Internship Project Report

 

30653340_10100110657514905_7582624182513434624_n

This is the report from my internship project, which I actually submitted a few months back, but there’s some good stuff in here, I think, and some resources that other folks might be able to use.  In a nutshell, the goal of my project was to start laying some of the groundwork for bilingual ministry at my internship congregation, Peace Lutheran in Las Cruces, NM.  Overall, it was very successful!

• • •

Continue reading “Internship Project Report”

Advertisements

Sermon: Lured Toward the Future

Monday, May 8, 2017
Epic of Creation Course (final project)
LSTC

Romans 8:18-25
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Continue reading “Sermon: Lured Toward the Future”

Waging Holy War with the DSM-5

CW: fatphobia, eating disorders, IWL/diet talk

Introduction

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”; this was the oft-repeated mantra of the doctor who once helped me lose over 30 pounds (after having already lost 40) in a little under three months by dramatically restricting my diet. Her words are symptomatic of a larger trend that is deeply entrenched in the medical industry, namely, an underexplored and oversimplified conflation of health and wellbeing with weight. The automatic attribution of poor health to body size has led to an emphasis on reducing body mass, often to the detriment of health. By identifying fatness as a problem in and of itself, the medical industry has made itself a complicit player in the size-ism and weightism that run rampant in U.S. and other developed societies, lending professional credibility to the “fatphobic” attacks of the diet, fitness, and fashion industries on fat individuals. Eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are a logical consequence of this rampant weightism and size-ism, a natural response to the medically reinforced notion that thin = good and that fat must be avoided at all costs.

The church has resources that can help heal our society’s disordered and unhealthy relationship to both food and body. These resources date back to the early centuries of Christianity; in particular, this paper will explore the relevance of the writings of Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth century Egyptian desert monk, and Gregory the Great, a sixth century Roman pope. Both of these Christian figures wrote extensively about the ancient church’s understanding of gluttony, and about how the relationship between self, neighbor, creation, and God is properly to be understood. Two other key tools in the ecclesial toolkit are a theological affirmation of the inherent goodness of creation, and a robust theology of incarnation. Together, these resources present a countercultural and life-giving alternative to our eating disordered society that is deeply rooted in God’s love and promises. Continue reading “Waging Holy War with the DSM-5”

Recovering Ancient Understandings of Gluttony

Book Review/Reflection for Class:
The God of Thinness: Gluttony and Other Weighty Matters by Mary Louise Bringle

Mary Louise Bringle lays out her book, The God of Thinness: Gluttony and Other Weighty Matters, after the fashion of a meal, titling her chapters “Apértif,” “First Course,” “Second Course,” and so on. I found it fitting, because this book was, indeed, a rich feast of reflection on the issue of gluttony and its relationship to the culture surrounding weight, food, and dieting in our society. I also appreciated that this book was suffused with Bringle’s own struggles with disordered eating and self-image; she conveys a gravity and emotional complexity around this issue which I also deeply feel. Bringle opens up the riches of Christian tradition, history, and theology to respond to this still current question of gluttony. She explores patristic and monastic writings for wisdom on how gluttony is rightly to be understood; I particularly found her discussion of Gregory the Great’s five kinds of gluttony to be clarifying and helpful. And she ultimately shows that gluttony is a matter of disordered priorities that idolize the goodness of creation above its Creator, resulting in damaged relationship to God, to neighbor, and to self. This book was published 25 years ago, but it continues to be extremely relevant.

Evagrius P Continue reading “Recovering Ancient Understandings of Gluttony”

Making Space for Mystics and Madness

Here’s another bit of writing from one of my classes this semester, this one from the Pastoral Care and Mental Illness course I’ve been taking.  This particular course has had some interesting overlap with another of my classes: Desert Discipleship, which explores the legacy of the desert fathers and mothers of the early centuries of Christianity.  In this assignment, which I conceived as an article for a church newsletter, I propose a connection between schizophrenia and the legacy of St. Anthony.  Enjoy!

st-anthony-the-great-3St. Antony, also known as Anthony the Great, was a Christian monk who lived in Egypt in the third and fourth centuries. He renounced the wealth left to him by his parents and chose to live an ascetic life in the desert, fasting and meditating on Christ. Antony became a wise and famous figure of Egyptian monasticism, but more than anything, he was known for his battles with demons.

