Social Media Sunday

Last Sunday many congregations across different denominations of the church participated in “Social Media Sunday 2015.” It was not a coincidence that it was also Reformation Sunday. A few years ago, some innovative leaders and thinkers in the church who recognized the opportunity, importance, and possibility of digital media for ministry formed this annual observance.

The visionary behind this concept, Carolyn Clement, put together a short video in advance of Social Media Sunday this year, entitled “From Gutenberg to Google”:

The concept makes sense. A new technology, the printing press made it possible to share the Bible and Word of God more easily, putting the Word in the hands of the people, just in time for the new ideas and challenges posed by the Reformation. Given today’s increased rates of change, new media, and new technology, it is possible that what is happening in the world may be a change comparable in some way. At the very least, these changes pose both new opportunities and challenges for faith and the church.

That background is good, but it’s not the main motivator for this post. Rather, I would like to share some observations of things that I learned while participating in Social Media Sunday, as well as in the days and week following. Here are five observations and lessons learned, or at least that I am still thinking about:

Participation 

A pastor taking a selfie on Social Media Sunday
A pastor taking a selfie on Social Media Sunday

I believe in the idea of the “Priesthood of All Believers.” Social Media in worship, church, and faith provides a means for everyone to participate beyond only “attending” worship. I saw this in the way people “checked-in” at church on Sunday on their social media channels, and in the way they engaged the day through selfies, other pictures, and even live-tweeting a sermon. At first some people might think this is distracting, but I think it really allows for people to share and be part of ministry in a new way.

Story

On Facebook and Twitter especially I witnessed people share the story of faith. I saw some congregations, like the one I worship at, celebrate the Reformation and draw connections between social media and the printing press. I also saw the way the stories of faith were being shared as young adults were confirmed in a number of congregations this past weekend as well. Social Media provides a means to share our faith stories in ways that previously did not exist.

Evangelical

The sharing of stories, pictures, and questions posed with the world is being evangelical. That just happens to be part of the name of the larger church I am a part of (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). I really saw that in action in person, as people used social media in real-time, and then Sunday afternoon by looking at the way people had shared their stories, and were continuing to share what they saw, heard, and experienced in worship that morning.

Mission

The Gospel of Matthew ends with the sending and commissioning of disciples by Jesus who proclaims, “Go baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” On Sunday, more than a usual day, I saw this act of being sent in real time. People shared in the moment, and then shared their stories with the world after worship. There was sharing. In worship services that morning, there were some baptisms and especially affirmation of baptisms. But through the way people used their social media tools in new ways, I saw learning, teaching, sharing, and reminders of the gospel message of God being “for you,” and “with you,” like this Tweet:

New Tools and New Questions

In the days following Social Media Sunday, I was part of conversations regarding what happened, what was learned, and the potential going forward. Like with anything, there is an element of discernment. I encourage you to check out the #ChSocM chat weekly on Tuesday evenings, but also to follow the hashtag for more insights about digital ministry.

If you participated in Social Media Sunday, what did you learn and observe this year? If you did not, but would like to engage social media and ministry in some way, what questions or ideas do you have?

As for me, I am hopeful that the learning from Social Media Sunday leads to engaging Social Media like that every week, not just once per year. How about you?

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and 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; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are writing a sermon or planning for worship this weekend for All Saints Sunday, check out these thoughts on “All Saints” from Bishop Michael Rinehart, as well as “Saintly Activity,” by friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, and “Look Twice,” by Rev. Dr. David Lose. Also, check out this lectionary column by Carol Howard Merritt.

Rozella White wrote about “The Role of Church for Such a Time as This.”

In the spirit of the 498th anniversary of the Reformation and in looking at the rise of the digital age, Carolyn Clement put together this great little video, “From Gutenberg to Google.” Definitely watch it and see what you think from the questions posed in it.

Blogger and pastor Clint Schnekloth asked and pondered, “What is Our Reformation?

Clint also shared about “The Challenging Gift of of Shane Claiborne.”

Friend, pastoral associate, and blogger Stefanie Fauth-Lemke shared a video discussion on “Genesis 3.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared transcripts of their past couple of weekly chats, “Denominational & community identity. How do we share what makes us, us?” as well as, “Social Media Sunday and YOU.”

I am excited to share this “Christmas Invitation” from Pacific Lutheran University. Tickets to their annual Christmas concerts go on sale on November 2nd. Check out this link for information, and also look for the great news about an upcoming television special of the concert just in time for Christmas.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth shared some thoughts on “Why She Has a Clergy Coach.” Perhaps her reasons might resonate with yours? Check them out and see if a coach might be helpful for you.

Maria Gronholz shared about, “Twelve Cascadian Arts and Faith Organizations to Know About.”

Friend and Augsburg Fortress CEO Beth Lewis shared about, “Discipleship Resources to Deepen Lives of Faith,” as well as a story about Julie O’Brien in “Talent!

I came across this article by Dr. Rowan Williams looking at, “How Christianity’s Eastern history has been forgotten.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Tyler Gubsch shared some thoughts and reflections on “The Success of the Church.” What do you think?

Christina Embree wrote and shared about, “Accidental Discipleship: Habits Your Kids Pick Up From You,” as well as “Back to the Future (and by Future, I mean, Present).”

Robert King shared this great look at the “Death and resurrection of an urban church.” Definitely give this a read.

Friend, pastor, and college chaplain Siri Erickson shared this post by Olivia Whitener, “I Am a Mainline Protestant Under the Age of 35. Yes, We Exist.” As another person that fits that category, yes, we do indeed exist.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Pastor and blogger Jan Edmiston shared about the social sector and thoughts about why she “Hearts Non-Profits.”

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared this video channel look at “Complexity Learning.”

Social leadership theorist and blogger Julian Stodd shared some more perspective on change, as well as its relationship to authenticity, writing, “Change Curve: Grounding your Authenticity.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Tanveer Naseer shared thoughts on the importance of “Understanding The Power of Our Words,” as well as a guest post by Shawn Murphy looking at “3 Factors that Prevent Leaders from Creating Workplace Optimism.”

Shawn Murphy also shared a post for Dan Forbes at Lead with Giants highlighting, “6 Leadership Actions that Energize the Workplace.”

"why inspires" by Vonda Drees
In the spirit of developing feelings of curiosity, friend, artist, and blogger Vonda Drees shared this beautiful piece titled, “why inspires.”

