This Week’s Links

Internet1Each week on Tuesdays I share some of what I have seen, read, and found thought provoking over the past week. This week’s collection covers the past two weeks actually, but hopefully it makes up for the lack of links from last 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; Stewardship; Vocation; and Miscellaneous. I hope that you enjoy these links!

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are preparing for worship or writing a sermon for this weekend, I have a number of links for you. First of all, if you are following the revised common lectionary, consider this look at “Pentecost 2C” from Bishop Michael Rinehart. Also, definitely spend some time with friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lews‘ reflection on “Back to Reality.” If you are following the narrative lectionary, definitely be sure and spend time with this “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:1-10,” from friend and professor Dr. Lois Malcolm.

A couple weeks ago it was reported that, “Pope Francis (is) open to ‘Study’ Women Deacons.” This is an important step.

Speaking of women in ministry, friend and pastor Mandy Brobst-Renaud shared this article from The Daily Mail, about how a “Woman priest launches range of tailored clothes for female clergy fed up of looking like ‘men in drag.'” Even if you aren’t in ministry, the article title should be intriguing enough to make you want to check it out.

My most recent offerings from my role as mission developer at Messiah Lutheran Church included thoughts about “Pentecost and the Freedom to Fail.”

Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis shared a couple recent lectionary themed posts, writing about Pentecost and “Spirit Focus,” as well as Holy Trinity Sunday in “Trinity Talk.”

Some good news was released recently from my alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University, as “PLU Names New University Pastor,” the Rev. Jen Rude.

Speaking of PLU, friend and bishop Richard Jaech wrote an important letter to the editor, writing, “PLU: School lives out its Lutheran roots.”

My friends at LEAD shared some great thanksgivings in “Level UP,” as well as this wonderful reflection from friend Peggy Hahn who writes that, “Remarkable means worthy of attention.”

Friend and pastor David Hansen wrote in Living Lutheran about “Media in ministry: Go social.”

The Lutherans aren’t the only mainline denomination talking about social media and digital ministry. Tim Nafziger wrote in The Mennoniteabout “Why Mennonite leaders need to stop complaining about social media.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared transcripts of their recent chats including thoughts on “Online Community Development,” as moderated by Meredith Gould, and thoughts about letting go, and “When, why, and how to step away from #chsocm projects,” as moderated by Beth Felice.

Friend and pastor Jason Lukis wrote about ministry, change, worship, and experimentation in “There is a season for everything…

The United Methodist Church recently concluded its General Conference nearby in Portland, Oregon. Out of that gathering, “United Methodist leadership recommends deferral of LGBT decisions.” Relatedly, read this address from Bishop Ough, “Call us back to be your flock together.”

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Eugene Fram argues that, “21st Century Nonprofit Boards Need to be Pro-Active in Strategy Development.”

Social leadership theorist and blogger Julian Stodd shared a number of great posts over the past couple of weeks. These included, “The Social Age Safari: Communities and Stories,” as well as some thoughts about, “The Limits of Hierarchy: Brittle Systems.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Steve Keating shared some thoughts about “Ethical Leadership,” as well as the importance of life long learning and to “Always be Learning.”

Brian Dodd highlighted, “15 Practices of the World’s Most Creative Leaders.” Some of these practices include: no fear of failure; recognize opportunity; vision; help others succeed; solutions; generosity; networks; good stewardship; data driven; and provide access. Check out the post for the whole list.

Morley Safer
Morley Safer

Sad news was shared last week as “Veteran ’60 Minutes’ Newsman Morley Safer” passed away.  Morley’s long career and service included important reports, numerous interviews with leaders, and a constant search for truth and the story.

Damian Corbet unpacked some of “The Characteristics of a Social CEO.”

We all are biased in our own ways. To counter this, Anne Loehr shared, “Seven Tips for Managing Unconscious Bias.” Anne also shared a list of “6 Must-See Movies Highlighting Employee Engagement.”

Dan Rockwell outlined, “Six Simple Questions Highly Successful Managers Keep Asking.” The questions he offers, include: What does success look like? Where do you fit in? What do you need- that we can provide- to succeed? How will you objectively measure performance? How will we honor improvement, progress, and achievement? And, what will we do when things go wrong?

Kaihan Krippendorff argues that, “The Future of Work? It’s All About Teams and New Skill Sets.”

Thin Difference also shared a guest post by Sarah Landrum which featured, “Tips for New Managers: How to Manage Your Friends.”

Millennials

Jon Mertz at Thin Difference wrote and shared about, “Millennials, Gallup, Football, Leadership: A Common Thread,” as well as some “Tactical To-Dos for First-Time Leaders.”

Thin Difference also shared a guest post by Kern Carter who wrote and pondered about, “What’s Next for Millennials? Leading the Next Generation.”

Neighbor Love

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for Pentecost Sunday, “Gifts & the One Thing.

"Burn Through Us," by Vonda Drees.
“Burn Through Us,” by Vonda Drees.

Friend and blogger Ryan Cumming, educational director at ELCA World Hunger, shared an important look at, “Hunger and Poverty by the Numbers.”

