Remember to Love

What an absurd title – “Remember to Love”.  “Of course, we remember to love, we don’t need to be reminded,” we say to ourselves.  We’ve got this one down. Yet, we hear Moses proclaim the words of the Lord in Deuteronomy (6:5-6) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  Keeping these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.”  He goes on, telling them to recite them to their children, and talk to them about it all day long.  Write this on your door post so you don’t forget.  Fix them on your forehead, bind them on your hand.  In other words, use every method possible to remember to love.

Sometimes it seems that love is the hardest thing.  Humans have a long history of falling short on the love scale.  Moses is raising this before the people to remind them that there is only one God.  Even back then, a person was barraged with temptations to worship other gods and forget the God of Israel.  So, Moses commands them to remember who your God is and who you are. Write it in your heart, on your doorpost, on your hand and forehead.  Write it where ever you need to so you don’t forget.

Today, love remains the hardest thing.  If we love God, then we love our neighbor.  Brian McLaren in his book, “The Great Spiritual Migration” writes that no matter what our image of God is, we will be transformed by that image.  We reflect the image of the God that we want to become.  If our concept of God is nonviolent, then we will be transformed into that nonviolent image. The same will happen if our concept of God is a violent God.

McLaren believes that God is love because it is the most prominent image of God throughout the Bible.  He says that if this is true, he must pull the “genocide card” from his spiritual wallet and cut it to pieces. The “genocide card” is any image of God that holds up the notion that God will destroy us, or you, if you make God angry or disagree with me. Love and destruction don’t go together. If God is love, McLaren says he must give up the prejudice or privilege card that says I’m better than anyone else because God said so.  A God of love discredits any sense of privilege and entitlement. I certainly agree with him.  For me, God is love. The beliefs of our congregation attest to a God of love.

cropped-open-hearts-facebook-2.jpgRemember to love.  We know God in Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, who shows love to the outcast, the sick, the poor, those who have lost their way.  Jesus pours out love to those who ask for forgiveness and those who don’t.  Jesus ultimately gave his life in love for each person in this world and all of creation.  This is the image that we reflect when we follow Jesus and remember to love.

We are amid our stewardship campaign.  You are being asked to remember to love with your financial commitment.  Remember to love those who come to worship as we provide the un-glamorous things like the lights, heat and  air conditioning bills need to be paid each month.  Remember to love  with your money as we grow in faith through small groups, adult learning, church school, youth group, affirmation of baptism classes and nursery care.  Remember to love as you give so we can support those called into Word & Sacrament ministry and Word & Service ministries.  We are a congregation that is gifted in nurturing future church leaders.  Remember to love as we reach out to our community and the world with the love of Jesus.

Your love is a blessing to Holy Trinity to the Church at large and to the world.  God is at work in each of you.  Thank you for being the image of God in your commitment to remember to love as you make your financial commitment.  Thank you for remembering to love and giving all in love.

In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder

 

References

McLaren, B. D. (2016). The Great Spiritual Migration. New York: Convergent Books.

For All the Saints

I love All Saints Day. It is, hands down, one of my favorite festivals in our liturgical calendar, right up there with Christmas and Easter. This year was no different: from the return of our brilliant white and gold worship paraments after their long hiatus, to the beautiful sounds of Masterworks musicians as they enriched our worship with pieces by W.A Mozart, Andrew Miller, Morten Lauridsen, and Gerald Finzi, it was a great day to be in church.

We come together on All Saints Day to remember those who have gone before us in faith: the great and well-known heroes of church and society, yes; but also, and just as importantly, those family members and friends who have gone before us in faith, touched our lives, and left an indelible imprint on our very being.

I am always presented with opportunities to remember my grandparents: I can’t smell a pot roast without thinking about Grandma and I can’t see a John Deere tractor without thinking about days spent mowing grass with Grandpa. They are such an important part of who I am and who I aspire to be that I don’t need a festival or an occasion to remember them. I just do.

All Saints Day is different. On All Saints Day, we remember our loved ones in a special and unique way. We remember that, even though they have died and are no longer with us, they have not left us completely and they have not left us forever. This is particularly poignant in the imagery of the hymns typically sung on All Saints Day, which paint a wonderful image of Christian believers from all of time and history (the saints who have died in faith) united with the church on earth (us, the saints gathered in worship in 2019) together singing the praises of the God who is always all about bringing new life out of death.

