Thursday, July 26, 2007

Little Heathens

While I have been somewhat excited to read the new Harry Potter, it is this book that really caught my attention. First of all, I'm not sure I've ever read a book where the author has the same name as my grandma. Second, I am from Iowa. Place in literature is always a draw for me. Third, I sit and talk quite regularly with folks who remember living through the Great Depression, and Little Heathens portrays this period and life in Iowa with a beauty and precision that matches the oral histories I've heard over the years. So it is joyous to sit this summer and read such a book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Untamed Hospitality | Chapter Two

Elizabeth Newman writes, "Christian hospitality disappears when the distinction between church and world is collapsed" (43).

In worship, one of the times we struggle to clarify this point is in the announcement, either verbal or in the bulletin, on who can come forward to receive communion. Everybody? Those with faith? The baptized? Those who believe in the real presence? Those who are old enough to understand? Those who are of our same denomination?

I think she is correct that extreme inclusivity and a failure to distinguish the church from the world therefore gives up a "place" in which to be hospitable. On the other hand, most of the limits we set also seem inhospitable, at least to some. What if you are the one closed out?

In our church, we tend to say that baptism is the distinguishing mark. Then I get into debates with pastors who want to make communion completely open even to those not baptized. But the truth is, defining this line, who can eat and who cannot, seems in the Christian tradition to be simultaneously perilous and important.

One way forward, which is hard to define in practical terms but is clear at least as a confession of faith, is that the table is Christ's table, and therefore all are welcome who are invited by Christ. The good Fordean Lutheran in me says, "How will they know they are invited if we don't invite them? Let us say, "In Christ's name, I invite you to this meal." We can worry about faith and baptism and understanding later- they will come. For now simply trust that Christ invites you to this meal.

Billy Graham | Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

This is a fascinating on-line exhibit. Especially interesting to me from a historical theological perspective are the changes Graham made in Edwards' language of the sermon, turning it at least a bit more into his own Christ-centered, grace-ful, altar callish form. These on-line exhibits, with the Youtube technology of embedding video, enhanced text, etc., make it almost like being in the archive.

Check out the exhibit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ralston Defenbaugh | Why Is Immigration so Controversial?

From the President’s Desk
July 2007
Why Is Immigration So Controversial?
By Ralston Deffenbaugh, LIRS President

The contentious national debate over immigration has made it challenging for legislators to work out legislation that a majority can embrace, and comprehensive reform has stalled in the Senate. Radio talk show hosts and TV commentators have taken up the issue (unfortunately, usually on the anti-immigrant side). Congressional offices are bombarded with messages to “control the border!” States and towns are voting on referendums and ordinances. A traditionally bipartisan issue is becoming partisan and polarized. And yet our country prides itself on being a nation of immigrants; we still have a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
How did this come to be? Let me offer four factors that help me understand:
First, there are record numbers of immigrants in America. Out of the 300 million people in our country, about 34 million are foreign born—11 percent of the population. The numbers have never been higher but the proportion is still below the nearly 15 percent of a century ago. Some people raise concerns that America will not be able to continue to absorb such large numbers.
Second, the face of immigration has changed, and immigration has literally changed the complexion of America. A lesser-known outcome of the civil rights movement was the removal of racial quotas for entry to the United States. Since then, immigrants have come in larger numbers from Asia and Latin America. The visible change in the face of immigration has led more people to raise concerns: Will the newcomers assimilate? Will they speak English? How will they change America? This is nothing new, by the way. Benjamin Franklin asked the same questions about German immigrants in the 18th century.
Third, our country’s post-September 11 fears include a heightened fear of the stranger. Do we know who we are allowing into the country? How do we know they won’t harm us?
The fourth factor—the one I think is most important—is concern over the rule of law and having an orderly society. The presence of 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States—one out of every 25 residents—shows that current immigration law is being violated on a vast scale. So many undocumented immigrants are here because U.S. law does not allow sufficient legal channels for people to come to America for the reasons they have and always will: for family, for work and for freedom.
Clearly the immigration system is very badly broken. I think what we’re facing now must be like it was during the Prohibition Era: A well-meaning law was violated on a massive scale, proved to be unworkable, and eroded respect for the law in general. At the end of the day, the solution was not to keep throwing resources into enforcing the ban on alcohol consumption, but rather to regulate it in a workable way. We need the same sensible approach to immigration issues today: Instead of an unrealistic, unworkable law that causes such harm, let’s have a realistic system of regulation that upholds America’s tradition of welcome for those who, like us, value family, work and freedom.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Patrick Keifert | We Are Here Now

We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era

This is an unusual book. On the one hand, it is a kind of cultural and congregational study in the traditional vein of materials that addresses change in the church. Keifert assesses "where we are", and is a participant in the on-going missional church, post-Christendom thing. The book is helpful as a summary of that discussion.

