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Posted on November 4, 2023 in All Saints' Day, Death and Dying, Grace, Grief, Redemption

For All The Saints…And Yet Sinners

When certain words come up in the alphabet, I bet Merrium-Webster’s editors draw straws, or play rock, paper, scissors to decide who gets stuck defining it.
I thought about that possibility again this morning when I got curious about how a dictionary would define “saint.”
You can find their definition here, but the upshot is that every single sub-definition makes purity, perfection, deed-or-virtue-driven worthiness, and a most-certainly earned spot in heaven a pre-req for sainthood.
Relatedly, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t many Lutherans on the Merrium-Webster editorial board.

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28 Hot Takes About The State of the ELCA for Reformation Day

Below is a reduxed, modified FB post I made a couple of weeks ago.  Given that tomorrow is Reformation Day, I’d like to share it more widely via this blog, but you are also welcome to visit that post (hyperlinked here) to see the conversation—and there was one!—generated there.

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Election Day and All Saints Day: Liturgies of the Laos, the Demos, the People of God

After reading Just Mercy several years back, my daughter Else decided that restorative justice is her jam, her thing, her calling, and so she’s pretty much thrown herself into All Things Related.
So on Twitter a few days back (no idea what I’m going to do with my post-Elon Twitter account these days, as an aside) when I saw an event with this title, “Transformative Justice Seeks the Healing of All Parties,” and all the moreso when it was plugged by David Dark, it was maternal catnip and vocational clickbait all rolled up into one.
Dark publishes his blog “Dark Matter” (catchy) here; he’s a dabbler in many things, but a good dabbler, and a righteous one too. He cares deeply about justice, and always from the vantage point of faith, service, vulnerability, and hope for reconciliation and transformation.
It’s that latter word “Transformation” that caught my eye in the title of this conversation he was hailing and having with Rev. Stacy Rector. She’s a Presbyterian pastor who directs Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, sadly, an organization that our society has made necessary to be.
In his blurb for the event, Dark wrote this:
“If policy is liturgy writ large, what do the liturgies                                                                                                  of retaliation, incarceration, and killing                                                                                                                       tell us about ourselves?”
Deep. Exhale.
“If policy is liturgy writ large…”
I have not been able to shake that phrase off, and immediately sent the passage off to my daughter and to my husband, whom I love and who loves me in part because we both like provocative thoughts and rabbit holes.
It wasn’t just that phrase, though, but the following one: “…what do the liturgies of retaliation, incarceration, and killing tell us about ourselves” that sucker-punched me.
In a righteous way.
Transposed, it seems like one could also read that sentence like this: “if our politics and consequent policies are the way that we reflect our selves, our valuation of one another, and our worship of God to the broader world, what do our politics and consequent policies say about our view of ourselves, of each other, and of God?”
I mean, ooof, people.
“If policy is liturgy writ large…”
If this phrase doesn’t keep you awake at night, especially just days before the midterms, what meds are you taking and can I have some?
A couple of years ago, I was invited by the ELCA Youth Ministry Network to reflect on ministry in a time of a pandemic.  You can find the whole article here, but this blurb of Mr. Dark’s called certain parts of the gist of it to mind.
In writing that piece, I learned what should have already dawned on me, namely that that both pan-demic and epi-demic spring from the Greek word ‘demos.’
Demos means people, as in ‘demographic,’ and, well, ‘democracy.’
I mean, I knew that, but I hadn’t really thought about it, but the more I got to thinking about that, the more I cocked my head like my dog Gimli does when he’s confused, which is most of the time.
Because if demos means a people, what about laos, another Greek word, from which we get liturgy, a word that literally means ‘work [ergos] of the people?’
What’s the difference then between the laos of liturgy and the demos of pandemic?
Turns out that there are a couple of answers, and also I can hop through rabbit tunnels like no hare ever did.
