You may not be aware of this day of the church year, but today is the day that many observe Ascension Day, or the “Ascension of Our Lord.” This is the day that the church remembers when Jesus ascended into heaven. At the heart of the worship and message of Ascension are two passages, Acts 1:1-11, and Luke 24:44-53.
On this day the followers of Jesus were encouraged and told that the Spirit would empower them to be witnesses spread throughout the world. “The disciples were told to not gaze up into heaven to look for Jesus” and like them “we find his presence among us as we proclaim the word and share the Easter feast. We too long for the Spirit to enliven our faith and invigorate our mission” (Sundays and Seasons, 183).
This raises a number of questions, not the least of which is the question from Acts, where Jesus’ followers are asked, “why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” In thinking about this question, Martin Marty offered a great post pondering this very question, which I encourage you highly to read.
For me, today serves as a reminder. First, its a reminder that we still have another week of the Easter season. But it also reminds that Pentecost is soon to be upon us, as we remember the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus’ followers, just as he told would happen. In a current world and context sense though, Ascension also can be a day of joy, reminder, and refocusing. Some times we need to remember the callings and mission to which we are a part of. That is, spreading the Good News of God, and also the message that all are beautiful and loved Children of God, created by God.
Some times its okay to pause and “look up.” But if that’s all we do, we lose sight to how that connects to that which we are called and sent. We lose focus to that which we are equipped and led by the Holy Spirit, which we recall at Pentecost. Today, we “look up” momentarily, give thanks to God and remember and experience joy. We continue to tell the Good News of Easter, and we are able to re-center ourselves and renew ourselves as part of the work and ministry of God in our own called ways and contexts.
In what ways do you celebrate and observe Ascension (if you observe it)? What questions does it pose or create for you?
Credits and Resources:
Sundays and Seasons, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2012), 183.
I don’t say this enough on my blog, but I love to travel! With summer fast approaching, it means that many people will be traveling or going on vacations soon. When on such travels, you might visit national places or places of national and/or international importance like monuments and memorials. This leads to two questions I am wondering today.
Do you have a favorite monument that you love to visit? Is there a memorial that always gets you emotionally when you visit it?
The memorial though that is probably my favorite is the World War II Memorial. You see, my grandpa served in that war (as did thousands of others’ grandparents and family) and so I have a connection there. But, I also love the beauty of the way it is designed with a pillar for every state. There is something beautiful in how it is laid out reminding us of our connections and dependence on each others as states and people. It reminds of what is possible in terms of collaboration, but also how much we all need to be able to collaborate together.
If you have been to Washington D.C. what memorials or monuments stand out to you and why?
In thinking outside of the Nation’s Capital, my favorite monument might actually be the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Maybe you didn’t know that there are such things. It’s the first monument I remember ever visiting as a little guy. Given the importance that mountain has to my home state, and to this day both its historical and natural significance, its something to really behold. It can only be done in person. So if you have never looked into the crater, please go and do. It will give you a new appreciation for both the destruction potential and beauty of nature and creation.
Now it’s your turn. So what monuments and memorials do you love to visit? What are your travel plans for this summer? What stories will you learn or recall by these travels and what memories do you hope to make?
Tuesday on the blog means that it is time to share some links to things I have found interesting, head-scratching or thought-provoking over the past week. As always, I break up the links into categories. This week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Vocation; Worship and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these and I entrust them to you now.
Friend and theologian Tim Snyder shared a wonderful little reflection in The Lutheran titled, “Unsettled.” I love the implications of his conclusion, “Here’s the good news: our church today is unsettled.” I think this is a wonderful thing, don’t you?
Boz Tchividjian shared “7 ways to welcome abuse survivors in our churches.” This is an important post that all congregational and ministry leaders, as well members and participants should read and reflect on. The seven ways include: be a friend and listen; know the available resources; acknowledge and address spiritual struggles; connect with local law enforcement; start an abuse-survivor support group; develop response protocols; and speak up. Please spend some time with this and make use of it in your contexts.
News broke yesterday of an attempted arson attack at a Jerusalem Church near where the Pope had celebrated mass.
Friend and soon to be called pastor, Emmy Kegler shared her introduction to the Summer of Scripture. This looks like its going to be a great journey. Check it out! Also, if you are a member of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation that is looking for a pastoral candidate, know that Emmy has my highest recommendation possible.
