Last weekend I had the pleasure to join other family together in Appleton, Wisconsin to celebrate our cousin Britta as she affirmed her baptism and was confirmed. Making the day a little more special was that my uncle, Pastor Jeff Tengesdal, was the preacher for the day. I loved his sermon so much that I wanted to share it all with you. Jeff serves First English Lutheran Church and was preaching at the church’s “North Site” that morning. His sermon below was for Easter 4, based on Psalm 23 and John 10:10b-18. I hope you enjoy this sermon, as I believe it is rich with neighbor love imagery, stewardship thoughts, vocational questions and reflection. Thank you Uncle Jeff for letting me share this message on my blog!
There is a wolf nipping at our heels. It nips at the heels of most – if not every one of us – here. This wolf says, “You are not good enough. You have no worth.” This wolf is one that Jesus the Good Shepherd wants to protect us from.
When I was first a pastor near Williston, North Dakota, I also was a counselor for Lutheran Social Services. One day a Lutheran pastor had an appointment with me. She was feeling down. Lifeless. Really low energy. She recounted the ways she felt like she wasn’t up to the job of being a pastor and all the things that made her unworthy. At some point, I stopped her. I said to her, “You are enough. You are enough in God’s eyes.” Once upon a time, a couple of years before, it had been helpful for me to hear that. It surprised me how much it touched this pastor. She started crying. She took a deep breath and said, “Wow, I didn’t know how much I needed to hear that.”
There’s one thing I most want you to hear today. I want you to hear you are worthy of love and belonging. Here in church – and we don’t always get it right – may be the only place you will ever hear the words most clearly: You are worth of love and belonging.
This is not what we normally hear, and it’s not what we normally believe. Think about it. If our boss reviews our performance and gives us 49 “awesome’s” and 1 “opportunity for growth,” which are you going to remember? The opportunity for growth. Because we have been persuaded by a wolf of the world that we are not smart enough, strong enough, attractive enough, worthy enough, patient enough, or whatever enough.
I have to say, I think part of the problem is how we parent. We hold our newborn and we say, “Isn’t this the most perfect baby in the whole wide world?” Then we don’t let go of perfect. Either for our child’s sake, or for our sake, we want her to make the varsity team by 5th grade and the U. of Chicago by 7th grade. Perfection is not our job. Our job is to say, “You are imperfect, as am I. Even so, you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Today is sheep day. Good Shepherd day. Aside from John 3:16, probably the most famous scripture is the 23rd psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” What does this mean? The Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want. You shall not be in want. You shall have enough. You shall be enough.
We need to hear that every day, because every day the wolf nips at our heels. I remember my 8th grade year. Don, one of my classmates, out of the blue started calling me a wimp. It was a cruel thing to say, and I let it bother me. I wondered what was wrong with me. I began to think I should be more athletic. I should be more popular. Most of us here – probably all of us – should on ourselves a lot. I even catch myself doing it these days. Yesterday, I caught myself thinking I should be more patient waiting in the drive-through lane. Here’s another one that hooks me: “Pastors should be fascinated by everything everyone has to say.” Shoulds. Shoulds. Shoulds nip at our heels everyday.
Jesus says, “Wolves will snap. Those whom you thought were there for you will run away or cause you to feel shame. But I won’t. I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for my sheep. You are worthy of my death. You are worthy of love and belonging.”
Love and belonging. Like a flock of sheep. The other day I had the privilege of talking to a sheep guy. Until recently, this sheep guy had 26 good friends with woolly coats. One of the first things he explained to me about sheep is that they are a community. Even though each of the sheep has a different personality – some lead, some are curious, some like to stand in the background and watch – they like to be together.
It reminds me of the new research that’s been done on community. Twice in the past month I’ve heard research shows we are biologically wired to be in community. It’s why we’re here. God wired us to be connected. It’s part of the abundant life Jesus brings.
Community, however, is destroyed by the wolf. The wolf’s name is shame. Shame goes like this: Is there something about me that, if others knew or saw it, they wouldn’t want to be connected to me? I am afraid to show you my real self. I’m afraid to be fully in community.