Brian Dodd shared a list of “14 Things Leaders do to Breathe Life into a Dying Organization.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of leadership reflections and pieces of food for thought, including good thoughts on “How to Develop Feelings of Curiosity,” as well as some thoughts on “Nicknames Your Boss Deserves But You Don’t Dare to Use,” and “How Sincere Leaders Sabotage Their Organizations.”

Justin Irving shared part two of, “10 Life Lessons from Youth Sports.

My friends at LEAD shared, “5 Things I Do to Manage My Life.”

Francesca Gina and Bradley Staats explained about, “Why Organizations Don’t Learn.”

Anne Loehr shared and asked, “Feeling Stuck? Might Be Time for a Crucial Conversation.”

Andrea Edwards asked, “If You’re a CEO and Not on Social, Are You Truly ‘Customer-Obsessed?’” What do you think? At the very least, I think it’s a fair question.

Jasmine Sandler pointed to, “3 Ways Small Business CEOs Need to Use Social Branding.”

Friend, blogger, and communications director Carrie Gubsch shared a couple leadership posts and articles that caught my eye. These included Rachel Botsman’s look at, “The Changing Rules of Trust in the Digital Age,” and Jan Phillips’ post about, “Rethinking Women’s Leadership: Shifting Into a Paradigm of We and Us.”

Scott Guthrie argues that, “The Social Age Needs Real, Human Leadership.”

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference explains that, “Interdependence Empowers Collaboration and Results,” and that “Purpose-Driven is Out. Purpose-Activated Is In.” What do you think?

Also at Thin Difference, Heidi Oran wrote about, “The Introverted Leader.”

Millennials

Stefanie O’Connell wrote about “The Quarter Life Crisis: The Millennial Call to Action.”

If you have some time to watch or listen to some great thoughts on “Marketing to Millennials” from Chelsea Krost, then check out this speech.

Noa Gafni took a look at apparently “Why So Many Millennials Aren’t Into Protest Movements.” What do you think?

Neighbor Love

Friend and program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger, Ryan Cumming, wrote fittingly this past week, “It’s ‘Back to the Future Day.'”

My wife Allison shared her recent sermon based on Mark 10:35-45, “You are not Jesus.” Allison thought it was a “weird sermon.” I thought it was powerful and moving. I particularly loved this portion of Allison’s sermon, when she preached, “We are free to not be Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are freed from the task of being the name above all names. Because being the most independent and the most free is exhausting. But we’re not totally off the hook – It’s not up to us to save the world, but it’s up to us to do the best we can. We are given opportunities and gifts and strengths not to save people, not to fix people, but to serve. We are truly freed, or you could say, “freed up” to serve our neighbor.” Go and read the whole sermon and see what you think.

"Rise Up, Creative!" by Vonda Drees
“Rise Up, Creative!” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These included: “a luminous pause“; “second fiddle“; “perpetual presence“; “home-foundation and future“; “Rise Up, Creative!“; “wild grace“; “why inspires“; “What awakens our soul?“; and “becoming all that i am.”

Rozella Haydee White shared, “A Word on Truth,” her recent sermon on John 8:31-36. Within this Rozella explains why she thinks and believes that, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his recent sermon based on 2 Samuel 6:1-5, “A life of service.”

Friend, pastoral associate, and blogger Stefanie Fauth Lemke shared some All Saints inspired reflections in writing, “Simultaneously Sinner and Saint.”

Social Media & Blogging

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

Mickie Kennedy wrote and unpacked about, “The Art of Storytelling on Social Media.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared an important perspective from Maria Konnikova on “How the Internet Has Changed Bullying.”

Stewardship

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared about his recent piece in The Lutheran, about “Young Adults and Giving,” which was titled in the magazine, “From Myths to Ministry,” which looked especially at Millennials and stewardship. Check out the post, and see the insights and ideas shared by a number of friends and thinkers. In the interest of full-disclosure, I am thankful that Adam included me in this article as well. Thank you Adam.

For Halloween, of course you need some Pumpkins as decorations.
For Halloween, of course you need some Pumpkins as decorations.

The COMPASS blog continued its October theme and focus on how to enjoy a “Frugal Fall” over the past week. First, Matt and Chelsea DeBall shared practical tips and ideas for how to enjoy a Frugal Fall by creating frugal “Halloween decorations.” If you’re still scrambling for some last minute decoration ideas, definitely check these out.

I also shared some thoughts as part of the series on “Why be Frugal,” thinking about both notions of contentment and community within my wife Allison’s and my own life, sense of stewardship, vocation, and faith.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner shared thoughts on “Why Everyone Should Be Aware of Their Financial Situation.”

Erin at Young Adult Money looked at a list of the “Top 10 Personal Finance Apps and Tools to Use.” What do you think of these?

Vocation

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson invited me to share some “Tuesday Tea Time,” this past Tuesday on her blog with some vocational thoughts and questions. Check them out and join the conversation.

News broke this past week that Judge Jay Roof would be retiring. Well done good and faithful servant in your service and work for justice and the community.

Friend and musician Meagan Grandall and her group Lemolo were recently profiled in, “Lemolo conquer America, one house at a time.”

Tom Jacobs wrote and shared, “Feeling Isolated? Try Choral Singing.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth shared some thoughts about “Stopping in at the Pre-School.”

Miscellaneous 

Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg shared some updates and reflections about the Seattle Mariners’ off-season, writing about, “Dipoto’s Delightfully Insane Front Office,” and “Servais at Mariners Service.”

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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. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; “why inspires“; and “Rise Up, Creative!

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and 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; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; and Vocation. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship and observing Reformation this weekend, check out Rev. Dr. David Lose’s thoughts on “Reformation Sunday/Pentecost 22B: Freedom!” Also, spend some time thinking about both the gospel of Mark passage for this weekend 10:46-52, as well as the appointed text from the gospel of John for Reformation with friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis who wrote, “No More Silence (Mark 10:46-52).”

For those of you preparing for worship and following the Narrative Lectionary, Roger Nam shares a “Commentary on 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 6:1-5; Psalm 150.”

Karoline also shared her post from last week on “The Ability of Ableness.”

In a story that is utterly ridiculous, an “Oakland Gospel Choir Draws Nuisance Complaint, Faces $500 A Day Fine.” If you ask me, the people who complained should be the one facing a fine. This is ridiculous. I hope the choir continues its rehearsals as normal.

