This Week’s Links

Internet1After a moving hiatus, it’s time for the triumphant return of the weekly dose of links. The new version of links will be a bit slimmer, with up to 5 links per section each week. To help navigate the different themes, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy the return of the links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing to write a sermon or planning worship for this weekend, check out friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis‘ reflection about “The Bosom of Abraham,” based on the revised common lectionary gospel passage of Luke 16:19-31, as well as Rev. Dr. David Lose’s reflection on the same text, “Eternal Life Now.” These two posts and the work of Justo Gonzalez inspired this homily on “Lazarus and the Rich Man,” which I shared earlier this week.

For an intriguing story about the missional church in action that comes from the Pacific Northwest and across the internet, check out this story about Daniel Herron and an online church of Robloxian Christians in “Teen’s online church draws young people from around the world,” by Joely Johnson Mork in Faith & Leadership. When reading this story, spend some time with the questions at the end of article for further thought and discussion.

Tracey McManus shared a great Q&A last month with “Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne on new national church role,” as Bill was elected to serve as the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Vice-President.

Back in seminary I had the great chance to get to know Pastor Jodi Houge and her fantastic mission start congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota called “Humble Walk.” I spent a semester as part of a group project researching, profiling, and discerning what ministry in that context looks like and might look like. When I saw that Jodi and Humble Walk were profiled in The AtlanticI just knew that that would be a major piece for the next edition of the Links. So, without further adieu, Adrienne Green writes about, “Why Church Hymns are Better Sung in Bars.”

In exciting news from the ELCA, it has developed a “Supplemental Same-Gender Marriage Resource.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

If you are looking for a great time of business, church, leadership, stewardship, and collaborative thinking, check out the “Hope Leadership Conference,” and definitely plan on attending. Thanks to friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton for first sharing this with me.

This past week Julie Zauzmer reported about a recent report published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. The report found that “Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google, and Apple combined.” Interestingly, but not necessarily surprisingly, “Religious charities also contribute to the economy. By far the largest faith-based charity, according to the study, is Lutheran Services in America, with an annual operating revenue of about $21 billion.” Check out this report for interesting thoughts about ministry, stewardship, and the economy.

My wife Allison shared this helpful and creative look from MindShift at “Four Ways We Learn.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes

Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes

In the October edition of Harvard Business ReviewCheryl Bachelder writes, “How I Did It… The CEO of Popeyes on Treating Franchisees as the Most Important Customers.” I especially enjoy the discussion about servant leadership, as well as leadership as an act of stewardship. Please give this a read.

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference reflected about “How to be a Mindful Strategist.”

Jon also shared important observations about how “Business Leaders (are) Raising Political Voices.” This is not something new, but it is unique how many business leaders are speaking out this election cycle, and I think that says something about the importance of this election. Check out Jon’s thoughts.

Scott Savage reflected about “Receiving Leadership Lessons Via a New Antenna.” Some of the leadership lessons Scott reflects about include: what got you here won’t get you there; what worked there doesn’t work here; what you’ve been holding on to keeps you from receiving something new; and if you haven’t done it before, reach out to someone who has.

Millennials

In a post both for leaders and Millennials, Jon Mertz shared an observation he is seeing about, “Minimalists: Essential Shift for Next Generation Leaders.” Jon cites three reasons why he believes next generation leaders will be minimalists: because purpose is at the heart of work; a digital world necessitates clarity of relationships; and “always on” is shifting to “smartly on.”

Are you “Young and ordained? Willing to preach at the 2017 LWF Assembly?Lutheran World Federation is inviting basically ordained millennials to consider this great opportunity. If you are interested, you should definitely check this out and apply.

Neighbor Love

Following the conclusion of August’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas shared this piece from Rev. Priscilla Paris-Austin, “In Search of Authenticity.”

Also following the assembly, Pastor Angela Shannon shared this important story and observation out of a workshop that was at the assembly, “The Pastoral is Political: ‘Sit. Down.‘”

Dr. Samuel Torvend

Dr. Samuel Torvend

Friend, professor, and mentor Dr. Samuel Torvend last year was filmed and interviewed on “The Forgotten Luther.” Check out this video made available over the summer, as it may be of particular interest and use in thinking about the Reformation and the upcoming 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.

Over the past few months there has been some discussion, especially among academic circles about “trigger warnings” and their need and usefulness. Erika Price shared an important response and perspective in this conversation in writing, “Hey University of Chicago: I am an academic. I am a survivor. I use trigger warnings in my classes. Here’s why.”

The other interesting conversation over the past month has been about respect, allegiance, and the National Anthem. In reflecting about this, Kristin Largen wrote about, “Allegiances, Kaepernick, and Taking a Knee.”

Social Media & Blogging

Heidi Oran shared good thoughts about “Overcoming the Pitfalls of Entrepreneurship and Social Media.” The pitfalls Heidi unpacks include: living in a state of scarcity; over promotion; under promotion; comparing yourself to others; and not being yourself.

Stewardship

Friend Adam Copeland shared this great reflection about “Transformational Living…and Giving” by Erin Weber-Johnson, as well as this important look and reflection by Tom Fiebiger regarding “The Stewardship of White Privilege.”

Friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared this great look at a most entertaining video called “Mission Possible,” which is a fun way to invite participation in Luther Seminary’s big giving push on September 28th. Check out the post and the video, it’s quite enjoyable!

