Thursday, September 28, 2006


Reading the devotion in Our Daily Bread today I was struck by the quote, "Sin makes us stupid." It really does, doesn't it? We've all fallen into that trap. There are things we know we shouldn't do yet we find ourselves doing them. Paul even wrote about it Romans 7. Maybe that's part of what frustrated me yesterday.

Yesterday I spent the day in a class on "Power and Boundaries." It is an important topic and I'm glad I did it, but there were also moments of frustration within the class. When talking about gross violations of boundaries (i.e. adultery, affairs, etc.) people became understandably upset with those violators. However, doesn't there need to be some sort of understanding on our part? I'm not saying we should accept this behavior? "Sin makes us stupid." Maybe our sins don't appear so heinous on the outside, but aren't we just as guilty of letting sin win in different parts of our life?

I've got a similar frustration with NBC and their recent "To Catch a Predator" series on Dateline. I thought it was good for them to do the first time. It served as a good reminder to parents that they need to be keeping track of what their children are doing on the internet, just like they need to monitor what they're watching on television, etc. However, this has gone on and one for some time now. They continue to vilify these guys. They are probably justified in doing so, but I would love to see them do something to help these guys before they reach this point. It seems to me that sin has taken over these peoples lives and now it has made them stupid. Do you seeing any of those men on "To Catch a Predator" proud of what they are about to do? So what are we doing to help them?

I suppose I could rail against a number of different things now, but I'll stop. For me the bottom line is "Sin makes us stupid" and none of us are immune to it. I would like to see us have a little more compassion towards those who sin because one day we may need that compassion. That doesn't mean that we accept their actions as being okay, but perhaps we can understand that it just might have us who committed that gross boundary violation. Maybe then we'll see that sinner a little bit differently. Maybe we'll be reminded that we need to rely on Christ.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

3 in 1

Good Enough to Teach

Years ago, after a celebrated international career on the stage, the world-famous violinist Jascha Heifetz became a professor of music at UCLA. When someone asked him why he had left the glamour of performing to become a teacher, Heifetz answered, "Violin-playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on; otherwise it is lost." Then he went on to say, "I remember my old violin professor in Russia. He said that (if I worked hard enough) someday I would be good enough to teach."

From a speech by William Graves, editor of National Geographic magazine, Speaker's Idea File


Carry Someone with You

There was a tribe of Native Americans who lived a long time ago in the state of Mississippi. They lived next to a very swift and dangerous river. The current was so strong that if somebody happened to fall in or stumbled into it they could be swept away downstream.

One day the tribe was attacked by a hostile group of settlers. They found themselves with their backs against the river. They were greatly outnumbered and their only chance for escape was to cross the rushing river. They huddled together and those who were strong picked up the weak and put them on their shoulders; the little children, the sick, the old and the infirm, those who were ill or wounded were carried on the backs of those who were strongest. They waded out into the river, and to their surprise they discovered that the weight on their shoulders carrying the least and the lowest helped them to keep their footing and to make it safely across the river.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,


Mastering the Virtue of Humility

"What do you think of the candidates?" That's what a reporter for a news magazine asked a young woman at Dartmouth University after a debate among presidential hopefuls. She didn't say a word about their positions on the issues or their skill at debate. She simply remarked, "None of them seems to have any humility."

Benjamin Franklin, the early American statesman, made a list of character qualities that he wanted to develop in his own life. When he mastered one virtue, he went on to the next. He did pretty well, he said, until he got to humility. Every time he thought he was making significant progress, he would be so pleased with himself that he became proud.

Humility is an elusive virtue. Even Jesus' disciples struggled with it. When Jesus learned that they had been arguing about who was the greatest, He responded, "If anyone desires to be first, he should be last of all and servant of all" (Mk. 9:35). Then He took a little child in His arms and indicated that we need to humbly serve others as if we were serving Christ.

If a news reporter were to talk to our friends, neighbors, or fellow church members and ask them to describe us, would they use the word humble?

Our Daily Bread, November 3, 1998

A Prayer for Today

Gracious Lord, As the gentle rain covers the earth and the wind blows I feel a chill entering my body. It seems this cold has come all too soon. Yet, Lord, as your rain nourishes the ground and the wind spreads seeds to bring new life, may your love reign my soul filling it with seeds of new life, a new life that is found in you. For it is in you that ultimately we all find life. In so doing, O God, I trust that my soul will be warmed, warmed with the glow of grace. Thank for hearing my prayer. Amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I like to talk about humility, but it's hard for me. I think the reason that I am fascinated with things like Reality TV people becoming celebrities is because I secretly want to become one as well. I want to the receive the glory, the recognition for what I've don't. Honestly, though, don't we all?

Yet, isn't there something good about anonymity? The Today Show had a report today about lottery winners who have had difficult lives AFTER winning. I'm guessing most of them would have liked to have been able to remain anonymous now.

Today's entry in Our Daily Bread talks about remaining anonymous. When we're in public we begin to worry and fret about things that don't really matter, in the cosmic sense, like what other people think of us. What really matters is what God thinks, not our peers. The author points out that Jesus on at least three different occasions mentioned how you Father in heaven will openly reward you for what he sees you do in secret. You see our acts done in secret are much more likely to be done to the glory of God. In public it is more likely that we do things for our own glory. I know I'm guilty of that.


