If you want to get technical about it, Christians aren’t really monotheists.
If you want to get technical about it, Christians aren’t really monotheists.
Today, the Church celebrates Pentecost.
The thing about redemption is that sometimes, we don’t actually want it.
Most of us know Hitler’s perpetrated evil against the Jews, the Romani, the disabled, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, political adversaries, and resisters as “the Holocaust.”
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.
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.
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!”
“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
So here we are not just in the fourth week of Advent, but are officially staring Christmas straight on.
In the last couple of weeks, my daughter Else discovered an etymology that somehow, I’d never thought to think about.
I voted for Biden/Harris out of all three.
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 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.
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.
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.
Here’s a really beautiful something that Martin Luther never ever said, even though on Earth Day, shared especially by well-intentioned Lutherans, a person can’t avoid seeing on social media.
With a glint of good-natured mischief in his eyes, I was once told by friend of mine, a man who has been a gift to me in powerful ways, a man who is Jewish, that deep down, I am really Jewish, and he and I both know it.
I didn’t get a Good Friday blog done yesterday.
The other day, I was looking for one thing, which I did not find.
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.
Two weeks ago, I began a new position at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary as an adjunct professor.
This past Saturday, I was very honored to be the speaker at this year’s Excellence in Preaching event sponsored by St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.
Dear all, a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!
A paradox: something that is the opposite of what you’d expect to be true, even though it’s quite true, and maybe all the more true because of the contradiction held in the tension of competing truths.
Below is a really, really, really long blog.
This last month has brimmed with all sorts of action: travels, presentations, writing deadlines, appointments, and meetings.
I fell in love with the Minnesota Twins, and therefore fell in love with baseball, at the exact same time that I first fell in love at all.
This past Sunday, our congregation of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church sang Marty Haugen’s “Gather Us In,” (ELW 532) straight away at the start of the service.
“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.
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.
Every year I say it, and so I will say it again this year:
Today, Good Friday, I have Peter on my mind.
Baseball is back, and season of Lent or not, that totally deserves a hallelujah.
So in a few weeks, I’m hitting my Year of Jubilee, as they say: the big 5-0.
Gosh it’s been a humdinger of a month.
Dear OMG blog readers,
Some time in the last week or two I was listening to Minnesota Public Radio, and a story about “legacy letters” came on.
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
So today is Christmas Day.
“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.”
I got myself into a bit of a pickle the other day, and the reason for it (as is the case with most of my pickles [I tend to generate a lot]) started innocuously.
Sometimes, let’s just admit it, English isn’t quite as deft as one might like.
Here’s a word I hadn’t known before yesterday: Cleromancy.
So I had to deal with a bit of a firewood kerfuffle this past month.
I joke that R.E.M. is only a band to me.
Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Senator Peter King (R-New York) decry “‘hysterical women” at the Kavanaugh hearings.
A Reflection on James 2:1-17, 2nd Reading in the Revised Common Lectionary for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 9, 2018.
It is more than possible to hold in harmony Manhattans and chocolate milk and Bach and Aretha and gardens and cityscapes and love of other and of self and the reign of God and sharing them all.
On Twitter, recently, I came across this line:
No one can be objective about their own theology.
I like it.
So on the upside, I learned several things, thanks to not one but both dogs being sprayed by a skunk yesterday morning at 4:00 a.m.
My two children, my father, my two hounds, and I have at the ready the obligatory festive Fourth brats, beer (root and otherwise), watermelon, broccoli salad, potato salad, brownies, and homemade ice cream.
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.
We are a people called and gathered and washed.
“Now that you know that death doesn’t win, there’s more to do with your life than preserve it.”
If you were to look at the list of my most-played tunes, Ludovico Einaudi and Daniel Hope’s I Giorni: Andante would top the list.
Christians are suffering a crisis of the First Commandment: that’s the one that goes, “You shall have no other gods but me.”
I have a dear friend, up here in Two Harbors.
Here’s the two-fold gist of this Ash Wednesday/Gearing-Up-For-Lent blog:
It seems to me reasonable to assume that if a person is, say, a Minnesota Twins fan, she doesn’t pull on Milwaukee Brewers gear for the Big Game.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born 112 years ago today on February 4, 1906.