I am excited to share that the COMPASS blog has gone under a slight revamp, as friend Matthew DeBall has taken over in the role I previously served overseeing it.

During September the COMPASS blog has focused on topics and questions related to debt. The series has included thoughts about “Conquering Debt,” by friend Marcia Shetler; “5 Practical Applications for Overcoming Debt,” by friend Jessica Zackavec; and “Reducing College Debt: a Group Ride. A community slides toward lower educational loans,” by Devon Matthews.

The Ecumenical Stewardship Center and COMPASS will be sponsoring a live chat next Wednesday, September 28th, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on “Conquering Debt: the Overlooked Key to Faith and Finances Well-Being.” I highly encourage you to register and participate in the free live chat.

Vocation

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference wrote, “Forget Life Plans. Pull Life Strings.”

For those in discernment, or perpetual discernment, check out this opportunity that my wife and pastor-in-waiting Allison Siburg shared from Wartburg Seminary about how “The Conversation Continues,” focused on the topics and questions related to “Lutheran Vocation: Discernment & Calling in the Real World.”

Back in June, Drucker School professor Dr. Jeremy Hunter wrote about “Attention,” which he believes is “The Essential Resource We’re All Wasting.”

For all of those of you going through the midst of life transitions, new experiences, and changes, check out Emily Hill’s call to “Feel Confident in Your Uncertainty.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson has continued her good work, despite my absence of links, sharing weekly vocational and life reflections with her Tuesday Tea Time. If you need some Tea Time today, check out this week’s edition.

Miscellaneous

In a story that is sure to make you smile, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the Disney animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” Angela Lansbury over the weekend sang again the film’s title song. Check this out, especially if you are like me and love the soundtrack, movie, and think nostalgically about your childhood from time to time.

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That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on the rest of your week. -TS

Image Credits:  The Links; Cheryl Bachelder; Samuel Torvend; and Mission Possible video.

 

Lazarus and the Rich Man

The following is a homily that I shared for first-call pastors and rostered ELCA leaders gathered for a retreat on Tuesday September 20th in Nebraska. The retreat centered especially around topics related to stewardship, faith, and finances. The focus passage was Luke 16:19-31 in preparation for the upcoming weekend’s appointed readings from the revised common lectionary. 

Eduard von Gebhardt,

Eduard von Gebhardt, “Lazarus and the Rich Man,” Public Domain.

This week’s parable is another doosie. It follows on the heels of the confusing parable of the Dishonest Manager, and put in context of Luke 16, appears to be a response to the Pharisees. We’re always so hard on the Pharisees, but today, they are the subjects of Jesus’ rebuke because of their love of money and ridicule of Jesus’ lessons and warnings. [1]

I love this parable. I love it, not just because it might challenge our Lutheran warning bells of works righteousness. I love it, because it’s deep, complex, and with multiple meanings. For those of you preaching on it this coming weekend- notice the altering perspectives and wonderful insights from Justo Gonzalez, Karoline Lewis, and David Lose. They all focus on different aspects of the same story this week, and offer plenty to chew on thinking about the many questions created and pondered in light of it.

I love this parable most though, because it’s this story which probably first lit a fire about stewardship for me. I was in undergrad at PLU (Pacific Lutheran University), in a class called “Wealth and Poverty in the Ancient Church.” I had recently decided to declare a double major in Economics and Religion, so the class sounded intriguing and about half way through the class I was reading St. John Chrysostom’s, “On Wealth and Poverty,” basically a small book with different sermons on this very passage. I would share it with you, but it’s currently in the back of a moving trailer somewhere in Omaha, I hope…

That book challenged me, as it was shaped by the Middle Ages’ perspective on this parable- where not only do we need to give alms, our salvation may depend upon it. I don’t prescribe to that latter view, I’m a Lutheran after all, but I do believe it matters how we steward all that we’ve been entrusted with, especially in response to the pure gift of the gospel- that of the knowledge that someone indeed has risen from the dead- conquering sin, death, darkness, and all that gets in the way of our relationships with God- including money and the power we give it.

If there ever were a clear anti-prosperity gospel passage, this is it. The unnamed rich man, goes from his daily feasts and fame, from his life set a part in his luxury gated community… to an end where he simply died and was buried. No mention of legacy. No story. No relationships. No tears shed perhaps?

To early hearers of this passage, there may have been no sympathy for this man- someone respected by the empire. A member of the 1%, a person of “the haves,” not the “have nots.” Yes, this is one of Luke’s many stories of a great reversal. But there’s more than this.

The rich man really isn’t even the center of the story. Perhaps more important, but also not the center of the story is Lazarus.

Lazarus lived a hard life. But is given a story of resurrection and comfort in the bosom of Abraham.[2] It’s interesting that this story is the only parable where a character is actually given a name. [3] That’s one more layer of the reversal Luke illustrates about what the Kingdom of God is like, and another example of Mary’s Magnificat made manifest.

A rich man ends up in poverty, a poor man in abundance. But, I think at the center of this story, are not these characters. It’s not Abraham who comforts Lazarus and responds to the rich man, who he calls child, acknowledging a relationship as another one of God’s children. No, at the center of this, is an acknowledgment of the human condition, the complexity and challenges of faith, and the hope for abundant life.