The ancient Greeks used the term laos to refer to ordinary people, the regular joes and jolenes, the folks you run into at the corner olive and baklava shop.
But more than that, the laos lived together as a demos, a collective and geographically connected community with one another: the laos shared a common language, government, culture, and mores, which defined them as a demos.
Relatedly, here’s a bit of trivia for you: the word ‘liturgy’ as we associate it, namely as a form of ritual worship, didn’t show up until the 1590s. 
This is most certainly true.
Sure, you can find the word in the New Testament: leitourgia. But the sense of it means a service, or a ministry, rather than an order of worship.
In fact, [and get this] the word originally referred to the work, namely the business, service, and donations that privileged people in Athens and beyond offered to and for the well-being of the people of the community.
Moreover, it was considered a mark of pride and privilege (in the best sense) to offer from one’s plenty to those who had little to none.
There was no resentment about it: there was thanksgiving for it.
In its original sense, then, and the key take-away and upshot here is this: liturgy is work done by the laos on behalf of the well-being of all the demos.
Officially, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1, but in the liturgical calendar of the Church, we remember the saints on the first Sunday following.
That would be tomorrow.
I find it terribly moving that two days following that, namely on Tuesday November 8, we have Election Day.
See, with this calendar coincidence in mind, behold words from the late Jewish writer, theologian, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who in this interview spoke (as he often did) about memory, and about the sacred duty to remember the generations who have come before us:
In memory you are not alone.
You are surrounded by people.
Those who are not here anymore, naturally, but they are there in your memory.
They live.
And you hear them and you speak to them.
And when you need a presence it’s their presence.
Of course, it’s a dead presence, but still it’s a presence.
The presence of the dead is also a presence.
And without memory, then what is worse than to live without a future?
It’s to live without a past.
And I think memory is that past.
We are, that is, not primarily individuals, Wiesel wants us to know.
We are instead part of peoples, laos who are connected to those who have come before, those found in our memories (and, perhaps he would agree, those whom we have forgotten?), and we are likewise connected to those present to us now, and to those in our futures.
We are saints shaped by saints, and we will bequeath what we have received and who we are to the laos and to the demos yet to come.
To use the concept of Mr. Dark, our liturgies—religious and political—shape and will shape laos and demos long after we’ve gone.
As we stare down Election Day, this is the kicker, right?
We dare not forget that our collective liturgy—the ergos (work) of the laos (common people)—will decide the fates of the demos.
Our vote in a demo-cracy is the kratos (strength and power) of the demos (people who live in the same geographical space).
In other words, our leitourgia on November 8 is a form of service and ministry to all the saints.
In still other words, if you want to see who someone is, see what they do.
It’s basic Beatitudes stuff, conveniently one of the texts assigned for All Saints Day, which is celebrated the day before election day, which should preach.
The best liturgies shape what happens when we aren’t in active worship.
So do the worst, by the way.
With that in mind, spurred to think about it in this way thanks to Mr. David Dark and Rev. Stacy Rector, let us not pretend that there isn’t a liturgical ritual of election day.
You show up to the polls, you enter the stall, you make your mark, and you leave, one in a long line of people coming to the altar of democracy, of sorts, to give what they can offer, and make your mark on what happens next in the lives of All The Saints.
Christians are the laos of God, of course.
But we’re also the demos of the US.
And in that voting booth, the liturgies of both collectives coincide: we cast our vote informed by the faithful collective who have come before us (laos), and we cast our vote to inform our collective political present and future (demos).
Make no mistake, then: your vote is a liturgy, an act of worship, and a reflection of who you are, and whose you are.
Remember who you were, and are, and are promised to be.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:10; Hosea 1:10, 2:23)
Remember those who have come before.
Remember who you are thereby.
Share the mercy.
Be God’s laos.
Do the leitourgia of God in the demos.