The images from the book of Revelation paint spectacular pictures of this unity across time and space:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:3-6)

I think this is a big part of why I love All Saints Day so much. It serves as a real reminder in our increasingly individualized society that ultimately we are all in this together. We are together as the gathered saints of God at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. We are together with all of our various Mission Partners. We are together with ELCA congregations across the country and in the Lutheran World Federation abroad. We are together with the other 2.7 billion Christian saints throughout the world. And yes, we are together with all of the faithful who have died and entered eternal rest.

So, who do you remember this week? Who is it that you wish you could see and touch just one more time? On this week after All Saints Day, take heart! In Christ, our loved ones continue to be with us today as fellow members of the Body of Christ, singing their praises with the heavenly host. And in Christ, we will be reunited with all the Saints on the last day because death does not have the final say.

For all the saints past, present, and future, thanks be to God.

Peace +

Garth Englund, Pastoral Intern

Here We Stand

Last week, I wrote about the Reformation. That probably means that I should find another topic for this week. But, hey, I’m a Lutheran Pastor and I have thought a lot about the ways the Reformation of the Christian Faith 500 years ago plays out today. So, bear with me.

Last Sunday, as we celebrated the Reformation, I’d like to think that our congregation was engaging that spirit of the day in a concrete way. As Martin Luther once said, before his accusers. “Here I stand,” we did something similarWe held a congregational meeting. We voted to adopt a public statement of Welcome & Inclusion and to become a partner with Reconciling Works (among others) to be a congregation Reconciling in Christ.  The statement we adopted says:

STATEMENT OF INCLUSION & WELCOME – HOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH

Grace, peace, and welcome to you in the name of the blessed, Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are people simultaneously faithful and afraid; broken and redeemed; joyful and struggling to keep it together. Together, we strive to share God’s love by loving our neighbors and loving creation. Even though we don’t know you yet, we already love you. 

You are loved. We believe you are a beloved child of God created in God’s image.

You are loved. We believe Jesus loves you and taught us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

You are loved. Your race, gender identity, mental or physical ability, sexual orientation, marital status, financial situation, social standing, education, cultural background, immigration status, or any other category or label cannot separate you from the love of God, nor keep you from being what God called you to be.

You are loved. No matter where you are on your faith journey, no matter the questions you bring, no matter the doubts or struggles you bear, there is a place for you here to ask, seek, and share.

You are invited. We strive to create a safe, inclusive, and affirming environment where all are invited, and each is accepted and embraced. We invite you to receive and share God’s love as you are, for who you are.

The People of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

I’d like to think that for all the LBGTQ+ people who have been shamed, rejected, and RIC_logo_printostracized by the Church; for all the unmarried pregnant young women who were driven away; for the poor who didn’t smell right and were shown the church door out; for the people who were the wrong color who were stared at; our action nailed a protest to the door of the Church saying that we will no longer operate that way in this place. (Of course, it will take vigilance to live this out).

Last week I wrote 10 Theses for our own reformation Number 1 was: The use of religion as a means of keeping people out, apart, inline, under control is over, folks. We need to stop with the judgmentalism, the hate, the exclusion if we say we worship a God of Love. This action is part of our response.I’d like to think that through the work of the Spirit, the faithfulness of God’s presence, we tacked up a notice that we plan to take up the cause of welcoming the creatures and creation God made instead of keeping them out.

That is what I think. Here we stand, with the people who are so often excluded, shamed, pointed at and hated. It is where Jesus stood, so we’re in good company. Thanks to the people of Holy Trinity for joining in God’s reformation of the Church.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

A Broken Church

luther thesesFive hundred and two years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, touching off a debate and conflict that came to be known as The Reformation. Thus ends the most predictable sentence a Lutheran pastor could type in the days leading up to Reformation Day. It would now be predictable to shout the praises of brother Martin and point to the eternal truths revealed in that historic moment. I’m not going to do that. I’m actually tired of doing that.

One could say that Luther and other reformers sensed deeply that the Church of Jesus Christ was broken. The 95 Theses were a kind of inventory of the wreckage.  You could look at the Church as an institution and find corruption and all manner of idiotic proclamations of “truth” that bore no resemblance to the gospel or the Christ who uttered it. The Church just wanted to find more ways to keep itself in power. The people were uninformed about the faith and cared little for growing as Christians. They just did what the were told to avoid the damnation they feared.