St. Athanasius, the fourth century bishop of Alexandria, described these battles in The Life of Antony, which quickly became one of the most popular books in Christian history. Many modern readers will find these accounts more than a little odd, but there was something about Antony’s life and his battles with the demons that earlier generations undeniably found compelling. Athanasius describes how Antony withdraws further and further into the desert, at one point enclosing himself in a deserted barracks and receiving stores of food only twice a year. Athanasius writes:

Those friends who came to see him, since he would not allow them to come inside, often remained outside day and night. They heard what sounded like mobs of people creating a ruckus and crashing around inside, letting loose their pitiful voices and crying out, “Get away from what belongs to us! What are you doing in the desert? You will not be able to endure our connivings!” Those outside at first thought some people… had gotten inside by means of ladders… but when they knelt down to look through a hole in the wall, they did not see anyone. (Athanasius, 2003, p. 89)

1an33__24635_1405404609_900_900Antony instructs his followers to be wary of these demonic voices, telling them that they fill one’s head with “filthy thoughts” and cause “apparitions,” that “they pretend to frighten us by changing their shapes and taking on the appearance of women, wild beasts, reptiles…” (Athanasius, 2003, p. 113)

Hundreds of people flocked to the desert to be taught by Antony, to the point that Athanasius writes that they “forcibly tore down his door and forced him to come out.” (Athanasius, 2003, p. 91) Reading this in the 21st century, I have a hard time imagining this happening in our day. Even though the Christian church has centuries of history and tradition of mysticism and mystery, I can’t imagine people rushing out to sit at the feet of anyone who heard voices and saw apparitions and warned others about demons putting thoughts into their heads today. Can you? If St. Antony lived today, many folks would probably be pretty quick to label him a schizophrenic. They would probably say that he was crazy. Continue reading “Making Space for Mystics and Madness”

Sermon: Eyes of Faith

Thursday, April 27, 2017
James Kenneth Echols Prize for Excellence in Preaching Event
Augustana Chapel, Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 11.19.14 AM

My friend Anna and I were finalists for the winners of our seminary’s annual preaching prize, and we both had the privilege of preaching our sermons, based on the road to Emmaus story, in chapel last Thursday.  Here is mine, and here is Anna’s.

Manuscript follows below.

s463025724710779803_p176_i66_w600Luke 24:13-35 (The Walk to Emmaus)
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Continue reading “Sermon: Eyes of Faith”

Cancer, Evolution, and a Creation Stumbling Forward

I have been taking a particularly fascinating (and challenging!) course this semester called “The Epic of Creation: Scientific, Biblical, and Theological Perspectives on Our Origins.”  While many of our class sessions have been (to my mind) thickly scientific and technical and rather over my head, last Monday, we had a deeply engaging conversation about theological and pastoral perspectives on cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon.  Given my family history of cancer — most notably, my mother’s death from breast cancer in 1994 — this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.  I rushed home after class to write my reflections about all that we had discussed, and after re-reading what I wrote, I decided to share some of it here.  I hope it’s meaningful for others as it is for me. Continue reading “Cancer, Evolution, and a Creation Stumbling Forward”

Sermon: Breaking the Cycle

ash_cross(Early) Sermon for Ash Wednesday
February 22, 2017
“Sermon Design and Delivery” course
LSTC

