31 July 2007

Confirmation Camp 2007, Part 2

Okay, so we've been away for the weekend and now we've got head colds, so I'm sorry this has taken so long to get online. But here is Confirmation Camp 2007, part II: The Arrival.

We began our week at Carol Joy Holling with a little Tri-Ball. Here, Marcus the Counselor shows great form.

Monday morning was our first "Co-Op" experience. Here our kids are playing "Captain"

Alayna and a few of her new friends had to "gobble" their food to stay in the game.

Ashley the counselor and Erin salute the Captain

Tess (second from right), Shelby and my Beloved "gobble" and stay in the game.

Temperature all week: 90s Farenheit. Pool? Yes, please!


Alayna enjoys a cool moment in the pool.

First time I saw this picture, I thought, "Hey, who's the bald guy playing with Ainsley?" Then I realized it was me. Ouch.

The happy family, swimming at camp. Does it get any better?

27 July 2007

Friday Five: Floods & Droughts

Sally at RevGalBlogPals asks:
Here in the UK we are struggling with floods, other parts of the world have similar problems without the infrastructure to cope with it, still others are badly affected by drought.... My son Jon is in Melbourne Australia where apparently it has been snowing ( yes it is winter but still!).... With crazy weather in mind I bring you this weeks Friday 5...

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?
In my five summers of work at Carol Joy Holling Camp in Nebraska I lived through a lot of thunderstorms and such. I've seen a tornado with my naked eye once. I watched a blizzard bury my uncle's Ford Escort one Thanksgiving. But I've never been through something life-threatening like a drought, a flood or even a killing heat wave. Hopefully I never will.

LATER NOTE: I can't believe I forgot this. On October 15 1997, Lincoln, NE was hit with 15 inches of snow overnight. I started the evening watching NU play Kansas at LutheranHusker's apartment, then drove home in light snow, thinking, "Gosh, that's odd - even for Nebraska!" Imagine our shock when we woke up the next morning to a winter wonderland. We'd had a late fall, so most of the leaves were still green and on the trees, which of course meant downed branches all over town. It literally looked like a war zone: streets blocked by trees and snow and power out all over the place. We didn't have classes at the University for three days and the elementary and high schools were out for a week. I think it was Tuesday before my roommates and I could drive away from our house. We watched more movies than I can count and without beer and Kraft Mac & Cheese we never would have survived the storm. The sad thing is what forced us to leave the house: we had all run out of cigarettes. :-)

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
More important than we can imagine. I knew this was the case even before we watched An Inconvenient Truth this week. The fact that we're out of the Kyoto protocols in, in my opinion, an unconscionable shirking of our responsibility as the greatest pollution creating country on the planet. Frankly, I don't care about the economics because, as Al Gore noted, the planetary concerns are greater beyond comparison.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....
4. What is your favourite season and why?
I'm an autumnal kind of guy. I love the days when the leaves are changing, I need a sweatshirt in the morning and it's just crisp outside. Football is in the air and the combines are in the field harvesting grain. For me, there's no better time to live than October.

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
Cool mornings - I mean 50 degrees or so, on the deck of "our cabin" at the resort on the shore of Lake Superior. Cool enough that my cup of coffee keeps my hands warm. Sunny skies and low 70s for the day, just a touch of a breeze. A brilliant sunset at night, which we can see reflected in the Lake as we sit by the fire and snuggle.

26 July 2007


Milton has been posting poems from The Writer's Almanac this week. I enjoyed today's poem so much I thought I'd do the same. Here it is:

"Handyman" by Barton Sutter, from Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey. © BOA Editions, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


The morning brought such a lashing rain
I decided I might as well stay inside
And tackle those jobs that had multiplied
Like an old man's minor aches and pains.
I found a screw for the strikerplate,
Tightened the handle on the bathroom door,
Cleared the drain in the basement floor,
And straightened the hinge for the backyard gate.
Each task had been a nagging distraction,
An itch in the mind, a dangling thread;
Knocking a tiny brass brad on the head,
I felt an insane sense of satisfaction.
Then I heard a great crash in the yard.
The maple had fallen and smashed our car.

Note: I loved this poem for its use of language and the surprise at the end. As I was pasting this thing into my blog I realized this is a sonnet: the rhyme scheme is abba abba abba cc. How cool is that!

25 July 2007

The Good Side of the NFL

Tired of hearing about Michael Vick, Pac-Man Jones and other NFL players who can't seem to keep their names & faces out of the police blotter? Try this article on for size.

Thanks for the good work, guys, and can we publicize this stuff more and the criminal behavior less?

Harry Potter and the Dark Lord Waldemart

First in a series by walmartwatch

You scored as Sirius Black, You are a gifted wizard and very loyal to your allegiance. Whilst you have a big heart and care very much about those around you, you can be a little arrogant and reckless at times.