In light of this story, Justo Gonzalez writes, “There is no miracle capable of leading to faith and obedience when one has vested interests and values that one places above obedience to God, such as ‘the love of money,’ of the Pharisees whom Jesus is addressing… The main obstacle to faith is not lack of proof- its is an excess of other interests and investments- of time, money, dreams, and so on…”[4]

This parable is perhaps a way Jesus is returning to the heart of the law and the prophets- such as Amos. At the heart of the rules and law, is the hope that life may go well for you. That you may live life abundantly. That the poor, the widow, the orphan, the marginalized are seen and cared for- that community exists. When this all happens, the Kingdom of God breaks in.

This story is a challenge though. It’s in part a call to confession of the many times we know of the needs of others, but we refuse to see them. The rich man knows Lazarus by name, but refuses to see him, his plight, and as a person, and more than just as a means to serve him and his own interests and needs. Even in death, the rich man doesn’t get it.

“Before you can have compassion, you need to see” the person in need.[5] You can’t build a wall or bigger gate and try and stay on one side. That doesn’t work in God’s kingdom. You can’t stay on one of the tracks or river. God calls and leads across barriers and chasms.

We know this. It’s engrained in each of our calls of ministry, and identities as baptized children of God. We can probably even repeat the words of the Gospel of Matthew that relatedly reminds of Jesus’ declaration, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”[6]

We were created to be in relationships. And it’s out of these relationships with each other, in community with one another, where abundant life comes.

We know that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, for us. But, does it matter? Are our lives changed because of this? If so, what’s our joyful response?

The answers to these questions are what shape a life of discipleship, and a life of being a steward. The hard work of beating sin and death was done for us. But, how are we responding to this pure gift of Good News now? How do our lives tell this story?

Are we out seeing, listening, and being with our neighbors, or are we passing people by, who are clinging to the promise of the resurrection and the very hope of being seen?

Do we lock our gates and build bigger walls out of fear, or do we go out, shaped, changed, and sent by the gospel, in the co-creative work of building the Kingdom of God?

Do we store up food for a potential cold winter that may come, or do we feed the malnourished child needing food now?

These are stewardship questions. These are life questions.

These are questions best pondered in community, in faith together. But that takes intentionality and time. And it starts with a willingness to listen and make time. A willingness to stop, see, and be present. A willingness to admit that all that we have and all that we are, come from and are God’s, really.

So, in light of this, what have you been called and are being called to do about it?

Plenty of questions to wrestle with, in the comfort of the promises of the Gospel, and the challenges because of it. May we each have the time to be present, to wrestle, to be, and to do. Amen.

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References and Citations:

[1] Justo Gonzalez, Luke, (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2010), 193.

[2] Karoline Lewis, “The Bosom of Abraham,” (18 September 2016). Found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?m=4377&post=4712.

[3] Gonzalez, 195.

[4] Gonzalez, 197-198

[5] David Lose, “Pentecost 19C: Eternal Life Now,” (19 September 2016). Found at: http://www.davidlose.net/2016/09/pentecost-19-c-eternal-life-now/.

[6] Matthew 25:35-36, NRSV.

Image Credit: Eduard von Gebhardt, “Lazarus and the Rich Man,” (Public Domain) found at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGebhardtLazarus.jpg

Called Forward Together in Christ for the sake of the world

The logo of the ELCA has a cross, and a globe, which for me, makes the statement, of "we are church, for the sake of the world."

The logo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Earlier this week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) released a 19-page “consultation paper on future directions of the ELCA,” entitled, “Called Forward Together in Christ for the sake of the world.”

According to the title page, “This directions paper shares the key messages harvested through conversations across the ELCA. We invite you to comment on the directions and priorities that have emerged.” If you have not yet seen the paper, please read it here.

After reading the paper, and then going back through it a couple more times, I am very happy with this. I believe it is a great step in the process of conversation, discernment, and decision making as we are church together, continuing to discern and articulate who we are, who we are becoming and “why we do what we do.”

Instead of some just quick immediate reactions, I want to walk through the paper with what stands out to me.

Opening of the Paper- Purpose, Mission, and Perspective

In her opening letter to the paper, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton notes that, “There is broad consensus about the church we want to become, but in some of the areas that are highly important we do not have a clear or effective strategy.” I think this is an important recognition, which you can see if active in a congregational, synodical, or churchwide capacity. To help address this, there is an open invitation for feedback, shared discernment, and conversation within the paper.

The release of this paper signifies the end of the first of three stages in 2016 of “Conversations across the church about the future.” Now the church is entering the next stage of “Consultation on directions and priorities that emerged through these conversations,” which will then lead to the third stage of “Reaching decisions about where the ELCA is heading and to what it will give importance” (page 1).

I am particularity inspired and excited to see the repeated questions raised about the importance of connection, collaboration, and clarity. For example, “How can the ELCA maintain strong congregational participation and ownership and become more connected as one church?” (2) “How can we be clearer, better focused and more effective in the way we tell the good news and embody God’s love for the world?” (3)

There is a stated understanding that “While God’s mission is clear, as people of God, we must constantly discern how to express and carry out that mission in a faithful, relevant and compelling way in today’s world” (3). What that looks like will be dependent on context, skills, passions, needs, etc.

Growth, Membership, and Data

There was an interesting discussion about the commitment to growing membership, and I found myself writing in the margin in this section that these data points illustrate why it’s critical for rostered leaders to cultivate stories and be story tellers themselves. On a more personal level, for me this is yet another reason why I believe my wife Allison has been called to be a pastor in this church in this unique time and space, and why in part that I believe I have been called to ministry as well.

