Getting grounded

“My heart overflows with noble words;
to the king I must speak the song I have made!”
Psalm 45:1

What an amazing, exciting, and wonderfully grace-filled few days it’s been!  I just got back from a candidacy retreat at my favorite place in the world — Camp Carol Joy Holling — and I can feel myself just bursting at the seams with gratitude and joy.

I got to meet many more members of the candidacy committee — the folks who walk alongside those who are considering a call to ministry and make the decision on whether they are a good fit for the role.  I also met several other candidates further along in the journey, most at various stages of seminary.  We heard several presentations around the inspiring theme of being “grounded in Grace,” talking about self-care and setting boundaries and sinking our roots deep into love.  And I found myself fascinated just listening to the conversations going on around the table!  To hear the ways that people talk about church and about evangelism and mission and stewardship and all of these different things was just totally enthralling to me. Continue reading

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God, by any other name

How well do you know the Lord’s Prayer?  If you’ve found your way here, I’d be willing to bet you’ve at least heard it, if you don’t know it by heart:

Our Father in Heaven,
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come;
Your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and forever.
Amen.

In the last few weeks, my confirmands and I have been exploring this prayer, taking it slowly, line by line, to see what Jesus was getting at when he told us to pray this way (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4).  This morning, we discussed the second line: “Hallowed be your name.”  Think about it for a minute.  What do we really mean when we say this?  Continue reading

Things That Matter x 2

One really exciting project that I have helped start through my church is a young adult faith discussion group in Lincoln’s Near South neighborhood, called Things That Matter.  We have a diverse group of folks that is by no means limited to church-goers, or even to Christians — our participants have included atheists, practicing Jews, spiritual-but-not-religious folks, Christians of many flavors, and others who wander in.  We meet every Sunday evening at 5:00 at the Meadowlark Cafe to talk about a variety of topics.  From our facebook page:

“Things That Matter” is an open forum for young adults to talk about just that — the things that matter — especially where these things intersect with faith and religious expression. All are welcome here, regardless of faith, background, gender, orientation, disorientation, or whether you’re an innie or an outie.  Bring your questions and your conversation!  Invite your friends!

As it turns out, we are not the only (or the first) “Things That Matter” floating around in the area.  “Things That Matter” is also the name of a podcast produced jointly by Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministries and the Nebraska Synod of the ELCA.  When the other Things That Matter folks got wind of our group and its allegedly stolen name, they decided to investigate further by interviewing my pastor and me on the podcast.  You can listen to the result here.

Entrance essay for candidacy

I will be continuing to post some of the things I’ve already written; I hope to get around to creating new content for this blog.  What I’m posting here is the essay I had to write as part of the first step of candidacy — it outlines the major chapters of my “call story” and gives some insight into why I chose to begin this process in the first place.

Entrance Essay

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:2-4

Faith has always been an integral part of my life, but my relationship with religion has been a little complicated.  Continue reading

My first sermon: Believe and You Just Might See

April 6-7, 2013
John 20:19-31 — “Doubting” Thomas

Do you know how many stars are in our galaxy?  If I told you that there are 100s of billions of stars just in our galaxy alone, would you believe me?  You probably would, right? (And you should, because it’s true!)  What if I told you that for every person on earth, there are about 1.5 million ants?  Maybe a little sketchier, but I think you’d still believe me.  But, if I told you that there was wet paint on that wall over there, you’d all have to get up and go touch it to believe me.

It’s kind of a human trait — we want to see things for ourselves.  We can’t touch the stars or all of the trillions of ants on earth — and don’t have much of a stake in these things anyway — but wet paint is something we can see — and, more importantly, it’s something we can accidentally get all over our clothes — so if we can check that it’s there, we won’t be satisfied until we do.  We’re a lot like Thomas in that way, wanting to see for himself that Jesus really had come back from the dead.  Can you blame him?  The other 10 disciples had gotten to actually see Jesus, but here was Thomas, receiving this extraordinary news, and being asked to just accept it all at face value.  Without checking.  Without seeing.  I don’t know about you all, but I would be at least a little skeptical, too.

So why do we give Thomas such a hard time for having doubts? Continue reading

On poetry and property committees

poemLast Wednesday was a test day in the family literacy class I co-teach to refugees and other immigrants, so I had the better part of two hours to sit and ruminate on some things that have been on my mind for quite a while now.  I began scratching some ideas out on a sheet of notebook paper, and soon the ideas just began to flow.

This, unedited, is what I wrote:

polished wood and the lingering smoke of extinguished candles
the fragmented, multicolored glory of daylight spilling through stained glass
echoes that chase themselves through the ceiling’s lofty vault above
the richly ornate altar, resplendent in its finely embroidered paraments
I love the feel and the scent and the sight of it all
steeped as it is in centuries of ancient tradition
and still, I remember that it’s all window-dressing
for what has always been a simple mystery
the true temple is the one built of living stones
the temple not built by human hands
and soon, the day may come, the lean days, the pilgrim days
when it will all stand empty, dusty, unused
when the trappings of tradition will fall by the wayside
all this and more has already begun
but on that day, we will remember who we are
we ARE a pilgrim people, and always have been
we were never meant for the gilt and the linen and the polished wood
we were never meant to grow comfortable and complacent
we were never taught to expect that the world would come to us
we must GO out to the world.  we must GO!
we are heirs to a boundless, limitless, reckless love
a love that even death could not restrain
our inheritance is not this dust-dry, hidebound morality
the world ascribes to us, cloistered and close-minded
it isn’t the windows or the walls or the well-loved spaces
we are a living, breathing, loving body
the words on our lips and in our hearts are God’s words
lush and life-giving as an April rain
no earthly building can contain them
forget the mortar and the bricks, the paraments, the candlesticks
the glass and the altar and the finely polished wood
forget the echoes and the arches and the aging roof tiles
GO out to the world.
go outside and let it rain.

This is the poem that sparked the idea of doing a blog.  It pretty well sums up my thoughts on where the church is headed and where it needs to go.  I joked that such sentiments would make me very unpopular with the property committee at my church, but to characterize this as a dour reflection on the church’s future could not be further from the truth. Continue reading