Sirius Black


Albus Dumbledore


Harry Potter


Ron Weasley


Draco Malfoy


Remus Lupin


Hermione Granger


Ginny Weasley


Severus Snape


Lord Voldemort


created with QuizFarm.com

24 July 2007

Membership Decline? Fuggedaboutit...

An ELCA news release elsewhere in this newsletter notes that ELCA membership declined 1.6% in calendar year 2006 – some 76,573 members left the rolls of the member churches of the ELCA. Every year since 1991 the ELCA has faced a membership loss when annual reporting for each calendar year was completed. This year was no exception.

There is, of course, a voice within me that sounds worried about this decline in membership. Frankly, I'm depending on the membership of the ELCA to care for my physical needs when I can no longer occupy the office of pastor, so I have a personal stake in what happens in our denomination. But in addition to the voice of worry, another voice sounds, if not thrilled, at least delighted by the thought that our church is growing leaner and more fit for discipleship. You see, a good portion of the membership loss is from roll cleaning: purging congregational members who show a decided disinterest in the ministry of the church as it stands.

Understand that I would prefer our members to repent of our inactivity and return to active participation in the ministry of the church. But let's be honest, folks: in some cases, it ain't happening. Inactives stay inactive and show no interest in worship, service or fellowship and thus they have already, in effect, removed themselves from being members – we just finish the act by purging them from the roster.

Now before some of you start gloating about your regular worship attendance, let me draw your attention to the final sentence of the previous paragraph – particularly the bit about "worship, service or fellowship". I would argue that within our church and our denomination there are far too many people who could be described as "worshiping inactives:" those folks who "draw near to [God] with their mouths and honor [God] with their lips, while their hearts are far from [God], and their worship of [God] is a human commandment learned by rote…" (Isaiah 29.13). Our denomination is experiencing membership decline, but we are also entering the beginning of a time of greater turmoil that will be centered in one undeniable problem: we don't live what we confess. Because of this, our witness, service and fellowship suffer from a lack of integrity, authenticity and genuine love. We've traded discipleship for comfort and service for security, neither of which are God's plan for the church.

In Mark 8.34 Jesus says, "If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Ched Myers says that "the cross in Mark's day was neither religious icon nor metaphor for personal anguish or humility. It had only one meaning: that terrible form of capital punishment reserved by imperial Rome for political dissenters. The cross was a common sight in the revolutionary Palestine of Mark's time; in this recruiting call, the disciple is invited to reckon with the consequences facing those who dare to challenge the hegemony of imperial Rome." In a commentary on the cross in Sojourners magazine, Joe Roos says, "I suspect that after these words, the crowds around Jesus got smaller."

Could it be that our membership decline is a sign that the true meaning of discipleship is beginning to surface in our denomination? Could it be that we are finally learning to invite one another to a life of faith that actually means something? Could it be that we are beginning to remember that when God calls us to follow, God also calls us to leave everything else behind? Could it be that we're finally moving away from being a "social club at prayer"?

I hope so, with all my heart. God doesn't need a praying Kiwanis club in Barrett. God wants disciples, people who have been captured by the life and message of Christ and understand that there is work to be done in the name of Christ in this world. God wants disciples, people who are willing to risk themselves for the sake of their neighbors. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard, "Remove from Christianity its ability to shock and it is altogether destroyed. It then becomes a tiny superficial thing, capable neither of inflicting deep wounds nor of healing them. It's when the absurd starts to sound reasonable that we should begin to worry." I think God wants a church that is a little less reasonable and far more passionate about its mission in the world, and I think that before we get to be in that church, we're going to have to go through a time of great turmoil and anxiety while the old, comfortable, reasonable church dies a slow and painful death.

Am I excited about the thought of "cleaning the rolls"? Of course I'm not. No one should be. But do I think it might be necessary to come closer to carrying out our mission? Yes, I do. Perhaps the time is coming for all of us to examine the way we live our lives and ask the hard question: "Am I really a disciple of Jesus? Do I live what I believe?" I can't answer that for you – only you and the Holy Spirit can answer that question. But I do believe that the only way to learn what it means to be an active disciple of Jesus is to be an active disciple of Jesus – membership in a church is not the same thing. Let the membership decline if it must – I'm more interested in the work of discipleship, and I believe that as discipleship grows, so will membership. It's an exciting, frustrating, challenging, invigorating time to be your pastor, because I sense a hunger for genuine faith in the world and our denomination is slowly starting to turn toward addressing that hunger. I invite all of you to consider spending more time worrying about developing discipleship and far less time worrying about building membership – God wants far more of the former and really, honestly, couldn't care less about the latter.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Scott

Monday Stuff: Phoenix

You Are a Phoenix

Driven and ambitious, you tend to acquire material success easily.
You have grand schemes - both for your own life and for changing the whole world.
You are a great leader, and you have no problem taking the reigns.
However, you aren't all business. You also have great talents for performing and visual arts.

This Week's Entry from the "You've Got to be F%#!ing Kidding Me!" Department

Christian protestors interrupted a Hindu prayer in the Senate last week. *sigh* Nice to see how far we've come, no?