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past couple of weeks. These posts included: “the next supper“; “keep praying“; “still shining“; “time lost track of me“; “shine on!“; “burn through us“; “tag! you’re it!“; “one-ing“; and “when the veil lifts.”

Friend, blogger, and pastoral associate Stefanie Fauth wrote, “Be Bold, you Lutheran…

Friend, pastor, and blogger Emmy Kegler shared her Pentecost Sunday sermon entitled, “On smog, the Spirit, and storytelling.”

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon shared a recent op-ed he wrote entitled, “Why Christians and politics should mix.”

I was moved to tears last week in reading this story from Nina Bernstein about, “Unearthing the Secrets of New York’s Mass Graves.” We have to do better than this. People, no matter who they are, deserve better than this. Thank you to friend and pastor Eric Worringer for sharing this post in my news feed.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared a recent sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12 about, “Standards, shame, and being special: Why it’s easier to believe in God than to trust that God believes in you.”

Every once and awhile I stumble on what for me is a new blog or new blogger which captivates, inspires, and causes me to think deeply. It just so happens that the newest blogger that I have found like this happens to be a hometown and home congregation friend and fellow Lute, Emily Shane. I had the privilege of getting to watch Emily grow up and I am definitely quite proud of her. Two recent posts which I really appreciated were, “My Favorite Exam Week Bible Verses,” and a very fitting neighbor love themed reflection about, “Tiny Interactions, Giant Impacts.”

Friend and communications director Trip Sullivan shared this great message from high school seniors at his congregation, “Be Known… And Know Others.”

Stewardship

Catherine at Young Adult Money shared timely advice for recent graduates with this “Personal Finance Checklist for Recent Grads.” Her checklist includes the good advice to: congratulate yourself; evaluate your debt: find out how much you have; evaluate your debt: consider repayment options; evaluate your bank accounts; start tracking income and expenses; tame your expenses; evaluate insurance needs; find a full-time job; build an emergency fund; start contributing to a retirement account; and figure out your goals.

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared some thoughts about “Crowdfunding Your Congregation.”

Erin at Young Adult Money also highlighted “7 Hidden Moving Expenses,” particularly important to keep in mind if you will be relocating later this summer or year like Allison and me.

Vocation

Friend and professor Dr. Ron Byrnes shared about “What Endurance Athletics Has Taught” him.

Heidi Oran at Thin Difference pondered about, “What Happens When Silence is Golden?

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her weekly dose of vocational and life reflections with her “Tuesday Tea Time.” If you have a couple minutes to spend over tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or your favorite work break beverage, spend part of that time with Julia’s blog each Tuesday.

President Thomas Krise, president of Pacific Lutheran University shared some “Reflections on a challenging and interesting year.”

Friend, professor, and mentor Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt updated us on her upcoming cross-country bike trip, pondering about, “What to take?

Miscellaneous

Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg updated baseball fans everywhere on his latest “Projected Standings.” I’m most excited for the way the American League West looks. Go Mariners!

Speaking of sports, one of my favorite announcers of all time, Verne Lundquist recently reflected on his Lifetime Achievement Emmy.

Last week one of my favorite TV shows, NCIS ended its 13th season by sending off the character Tony DiNozzo, played by Michael Weatherly, who has been a lead actor on the show since its pilot aired as part of the series JAG. CBS shared this interesting look at, “11 Things You Didn’t Know about the NCIS Season 13 Finale (and DiNozzo’s Farewell).”

In one of the more persuasive and frightening opinions I have read lately, Robert Kagan wrote that, “This is how fascism comes to America.”

If that piece sobered you like me, maybe this will at least give you a little hope, as Jeff Daniels recently reprised his role as “Will McAvoy from The Newsroom to talk Trump, Clinton.”

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

Image Credits:  The Links; Morley Safer; and burn through us.” 

 

This Week’s Links

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

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

For those of you preparing for worship or writing a sermon for this Pentecost weekend, check out Bishop Michael Rinehart’s take on “Pentecost C.” Friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis offers some more thoughts on Pentecost in sharing, “Spirit Focus.” Speaking of the Spirit, friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Craig Koester, and Kathryn Schifferdecker discussed “Gifts of the Spirit,” on the “I Love to Tell the Story” podcast. Give that podcast, as well as the Sermon Brainwave podcast on the “Day of Pentecost,” a listen with friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner.

Last week on the blog, I shared some big news for both my wife Allison and I in writing about, “When the Holy Spirit Leads to the Cornhusker State,” as we now know where we are headed at the end of the summer, the state of Nebraska. I have been called there to serve as the Nebraska Synod’s Director for Stewardship.

Pastor and blogger Clint Schnekloth reflected about, “Solving the problems of church in a post-program era.”

My wife and pastoral intern Allison continued her journey through topics related to church administration in writing and reflecting about, “Conflict and Communities.” Allison also shared some insights from interviews on the topic in writing and sharing, “First-hand: Church Administration from Those Who Practice it.”

In sad news, Trinity Lutheran College had its final commencement last week as it is closing at the end of this academic year.