Sound familiar? We live in an age where the Church is no less broken. Maybe it is even more so. Denominations struggle to be relevant while keeping their place and power as an institution in a culture that cares not. Congregations are more concerned about “surviving,” no matter what they have to do; what they have to give away or give up, than about being the transforming body of Christ in the world.

We are deeply concerned about “Nones” (those who answer “none” to questions about religious affiliation. In fact, a significant cause of “nones” is that so many of us Christians should say “nominal” when we answer questions about religious affiliation. We are nominal in our commitment, knowledge, engagement with faith and so exhibit no compelling evidence in our own lives that would encourage someone to become engaged in faith. We are, at best, tepid.

The truth is, that like the Church of 500 years ago, the Church of today is broken. It is in need of house cleaning, change, transformation of the kind that happened five centuries ago.

I’m no Martin Luther – nothing even close. But, as I think about it, there are a few theses I would offer if we are to address the Church’s brokenness.

  1. The use of religion as a means of keeping people out, apart, inline, under control is over, folks. We need to stop with the judgmentalism, the hate, the exclusion if we say we worship a God of Love.
  2. The notion that believing the right thing makes you “saved” must give way to living a life, each day, steeped in confession, forgiveness, and growing into Christ.
  3. “Saved” does not mean bound for heaven when you die. It means that your life is being ever more deeply united with Christ and so becoming ever more eternal every day.
  4. Prosperity is not the same as abundance. You can’t buy love, happiness, meaning, or anything that matters. Abundance comes from union with Christ as it is found in a community of people who live like Jesus.
  5. Our insatiable consumption and rabid individualism is killing us and the planet we inhabit – faster and faster each day. We must repent and return to sustainable, communal, earth-bound habits of living at peace with all – and with ourselves.
  6. Our politicians, our teachers, our bosses, our coaches, our celebrities cannot save us. Only God has a deep enough resume for that project.
  7. God’s economy has nothing to do with capitalism, Wall Street or “return on investment.” It has everything to do with justice, all being fed, and all sharing in the peace and joy of God.
  8. Every congregation will die; every denomination and nation will disappear. Death is not a final word and all that matters is how much love happens while you’re around. Fearing death is silly.
  9. If you hate someone, you hate God.
  10. You only matter as a person as you matter in a community. So, be humble, gracious, forgiving and never assume you are the smartest person in a room or on a social media feed. That makes you a fool.

I could go on, but that is 10% of Luther’s production. We are a Broken Church, no doubt. The Good News is that, like the Reformation 500 years ago, our Lord is a broken savior. He dies on a cross and was raised from the dead so we would never fear brokenness and pain; so that we w=could walk boldly into the fierce waters of change and nor drown.

So, this weekend, as we remember the Reformation, lets be a broken Church, dependent on a broken savior so we can save a broken world together. Amen

copyright © 2019, Timothy V. Olson

originally published at: https://pastortimothy.org/2019/10/23/broken-church/ 

Give Them Something to Eat

Image result for elca world hunger appealLooking into the faces of thousands of hungry people, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13) The disciples respond, in essence, saying, “Seriously?! Impossible.” So, Jesus feeds them all. Fast forward to today. The Church now, the body of the resurrected Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, stares into the face of millions who are hungry and suffering. Jesus again commands, “Give them something to eat.” I’m here to tell you that the response if quite different than those disciples.

I’m in Chicago as I write. I’m here at the invitation of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to join with others from across the country to finalize recommendations for the Appeal’s Domestic Hunger Grants. I was not invited because I have some special gifts or influence. No, I’m here because the people of Holy Trinity are among the most generous congregations in the ELCA when it comes to giving to the World Hunger Appeal.

Over the last week, I have reviewed twenty of the 100 grants that have made it through the process thus far. Five teams review twenty grants each. I need to tell you that Jesus’ command to “give them something to eat” is being carried out by disciples all over the place. The miracle of the feedings of Jesus continues.