23 July 2007

Accio New Reading Material!

Well, at long last I'm done with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Wait - I bought it on Saturday and finished it this morning. That's not really "at long last," is it? Anyway, fear not, no spoilers here, just admiration for a splendid final 300 pages. I was worried sick about halfway through, when the story didn't seem to be GOING ANYWHERE for a few chapters, but as usual, the final act was a real barnburner.

Now it's time for the next book, which is One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God. After hearing about the U2charist I decided it was time to start looking seriously at these blokes and figure out just what drives this spiritual aspect of their music and how it impacts their fans. I'm a fan, but not for the spiritual aspect of their work - I love Bono's voice and I think they've done some of the most passionate, original music of the past 30 years. I'll report later on what I think.

Confirmation Camp 2007, Part 1

So, now that I've finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I'm free to begin posting about our trip to Nebraska for Confirmation Camp. (I had to finish quickly or certain folks in Oregon were threatening to spoil the ending for me. You know who you are.)

Anyway, we pulled out of Barrett around 12:30 last Saturday afternoon, bound for my parents' farm in Wakefield, Nebraska, where we'd be staying the night. We arrived around 6:30 and promptly convinced my dad to start the fire and dig out the basketballs. We had some fun while we waited for the fire to get going so we could roast wieners.

After supper we adjourned to the yard, where we played with Adam's golf disc for quite a while.

After a while the disc got stuck in the mulberry tree. Rather than have one of our kids climb it (and risk falling out, liability, yadda yadda yadda) I climbed up & shook it free. Funny how mulberries fall out of the mulberry tree when they're ripe - most of our kids got a berry to the face. Even funnier was Erin's big toe: she looked as though she'd voted in some bizarre foot election:

Shelby, of course, didn't know what to make of any of this:

Later we moved inside for our first Nooma video of the week and a short discussion:

In the morning, our happy campers took a look around Wakefield before heading to worship at Salem Lutheran Church - here they are overlooking Eaton Field in Wakefield, which, of course, is "The Baseball Capital of Nebraska."
After worship we snapped a quick picture in the front of the church before heading home for pizza.

And, of course, Grandma & Grandpa Johnson thought they needed just a bit more Ainsley time:

But all good things must come to an end, so we packed up the kids & the car & headed south to Ashland, where Carol Joy Holling Camp awaited.

21 July 2007

Lifelong Dream of Returning to Camp as a Pastor bringing Kids who will have the same lifechanging Experience I once did as a Camper:


Pictures to follow later this afternoon after they are developed. For now, Beloved, CRANKYBaby and I are happy to be back home, but wishing our new friends could have come with us!

Oh, yeah, if I can tear myself away from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that is. Anyone who spoils the end for me will be sacked.

13 July 2007

Tired and Ready for Camp

This has been a week of weeks, for more reasons than I care to count.

First, we're leaving tomorrow for a week of Confirmation camp in Nebraska with seven of the youth from our two churches. I'm thinking it's going to be a great week. Maybe even a GRATE week! (stop your groaning, you two). But making sure all the money is accounted for and everything is just not in my inventory of spiritual gifts, so it's been a little stressful this week.

I've been nervous for about a week because of my track record with planned time away and funerals. It seems that whenever we decide to get away, be it for a church trip, a continuing education event or a vacation, someone in the congregation dies and I've got a funeral to plan. This is not so much a complaint as it is a painful observation: I'd rather have the time to spend with the family after the funeral and all the pomp and circumstance is done, since there will still be lots of grieving to do after the flowers are gone and no one is sending condolence cards anymore. But tomorrow is going to be rushed because we need to leave directly after the committal to make it down to Nebraska in time for supper at my parents' farm. So I have to leave a family for whom I care a great deal very quickly, and it just doesn't feel right. It's what has to happen, and that's just how ministry works sometimes, but it doesn't feel right.

The other thing, of course, has been planning our confirmation activities for camp. We're going with a series of NOOMA videos on different aspects of life as a Christian, and I'm pretty excited to see how it goes with our kids. But that was a loong session in front of the computer to get it all put together this evening. At least Microsoft Word works on the new machine. I nearly had a heart attack at 11:00 when a lightning strike knocked out our power and the document was lost, but Word was able to recover it and I promptly saved it just in case. You never can tell.

Add in with all of this a baby who has started demanding a 2 a.m. bottle, my continuing back stiffness, an emotional exchange with a friend that is now resolved but not yet behind us and cats who decided to spray some of our clean laundry this afternoon, and you've got the makings of a LOOOOOONG day. It was. Now I've had my beer and a bit of blogging and I'm off to bed. It's time to sleep hard.

Baby Ainsley 365: Havin' Fun Now!

Friday Five: Wotcher, Harry! ...and not.

Posted by reverendmother at RevGalBlogPals
As you may have seen in this Wednesday's Festival, Pottermania has hit the RevGals---though not all of them. Yes, I am all over Harry like a Seeker on the Snitch, but I know there are others who will be ecstatic to see the July madness end.