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Posted on June 25, 2022 in Abortion

There Is No Longer An ‘Unless.’ There Is Only a ‘But.’

Trigger warning: this blog concerns the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
States can’t regulate guns, but, by all means, be our guest, they may regulate women, say the religious extremists cloaked in their judicial gowns.
I learned about the overturning of Roe v. Wade yesterday, right before my last presentation to the adults at Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp.
As I stomped, infuriated, through the grass to the class, I could barely collect my thoughts around Process Theology, the topic at hand.
Yesterday’s drive home and this early morning have been spent trying to wrap my thoughts around our nation’s goose-steps, those marching simultaneously back through the years to the days of dead and wounded women post-illegal abortion, and toward increasing fascist control of not just women, but of anybody and any body outside the idolized white heterosexual cisgender male norm.
I’m somewhere in the zone of lament, lambasted curse words, and coalescing energy of enraged, engaged dissent.
It’s a familiar place, having spent most of the previous President’s tenure there, but here I am, dusting off the space after the all-too-brief, and, in fact, illusory general reprieve.
Process thought—a philosophical and religious perspective with deep connections to scientific theory as well—teaches that every moment is connected to every other moment; the past shapes but does not determine the present or the future; the future is not fixed but informed by the past and present; and we are both influenced by and can influence other moments yet to come.
As of yesterday, we have a Moment, I’ll tell you what.
We now have a moment in which not only does the future of women’s autonomy seem bleak.
It is bleak.
Because of this SCOTUS decision—and because of people who voted to put far right conservatives into power—women will die, poverty will increase, racial disparities will break open all the more widely, prisons will bloat, children will suffer, and women will lose economic power, individual autonomy, any hope of equality and freedom—ironic at the hands of those who wrap themselves in a mantle stamped with a patently warped understanding of the word.
There’s no “unless” here, now.
Already states have moved to block access to abortions, not only putting into motion the possibility of, but, in some instances, already causing, everything I just described and more.
Politicians who sling the term “Pro-Life” but vote against gun legislation, universal health care, increasing the minimum wage, climate legislation, taxing the rich, and vote for the death penalty, immigration restrictions, a reduction in social network benefits for the Least of These, and gerrymandering districts, they own this moment.
Those who didn’t vote at all or voted Republican own this moment.
Religious traditions which speak about a narrow and niche-marketed definition of pro-life but do not speak about poverty, racism, inequity, and patriarchy own this moment.
Denominations which have statements supporting abortion rights but which fetter their rostered leaders from boldly teaching them and/or which remain silent to “meet everyone where they are” own this moment.
And we all will own the consequences.
There is no mollifying, panacean ‘unless’ in this moment.
Nope, not a one to be found.
There is, however, a ‘but.’
This collection of forgone moments, you see, has brought us to our present one in which many options we had had are now cut off—there is, as I say, no ‘unless.’
But new options are now before us—there is, though, a ‘but.’
Some moments invite us to sally further down the road to authoritarianism, apathy, and Fox News.
But other moments beckon us to register people to vote, to set up or join networks of support to women needing abortions in states now outlawing them, to sign up for the encrypted communication app Signal (, to announce far and wide your deep support for women’s autonomy, to cradle women who are traumatized by this ruling, and to send a portion of your tithe to the likes of Planned Parenthood ( and Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (
The past, you see, is the past.
SCOTUS already took women’s autonomy away.
The present is now.
Women’s autonomy is effectively erased.
As it turns out, though, the future is also now.
The State, the black-gowned characters out of the Handmaid’s Tale, and those who enabled them, own this moment.
They think they own women’s bodies, too.
But they have neither need nor right to own the future.
Now is the moment to change the future.
Start now.
In addition to accessing Signal, Planned Parenthood, and Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, lists of even more resources are to be found here and here: please donate to them.
Companies which have asserted their willingness to support their female employees who need to access abortions are found here: please support them.
A few religious responses to yesterday’s ruling, including three denominations with which the ELCA is in Full Communion: please encourage them.
Bishop Eaton, on behalf of the ELCA. “As we live into this new legal framework, we can respond to and minister in the current situation, for instance, by ministering to individuals who seek abortions; advocating for laws that provide free or affordable health care, child care and education; providing and promoting sex education; continuing to be a community of discernment where thoughtful and diverse perspectives can be shared and heard; and advocating for state laws that provide legal, safe and affordable abortions, and against legislation that would outlaw abortion in all circumstances…”
Bishop Michael Curry, on behalf of the Episcopal Church. “The Episcopal Church maintains that access to equitable health care, including reproductive health care and reproductive procedures, is “an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being” (2018-D032). The church holds that “reproductive health procedures should be treated as all other medical procedures, and not singled out or omitted by or because of gender.” (2018-D032). The Episcopal Church sustains its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.” (2018-D032). As stated in the 1994 Act of Convention, the church also opposes any “executive or judicial action to abridge the right of a woman to reach an informed decision…or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision.” (1994-A054).
The court’s decision eliminates federal protections for abortion and leaves the regulation of abortion to the states. The impact will be particularly acute for those who are impoverished or lack consistent access to health care services. As Episcopalians, we pray for those who may be harmed by this decision, especially for women and other people who need these reproductive services. We pray for the poor and vulnerable who may not have other options for access. We urge you to make your voice heard in the way you feel called but always to do so peacefully and with respect and love of neighbor.”

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Posted on April 4, 2021 in Easter

Stewarding Easter

It’s not quite clear who said it first: some sources claim it was Presbyterian theologian John Westerhoff, and others say Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Morneau, and others don’t attribute the line to anyone at all.

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Posted on April 3, 2021 in Grief, Holy Saturday, Hope

Grieve and Hope

After someone dies, there are details, of course, to be addressed, lists that must be drawn up and crossed off, arrangements that need to be made.

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Posted on April 2, 2021 in Good Friday

This Is Who We Are. This is Whose We Are.

Luke 19:37-38 “As [Jesus] was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’”
Luke 23:21-23 “…[the crowds] kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’…[and] they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified…”
Luke 22:33 “And Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”
Luke 22:57 “Peter denied it, saying ‘Woman, I do not know him.”
Luke 22:58 Peter cried, “Man, I am not one of them!”
Luke 22:60 “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!”

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For the Love of God: Maundy Thursday, George Floyd, and the Suffering Love of the Witnesses (We Are All Witnesses)

“As I listened to their emotional testimonies, I reflected on the human superpower that is empathy, the superpower that racism tries to choke off. Empathy led these innocent bystanders to wrack themselves with guilt following Floyd’s killing.“ Heather McGhee
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Matthew 13:34

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Naming the Nine, and Calling a Thing What It Is