Every day, I get to drive my girl back and forth to her high school in Duluth.
We’ve all asked ourselves, when hearing of some moment of historical courage, “What would I have done?”
I was already late and well on my way to my late husband’s memorial service before I realized that the urn with his ashes still sat on the kitchen table.
It’s 12:10 afternoon on January 1, and I just did a Twitter search for #NewYearsResolutions.
The below was written initially as a FB post this morning, but I’m compelled to post it as a blog.
This past Sunday, November 19th, I had the pleasure of preaching at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais, MN.
(The below was a Facebook post I wrote this morning before church. It seems to have resonated with enough people that I decided to repost it here as a blog. Peace.)
My girl made her Confirmation this last Sunday, which also was Reformation Sunday, which wasn’t any ordinary Reformation Sunday, but was, rather, the 500th Anniverary of the first (unintentional) Reformation Day, a day which actually falls on today, the day before All Saints’ Day.
Both before and after Charlottesville, I’ve been seeing all sorts of calls to respond to palpable hate with love.
The other day, a person whom I do not know commented on a Facebook post I made objecting to Donald Trump’s announcement that “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
“Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.”
For what may or may not be the umpteenth time, E and I were belting out Hamilton on our way to her confirmation class this morning.
Most recently, it was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who claimed that Hitler “didn’t even use chemical weapons…on his own people.”
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!
We don’t have many Dust Bunnies at our home.
So, despite Hallmark and Russell Stover and Dove Chocolate and rose growers gerrymandering this holiday, the truth is, Valentine’s Day isn’t originally about romantic love….though we aren’t exactly sure what it is about.
So, Donald Trump will be inaugurated on Friday as our next president.
This morning, I announced to my daughter Else that today was finally Epiphany!
My two children, my father, and I, we really lived it up for our New Year’s Eve last night, I tell you what.
“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.
Dear followers of OMG,
I think it was in the early winter of 1996 when I won a gaudy set of dishes, flatware, and stemware simply by chucking my name in a box at the Watertown SD Target.
In the late ’60s and ’70s, my father was a Professor of New Testament in the Religion Department at Concordia College.
A year or so back, thanks to my first cousin once removed (that’d be my cousin Peder’s daughter Solvei: I had to go to a website to make sure I had that relationship term right), I learned about the band Postmodern Jukebox.
The Cedar Coffee Company is reason enough to move to Two Harbors.
The late Joseph Sittler, Lutheran theologian and wordsmith, savored life.
“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
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: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2016/05/14/madsen-when-you-take-only-what-delights-can-freeing/84341626/
The state of American politics is in quite a state these days, isn’t it.
Well, here’s our little family’s news:
Because of my son’s brain injury, I sleep in the same bed with him.
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.
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).
I know Christmas is around the corner (even my family is starting to bust out the Christmas decorations), but Advent does yet have dibs on our attention for a short spell.
“And Lincoln says to the woman, ‘Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?’”
“…our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough.”
Sometimes, you know when a serendipitous moment changes the trajectory of your life’s plans.
If you know nothing else about Martin Luther, you know that he didn’t like indulgences.
Hermey: Hey, what do you say we both be independent together, huh?
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.
The other day, two parallel events happened in my life.
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.
Below are photos from my home office (I’ve discovered that you can see them a bit more clearly if you click on them.)
A few months back, which was several years later than it should have been, I stumbled on poetry by Billy Collins.
On this occasion of the 70th Holocaust Remembrance Day, the following is a reworking of some thoughts I’ve offered in presentations over the last several months.
Saturday, my father, my daughter, and two friends went to cut our Christmas tree. Every year, we march out to some spot out of town for the annual sawing down of the Tannenbaum.
This year’s Advent launches us into the “Year of Mark,” the period when the primary gospel readings come from, well, Mark, obviously.
Last night, we learned that there will be no indictment of Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
If you have never read Wendell Berry, or worse, never heard of him, stop reading this blog this very moment and go to your nearest local bookstore to buy his stuff up before your neighbor snags all the goods first.