I hope you know and believe Jesus the Good Shepherd is stronger and bigger than that wolf. This is what he says. “Don’t be afraid. Even though you walk through dark valleys with wolves nipping at your heels, don’t be afraid; for I am with you.” And he goes on to say, “I know you. I know your name. I know you are imperfect. So what? You are worthy of love and belonging. You are worthy of my life and death.”
This past week I asked my son what I should preach about today. He said, “Preach about the Lord of the Rings.” I asked, “What about the Lord of the Rings?” He said, “I don’t know. That’s your job.”
It got me to thinking about the movie. I remembered a scene in the second part of the trilogy. The forest is dark. The hobbit Frodo follows the elf-queen Galadriel down the steps to a basin. Galadriel takes up a silver pitcher and uses it to draw water from a fountain. She pours the water into the basin. Then she encourages Frodo to look into the water. She says something like this: “The water . . . it will show you what has been, what is, and some of what will be.”
Today you affirm your baptism. The water shows you what has been. In your baptism God has made you a sheep of the flock. And the water shows you what is. Jesus is your Good Shepherd. That’s what is. And the water shows some of what might be. I don’t know what specifics the future holds for you, but I do know some of what will be. Here, in the flock, in this community of faith . . . here will be one of the very few places where you will hear you are worthy of love and belonging.
Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have read, seen and found thought provoking over the past week with all of you. To help make sense of all these stories, articles and links I have grouped them by category. 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 and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!
Church and Ministry Thought & Practice
If you are looking ahead, planning worship or a sermon for this coming weekend and using the revised common lectionary, check out these thoughts and ideas about Easter 5B from Bishop Michael Rinehart, as well as from Rev. Dr. David Lose in “Easter 5B: On Being Pruned.”
My wife Allison shared a wonderful post about lifelong learning, ministry, theology and vocation in “Lifelong learning: In the space of ‘What happens if…?’” Allison writes about these thoughts and reflections, that “they raise more questions than answers. Like, how to befriend the local law enforcement, school board, teachers, families and students. Much like other fields of work, I think congregational work is becoming more inter-disciplinary. But I think serving as a pastor in the midst of a crisis will be hard work, and I won’t know what all will be required until it happens. But building relationships with those around me as soon as I get to a place or setting and being centered in my own work and connection with God will be helpful and crucial.” Check out the whole post!
Some of the work I do, I do remotely. Others I do from an office as part of ministry redevelopment currently. But, as one who has found himself working multiple roles simultaneously, I greatly appreciated this post by Alison Groves about “How to Avoid Burnout in a Remote Team.”
Julian Stodd wrote and reflected about “A Culture That Feels Right?” Within this, Julian writes, “Because culture is not granted from on high: it’s co-created in the moment by these and a million other decisions. It’s the ways we act, the conversations we have, the emails we send, the messages we project, the ways we dress, the way we respond to how others dress, it’s the website and the brochure. The culture is an artefact, not predictive. It’s as fickle as getting ideas above our station. So it’s in these big decisions as well as the myriad small ones that I see the signs of a company aware of its present and cognisant of its future. And that’s a great foundation to build off.” Definitely check out the whole post and see what you think.
Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some reflection about “The Art of Leadership.” Within this Ron notes about the NBA playoffs and leaders in general, “Effective leaders don’t overreact, they’re always bolstering the confidence of those they lead, and they communicate clearly. Just like the Warrior’s rookie coach.” Check out the post, but also check out the book Leadership Is An Artby Max DePree, which this post reminded me of because of its title. It just so happens to be one of my favorite little leadership books.
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links! As always, if you have particular topics or questions to think about on the blog, please let me know. Also, if you have particular things you would like to see in upcoming editions of the links, please let me know that too. Until next time, thank you for reading and blessings on your week! -TS
Today is a wonderful day! Today I have the joy of celebrating my wife Allison on her birthday. The day started off very well with her favorite pancakes as breakfast in bed, thanks to friends from church who brought back the Snoqualmie Pancake mix from Washington recently. It will include a visit to a local ice cream parlor later, and hopefully lots of well wishes from friends and loved ones as well.
At the same time, I am struck by the memory and gratitude for someone who recently passed away. Today I am thinking about Rev. E. Silas Torvend. Whether Pastor Torvend knew this or not, he played a notable role in both Allison’s and my life.
