Tuesday, May 12, 2009

first course: dignity

Trinity Lutheran Church
Volunteers serving the homeless
First course: dignity

Read the story behind the ad.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

theology in a nutshell

Today, I had reason to remember that conversation years ago on my NE Iowa Candidacy Committee when they asked, "What's the gospel in a nutshell?" I gave an answer somewhat similar to the words in John 3:16... God loves us and because God loved us so much, God gave us Jesus who gave his life for us. My answer didn't meet their expectations and they encouraged me to work on it. Somehow, by the grace of God, I eventually spoke some word that reassured them that I could be approved for ordination and make the promises to preach and teach in accordance with the holy scriptures, the creeds and the Lutheran confessions--that my theology was Lutheran. "We are saved by grace through faith and that is not our own doing but is a gift of God."

I've never been very comfortable with pat answers for complex questions. That said, I can understand why people ask. What we believe about God, God's role in the world, sin and evil, our role in the world as flawed and amazing human beings--all of that is important. And we especially want to know where our leaders are coming from on these most important matters.

In ministry, though, it's surprising how seldom one is asked "What's your theology?" More often the questions come in other forms. Why did God allow that to happen? What am I supposed to do with my life? What does the Bible say about ____? Does God love me? And even then, if I fall into answering, those answers are not always most helpful.

What I do know is that God has given a variety of gifts... some of us are passionate about stunning articulation of profound truths, some of us can speak a real and concrete word of God's love for the sinner and transformation of lives, some of us cling to the wonder and mystery of the God of all creation, some of us hear the voice of Jesus speaking right to our hearts, some of us are working for God's reign of justice and peace to be realized more fully. We see Jesus as lord, savior, friend, teacher/prophet, lover. It seems to me that all these ways of sensing God's presence in our lives are needed--not only broadly among people of Christian faith--but even among Lutherans. God created a body with a beautiful diversity.

Perhaps one of my strongest convictions is that God has created us to love us. Jesus showed us who God is and loved us even to the point of dying but God raised him from the dead. When Jesus' earthly life was done we received an Advocate--the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies. We are broken vessels but God continues to work, a patient potter, to mold us--into those who love God and one another. I'm still not sure I've got that "gospel in a nutshell" answer right (maybe you feel that way too) but God is not finished with us yet.

As we grapple with theology on the way,
Pastor Joy

Monday, May 04, 2009

you have come down to the lakeshore

You have come down to the lakeshore... I love this hymn about how Jesus seeks not necessarily who we might expect but the one who has just a little, just a small boat, and who is willing to leave even that little to follow Jesus wherever Jesus calls.

Recently, I had the opportunity to be in the great northwoods of Wisconsin, and to sit at this lakeshore and admire the light of the setting sun on this group of small boats.

I can get caught up in many things--and it was good to sit and ponder a simple scene, an abandoned beach, and to listen quietly for God's voice. I don't like waiting but waiting is certainly a part of call. Waiting for something to emerge, waiting for God's voice to become clearer, waiting for the time to be right... thanks be to God that in this season, we experience not only waiting but buds unfolding, leaves unfurling, flowers opening. This is a season when something is happening; even if we do not yet know the end, things have begun.

Blessings as buds unfold,
Pastor Joy

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Spring in Chicago

Psalm 23 - words from Bobby McFerrin

The Lord is my Shepherd, I have all I need,
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said She won't forsake me,
I'm in her hand.

She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes,
She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in her house,
Forever, forever and ever.

Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter
and to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is and ever shall be
World without end. Amen