So for folks who read my stuff, or have heard me speak, you know that I am ridiculously annoyed with the echoing space in the creed between Mary’s birthing of Jesus and Pontius Pilate’s offing of him.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks, to be sure, in the news here and abroad.
Ten years ago yesterday, all was mostly well in my world.
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Persistently needy, glommy people, people who must satiate their need for affirmation by demanding to be in the limelight, are children of God.
So, poverty is in the news here in South Dakota.
Tuesday, post Holy Week.
Daughter Else asks magnificent questions.
Wally Taylor teaches New Testament at (the truly outstanding) Trinity Lutheran Seminary, in the fair city of Columbus, Ohio.
So tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, many–not all, but many–people in the Christian Church mark the beginning of Lent.
(This blog is an adaptation of a recent presentation I gave at the Sawmill Retreat Center in Huron, OH, for a clergy and rostered leaders’ event for two combined ELCA synods. The theme of our days together was that of discipleship).
Appropriately, I think, I tend to keep personal updates off of my OMG Facebook page.
I was fussing with the idea of re-posting this blog this week, but then a friend of mine made reference to it today, and I viewed it as a sign that maybe I should just as well go ahead and do it for the third year running.
Google yields only one pop song, and an iffy one at that, with the word “finitude” in its lyrics.
“We pray for the Holy Spirit to come, and then, when she does, we want her to go home!”
Within days, our eyes and ears and minds and hearts have drawn in far too much smoke and fire and blood and weeping.
Through OMG I’ve been pleased to keynote or lead workshops, across denominational lines, at the events listed below.
Twice in the last several months I’ve had occasion to tell the tale of the time I stood in front of my late husband’s closet, charged with choosing the clothes in which he’d be buried.
Today, Economic Justice is the OMG topic du jour.
So in the wake of Newtown, tsunami waves of debate around gun control have already flooded our national conversations.
We have been waiting for weeks now to sing that very first verse: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
So rumor had it, when I was young and svelte, that when a person ages, their metabolism slows down, and they gain weight more easily, and it takes a lot longer to work it off.
So tonight I learned that the tradition of paper advent calendars with windows that open to chocolate, or, for the more pious of us, Bible verses, started in Germany in the early 1900s.
Many years ago, my Grandma Madsen got fired from the Brookings South Dakota jail.
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.
I was listening, the other day, to a man on the radio who said that he advocated “Value Based Voting.”
A week ago or so a pastor friend of mine posted this text from Psalm 23, verse 6, on her Facebook page: “Your beauty and love chase after me everyday of my life.”
Today, at 10:00 p.m., South Dakota will execute a man, and another man within the next couple of weeks.
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.
Below is the text of August 12th’s sermon for Springdale Lutheran. The texts are below the sermon, and were captured at http://bible.oremus.org.
This blog is a posted version of the sermon I preached this morning at Springdale Lutheran, and in light of the events in Colorado, and in light of the day-to-day lives of so many suffering sisters and brothers in the world.
So I was having lunch the other day with two wonderful women, women who like lunch with vodka, and so I like having lunch with them, because I like them, I like vodka, and I like lunch.
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.
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.
So the kidlets and I were in Target this morning, racing to get an errand done between church services and a meeting we wanted to attend.
there’s more to do with our lives than preserve them.
The below appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper today. I’m reposting it here, because it’s a Holy Saturday-ish set of musings.
Good Friday is a High Holy Day in the Christian tradition, and I would argue is half of a singular event: Cross/Resurrection.
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.
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.
It’s 8:04 on Tuesday morning, and I’m sitting in the waiting room at the hospital after just sending my son off to yet another surgery.
As much as I have recently made a case for Advent, and then for Christmas, you might have expected that I would write something about the season of Epiphany, now over a week past.
Today we awoke to a Christmas Day for the picture books.
Those are Holden Caulfield’s words, not mine, from J.D. Salinger’s book The Catcher in the Rye.
Below is a link and then the full text of a piece I wrote for our Sioux Falls local paper, the Argus Leader. It was published this last Saturday.
The other day, my good friend told me that she’d watched a show about the Rogue Wave Phenomenon.