At lunchtime the other day I started flipping through the channels on my television. I found a remake of the old Battle of the Network stars, but with Reality Show "stars." I'll admit I got sucked into it, but I'm a little confused. Reality TV was created to take a glimpse into normal peoples lives (I think that was the point). Now these people have become celebrities in their own right. I've seen other Reality TV personality competitions before and there seems to be a number recurring competitors. So now we have a group of people making a living by going from Reality Show to Reality Show. What happened to reality? It's become celebrity? I can't quite explain it, but it just feels really kind of bizarre to me... I'm getting a newspaper headline starting to flash through my head, "Legal Peeping Toms Create Celebrities!"... Voyeurism is alive and well.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Yesterday you couldn't watch the news without seeing a number of reports about the 5 year anniversary of 9/11. I think it's good to remember, to mourn again, to grieve as we need. In a number of reports I heard people make comments about it being important to remember what really happened, because sometimes we forget. I think that is probably true.

It also made me think. If we forget what really happened five years ago, how apt are we to forget what Christ really did two thousand years ago? Around the church we sometimes say things rather flipply like, "Christ died for you." It's just a passing comment in a series of minor arguments. Yet isn't that event even more significant? We say the world wasn't the same after those planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and it's true. Yet how much more true is it that the world was never the same after what Christ really did for us on the cross?

Different Christs

Marva Dawn in Reaching Out without Dumbing Down suggests the possibility of different christs today when she writes: At the 1987 Vancouver World's Fair, the Christian pavilion's presentation utilized glitzy double-reversed photography and flashing lasers. When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their "show," she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes? Will a glitzy portrayal of Christ nurture in new believers his character of willing suffering and sacrificial obedience? Will it create an awareness of the idolatries of our age and lead to repentance? And does a flashy, hard-rock sound track bring people to a Christ who calls us away from the world's superficiality to deeper reflection and meditation? [p. 50]

Marva Dawn, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down.

Monday, September 11, 2006

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is perhaps one of the best-known and often-sung Holy Week hymns. It was written by Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, whose life and ministry the church commemorates on Aug. 20.

The hymn is about Jesus' passion, the pain and suffering Christ endured for our salvation. It is a vivid picture of Christ's self-sacrificing love for us. But it is also a personal lament for our sinfulness and as well as solemn thanksgiving for Christ's willingness to die on the cross.

We may see Jesus' passion as weakness and defeat, causing us to turn away from him. But it is hardly that, since it reveals his steadfast love and faithfulness for us. Consequently, Jesus' passion can strengthen and console us throughout our lives - especially when death draws near, because it cradles us in God's love and renews our faith in God's goodness and grace.


Lord Jesus, you were sent to heal the sick:
Lord Jesus, you comfort the afflicted:
Lord Jesus, you give us yourself to heal us and bring us strength:

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to one another and to the Father:
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division:
Lord Jesus, you show us God's love:

Lord Jesus, you seek the lost:
Lord Jesus, you admonish the sinner:
Lord Jesus, you invite us to reconciliation,

Lord Jesus, you restore us to wholeness:
Lord Jesus, you forgive the sinner,
Lord Jesus, you bring pardon and peace to the sinner

Loving God, you know the secrets of our hearts.
Free us from all anxiety and vengeance,

give us courage to tell the truth,
to seek the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Restore all who are broken to wholeness in body and spirit.
Open them to your goodness and justice.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why Church?

Why Do I Need Church?

" …And it is for that reason that I told my friend by the campfire in Grand Marais that that the main reason I go to church is not because I need the community or to learn something new about God or how to live a better life. The #1 reason I go to church is to get saved. Not because going to church earns us any kind of extra credit. Not at all! I go to church to get saved because I don’t live in Galilee and I don’t live 2000 years ago. I live here and church is where Jesus continues to speak and to act… it’s here that the gospel and sacraments of Christ are given out and it’s here that the Son of God comes directly to everyone whose there with all his grace and saving power.

I told him that it’s not enough for me to hear the gospel once as a child, or every Christmas and Easter thinking that will sustain me… I told him that I think we’re all hard wired to doubt, to forget, to twist and turn God’s good news into something that often sounds far less than good I told him that it’s hard for me to believe such incredibly good news—the good news that in Jesus Christ I don’t need to earn my salvation or work hard to achieve peace with God… that these are the very things Jesus died to freely give me—and that the devil and death itself no longer have power over me! And I told him this is such incredibly good news that, honestly, it’s hard for me to go a full week and still believe it. I start to thinking I’m not worthy of it and I fall back into that trap that maybe there’s something I need to do to earn it. I need to have my faith rekindled often so that I can go yet another week assured that I and everyone else that gathers in church with me are God’s very own possessions. That’s why I need the church…."

--J.M. Bjorge (from Sunday’s sermon)

Lesson from Leaving

Well, we're back from vacation. It was good to get away and relax some. However, doesn't always feel like you could use one more week of vacation no matter how long you're gone? I suppose part of it is that as soon as you get back there is a whole long list of chores you need to catch up on.

One chore immediately staring us in the face was the need to mow the lawn. An incredible notion really. Throughout the summer we did all that we could think of to encourage the lawn to grow. We began the summer with fertilizing. We spent time watering during hot stretches. We let it grow longer to protect it from the heat. We really wanted to have a great lawn, but it struggled to grow. It spent most of the summer ugly and brown. Then we leave for about two weeks, with only God to care for it, and we return to a virtual rain forest. I'm thinking if we mow it just right we might even make the folks over at Somerby jealous. Funny how that works.

Maybe we should pay attention. Isn't that the way it goes in our lives sometimes? We work and work on our lives trying to fix it and improve it by our own shear will. Yet, what if we just left well enough alone, leaving it for only God to tend to. Maybe then we'll find our lives flourishing... I think that might have some real potential.