In good news out of Trinity’s closure, former Trinity professor Mark Jackson has received a new call to St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota.

Friend and pastor Kent Shane shared this important reflection from Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, “Love Your Neighbor.”

My sister Tamara shared this important perspective from Bishop Kirby Unti who wrote and explained that, “Maintaining transgender rights aligns with my Christian faith.”

Over at Religion Dispatches, Daniel Schultz wrote and shared, “Mega-Church and State Separation? Not in an Election Year.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript of its weekly chat which last week focused on “Privacy and Copyright” issues and questions. The chat was moderated by Melinda Mitchell.

Russell Moore wrote about, “A White Church No More.”

Bishop Guy Erwin shared this important “Statement on events at Ben Gurion International Airport 29 April-2 May 2016,” from the World Council of Churches.

Cross-Sector Collaboration

Friend, professor, and blogger Dr. Ron Byrnes reflected about education, college, vocation, and vocational discernment in writing about “Higher Cost Education.”

Leadership Thought & Practice

Carey Nieuwhof wrote and shared about, “3 Words You Should Drop From Your Leadership Vocabulary Starting Now.” The words to drop are: someone; something; and someday.

Tanveer Naseer shared a guest post by John Addison who wrote, “Don’t Settle For Being a Good Leader. Be a Real Leader.”

Brian Dodd wrote about, “Why Generous Leaders Always Have an Advantage.” Additionally, Brian shared a post that any superhero movie fan would probably love, “36 Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Captain America: Civil War.”

Social leadership theorist Julian Stodd shared about, “The Fictional Leader,” and how it is important to recognize that no one leader has all of the answers, let alone all of the questions.

Friend, pastor, and blogger Joe Smith wrote about leadership, service, and presence in writing, “Ending Warm Body Thinking.”

Dan Rockwell wrote about leadership, partnership, collaboration, and what I might call accompaniment, in sharing about “The Go-With Leader.”

Anne Loehr reasoned that, “Diversity Officers Must Have These Four Qualities.” The qualities she lists include: high emotional intelligence; entrepreneurial mindset; champion of purpose-driven strategy and culture; and lifelong learner.

Speaking of lifelong learning, Jon Mertz at Thin Difference took up the question, “What If Learning Stopped.” I don’t know about you, but if I ever stopped learning, life would be pretty boring. I hope to be like my 92-year old Grandma who continues to learn, study, and want to work to understand the world and its beauty and mystery, as well as faith and life.

Jon also share about “How to Be Selective in a Jam-Packed World” at Thin Difference.

Millennials

Jeremy Chandler at Thin Difference asked, “Is It Time To Take Your Eyes Off the Map?

Also at Thin Difference, Megan Dougherty wrote and shared, “Dear Me- A Reflection on How Things Turn Out.”

Last month Jon Mertz wrote about Millennials and mindfulness at Young Upstarts, writing, “Say Yes to Success! How the New Millennial Leaders Embrace Mindfulness.”

Neighbor Love

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend based on 1 Corinthians 15, “Jesus rose from the dead: A Confession.”

Hometown and home congregation friend and fellow Lute, Emily Shane pondered about relationships, friends, and social interaction, vulnerably sharing, “What If They Don’t Like Me?

"Lagniappe!" by Vonda Drees
“Lagniappe!” by Vonda Drees

Friend and blogger Rozella Haydee White shared, “A Word on Walking Away.”

Nicholas Kristof shared, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.”

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These posts included: “eternity celebrating presence“; “lagniappe!“; “seasons“; “art, somehow…“; “a grace prayer“; “be the soul“; and “wings of wholeness.”

Blogger and pastor Clint Schnekloth wrote about and asked, “Why progressive Christians can’t evangelize. The limits of accompaniment. Every nation or bust?

Clint also shared a guest post by Elle Dowd on, “The Problem with ‘Diversity’ as #ChurchGoals.”

Friend and blogger J.W. Wartick took up the question of open and closed communion, asking and sharing, “Who is Worthy?- A reflection on closed communion in Lutheran churches.”

Jack Jenkins wrote and shared about how, “Hillary Clinton is now the most religious candidate running for President. Here’s Why that Matters.”

With Mother’s Day having been this past weekend, friend, pastor, and Ph.D. student Mandy Brobst-Renaud wrote that, “Mother’s Day is Broken.”

I shared my sermon from this past weekend on the Ascension, “You Are Witnesses to These Things.

Social Media & Blogging

Friend, professor, and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared a guest appearance by her daughter Jordan Elton, “SPLIT- tips for your Social Media use!

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

Stewardship

My friends at LEAD are sharing perspectives all year about how leadership is hope. The latest installment comes from friend, pastor, and blogger David Hansen who shared this conversation with pastor Mike Ward about how, “Stewardship is Hope.”

With May being the start of graduation season, the COMPASS blog is sharing thoughts about graduation and student loan debt. To start off this series of reflections I pondered, “After Graduation… Student Debt?

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland shared a post by Shelby Etheridge, “The Power of Vulnerability to Transform Stewardship.”