So today's F5 is a Choose Your Own Adventure: do the magical version or the Muggle one, or both:

Option 1: Accio Friday Five!
1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why?
I'd have to say that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my favorite thus far, for sheer suspense and the sense that things are starting to draw toward a major climax. [No spoilers here for those of you who might be interested in still reading the entire tale!]

2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know?
I get the feeling I resemble McGonagall the most (aside from being both a Muggle and a man, of course). She seems exactly the kind of no-nonsense, fiery person I aspire to be. Besides, no everyone gets to be Harry or Dumbledore. I will say that being Charlie Weasley would be cool - chasing dragons and such. [Added later] I would like to get to know McGonagall better - she just seems interesting to me for some reason!

3. How careful are you about spoilers?
a) bring 'em on--even if I know the destination, the journey's still good
b) eh, I'd rather not know what happens, but I'm not going to commit Avada Kedavra if someone makes a slip
c) I will sequester myself in a geodesic dome to avoid finding anything out
Definitely C for me. I'm careful like Hermione cooking up a potion for Snape's class. I HATE knowing the end of the story/movie. The really unfortunate thing is that I married a "read the last page of the book first" woman, so we have a row about spoilers every time a new Harry Potter book comes out. In fact, we had one last night on our way home from the Transformers movie. (Transformers, Harry Potter, what am I, eight again?) And there are others in my life who do the same (do you hear me, LH?).

4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7.


I think Hagrid will meet an unfortunate end early in the book and I think Harry will sacrifice himself in the end to save the world from Voldemort.
Oh, and one hope: I hope that Dumbledore and Sirius aren't really dead.


5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or storylines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued?
Definitely the relationship between Lupin, Sirius Black and the Potters, and perhaps Albus Dumbledore's backstory as well.

Option 2: Please Mommy, Anything But Those Blankety-Blank Books!

And we do mean anything:

1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower.
Definitely the mandrake, although care and feeding can be...what? Oh, MUGGLE plants. Gotcha. Can I share my least favorite plant? Well, I don't care: I'm gonna. I DESPISE COTTONWOOD TREES. We have several around our house, and although they are beautiful, tall and sound really cool when a breeze blows through at night, they also shed bark, branches and debris all over the yard and cottonwood seed gets into everything every summer and makes our house look like it's molting.
2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday.
Sky-diving. I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. I don't know why - I'm scared of heights and would never consider bungee jumping; I don't even like those rides at the fair where they put you in a harness, pull you way up in the air and let you swing at the end of a long cable, but I want to go sky-diving someday.

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one?
I would love to have an iPhone, but not until the cost drops a bit (and I wear out my Palm Pilot so I can justify the expense).

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender?
You mean other than the Vice President? How about the idiots at NBC who cancelled "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" but left "Age of Love" and "Wedding Crashers" on their fall schedule? No people? Okay, how about, ummm, any Bluetooth earpiece worn outside of an automobile? No offense to any Bluetooth users out there, but that thing in your ear makes you look like a pretentious, self-important git.

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment?
Only if it means I can exercise my right to free speech on the White House lawn. One could argue that because the doo-doo was in a portable container, it was permissible; had there been smearing involved, it might have crossed the line, don't you think?

11 July 2007

Whew! Still a Lutheran...

You scored as Martin Luther, The daddy of the Reformation. You are opposed to any Catholic ideas of works-salvation and see the scriptures as being primarily authoritative.

Martin Luther


Karl Barth


Jürgen Moltmann




Jonathan Edwards


Friedrich Schleiermacher


John Calvin




Paul Tillich


Charles Finney


Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Seriously, more Schleiermacher and Edwards than Tillich? Bizarre...


What Your Latte Says About You

You are very decadent in all aspects of your life. You never scale back, and you always live large.

You are a very serious person. You don't have time for silly antics.

Intense and energetic, you aren't completely happy unless you are bouncing off the walls.

You're addicted to caffeine. There's no denying it.

You are responsible, mature, and truly an adult. You're occasionally playful, but you find it hard to be carefree.

You are deep and thoughtful, but you are never withdrawn.

10 July 2007

This Just In...

Uh-oh: the Vatican says Protestant churches are wounded ecclesiastic communities because we don't recognize the primacy of the pope.

'Scuse me while I go get myself healed.

[door slamming]

[step step step step step step step step]


[step step step step step step step step]

[door opening]

Well, they always said laughter was the best medicine...

Andy Borowitz: El Libbre!

Like many in this country, I was horrified and disgusted by the commutation of I. Lewis Libby's prison sentence by "President" George W. Bush. LutherPunk put it best when he wrote, "Yet another reason I have zero respect for that pathetic waste of flesh sitting in the oval office." Perhaps I wouldn't have chosen such strong words - but perhaps I'm also less courageous than my rockabilly friend in the South.

Whatever. The best response to these things is often humor: here's a great one.

Nutty Daddy, Giggly Baby

Time for a little fun at the CrazyGoNuts House!