From small food pantries that are expanding to deliver food to people who can’t make it to the site to educational programs that teach young people about hunger, advocacy and grow tons of vegetables for local food pantries; from new programs to address root causes of hunger like affordable housing, health needs, and job training to a congregation that needs to redo a kitchen so it can expand its food pantry to provide hot meals and fresh food to the neighborhood; from urban centers that are food desserts (access to food is beyond workable transportation limits) to rural programs tending the folks left behind, Christ’s body is busy giving those in need something to eat – and a place to sleep, help with clothing, job training, education and training to speak out to the powers that be.

The grants I am reviewing address many aspects of hunger that accompany people in the struggle beyond simply giving out food. Theses dimensions include: Community Organizing; Education; Food Production; Food Security; Health; Housing; Peace, Justice, and Human Rights; Public Policy Advocacy; Sustainable Livelihoods; Water

Through our food pantry, Thrive Assistance Program, partnerships with Free Store, Family Promise, Mosaic, our God’s Work. Our Hands effort each year, and much more, we too respond to Jesus’ command: “Give them something to eat.” Through the nearly $60,000 we have given to the World Hunger Appeal in the last couple of years we are helping congregations, agencies and organizations all across the country do the same.

Even as we do respond, the command continues because the hungry still gather. I pray that we dig ever deeper to answer the call of the savior – Give them something to eat.

Pax Christi,  Pastor Tim Olson

The Installation of Garth Englund, Intern

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

washing machineThis weekend as we gather for worship, we will install our new intern Garth Englund.  Installations are important.  If you were to do a word search on “installation,” you would find listed; appliance installation, TV installation, followed by installation of a pastor, then installation of other church leaders.  Although this list contains quite a variety of installations, there is one thing all installations have in common.  An installation is the putting in place of something or someone.  But what does that mean when we are referring to a pastoral intern?

First, just knowing that an Installation is part of the worship service informs us that something significant is taking place and it involves a community.  It marks a new day and a new direction in the life of this congregation.  It tells us to look and see the work God is up to.  The people of Holy Trinity have a gift in nurturing pastoral interns in a way that gives them experience in pastoral care, preaching, teaching and administration.  You are encouragers. The Intern Committee provides constructive feedback and assists the intern in recognizing goals and working toward achievement of those goals.  You are a blessing to the Intern who is walking a new path in a new setting.  So, the Installation informs us, the people of Holy Trinity that we are charged with something very important, that of nurturing and uplifting Pastoral Intern Garth Englund for the next year, as he learns about being a pastor.

Secondly, Intern Garth will be charged with the duties of his new role;

  • To learn and serve among the people of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
  • To carry out his ministry in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and the confessions of the Lutheran Church in harmony with the ELCA.
  • To be diligent in his study of the Holy Scriptures and faithful in his use of the Means of Grace and prayer.
  • To grow in love for those he serves, strive for excellence in his skills and adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a godly life.

This charge is taken seriously, and so deserves the witness and support of the people of faith as we aid Intern Garth in living out these duties.

Next, the Installation reminds everyone that each person has a vital role to play as the church moves forward for the glory of Christ.  We open ourselves to receive Intern Garth as one sent to serve in this church.  We open ourselves to pray for him, to help and honor him for the work he is about to do, and we will strive to live together in the peace and unity that Christ gives.

Yes, God is at work!  Some of you have been able to spend time with Garth during the short time he has been with our congregation but many of you are just beginning to get to know him.  His life has been a journey that did not take him directly to a calling towards ordained ministry, but a journey of twists and turns that eventually led him to this congregation.  I encourage you to ask him about his call story.  Let him hear yours.  Let him get to know you.  One of the greatest joys of ministry for myself and any pastor is the love we experience in sharing God’s love together and reach out to others.  I am confident Intern Garth will experience your love and care for him, as you have shared it with our interns in the past.

garth-1

At the end of the Installation, Intern Garth will be declared “installed as pastoral intern” and a blessing will be given.  Everything will be put in place.  A relationship is formed and blessed by God.  God will work through our relationship together as a community serving Intern Garth, Luther Seminary, and the whole church of God.  We give thanks that God has equipped us for the ministry of Internship, and welcome Intern Garth to Holy Trinity.