Blogger and pastor Clint Schnekloth shared some thoughts about church size and numbers in writing about, “The right size for church.”

LEAD shared an article from Word and World written by friend, blogger, and professor Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile, about the importance and power of “Dwelling in the Word: Affirming Its Promise.”

This past week on this blog I shared some reflections and thoughts about my early experiences as a mission developer this year, writing about some, “Early Leadership Lessons from Life as a Mission Developer.”

Are you or someone you know looking for a new opportunity in worship and music ministry? If so, I encourage you to check out this exciting opportunity that is open at Messiah Lutheran in Vancouver, Washington.

Jan Edmiston asked, “Do Job Titles Matter?” Jan also pondered, “What if Pastors weren’t in Worship Every Sunday Either?” Give this a read and see what you think.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth pondered about worship asking, “What Makes Worship Good?

Christina Embree reflected about, “How We ‘Broke’ The Family.”

Pastor and blogger Andrew Bell articulated why he thinks that, “We in the #ELCA need more #exponential conversations.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Tom Murphy at The Humanosphere reports that, “Doctors Without Borders ramps up pressure for independent investigation of Afghan hospital attack.”

Tom also shared that, “This card game will end poverty…by making fun of aid.”

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared about, “Advice Giving & the Classroom.”

Social leadership theorist Julian Stodd shared a number of perspectives on change including: “Segmenting Resistance,” “Functional Inequality,” and “Overcoming Stasis.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Steve Keating shared some leadership insights in explaining that, “Information is the Enemy of of Rumor,” and about, “The Destructive Nature of Can’t.”

Youth sports like soccer, pictured here.
What life lessons have you, or could you, learn from youth sports like soccer, pictured here?

Justin Irving shared and unpacked, “10 Life Lessons from Youth Sports.”

Skip Prichard shared thoughts and reflections from a conversation with author and CEO Cheryl Bachelder on “How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of helpful and insightful leadership reflections, including, “5 Ways Talented Leaders Sabotage Themselves,” and “10 Powerful Beliefs of Unstoppable Leaders.” What might you add to these two lists from your own experiences and observations?

Anne Loehr shared insights about leadership and emotional intelligence writing that “It Takes Courage to Use EQ.” Check out Anne’s thoughts and see why it takes courage.

In the November edition of the Harvard Business Review, there is an extended look at “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World.” Be sure and spend some time with this issue.

Ravin Gandhi explained about “3 Things All Successful Business Partnerships Need.”

Seth Godin shared some thoughts about change, leadership, and story, in writing about, “Offense and defense, a b2b insight.” Within this Seth begins, “Selling change to organizations is difficult. One reason is that change represents a threat, a chance for things to go wrong. It’s no wonder that many people avoid anything that smells of change. Another reason is that different people in the organization have different worldviews, different narratives.” Check out the post to see how Seth unpacks this further.

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference shares reflections about life, leadership, vocation, and purpose, writing “Purpose Threads.”

Millennials

Jeremy Chandler at Thin Difference explained about, “What Every Boss Wants from Millennials and How to Respond.”

Dylan Taylor shared a look at “How Millennials Are Redefining Leadership.”

Chelsea Krost shared a great and important post by Baldwin Cunningham looking at “What Makes Millennial Networking Different.”

Neighbor Love

Friend, blogger, and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared about a new venture from Mihee Kim-Kort called, “This Everyday Holy.”

Matt Calkins wrote about, “Why Bremerton coach Joe Kennedy’s stance on postgame prayer is admirable.” Check out this story to hear about a high school football coach, postgame prayer, and the supposed controversy that the combination of the two has created.

"faith, hope, love," by Vonda Drees.
“faith, hope, love,” by Vonda Drees.

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These posts included: “stillness reveals“; “faith, hope, love“; “letting go into Bigger seeing“; “deep time“; “on your mark, get set, question…“; and “awe is a lifesaver.”

Margaret Felice wrote and shared, “That marriage might make me holy.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared a “Sermon on Ruth and Irrational Love.”

Friend, blogger and pastoral associate Stefanie Fauth-Lemke also shared her sermon for this past weekend based on the Narrative Lectionary reading from Ruth 1, “Where you go, I will go…” reminding me of the song I sang to Allison that quoted that passage during our wedding. Stefanie also shared some great thoughts about, “Loving your neighbor…

Sonia Nazario shared an important and powerful look at “The Refugees at Our Door.”

Friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess shared this post by Parker Palmer on “Breathing New Life into ‘We the People.'”

Over at The Salt Collective, friend, pastor, and blogger Stephanie Vos wrote, “Dear Future Humans, Sorry About All the Garbage.”

"awe is a lifesaver" by Vonda Drees.
“awe is a lifesaver” by Vonda Drees.

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared about, “A Lesson from Desmond Tutu.”

Friend, blogger, and graduate student Kristen Lee reflected about vocation, life, neighbor love and curiosity in sharing, “On Curiosity.” I am particularly struck by the closing question and reflections that Kristen shared. Kristen writes, “remaining isolated from the world is not what we are called to do as Christians. The church is not a place for us to remain complacent, a sanctuary from the realities of life.  Instead, we are called to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2, NRSV). In order to take up the burden of the neighbor we need to know what those burdens are, and this is where curiosity comes into play. How can curiosity help you shoulder the burdens of your neighbor?”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson his sermon from this past weekend based on Mark 10:35-45, on “Becoming servants (and other surprisingly good things).”

Social Media & Blogging

Kim Garst explained about, “How Live-Streaming is Changing The Face of Social Media.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared, “6 Creative Ways to Integrate Social Media and Email Marketing,” as compiled by Jimmy Daly.

Stewardship

Stefanie O’Connell wrote about and asked, “Pay Transparency: What if all salaries were public knowledge?” What do you think about the idea of “universal pay transparency”?

Kristi at Young Adult Money unpacked “12 Ways to Give Back that Don’t Involve Donating Money.” What might you add to this list?

Alvin Carlos shared about “5 Ways to Be Good Stewards of Our Money,” over at The Millennial Journal

Vocation

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared another example of how the Pacific Northwest really is beautiful and the best in “Operation Pacific Northwest.”