There was also important discussion about diversity, interdependence, generations, age, and mutuality.

Within the section sharing “Key Messages From Across the Church,” big points of identity and what it means to be a distinctively Lutheran church were articulated (8-9). I particularly appreciated the insight about collaboration and relationship I read in the statement, “As church together, through formal and informal relationships and networks, we can achieve things on a scale that would otherwise not be possible” (9).

“God’s Work. Our Hands” and the idea of a Relational Church

The first of my "every member" visits, a goal of mine as mission developer to hear each person's dreams and stories.

In thinking about being a relational church, for example, in this past year as mission developer, I made a number of “every member visits.” This is a picture of the first of my first such visit, where I invited and hoped to hear a bit of each person’s dreams and stories.

I found myself underlining much of the section explaining that “We are a relational church.” Perhaps that is a product of me serving as a mission developer this year? Whatever the reason I love the way that this section begins, “We are a faith community, some would say a movement…” (9) I also am glad that the importance of ecumenism was named and explained, as well as the importance of engaging in dialogue and collaboration across faiths and other parts of civil society, government, and business for “the sake of justice, reconciliation and peace in the world” (9).

It seems that from the conversations and listening process, the tagline, “God’s work. Our hands” was affirmed, and hoped to bed retained and broadened in use (10). I was also glad to read within the section, “A Christ-centered thriving church,” there has been a “call for the ELCA to be a more public church,” which is something I have written about much before on this blog over the past few years and months (11).

Theologically, I greatly appreciate the emphasis given to both sacraments (baptism and communion) and their relationship and connection to the Word (12), as well as the great importance for leaders and leadership development. I loved the majority of this section, especially the wide view of the importance of education and formation at all levels (13). I agree that continued leadership development, education, and life-long learning are imperative to being a leader in general, and especially in a world that is changing so rapidly.

Key lines that caught my eye included recognition that,

This church needs leaders who are passionate about Christ, spiritually grounded, theologically fluent, ecumenically committed and growing in their capacities to lead in a complex world” (13).

“Leaders for tomorrow will need a more mixed education- with a strong theological and vocational orientation and knowledge and skills relevant to different contexts. The rapidly changing world requires church leaders who are compassionate, adaptable, courageous, committed evangelists with strong relationship and communication skills and cross-cultural competence. Future leaders must be able to explain theologically and practically who we are as a Lutheran church and why we do what we do” (13).

There it is again, one of my favorite phrases, “why we do what we do,” which is offered a few different times in these 19 pages.

Different Expressions of Ministry

There was a good acknowledgement of social ministry and the joyful response of service that are part of the church (13-14). However, I honestly would have expected more conversation here given the large umbrella of Lutheran social organizations that there are that most members and congregations are not even aware of.

There was also a helpful discussion about “Youth and young adults,” though I did sense a bit more fear here than in other sections, which I think reflects the average feeling within congregations who are dealing with big questions related to “life, death, resurrection,” and the present and future. I guess that tone shouldn’t be surprising to me, but it does leave me hoping for more intentional multi-generational and cross-generational work, because that will be critical for both being a “now and not yet” church (14).

The stewardship leader and organizational behavior management student in me was excited to read the “Church structures and relationships” and “Stewardship of resources” sections, but honestly I didn’t learn anything really new here. That probably has more to do with my current roles and reading interests than anything else. If this is an area of ministry or leadership that is new to you, then it probably would be a very helpful summary (15-16).

Tensions and Next Steps

The Connective Leadership Model

In this paper, I also can’t help but think of “The Connective Leadership Model” proposed by my Claremont professor and mentor, Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen. This is the kind of leadership I believe is needed “in an increasingly complex world.”

The theological nerd in me appreciated the paradox and tension acknowledgment towards the end of the paper where it is written, “Lutherans are comfortable living with ambiguity and uncertainty. This is a strength when it comes to being church in an increasingly complex world” (16). I was equally appreciative to read at the end of this section that, “The Future Directions Table was keen to see that living with tension does not become an excuse for not making hard decisions,” thus, even though there is tension, that cannot prevent action and forward movement, or paralyze us to act (17).

Perhaps a central question to this whole paper is, “How do we get the right balance between the autonomy, interdependence and being church together?” (17)

Priorities are proposed (17) and thoughts about implementing them are shared (18).

If I had to pick one element that caught my eye towards the end was the desire and importance of having “more gatherings and networks that bring people together for spiritual discernment, future planning, problem solving, and learning exchange” (18). Of course, I did underline much of this section.

I am still digesting my thoughts on this document. But my first reaction is that I am encouraged. I am grateful and appreciative for the team and table members doing this work (19), and look forward to being part of the conversation and work of the church together in thinking and acting on this in the year(s) ahead.

In an upcoming blog post I will start offering some answers to the questions I highlighted above. For now, I invite you to also read and sit with this paper.

What do you hear? What do you wonder? How are we called forward together in Christ for the sake of the world?

The “Yes, And” Church

There’s been a great deal of discussion over the past couple of years online, in teaching, leading, and writing, about the the distinction between a “Yes, and” and a “Yes, but,” culture and approach. This morning it hit me, that I feel called to serve a “Yes, and” Church, and not a “Yes, but” Church.

yes and

I believe I am part of a “Yes, and” church as a whole. However, I also believe that the “Yes, but” is a more common tendency and reaction within the system that is the church and congregations within it. I have heard a lot of “Yes, but” lately, for example in the congregation I serve. I don’t blame anyone for this, but at the same time, it tells me how far we have to go to really get to a day when the church gets out of it’s own way to do and proclaim the promises and work of God.