In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder

The Song in My Backyard

psalm 66Early this morning, with hot, black tea in hand, I looked upon my backyard damp with rain and shadowed by clouds. It was serene, but not quiet. There was singing. I saw the lemon-lime sweet potato vine sweeping down the side of a pot on the deck. Its vivid color stood out against the gray of the day. It was doing what it was created to do. Above that luminous song, a woodpecker was wiggling into the cage containing suet, enjoying a morning meal. It was doing what it was created to do. Creation sings when creatures, and even rocks, trees and babbling brooks,  do what they were made to do. “All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)

I did not always notice the music of creation. Most of my life has been spent scurrying from one thing to the next, absorbed in the demands of self and others. I’ve been too busy to listen, to see, to notice. I’ve also been too busy to be what God created me to be, so my song has been silent. I had to learn to listen and to sing.

I learned about the singing of every creature from Augustine of Hippo. His 4th century song still sings:

“Does God proclaim Himself in the wonders of creation? No. All things proclaim Him, all things speak. Their beauty is the voice by which they announce God, by which they sing, “It is you who made me beautiful, not me myself but you.

I learned to sing from Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint known for his radical st.francisembrace of living like Jesus. In his Canticle of Creation, Francis sings “Be praised my Lord for Mother Earth: abundant source, all life sustaining; she feeds us bread and fruit and gives us flowers.” The tree in my yard that will soon bury me in leaves and the noisy bird that wakes me too early are my neighbors, my siblings, to be loved.

I learned to sing from Martin Luther that God is “in, with, and under” the water, wine and bread of the sacraments. Which is also true of everything created. Luther said, “God’s entire divine nature is wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly, more present than the creature is to itself.”

I learned to sing from Joseph Sittler, a legendary theologian who started talking about sittlerthe care of creation long before anyone else. He called humanity to step away from its propensity for destroying the earth. For him, the destructive threat was centered on nuclear holocaust. He was also keenly aware of humanity’s appetites. Were he with us today, he would no sing a protest song of the threat that is less dramatic than World War III, but no less a threat.

Sittler’s song declared what happens when we move from rejoicing in our communion with the created order to simply using it for our own purposes. The result is a joyless and insatiable existence.

There is an economics of use only; it moves toward the destruction of both use and joy. And there is an economics of joy; it moves toward the intelligence of use and the enhancement of joy. That this vision involves a radical new understanding of the clean and fruitful earth is certainly so. But this vision, deeply religious in its genesis, is not so very absurd now that natural damnation is in orbit, and humanity’s befouling of their ancient home has spread their death and dirt among the stars.[i]

Elizabeth Johnson in her book Creation and the Cross, echoes Sittler and informs my lament over creation robbed of its purposes and life, points out:

Not content with harming our own species, human sin spills over into the natural world, ravaging habitats and destroying other species for personal and corporate gain. We profoundly need divine forgiveness. Out of the depths we cry for salvation.[ii]

When I have written in the past about our calling to care for creation, some have thought me to be an “alarmist,” shouting that the heavens are falling like some clerical Henny Penny – scaring the kids and preaching doom. Some have thought of me as a buzzkill, harshing everyone’s happy because there is: “Nothing we can do about it. The problem is too big.” A few have implied that maybe I am suddenly “woke” to the realities of evil corporations and the dangers of consumption, inflicting a new-found fervor on the unsuspecting and unwilling.

The truth is, I’m just trying to sing my song and hear the glorious chorus of creation in my backyard and beyond. I’m trying to love brother Blue Jay and sister Phlox. I’m just trying to help you do the same. For when creations sings, all is as it should be; joy and life are once again sustainable.

Pax Christi – Tim Olson

 

Copyright  2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, all rights reserved.

 

 

[i] James M. Childs Jr., Richard Lischer. The Eloquence of Grace: Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life (Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching Series Book 1) (pp. 208-209). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

[ii] Johnson, Elizabeth A. Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Kindle Locations 88-89). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Born Again?

baptism windowHave you ever been asked, “Are you born again?” or “Are you saved?” If you say “Yes” to the question, the interrogation may continue with “When?” If you say “No,” the conversation may end because you are judged to be a heathen. It may however continue with efforts to get you to come to a church that has the answers to your “problem.”  If you struggle to know just how to answer these questions, you are not alone.