Over on friend Julia Nelson‘s blog, Britta Gene shared a guest post as part of Julia’s regular installment of vocational and life reflections in “Tuesday Tea 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. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; youth soccer; “faith, hope, love“; and “awe is a lifesaver.”

Early Leadership Lessons from Life as a Mission Developer

My new picture as a congregational mission developer
My new picture as a congregational mission developer

For the past month and a half I have been serving as a half-time mission developer for a local congregation in the Pacific Northwest. In this short time so far, I have learned a lot. I have been reminded of many other things I have learned before, in work, classes, and other settings, and I have had the enjoyable opportunity to experiment and wonder. During this time, I have learned at least seven lessons.

Questions are your friend

In starting any new role, questions are your friend. People are happy to share and to help, if you ask and invite them to. I have known this before, but have found new resonance in this setting. In mission development work it is important to ask questions of people and their stories, but also of research and data. Some of the questions I have been pondering: What brings you here? What are you passionate about? What is changing and growing in this context? What might God be up to?

Listen, listen, listen

As questions are important, it is probably even more important to listen. Listen to people’s stories, answers, and questions. Listen to what the data might be suggesting. Listen to the wisdom of other leaders who have worked in these contexts and have (and continue) to serve faithfully in their roles, lives, and ministry.

Presence is key

In leadership and life, relationships matter. To build relationships, you need to have presence. I have found that between asking the questions and listening, it is also imperative to be present with others- to be part of the community. I have seen this while as a mission developer so far by being in worship, by helping set up for an ecumenical day of community service, and in restocking shelves at a local food bank. To develop anything, takes a willingness to be part of and present in the larger community.

Never underestimate the importance of story

Mission development is also about vision casting. In this it is important to share the story of the mission. In this case, it’s sharing the Good News of the Gospel, and the mission of God and God’s kingdom breaking into the world. Story is part of this, because just as we tell God’s story, we help people see that their own stories are part of God’s on-going story. How has that led to this day and community of faith? Where might this story be leading this faith community into a new way of being and a new day as a community of believers?

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

Imagination is a beautiful thing

The story and vision, guided by questions and discernment, are also furthered by imagination. What do you see? What do you hope and dream for? Where do you sense the Holy Spirit leading? These are questions that are part of mission development as well, because God’s vision is so much bigger than ours. We can only begin to imagine what God might be up to.

You Need to be able to Overcome a Fear of Failure

When I was in seminary I learned that within congregations at least, about 25% of what you try will succeed. That means that 75% of those “missional experiments” you might try will fail. That could be a sobering statistic that would make a perfectionist cower. But, if you can overcome that fear, it’s an exciting thing. It calls faith leaders, pastors, mission developers, to take risks and be entrepreneurial for the sake of the gospel. As the rate of change has increased exponentially, so has the need to try new things. Lacking a willingness to do so, is perhaps the only long-term failure.

Love matters

After all, this work is not about me. It’s about God, and sharing the news and story of God’s love and promises. If you love God and you love your neighbor, the rest will fall into place.

Well, that’s what I think I have learned so far. I am sure I will learn much more as the year continues, and I am excited to see where that road will lead.

What do you think? What leadership lessons have you learned from your roles and vocations recently? What new questions are you wondering? What experiments are you conducting? And what hopes and dreams do you have today? 

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and 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; Millennials; Neighbor Love; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope 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 some helpful thoughts and commentaries to share. If you are following the revised common lectionary, David Lose shared and asked, “Pentecost 21B: Who Will You Serve?” Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis dug into the gospel passage more in thinking about, “The Ability of Ableness.”

If you are following the narrative lectionary, Vanessa Lovelace shared a very helpful “Commentary on Ruth 1:1-17.”

Friend, blogger, and communications director, Hannah Heinzekehr reflected about, “A complex communion.”

If you are into church, social media, and digital ministry, you should check out these “12 Top Digital Ministry Experts You Should Know.” I’m happy to see friend and professor Dr. Mary Hess included, as well as Meredith Gould and pastor Keith Anderson.

Speaking of Meredith Gould, she moderated last week’s Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) chat all about “Memories.”

Are you planning to participate in Social Media Sunday on October 25th? I highly encourage you to join.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Joe Smith reflected about, “The Full-Time Ministry Ideal.”

LEAD shared about, “The Powerful Art of Alignment,” and the great importance of having aligned ministries.

Bishop Micheal Rinehart shared some presentations and handouts being used in presentations for the Delaware-Maryland Synod.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth shared about her “faith, in community,” and about how she has “Loved Sunday School.” In thinking about Sunday School Diane writes, “I have loved Sunday School, but I have to admit that, for a lot of churches, and a lot of children, it isn’t working.  They are not learning the stories of the Bible, but most of all, they aren’t learning that other adults in the church care about them. But one of the gifts of the church is still relationships.  It is a place where we can meet each other and know each other across generations, where we will realize that Forgiveness Is a Really Big Number, and where we can share stories and songs and pray and catch faith from one another. If only we will only make the space.” What do you think?

It’s generally not a good sign when church conflict makes it into the news, such is the case from the Twin Cities when you see a story about a “Church torn apart.”

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston writes, “Kill the Meetings. Set People Free.” What do you think?

Blogger and pastor Tim Brown offered, “3 Reasons No One is Joining Your Church (Plus One More).”

In a couple weeks for Lutherans anyway, is an important day in the church year, Reformation Sunday. We’re also about 2 years shy of the 500th Anniversary of the start of the Reformation. In thinking about the Reformation, friend and Ph.D. student Tim Snyder writes, “Re-formed in God’s vision of love.”

Also with Reformation in mind, Beth Lewis helps set the stage by writing, “Have some fun on the Road to Reformation! (& learn some new things, too).”

Speaking of Beth Lewis and the company she is CEO of, Augsburg Fortress, pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth reflected about, “Meeting Augsburg Fortress Publishing House Again as if for the First Time.”

Rachel Held Evans shared thoughts, “On Giving Testimony: Why ‘Why Christian?’ Worked,” in thinking and reflecting on the “Why Christian?” conference that was held last month.

Are you involved in leading youth ministry? If so, I encourage you to check out the schedule for the 2016 Youth Ministry Extravaganza, and hope that you decide to register and come.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Tom Murphy at The Humanosphere notes that the, “World Banks draws a new-ish extreme poverty line.”