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner wrote and reasoned, “Family Budget Meetings- Yes, You Need to Have Them.”

Vocation

Speaking of Mother's Day, happy Mother's Day again to my Mom!
Speaking of Mother’s Day, happy Mother’s Day again to my Mom!

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her weekly installment of vocational and life reflections with her Mother’s Day edition of “Tuesday Tea Time.”

Friend and blogger Tyler Scott shared some thoughts about his Mom and Mother’s Day in writing, “It’s Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day.”

In Living Lutheran, Dwight DuBois wrote all about vocation in “Vocation: From worship to the world.”

Friend, professor, and blogger Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt shared that she has “One month to go…” before her big bike ride, as well as some thoughts on “Fun.”

Miscellaneous 

Friend, blogger, and Seattle Mariners fanatic Tim Chalberg shared a couple new Mariners themed posts in sharing his weekly update of the “MLB Projected Standings,” for week five of the baseball season, as well as in writing about a “New True to the Blue.”

The other day President Obama signed a bill, “declaring the bison the national mammal.

Friend J.W. Wartick shared this look at a fascinating geologic phenomenon of the creation of a new island.

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

Image Credits:  The Links and “lagniappe!

 

You Are Witnesses to These Things

The following is the majority of my sermon for this past weekend at Messiah Lutheran Church. We celebrated and observed the Ascension of Our Lord, hence my sermon is based on the ending of Luke and the beginning of Acts

“You are witnesses to these things…”

You are witnesses. The apostles were witnesses, and so are you.

What Happened?

One artist's depiction of the Ascension.
One artist’s depiction of the Ascension.

On that day, the apostles stood looking up to heaven. They were amazed as Jesus, a man who had already beaten death and in the past 40 days had seemingly appeared and disappeared and appeared again, was going higher and higher in the sky, and out of their sight… Maybe you heard about this story as a child if you went to Sunday School, or maybe you have seen funny little pictures of feet dangling in the clouds? That’s kind of what comes to mind for me at first when thinking about this image.

I would think the disciples and now apostles would be surprised by this. But at this point, I doubt much could surprise them seeing as what all they had witnessed and experienced. Even so, they looked and watched toward heaven as Christ ascended. Just like you and I would have, in awe, majesty, and perhaps a little disbelief.

This ascension is one of those mysteries of faith, we profess, but perhaps can’t understand and only imagine thanks to the descriptive narrative in the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts.

We speak of the ascension just about every week, but often don’t think much about it. We profess, “He ascended into heaven…” every time we join in professing the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. It is a core part of our faith and history. “The ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God…is no less than the culmination of the gospel story and the beginning of the fulfillment of what humans were created for.”[1]

Think of the whole Jesus story that we have traveled through just since Advent and Christmas. It begins with Emmanuel, God with us, who comes in the incarnation which is “the fulfillment of God’s plan to be united with” us.[2]

Then Jesus lives, grows, teaches, heals, turns perception on its head, and in some ways turns the world upside down. But the ultimate turning of things upside down comes with the resurrection and the ascension. When Jesus ascends into heaven, the union of God and humanity that starts with the incarnation is made full. Now there is “one of us” so to speak, “where we shall be- where from the very point of creation we were intended to be,” in relationship with, praising and worshiping God.[3]

What does this mean?

I just summarized theologies that people have spent writing whole libraries about in just a few sentences. So, I’m painting with a wide brush. But what I’m trying to say is, this is a big deal. This ascension is a big deal. It’s such a big deal that Luke closes his gospel with it, and then begins his second book, Acts, with it in a little more detail. It’s the theological culmination of the gospel, and the beginning of the mission that is described in the book of Acts.[4]

But what does this mean for us as God’s beloved children? For us today?

Because of the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God, we are witnesses!

In the majesty and mystery of the Ascension, the writer of Luke and Acts makes clear what Jesus believed was next. Jesus’ last words on earth are these declarations to his friends, the apostles whom he has called and chosen, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Shortly after Jesus ascends, comes Pentecost which we’ll celebrate next week with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Until that time, the apostles wait. But after the Holy Spirit is let loose, there’s no more waiting. It’s time for action. It’s time for mission. It’s time to get to work.

There is no more time to be silent witnesses, but active witnesses and participants, sharing the Jesus story. Today’s passage from Acts is perhaps the central theme for the whole book, where Jesus declares that you will be witnesses going to the “ends of the earth” to proclaim the good news of God who has come near for God’s people and the sake of God’s world. And as the end of Luke proclaims, “repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed to all nations.” Not to just some, but for all.

When you get to the heart of ascension, it’s really the point at which Jesus fulfills his work as being God with us, and hands over the work of sharing that story to the Apostles, to us, with the gift and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Later in Acts, two of the apostles, Paul and Silas, are literally accused of “turning the world upside down.” That’s one of the big points of Luke’s gospel, that the last will be first and the first will be last, the lowly will be lifted up, and the powerful brought down.  The world as they knew it, the world as we know it, was changed forever, and would continue to change forever because of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

How might the world be turned upside down through you?

What does this mean for us?

