|Pentecost 2001 Newsletter|
CR is for
The ascending Lord commanded that "repentance and forgiveness of sins" be preached to all nations in His name. Customarily we think of "all nations" as the collection of all individuals. But what if the Lord meant that also human institutions and communities can repent, maybe even be forgiven? And since even the baptized continue to need repentance preached to them, could even Christian institutions get in on this repentance, and need to? ...
O is for
In 1987, before the advent of the ELCA, when I was elected president of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, I wrote to our 6,000 graduates around the nation and in 38 countries of the world. You know the genre of such letters, fully genuine, yet predictable. "Hello! I'm the new president!" In the middle of the second paragraph, I said something like, "We are beginning a curriculum reform. Let me know if you have counsel." We received 550 letters, some of them 3-4 pages long, single-spaced. It took me three months to read and answer all of them. They thought I really wanted to hear! Or at least, they believed we truly needed to hear! ...
S is for
The "American way" to deal with difficulties is active and practical. We immediately look for a program or an initiative to "fix the problem," and practicality is better than living in denial. But the Biblical witness offers a more faithful way, both to persons and to institutions. It is called repentance. ...
S is for
Our inner-city Minneapolis congregation is populated with Somalis and Ethiopians, Muslims and Mekane Jesu Christians. That neighborhood was once known as Roman Catholic Bohemian Flats and Lutheran Snoose Boulevard. 40% of the elementary children in St. Paul are Asian, primarily Hmong. The Lutheran and Catholic immigration services opened the gates. The world of many cultures and religions is at our door. God is giving new neighbors to worshipping communities in virtually every place. ...
I is for
Last issue featured Ed Schroeder's mature description of the theology and practice of lay ministry - not lay ministry in the church but lay ministry in the world (http://www.crossings.org). But did it sound too good to be true, more like a professor's idealism than a practical reality? Did you, Dear Reader, want an instance of a regular believer in a regular workplace who, in the words of the offertory prayer to which Ed referred, "dedicates himself to the care and redemption of all that You have made"? Then take, for instance, the following slice of a believer's life. ...
N is for
For starters, check out how he defines his job. We on the outside might first think his work is to protect us. If we think at all about those inside, we might think the guards are to keep them in order. But Vin's surprising description of his work is "to keep order for them, so they can do their time safely." I was struck by his focus on them. Plainly, he thinks of himself as their servant, even though they are convicted criminals and he has the badge. If that reminds you of Someone you know, then you can tell Whose Spirit is directing Vin's work. Vin works under orders to love his neighbor, and despite badge, bars and their different uniforms, an inmate is his neighbor. Here is where the "care" part of Vin's vocation has its heart. ...
G is for
Now comes the other part, redemption. Vin used to work among the general population. In that unit he had been able to bear witness to Christ to some of the prisoners. So he hesitated to transfer to the sex crimes unit, because some prisoners even had left the voluntary programs in that unit because they were prevented from practicing their Christian faith. So Vin prayed over his decision, prayed that God would use him. And then he transferred. ...
S is for
That hit a nerve. "That sounded like my alcoholism," Vin said. "Shame and guilt are what my alcoholism was all about: drinking to get away from the feelings of shame and guilt." So he talked to the man about his alcoholism. Then he talked about his spirituality. ...