Social leadership theorist Julian Stodd shared some more reflections on change, writing and sharing, “Change Curve: Foundations of Change.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Dan Rockwell shared a number of good leadership reflections and tips, including “The Potter’s Wheel of Leadership,” “How to Disrupt Your Way to Exponential Growth,” and “7 Ways to Find Purpose.”

Justin Irving asked, “Are You Able to Lead with Clarity and Calmness?

Ted Bauer argues that, “It’s time to start caring about developing new leaders.” Amen!

Lolly Daskal shared some “Communication Mistakes to Avoid in a Difficult Conversation,” as well as, “Everything You Need to Know about Becoming a Great Leader.”

Terre Lupberger argues that, “Great leadership begins with coaching.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared this great look by Elizabeth Grace Saunders on, “How to Stop Overplanning (even if you’re a perfectionist).” Carrie also shared this post highlighting, “7 Ways Blogging Makes You a Better Leader.” What do you think?

My wife Allison meeting Brene Brown
My wife Allison meeting Brene Brown

Michael Soto makes the case for leaders to “Start looking at business with a ‘Shared Value’ approach.”

Brian Dodd shared, “21 Leadership Quotes from Brene Brown.”

Tanveer Naseer shared ideas for “How Leaders Can Manage the Perception of Progress,” as well as asked a great and important question, “Are You Inspiring Those You Lead to be Extraordinary?

Steve Keating shared a few leadership themed posts including, “Leading You,” and thoughts about, “When Managers Don’t Lead.”

Now that both the Democrat and Republican parties have had their first presidential debates, Polly Mosendz shares a look at, “How the Republican Presidential Debate Topics Compare with the Democratic Debate.” I think this is very interesting. What do you think?

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Ana Mari Cauce who was named the next president of the University of Washington.

Friend and coach Jody Thone shared these thoughts from Russ Moxley about how, “Becoming a Leader is Becoming Yourself.”

Thin Difference shared a number of great posts related to leadership and Millennials. These included: this post from Megan Dougherty about, “The Potter Box: Staying on the Right Path“; an interview by Jon Mertz with Whitney Johnson, “Disrupt Yourself“; as well as thoughts from Eric Torrence on, “Going Off the Grid: the Uncomfortable Potential of Unplugging.” Check out all of these posts!

Millennials

Thin Difference also shared a guest post by Daniel Weinzveg, “Debunking the Myth of Generational Gaps,” and some great thoughts from Jon Mertz about the reality and importance of “Shifting from Digital Native to Digital Citizen.”

Amy Tobin wrote about, “Generational BS: Millennial Hype has Driven Us All Mad.” Agree or disagree?

Peter Economy unpacked, “4 Ways Millennials Are Changing the World.” Peter argues that, “As Millennials become more engaged in the world around us, they are changing it for the better in their own unique ways.” The ways he points to include that Millennials: challenge us to think qualitatively instead of quantitatively; they challenge old assumptions about careers and jobs; they challenge, ‘one size fits all’; and they challenge us to make decision making more distributive. What do you think?

Anne Loehr shared, “Six Tips for Marketing to Hispanic Millennials.”

The Millennial Journal shared reflections from Millennials, “on the Pope’s Visit to the US.”

Lisa Earle McLeod wrote about, “Why Millennials Keep Dumping You: An Open Letter to Management.”

Neighbor Love

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes wrote about, “The Secret to a Kind and Gentle Spirit.”

In light of more recent gun incidents in schools this year, Nicholas Kristof shared ideas for “A New Way to Tackle Gun Deaths.”

Liz Lin shared a response over at The Salt Collectiveentitled, “In Response to Opponents of Gun Control.”

"for Beauty's sake," by Vonda Drees
“for Beauty’s sake,” by Vonda Drees

David Gibson shared that the “Chicago archbishop calls for tough gun control laws.”

Pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth shared, “If you just read one article on gun violence.”

Friend, blogger, and artist, Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts. These posts included: “search and be found“; “heart listeners“; “the veil parts“; “for Beauty’s sake“; “To what are you profoundly devoted?“; “presence spills“; “turn, turn, turn“; and “body, awaken!

David Gushee wrote that, “Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Can Be Deadly.”

Carol Kuruvilla wrote and shared, “Sorry, Islamophobes: Your Anti-Muslim Rallies Ended Up Inspiring Acts of Love and Service.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his recent sermon, “about a whole lot of Law…and just a little bit of Gospel. (Because you have to put it in there.).”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson also shared his recent sermon, writing, “What toddlers tell us about the law.”

In an update to recent news and reports, Jennifer Bendery wrote that, “GOP Probe into Planned Parenthood Funding Comes up Empty.”

Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile wrote, “Searching for Purity.”

James Smith shared a “Good News” Story of the Week, sharing, “South Carolina’s thank you: Death Valley was ‘the place that faith went to be restored.'”

Rev. Dr. Theresa Latini explained about, “Why ‘The Donald’ Isn’t Reformed and Why His Stance Isn’t Christian.”

If you haven’t seen it, the Fall 2015 issue of Word and World is out and it has a number of great articles under the broad theme of “Sports.” Check out these articles and good food for thought from authors including friend and pastor Aaron Fuller, professor Rev. Dr. Eric Barreto, and Rev. Dr. Rolf Jacobson.

Social Media & Blogging

Kevan Lee shared some great, “Twitter Tips for Beginners: Everything I Wish I Knew about Twitter When I Started.”

Friend, blogger, and communications strategist Carrie Gubsch shared a post about “The Science of Storytelling through Facebook Images: 10 Actionable Strategies from Successful Brands.”

Last year, Cindy Alvarez shared about some of, “The ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s of Cold Emailing.”

Friend, blogger, and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared a few links, writing, “Read This If…

Stewardship

Erin at Young Adult Money asked, “Do You Have an Emergency Financial Plan?” Erin also shared some ideas about, “How to Be Frugal Without Being Boring.”

During October, the COMPASS blog is sharing reflections and ideas about having a “Frugal Fall.” The latest post in the series comes from friend, Nicole Brennan at Barnabas Foundation, who wrote and shared about, “Frugal Fall: A Financial Self-Examination.”

Related to the COMPASS theme during October, Jon Mertz shared, “5 ways to get ahead financially in October,” as explained by Jonnelle Marte.

Vocation

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her regular vocational installment of “Tuesday Tea Time.”