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you fast, do not look gloomy, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, annoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“Do not be like the hypocrites,” Jesus warns us in our gospel text for today. Unfortunately, it seems like there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around these days – especially if you’re attuned to what’s happening in our country’s political discourse. Politicians and public figures claim to be pro-life, while adamantly supporting the death penalty and opposing gun regulation, despite tens of thousands of gun-related deaths annually. Others claim to be advocates for a quality public education system while proposing plans to dismantle the entire Department of Education. Still others are doing everything in their power to slam the door on refugees and other immigrants seeking safety and opportunity, while ignoring their own families’ personal – and recent – histories of immigration. Hypocrisy is the bread and butter of our world. Continue reading “Sermon: Breaking the Cycle”

Sermon: Resistance is Futile

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Zion Lutheran Church in Franklin, NE

Luke 18:1-8
persistent-widow-crooked-judgeThen Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Good morning! Thank you all for the opportunity to be here with you this morning. It’s great to get to come back and preach in my home state of Nebraska.

My name is Day Hefner and I’m a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago. I just started my third year of classes, and I’m looking forward to finishing up my seminary education on internship next year.

It’s been an interesting journey going through the candidacy process along with other seminarians in Chicago and Nebraska and all over. I’ve gotten the chance to hear many people tell their different stories of how they each ended up where they are, of how they decided to become candidates for ministry in the ELCA.

And even though each person’s story is unique and different, a lot of them tend to share one similar narrative, which is this: “You know, I’ve been feeling a call for years, and I’ve done my best to ignore it – but God is so darn persistent that, well, here I am.” Continue reading “Sermon: Resistance is Futile”

Sermon: Costly Journeys

Sunday, September 4, 2016 / Domingo, 4 Septiembre, 2016
First Lutheran Church of Logan Square

Luke 14:25-33 / Lucas 14:25-33

walk-2021_1920

Classes are starting up again this week at my seminary, LSTC. And to get ready, I’ve been busy calculating loans and scholarships and the cost of another year in school. It’s a lot to consider.

Estoy por empezar mi tercer año de clases en mi seminario, la Escuela Luterana de Teología en Chicago. Para prepararme, he calculado prestamos y becas y el costo de tomar otro año de clases.

Before I first came to Chicago, I had to sit down – like the man wanting to build a tower in today’s gospel text – and estimate the cost of seminary, to see whether I had enough to complete it: the tens of thousands of dollars to cover tuition, books, rent and utilities, food and gas, and all the moving around I would have to do. Following a call to seminary is an expensive undertaking, and not one to take on without first considering the cost.

Antes de mudarme a Chicago, tenía que sentarme a calcular el costo del seminario – igual que el hombre en nuestro texto que quería construir una torre – para ver si tuviera suficiente para terminarlo: decenas de miles de dolares para cubrir la matrícula, libros, renta, utilidades, comida y gas, además de tres mudanzas. Es caro seguir una llamada al seminario, y por lo tanto hay que considerar primero el costo. Continue reading “Sermon: Costly Journeys”

Folks and Yokes

Today was the last day for my friend Erin and me at our Ministry in Context — “MIC” — site.  We bid a fond farewell to the bilingual congregation we’ve been serving part-time in the western suburbs of Chicago for most of the last nine months.  Even though we only got to spend seven or eight hours a week in the church, we really started getting to know people and building relationships with members of the congregation.  It was bittersweet to leave when it feels like we’ve barely begun.

Probably my favorite moment of the day was a part of the special sending they did for us at each of the three services.  The pastor had congregants come forward and lay hands on us, while he prayed, blessed us, and anointed us with oil.  It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful the ministry of touch is.  Just as much as the very kind words of affection and affirmation that we heard from parishioners, the warm, loving touch of their hands on our backs and shoulders was a palpable sign of their care and blessing.

At one of the services, as I stood there before the altar, feeling the light pressure of their hands on my shoulders, I was suddenly reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  This is the vocation to which I have been called: to be “yoked” to the church, “burdened” with love for this community and for its Lord.  And I am so grateful for it.