News also broke late yesterday that the Pope will meet sex abuse victims at the Vatican. This is huge news given how sex abuse in the church has seemingly not been dealt with directly from the top of the church previously. It’s time the church acts as abuse should never happen and be allowed to happen anywhere, especially within the church.
Congratulations are in order for Rev. Dr. Dan Peterson, one of my former PLU religion professors. His book Tillichwas selected as the winner of the Religion category of the 24th Annual Midwest Book Awards.
Mindy McGarrah Sharp shared some ideas about role-playing and particularly how it “is one of the most effective strategies for developing a public theological voice.” Give this a read, especially if you are looking for ways to integrate teaching and service.
Friend and pastor Diane Roth reflected on “How baptism saves us.” I love her conclusion in this. She writes, “I’m really not trying to make the case that only in the church (or the Church) can we find salvation. But simply noticing that baptism and community go together, and that salvation has to do with our relationships with one another, and not just our relationship with God.” What do you think?
LEAD shared this post about “Taking the Third Side.” It’s an important read for congregational leaders particularly who are facing calls to pick a side in conflicts of any kind. Please check this out, you will be glad you did and your congregations will be well served by the time you spend reflecting on this and leading in light of it.
Pastor Meta Herrick Carlson shared a wonderful post of reflections titled simply, “tree” about the church, death, new life, and resurrection. Check this out.
Bill Gates wrote and shared “Why Jeffrey Sachs Matters.” This is a great read, and brought back memories of my undergraduate economics capstone about development economics and NGOs. If you aren’t familiar with Jeffrey Sachs, he is a profound thinker and leader in the world of development economics and theory and practices for overcoming poverty traps among other major development challenges.
Peter Linebaugh shared a reading list about good materials to read to think and learn about “the commons.”
If you are looking for some thoughts about co-creation, an idea that is finding a lot of ground related to the commons, the church, leadership, and collaboration, check out this post from Julian Stodd.
Leadership Thought & Practice
In the spirit of commencement season comes this message from Admiral Bill McRaven to graduates from the University of Texas, “Make Your Bed.” Check out the speech, its fantastic, and its filled with wonderful insights and reminders about leadership and life.
Greg Satell shared this thoughtful reflection about “The New Role of Leaders.” In it he includes vinettes about the Hobbesian Paradox, Disrupting Cancer, Social Physics, and Managing Networks of Unseen Connections.
TK wrote that “Millennial Adaptability is heightened by rapid technological change.” A key line is when she wrote, “I propose that most if not all Millennials have this skill of adaptation. Those who can adequately translate it into their daily lives will have an easier time adapting to all life changes. That, of course, doesn’t remove hardship. It’s more of mental game and the ability to remain calm.” What do you think?
Jim Wallis wrote that “The Bible Calls for Moral Action on Climate Change.” Ideas about vocation, calling, and stewardship are all considered as they relate to creation and our caring for it. This is an important read. The science is clear, the climate is changing and changing rapidly. What are we doing about this, what are we going to do, what can we do, and what should we do? What do you think?
Samantha Eyler explained, “Why I had to lose my religion before I could support gender equality.” Her conclusion especially caught my eye and has had me pondering it ever sense I read this. She concluded, “So moderate people of faith, those of you who can endure the cognitive dissonance of espousing progressive politics while gleaning support in religious traditions that are thousands of years old — I ask you to please speak up. There are many of us who need to hear your voices much more loudly.” What do you think?
It doesn’t happen often that a story from ESPN appears anywhere on the Links outside of the Miscellaneous section. But this week marks an exception. I stumbled across this story about a once football prospect this past week and thought it was worth sharing by Kevin Van Valkenburg.
My deepest condolences to all those affected by the violence in Santa Barbara this past week. This killing spree has led to more soul searching around weapons, guns, violence, mental health, etc. The dad of one of the victims powerfully railed against this. Watch and listen, if you haven’t seen this yet. How can one not be moved by this? It’s time to do something about responsible and common sense gun control. As he pleaded, “We don’t have to live like this.” It’s time! Adam Gopnik added to the discussion writing that, “Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets it Right.” Indeed.
How is this for a title: “Getting Smashed for Jesus.” Check out this sermon by Walter Brueggemann as well as others from last week’s Festival of Homiletics here.