With thoughts about vocation, discernment, and education in mind, David Brooks wrote about “The Big University.”

I am excited to share that my alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), “Ranks in Top 10 of ‘value added colleges’ in the New York Times.” This news also comes on the recent news that the “Choir of the West received high honors in global ranking.” Attaway Lutes!

My friend Meagan Grandall, and her group Lemolo were profiled about the recent premiere of their new video, “Low Halo.”

Miscellaneous

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick shared a review of the film, “The Martian,” writing about, “Hope, Humanity, and God- a Christian look at the film.” What do you think?

Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg shared an update on the Seattle Mariners and recent news that “Lloyd (was) Let Go.”

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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. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on the rest of your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links; and “for Beauty’s sake.”

This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on the blog I get to share some of what I have seen, read, and found interesting and 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; Social Media & Blogging; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are preparing a sermon or for worship this coming weekend, I have some links for you. If you are following the revised common lectionary, Rev. Dr. David Lose wrote and shared, “Pentecost 20B: Curing Our Heartsickness.” Also, friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis dug into the gospel writing about, “The Thing You Lack.”

If you are following the narrative lectionary, Patricia Tull shares a, “Commentary on Deuteronomy 5:1-21, 6:4-9,” which is this coming weekend’s focus text. Also be sure and check out friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller’s look at this weekend’s text, “Deuteronomy and Talking about Law.”

My friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton is sharing a five-day series on stronger leadership habits with Dawn Trautman and “Big Purpose, Big Picture.” You should definitely check this out!

Gina Messina-Dysert, a “Cradle Catholic and feminist theologian,” shared “An Open Letter to Pope Francis.”

Rebekah Simon-Peter shared and asked, “How About That Pope?

Rob O’Lynn wrote and shared over at the Seminarium blog about, “Tracking Social Media Footprints in the Online Class.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript of their weekly chat, which last week focused on, “Social Media Sunday, and the Future.”

Friend, blogger, and stewardship center director Adam Copeland wrote about, “The Bible in One Hand, Beer in the Other: How t Make Oktoberfest Holy.”

Karl Vaters unpacked, “11 Ways to Be the Church for Those Who Don’t Go To Church.” The ways he notes includes: pray for them; build relationships with no strings attached; play the long game; live with integrity; talk about life, not just about your church; stop connecting faith to politics and denominations; be more joyful, less mean; live a life of scandalous generosity; be authentic, even if it means being different; be available; and make fewer statements, have more conversations. What do you think of this list?

If you are looking for a new role or challenge, and are willing to call the Pacific Northwest home, First Lutheran Church of Kennewick, Washington is looking for a new director of “Child, Youth, and Family Ministries.”

Mark Sandlin reflected about, “Saving God: The Liberation of an Institutionalized God.”

Beth Lewis shared a story about, “Spark Evangelism!

FTE shared a great podcast, unpacking and asking, “The cultural and religious landscape is changing. Social issues continue to inhibit justice for all of God’s people. Millennial leaders committed to making an impact in their communities are exploring new ways to live out their faith beyond the walls of the church. So, what does this mean for the future of our church and its leadership? And, what is our role and responsibility in shaping the future?”

Blogger and pastor Jan Edmiston notes that, “Social Capital Saves Lives.” Check out the post to see why.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Friend, mentor, and blogger Terri Elton shared a look at “The Power of Habits,” asking a great question, “What is you could focus on one thing that would transform the patterns of your leadership?” How would you answer that. Check out this post and be sure to follow along with the work that Terri and Dawn Trautman are doing together.

I came across this post by Lolly Daskal from last year entitled, “Leadership: Claim Your Calling.”

Jory Mackay reflected about, “The hidden power of ‘I don’t know’: How to work through creative blocks with Beginner’s Mind.”

Thin Difference shared a guest post by Scott Huntington explaining, “How to Be a Leader Outside of the Office.”

Also over at Thin Difference, Megan Dougherty reflected about, “When Feedback Isn’t a Gift.”

Dr. Jenny Darroch
Dr. Jenny Darroch

I was excited to see news that one of my favorite professors from the Drucker School, Professor Jenny Darroch would be leading panels at a prestigious marketing conference this week.

Michael Housman and Dylan Minor’s research led to this great question, “Hire a Superstar or Dump a Toxic Worker?

Dan Rockwell shared about some, “Powerful Tools for Reflection and Connection.”

The gender gap that exists in society is a travesty. Anne Loehr offers an important look at it, helpfully writing, “Use Knowledge to Identify the Salary Gap between the Genders.”

Steve Keating shared about how, “Thinking Isn’t Doing,” and “How to Build a Better World.”

Ted Bauer shared some thoughts on “How to use transparency to actually get ideas from people.”

Millennials

Chelsea Krost shared a post by Brian Hart highlighting, “3 Ways Millennials Can Frame Youth and Inexperience as a Professional Advantage.”

Thin Difference shared a guest post by Daniel Weinzveg, “Debunking the Myth of Generational Gaps.”

Friend and pastor Kent Shane shared this post by Christian Chiakulas, arguing that, “Churches Could Fill their Pews with Millennials if they just did this.” Check this post out and see what you think. The popularity of that post led to this follow-up, “Christianity Needs a Progressive Revolution.”

Neighbor Love

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon from the past weekend based on Exodus 1:8-21, “on our memory loss and being midwives.”

Last week the State of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner, despite the pleas of a large swath of the global faith community.

"Who are you, O God? And who am I?" by Vonda Drees
“Who are you, O God? And who am I?” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These have included: “breath of life“; “why non-dual thinking?“; “Who are you, O God? And who am I?“; “called to our own edges…“; and “generous in love.”

Friend, professor, and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared, “Praying for the World.”

Last week there was yet another mass shooting in a school, this time a community college. In light of this there have been a number of posts that have been shared which I have found moving, convicting, and hopefully an impetus for wide-reaching changes. President Obama came out and said that Congress has failed the country on guns, but I think even more accurately said, “Our Thoughts and Prayers are Not Enough.” I wholeheartedly agree with this, and said as much here on the blog last week. Sean Illing also took up this point, writing, “Enough about your ‘thoughts and prayers’: Gun violence isn’t about God- it’s about our shameful refusal to act.” Amen.

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared a “Paragraph to Ponder- the normalization of gun violence in the U.S.