Christians (Lutherans perhaps especially) like to talk all the time about forgiveness.
We love love love forgiveness.
And as an extra bonus, we can even talk about forgiveness in polite company.
But unless we’re reading those super uncomfortable Advent texts featuring John the Baptist (that wild-haired, wild-eyed, wild-mannered guy in our lectionary about whom we’re always a bit embarrassed, looking at each other with wide eyes whenever Sundays in December come around, knowing that this strange man got in our scriptural tradition somehow, and so apparently the right thing to do is to figure out how to welcome him into our lecterns, even though we all know we’re not so sure we’d even let him into our pews, and definitely not our pulpits), this man who wields the word ‘repentance’ all the time (much to our chagrin), we have (in stark contrast to ‘forgiveness’) gotten away for far too long without talking about repentance so very much at all.
But this is good, we think.
To tell someone to repent, you see, is awkward.
It’s impolite.
It’s even insulting.
It’s definitely conflictual.
And Christians aren’t supposed to make people feel awkward, and we are not about being impolite, and we shouldn’t insult, and of course we ought not cause conflict in the name of Christ, no matter what this John the Baptist said and did.
But on this tragic, grief-ridden day of the Emanuel Nine, a day that is bundled into other days that have spilled into weeks where our nation has begun to name and claim our racist underpinnings and undertow, it is precisely a moment, in fact a very, very, overdue moment, to speak directly about repentance.
You see, as unwelcome as repentance is as coffeetable, let alone pulpit, discourse, to indict someone by announcing that they must repent…well, arguably, you can’t really get more Lutheran.
Because telling someone to repent means that we are Calling A Thing What It Is.
Martin Luther used this phrase in the 21st Thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation, a series of propositions he presented to his Augustinian Order after he caught a little attention the prior year by nailing some 95 other theses onto a certain door in Wittenberg.
Point is, in this particular thesis of the Heidelberg Disputation, the 21st, he wrote this:
“The theology of glory calls ‘evil’ ‘good,’ and ‘good’ ‘evil.’
A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.”
Telling someone that they need to repent simply calls a thing what it is.
White people, and we as a nation, and we as the ELCA, must repent of our racism, and we can’t do that unless we call it what it is.
Today we mark the Emmanuel Nine, and we say their names.
Reverend and Senator Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Mrs. Cynthia Graham Hurd
Mrs. Susie J. Jackson
Mrs. Ethel Lee Lance
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
Reverend Clementa Pinckney
Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders
Reverend Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr.
Mrs. Myra Singleton Quirles Thompson
These black children of God died because Dylann Roof, a 21-year old far-right white supremacist and member of an ELCA congregation—and, lest we forget, also a child of God—sought to incite a race war by massacring black people whom, he believed, were “taking over the world.”
Somehow his online far-right radicalization held more power over him than did the call—if one was uttered clearly, or loudly, or at all?—to repent of it.
It is overwhelmingly poignant that the commemoration of this horrific crime falls just weeks after George Floyd was murdered and our country—even including the NASCAR community (!!)—is beginning to notice our entrenched, latent, systemic racism.
That’s the first step, of course, to Calling A Thing What It Is.
But we can’t notice, really, unless things are pointed out, unless things are named.
Only then do we have a chance to engage the holy act of repentance.
Rostered leaders are called to be pointer-outers, to be name-ers, to be Calling-A-Thing-What-It-Is-ers.
They are called by the Church at Large and then are called by specific congregations to steward the gospel which, contrary to a pretty decent share of Lutheran understanding, is not that your sins are forgiven.
The gospel, instead, is that Jesus is risen.
So when you invite someone into your community to a ministry of Word and Sacrament or Word and Service, you are calling them into your community to preach, teach, and live out the gospel.
That latter part, of course, this living out the gospel thing, isn’t just their professional vocation, but is their—our—baptismal one too.
The thing of it is, of course, is that the gospel would be positively irrelevant and in point of fact unnecessary if everything were fine, fine, just fine.
There is no need, that is, to pronounce life if life abounds for all anyway.
But the thing of it is, the gospel is precisely relevant because there is still death, and an abundance of it.
And be not mistaken: death is present not just of the six-feet under kind, but of the kind that steals hopes, and spirits, and possibilities, and even our very humanity.
Racism is a tool of death.
And we need leaders of and in the Church to Call That Thing What It Is, because they are called—by all baptized Christians, including you!—to be theologians of the cross, to know that where there is death, precisely there is where there can be possibility of life.
If you want a theology of glory, if you want to be told that all is well when it is not, if you want a (self-proclaimed) leader who says “Peace, Peace,” when there is not peace, go MAGA (and look up Jeremiah 6:14 and surrounding verses).
MAGA puts babies in cages, and separates children from parents, and builds walls, and removes rights, and calls the KKK good people, and after violently forcing peaceful demonstrators off of the streets uses a holy church as a mere backdrop to score a political point with an upside down Bible held by a man who neither opens the book nor enters the building, and MAGA calls all such evil good.
(The leader of that Church’s synod, by the way, Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Called a Thing What It Is about all that nonsense, I’ll tell you what.)
But if you want a pastoral leader whose primary vocation is to proclaim the gospel, which means announcing life, you also called a leader who, inherent to that very call, needs to announce death.
So sit tight, then, because leaders are themselves becoming all the more aware that we all have some repenting to do.
That means it’s about to get awkward, and impolite, and insulting, and conflictual.
We can now appreciate how the crowds who heard John the Baptist felt.
But perhaps unbeknownst to them, and even to us, it is also about to get life-out-of-death-y too.
As it turns out, of course, it’s not just the primary vocation of a pastoral leader to announce and engage in repentance: it’s the primary vocation of any baptized Christian.
Pick up your cross, says the one who was himself baptized by, of all people and inconveniently, John the Baptist, yes, the one and the same, this wild-eyed, wild-haired, wild-way-ed man who at most every turn announced repentance as a mark of the reign and way of God.
“Be willing to die to all that is not of God, and follow me,” says Jesus.
Don’t follow MAGA.
Don’t follow racism.
Don’t follow white privilege.
But follow, rather, Jesus.
Repent, you see, repent of all that is not of God.
Let that die, so that you and others may live.
All of this is true.
But what is also true, on this tragic day five years ago, is that righteous people, faithful people, sisters and brothers in Christ people, died so that racism, rather than righteousness, could live.
Today, that is, there are nine six-foot-under deaths—nine of them—which need to be recalled.
Their deaths matter.
Remember their deaths, and remember their names.
And then in their honor be willing to also name the death-dealing ways of racism and our unwillingness to call it—on personal, congregational, denominational, national, and systemic levels—what it is.
And then repent.
If we can find the courage to hear racism be called what it is, namely not of God, not good, and in fact evil, we will discover that John the Baptist, as wild as his hair and his eyes and his ways were, was right.
Repent, he said, for the Reign of God is, indeed, near.