TK shared some reflection about “The Illusion of Majority Extremism,” and the challenge with sharing and holding views that may be different than others, or be perpetuated as extremes when humanity may not really hold such extreme views.
My friend, former college-roommate and current sports information director at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), Tyler Scott, shared some great life reflections in this post, “May the next four years commence.” Thanks for sharing Tyler!
Friend, professor and adviser Dr. Terri Elton shared a wonderful reflection on her blog, “Making Memories, and then some.” Terri, I’m so glad that you had the chance to make more wonderful memories with your family.
Julian Stodd pondered about “the location of stories.” I mentioned some about stories last week in the links, so consider this a continuation of that and check this out. Julian also added to the conversation with this post.
Thom Schultz pondered about worshipers and “Why they don’t sing on Sunday anymore.” I like the pondering, and its a question I have pondered from time to time. What do you think? Do you agree with these reasons that Thom gives? Do you have others that you would add to the list? Or, do you have some disagreements with this?
For those of you looking for a place to visit, have you ever considered Anoka, Minnesota?
Well, that will conclude the offering of links for this week. Next week’s issue is likely to be a bit shorter because of travel and work experiences. I’m sure I’ll still get you a good helping though. As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to include in the links, or questions or ideas to wrestle with on the blog, please let me know. I always love new ideas! Until the next time, blessings on your week and thanks for reading! -TS
Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
I felt like offering a prayer was the best place, and perhaps only place to start today, Memorial Day. Today is a day of remembrance, of joy, of sorrow, of gratitude, and of prayers for peace. Today we remember particularly those who have given their lives in service to their country. Thank you to all who have served and are serving. Thank you also to your families who have and continue to support you.
I like to think that on Memorial Day we also remember those who have lost their lives in times of conflict, war, and hostility. I think remembering both groups- those who have given their life and those who have lost their life in conflict (and as victims of conflict), is important. For me, Memorial Day seems like an important time to do this.
Many people also remember other family this weekend who have died, which is a good practice. I admit though, I have never really been one to do this around Memorial Day. I try to reserve those memories for All Saints Day, and basically the month of November starting with All Saints Day and stretching through Thanksgiving. Growing up nearby to so many Navy bases and military institutions, Memorial Day is important for me to keep more focused on those who have served and are serving.
How do you observe and remember those who have gone before you on Memorial Day? Who do you remember this day?
Returning to the prayer that I shared, it is a prayer for peace, from the hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship. I think its appropriate today. Allow me to share five images or stories that are on my mind this Memorial Day. Perhaps they will make you pause and wonder too? Perhaps other questions will come to mind today for you.
Cemeteries today are rightfully lined with United States’ flags, honoring veterans and those who have served. I presume that my grandfather’s grave in Washington is one of them today. I wonder, what can we do to better support the families and loved ones who have lost loved ones in time of conflict and in service of their country? In what ways can we support those who have died in conflict locally in our communities and abroad around the world?
This past weekend, President Obama surprised troops and visited them in Afghanistan. We are reminded of all of the troops’ sacrifices and service there. I wonder, what will this prolonged conflict lead to?
In the past week we have heard the news and grieve at the loss of more people at the hands of a hurt and mentally ill person with multiple handguns. I wonder, how much longer do we have to wait for common sense gun control in the United States?
In the past month, the museum at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City opened. We remember all of the loss and pain, some of which is all to real and fresh. I wonder, how can we support the families still grieving, and those whose loved ones’ remains have yet to be identified?
This past weekend, Pope Francis spoke and visited a number of holy and disputed sites in the Mid-East, particularly in Israel and Palestine. I wonder, how can the peace that passes all understanding break-in to all places of conflict and provide hope, healing, collaboration and understanding?
What do you think about any and all of these questions? What causes you pause this Memorial Day?
Whatever is on your mind today, I hope that you are able to spend some time today with friends and loved ones- giving thanks and enjoying each other’s company. And, because it seems fitting today, let me share with you a common but profound benediction:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.
You might often hear the term “lay leadership” every once and awhile in church and ministry areas of thought. Many people describe this differently. The description that I prefer is one meaning the non-congregational staff or non-clergy who are serving in some form of volunteer leadership within a congregation or faith community. Admittedly, it is an insider term and “leaders” or “non-staff leaders” might be more helpful.
I wanted to note that, because I was asked recently “how do you cultivate lay leadership?” For many leading in ministry, this is a question they reflect on often. It is a great and important question. The fact that it is pondered so frequently suggests that there is no easy answer or perfect approach though.