Pastor Torvend was the pastor who baptized Allison many years ago when she was just a baby. At that time, looking back, the impact of Pastor Torvend on our lives began.
Years later, Allison and I, though not knowing each other yet both decided to attend Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). While students at PLU we both found ourselves enjoying classes in the religion department, including classes taught by Dr. Samuel Torvend, Pastor Torvend’s son.
If it weren’t for Pastor Torvend and his wife Alice, we never would have met Dr. Torvend, and learned so much about religion. But more than that, Allison and I may never have grown in our friendship. I truly believe it is because of Dr. Torvend and a few other religion professors who helped create opportunities for group learning that Allison and I grew as friends and then later into a couple.
I am also grateful to Pastor Torvend and his wife Alice because of their great and generous stewardship. I was blessed to receive a scholarship for religion students in their name at PLU. This helped me finish college financially strong and led me off to graduate studies in good financial standing.
So, as I celebrate Allison’s birthday today, I also can’t help but think and be grateful for the wonderful gifts, life, faithfulness, service and leadership of Pastor E. Silas Torvend.
To Dr. Torvend, his mother Alice, and the whole Torvend family, I express my deepest gratitude for your husband, father, and friend. Thank you all for your friendship, for the way, whether you know it or not that you have positively affected our lives, ministry and future ministry, and for being such gifts to us, the larger church and the world.
The other day I was working off to the side in a local church while my wife was in a meeting. This is not a church or congregation that I see or visit often, but have been there a few times in the past. For the most part, I was just trying to get some emails worked through and I was grateful for the church’s free Wi-Fi.
As I was working though, I overheard some of the congregation’s older members. From what I could discern there was some other lunch function and a Circle Meeting happening. There was a little discontent that something out of the usual was happening at the church, and a number of people quietly (or not so quietly) asked “Who are they,” wondering about the function my wife and others were part of. I am used to this sort of query from the stereotypical “have to know everything” members of a congregation.
What really took me aback though was the response from one of those ladies, and likely lay leaders of the congregation. One of the leaders of the meeting Allison was part of, quietly went over to one of ladies to ask a question about the church. I was dumbfounded by the reply she was given by the church member who said:
“I know nothing about that. I can’t help you. Goodbye.”
Let me repeat that, “I know nothing about that. I can’t help you. Goodbye.” Not only is that not hospitality, that is not evangelism. That is not missional. There was no sense of willingness from the church member to help the visitor to that congregation’s space find the information she asked about. No willingness to at least point her to a staff person or other lay leader present. There was no graciousness in this reply. There was no welcome in it.
I was livid. If this had been a congregation I was a member at, I would have walked right over and done something. I’m not sure what, but it would not have stood. I sincerely hope that replies like this don’t happen often anywhere, but especially the church. Seeing it and witnessing it though reminds me that we have a long way to go in ministry and the church to cultivate relationships and really be places of welcome and connection, rather than places of insular focuses.
To be fair, I don’t know the woman’s story. I don’t know if she was crazy stressed, or if she fears strangers. But I do know, that what I witnessed recently was not grace filled, nor the sense of welcome that I believe the church is about.
What would you have done in that experience? What are your hopes for the church as a bearer of welcome and hospitality?
Tuesday on the blog (usually) means that I get to share some of what I have found interesting and thought provoking with all of you. This week I’m a day late, but better late than never. To help make sense of all the links, I have grouped them in 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 these links!
This past weekend I had the honor and great privilege to participate in the Academy of Religious Leadership’s (ARL) annual meeting and conference in Chicago. Later this week I will share thoughts and reflections from that experience on the blog. In the meantime, Kyle Small shared the drafted topic and focus for next year’s ARL Annual Meeting, “Engaging Sacred Texts for Leadership Formation.” Check this out and check out ARL!
Back in October, Bhavin Parikh and Aaron Schwartz shared “6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask during an Investor Meeting.” The questions include: When was the last time you made an investment? What is your typical bite size? What is your decision-making process? Who do you co-invest with? How does our business fit within your portfolio? And, how do you interact with founders after investing?