The notion of being “born again” is rooted in scripture. In the Gospel according to John, we are introduced to a man named Nicodemus (John 3:1 ff). He is a wise teacher of the Jewish people who comes to Jesus under cover of darkness to ask questions. Jesus engages him in a conversation that leaves Nicodemus confused and scratching his head. Jesus tells him that all must be “born from above” (John 3:3). The Greek word used is deliberately ambiguous. It can be also translated born “anew” or, born “from the beginning, or in an interesting turn, born “for a long time.” And yes, some choose to say born “again” – though I’m not a fan of that choice, because to me it lacks the God-driven, long-term sense of John’s usage. If forced, I’d propose maybe, born “again, and again, and again….”

The other scriptural mention of “new birth,” is, for me, much more helpful.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 NRSV)

Notice how it clarifies who does the “birthing.” It is not us, but God’s action.

For a certain Christian folks, being “born again” means making a decision to follow Jesus. It is often draped with emotional or spiritual experiences of conviction, repentance or spiritual ecstasy. For many (maybe most) Christians, this notion of establishing a relationship with Our Lord is precisely backwards. The “decision” that establishes my relationship with God is not mine. It is God’s. The cross saves; the cross tells me that I am, in fact, born again. The only action I take is in my response, every day, to that fact.

Baptism is, for most Christians across time and space, the event that proclaims God’s action to initiate a rebirth “from above.” We are most certainly called to respond to the grace of God’s action by taking up the way of discipleship. I think it is that second part of the “new birth” that folks who ask this question are really getting at when they ask questions about being “born again.” Does your relationship with God create a new life? A new person? That’s always a good question.

Today, September 25th, is the anniversary of my re-birth. On that date decades ago, I was washed in the water and the Church announced that I was a child of God; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God decided to raise me up. For a while, my parents rose each day faced with what that glorious announcement meant for me. When I was confirmed, I took the responsibility from my parents and heard again of God’s decision to claim me. As Luther taught, from that day forward, every day was an occasion to respond to God’s grace and mercy. I’m still doing that every day as I make the sign of the cross and begin the day with a prayer. I do it as I read the scriptures and find myself called and convicted; as I serve my neighbor because the world is not about me; as I repent of the stupidity I commit each day and am honest about my life as (Luther again) sinner and saint all in one package that God has decided to love.

This weekend, we will celebrate with a whole bunch of 9th graders as they affirm their baptisms and take up the task of that daily walk with Jesus. As they are confirmed, they will hear the announcement of God’s decision to raise them up and be given every new day as an opportunity to respond to God’s love and grace and God’s children.

No doubt, they will get asked questions. I thought I’d end by giving them answers I use.

“Are you saved?” Absolutely!

“When?” On a cross, outside Jerusalem, in the early first century.

“Are you born again?” Yes. Every single day.

“How do you know?” God sent and surrounded me with holy messengers (the Church) to tell me, over and over and over again.

 Pax Christi – Pastor Tim

 

Copyright  2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

It Is Your Call

This week a teenager from Sweden arrived in the United States – by boat. Her name is Greta Thunberg. She came by boat because it left a smaller carbon footprint than a plane. Greta has been busy. Her visit included a visit to Congress where she spoke to our leaders with passion and force. She said:

greta 2“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.

“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”

“I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Listen to the science. Yes! PLEASE listen to the science and not the political posturing and denial that so deeply infects our nation. Nearly 100% of credible scientists agree that climate change is a threat that is a result of human action. Even though some politicians tried to block its release, the Climate Change Report, mandated by congress, and compiled by 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The Iowa DNR tracks the reality of how climate change is impacting the state. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN has mountains of science accesible to all. There is no credible debate about the reality of climate change. There is only a debate about whether we should act. Greta Thunberg is calling for action. So should we.

Yet, without diminshing the importance of the science to understand the nature of the challenge, nor the courageous advocacy for the planet expressed by people like Greta, as Christians, it is not about the science. The care of the planet and future generations is a calling from God that is to be taken up whether we are in trouble environmentally or not.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. – (Genesis 2:15). 

And there it is; right there in the beginning. Humanity’s relationship to creation is a call to “till and keep,” not to own and consume. That calling (a vocation) to live in a loving relationship with all creation echoes throughout scripture (Psalm 8; Psalm 104; Psalm 148; Romans 8).

Faith begins with recognition. We recognize that we did not create, earn, or gain ownership of all that we have and all that we are. We recognize that it is by God’s grace alone that we exist, breathe, eat, live and, yes, die.