Because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, whom God sends as promised, through whom we are baptized, called and commissioned to share the Good News; we live life abundantly and are all sent out as witnesses- all of us. This isn’t just something that is reserved for ordination for a few people to be pastors, or commissioned or consecrated as associates in ministry. This is a calling and vocation for each of us as Children of God, grounded in the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us in baptism.

The Jesus story- the story of incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension is a gift, for us. There is nothing we can do to earn that. God in Christ did that for us. Baptism, and communion, sacraments are gifts given for each of us. All of this, all of these, are pure gifts.

This is the beauty of Lutheran theology. Grace is a gift, not dependent upon us doing anything at all. But because it such a magnificent gift, it’s something that we can’t help but want to share. We can’t help but live our lives as a joyful response to these gifts.

And that’s the mission piece. We are called, gathered, and sent…

With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are sent out into the world. Not to bring God, but to point to where God is already there, present, calling, and leading. We are sent to meet the needs of the world- To heal the sick, and welcome the stranger; to share a cup of cool water with the thirsty, and a loaf of bread with the hungry; to share the Good News of God with a hungry and thirsty world. We do this through sharing the Jesus story, and our story which is a part of it. We do this through serving. And we do this by the way we live.

How do you tell this story? How do you live this story in your lives?

I know a man named Tim. Him and his wife Joanne, for as long as I can remember coordinated the food and treats each Sunday morning in their church. Over the years, he started serving free community meals one evening a week to feed the hungry, as well as for those just seeking community and relationships with other people to eat a meal with. He also helped start a community Thanksgiving dinner which continues annually. For the longest time, this food and fellowship it created were Tim and Joanne’s service, and this was their story.

Joanne sadly passed away after a valiant battle with cancer a few years ago. Though Tim grieved, the community rallied around him. Others stepped up to serve, and the community meals continued. Tim was supported by that community which he had helped create through a call he felt to serve. Tim has continued to serve. He does this with often little financial support, but he does this because it’s his calling. The way he lives, tells his story and shares his faith, a faith grounded in love of others.

You all know people like Tim. Maybe there’s even someone here worshiping now in this space today that reminds you of Tim?

Ascension is a good time to remember the larger mission we’re all part of. Martin Luther’s sermons on Ascension almost all dealt with the “what’s next,” piece, the importance of mission and telling the story. And it makes sense when you consider how this story is the beginning of life after the historical events of the gospel.

Two men in white robes, in the beginning of the book of Acts ask the apostles, these “Men of Galilee,” why do they “stand looking up towards heaven?” That question wakes them up. It’s time to stop watching, and to start acting. It’s time to do the hard work of ministry, like Jesus, who wasn’t afraid to heal on the Sabbath, to eat with sinners, and to make friends with the outcast.

We serve, share, and live, because we can’t help but be filled with joy from the good news of the Gospel. We serve, because we believe that God has called and sent us to meet the needs of the world, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. No strings attached. Sometimes the needs are obvious. Other times, it takes the Holy Spirit to blow and lead us, and to open our eyes to needs just below the surface or not in plain view.

It’s time to tell this beautiful story we have to tell. It’s no longer time to be quiet.

We are all witnesses to these things. And we are sent to the ends of the earth proclaiming the good news through our stories, service, and lives, bringing healing and forgiveness, by the leading and through the power of the Holy Spirit. May it be so. Amen.

Citations/Sources:

[1] Justo Gonzalez, Luke, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 281.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Image Credit: “Ascension” 

When the Holy Spirit Leads to the Cornhusker State

Those of you who follow this blog regularly, know that my wife Allison is currently serving a pastoral internship. While she is doing that, I am working for the same congregation as its mission developer for its north campus, as well as working for the local synod around social media and the possibility of a lay school of theology.

About a year ago, I shared the exciting and unexpected news that we would be returning to the Pacific Northwest for this experience. We knew that this would come to an end in the middle of August 2016, and didn’t have an idea as to where we would be led and called next.

Well, now we do.

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It’s a funny and surprising thing, watching and discerning where the Holy Spirit might be leading. It’s exciting. It can also sometimes be the cause for some tears, questions, and feelings like we just got back to our “home” region. Well, oh well. God is about calling, gathering, and sending. And often, it’s not to places that might be obvious or necessarily at the top of your list.

I have received, and we have accepted, a call to serve as the new Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). After great conversations and much discernment, we both really believe deeply that this is a deep call.

I am excited about this. It is unexpected, partly because we were hoping that by returning to the Northwest for internship after five years in Minnesota we might end up staying somewhere on the west coast. Well, that’s not going to happen for our first calls anyway. And strangely, I think we are both at peace about this.

jumping nebraska
If you can’t tell, we’re kind of excited about this.

What does this mean?

I will be in the midst of transitions throughout the summer. I will begin working part-time remotely for the Nebraska Synod, in addition to my work with the Southwestern Washington Synod and Messiah Lutheran Church. When those two roles end in the middle of August, Allison and I will move shortly thereafter to Nebraska, at which time I will go full-time.