Brooding on Vipers: An Out of Season Advent Sermon

Wednesday, April 6, 2016
“Encountering the Living Word” preaching course
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)

Matthew 3:1-12
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.Haiti-elsaiah-johnthebaptist

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

The violent language of wrath and destruction in this text is kind of surprising and off-putting. Unquenchable fire and axes are not themes we usually associate with our God of love. Less so during Advent. During Advent, the secular world is usually already in full-blown Christmas mode, and we – in our quiet Christian way – are preparing ourselves for the birth of sweet little baby Jesus.

What is John even so mad about in this text anyway? He’s hanging out in the wilderness, baptizing the huge crowds of people that are coming to him from every which way. I mean, he’s baptizing everybody. Why is it so shocking and upsetting then that the Pharisees and Sadducees are among the crowd as well? Why are they singled out and separated as being somehow worse or more sinful than the rest? Continue reading “Brooding on Vipers: An Out of Season Advent Sermon”

Sermon: Prisoners of Hope

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
“Encountering the Living Word” preaching course
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC)

Zechariah 9:9-12
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
    triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.

 

Visual AIDSIt’s election year in America, and maybe you’re “feeling the Bern” or you want “change we can believe in” or maybe you just want to “make America great again.” On the other hand, maybe you’re already fed up with an election that sometimes feels more like a three ring circus. Wherever you may be with this election, I imagine that on some level, like me, you feel a sense of incompleteness about our political system. Our politics have become so polarized and dysfunctional that it often seems like politicians are more intent on beating one another than on meeting the needs of the people. Continue reading “Sermon: Prisoners of Hope”

My seventh sermon: You Are What You Eat

11880528_1059250310766591_6314628572254871134_nGrace Lutheran Church
Saturday 8/15/15, Sunday 8/16/15

John 6:51-58
Ephesians 5:15-20
Psalm 34:9-14
Proverbs 9:1-6

I had to kind of chuckle a little bit when I read through the texts for today. You all lovingly sent me away to seminary so that I could gain some of the wisdom talked about in the lectionary for today. Now I feel like God has called me home to give you a report on how all that wisdom-acquiring is going!

Well, I have been learning a lot. This past summer in particular has been very formative for me. I just finished eleven weeks of CPE – Clinical Pastoral Education. Basically, I interned as a hospital chaplain on the north side of Chicago. I spent a lot of time sitting at the bedsides of cancer patients and palliative care patients and patients entering hospice care. I listened to their stories and their struggles and their fears about dying. I also had several opportunities to provide them with the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Remembering these experiences, it’s very poignant for me to read Jesus’ words about living bread in today’s gospel reading – “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” In the context of the hospital, the “living bread” of the Eucharist was very often juxtaposed with death and dying. In fact, many of the patients to whom I fed the Eucharist have since died. Jesus himself spoke these words about living bread on the eve of his own death. It makes me wonder a lot about this life that Jesus has promised and about this living bread that he tells us to eat. Continue reading “My seventh sermon: You Are What You Eat”

Please help me go to seminary!

Well, folks, I made it unscathed through the first stage of Candidacy in the ELCA — I’ve officially been “Entranced.”  Since then, I’ve been setting about finding a way to fund my seminary education at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.  While I have been granted a full tuition scholarship along with generous support from my church, Grace Lutheran in Lincoln, I still find myself coming up way short for living expenses; and am also finding that scholarship opportunities are incredibly slim for first year seminary students.  For that reason, I have started a gofundme.com page, hoping to cover more of the deficit I anticipate in my living expenses in Chicago.  I’ve received my first donation of $20 and am grateful for any contribution of any size.

As I’ve written many times in this blog, I am so excited to be part of the future of this church, and I really do feel like I have been blessed with many gifts that I will put to good use in ministry.  Please consider helping me fund my education so that I may become a more effective leader in the ELCA.  Thank you.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