The church I know and love is a “Yes, and” church. It is a church where the Good News of the Gospel is proclaimed, but that Good News is not left there for each individual to solely make meaning of it alone. It is then connected and responded to in the world and larger community. The gospel is not something static, but living. It is a challenging Good News, full of promise but also challenging and prophetic calls. Too often I fear, Lutheran congregations end up on this spectrum on one side or another, when in reality, I would hope it is a “both, and.”

The gospel as I understand it, is highly political. By this I mean, Jesus Christ was proclaiming promises, but also challenging the systems and statuses that got in the way of abundant life. Where there was division or barriers, Jesus always seemingly appeared on the “other” side, or perhaps more accurately on the side of the “other.” Because of this, when I hear congregations and leaders say, “we aren’t an issues church,” I really hear that “we are a church that isn’t actively engaged in the world.”

On the other hand, when a congregation is seemingly always engaged with every single issue, it more than likely could miss the deeper meaning of its existence, and why it feels uniquely called to be engaged in the world, responding to the perceived issues and challenges. If the church is so focused on the doing, it might miss the chance to make the connection to the deeper Gospel call which leads to the response of doing.

The logo of the ELCA has a cross, and a globe, which for me, makes the statement, of "we are church, for the sake of the world."

The logo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has a cross, and a globe, which for me, makes the statement, of “we are church, for the sake of the world.”

Within the context of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the denomination that I am a part of), I believe this is why the Social Statements that are compiled by the church are so important. They reflect deep thinking and discernment, and are meant to ponder the meaning of the Gospel in light of today’s contexts and challenges. They are hardly perfect. I think everyone would agree that they take too long to write and approve, but they are also an honest effort for the church to spur thinking, and to proclaim the Good News in response to the brokenness of systems, the prevalence of barriers, and all those who might say, “but.”

I want to be a part of a church that can talk like it did last week about “The Good Samaritan,” and how Jesus comes near in the unexpected, and between the unexpected.

I want to be a church that this weekend can talk about Martha and Mary, and how perhaps it’s not so much of a dichotomy that Jesus is explaining between their different approaches, and perhaps, more of a spectrum.

And I want to be a part of church that after talking and proclaiming, actively acts on those messages in the local and larger community.

This might mean a number of things- walking in solidarity in a pride march, joining a peaceful but powerful Black Lives Matter march or protest, sharing cookies and appreciative notes with the local police office, collecting and then distributing food to the hungry…

All of this is important. None of it is possible though when a church says that it is “not an issues” church. When that claim is made, I deeply believe that the congregation sacrifices its ability to be a prophetic voice and presence. It sacrifices its ability to be a “church in the public square.”

I want to be a “Yes, and” church. I want to be a part of that in my Word & Service capacities, and feel called to that. My wife wants to be a part of that in the Word & Sacraments capacity, and feels called to that.

Perhaps it sounds as if I am offering another “yes, but” perspective. So let me try to put this another way.

I want to be a part of a church that says, “You are a beloved Child of God. You are enough. And though grace you have been saved through Christ.” That’s Good News. It’s a pure gift, not dependent upon us at all.

I want to also be a part of a church that then asks (like Mary Oliver), “In response to this Good News, what will you do with your one wild and precious life? What stories and experiences will you have? And where will God show up? Where might God be leading you and calling you?” And then, after thinking about that individually (like Frederick Buechner) ask, “In response to this Good News of Abundant Life, how are we called and sent together out into the world, meeting its great needs?”

What "Yes, and" makes possible from a "design thinking" approach.

What “Yes, and” makes possible from a “design thinking” approach sketched on a napkin.

I want to be a part of a church where vocation is something embraced. Where identity grounded in the promises, creativity, and flowing waters of baptism is proclaimed weekly. Where identity across time and space, is connected to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ through communion, and the promise that “Christ is for you.” Where the people within the congregation understand themselves to be: a Child of God, a Steward of God’s Love, a Disciple, a Christian, (in my case… a Lutheran), and someone who is uniquely created and loved just for who they are, and also someone who is entrusted with unique questions, ideas, stories, and gifts. And these are holy things not to be shunned, but embraced.

I want to be a “yes, and” church, where someone of faith who feels a deep passion to respond to it in some way in the world, is affirmed and supported, not questioned and doubted.

Will there be times where people will come up short, of course. We are people. We are sinners. We inevitability will sin and come up short. But I suspect, more times than not, if we really create a church where dreaming and passion are central, that the work of the Holy Spirit will really be set loose in ways we cannot yet even imagine.

What might a “Yes, and” Church look like to you?

Image Credits:”Yes, and” and  Yes, and” what design thinking makes possible.

Reconciliation and Repentance

I went to bed last night with the terrible news of yet another young black man being shot and killed by police. What made this worse was that this was basically from the neighborhood I called home for five years in Minnesota. In the following, I am sharing a post from Bishop Patricia Lull, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Following her post originally shared on Facebook, I offer my own thoughts this morning. I know I feel called to write more, but at this moment, this is what is on my heart and mind.
Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA's photo.

Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA

A young black man, Philando Castile, has died in our community after being shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. His family grieves, friends are outraged, co-workers are stunned and news of the deaths of black men that we too often hear about in other communities has become our local news. Whether you are joining the Black Lives Matter movement in a public vigil, explaining this news to your children, or coming to terms with the fact that such violent deaths happen in our cities, we all have work to do to build a community of justice and safety for all, especially persons of color. I invite prayers in our congregations this Sunday – prayers for Philando Castile, for his family and friends, for the officers involved, and for the work of repentance and reconciliation that is needed in our country. ~ Bishop Patricia Lull

All morning I have wanted to write. This was basically my neighborhood for five years. I have written blog posts and sermons explaining why we must proclaim that Black Lives Matter. There is much work to be done for reconciliation and repentance. I grieve for Philando Castile’s family and friends.

I am also mad and sick to my stomach this morning, because I know that if I was pulled over, and I reached for my driver’s license and registration I would not have had a gun pointed at me (let alone fired).

We are called in our baptisms to name and respond to injustice, working for justice and peace in all the world. We are called as congregations to be a place of truth telling, of sharing the Good News with a hurting world, but also actively engaging the news and challenges of the world and not ignoring them in preaching, teaching, prayer, service, and presence.

For those congregations following the Revised Common Lectionary, this week’s gospel lesson is that of the Good Samaritan. What might Jesus say through this parable about the need and importance of reconciliation, repentance, and community?

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on Tuesdays I share some of what I have seen, read, and found thought provoking over the past week.  To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon for this weekend I have a number of links to consider. If you are following the revised common lectionary, check out Bishop Michael Rinehart’s thoughts on “Pentecost 7C,” as well as friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis’ post on “The Security of Seventy.” Also spend some time listening to the “Sermon Brainwave” for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, with friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner.

If you are following the narrative lectionary, check out this “Commentary on Job 1:1-22,” from friend and professor Rev. Dr. Kathryn Schifferdecker.

In the June edition of Living LutheranJames Nieman reflected about the role of the church in society, writing, “Centrifugal: Being a public church,” and inviting others to join the conversation.

Friend and executive director of The MennoniteHannah Heinzekehr explained about the move to have “A 30-day comment sabbatical at TheMennonite.org.”

Bishop Kevin Kanouse penned this “Farewell Letter,” to the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Mission Area, as he retires this summer.

In the aftermath of the tragedy and terror directed at the LGBT community in Orlando, many congregations opened their doors. One such example was shared in this story about Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia, South Carolina holding a vigil. In response to Orlando, perhaps one of the best posts I read as far as church and preaching went, was this “Open Letter to Preachers.”

Pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth reflected about, “Pastoral ministry as comprehensive community consultation and catalyzing change.”

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland wrote about being, “Called For and Called From.”

Jill Duffield reports about the Presbyterian Church USA adopting the Belhar Confession at the 222nd General Assembly. Check out this link for the full text of the “Confession of Belhar.”

Over the weekend Pope Francis explained that, “Gays and other marginalized people deserve an apology.” In a related report, The Millennial Journal reports that the, “Pope Says Church Should Ask Forgiveness from Gay People, the Poor, the Exploited.”

Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis shared some important thoughts about, “The Truth about Sexism in the Church: and how to keep it from breaking you down.”

Karoline also shared a recent commentary entitled, “Naked No More,” based on Luke 8:26-39 and Psalm 22, and “Every Moment Counts.”

Earlier this month it was announced that Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Martin Junge has been reelected to a second term.

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared some thoughts about, “Re-membering Christian imagination,” and “Re-membering Christianity.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Dan Rockwell shared, “5 Ways to Stop Fixing and Start Developing.

Peter F. Drucker & Masatisho Ito School of Management Professor Dr. Jeremy Hunter

Peter F. Drucker & Masatisho Ito School of Management Professor Dr. Jeremy Hunter

Dr. Jeremy Hunter, one of the professors from the Drucker School of Management, wrote about attention, “The Essential Resource We’re All Wasting.”

Thin Difference shared a guest post by Sara Dougherty unpacking, “5 Lessons I Couldn’t Learn in a Classroom.” The “5 Real-World Lessons from a Recent Graduate” are: networking; no one holds your hand in the real world; let others critique and mold who you want to be as a professional; be persistent; and the little things make a big difference.

Ted Bauer wrote that, “Simply Listing Your Core Values Misses the Point.”

Anne Loehr shared a podcast she was recently interviewed on in, “Smart People Podcast Hosts Anne Loehr: Service and Success.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch, shared this look by Lewis Howes at “The Important Skill You Might Be Overlooking in Your Branding.”

Lead With Giants shared a guest post by Danica Worthy outlining, “7 Ways to Develop Gravitas and Leadership Presence.”

Heidi Oran at Thin Difference wrote and shared that, “Change Happens: 5 Reminders to Help You Embrace It.” The reminders Heidi shares to help coping with change when it happens are: life isn’t a straight line; perseverance is your friend; you can change your brain; small things count too; and no time period defines you.

Also at Thin Difference, Jon Mertz wrote about, “The Power of Example,” and “Career Chapters: The Next One.”

Millennials

Lolly Daskal highlights what she believes is “The Secret on How to Motivate Millennials.” Within this post, Lolly highlights: innovation; autonomy; opportunity to sharpen their skills; leveraging technology; collaboration; flexibility; instant gratification; and meaning.