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The God of Meeting People Where They Are

Privilege is super wily.
It can skillfully drape itself in righteous speech, all the while really cloaking its comfortable and contented status.
But privilege also cunningly hides, even from the people of privilege themselves, death-dealing anxious determination about maintaining societal advantages.
So with that said, and as a shining example, I bristle, truly I do, when I hear rostered leaders talk about needing to “meet my people where they are.”
I just heard it in a couple of private and distinct conversations the other day, as a matter of fact.
“I’ve gotta meet my people where they are.”
That’s the phrase, right there.
Now it -sounds- good.
It sounds righteous even.
It certainly sounds pastoral.
It definitely sounds like what a leader of a specific community is called to do, namely meet their people where they are.
And I do believe that for the most part, rostered leaders mean well when they say it.
But I’ve come to decide that there’s a decent shot that actually, it’s -not- always good, righteous, pastoral, or what at leader in a community is called to do.
Thing is, when we decide to “meet ‘our’ people where they are,” we can’t help but simultaneously (albeit cloaked in that wily-privileged way) leave -other- people, the very people who need the -rest- of us to move from where -we- are, well…we can’t help but leave them where -they- are.
So when we hear the phrase “I need to meet my people where they are,” I think what we should actually hear, especially these days, is less even-the-best-of-intentioned pastoral move, and more the hidden message—hidden even to the leader, I do believe—that we’re supposed to be ok with that, down with it, content with it, because those are not ‘our people,’ they are not ‘us.’
They are ‘other.’
The wretched thing of it is, -nobody- is where they are supposed to be.
Moreover, the white rostered tendency to want to meet people of privilege where they are is precisely what keeps the status quo, which is precisely that which keeps everybody where they aren’t supposed to be.
I will say again and again and again that the pastoral is the prophetic, and the prophetic is the pastoral.
Insular preaching and teaching, that which is offered to meet privileged congregants and congregations where they are, protects White Lives from knowing about and caring about Black Lives.
It shields White Lives from knowing about and caring about -and- -rejecting- -in- -the- -name- -of- -the- -Gospel- the White System of Privilege which contributes to the injustice, poverty, inequity that Black Lives endure.
It buffers White Lives from knowing and caring about the names of people who have died at the hands of their White Privilege, that which congregations and congregants, under the rubric of meeting them where they are, have been led to believe affords them the luxury of not knowing, because the time is “just not right.”
“They’re just not ready for that yet.”
“We have to meet them where they are.”
In the complicated book of Hosea, Israel had forsaken God by falling into a cycle of normalized lying, and murder, and violence, such that even the land and sea and the creatures upon and in it suffered.
After a long enough period of waiting for this situation to turn around, God’s response, albeit conveyed in troubling metaphor, was finally to call Israel Lo-ammi: not my people.
Remember, of course, that we hear God say, “I am your God, and you shall be my people” in any number of texts, like Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12, and Isaiah 5:15-16.
But no longer, says God.
What you have done, God says, is enough.
The relationship is severed.
And what had Israel done?
Among other sins, Israel had opted to align themselves not with God, but with Baalistic culture, which included a nasty habit of placing economic success for the few at the expense of the many, and of the land.
So God abandoned Israel to its enemies, and to the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
Note that it was -they- and -their- actions which terminated the relationship; -not- God.
God did not decide against them.
The ones formerly known as the people of God decided -against- God, and -for- other gods.
It’s possible that in the same way, now, in our streets we are seeing the consequences of -our- unfaithfulness.
We have, of course, tolerated a corrupt, malicious, and weak-spirited president, and political leaders who abide, aid, and abet him, and the agendas which they push at the expense of others.
Some Christians have even voted for them.
But we have also aligned ourselves with other gods, including those in the headlines of recent days, most especially that of White Privilege.
And we as rostered leaders have all too often opted to align ourselves with the god of Meeting People Where They Are, which has enabled and unleashed many an evil thing at the now normalized expense of People Who Are Not Where They Should Be.
So back to Hosea, it turns out that God’s disassociation from Israel was temporary—not inconsequential, but not permanent.
God opted, and even in the very next verse of this judgment, to make us God’s people again.
The message of Hosea is of judgment, but judgment that sends us into a way of repentance -and- -then- -restoration.-
The ironic thing is that the same phrase which has allowed rostered leaders to dance around dicey subjects can in fact throw them right into the whirl of it all:
Meet your people where they are.
If you’re the leader of a white congregation, that’d generally be a life of white privilege at the expense of black lives which do, in fact, matter.
So go ahead.
Meet them where they are.
And when you do, meeting them where they -really- are as opposed to where they -think- they are, you help lead your people into repentance, you announce the possibility of restoration to -all- the People of God, and you help bring -all- the People of God to where everyone ought to be.

