Lent and Spirt. Disc.—Day 13

The World Council of Churches, of which we are a part as members of the Lutheran World Federation, puts out a yearly cycle of prayer for churches all over the globe. It’s one way to remember people of faith in distant countries who don’t always get into the news. Until the recent earthquakes, for example, Haiti and Chile were probably not the first things on our collective minds in the morning. Sometimes others’ suffering awakens us. We become more aware, more compassionate.

Walking with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem is a spiritual pilgrimage in awareness. Jesus was constantly approached in his ministry by people with deep needs for healing, for forgiveness, for reconciliation.

Those interruptions became his ministry.

Jesus stopped what he was doing, often interrupted at meals, or in his teachings, or even when he was off praying. Sometimes the disciples’ lives were interrupted, too, by the sudden experience of transforming moments, or the surprise of a man calling to them as they mended their nets, or the unexpected joys of lying in a field of flowers with the Son of God, and being told to lighten up.

Walking with Jesus, following in his footsteps, is an astonishing journey in waking up to God and to neighbor.

What are the surprise interruptions in your day?
How is God calling you in the interruptions? What gift does the surprise bring? Jesus will ask the disciples to stay awake with him and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember back to Advent, and all the calls to wake up? It’s God’s call down through the ages, sent through prophets, wisdom teachers and Jesus.

Staying awake is a spiritual practice, staying sensitive and aware, responsive and available. It’s an aspect of our response as people of faith active in loving. If you read the lives of saints, they discovered that, too, from St. Francis to Thomas Merton, to Bonhoeffer and Dorothy Day. Sages in other religious traditions teach the same practice–wake up. Being awake: that was Jesus’ practice, and we need his help to do it.

What wakes you up spiritually?

Lent and Spiritual Discipline–Day 12

Day 11 not counting Sundays.

Yesterday’s Gospel lesson had a reference to the city of Jerusalem. Some pastors dealt with that reference very directly, and brought their congregations in on Jerusalem of the present day. We’ve talked about being on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem during Lent, as we travel toward the Cross. I have always longed to visit there, having spent so much of my life studying biblical stories of Jerusalem. It is about as complicated a city as can be. Our New England Synod has close formal and informal ties with Jerusalem, through personal and ecclesial friendships.

We have a strong relationship with Lutherans in Jerusalem through our Synod partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. You can visit their website if you are curious about what it is like to be a Lutheran Christian living in the land where Jesus walked:
here

We have exchanged a number of mission visits with them, and their Bishop Munib Younan has visited here, too. He was the keynote speaker at one of our Synod Assemblies a few years ago. He’s a powerhouse, a wonderful, vibrant speaker, tireless worker for Christian-Muslim-Jewish peace and justice. You can read his keynote here.

A beautiful powerpoint presentation called Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage was also offered at the same Assembly (2007) by Pastor Tim Keyl. Pastor Keyl’s presentation was a photo-essay of his own travels to the Holy Land with a Synod mission trip. To see the presentation go here. It takes about a minute to download, so please wait. The text for the presentation is included here.

Our Bishop Margaret Payne has traveled there several times, most recently with an interreligious peace-making mission representing the ELCA for Presiding Bishop Hanson. She kept a blog of her trip, thoughtful, of course, with beautiful pictures. You might want to read it: here.
Sometimes a travel blog can show us some of the complexity first hand.

Another site to visit to learn a little more about Jerusalem is the UN website. I went there to get some more background information on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The UN site is worth a visit, just on its own merits for more information than one could ask or imagine. Here.
Best of all, if you haven’t been there, maybe someone you know has, and can tell you about it. I’m always surprised by the number of people who have traveled to Jerusalem. Check the Synod website for news of upcoming mission trips to the Holy Land. Perhaps we can send someone from St. Paul.

On the journey this Lent, please pray for Jerusalem, that beautiful, wounded, vibrant, sacred city.

Lent and Spiritual Discipline–Day 11

Yesterday, after the storm, in the morning, I visited some of the elders in our congregation who live alone.

One of them I found huddled up in her bed, underneath several covers, wearing layers of clothing. She was asleep, hibernating she said. She was safe, and her family was coming over later.

Another was wrapped in shawls and blankets, cold, and waiting for her family, too. None of her phones worked. She did have a cell phone, so she was able to reach her children. Most of us only had cell phones yesterday, so many of our elders were unable to reach friends and family.