This will have an impact on this blog. I will continue to blog, I am sure of that. But, I would not be surprised if the links on Tuesdays end up being shorter or changed somehow.

In terms of calls, as this is a call, I will be commissioned as an Associate in Ministry for this role likely at some point late in the summer or early in the fall. Ideally this will happen on the same weekend as Allison would be ordained to be a pastor in the ELCA. Obviously, this assumes that Allison is approved and receives a call to serve as a pastor in Nebraska, but I believe this will happen.

God is at work, and it’s exciting to watch and wonder about. When these details emerge, trust that I will share them with you. The commissioning and ordination services would be at our home congregations in Washington.

I’m excited and happy to share this news with all of you. Trust, that as the journey and transitions unfold, I will continue to share in the conversation with all of you.

Thank you for being my community, talking partners, and collaborators in life, leadership, ministry, and service. 

This Week’s Links

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

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

If you are preparing for worship or writing a sermon for this weekend, like me, I have a number of links for you. If you’re following the revised common lectionary check out this post from friend and professor Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis about how the “Resurrection is Promise,” based on John 17:20-26. If you will be observing the Ascension of Our Lord on Sunday, check out the Sermon Brainwave with friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, and Matt Skinner. Also, check out Bishop Michael Rinehart’s thoughts on the “Ascension of Our Lord.”

If you’re following the narrative lectionary Dr. Shively Smith shared this “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57.” Friends and professors Rev. Dr.’s Rolf Jacobson, Craig Koester, and Kathryn Schifferdecker shared their thoughts in the “I Love to Tell the Story” Podcast about “Death Swallowed in Life.”

Speaking of the narrative lectionary, have you been wondering about what it is? Daniel Maurer sat down with Rev. Dr. Rolf Jacobson as they answered the question, “What is the Narrative Lectionary, anyway?

Heather Hahn wrote that, “To Reach ‘Nones,’ Try Experimental Churches.”

Sad news came over the weekend from New York where the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava was heavily damaged by a fire.

With preaching in mind, Margaret Marcuson shared some thoughts on “How to preach sermons your people will love.” Also on the topic of preaching, my wife Allison and friend and mentor Dr. Terri Elton shared this list of “10 Things Pastors Should Learn from TED Talks,” compiled by Brandon Hilgemann.

Also on the subject of preaching, friend and pastor Rachel Wrenn wrote and shared about “How to Preach to Mikey (and his parents).”

From my role as mission developer at Messiah Lutheran Church, I shared my latest post about “The Advocate, Holy Spirit, and Me.” Messiah was also recently profiled for its Lenten journey with “Walk for Water,” by the ELCA World Hunger blog in “Walking for Water.”

Are you in Western Washington state? If so, what are you doing on Saturday May 14th or 21st? Come and join me at the Southwestern Washington Synod Educational Gatherings in Olympia or Silverdale.

Bishop Michael Rinehart shared a list of “Twenty-Seven Non-Anxious Leadership Sound Bites for Anxious Churches.

My friends at LEAD shared some reflections about making “A Decision to be a Learning Congregation.”

My wife and a current pastoral intern Allison Siburg, continued her blogging journey through thinking and learning about church administration by writing about “Newcomers and New Questions.” She continued her work in writing about “Connections,” and the new perspectives and changes that come through the creation and presence of connections.

Allison also shared this article about a fellow pastoral intern who is keeping busy during her internship year in Billings, Montana as reported by Susan Olp.

Thinking about changes and the church, friend and Ph.D. student Tim Snyder wrote about changes and transitions in the ELCA, in “Here between Easter and Pentecost.”

From the United Methodist Church, Kathy Gilbert reports about how “15 United Methodist clergy, candidates come out as gay.”

Church and Social Media (#ChSocM) shared a transcript of its weekly Twitter chat last week which was all about, “Planning for Late Spring and Summer.” The chat was moderated by Regina Heater.

Norma Cook Everist wrote about her spouse in “Burton Everist Chosen for Award and 50th Anniversary of Ordination.”

Living Lutheran shared a quick look at how one congregation honored “Prince with his own words.”

G. Jeffrey MacDonald shares news about how “Andover Newton to partner with Yale, shutter Mass. campus.” In reading the article, I am not so sure “partnership” is the right word. What do you think?

Cross-Sector Collaboration

In exciting news, it was announced last week that “Friends of 88.5 FM (made) a formal bid to Purchase KPLU from Pacific Lutheran University.”

The “Cranky Flier,” shared a two part interview with Alaska Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) about Alaska’s recent merger with Virgin America. Check out the interesting interview with background on how the merger happened and the thought that went into it, as well as the potential impact of the merger particularly in California.

Blogger and social leadership theorist Julian Stodd shared some, “Provocative Writing for a Better World: (in) #WorkingOutLoud on an Experiment for the Social Age,” as well as some pondering about community in “Community Graffiti,” and “A Sketch,” about learning in the Social Age.

Leadership Thought & Practice

Brian Dodd highlighted “12 Things You Need to Know about Finding a Great Leader.”