But it is also a description of the way Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) works with clusters, judicatories, and congregations to effect change, to consult for missional church, asking the key question, "What is God's preferred and promised future for our local church?"

As a springboard for reflection on the local congregation and its ministry, this is profoundly helpful. Since it is the description of a consulting process, it does not work well as a "how-to" book, since a finding of Keifert's is that partnership for missional church is effected most successfully when it is a partnership of 12-15 churches.

Keifert writes, "To review, the purpose of this book is to describe a journal of spiritual discernment that is done communally within local congregations, among 12-16 partner churches, and with still other partners."

Probably the most important insight from the book (there are an incredible number of these insights in the book- it is VERY rewarding): development of mission/vision for a congregation takes place in the late stage of a 4-6 year process of discernment that begins with "dwelling in the Word," includes experimentation, and then only begins after considerable time spent doing these things, as well as "listening each other into free speech."

This is a crucial insight, because a lot of mission/vision resources will start you right away writing a mission/vision statement, without any insight into whether those will be effective over the long term, or appropriated culturally within the congregation.

I recommend this book. It bears more and more fruit through multiple readings. Our leadership team is reading it this summer as part of discernment and dwelling in the Word process.

NPR and the Call to Ministry

NPR has a new series for this year on the call to ministry that is worth keeping track of and listening to over the course of the year. The first couple they profile are two newly minted Methodist pastors, a married couple, one serving a larger congregation, the wife serving two rural Maryland parishes. So far, the series is quite well done, and explores what it means to receive "a call." Now if only NPR would do a radio program where they recognize in Lutheran fashion that many people are "called" but in their daily and regular professions like nursing, childcare, construction, and farming.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What are deathly hallows?

The next Harry Potter comes out this weekend, and the title of the book includes a word, "hallows," that is most often used as far as I can tell in one of two places.

1) The Lord's Prayer, where we pray, Hallowed be thy name.
2) Recitations of the Gettysburg Address, by Abraham Lincoln

The word means, in both cases, to sanctify or make holy. You could say, "Holy be your name", for example.

Hallow is also part of a larger word often used in our culture- Halloween, or All-hallows-eve. Halloween is the night before All Saints Day, the day when churches remember the saints. Since the saints are those who have been sanctified, or made holy, in Jesus Christ, they are "hallowed."

I imagine that J.K. Rowlings has more of the pop culture version of Halloween in mind with the title she has used. She's also smart enough that the term probably has a lot of resonances in the book. I'm not sure what a "deathly" hallows is. A halloween where deaths occur. An unholy hallows? The opposite of a place that is sanctified or holy? We'll all have to wait until this weekend to find out, but in the meantime, my definition will have to do.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Untamed Hospitality | Chapter One

The rhythms of summer and camp have thrown me off a bit, but last week I was supposed to have begun a series of posts on Elizabeth Newman's Untamed Hospitality.

Her first chapter simply reminds us that in order to provide hospitality, we need a home. We need to know where we are. Christians are unique in being pilgrims who have a home.

So where are we? Getting situated, knowing where we are (which includes knowing whose we are) is a first step in welcoming. Another name for untamed hospitality might be radically local. We are called to really be where we are. Probably lots of our modern world keeps us from remembering this. Maybe especially blogs.

That's enough ironic late-night rambling. More thoughtful posts to follow, but I do encourage fellow travelers and conversationalists, if you wish to pick up the book.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

What follows is a resource we published for summer 2007 for family and individual use as a "Christian practices in the home" devotional resource. Portions of it are adapted from a variety of places, including Life Innovation's Prepare/Enrich program, etc.


Home is church, too!
A model for evening home huddles as a family
Summer 2007

Forgiveness, hospitality and meal preparation

First, make some space. Turn off the TV, cell phones, pagers, and radio. Take a breath, and relax. Invite God into your midst.

Find some way to be reconciled with each other. Sometimes we can cruise along as a family and forget to ask for forgiveness. So, sit down together as a family, give each person time to share what they need from the family, and really listen to each other. Basic rules for such a gathering. 1) When you are sharing what you need, feel free to speak whatever is on your mind. 2) When you are listening, don’t jump in with opinions, or respond negatively. Instead, be an active listener and just tell the person what you heard.

At the end of this time together, brainstorm a trial solution to try and help address any issue your family needs to resolve. Then say the following, “Will you forgive me?” Response from everyone: “Yes, for Jesus’ sake, we forgive you.”

