Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bedtime Theology

I'm putting my youngest child, age 4, to bed tonight. Here's part of the dialog:

So, is Jesus in heaven?
Yes.
Is Jesus also here?
Yes.
How?
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit can be in lots of places at the same time.
How can God do that?
Well, God's pretty amazing...
So, can God ride a unicycle, paint, and wear a dog costume at the same time?
I think so.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dick Cheney and Logic

This frustrates me. Again, Vice President Dick Cheney has said of the Democrats in the House, "They're not supporting the troops. They're undermining them," because, though they fully fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan above and beyond what the president asked, they have proposed a timetable to end the war and bring the troops home. It may be a good idea or it may be a bad idea, and it's worth debating on its military, political, and practical merits.

But Cheney's logic is skewed: In his rhetoric, "supporting the troops" equals keeping them in a (civil) war zone, while establishing a timetable to bring them home is "undermining them." Soldiers I know who have been or are stationed in Iraq do not complain about a lack of support when their tour of duty in Iraq ends and they get to come home. They don't say, "Please don't undermine me by sending me home. Support me by leaving me here for another year."

Mr. Vice President, please debate the House on the merits of their plan. Don't cover up your administration's errors of judgment and execution with empty, illogical rhetoric about troop support. Don't say "support our troops" when you mean "obey the President."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In reaction to my sermon posted on February 28, Rabbi Jonah posted this reply:
So. Why do you feel the need to question the integrity of the Pharisees that came to warn Jesus?

It seems anti-semitic to me...the age old adversos Judeos tradition in Lutheran theology.

Doesn't make sense.
I responded with this:
Rabbi Jonah,
Good question. All too often, the Pharisees are caricatured or demonized in Christian writings and speech (and action), and that is unacceptable. The fact that Jesus and many Pharisees interacted so often is a testament to how close they are - Jesus' disagreements with, and criticisms of, Pharisees are a family affair, brother to brother, Jew to Jew.

I guess that, having been reading Luke for a while this year, I was set up to be suspicious of the motives of these Pharisees - which is unfair to them and a reading into the text something that is not there. I am sorry for that error. Thank you for correcting me. Thinking of the wonderful Pharisees in scripture - including Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and Saul/Paul, it is foolish and false to paint them all with a villainous brush.

Personally, whenever I read about Pharisees in the Bible, I try to apply any of Jesus' criticisms of them to me - after all, I am a 'religious professional.' If Jesus walked in the flesh today, he'd have lots to say against the religious people of the world.

I also recognize that much of the Newer Testament reflects the internecine feud between the early Christian movement and the Jewish community from which it broke away. I reject any notion of supersessionism, as if Christianity has superseded God's promises and covenant with Israel. The fact that I believe the Christian message (which I comprehend dimly, as in a mirror, to quote an apostate Pharisee) to be true in no way entails that your faith is false or deficient.

Thank you for reminding me of the insidious and subtle nature of prejudice.
In looking back, I realize a couple things. First, I should have clarified in whose scripture Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and Saul/Paul are mentioned as Pharisees (the Christian Newer Testament, of course). Second, I went back to my sermon of three years ago (of which this was a last minute update), and realized that the prejudicial comment was in that old sermon. Hopefully, I will be a wiser, more gracious preacher in the future than I was in the past.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mission and Vision Notes

Eric Paul Lemonholm
March 18, 2007

As we seek to be God’s faithful people in this place and time, how can we welcome the lost sons and daughters?
How can we keep watch for them and run to them, and embrace them?
How can we celebrate their arrival in our midst?
How can we encourage and nurture the older sons and daughters who are always with us?

Take a look at the Mission Feedback and Vision handout in your bulletin.
The first side has the results of our Mission Session last Sunday. We asked the question, What do we do? What has been God’s mission for Grace Lutheran? Here is what we came up with, including Scripture references:

MISSION - What We Do:
Grace by grace, seeking to be God’s faithful people
Listening Post Feedback, March 11, 2007
Grace Lutheran Church

Prayer – Pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Fellowship – Do not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:25)

Day to Day volunteers – Service - We are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:10)

Children – teaching, Day Camp, Camp Emmaus – Let the little children come to me! (Matthew 19:14)

Visitation – homebound, hospital, friends in need – Visit the sick (Matthew 25:36)

Food Pantry – Feed the hungry (Matthew 25:35)

Quilters – Clothe the naked (Matthew 25:36)

Today, instead of having a visioning session during our fellowship hour, I want you to take this handout home.
Pray over these questions:

March 18, 2007: VISION - What We are Becoming
Frederick Buechner: “Vocation is where the world’s greatest need and a person’s greatest joy meet.”  Vocation means calling, what God has called you to be and do.  Our task is to discern our church’s vocation, our calling by God, what God has called us to be and do as a congregation. 
Surroundings

  • What is God already doing in my/our neighborhood that I/we could join in?

  • What needs attention in my/our neighborhood that I/we could address?
Passions & Gifts

  • What stirs my/our heart as it relates to the redemptive work of Christ in the world?

  • What skills/abilities do I/we have to offer?

  • What is God telling me/us through my/our surroundings, story, and passions?

  • What are the world’s, or our community’s, greatest needs, and how are we called to meet those needs as we live out our joy?ix

Pray over these questions, in the light of the gracious welcome of our forgiving and loving God.
Answer these questions from your heart.
Bring your answers back next Sunday, or mail it to church.
Visioning is not something we can rush.
We want to hear from as many members of Grace as possible.
We’ll also include this in our April newsletter.
So take your time.
Reflect. Pray. Talk with one another. Seek God’s vision for Grace.

Let us pray. God, you have given us a mission in this time and place. Give us a vision for what you want us to be and do. Make it a vision big enough to stretch us and reach our community and our world with your grace and mercy, your justice and peace. Grow us in grace and send us forth to do your will. Amen.
ixSome questions adapted from www.marshill.org

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Abba Zeno

Abba Zeno, Desert Father:

If you want God to hear your prayer quickly, then before you pray for anything else, even your own soul, when you stand and stretch out your hands toward God, you must pray with all your heart for your enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that you ask.

(From Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 67, altered)