Blogger and pastor John Pavlovitz wrote about, “Why gun lovers don’t get to grieve another massacre with me.

President Obama also challenged the media to compare gun deaths to terrorism deaths, something Zack Beauchamp did in just one chart, and Philip Bump also gave this an in-depth look.

In light of this tragedy, the question has been raised (again) about how other countries handle guns differently than the United States. The Economist took up this question graphically back in August as well. Katie Leach-Kemon took up this question as well at HumanosphereVisualizing gun deaths: Comparing the U.S. to rest of the world.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth responded to the social media meme from last week, “We Don’t Have a Gun Problem.  We have a Sin Problem,” reflecting about “A Sin Problem.” Within this thoughtful post Diane writes, “My fear is that somehow saying this will seem like enough, that someone will say, “we have a sin problem” and “let’s pray about it”, without realizing that the next step, after praying about it, might be to listen, really listen to what God wants us to do about it.  The next step is to repent, to change our mind, to change our ways, to change ANYTHING.”

Much has also been made (again) about the second amendment. Last year, former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens wrote about, “The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment.”

I’m grateful that my friend and communications director, Trip Sullivan, shared this post from last year by Mark Mason explaining, “How We All Miss the Point on School Shootings,” as well as for this pastoral letter from the Conference of Bishops written in 2013 and shared by Bishop Michael Rinehart. I was also moved to see this piece, “Dear Roseburg, From Sandy Hook Moms.”

Switching gears now, friend and pastor Jamie Brandt Brieske introduced me to a powerful blogger, Amy Christie, who has been sharing her “family’s story of a difficult diagnosis.” Amy shared about, “The Last Year,” as well as part 1, part 2, and part 3 unpacking the diagnosis of type 1 Diabetes of one her children.

Friend Lisa Gruenisen shared this important take from John Oliver on “Mental Health.”

On this blog, I shared the sermon that I gave this past weekend based on Mark 12:28-34, “Questions, Question, and More Questions.”

Tom Murphy at The Humanosphere, shared that, “Doctors Without Borders condemns U.S. bombing of Afghan hospital as ‘war crime.'”

Social Media & Blogging

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared thoughts on his blogging, noting, “On Blogging- Eight Years and 978 Posts In.”

Stewardship

Erin at Young Adult Money wrote about, “Finding Your Financial ‘Why.'”

Over on the COMPASS blog, I kicked off the October series which is looking and thinking about ways to have a “Frugal Fall.” This month’s series will offer special attention to Millennials but be useful to all generations. Some of the questions that we will be thinking about this month, include: “What do you enjoy about the fall? How do you live frugally this time of year? What stories, tips, and examples can you share with others about how to live frugally and faithfully during the fall?”

Vocation

Friends Katie and Will wrote and shared, “Here’s To Trusting God…” as they begin their new chapter in Montana.

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her regular vocational installment of “Tuesday Tea Time.”

My wife and I on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University in the Fall of 2012 (where we met, graduated from, later got engaged...etc.)
My wife and I on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University (where we met, graduated from, later got engaged…etc.)

James Stewart wrote that, “College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution.” To rectify this, he explains about what he calls the “Brookings-Common Sense ranking,” which prioritize “value added” components as a measure of influence. I am particularly excited to share that my alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) was ranked #10 in these rankings. Check this out and see what you think!

In other news related to PLU, Sandy Dunham shares about friend and professor, “Dr. Gregory Youtz: A Front-Row Seat (almost literally) to the Chinese President’s Tacoma visit.”

Conor Hughes recently detailed about friend Jodie Rottle, writing about, “Jodie Rottle and the Human Detained.”

My wife Allison shared this powerful and vocationally rich TED Talk from Emilie Wapnick on, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling.” Definitely watch this!

Friend and graduate student Jessica Young shared some thoughts and updates on the early days of her new graduate programs writing, “The last few weeks….CRAZY!” See why they have been so crazy.

Miscellaneous 

Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg summed up the baseball season for the Seattle Mariners writing simply, “Season Done.” Tim also shared his thoughts on the hire of the team’s new General Manager, “Jerry Dipoto.”

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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. Until next time, thank you for reading and being part of the conversation. Blessings on your week! -TS

Image Credits: The Links and “Who are you, O God? And who am I?

Questions, Questions, and More Questions

Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Multnomah Falls, Oregon

The following is the majority of the text that I gave as a sermon this past weekend at Messiah Lutheran Church in Vancouver, Washington. I am serving as the congregation’s mission developer for their north county campus this year. This sermon, my first at Messiah, was based on Mark 12:28-34, and was in tandem with a visioning conversation and meeting for the north county campus prior to worship. 

Have you ever been to Multnomah Falls? If you haven’t been, you should go. It’s less than an hour away from here, and it’s definitely a gorgeous and majestic falls.

Well, that’s what I had told my in-laws anyway. It was our last stop as part of our small caravan before arriving here in Vancouver from Minnesota. It was also only going to be a ten minute stop, to get out see the bottom of the falls and take a couple pictures. During those ten minutes, the cab of our moving truck had been broken into and my mother-in-law had been robbed. A little bit of our sense of safety had been shattered. It wasn’t quite the welcome back to the west coast that we were hoping for. But, we were resolved to get here, so we called the police and reported it. A few of our group cleaned out the broken glass from the smashed window and then taped the passenger side window frame that had been smashed in with duct tape. We took the rest of the trip slow, and had the hazard lights on. Allison drove the truck like a champ and we made it here.

It might seem like an odd place to start my first sermon here at Messiah, but the anti-welcome we felt at the falls was immediately turned upside down. The congregation and Allison’s internship committee had a whole crew of people here, who waited patiently for us to arrive, even as our arrival time ended up being hours later than we had all planned. They helped us unload everything in less than forty five minutes. The sense of welcome was amazing. The sense of love was overwhelming. What could have been a very bad day became a great day. And we knew we had arrived not only in a wonderful community, but to be part of an amazing faith community where people have a deep sense of love and service.

Out of this experience, and in light of today’s gospel passage, I’m wondering, why do we show love? Why do we serve? Why do we worship? Why are we all gathered here in worship today? Why do we do what we do?