Although the people I visited were safe, and waiting for family to come, seeing them reminded me forcibly of how much more at risk the very old and the very young are when something goes wrong. Dependent on others for help, they are often the first victims. That’s true here in a power outage, and it’s true in other much much worse situations.

Jesus, in his life and minsitry, consistently held up the needs of those most at risk in his own community, children, widows, people with physical disabilites. He was aware of those who lived on the edges of society with few resources, some with little or no way to sustain themselves. Like all prophets before him, he held up economic disparaties between the wealthy and the very poor. He called on all his disciples to practice economic justice and compassion for those who are most at risk among us. Liberaton theologians call this practice of Jesus a “preferential option for the poor.”

Lent has three basic disciplines, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving–see Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21, the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday. We can pray for, work for, and give to those most at risk in our neighborhoods.

Sometimes I use the phrase almsgiving as another way of talking about works of mercy–giving of one’s time, talent, or possessions for the sake of the neighbor. We don’t have to leave town to find people at risk. They are everywhere around us, and sometimes might be in disguise, as someone you have known all your life, or someone who is quieter and stands in the shadows. A simple visit, a telephone call, a card, a gift of time and attention, or even a surprise gift of food may make a big difference in someone’s life.

There are many service organizations on Cape Ann, and they always welcome our help. If we want to stretch our arms farther, there are national and international relief organiations, those of our own denomination, here, for example, and other international aid organizations like Partners in Health.

Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan–it asks the question: “who is the neighbor.” Sometimes our neighbor really is next door, and sometimes they need us. Sometimes our neighbor sits across the dinner table and sometimes the neighbor is farther away, perhaps in a small village in the Sudan.

Wherever we are, there are always neighbors to love.

Lent and Spiritual Disciplines–Day 1o

We had an enormous wind storm last night in New England. Along the coast where I live, the winds howled around us, pulling up trees, downing wires, pushing in the ocean waters until they surged over landings and roads. Waves crashed in our coves, leaving in their wake tangled seaweeds, soaking driftwood, broken boards, straw, broken glass, and bedraggled birds.

The electric power went out last night somewhere between the Olympic ski races and the women’s long program in figure skating. And it didn’t come back on until late this afternoon. Early in the morning, we made a couple of car trips, one to visit my mother, 45 minutes away, because we couldn’t reach her by phone. (She was fine). Then we checked the church, and found the willow in the playground broken in several places. Inside all was dry, though no power there either. We eventually found out from neighbors on the street that several thousand people were without power in Massachusetts, most of them in Essex County where we live. The storm had done a lot of damage.

Lack of electricity put me in mind immediately of Lent, and its austere mood, its astringent spiritual cleansing, the way it strips away pretentions. Wilderness journeys bring out a certain kind of honesty. What do you really need on this trip? Can you travel more lightly? What else can be left behind? What else can be let go? One of my friends who calls himself a cynic (he isn’t) says that everyone has a secret T-shirt he or she wears. And it has a big logo on it reading: I’M IMPORTANT. I’m not sure I agree with him, but if it is true, Lent is the season that strips away that T-shirt. It’s a season of dying to self-concern and self-centeredness.

Today, without electricity, life became much simplier suddenly. It wasn’t very cold outside, so we didn’t feel really uncomfortable. What we did experience was a long quiet day, after we got back. There was no noise in the house, which was nice, and nothing we really could do but sit, talk together, sleep, or walk the dog.

It was a day that lent itself to introspection, and mulling, musing over this and that, a spacious sort of day. Somewhere, sometime before the power came back on, Sabbath rest wandered in; there was enough room and enough stillness for deep quiet to enter and make itself comfortable. At least for a few hours.

Wilderness journeys offer the promise of silence and surrender. We don’t have to wait for a power outage to have them. Lent gives us a taste of those things. May quiet rest and sacred silence accompany you on this wilderness road we travel.

Lent and Spir. Disc.–Day 9

My daughter tells stories about her daughter on her blog. But she had some of the same questions when she was a little girl, too. We lived at the edge of a wilderness, in Maine, when she was small. It was an old farm, with fields, and stream, and woods. The house was in ok shape, but needed lots of work, and the barn was dry, a nice place for exploring. It was a beautiful place, and looking back, one tends toward nostalgia. The thing is, it was bleak in many ways. Central Maine is one of the more impoverished parts of the United States. Though its deep woods beauty offered spiritual sustenance, and fed our sense of wonder, we were often distressed by the suffering of our neighbors nearby, and our own isolation. Eventually, the cold, the emptiness, and our lack of resources became too much for us, and we left for a more populated region in Maine, near Bangor.