Dan Rockwell shared a number of great leadership insights over the past week. These included thoughts about being “Over-led and Under-managed,” and a list of “7 Ways to be a Dealer in Hope.”

"Just Make a Mark," by Vonda Drees.
“Just Make a Mark,” by Vonda Drees.

On this blog I reflected about what I see is “The Importance of ‘Bounce’ in Leadership.”

Anne Loehr explained about “Why Attracting and Retaining Diverse Talent is a Strategic Priority.”

Tine Thygesen wrote about “The Very First Things A New Leader Needs to Know.” Tine points to five elements, listing and explaining them as: it’s the mental game that’s the hardest; you’re no longer a player, you’re the coach; focus means saying ‘no’; candid honesty solves problems before they arise; and be humble.

Daniel Stewart shared some leadership insights about “How to Find Engaging Work You’re Great At.”

Shirley Lamb shared about “The Key to Becoming a Data Driven Organization.”

Dan Forbes shared a look at “The Best of Lead with Giants” for May 2016, highlighting a number of great leadership lessons and perspectives.

Justin Irving reflected about “Purpose in Leadership and Meaning-Based Living.”

Back in March, Chris Gadek shared some great thoughts about “How to Hack Brand Awareness and Unlock Revenue Growth.”

Achim Nowak pondered about, “How Can You Learn to Plug In and Plug Out of Work?” What do you think?

Over at Thin Difference, Scott Savage wrote about “The One Job You Cannot Delegate to Anyone Else,” which he explains is basically knowing yourself and finding giving time for “life-giving practices.” Also at Thin Difference, Eric Torrence wrote about his, “Love/Hate Relationship with Repetition.”

Millennials

Dan Rockwell explained about “How to Hold Millennials Accountable in 7 Steps.” The steps that Dan outlines are: stop inviting excuses; don’t have the same conversation two or three times; give second chances; evaluate commitment; double check for clarity; ask the power question; and create consequences with them.

Neighbor Love

Friend, pastor, and blogger Aaron Fuller shared his sermon for this past weekend based on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, “A sermon about love when everything’s falling apart.”

Rev. Dr. Will Willimon wrote and shared, “Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, part 4.”

"A Journal Tribute to Prince," by Vonda Drees
“A Journal Tribute to Prince,” by Vonda Drees

Friend, blogger, and artist Vonda Drees shared a number of beautiful posts over the past week. These included: “a ladder of grace“; “contemplative, creative journaling“; “a journal tribute to Prince“; “just make a mark“; “Jesus redefinies“; “nature’s pattern for life“; and “contemplation.”

Friend and pastor Lori Cornell shared this post by Siri Liv Myhrom, “To Be Yourself Completely: The Collective Grief of Losing Prince.”

Friend and professor Dr. Matt Skinner shared about a newly released “Guide (which) helps Minnesota Christians and Muslims be good neighbors.”

I stumbled on this post from February over the past week listing “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” The regrets that we can all learn from and approach life differently because of them, are: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me; I wish I didn’t work so hard; I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings; I wish I’d stay in touch with my friends; and I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Friend, blogger, and pastor Emmy Kegler shared, “Just four sentences: a sermon on Lydia.”

Candice Czubernat wrote about, “Harm & Healing; the church & the LGBTQ Community.”

Friend, pastor, and blogger Frank Johnson shared his sermon based on 1 Corinthians 15, “The last enemy is death: What Harry Potter taught me about being Christian.”

Blogger and pastor Clint Schnekloth reflected about, “Ableism as Trinitarian Heresy- How assuming Jesus was a healthy white guy breaks theology,” and a deeply complex question of gender, identity, and faith in asking, “Was Jesus Intersex?

Friend, pastor, and blogger Diane Roth wrote about “Communion,” as well as about “An Early Pentecost.”

John Pavlovitz wrote and shared, “I’m Boycotting Fear.”

My wife Allison shared this beautiful post and invitation by another blogger to “Walk the Labyrinth with Me.”

Social Media & Blogging

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

Friend, professor, and blogger Dr. Ron Byrnes shared some links in a look at “What I’ve Been Reading.”

I also want to say a warm welcome to the blogging world to hometown friend Heidi Stephens with her new blog, “Bainbridge Boheme.”

Stewardship

Catherine at Young Adult Money shared “5 Tips for Sticking to a Budget.” Catherine’s tips include: find your motivation; know how much money is in your budget; use cash; be realistic about your budget; and plan ahead.

Friend and stewardship director Adam Copeland reflected about, “Crowdfunding as Holy Listening & Holy Anger.” Adam also shared Ryan Baer’s, “The Top 10 Mistakes I’ve Made with Money in Ministry – Part 2.”

Vocation

Friend and blogger Julia Nelson shared her weekly dose of “Tuesday Tea Time,” full of life and vocational reflections, as well as some observations and thoughts out of a retreat she attended last week.

Friend and professor Dr. Lynn Hunnicutt shared some about her “Anticipation…” of the cross country bike road to come.

The other day I shared some vocational reflections related to life and ministry in response to a question about “Why I Stayed,” in ministry and church work, that is.