09 July 2007

100 Books

55: The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Good golly, it's been a while since I've done a book post. I read The Once & Future King back in March, I think. Anyway, this was my second time through T.H. White's classic and I enjoyed it greatly.

Those of you who are familiar with The Sword In the Stone should know that TO&FK is the continuation of that story. White's tale is done from a somewhat modernist perspective; he includes commentary on Le Morte d'Arthur at times and seems to be moving in and out of time as he writes. But what drives this tale of Arthur is the humanity White reveals in the principal characters. They are believable heroes, gripped by doubt, misunderstanding and conflict, both within and without. White also sprinkles a generous dollop of humour throughout the tale, up to and including the tragic conclusion.

Since it's been such a while since I read this, I'm going to stop there, with an admonition to read this book if you're at all interested in British literature of the Arthur Mythology.

Baby Ainsley 365: Morning Snuggle Time

Beloved shot this a couple of weeks ago and I never posted it. We've gotten our pattern pretty well established: I get up for the early morning feed and play time. It's a good way to start your day, don't you think?

08 July 2007

Running: On the Road Again

I just put together my training schedule for the Siouxland Half-Marathon, to be run 20 October 2007. This is a big deal for me right now. I've taken all of this week off in regard to exercise due to a recurring back problem that just doesn't seem to be getting better - but it's not getting worse, either, and I'm feeling heavy, listless and slow.

When I put together my training schedule for Lincoln way back in January, I overestimated my abilities and flat-out lied to the computer about what I was running. I think that had a lot to do with my tendinitis and the subsequent crash that is still affecting me today. So as I put together the schedule for Siouxland, I made sure I was honest about my current mileage and my ability to ramp up my training (slowly this time - gotta take it easy!).

My short term goal is 1:50 or faster for Siouxland. With proper diet and attention to the details of the training schedule, I think that's a definite possibility. My mid-term goal is 4:00 or better at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth next June. Again, attention to detail will be a key, but after what happened in Lincoln I think it is, again, possible.

My long term goal? Boston. No prediction as to when; it might not be attainable at all. I've made a lot of good changes in my life and gotten healthier, but I'm still a tackle running in a wide receiver's arena. But I need a motivator - why not shoot the moon?

Keep me in your prayers: I'll keep you posted on my training.

Baby Ainsley 365: Sunday Cutie

Beloved bought Ainsley a new Sunday outfit last week. It was so cute we just had to have a picture:

By the way, I have no idea where we are on the 365 aspect of this project. With all the computer troubles and traveling we've been doing, an accurate count has become pretty much impossible. But I'll keep trying to post something every day nonetheless.

Baby Ainsley 365: We LOVE our Saucer!

Thank you, Lord, for this bounty you have bestowed upon us through your servants, Beloved's Sister and Brother-in-law. Without it I would not be able to read ANYTHING EVER AGAIN. Amen.

Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost - "Official Lambs"

Grace to you and peace from God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, active within you this morning. Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you gather us together so that we may be sent out in your name, to be peacemakers and proclaimers of the nearness of your kingdom. Fill our hearts with joy in your presence, courage to do your will, and wisdom to see the path which we must follow. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Turn to your neighbor and share a time in your life when you were sent out on a mission. How did it go? Were you confident? Scared? Resentful? Did you complete your task? Did it go well for you? Take a moment to share among yourselves, and be ready to share with the assembly in two minutes. Go.

The story I would tell here is about the days when I was the director of the Wittenberg Society at the Lutheran Student Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was charged with beginning the reconstruction of Beta Sigma Psi Fraternity, Delta Chapter, and frankly I wasn't very good at it. For one thing, I am at heart a terribly shy person who does not like to be intrusive. For another thing, I wasn't entirely sure that fraternities contributed much to our campus environment. My job, however, required me to contact Lutheran men on campus and invite them into our new fraternity. This, as you might imagine, was incredibly difficult. I didn't meet with the same success as the disciples in today's reading from Luke. But I was recruited for the job by a campus pastor who believed in me – and in spite of my shortcomings, we did have a men's group that met regularly during the year I was their director. I was amazed at the end of the year to find that something good had happened – much as the disciples were amazed at the deeds they had done as Jesus' emissaries to the world around them.

Most of you know what it's like to be sent out. So put yourself in the shoes of the disciples this morning. You've been following Jesus for a while now, but today he is sending you out on your own. You've been part of a large crowd of followers; now you're going to be in pairs, with no one else to protect you. You've been listening to the words Jesus says; now you're going to be the one saying the words. You've been watching Jesus heal; now you're going to be the one curing disease. You've been watching Jesus graciously accept meals from strangers; now you're going to be the one to accept hospitality when it is offered to you. You've seen Jesus rejected; now you're going to be the one rejected. You've heard Jesus say, "the kingdom of God has come near;" now you're going to be the one proclaiming the kingdom, to those who accept you and to those who reject you. This is your mission.