In response to Brexit, Ivana Kottasova writes about a large reaction from British Millennials, in writing, “British Millennials: You’ve stolen our future.”

Neighbor Love

Friend, pastor, and blogger Emmy Kegler wrote and shared this profound piece about, “A sound of sheer silence: a commentary on Elijah, Legion, and Pulse.” Emmy also shared a pastoral response she wrote, “The Shooting at Pulse: Pastor Emmy’s Response (from the Church Newsletter).” She also shared her sermon from last weekend, “On hiding out for forty days, legitimate fear, and the church’s chance to tell a new story: a sermon on Elijah, Jesus, and Legion,” as well as “Valor, service, wisdom: a sermon for blessing prayer shawls & quilts.”

As legend Garrison Keillor retires, Cara Buckley wrote about, “The Garrison Keillor You Never Knew.”

"A Whirl of Spirit," by Vonda Drees

“A Whirl of Spirit,” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past couple of weeks. These posts have included: “enchanting stories“; “reality of mystery“; “Grace bats last“; “God’s song“; “beloved“; “beloved and broken beauty“; “a whirl of Spirit“; “solitude silence stillness“; “night whisper“; and “70 x 7.”

Friend and professor Dr. Marit Trelstad shared some updates from her family’s travels and sabbatical in, “Luther- International Man of Intrigue,” and “Bonhoeffer.”

With gun violence so rampant, I greatly appreciate this video about “Me & Mass Shootings.” With gun violence in mind, Pacific Lutheran University President, Dr. Thomas Krise wrote, “133 and Counting: The tragic shooting in Orlando and the need for new gun control measures.”

After Orlando, Elizabeth Drescher wrote about, “How to Be an #LGBTQAlly After #Orlando.”

In another story out of the Orlando tragedy, Jenny Rapson wrote about one victim’s grandmother, in writing, “Her Grandson Was Killed in Orlando. What these passengers did on her flight to his funeral? Tears!” Read this story, it might give you some hope in humanity today.

In response to Orlando, two of my dear friends at LEAD also shared some important thoughts. Friend and director Peggy Hahn wrote, “Orlando and a Call for Action,” and friend Lynn Willis wrote about, “Orlando and our blindspot.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his most recent sermon based on Job 42:10-17, “Job, the conclusion: The God who sees through our bull.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Mandy Brobst-Renaud pondered, “What’s in a Name?

Stewardship

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared this look at why it’s “Time to Start Planning,” by Kathy Showalter Fiscus, as well as this stewardship reflection taking up the question, “Why Give? Because Jesus Gave Us Work to Do,” by Rev. Dr. Katie Hays.

Vocation

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her weekly dose of “Tuesday Tea Time,” as well as a second dose of it for today.

Over at Thin Difference, Scott Savage asked an important question about life and daily life, asking, “Are You Living for the Weekend?

Friend and professor Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt continued detailing about her bike trip across the country. Get caught up in her journey by checking out her daily posts, including the ones for: “Day 16“; “Day 18“; and “Day 19.”

Friend and blogger Emily Shane reflected about how, “Attitude is Everything: open-mindfulness and a positive attitude are so important.”

Miscellaneous

Friend Tim Chalberg shared some thoughts on the Mariners and baseball in taking up the question, “Ichiro, All-Time Hits King* (?)

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That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on your week. -TS

Image Credits:  The Links; Dr. Jeremy Hunter; and “a whirl of Spirit.”

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on Tuesdays I share some of what I have seen, read, and found thought provoking over the past week.  To help make sense of all of these links, I have grouped them by the following categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon this week, I have a few links for you. First, check out Bishop Michael Rinehart’s thoughts on “Pentecost 5C.” With these week’s passages in mind, friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis wrote and reflected in, “Naked No More.” Also spend some time with this week’s “Sermon Brainwave” podcast with friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner. If you are following the narrative lectionary, check out friend and professor Dr. Lois Malcolm’s “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.”

In response to the horror, terror, and violence directed at our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, a number of bishops, pastors, and ministry leaders have shared pastoral letters and calls for change. Among them have included Bishop Kirby Unti from the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA, as well as Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s letter in response. Many others have shared their thoughts on Facebook, and I have in turn shared some of them over the past few days on my own Facebook page.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth writes on the importance of being engaged in the world in sharing, “Prayers for Orlando, and for our Hearts.” Within this Diane writes, “the news of the world needs to come to church, where we can repent, and lament, and ask God to change our hearts, so hard.” I couldn’t agree more.

The former site of Silverdale Lutheran Church, which has most recently been a local community center was demolished last week.

In my latest post as a mission developer at Messiah Lutheran Church, I shared some recent “Wilderness Wanderings of the Mind.”

Friends Peggy Hahn and pastor David Hansen shared a great new post from LEAD related to congregations with statistics and good perspectives for being healthy and remarkable congregations, writing, “Be a Remarkable Small Congregation.”

Meredith Gould provided the transcript from last week’s Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) chat about, “Continuing #eform16 inquiries & conversations about social media.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared this great TEDx talk about how “Stories build connection.” Check out this talk!

For those of you in Ridgefield or Clark County in Washington, you might want to check out this month’s “Ridgefield Main Street Community Meeting,” which will include information about the currently being built “Cowlitz Casino.”