In some ways, lay leadership is volunteer management. Not only is the lay leader volunteering, they may be leading a team of volunteers. In a congregation this might be most easily seen in worship through leading a church choir. In other areas of a faith community, perhaps this is the stewardship team, planning and thinking creatively about what it means to be a steward.
My tips and ideas that I offer here about this question of cultivating lay leadership are not a strategic plan in themselves for lay leadership development. But I have seen these all at work, in some way or another, in congregations where lay leadership is strong, effective, and treated as a value and major point of emphasis. As you reflect on these ideas, what ideas come to mind for you?
Matching to the mission and story
People are more apt to serve and lead if they see themselves as part of something bigger than themselves. For a congregation, this means not only understanding what the mission or vision guiding the congregation is, it’s being able to see themselves as part of that and be a part of the larger congregation’s story which is part of God’s story. Lay leaders that are particularly strong, are even able to articulate or share their story with others. This story tells of how they see what they are doing in the congregation as part of their role as a leader, servant and/or steward.
Some people are naturally outgoing and will volunteer to lead. Often times in a congregation though, to cultivate lay leadership requires another person to notice and draw attention to another’s gifts and potential gifts. This takes some discernment- both on the part of the other person noticing the gifts, as well as the individual who may have the gifts. The challenge with this point is that many people have figured out that if such a recognition comes from a leader or clergy in a congregation, they may have a right to be suspect. One might be wondering, do they just need someone to do something?
Not just asking people to lead because you need people
If you have experience in congregations, you might be able to picture the old method of how many congregations recruited Sunday School teachers and would be committee members. Someone might simply nominate them. Others might say, “hey, you have a gift. Would you be willing to help?” Usually these points or approaches of asking and recruiting seem disingenuous. These approaches have much more to do with a need of someone, rather than first discerning and seeing what that person’s gifts, passions and strengths are. Understandably, this sort of recruiting has never really been helpful for long-term and effective congregational leadership. Therefore, this approach is thankfully going away in most congregations. If you or your congregation are still using this, please consider moving towards at least incorporating some strengths and discernment as part of the leadership development process.
To be fair, this is easier said than done. So, with the first two points in mind, the next two offer approaches to build off of them and to cultivate and grow leadership effectively over time.
One way to show commitment to developing leaders is to provide them the opportunities to grow. This can be through providing them materials- reading, research, conversation partners to help them in their roles or growing sense of leadership in a congregation. This can also be through helping train them through dedicated workshops or leadership retreats. This can also be through sending them to workshops being sponsored by partner congregations, synods, diocese, denominations, or ministry groups which may provide helpful ideas that have worked or been discovered in other contexts.
In order to equip lay leadership though, the lay leader needs to be willing to make the investment to grow. Chances are, if they have invested as much as time already to be a lay leader they would like to have the chance to grow into that more and would appreciate these opportunities. However, its important for those providing these opportunities and encouraging lay leaders to take advantage of them to be aware and mindful of their time. Remember, these are volunteers with families (and all the time commitments that rightfully means) as well as the likelihood that they are working full-time and then some, plus allowing time for whatever other passions they might enjoy.
To really cultivate lay leadership, there has to be a willingness to be in relationship. Lay leaders need to have someone they can trust to give them feedback and to help them process their experiences. These people might even serve as mentors to them. They might be staff members in a congregation or they might be other lay leaders. Ministry is often a thankless thing to do, sadly, and those who aren’t compensated for their work (i.e.- volunteers) bare often an unfair burden without seeming to have much support. If someone knows that they have a cheerleader, and someone who will be there to help in the tough times and be in relationship with them not only are they more likely to be more vulnerable, they are also more likely to give more of themselves in these leadership roles.
These points do not make a comprehensive plan or approach to lay leadership. But hopefully they are helpful starting places to think about approaches to lay leadership which might work in your faith communities. Now its your turn. How do you cultivate lay leadership? What points and perspectives might you add?
Dan, thank you for your authenticity, dedication, honesty, presence, and way to really bring and share the life of the story and the news. Thankfully for us you will still be providing special reports and other things like that, but you will most definitely be missed behind the anchor’s desk.