There are a few things I'd like to point out about our reading today so you know what's going on here in Luke's gospel. First, you'll notice that there are at least eighty-two people following Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus "appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him;" we can assume that these others are additional followers of Jesus beyond the twelve. So the crowd following Jesus had grown quite large by this time. But seventy is numerically significant: it is ten times seven, a number of wholeness multiplied tenfold. In Genesis 10, there are seventy nations of the earth descended from Noah and his family. In Numbers, Moses appointed seventy elders from the twelve tribes to share the spirit of vision and leadership for the people of Israel. When Peter asked Jesus, "Shall I forgive my brother seven times?" Jesus replied, "No, Peter: you shall forgive your brother seventy times seven." There was an abundance being sent by Jesus – an abundance which God planted in the world by drawing these seventy to Jesus in order that they might be sent out.

But this was not a power team Jesus sent out. He said it himself: "I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves." And I notice the curious difference between Jesus' instructions and the disciples' report when they returned. Jesus told them that some houses would not share peace with them, that some towns would reject them – yet the disciples reported nothing but deeds of power over demons. Two possibilities arise in my mind to solve this puzzle. Either the disciples chose to ignore their moments of failure and emphasize their moments of success or these seventy disciples were successful beyond Jesus' own expectations. On the one hand, a large group of fresh recruits were so overwhelmed by their success they couldn't wait to return to share the good news with their Teacher; on the other hand, Jesus himself was surprised by what his Father had done through the work of these seventy disciples. The lambs survived their first brush with the wolves, and they rejoiced with Jesus over their success.

But it wouldn't always be this easy. These lambs continued to follow Jesus as he journeyed to Jerusalem. These lambs watched their teacher confront the wolves at the Temple and in the governor's seat. These lambs watched their Lord surrender himself to the wolves, offering peace again and again to those who would have none of it. These lambs watched their Christ lifted on a cross, crucified as a criminal, mocked by his own people as an impostor. These lambs saw what it would mean to continue to follow Jesus, to continue speaking in His name, to continue to proclaim that the kingdom of God had come near. These lambs saw that if they continued as Jesus' official representatives, they would suffer as Jesus had suffered.

And yet they believed, and they went out in his name. They went out in his name because they believed that the kingdom of God HAD come near in Jesus, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. They went out in his name because he had put his seal upon them and marked them as his own, and in nothing could the world take them beyond his reach. They went out in his name because he had intended for them to go out in his name all along. The kingdom of God comes near wherever Jesus is confessed as Lord and Savior, be it through the lips of Christ himself or the lips of the meekest lamb sent out in his name. Christ made it official: "Whoever listens to you listens to me…" The lambs he sent out were his official lambs, the ones bearing his name and his redeeming word to the world. They were his ambassadors, his emissaries, his lambs among the wolves – and they went out with gladness.

Where are you sent out today? You are, after all, an official lamb, one of the abundant many God has gathered to be sent this morning. I tell you that the same is true of you that was true of the lambs of Jesus' day: you carry on your head the seal of baptism, the seal that makes you an official lamb, one of God's ambassadors to the world. Whoever listens to you listens to Jesus – where are you sent to speak in Jesus' name? Is it dangerous to see the world as a place where you are one who carries within you the Spirit of God? Yes, but what does that matter? You are God's lamb – in nothing will the powers of this world hurt you beyond God's ability to heal. As a colleague of mine writes: "There remains on Earth––have you noticed?—the very real threat of powers and principalities. There remains the temptation to see ourselves as special, others as less than human; to kill in the name of the nation and tribe. Satan has fallen like lightning, but the armies of empire are not destroyed. And still the kingdom of God is very near." [1]

You mentioned earlier your experiences with missions, your fears, your successes, your sorrow, your joy. Know this, brothers and sisters: you have a mission before you today. Wherever you go, you go with the name of God imprinted on your forehead and the voice of God on your lips. In your baptism and the forgiveness of your sins you have been remade into an official lamb of the kingdom of God – and the world is your mission field. Go in God's peace, with the good news of the Lamb of God on your lips, empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the good news: "the kingdom of God has come near to you!" Amen.

06 July 2007

Friday Five: Hasty Pudding Version

ReverendMother sez: Whoops! I have been in a family-induced haze these few days, with the July 4 holiday and taking time off while relatives are visiting. So I literally lost track of what day it was!
So rather than make you guys wait even one minute longer for the five, I'll dig up an oldie:

Today, what are you:
1. Wearing
2. Reading
3. Eating
4. Doing
5. Pondering
1. I'm wearing baby puke. Seriously. I'm on my third shirt today and with taking care of Ainsley for the next two hours, I'm sure she'll get me again. We call her our little "frat boy:" she can't hold her milk any better than the yahoos at Tappa Haffa Kegga can hold their Busch Light.

Yeah - that's the look they had in "Rocks for Jocks," too. Is this an ill omen for our little girl's future?