My friend and college roommate Tyler Scott shared a couple life and vocational reflections over the past week in the journey toward marriage and merging lives together. Tyler wrote about, “The best laid wedding plans,” as well as a realization that many of us know, “Yeah, weeds are pretty much the worst.”

Friend and professor Dr. Marit Trelstad shared some updates from her and her family’s journey and sabbatical experiences in: “The Agony and Ecstasy of Madrid“; “Holy Toledo“; and “Granada = Alhambra + Flamenco.”

Miscellaneous

The Mariners are winning, and I am hopeful. Friend and blogger Tim Chalberg shared his weekly updated projected standings. I am hoping that his projections are running low on the Mariners, and that they far surpass them. What do you think after the first month of the season?

Daniel Ross shared this cool look at “Prince casually owning Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ in rehearsal.”

If you like sports and appreciate North Dakota you will love this story from Philadelphia sports writer Josh Paunil who shared a story of his recent visit to North Dakota in an “Eagles Wake-Up Call: Live from Bismarck.”

And for good measure, I hope you saw this video of Allison Janney reviving her role of C.J. Cregg last week in the West Wing.

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

Image Credits:  The Links; “Just Make a Mark“; and “A Journal Tribute to Prince.”

Why I Stayed

About a year ago, there were a series of posts and articles written about Millennials and the church. Many times they were titled, ‘Why I Stayed.” Though this post might be related to that conversation, this isn’t my focus. 

A few months ago I was asked a simple but profound question by another ministry leader. He knew of my story and the patience needed to wait for a call after seminary, for a clearer path to formalized ministry and work in the church, and my persistence to continue to serve in the church and nonprofit world.

He simply asked me, “Why did you stay?” 

He continued, “You could have given up on a system that didn’t seemingly know what to do with you. You could have found a well-paying job with a company, and a likely meaningful career. But you didn’t. Why?”

Perhaps you have received similar questions?

Allison and I, recently after a synod meeting, went for a walk around campus at Pacific Lutheran University, and found ourselves back in the Tower Chapel, in front of the Rose Window. That's the room where she said "yep." It's also the room where we spent a lot of time in prayer back in college, a big part of our vocational discovery and ministry journey.
Allison and I, recently went for a walk around campus at Pacific Lutheran University, and found ourselves back in the Tower Chapel in front of the Rose Window. That’s the room where she said “yep.” It’s also the room where we spent a lot of time in prayer back in college, a big part of our vocational discovery and ministry journey.

It was a good question. One that I took a moment to think of an answer, which led to further conversation. But since that question was asked, it’s been under my skin. So, here’s my best thinking about why I stayed.

  • Deep in my heart of hearts, I knew I was prepared, being prepared, and called for some kind of unique ministry.
  • God opened far too many doors to connections, conversation partners, and imaginative possibilities along the way for me to ever think seriously about giving up on the church.
  • Life is a joyful response to the Good News and pure gift of the Gospel. I know that I could live that way in any number of occupations and vocations, but there’s just something about the mysteries of the church which draw me back.
  • There’s a lot of problematic theology in the world, and a Lutheran understanding of grace and vocation, grounded in the Word, and known through the sacraments of baptism and communion matter.
  • Life and faith is full of paradox. I’m a Lutheran, I get that. So, in the midst of not having a formal role or fit in ministry, I still felt fulfilled, assured, and affirmed that God was up to something.
  • My wife Allison was pondering the same question in her own life and vocation, and in our moments of deep questioning, we were (and remain) each other’s best advocate to take a step back, discern, pray, and move forward in faith.

There are other reasons probably. But those are the big ones.

I stayed in ministry, because even though the church is a beautiful yet broken thing, I believe that God still works through it. There is no way that God is limited to it, but God in Christ is made known in and through community.

I have found that community among seminary colleagues. I have found that community through: college and high school friends;  the wonders of social media, making friends and collaborators all over the place, and not always actually knowing these collaborators “in person’; through mentors, pastors, professors, and family; and through congregations and faith communities in at least three states.

Don’t get me wrong, the church is not perfect.

The structures and systems of the church are not fool-proof. Though I believe God is present and with us, I also know that any organization and institution that is led by humanity, is fallible because of the brokenness and reality of sin. Yet, even in spite of this, reconciliation and forgiveness are possible and given through the presence and promises of God.

Perhaps the other reason why I stayed is that I am stubborn? But I am choosing to believe, it’s because the Holy Spirit is active and blowing, making me deeply believe that God is up to something, and though that’s not always an easy thing, it’s exciting.

Some times I wish the Holy Spirit would blow and lead in a certain direction. It’s in those moments most of all, that I find myself either hitting a wall, or doing a complete 180 degree turn. Maybe that’s the same for you?

For all of you who have been a part of, who continue to be part of, and to those future people whom I have not yet met who will be part of community with me, thank you.

Thank you for joining with me, in our collective good, bad, and ugly. For taking a chance to be in relationship with me- to accept me as I am, to forgive me when I need to be forgiven, and to share openly about yourself, so that together we can be a part of God’s work. Whatever that might look like in any given time and space.