is crazy. Holy Trinity Sunday is my favorite festival of the year. (It is a festival.) I get more out of this day than Christmas, Easter, Pentecost or even, dare I say it, Reformation Day. All other church festivals either commemorate something God has done for the world, send the Messiah, raise him from the dead, or the other festivals acknowledge aspects of history or of the life of faith, like Reformation or All Saints’. Holy Trinity Sunday is different. The only festival that is celebrated around church doctrine, this day asks to look at who God is and our experience of God over us, God with us, and God in us. Born from this day are the other days we celebrate a God who cared enough to send His only begotten Son, a God who cared enough to die on the cross, a God who remains with us interceding with sighs to deep for words. The Trinity is mysterious and craz

Holy Spirit at the Bat (Pentecost)

EZEKIEL 37:1-14; PSALM 104:24-34, 35B; ACTS 2:1-21; JOHN 15:26-27, 16:4B-15 The valley was deep and wide in front of Ezekiel that day: The bones lay bare and dry; he knew not what to say. And then the Lord questioned, and Ezekiel did reply, “Mortal, can these bones live?” “Lord, you know better than I”. Ezekiel drew in his breath and made his voice heard well “Oh, dry, dry bones. Dry, quiet bones, hear what I do tell Knees and elbows, thighs and hips- all a skeleton has to give- Hear this word from your Lord, receive sinews and flesh and live.” Before his eyes, the bones did rise and stand upon the ground- Bone met bone, from head to toe, with a fierce rattling sound. There were bodies standing with ears open, waiting to hear The word the Lord wanted sent forth about his presence, near. Ezekiel called forth the wind, as he had been told to do, The standing bodies inhaled and breathed with life anew; They were a sign for Israel of what the Lord had done. The bodies showed that in t

Healing (24 May)

ACTS 1:15-17, 21-26; PSALM 1; 1 JOHN 5:9-13; JOHN 17:6-19 This week we mark the ascension of Christ into heaven. It falls in the church calendar right before Pentecost and we hardly ever notice it. Jesus speaks to his disciples again (Acts 1:4-11). After hearing this, the disciples go back to Jerusalem and do what? (They pray, they talk about Judas, they decide to elect a twelfth disciple.) The election of a twelfth is important because they were correlating the twelve apostles with the twelve tribes of Israel. So they pray and come up with two names: Joseph-Barsabbas-Justus and Matthias. Then they essentially roll some dice or draw straws to confirm their selection. This was not that unusual at that time- remember the sailors casting lots to discover that Jonah was to blame for the storm at sea? The lots confirmed for the believers how they believed God was guiding them. They were leaning toward Matthias and the lots confirmed that choice. Before the selection, however,

You Know What's Right (17 May)

ACTS 10:44-48; PSALM 98; 1 JOHN 5:1-6; JOHN 15:9-17 When I was growing up, my father had a phrase he would say when I was preparing to go on a trip or away from home for any amount of time. He would look at me and say, “You know what’s right. Do it.” My mother would ask if I had enough toiletries and then if I had enough clothes. I always assumed the order of her questioning was if I had to run around naked, at least I could be clean. However, my father’s advice was applied regardless of cleanliness. No lists of “Call us”, “Don’t spend all your money on something stupid”, “Don’t go anywhere with strangers”, but “You know what’s right. Do it.” I thought about that phrase this week in a scary situation. There were no moral choices to be made, but more some quick decisions. My brother David and I were walking my dog down by Eagle River when we spotted a cow moose, which (as it turns out) had a very young calf. She charged at us on the trail and we went leaping into the woods,

Evangelicals All

ACTS 8:26-40; PSALM 22:25-31; 1 JOHN 4:7-21; JOHN 15:1-8 What’s the name of this church? (Lutheran Church of Hope) And it belongs to what larger church body? (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) How often do you think about that denominational title? While the age of denominational affiliation may be ending, that title still says a lot about who we are as a church. Or, at least, who we are supposed to be? Yet, when you think of yourself, on your own terms, do you think of yourself as an evangelical? What does evangelical mean? (Based in and recognizing the authority of Scripture) Evangelical comes from the Greek word, evanggelion, which means “good news”. This is not only the gospel, but all of the good news, the entirety of Scripture, which points to the saving work of Jesus the Christ. When the smaller church bodies merged to form the ELCA, the foundation for the church was not our ethnic heritage, our emphasis on education, our mission work, our ecumenical outr

What a Friend We Have in Jesus (but what about in each other?)

This week's text, John 15:9-17, talks about Jesus' followers as his friends. John 15:13 reads, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." So needless to say, I've been thinking about friendship this week. Also burned in my brain is the following incident: I was recently chatting with a friend who happens to be a couple years older than me. I don't think of this that often and she doesn't either. In the course of our conversation, a mutual acquaintance came up and mentioned our age difference. The acquaintance proceeded to ask my friend why, since I was younger, I was already married and had a baby on the way. The underlying implication was that there was something wrong with the friend since she was so far behind the curve in these areas. This compounds my mixed feelings about Mother's Day (Father's Day/Valentine's Day/Grandparent's Day/etc). Everyone does have a mother, but on that particular