People wander for many reasons–some invited by God to find the promised land, others driven from their homes by earthquakes or other kinds of disaster, and some to find better lives for themselves and their children. And some of us just love the nomadic life, rarely staying in one place for more than a few years.

In Genesis this week, we look back, too. And not with a tone of nostalgia. The Genesis narrator of the Abraham stories remembers the hard parts and the beauty. The God in the desert, the God of nomads, wanderers, and windstorms, is not in the least romantic, or domesticated. The God who meets Abraham is wild, unearthly, uncanny, outside human categories. When God takes up the terms of human covenant, working with the symbols of human agreement, a smoking pot, a fire, a ritual, he adopts our spiritual language to help us understand. The story of Abraham and the covenant God makes with him is an example of God’s self-limiting; he shows a willingness to enter into our experience, and use whatever’s there to communicate with us.

It’s also a gospel story of grace–Abraham didn’t go looking for God, God came looking for him, seeking him, tracking him down. Here is a God who comes to meet us on the way, and changes the directions of our lives.

In Genesis, before God settles down in Jerusalem–he went with the people–and met them at the edges of their campgrounds, on the border between desert and human community. The signs of presence were not bound to a locality. God of desert wanderers: he, too, was a nomad, a point we might remember when we get too tied up in trying to tie God down to a particular set of assumptions, or definitions, or speculations.

We, here, on Cape Ann, live far from the desert winds, but there is another wild, sheer beauty, an untameable, windy blue wilderness at our doorstep, always a reminder that God’s ways are not ours. I am astonished at Abraham’s presumption, his questions: “what will you give me? How am I to know?” If you read the passage you see God shift the terms of the discussion: first God comes as a vision, a great one, and announces “Do not be afraid, I am your shield.” Personally, I think this should have left Abram/Abraham on his knees quaking. But no, he’s focused on one thing–a son.

And then, God takes him out under the stars, as magnificent an experience in the desert as anyone can imagine–the whole vault of heaven wheeling in the deep blue darkness of an ancient sky. This time, Abraham believed God, but then again, as soon as God offers him the land, Abraham gets practical, wants to tie it down–“how am I to know that I shall possess it.”

And the thing is, I know we all do this. It’s not just Abraham–we are always trying to get God to act on our terms, agree to our ideas, instead of falling on our knees in gratitude and wonder for such beauty and grace. We want him to do this and that; we pray endless petitions for what we want, instead of listening on our knees or prostrate on the ground for what God wants. Toward the close of this amazing encounter, Abraham seems finally to feel the sheer magnitude of what’s happened; he falls into a deep sleep–perhaps unable to stay conscious in the face of God’s presence, and a deep and terrifying darkness descends upon him. Now that’s more like it–no more discussion of practical matters; instead he enters the deep darkness of the cloud of unknowing.

So, let God be wild. Let God be the God of desert wonder, the God of creation, of the deeps of the sea, of the vaults of starry heaven. Don’t try to make him into a comfortable image; let him come on his own mind-blowing terms, a whirling storm, a vision in the night, a tortured man on a cross, a risen Lord, breaking open the gates of death, in the garden of morning.

Lent and Spir.Disc.–Day 8

The following teaching has been given by Mark Jacobson, a member of our church, who is also a seminary student at Gordon Conwell. This is based on Luther’s Small Catechism which we are studying through Lent on Wednesday nights during our mid-week worship. Mark offered this teaching tonight at our evening study/service.

Concerning the Ten Commandments

There are two places in the Bible that present what we know as “The Ten Commandments”. One of them is in Exodus 20; the other is Deuteronomy 5. In neither of those passages are the commandments actually numbered for us, and so various groups who refer back to these commandments do so with different numbering systems. So, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m a student at Gordon-Conwell Seminary over in Hamilton, and that seminary has people in it from a lot of different traditions, and, so, whenever a professor or another student mentions one of the commandments by number, I get really confused until I can figure out what tradition they’re from and then translate from their numbers into the Lutheran numbers that I use. And then, whenever I talk, I try to just say the whole commandment so there’s no confusion on their part. And here is the way they are numbered according to Lutheran tradition:

1. You shall have no other gods.
2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.
3. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not murder.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When Luther wrote his catechism, he did something groundbreaking with the Ten Commandments. Other catechisms available at the time used the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, just as Luther’s does, so it’s not specifically the content that’s new, but the way it’s organized. In the traditional catechism, the reader is brought first to the Creed: “This is who God is.” Then the reader is brought to the Lord’s Prayer: “Here is how we respond to God.” And, finally, the reader is brought to the Ten Commandments: essentially saying, “Now do this.”