The second movement of faith is to respond to God’s love and grace by answering the call to be what God made us to be. We are the caretakers of God’s creation. We are not owners, for title never transfers from divine to human hands. We are accountable to God for how we love each other; and how we love all creation. Loving all creation and every creature, human and otherwise, is the path to loving God. We are called to leave the planet better than we found it.

To ignore our call is not just a choice we are allowed to make without consequence. In psalm 148 windowDeuteronomy 30:15 ff, Moses sets before the people a clear calling to follow God’s path, which leads to life, or to choose another path, which leads to death. If you listen to the science, failing to address climate change does not lead to abstractions. It leads to death, disease, refugees. It leads to the collapse of agricultural and economic systems. These will be the consequences (judgment) of choosing to ignore our call to “till and keep” the earth. 

Here is what is NOT our call: To choose to ignore the “groaning of creation” and continue to violate the earth and cause suffering of our nighbors with our addiction to life as we blithely live it. Here is our call: to choose life and love of every neighbor; every creature and created thing so that we might be God’s “tillers and keepers of the grace we’ve been given in holy trust.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

 

copyright © 2019, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

The Creature and the Cross

htlc cross 2This coming weekend we will observe a festival day that has been observed for centuries. Since perhaps the early Fourth Century, the Church has observed Holy Cross Day. The cross is important because Christ hangs upon it. This is enough of a reason for us to make everyday, Holy Cross Day. On top of that, however, is what we believe Christ accomplished; what he was doing as he suffered and died in such a grotesque and painful way.

The answer to the “why?” of the cross that most of us learned has something to do with how the death of Jesus paid a debt for us. That he died to pay for our sins to satisfy some cosmic, divine debt that had to be paid. If that is what you were taught and believe, you can thank a man named Anselm (1033-1109) who was Bishop of Canterbury and one of the most influential theologians the Church has produced. His theory about what Christ did on the cross came to be known as the “satisfaction” theory of the atonement.

Oddly enough, his thought on this subject remains a theory. The Church has never adopted his teaching as a doctrine. It sits beside other theories about “atonement” (what Jesus accomplished on the cross). But, this is the one people seem to know best. So, here’s the news flash in all this: I don’t think Anselm really got this thing right. That is not to say his thought has no merit. It does. The cross does indeed address the sin of the world and mine in particular. But that is a small sliver of the story and not entirely helpful in our age.

To say that, on the cross, Jesus died to pay for my sins alone restricts the power of the death and resurrection to, well, just the death part and to forgiveness alone. It fails to unite death with the resurrection, and so, leaves much unaddressed. It also only speaks to one form of suffering – my guilt; and it addresses only the sinner. What about the victims of sin? Those who suffer at the hands of others? Does not a crucified Messiah have something to say about being a victim of the powers and principalities in his cry, “My God! My God. Why have you forsaken me?” 

When Jesus is raised from the dead, does that not change deeply what happened on the cross? The world said a very loud, “NO!” to Jesus and his whole life, ministry, and message. Those in power smugly thought they had put things “right” by killing the troublemaker. Resurrection, however, was God’s “YES!” proclaiming the world guilty and Jesus right; revealing the sin and evil of the powers that be. On the cross Jesus still reveals the arrogance and pride of those who would cut off helping the poor and needy; who would abandon the widow a refugee; who fail to tend to the least and lost of the world. If you are for that which creates victims and counts winners and losers, you are on the wrong side of the cross.

Then there is all of creation. Jesus is a creature nailed to the cross by evil. Jesus, the dali st john crossChrist, is also “the Word” that spoke creation into being; “the Word” that sustains life and light; “the Word” that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1). In the mystery of  the Incarnation, both creature and Creator are hung to suffer and die. On that cross is not only Jesus of Nazareth. carpenter, healer and all around “good guy.” On that cross hangs the creator of the world and so, all that is created. When Paul says, “the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains…” (Romans 8:22), the agonized cries of Christ on the cross give voice to the suffering of every creature, rock, tree that face the suffering brought by sin.

These are but the beginning of what the cross represents to people of faith. The cross is the lens through which we “live, move, and have our being.” It is right to honor who dies there, who overcame it, and what God did upon that lonely tree.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

 

copyright © 2019, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church