Social leadership theorist Julian Stodd shared some, “Words About Learning: Interconnected.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Steve Keating wrote about, “When Your ‘Leader’ is Really a Manager.”

Do you some times worry about taking time off or vacationing like I do? To help alleviate some of that worry, Lolly Daskal shares, “4 Scientific Reasons Vacations are Good for Your Health.” The reasons she highlights are: stress reduction; heart disease prevention; improved productivity; and better sleep.

In a related post, Molly Page at Thin Difference reflected about, “When You’re Too Valuable to Take Time Off.” Within this Molly shared 3 things to keep in mind: teamwork makes the dream work; while you’re away things might be done differently; and being missed is a good thing.

Anne Loehr highlighted and unpacked the “Fastest Growing Jobs: The Qualities You Need to Succeed.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Secretary Hillary Clinton

While studying at the Drucker School in Claremont, California I had the joy of studying under Dr. Jean Lipman-Blumen and learning about her idea of “Connective Leadership.” I was reminded of this concept when reading this article by Ezra Klein who wrote last week that, “It’s time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician.” I was particularly struck by Ezra writing that Secretary Clinton, “relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 523 governors and members of Congress have endorsed Clinton, 13 have endorsed Sanders.” Building coalitions, finding common ground, and winning allies are hallmarks of connective leadership, because it’s all about building partnerships and shared concerns, working together. Check out the article for more thoughts on this.

Jeremy Quittner shared about, “The One Thing Warren Buffett Says Every Business Must Do.” Quittner writes, “Don’t just satisfy your customers, delight them. So says Warren Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, and the third-wealthiest man in the world.”

Ted Coine wrote importantly about the intersections of life, leadership, careers, and vocation, writing about “Going From Career Back to Calling.” To help understand this, he invites some thoughts around the following questions and observations: Have you identified your calling? Are you ignoring your calling because you’re doing something that pays better, because you “have to”?; By contrast, I know very few successful business people that set out to get wealthy and did.

For me leadership is all about building coalitions and responding to societal challenges for the sake of the common good. Eugene Scott shared such an example last week when writing about how David Petraeus and Mark Kelly are launching a gun control group.

Jon Mertz reflected about, “Leadership Strangers: Authority and Accountability,” over at Thin Difference.

Neighbor Love

Rev. Andrea Roske-Metcalfe shared, “A Call to Confession for the Sin of Idolatry.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon for this past weekend based on Job 38:1-11, “Not you. God.

I have had so many thoughts go through my head in the past couple of days since waking up to the horrible news Sunday morning from Orlando. I didn’t want to write, but I felt I needed to write. So late on Sunday I wrote and shared a confession in, “Confession- Our acquiescence is a grave sin indeed.”

"beloved beyond boundaries," by Vonda Drees.

“beloved beyond boundaries,” by Vonda Drees.

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These posts included: “at home everywhere“; “notice grace“; “beloved beyond boundaries“; and “soul roots.”

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared this important and timely reflection on, “Fearing Our Fears.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Emmy Kegler shared her sermon for this past weekend, “Do you see this woman? (on sexual assault, rape culture, and forgiveness).” In preparation for her sermon she wrote this powerful and important commentary on the same texts, “Do you see this woman?: a preaching commentary on rape culture, Bathsheba, and the use of grace.” Emmy also shared her sermon from last week, “The inconvenient and miraculous pattern of Christian life: a sermon on death and resurrection.”

If you have not seen it, you need to read “The Powerful Letter the Stanford Victim Read Aloud to Her Attacker.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Ben Colahan unpacked what he believes is “The Privilege Perpetuated by ELCA Economics.” What do you think?

Eddie Kaufholz wrote about, “The Sermon on Pulse you didn’t hear in church.”

The Millennial shared Archbishop Blase Cupich’s response in, “Archbishop Cupich on Orlando Shooting: We Can No Longer Stand By and Do Nothing.”

Blogger and pastor Todd Buegler wrote and shared, “How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Orlando.”

Friend, soon-to-be pastor and blogger Chris Michaelis wrote and shared, “It Could Have Been Me.”

Blogger and soon to be seminarian Elle Dowd shed an important light on biphobia in writing about, “Biphobia and the Pulse Massacre.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared some reflections on “Diversity & Orlando.”

David Brooks wrote, “Let’s Have a Better Culture War.” What do you think about David’s idea?

Friend, pastor, and blogger Matt Byrd shared some thoughts on “Authenticity.”

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared his version of the links with his “Really Recommended Posts.”

Vocation

Friend, professor, and blogger Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt continued to update about her cross-country journey, writing about: “Shoulders“; a journey through Walla Walla; an arrival in Clarkston; the joys of a rest day; as well as a discovery that “flat doesn’t always mean flat.”

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her weekly dose of “Tuesday Tea Time,” reflecting on the importance of listening to each other’s stories, and love, especially in response to the Orlando hate crime.

Miscellaneous

Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg shared his weekly update of the “MLB Projected Standings,” as well as a recap of the “2016 Seattle Mariners Draft.”

With an example of beauty from the past week, check out this story about how “This picture perfect shot of Seattle went worldwide.”

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That concludes this edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if you have particular questions or topics for me to think about on the blog, please share them. Also, if there are things you would like to see included in the links, please let me know that too. Thank you for reading and being a part of the conversation! Blessings on your week. -TS

Image Credits:  The Links; Secretary Hillary Clinton; and “beloved beyond boundaries.”