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Talking About a Revolution

Do you ever find yourself with a tune in your mind?
You’re not even conscious that you’ve got a song going on your soul, and then suddenly you hear your lips hum, your mouth sing, or even your fingers tapping out the rhythm of the beat.
I’m willing to admit that it happens to me, but I am not willing to admit how often.
On occasion, when I discover that I’ve got some notes and lyrics in my mind…and others external to me are noticing…it’s because a certain apparently random tune was in fact triggered by a word or a phrase or an event: when I’m standing before an open fridge, an exasperated, “I’m all out of milk,” becomes “I’m All Out of Love,” or while making stew I discover myself singing our family favorite lullaby “Little Potato,” or (back in the days when my beloved baseball was actually played), when I’m looking for the weather radio to take into my garden so I can hear the Minnesota Twins play (sigh), I discover that I’m humming “Brown Eyed Girl,” which, by all informed accounts, is the best song ever, and while it may have overtly nothing to do with a baseball (though I’m sure that the ‘stadium’ which is mentioned is obviously one built for baseball and no other) has everything to do with baseball, not to mention young love, the best of which has to do with baseball.
But the other day, I woke up with Tracy Chapman in my head.
 Straight away, at 5:37, eyes opened and there she was.
But because it was 5:37, it took me about 15 minutes into the day and a couple of sips of my coffee to realize that she was singing me into the day, and quite possibly into a new world.

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$15 Hen Money for Chicks and Feed

About two years back, the State of Minnesota paid for our home to made more accessible by way of a track-run hoyer lift for my son…and for my back, as it turns out, because Karl’s way heavier now at age 18 than when the accident happened at age 3, I will tell you what.

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Mindful of the Risks, Up and Calling A Thing What It Is Anyway

“Mindful of the risks, we pledge ourselves to involvement in the social systems and structures, so that these become more responsive to God’s will for the world.
We will be our Lord’s advocates for the powerless, the poor, the lonely, the exploited, the deprived, the rejected.
We will resist any governmental, social, economic, or ideological force which would blunt justice or demean persons.
We will work with those who will be helpful us to respect all, care for all, and aim at freedom for all.
Thus committed, we look to Almighty God for direction.
In Jesus Christ and through the prophets, God gives us the vision of a world made new for a life of social justice and mercy, of reconciliation and peace, of promise and fulfillment.
We rely on the Spirt to give us power to do that which a faith active in love demands us.
Our hope is in God.” Mandate for Peacemaking, 1982, American Lutheran Church
Last weekend (although not by any means for the first time) I mentioned Trump and the Republican Party and GOP policies by name in some presentations I gave at a synod assembly.

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55% Right or 100% Rascal?

When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.

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The Bible, The Newspaper, and the Gospel of Advent

“Der Pfarrer und die Gläubigen sollten sich nicht einbilden, dass sie eine religiöse Gesellschaft sind, die sich um bestimmte Themen herum dreht, sondern sie leben in der Welt. Wir brauchen doch – nach meiner alten Formulierung – die Bibel und die Zeitung.”

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Posted on June 30, 2018 in Environment, Grace, Joy, Scripture, Wholistic Living

Considering the Lilies

The last few weeks have been on the whirlwindy side: A long van trip up to and back down from Alberta, Canada for several presentations there, and all of two days here at home before we schlepped on another long van trip down to and back up from Houston, Texas, where I presented to a gathering there too.

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Numbering the Stars While Caring for Those Who Can’t

Psalm 147
1Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
4He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.
5Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
7Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre.
8He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills.
9He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.
10His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
13For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.
14He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.
15He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.
16He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.
17He hurls down hail like crumbs— who can stand before his cold?
18He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
20He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the Lord!

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Lament. Denounce. Hope. Serve.

“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
So, tells Matthew in 2:7-8, said King Herod to the wise men after learning from them that the king of the Jews had been born.

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Remember, Re-Member, Re-Imagine

“Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered.”  Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture, Hope, Despair and Memory

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Posted on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

Delightful Packing

The below entry was published last Sunday in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.  My hyper linking is not doing what it should do, so the link for it is simply splayed out here:

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Kaj Munk: Martyr, Mentor of Epiphanic Recklessness

What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: “Faith, hope, and love”? That sounds beautiful. But I would say–courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature…we lack a holy rage–the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth…a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger, when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many, and against the madness of militaries. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God. And remember the signs of the Christian Church have been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish…but never the chameleon.
Call committees, when sketching out a profile for their next pastor, are awfully drawn to words like these: kind, available, comforting, pastoral, articulate, flexible, intelligent, dynamic, wise, knowledgable, organized, trust-worthy, confident.