Bob Tiede shared a guest post by Kathy Rapp which raises, “3 Questions Leaders Should Ask Now.” The questions highlighted are: What do you tell your family or best friend about working here? Are most days glorious or is it really “just a job?” And, are we hiring retainable employees?
Friend and seminarian Beth Wartick shared this news about a woman in Texas who is using, “Texas’ ‘religious freedom’ law to fight $2,000 fine for feeding the homeless.” (The story was also picked up here.) Again, as I have asked in this section for weeks, how is it possible that one can be fined or imprisoned for feeding the hungry and caring for those in need? These laws and ordinances are the opposite of neighbor love. All municipalities with such ordinances truly do not know what it means to care, support and love. How is it possible that such things can be lawful and constitutional? I call for all elected officials in such places to be held accountable. I also hope that if I ever find myself in such a municipality that I would continue to serve all neighbors in need, no matter the laws that might say otherwise.
You had to think that eventually someone would take up the question and idea about “God and the Seattle Seahawks.” Well, apparently it happened last January and I must have missed it. So, Matthew Kaemingk and Christ & Cascadia shared these propositions: Pete Carroll and a Theology of Fun; Pete Carroll and a Theology of Creative Competition; and Pete Carroll and a Theology of Community of Individuality.” There was also a follow-up post, which looked at, “Fan Worship: The Seahawks and Northwest Spirituality.” Check out both of these posts and see what you think.
Last week (4/14/15), friend and professor Rev. Dr. Kathryn Shifferdecker shared a great reflection on the “Stewardship of Creation.” (To read this post, you will need to follow the link and then on the drop-down archive email, select 4/14/15.)
That will conclude this week’s edition of the links. I hope you have enjoyed them! As always, if you have questions to consider or ideas for me to unpack on the blog, please let me know. Also, if you have types of things you would like to see included in future editions of the links, please let me know that too. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation! Blessings on your week! -TS
Tuesday on the blog means that I get to share some of what I have read, seen and found interesting from the past week. To help make sense of all these links I have grouped them in the following topic categories: Church and Ministry Thought & Practice; Cross-Sector Collaboration; Leadership Thought & Practice; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; Worship and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!
Kim Hunt asked and shared, “Should Your Church Care More about Justice?” As part of this she shared “6 practical steps churches can take to get more involved in justice issues.” The steps include: recycle; go fair trade/ethical; give sacrificially; volunteer as a community; create a prayer group and visit your elected representative.
Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis shared a timely reflections and commentary for the season of Easter. She shared some reflections about doubt in “The Courage to Ask,” and also shared that post on her own blog.
Christina Embree shared a couple ministry and church related posts. She reflected about “Defining ‘Success’ in Ministry,” as well as about something we have probably all heard from children, other people or possible even ourselves at times, “Church is Boring.” Check out both reflections and see what you think. How might you respond in your own context?
Julian also shared a humbling post about social leadership in asking, “Who is Timothy?” That inspired my own reflection about “Social Leadership.” What do you think about social leadership? What might it mean to be a social leader or a leader in the social age?
Lolly Daskal wrote, “Wear Your Life Like a Loose Garment.” Lolly writes that, “When you wear life as a loose garment, you can…”: get to the naked truth; give the shirt off your back; walk in someone’s shoes; don’t dress others down; wear your heart on your sleeve; don’t be a stuffed shirt; take off your hat; treat people with kid’s gloves; don’t keep it in your pocket and dress your best.
Dan also shared a post helpful for leaders and Millennials and other young leaders in “10 Ways to be a Mature Leader even if You’re Young.” Some of the ways he notes include: maintain perspective; continue striving for excellence; seek input and listen to suggestions; admit failures without making excuses; rise to service quickly and freely and commit to learning. Check out the whole post!
Also at Thin Difference, Jon Mertz shared thoughts about “A Challenge: Be a Student as Much as a Leader.” Within this Jon shares some guiding thoughts about how to be a student as much as a leader. These include learn more than you tell, learn to act better and learn to help others learn. Check out the whole post!
