30 January 2011

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: "All the World's A Stage?"

         Did any of you have to memorize Shakespeare when you were in high school?  I did.  Mrs. Sundell made us memorize a few things, and one that has stuck with me over the years is the soliloquy from “As You Like It:”  “All the world’s a stage / and all its men and women merely players / they have their exits and their entrances / and one [person] in [their] time plays many parts…

26 January 2011

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This was the weekly email to our students in LCM this week.  The Quadrennial Review process is something I'd love to see required of all ELCA churches, and I wish I'd known how to do it at the congregation I served prior to this call.  Anyone care to share review procedures at their own congregations?  

Our LCM Board spent Saturday morning and afternoon beginning the Quadrennial Review process for our campus ministry.  Every four years, each campus ministry in the ELCA goes through a review process where we look at the previous four years, evaluate what's gone well and what hasn't, look at our context to see if we have a good view of the environment to which we are called, and (I might say, most importantly) identify a few strategic goals for the next four years. 

24 January 2011

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany: "Unitas, Libertas, Caritas"

             If you hang around long enough in the church, you start to hear a lot of things more than once.  Some of us pastors call it the book of Hezekiah: the stuff that isn’t in the Bible, but sounds like it is.  “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.”  “The gospel is meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  “Those who sing pray twice.”  One that I heard quite often during seminary was this:  in necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.  “In necessities, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.”  According to Wikipedia, it is often misattributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the great early theologians of the church, but the earliest known use of the phrase was by a  Croatian archbishop in the 1600s, more than a thousand years after Augustine was dead and buried. 

19 January 2011

Random Wednesday Is Random

M.C. Escher.
This is a pretty good approximation of my life right now.

Just a few random observations throughout the day today.
  • I watched the movie "Shutter Island" Monday night.  I thought it was really good, especially after overcoming a clumsy first act.  Beloved would have hated it, for reasons I won't go into here, as they'll spoil the movie for those of you who haven't seen it.  But when I went to check out the book at our library this morning, I couldn't find it.  The library computer insists there are copies in the building, but not on any of the shelves on which it's listed.  Considering the movie deals with our perceptions and the nature of identity and reality, I found the experience just a bit unsettling.  Which, I'm sure, would make the author very happy to know - any time art impacts life that deeply, the artist should be proud.
  • It's no secret I'm quite the europhile.  Matter of fact, if I hadn't met Beloved during seminary, I might have tried to find a call in Germany or Ireland.  I believe very deeply in the roundabout, government-run health care, pension and social benefits, and much of what I've seen in trips to Ireland, the UK and Germany.  That having been said, I stopped reading Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? by Thomas Geoghegan about halfway through.  I agreed with his central argument:  the European way of life, particularly the German version, is a far better fit for people like myself.  But his writing was so convoluted, and his argument so incredibly subjective and lacking statistical analysis (other than the ones that prove his argument, of course) that I just kept getting more and more annoyed.  It's bad enough when I find someone with whom I disagree annoying; it's much worse when it's someone who tends to see things the way I do!
  • If you're looking for good "sit in my office and get lots of work done" music, the Palestrina channel on Pandora is a good place to start.  Sometimes I think I was born 450 years too late.  Then I go use the toilet, take a drink out of the tap without wondering if it'll kill me, and give my kid some medicine instead of wondering if she'll survive her most recent infection, and I remember why I've got it so good now.
  • The switch to Sunday nights for worship is mainly going well.  I particularly enjoy the opportunity to break bread together, worship, then spend time around the fire talking theology (our schedule is Sunday Night Supper at 5:00, Worship at 6:00, Fireside Theology at 7:30).  I'm surprised at how much I enjoy having Sunday mornings free at the moment, but I'm also nervous that none of the congregations I've contacted about supply preaching have even responded to my queries.  And, as you might expect, our student numbers have dropped for worship.  More promotion seems in order, and as with most changes, steadfast patience during the uncomfortable first days.
  • I went for my first run in over a month Monday morning.  Chris' post about running was so inspirational I decided my kvetching about running this year just needs to stop.  Now I read that he's struggling a bit, too.  This is the running life: you can only enjoy it one or two strides at a time, it seems. This could also be a metaphor for real life, not just the part of it I spend schlepping my fat ass around Ames.
  • Tonight will be our second week using the "Prayer Around the Cross" liturgy from Susan Briehl and Tom Witt.  Last week I put together a very basic cross using planter boxes filled with sand, and arranged kneeling pads around the cross.  Unfortunately, there's some sort of short in our lighting in the sanctuary, so the central floods remain lit at all times.  Hopefully this will be fixed tonight and we'll be able to worship by candlelight alone.  I hope the students were as moved by the experience last week as I was - this is a wonderful addition to our worship life.

11 January 2011

2011 Books: Driftless by David Rhodes

Every once in a while, you take a chance on a book without having a single solitary reason for doing so.  No one recommended it, no one mentioned it, you've never heard of it, but something about it grabs you.  That's rare for me - I usually have a list of recommendations far longer than I have time to even contemplate.  But last week I took a chance, and was rewarded with an even less common experience:  a literary surprise. 

Driftless is David Rhodes' first novel in 30 years.  He came back strong, if you ask me.  This was an incredible novel from start to finish.  Rhodes creates characters so accurate, so pitch-perfect you'd swear he's writing a biography of Words, Wisconsin and not fiction.  Any resident of any small upper Midwest town will recognize and appreciate the honest portrayal of small town living Rhodes composes.  Driftless is neither petty nor apologetic:  it is populated with characters who feel as solid as the dirt, trees and hills for which the novel is named. 

It's not just the characters that make this novel wonderful, however - the story is also worthy of praise, from the laugh-out-loud moments (of which there are several) to the heart-stoppers (only one or two, but they are whoppers). 

I won't say more so as to preserve the story for you to enjoy.  Driftless is the finest novel I've read since The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and I hope to see it on your reading list soon, friends and neighbors. 

Grace & peace,