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The More-or-Less Fourth Annual-esque Repost of My Holden Caulfield “Old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it” Blog

This morning, I found myself trolling some earlier blogs I wrote about Advent and Christmas, trying to remember what thoughts I have had about them in the past (I have lots of thoughts, but can hold on to only one or two at a time).

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Posted on July 3, 2015 in Guns, Race

Dreaming New Dreams

Last night I dreamt that Patrick Stewart strolled by me, wearing an intensely colored plaid pair of pants and a snazzy golf beret. He took one look at me walking along the same sidewalk, and realized that I positively screamed Lutheran Theologian.

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Posted on April 22, 2015 in OMG in the News

New Life at OMG

Those of you who have read some of my blogs or have heard some of my presentations know that I have a thing for new life.

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Posted on June 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

RSS Subscription Change

OMG recently changed its RSS feed. If you’d like to keep receiving blog posts delivered to your inbox, please update your subscription/subscribe here:

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Posted on November 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Second Annual Holden Caulfield Post

So I’ve already seen defiant-gauntlet-thrown-in-the-sand warnings on FB that if I want to say Merry Christmas to you even if you’re a Jew/Wiccan/Muslim/Buddhist/Agnostic, that you darn better deal with it.

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Posted on September 26, 2012 in Ash Wednesday, Holy Spirit

Shall I eat a peach? Just maybe I will, while I sit here still.

5:45 comes to me by way of pre-set coffee calling me out of bed, giving me some moments of solitary quiet before the family clamor, not to mention my own clamor, begins: the clamor for mama, for cereal, for laundry, for bills, for blogs, for groceries, for homework help, for supper, for tomorrow’s lunches, and then finally the calmer clamor of bedtime stories and then, perhaps by a fire, with a glass of wine as the day turns dark.

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Posted on June 28, 2012 in Death and Dying

"She did what she could do"

On another note, one of my mentors, Murray Haar, at the peak of craziness post-accident, told me that one of his favorite NT tales is of the woman who anointed Jesus.

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Today’s SCOTUS Affordable Act decision, faith, and politics

John Westerhoff wrote:
“Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe, that is, after we give our love, loyalty, and trust to God, from whom each and every aspect of our lives comes as a gift. As members of God’ s household, we are subject to God’ s economy or stewardship, that is, God’ s plan to reconcile the whole world and bring creation to its proper end.” (Grateful and Generous Hearts, Atlanta: St. Luke’s Press, 1997, p. 20.)
I know that I’ve blogged about Westerhoff’s words before.

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Posted on April 1, 2012 in Biblical Interpretation, Easter, Epiphany, Joy

Umbrella Men and Palm Branches

In December, 1967, John Updike was writing “Talk of the Town” for the New Yorker, and he spent most of that “Talk of the Town” column talking about the “Umbrella Man.”  He said that his learning about the existence of the Umbrella Man made him speculate that in historical research, there may be a dimension similar to the quantum dimension in physical reality.  If you put any event under a microscope, you will find a whole dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on.  It’s as if there’s the macro level of historical research, where things sort of obey natural laws and usual things happen and unusual things don’t happen, and then there’s other level where everything is really weird.
My father sends me an awful lot of good stuff for blog ponderings.  Far too long ago, he sent me a link to a New York Times video about the Umbrella Man.  It’s a short film by Errol Morris, an interview with Josiah “Tink” Thompson, quoted above.  He’s an academic-become-gumshoe, and while not all people agree with his methods or his madness, he raises curious questions, and I like people who raise curious questions.

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Anne Rice Redux

Question: It may be semantics, but leaving church and leaving congregational religion may not be the same.  Consider–if I woman has been for whatever reasons in abusive marriage(s) and decides that marriage is not a good thing, that is not a declaration that all men are bad, but a declaration that marriage is not the way she chooses to relate to men.  It may be that people who leave congregations/church (one word for both in their mind) are seeking a different way to relate to God.

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Can Grace Really Be Pulled out of the Fire? Scary Matthew 13.

Anna- curious of your understanding of Matthew 13:36-43.  Is this really telling of a one time judgement and not an eternal one?  I was thinking of our conversation at Outlaw Ranch this past week.  It sounds pretty eternal to me.

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"Rarely, will anyone die for a righteous person." The Impracticality of Jesus' Death

The problem I see every day amongst Christians is the inability to find a more practical explanation to those of us who don’t quite understand the meaning of giving up your only son to save a bunch of sinners. Why would anyone do that? And worse: no matter what kind of crook you’ve been your whole life,  just accept such a travesty and you secured a spot in heaven. And I’m supposed to reason with that?????  Come on!!!