Then, after you’ve had this time of forgiveness, get to work splitting up duties to prepare your family meal. Make sure everyone has a job. No one person should have to shoulder the load all by themselves.

The Meal

At the beginning of the meal, pray this prayer, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Praised be God who is our bread, may all the world be clothed and fed. Amen.” If you have a hymnal or a Bible, you can ask members of the family to look up and share a Bible verse, or look up and sing a hymn.

Then eat together. During the meal, share your highs and lows. A high is something good that happened during the week. A low is something not so good. Give each person time to share their highs and lows.

After supper

After you eat together, select a family activity to do together. Take a walk, play a game, do a service project together, whatever seems like a good family activity. If you live alone, you may wish to seek someone out and invite them to eat and do an activity with you. When you are doing this activity together, keep in mind these communication skills that can help improve your relationships:

Look for the good in your family member or friend, and give them a compliment.
Praise your family members as much as possible.
Take time to listen to each other.
Listen to understand—not to judge.
Use active listening, which involves summarizing your partner’s comments before you share your reactions or feelings.
Be assertive. Share your feelings by using “I” statements (i.e. I feel… or I think…)
When issues arise, avoid blaming each other and seek solutions.
Make your family and relationships a high priority.
If your family is really struggling with some issues, seek counseling before they become more serious. Doing so will make it easier to find solutions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Zooglobble | Kid's Music

Our household CD collection has generally tended towards the jazz/folk/rock/alt country genres. But with a third member of the household also musically inclined, there's a new category- children/family/kids.

A great blog of kid's music, Zooglobble, is now over in my blogroll. I recommend you visit it, as well as the Land of Nod web store. Our son loves the Land of Nod collections.

We've also been on a massive Elizabeth Mitchell kick lately. All of her albums are stellar.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday sermons

If you're interested in listening to sermons from our Sunday worship, they're now posted on our church web site. Our webmaster donates his time to maintain the page, and does a great job, but he is also a volunteer firefighter and was busy this past weekend with a fund-raiser, so not all sermons are current. We'll probably be tweaking this site and run the main bible text next to the sound file, but feel free to post here and tell me what you think of the sermon resource. Sermons for June 24th and July 8th are a guest preacher, Pastor A.S. Christensen.

For my 35th birthday, one of the best gifts I received was from my wife- I get to order two sets of juggling balls from One set of five ultrasuedes to start practicing juggling five at once. A set of three dodecas for joggling. If you're a juggler, I recommend this resource. If you're not a juggler, well, this post may seem odd to you.

Friday, July 06, 2007

John Hus Commemoration

Today we commemorate John Hus, the Czech Reformer. Luther considered himself to be continuing what Hus had started.

See this great Czech site for lots of interesting historical detail.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Jon Troast | Was It Ever Really Mine

Jon Troast recently appeared on Prairie Home Companion. Had a song on there that lots of folks found especially meaningful, Was It Ever Really Mine You can take a listen to it on his web site. I'm going to try and figure out whether it might be possible for us to use this song this fall during our offering time. It's solid.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Failure to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform

LIRS Responds to Senate's Failure to Pass Comprehensive Reform Bill

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is deeply disappointed that the
Senate failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this
year. Our nation sorely needs a humane, workable system that promotes
family unity, safeguards human rights and worker rights, brings
undocumented people out of the shadows, and provides a path to

The U.S. immigration system is still broken. Twelve million are still
undocumented-people who continue to be marginalized, even though they
provide vital services for our community and economy. Families are still
unable to unite for five, 10, 15 or more years. Employers are still
unable to acquire documentation for needed workers. And our nation's
immigration system continues to be inconsistent with our values-it
hinders the unity and well-being of families, and controverts our
tradition as a nation of immigrants. Moreover, our failure to integrate
the undocumented through earned legalization undermines our values as a
nation of laws. Although they live among us, undocumented people are not
brought fully into the blessings, protections and responsibilities of
our system of laws and community life.

With the absence of legislative action, it is even more critical that
our government not resort to an enforcement-only approach to our broken
system by stepping up raids, arrests, detention and deportation of the
undocumented. Not only would such an approach be fundamentally
unworkable, it would be inhumane, contrary to the common good and
inconsistent with our values.

We believe that all people are made in the image and likeness of God,
and that we should therefore treat all with dignity and compassion. We
call upon the Lutheran community and others of good will to welcome the
stranger in our midst and to build welcoming, caring communities. We
urge Congress and the administration to take a comprehensive,
compassionate and consistent approach to repairing our broken
immigration system.