2. I'm reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for fun and Paradigm Shift in the Church by Christian Schwarz for professional reasons. I'm going to try to get through Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince before Deathly Hallows comes out on the 21st. Don't think I'm gonna make it, which of course will necessitate a reading of all the Harry Potter books in order. Drat.

3. I'm eating turkey brats for supper, with veggies of some sort and a small bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. *Everyone loves ice cream, yes indeed they do...*

4. I'm doing the Friday Five. Duh! But in a couple of minutes I'm going to collect the Child and we're going to go for some visits and then I'll try to write the rest of my sermon. Tonight and tomorrow I'd like to finish a couple of adirondack chairs I've been building as an anniversary present for my folks from my brothers and me.

5. I'm pondering how my child can nap for 40 minutes, exactly. We're talking on the second, here. It's bizarre.

Baby Ainsley 365: A Week at Home

Our daycare provider is on vacation this week, so Ainsley's been home with Mom & Dad a lot. It's been great fun!

But it's been tiring, too - we need a good nap every now and then, don't we?

05 July 2007

Baby Ainsley 365: First 4th of July

We were invited to spend the 4th with K and her family on Lake Victoria in Alexandria. What fun! What could be better than potluck on the 4th of July?

K's family has shih tzus - they were a topic of great interest for our little girl. It appears that our friend C is right: Ainsley DOES need a puppy!

After letting my hair grow long for Inherit the Wind, I finally got to do my summer buzz cut last week. Beloved thought that Ainsley looks even more like her Daddy now.

After that wonderful potluck, we had the opportunity to go for a boat ride. Ainsley was really excited about her new life preserver, as you can tell:

Hey, who wouldn't love something new & squishy to chew on?

Finally, after a long, hot 4th of July, she conked out on the way home and slept the night away. Almost.

03 July 2007

Baby Ainsley 365: Bad News & Good News & Bad News

So, Grandma & Grandpa Johnson, does this sleeping pose look familiar? :-)

BAD NEWS: the laptop which has busted speakers now also has two non-functioning USB ports and a serious case of the hiccups. Considering the cost of repairs, etc. it's just not worth the trouble.
GOOD NEWS: A certain computer manufacturer had a $250 reduction in price on the desktop we were already considering this week. So we're getting a new computer.
BAD NEWS: The computer wasn't $1,000 off. We're going to have to pay for a new computer. *sigh* Pay the man, pay the man, pay the man...

In other news, we're emailing pictures from Beloved's work laptop to this one so I can post them online. My cousins Jessica & Ryan were in town for the Old Settlers' Reunion, and now I can finally post some of the pictures!

By the way, guys, you don't look ANYTHING like your parents. Just thought you'd like to know.

Note the grip our little angel has on Jessie's hair below. That is one tight fist. It took us a while to get her to let go!

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: "No Spectators"

Preaching Texts

You all know very well that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Nebraska Cornhusker. Being a Husker at heart, I pay a lot of attention to college football, and over the years I’ve developed a true appreciation for the Texas A&M Aggies football team. They are one of the classiest organizations in college football, and their fans rival only my Huskers in terms of dedication and support. One of the things I’ve loved about the Aggies is the tradition of the 12th Man. Let me give you a bit of a history:

“In Dallas on 2 January 1922, at the Dixie Classic (the forerunner of the Cotton Bowl), Texas A&M University played defending national champion Centre College in the first post-season game in the southwest. In this hard-fought game, which produced national publicity, an underdog Aggie team was slowly but surely defeating a team which boasted having three All-Americans. Unfortunately, the first half produced so many injuries for A&M that Coach D.X. Bible feard he wouldn’t have enough players to finish the game. At that moment, he called into the Aggie section of the stands for E. King Gill, a reserve who had left football after the regular season to play basketball. Gill willingly volunteered and donned the uniform of injured player Heine Weir. Although he did not actually play in the game, his readiness to play symbolized the willingness of all Aggies to support their team to the point of actually entering the game. A&M eventually won the game, 22-14. When the game ended, Gill was the only player left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, “I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me.” A statue of E. King Gill stands to the north of Kyle Field, the Texas A&M football stadium, to remind today’s Aggies of their constant obligation to preserve the spirit of what has come to be known as the Twelfth Man. That spirit of readiness, desire and enthusiasm has continued through the years, and to this day the Aggie student body, known as the Twelfth Man, remains standing at football games a s agesture of its loyalty and readiness for duty. But the tradition of the Twelfth Man embraces more than mere athletic events. It is the essence of the Aggie Spirit that unites all Aggies into a fellowship of service and devotion to each other and their school.”[1]

Called out of the stands, a young man accepts an invitation to join in a team effort. Is that so different than the invitation Elijah offers to Elisha in today’s reading from 1st Kings? Is it so different from the invitation Jesus offers in our Gospel reading? What do you do when you get called out of the crowd to join in the fight? How do you respond?