Luther’s innovation was to put the Ten Commandments first in his catechism. Why? Because, for Luther, the Ten Commandments have a very particular use: they drive us to God. They are not, as earlier catechisms seem to suggest, a punishment for believing in God, as though God’s love is just a trick, and then, once he gets you, you have to do all this really hard stuff. Instead, the Ten Commandments are a signpost. They reveal our hearts and point us towards the promise of God. And Luther emphasized one commandment above the others in this respect, and so that’s the one that I’m going to be focused on tonight. It’s the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.”

The first question that someone might ask is, “Well, what’s a god?” Luther says that a god is what you trust and believe in; a god is where you look for refuge. So, for example, if the only times that I feel secure are the times that I have money, that I have a good job, a seemingly guaranteed revenue stream –or if the uncertainty of my financial security sends me spiraling into doubt and despair, then I’ve found my god. Money is what I have put my trust in. Luther calls this the most common false god on earth.

You can easily imagine a host of other false gods, or what are called “idols”: health, property, academic titles, family. No one is saying that these things in themselves are bad, but if we look to them for all our comfort, we are going to be disappointed. You don’t have to think very hard to come up the names of some folks – celebrities, sports stars, politicians – who initially courted fame only to find that its promises had misled them; the story of a meteoric rise followed by scandal is one of the predominant stories of our culture; there are entire TV stations based on it. Luther says that “we are to trust in God alone, to look to him alone, and to expect him to give us only good things; for it is he who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and all necessary . . . blessings. In addition, God protects us from misfortunes and rescues and delivers us when any evil befalls us. It is God alone . . . from whom we receive everything good and by whom we are delivered from all evil.”

All of the other commandments hang on this first one. If we keep the first commandment, we keep them all, and if we don’t keep it, then we disobey them all. We can see this in the small catechism. The first commandment is explained like this: “We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.” Each of the other commandments starts with the same eight words: “We are to fear and love God, so that.” Third commandment: “We are to fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching.” Eighth commandment: We are to fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors.” And so on.

The way it works is that, for instance, if I look to God to give me all good things, then of course I will use his name in every time of need in order to call on and to praise him. If my security and my hope is in God alone, there is no point in stealing from my neighbor. But if, on the other hand, I’ve allowed something to take God’s central place, then I have lost the source of every good thing, including the ability to keep the commandments.

So how do we keep this first, pivotal commandment? How do we keep it when we are suffering, and we turn on the news and the whole world is suffering? How do we keep it when our health is failing? How do we keep it when, you know, it does kind of seem like money really would actually solve all our problems? We keep it by asking God for help in keeping it. And we remember the promise that lies behind this first commandment, as Luther expands it, and we remember it not as mere human words, but as the promise that God is speaking directly to each one of us: “Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else.”

Delivered by Mr. Mark Jacobson, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Lent and Spir. Disc. –Day 7

Every day I get a posting from Luther Seminary called God Pause. Today, a lovely hymn appeared on the site. A poem of Lent, I have copied it below, with the citation.

O God, with hope I enter in
And call to mind your desert grace:
To wayworn people you have been
A presence in the wilderness.

But far from Sinai have I roamed
And bear the hidden wounds of strife;
Away and worn, I yearn for home;
Athirst, desire the spring of life.

O break the rock, let water flow
And wash the dust and drought from me;
I taste your peace, your presence know,
And drinking deep, am healed and free.

How shall my days your grace proclaim;
How shall my deeds your healing prove?
An open heart will praise your name;
My grateful life will sing your love.

O God, with joy I enter in,
Restored and precious in your sight,
For in your grace I live again
In lands of honey and delight.

© 2001 Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. AugsburgFortress
Susan Cherwien
Poet and Hymn Writer, Luther Seminary

My favorite expression in the hymn is “desert grace.” And my own experience of faith finds an echo in the fourth line of the first stanza, God truly is “a presence in the wilderness” to way worn people.