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Posted on May 5, 2011 in Hope

Corinthian Juleps

Ten-year old (ostensibly) Virginia Cary Hudson wrote  O Ye Jigs & Juleps! in 1904.

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Being Taken on an Adventure

adventure (n.) early 13c., auenture “that which happens by chance, fortune, luck,” from O.Fr. aventure (11c.) “chance, accident, occurrence, event, happening,” from L. adventura (res) “(a thing) about to happen,” from adventurus, future participle of advenire “to come to, reach, arrive at,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + venire “to come” (see venue). Meaning developed through “risk/danger” (a trial of one’s chances) and “perilous undertaking” (early 14c.) and thence to “a novel or exciting incident” (1560s). The -d- was restored 15c.-16c. Venture is a 15c. variant. As a verb, c.1300, “to risk the loss of;” early 14c. “to take a chance.”

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Sacred pissiness

I just finished reading a review of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. You can find the link here. If you’re wondering why you’ve heard of Barbara Ehrenreich before, your memory is tingling because she wrote the notable book Nickle and Dimed.

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Anne Rice not a Church-goer … then she is … now she's not …. What's up?

In light of Anne Rice’s recent announcement that she is leaving Christianity but holding onto Christ I am pondering the following:
What does it mean to react to vs respond to the Gospel, to God, to Christ, to Christianity?
What are the parallels, if any, between Anne Rice and the stance taken by Martin Luther centuries ago?
What does it mean to ‘leave’ a doctrine?

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A Brief, Cursory, Abridged, Compressed, Abbreviated, Thumbnail Sketch of the Evolution of Scripture

You’ve touched on this before, but could you go into further depth about how the bible was assembled and exactly what it is supposed to be? For instance is every word directly from God or did he just give the writer some guidelines? How were the books chosen? How were they ordered? Why are the catholic bibles and the NKJ versions different? I know, lots of questions, but I’m curious!

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Hunches, hopes, hints about grace

Question: If we are saved by God’s grace and yet we continue to turn our back on God, i.e., we don’t practice our faith, we don’t pray, we don’t read God’s word, we continue to repeat the same sins over and over, etc. if we die are we saved or did we fall short of God’s grace? Ref: Hebrews 10:26-31

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Posted on June 9, 2010 in Christianity, Homosexuality, Sin, Stewardship

One more thing

There’s another key element to both my recent post on marriage, and my recent post on homosexuality, that I haven’t raised in the blog yet–I think. (I have been known to repeat myself, particularly when I’m fretting or impassioned about something, as I am about the way in which we speak about homosexuality in the Church.)

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Posted on April 27, 2010 in Christianity, God's Relevancy, Judaism, Reader Questions

Is God just laughing at our expense?

Question:  Why doesn’t God make things more evident, such as important life and death decisions, or directions to take in life or in ministry.  I’m not saying that God would do so with miraculous signs or anything, but why not at some point in the process of trying to figure out the next best step, at least tip his hand a little.  Does God enjoy sitting back and watching us screw things up?

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ELCA conversation about homosexuality

Question:  Hi! was wondering if you had an opinion on the whole gay minister thing, particularly re: the editorial yesterday;03/03/2010 in the Argus Leader from Lutheran minister who equated the issue to the rebellion of Lucifer; wanting to place his throne above God’s throne.

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Technology and Religion

Question: As we live an work in a society of technology how can we bring worship into this realm?  Religion seems to be the one area in many people’s lives where there very little modernization in comparison to the rest of society.  Google has brought the whole world to our finger tips.  Can church as we know it continue to exist in a modern based society?

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Does Paul care about and move us toward justice?

Question: A thought I gleaned from someone else: Remember for a moment the prophets, critiquing Israel’s priests: it’s not animals and blood upon the altar that God desires, it’s a broken and contrite heart, righteousness in our hearts and in our relationships.  (Gross oversimplification, I know – but I think mostly accurate.)  Fast-forward to Paul, who often interprets Christ’s death and resurrection in terms of God’s demand for some sort of satisfaction for our sins.  Hence, our ideas about substitutionary atonement, with lots of emphasis on Jesus blood as payment for our sins.  Question: Does this move that Paul makes make it a little harder for Christians to hear the call of those prophets, and God’s desire for hearts broken by injustice and cruelty?  From the perspective of one who has a tough time ‘sticking’ to substitutionary atonement, I’d be curious to hear your reflections on other ways to interpret the meaning of the cross.  (That’s your field, right?)

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Who should go forward for Communion?

Question:  My sister-in-law grew up Bapist (she’s from GA). She didn’t receive communion with us during a visit to MN-she explained due to her thoughts, words, deeds.  I told her that’s the best time to go and mentioned Eph 2:8-10. She came back to me with James 2:14-19.  So what do I say to a Baptist PK that responds as such with my Lutheran background?

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Posted on January 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

OMG Blog

The OMG Blog is the place for engagement in a wide range of topics. We strive to keep the content true to our purpose, to pursue a conversation of theological knowledge and relevancy. If you have submitted a question, you may see it posted here; so check back again if you don’t see it now. No guarantees, but it might go live.

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