As much as I enjoyed my years in Lincoln as a Cornhusker, and as much as I loved being in the marching band and blasting through fight songs upwards of 100 times a game, I never once suffered under the delusion that I was actually a member of the team. Much as I might have wanted to play for my beloved Cornhuskers, I was three inches too short and three tenths of a second too slow to actually think I might be able to play for Tom Osborne in the 1990s. The closest I ever got to the Huskers was living three floors down from quarterback Tommie Frazier when he and I were both freshmen in 1992. I, like the other 75,000 people in the stands on game day, was watching while the players in uniform actually played the game. I was a spectator.

In our readings today, however, we discover that for God’s team, there are no spectators. Elisha was called to ministry in the midst of working fields for planting. Those who watched Jesus as he set his face toward Jerusalem got called out of the stands and asked to suit up. Paul encouraged his readers in Galatia to consider their freedom an invitation to join the team rather than considering their freedom as an opportunity to become a free agent. When God gets involved in the lives of his saints, we discover that there are no sidelines, no concession stands, no luxury boxes and no scalpers: the playing field is the whole world, and we wear the uniform of Christ in the cross sealed on our foreheads and the gowns washed white as snow in the blood of the Lamb.

Elisha was out working his fields when he was called by God to a different vocation. This was a very common happening in the Old Testament. Abraham was called when he was working for his father near modern day Baghdad. Moses was called when he was tending his father-in-law’s flocks. Gideon was called when he was threshing wheat. Samuel was called when he was sleeping in the house of Eli, the priest to whom Samuel was an apprentice. Even in the New Testament, people get called by God to ministry in the midst of their working lives. Peter, James & John were fishing when Jesus called them to follow. Matthew was collecting taxes. Paul, known at the time by his given name, Saul, was carrying out the orders of the Pharisees and hunting down Jesus’ followers when Jesus called him to join the other team. We find throughout the scriptures that God calls people in surprising ways and at surprising times; the question is, what do God’s children do with the interruption? How did they handle it in the scriptures? How do we handle it today?

When Elisha was called, he was working the fields with twelve yoke of oxen. Those of you who know something about farming with animals know that you only need one yoke of oxen to pull a plow, so you know that Elisha was either very wealthy himself or working for a very wealthy farmer. Twelve yoke of oxen would have been the Biblical equivalent of the most massive four-wheel drive John Deere tractor, hooked up to the widest plow you can imagine. But Elisha doesn’t just leave his old job to follow Elijah: he offers the oxen and their harnesses as a sacrifice to the God who has called him to follow Elijah. The interruption isn’t an inconvenience: it is an opportunity, and Elisha takes the time to completely sever the ties with his old life when God calls him to a new life. The spectator became the player, and Elisha took the time to burn his old clothes before donning the uniform of a prophet. What in our lives is holding us back to our old life of sin and death? Now that you and I have been called by God out of the stands, are we still wearing the uniform of the old life? What needs burning in us?

When Jesus calls people to follow him, it is clear that the calling will involve this type of sacrifice. While Elisha made time to sacrifice the old life, Jesus made it clear that in his call there is no time for sacrifice: the call is to follow, NOW. This isn’t a call-up from A ball to AAA – you’re going straight to the show, folks, and the manager is handing you the ball. Time to suit up!

There are a lot of us, unfortunately, who are content to be spectators of God’s kingdom here on earth. Somehow we got the idea that simply receiving baptism as our ticket to eternal life was all that matters, and an occasional check-in at the church on Sunday morning is good enough. Just sit there, smile, nod when it seems appropriate and you’ll be just fine. But here’s the thing: God loves you far too much to let you continue to be a spectator. The joy of playing the game is far too great for God to let you just sit there and watch. That uncomfortable feeling you get when you wonder if you’re missing something? I would say that it’s God calling you to get out of your seat and onto the field. Just watching the game isn’t enough – if you’re still breathing, you’ve got time and the ability to play the game. Time to suit up!

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul talked about the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. In regard to the fruits of the Spirit, Paul said, “There is no law against such things.” Those of you who played sports at one point in your life know that if you enter a game and work your hardest NOT to commit a foul or do something illegal, the game becomes an exercise in frustration and completely miserable. But if you play a sport with the mindset of what you can do, how the game is played and looking for opportunities to be a great player, the game becomes a joy to play. It’s the same for us as we get called by God into action: focusing our attention on those things we can be is far more life-giving and inspiring than focusing our attention on those things which are off-limits. When God calls us to play, God is calling us to be what is good – and you can never get enough of it.

I love watching a good sporting event. Whether I’m watching Phil Mickelson blast golf balls, Justin Morneau blast home runs or my beloved Cornhuskers blast opponents in Lincoln, I love sports. But merely watching leads us to second-class living: we substitute the glory of the game for the far-better joy of actually living and doing and being players ourselves. God did not create you to be a spectator: God created you to play the game, and to play it with all the passion and heart and desire and joy you have within you. You’ve been freed in baptism to come out of the stands and take your place on the field: suit up, friends, because you’ve been forgiven. It’s a brand-new ballgame, and now is the time to play. Amen.