Today’s spiritual discipline is the poem/hymn. May it be a prayer for your journey. May God’s “desert grace” sustain you. May he be a “a presence in the wilderness” for you.

If you are interested, you can link in to Luther Seminary’s daily chapel. Well worth a visit: http://www.luthersem.edu/chapel/

For GodPause, go to: http://www.luthersem.edu/godpause/daily_view.aspx

Lent and Spir.Disc.-Day 6

My daughter has a slow fuse. It will serve her well when she is a pastor, because she really is slow to anger. Sometimes, after an unhappy confrontation, she discovers hours later that she is really annoyed. To her credit, she is able to go back to whomever she’s angry with and talk about it in a thoughtful way. I’ve always admired her patience, and her willingness to hang in there with people, even when she’s upset with them.

It is day 5. Winter has returned; plummeting temperatures, however, have not silenced the songs of returning birds. The last few days they have been singing happily. Lent takes its name from the lengthening days. Patiently impatient, we wait for spring.

Birds and trees, sheltering growth, nurturing, and fierce protective love all appear in the next two Sunday Gospel lessons: Luke 13: 31-35; Luke 13:1-9. Both weeks’ readings reveal something of Jesus’ spiritual life, his fearless honesty, his patience and passion for God’s people. This week, Jesus yearns for Jerusalem’s children, he says, as a mother hen seeks to protect her young. Next week, he tells a parable of patience, in the story of an ever hopeful gardener unwilling to pull up a tree he has been raising, though it seems barren. Jesus, the mother hen gardener, servant-son of God, persists in patient compassion toward us.

Think of all the situations that could be transformed if just one person showed something of the patient compassion Jesus embodied. Bonhoeffer called Jesus “the man for others.” Patience lets us be present for others without trying to “manage” them. Patience is the opposite of anger; it lets go of the need to be right, to be in control, to be in charge, to dominate, to coerce. Patience is an attitude of trust, rather than anxiety. Patience is also the fruit of compassion, we heard a few weeks ago from St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, a love that bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things.

We often recall, in our church, the endurance of the Finnish people who founded it. The Finns call such endurance “sisu.” It’s a kind of physical and spiritual fortitude, that endures through, and in despite of, extreme hardship. We tend to admire the strength of character people with “sisu” show. But no one has the kind of sisu God has. He is, after all, the maker of sisu, the origin of fortitude. Patient as a gardener, enduring as a mother, clear-eyed God sees us, our faults and failures. Clear-eyed God goes on loving us, regardless.

Patient compassion, then, might be a spiritual discipline for Lent, (and for the rest of the year), practiced daily in regard to all that tries us in our relationships, perhaps especially toward those closest to us, perhaps even toward ourselves.

Lent and Spir.Disc.-Day 5

It’s Sunday night now, maybe Monday morning, and I think we are actually on Day 5, if you don’t count Sunday. We’re not supposed to, as Sunday is a feast of the resurrection. On Sundays, my spiritual discipline is to try to present a non-anxious presence, which didn’t exactly work out this morning. The goal is to do two things at once–to be calm, or at least to have equanimity, and also to be energized. The day didn’t start well.

First off, I woke up too early thinking I had to change my sermon. Never a good idea, at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. I had used a story about a young man who had returned from Haiti. He recounted his experience of the earthquake, and what it was like for him to hear people singing hymns in the darkness of the streets around midnight in the aftermath of the quake. It’s a great story, of course, and moving, but it seemed to me that to use it in a sermon was manipulative. It was too close to the bone, and as much as one might wish that people be moved by worship, using a story to play on people’s feelings simply seems wrong. So I took it out – a good choice, because it shortened the sermon by about 100 words, thereby reducing the time.

Second, when I got to church, the first half-an-hour was spent setting things up for a special workshop on Lent. Not a big deal in itself, but there was a lot to do, from finding scallop shells for a Lenten fountain, to locating purple felt for the Godly Play story of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. I forgot the shells. Called my husband, who faithfully and without complaint brought them to church. Still remained calm, so far.

The children’s workshop was delightful. Godly Play has the effect of calming everyone down. I told the story of Jesus welcoming the children, which they always like. One grandmother was holding her grandson in his lap. We looked at her, and someone said, “see, Jesus was just like that, holding the little child.” And another piped up, “yes, just like my little brother.” Such moments open time up; things slow way down, and you hear beneath the clamor–the children understood that they were loved.