As you enter this new chapter, know that you have my deepest gratitude and appreciation. You never hid your emotion, you were honest, and because of that it was easy for my family to invite you into our home each evening and hear about what was going on in the Northwest and around the world. The way you dedicated yourself to always doing a good job at what you did has inspired me to live most fully into my own vocations and callings.
Tuesday means that it is time to share some of what I have come across, read, and found interesting in the past week. This week’s topic categories are: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; Worship and Miscellaneous. I entrust them to you now and hope you enjoy them and find them thought provoking.
For Twin Cities Lutherans, the name Ronald Wilson is synonymous with innovative, missional, and faithful music ministry. He recently passed away, and his obituary was published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Thanks be to God for the life and service of Ronald Wilson, and prayers of peace and love to his loved ones who are mourning.
Julian Stodd shared, “A Creative Journey.” I decided to share this under the cross-sector subheading because I have recently talked with people in a number of sectors (churches, non-profits, for-profits, etc.) about the importance of story telling and narrative. This post adds to that conversation, so check it out if you are interested or thinking about story telling.
Skip Prichard shared, “Serve to be Great: 7 Lessons from Matt Tenney.” The lessons offered from Tenney include: you can create happiness anywhere; your greatest failure may be your life’s greatest catalyst for change; when you change your self-talk, you change your world; learn how to change selfishness to selflessness; service leads to greatness; notice the extraordinary small moments; and in stillness, you can change your state of mind, your present, and your future.” Good food for thought and reflection.
Thom Rainer shared this thought-provoking piece about “Millennials and the Demise of Print: Five Implications for Churches.” I could have shared this under church and ministry above, or perhaps under social media below. Implications offered though include: churches not fully acclimated to the digital age need to do so quickly; more of our congregations will be turning on their Bibles in the worship services rather than opening them to a print page; church leaders should view this change as an opportunity to be more effective missional leaders; leaders must keep current with changes in the digital revolution; and social media is a key communication form for the Millennials, churches and church leaders must also be connected.
Courtney Templin asked a good question, “Is it Time to Rewrite the Rules? Millennials as Managers.” Five key insights that she includes are that millennials are: tearing down the ladder; breaking down the walls; communicating on the fly; working where and when we want; and playing at work. This is a fantastic post, and I hope you give this some thought this week!
Joshua Rothman shared this great read about “The Origins of Privilege.” This article tells an important story about how the concept really grew thanks to the writing of Peggy McIntosh,who is interviewed in the piece. Spend some time reading this, you’ll be thankful you did.
In perhaps what I think was the best neighbor love piece I came across in the past week, Father James Martin wrote “Simply Loving.” This is such an important and honest read. I greatly appreciate it, and I hope you do too. What are your thoughts or questions related to this?
Friend and pastor Stephanie Vos shared her reflections, “I was a Christian Doormat- then I met Ayn Rand.” I am very happy for Stephanie’s post being picked up. But admittedly, as I have discussed with other friends this week, there is quite a bit of consternation when it comes to Rand, and rightfully so given some of her philosophical convictions and leanings. What do you think?
I linked to this story last week, but more of a response has built to the death penalty conviction for a Christian woman in Sudan.
In an example I would say of not loving one’s neighbor, a few people have decided that they would like to label some people “heretics.” Now, perhaps I might be considered one by the same people, but excluding someone from being in the Body of Christ is not really something that we as people have the right to do. We’re fallible, are we not? Anyway, Rachel Held Evans offered a nice response to those who accused her of heresy.
Gordon Marino shared this important message related to vocation and vocational discernment, “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love.'” He concludes powerfully, “Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can.” Please read and think about this, you will be glad you did!
My wife Allison offered this timely and authentic post, “All the Feeeeeels,” about life, change, transition, vocation, friendships and relationships. Check it out!
Friend and pastor Diane Roth shared this great reflection about “Saying ‘Yes’ and Meaning It.” It’s beautifully written as always. Here’s just one of many passages that stand out, “We all say ‘yes,’ because, at the time, we somehow know that saying “yes” means life to us. Saying yes means grace and forgiveness, love that is stronger than death, a place prepared with many mansions.”
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. As always I hope you have enjoyed these and found them thought-provoking. If there are particular topics or questions you would like for me to think about and wrestle with on the blog, please let me know. Also, if there are particular topics or articles you would like for me to consider including in the Links, please let me know that too. Until the next time, blessings on your week and thanks for reading! -TS