April 17, 2019

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” (Walter Benjamin) Notre-Dame de Paris Is A Church It may also be a world-renowned cultural icon, a destination for tourists, and an architectural wonder, but it is first of all a church. For this reason my heart goes out to the communities that worship there daily. Notre Dame… Read more

April 17, 2019

Is that what they teach you in seminary? Definitely a frequent question asked of pastors, typically when people are genuinely flummoxed by the content of a sermon, or doubt the efficacy of a new church program or theme. So you might ask, what are they teaching these days on new media? Apparently, the answer is mostly: Boundaries! Why? Thesis: The denomination asks seminaries to teach students about boundaries in social media because a) synod offices are inundated with work addressing… Read more

April 13, 2019

Joseph Ratzinger, before he was Pope Benedict XVI, wrote many learned books on theology and liturgy. But I wasn’t surprised that when he began publishing books as pope, they were about Jesus of Nazareth and the joy of knowing Christ. I spend a lot of time planning liturgy and writing sermons. But when I really sit down to meditate and pray, what repeatedly comes to my mind and heart is a simple thought, “Jesus, I really love Jesus.” We can… Read more

April 10, 2019

Emily Dickinson famously remarked, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Some books, some authors, have that kind of enduring impact on our lives, so deep that we no longer think about the world, or live in the world, the same way after reading them. So for this Monday, I offer a list of books that took the top of my head off. Consider sharing this list and… Read more

April 8, 2019

My answer: At least six hours. Here’s why. First, and most obviously, Christians are called to worship. They observe the Lord’s Day, the Eight Day of creation, and they do so at least weekly (although I find the practice of Roman Catholics and some other communities of going to Mass daily quite beautiful and appealing).    So at a Lutheran church, that’s at least one hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes.    Then, some of our folks are regularly… Read more

April 8, 2019

“The signal virtue of Christianity is that there is a version of it for the learned (theology) and one for the common people (devotional practice); and though the two may find themselves in occasional contention, they are bound together within the ecclesiastical institution itself. It is hard to come up with a popular version of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind or Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism.” (Terry Eagleton) From Private Devotion to (Semi)Public Theology Let’s start with the premise that part… Read more

April 1, 2019

(Some Things To Ponder This Holy Week) Holy Week is something to live, to experience, but it can also help us think about God as Trinity in profound ways. So I offer here, before Holy Week, a set of Easter Theses.  I. The cross signifies Jesus Christ’s deep faithfulness to us. It is the outcome of Jesus remaining steadfast, loving the entire cosmos even in the face of persecution and torture.  The cross does not signify a divine transaction. It does… Read more

March 31, 2019

I wish I could report that in my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve come up with incredibly creative alternatives  to measure congregational vitality other than worship attendance. In this scenario, I’d report to the synod the number of times we refilled the Little Free Pantry, the pounds of food we brought for the Ramadan meal we served at the mosque, our number of participants in the Pride parade, or total number of engagements on the Facebook page. But in the… Read more

March 26, 2019

How we interpret our sacred Scriptures (hermeneutics) matters quite a lot. I served a congregation in Wisconsin for six years that owned two lovely and historic church buildings. The Norwegian Lutherans had split in the mid-1890s over what was at the time a huge issue—single vs. double predestination. As a result of the split, two beautiful rural churches were built two hundred yards apart from each other on adjacent sides of the cemetery.  Prior to the predestination controversy, Norwegian Lutherans… Read more

March 25, 2019

“Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:2-3) I’m going to attempt a meditation on Christian ethics and corporations, and I think perhaps it is best to start with a story. I grew up on a family farm. I can still remember the day our family farm incorporated, and eventually we replaced… Read more

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