We ended story-time, and trouped upstairs to look at the Lent fountain. It’s a beautiful large blue vase. Water bubbles up through the center and washes down the sides of vase. We lined the fountain with scallop shells to remind everyone of their baptism. The younger set, 5-7 year olds, were pleased with running water in the narthex, a novel event.

Third, the steeple bell rang in the church across the street, and caught us by surprise, signaling 10 minutes to 10:00 a.m. and then all was a rush and flurry. Who was acolyting–was he still there? Did he go home? He was there–we had a quick prep for the procession. Five minutes before it was time to start, still in my office, I discovered I had practiced a different liturgy setting than we were doing. Anxiety struck. I wanted to pull out my hair. And then I remembered the scripture that morning–Jesus’ trial in the wilderness. Getting ready for worship is hardly the wilderness, but it seemed almost comedic to experience such a chaotic morning the day the Gospel was all about the devil. He’s a trickster in the desert encounter.

The thing about anxiety is if you express it, which sadly, I did, then everyone around you is affected also, the choir director, the parish administrator, the choir. If I had been a hen, (next week’s Gospel), my feathers would have been flying. Lesson learned. Never flap on Sunday morning! We quickly realized all was well–we all knew the liturgy (Setting IV ELW) and there would be no problem.

As soon as we began Confession, I felt relieved. For this sinner, at least, having 5 minutes to rest in the knowledge of God’s forgivenes restored the stately loveliness of Sunday silence. I leaned into the liturgy as if it were the shoulder of an old friend, and felt the support of beloved community, of peace, and the wonderful mysterious solace that is the hour of worship. Sweet hour of prayer, indeed.

Trials come in all shapes and sizes, from big 40 year wilderness journeys, to the very small wilderness of an anxious Sunday morning–The devil will trip us if he can. Take heart, be not afraid! Return to God, the refuge! Easy to remember, hard to practice.

Lent and Spiritual Disciplines Day 4

On-line Inspiration: This blog is for the web surfer who is interested in some wonderful sites for spiritual rumination. Many of us spend hours on-line as part of our jobs, and websites to serve the spiritual seeker are cropping up everywhere. Like the spirituality shelves at bookstores, you can find spiritual websites on almost any topic. I’m not sure what the spiritual practice of today should be. For many people surfing the net is not something that requires a huge spiritual effort. For me, it is. I do find religious connections with people on-line through various blogs and websites.

Connection, communion, these happen in unusual ways, and the Holy Spirit seems to be using the internet in surprising ways.

In my on-going penitential duty of become more adept at cyber life, I include below some of the blogs and sites I’ve been researching this winter. The first is close to home for me. My daughter Amy is writing a blog for Lent, too. We came to our blogging decisions independently, mine because I resist technology, hers because she is thoroughly at home with it, and uses it often. She is currently an intern in California, and she offered to write a blog of Lenten devotions for her congregation. Her site is here. I’ve told her that I’ve passed on the blogsite address to some people here, and she was delighted.

Another wonderful blog/website is by an exciting young pastor in Denver:
sarcasticlutheran.com. This site is authored by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who serves as a mission developer for a church called House of All Sinners and Saints. Pastor Bolz-Weber is a bright light in the ELCA, an energetic out-of-the-box thinker, and in her own words, the most-tattooed pastor in the ELCA. That should be at least worth one look at the site. She’s a great preacher–read some of her sermons. House for All Sinners and Saints is what some might call an “emergent church.”

If the term “emergent church” piques your curiosity, see the website below for an adventure in the 21st century church. The times are a’changing, and so is church as we know it: emergentvillage.com I became interested in the emergent church movement at a conference several years ago. Take some time and look at this site, especially some of the blogs.

Recently our adult education group started exploring the Book of Faith materials provided by the ELCA in response to the Book of Faith Initiative. Basically, the Book of Faith Initiative, which you’ve heard me speak about many times, encourages all of us to become more familiar with scripture, to relearn the first language of faith: the Bible. Rob Claypool, in our congregation, has been working with on-line Book of Faith websites: see this.

Two on-line resources I use religiously for religious inquiry, especially in sermon preparation are: textweek.com and workingpreacher.org

Both of these websites are full to the brim of treasures, scripture studies, articles, art, translations, and some of the best scholarship available today. I can’t say enough good things about the WorkingPreacher site, sponsored by Luther Seminary. Good hunting.

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