Eight years ago yesterday, daughter Else was born.
A couple of years ago, I was talking in our living room about my affinity for heretics.
“It took me a long time to learn that God is not the enemy of my enemies. He is not even the enemy of His enemies.”
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.
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!!!
A special thanks to Lori Walsh for crafting this beautifully written piece in the September issue of She Magazine, as well as to Connie Sweatman, Murray Haar, and Carl and Kerry Schmitzer for their contributions to it.
We just returned from two weeks Florida, the children and I.
This week is a personal doozy.
The Spirit is a tough one for many of us (northern European) Protestants to wrap our minds around..or to be wrapped around by, frankly (pardon the dangling prepositions).
For people who think on such things, May 13th marks the day of medieval mystic Julian of Norwich.
Ten-year old (ostensibly) Virginia Cary Hudson wrote O Ye Jigs & Juleps! in 1904.
Recently I read a review of a new book by Terry Eagleton called Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. A very fine survey of his life can also be found here. The review of this particular volume was so compelling that I ran out and got it, and you should too.
My daughter Else and I have settled in these last several nights to read Bridge to Terabithia.
I was brought up being told that God is everywhere, and all powerful, that those who seek shall find, and that it is quite possible to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, while fearing no evil.
In my dining room hangs a framed and matted lithograph by William Benson, a now-retired art professor at the University of Wisconsin (Eau Claire).
So if I’m going to make the case that faith has relevance, I might as well throw myself into the Wisconsin fray, which has an awful lot in common with the Ohio fray, and is symptomatic of lots of frays both present and impending.
In seminary, I was introduced to this piece by Valerie Saiving Goldstein, a groundbreaking essay entitled The Human Situation: A Feminine View, written in 1960.
Today is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday.
Next Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Monday morning I had a fortunate exchange with a friend of mine. When we run into each other, which happily occurs a lot, we immediately move beyond the weather and get into the grit of life.
“Let’s write words in the snow, Elsegirl,” I told my seven-year old daughter, after she had pulled me out to play in the 9° Sioux Falls nippiness yesterday afternoon.
These days I’m reading a lot of the Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann.
I have always been struck that Mary, the mother of Jesus, after learning that she was pregnant with the one whom many would later call to be the Messiah, somehow found time to “ponder these things in her heart.”
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.”
I was so pleased to have been asked recently to prepare a presentation for the Stephen’s Ministers of my congregation, and I decided to make the gathered group into guinea pigs.
I remain unable to let go of the irritation I feel at myself that I did not think of the name of this strange venture of mine, namely OMG: Center for Theological Conversation.
On the eve of the mid-term elections, a short OMG blog about the relationship of your faith and your vote.
We get the Atlantic at home, and gracing the latest cover is a patriotic Doonsebury (Zonker?) figure with the headline The Boomer’s Last Chance: They Ruined Everything, But Can Still Be the Greatest Generation.” (October 2010)
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.
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?
What are the absolute truths of the Bible? In other words, what is not subject to interpretation, or are there some passages or themes that everyone interprets the same?
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!
I try to believe that grace is a fundamental teaching of the Lutheran faith. I have trouble with that at times. Any ideas?
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
That’s a provocative observation from theologian Sallie McFague.
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.)
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?
After the accident, somebody told me that that best metaphor that they could think for me was that of Holy Saturday.
“Jews and Christians can walk together until Good Friday…” So says Pinchas Lapide, a remarkable Jewish theologian, in his book, Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine.
So, we have not delved into the etymological well for some time, being busy with lots of good reader comments to the blog and questions! Thanks for those, and more are always welcome!
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.
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?
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?)
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?
I spent this last weekend with a lot of glue and tape thanks to re-discovering a children’s science/art book I had put aside some time ago.
Slowly but surely, the OMG office is coming together.
So with Ash Wednesday, today begins the season of Lent.
One of my favorite etymologies concerns the word “compassion,” a word that I hope you will agree is remarkably suitable for a Valentine’s Day reflection!
So I figure we’ve got a good thing going with the etymology kick. Let’s keep dipping into the well of http://www.etymonline.com/.
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