All of these questions and so many more can be answered by pointing to today’s gospel passage. We’re reminded to love God, and love our neighbors – the ones we know, and the ones we don’t know yet. These are core commitments and the summary of all the commandments. On the one hand, by following them there is the basic hope that life will go well for you.Moses says this in Deuteronomy, and it’s a hope that by loving God and loving our neighbor as our self, life will go well, and that we will live fully and abundantly.

But there is so much more to this story. These commands may be the answer to the “why” questions, but they are also only the beginning of telling the story and sharing a vision of what it means that God’s kingdom is coming near and breaking into the world, as Jesus preaches about and points to.

This past week, I was sitting at my desk on Tuesday as the internet was down at church wondering what on earth I would do, since as a mission developer so much of my job requires functioning internet access. But in those moments of pause and time for some reflection, I happened to glance up at the calendar on the wall and be amazed that Allison and I have been here with you all now for a month. I can’t believe it.

Mount Hood overlooking the Columbia River
Mount Hood overlooking the Columbia River

It’s been such a wonderful whirlwind- the best kind of crazy whirlwind- full of love, welcome, learning, and doing. Our first four weeks have involved listening, hearing, imagining, wondering, and sharing. It’s also been a time of getting used to seeing these things called mountains again. While living in Minnesota for the past five years, it probably took at least four years for me to get over the fact that there would not be some high mountain somewhere on the horizon. So, it has been a great joy these past few weeks to be able to gaze at Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, and even on a clear day on the way out to the North County Campus, Mount Adams. Add in the majesty of the mighty Columbia River, and you can see why I’m so happy to be back in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The past month has also been a time of stories. I have heard many of your stories already- some in passing, others over a meal, some out under the beautiful early fall Sunshine, and even some others of you who have graciously welcomed me in your home. At the same time I have also been asked by many to share more about me- to share about my work and ministry, beliefs, and even call.

Thank you to all of you also who took time out of your busy schedules to share your stories about North County and be filmed while you told your stories. I have been listening and watching your interviews, and I am excited to share your stories with the larger community soon.

I am grateful that you all continue to share your stories with me, and for being so willing to be vulnerable in that way. I hope that many more of you will share your stories in the days and months ahead. To do my work alongside you, it will be critical to hear your voices and stories and to help grow Messiah’s North County presence as we work together to continue to sense what God is up to, and where God might be leading.

Since I am asking you to share your stories, it’s probably only fair that I share a bit more about me. Maybe you have heard most of my story in writing already, or in Allison’s preaching and teaching?

One thing you may not know about me is that I like to wrestle with questions, something I probably owe thanks to my parents for. One of my favorite questions is, “Why do we do what we do?” Or, “why are we doing what we are doing?” I have come to love these questions, because they are a way to get to the heart of the matter, and remember who we are, what drives us, as well as what matters. Put another way, the answer to these questions, help shape the mission and vision you have or are following.

In today’s gospel we are reminded of what matters. Jesus is confronted by a dispute. It may have been innocent, but as some of the other gospel writers have suggested, it may also be an attempt to trap Jesus in his words, or at least put him on the spot. It’s like the clever person who wonders, “I wonder if this guy really knows what he’s talking about…” and then comes up with what he or she thinks is sure to be a trick question.

Well, Jesus of course is not caught in any trap, and quickly has an answer. When he’s asked, “Which commandment is first of all?” Jesus recites, “You shall love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He doesn’t leave it there tough, as he immediately follows proclaiming that, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus is on record here, about as clear as he ever is, explaining what matters. It’s not something easy either, because it’s quite difficult to always love with all you are, and all that makes up who you are. It’s also hard to always love everyone else as yourself, because we’re not always very good about loving ourselves, are we? Let alone the people we may disagree with about something or another?

But in our best efforts, following these two commandments lead us together into community. They remind us that we are the Children of God, and are part of all the people of God. I also think this is what brings us together in this place, and as this congregation.

The first thing I noticed about Messiah after finding out that Allison and I would be coming to join you this past spring, was that you are a big group of people who are doers and dreamers. You are faithful, and you have a big vision believing that God has a huge vision- a vision for part of how the kingdom of God is breaking into the world here in Clark County. The dual vision of being both a teaching congregation for college students, pastoral interns, and pastors in residence; and one where every child near both worship centers has everything they need to learn… that’s big. But I believe it’s also something that is doable.

It’s also a way to live out Jesus’ commandments to love God, by preparing and being a place for young people and leaders to grow, as well as to love your neighbor, by providing for their needs- the needs of children and families in the communities that Messiah is a part of.

To love God, and know that God loves you, that’s the gospel in a nutshell. That’s also what leads us out from here into the world. There’s nothing we can do to earn that love, it’s a gift. But our response to that gift- the gift we have come to know through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ- is to live fully and abundantly.

This means living into the good news of the promises of God. To trust and believe that God is with us, has called us, that God loves us, and that we are indeed God’s children.

We may not always recognize what is happening, but by living fully and abundantly, we may also be moved to act. We might be so swept up by that good news that we can’t do anything but share that news with others through our stories, but also through the way we live our lives- serving and loving with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

I saw this love and service in action our first night, when the crew unloaded our truck in record time.
I saw this love and service in action our first night, when the crew unloaded our truck in record time.

It’s what I have already seen happening by all of you through Compassion Ridgefield, serving and sorting at the food bank, and more actions borne out of love and service and in response to the gospel. It’s also what I have heard from many of you when you have so graciously shared your stories and been patient with me as I continue to work to learn your names.

It’s what I have felt when being at the Hazel Dell campus on Wednesdays, with all of the excitement and energy of kids and adults sharing and learning stories.

It’s also what I have felt when being drawn into conversations with strangers or new friends seeking to get to know me, asking who am I? Lately it seems this question has been coming from people who are also deeply wondering, what is baptism? And what does it really mean to be a Christian? These acts, and times when a new friend is willing to give voice to such deep questions, are moments where God’s kingdom is surely breaking into the world.

Now I wonder though, what will you say the next time someone asks who you are? Or, what matters to you? What might you say about being a volunteer or serving? What might you say about where you are from and what do you do? In these conversations, what might you share about your faith?

A good place to start might be to remember these words that Jesus gives us, to “love God and to love your neighbor.” But even if you can’t remember these words, and are just left with more questions, know that God is with you and loves you, and there’s nothing you can do about that. God is with you, each day, building up the kingdom of God and pointing to that vision and hope which God has for each and every one of God’s children. Amen.