Elizabeth Rawlings shared important and powerful reflections and questions about “Nonviolence and rape.” She closes with the following thoughts and questions that I repeat now, “I would never, ever tell someone to accept rape. I don’t know how to tell someone to actively resist rape in a nonviolent way. I would fight with my last breath to keep myself or someone I love from being raped. I would accept beating, I would accept many things being done to me in the name of nonviolence. But not rape. How do we rectify this? How do we speak of nonviolence in cases of sexual violence? Is there a nonviolent option? Or do we accept violence as a necessary response in this world? Is nonviolence always the answer? Anyone?” What do you think?
During April each year we observe Earth Day. With this in mind, the COMPASS blog is providing space for reflections this month about environmental stewardship and creation care. To begin the series I shared this introductory post on “Earth Day, Creation Care & Stewardship.”
In a move that is quite contrary to creation care and environmental stewardship, the United States congress has threatened to sell off public lands or allow private control. If you are concerned about this like I am, please join me in telling Congress that “America’s public lands are not for sale.” For more on this story, check out this piece by Will Rogers, “Our Land, Up for Grabs.”
That will conclude this week’s links. I hope you have enjoyed them. As always, if there are questions or ideas that you would like me to think about on the blog, please let me know. Also, if there are types of things you would like to see included in future editions of the links, please let me know that too. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation! Blessings on your week! -TS
Last week I was greatly humbled by blogger and thinker Julian Stodd when Julian wrote and reflected in “Who is Timothy?” Julian and I have never met in person, but are connected through social media. I have found much of Julian’s thoughts, reflections and questions over the past couple of years thought provoking and helpful for my own thought. So, thank you Julian for last week’s post, and please allow me to return the favor. Also, if you don’t yet follow Julian’s blog, please start following it!
I want to share a few thoughts in building off of that post by Julian. Each Tuesday I offer a regular post called, “This Week’s Links.” This began almost two years ago now as an idea and way to share some of the things I found interesting in the preceding week. I didn’t know how long I would continue this practice, but as I do so, I have discovered that it has been one of the more appreciated things I offer on this blog. Julian is right when he says it is an act of “curation, interpretation and sense making.” I like to share. It’s part of my stewardship. But on a self-serving side, sharing all of these pieces like this, allows me to find them in the future for further work or research.
Julian writes and reflects frequently on “social leadership.” I haven’t written much in this area necessarily, though I do offer thoughts about leadership and leadership perspectives. To make some sense out of this though, consider what Julian wrote:
“Timothy and i are not the same: his worldview and mine are not the same. We may be aligned in values, aligned by curiosity, aligned in our intent, but our specific views on a given article or situation may not be the same. Which is the value of community: diversity of thought, diversity of perspective, diversity of opinion. But united in shared values and shared purpose. In this case, our shared values are around curiosity and making sense of the world.”
Leadership for me involves bringing a diversity of perspective to the table. This is community, true, but good leadership intentionally seeks out diversity in order to be able to have the widest vision, buy-in, and deepest connection. Leadership is not about bringing people who are all alike or think alike around the same table. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The only way for innovation and new ideas to occur, are for them to be challenged by different perspectives and ways of thinking and doing things. I deeply believe this is imperative for the sake of the common good. (However you may define that term.)
In thinking specifically about social leadership, Julian lifts up the idea of “co-creation.” This is collaboration at its finest. Even when we may not set out to intentionally work together, through the sharing of ideas and questions we are in essence not only collaborating together, but also creating and sharing.
To share one’s story is risky. It takes courage. But it also invites participation. This is a true benefit of our social age that we live in, with the means to more easily share our stories across time and space through blogs and social media. Julian puts it well by noting about this, “Loose social ties across vast distances: united by interests. Unafraid to share our stories.”
In this Social Age, our thoughts and ideas are shared and connected with others. They are processed, questioned, put into practice, remixed and interpreted. This has hopefully been the case with all thought throughout history. It just so happens that in today’s world, through the access we have, we are able to go through this process a lot quicker through instantaneous posting and sharing.
Social Leadership for me then, is reflective especially of three things:
A willingness to share.
A desire to be connected, and part of something bigger than ourselves.
A desire to learn and grow.
Social leadership for me is not about just putting information out there, or selling and marketing. Rather, it is about a desire to as Julian puts it, “co-create,” and learn together for the sake of the larger world we live in.
What do you think? What does social leadership mean to you? What might it look like?