This Week’s Links

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

Church and Ministry Thought & Practice

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

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

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

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

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

Cross-Sector Collaboration

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

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

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

Leadership Thought & Practice

Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes

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

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

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

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

Millennials

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

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

Neighbor Love

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

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

Dr. Samuel Torvend
Dr. Samuel Torvend

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

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

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

Social Media & Blogging

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

Stewardship

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

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

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

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

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

Vocation

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

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

——————————————————————————

 

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

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

 

Lazarus and the Rich Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are stewardship questions. These are life questions.

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

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

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

———————————-

References and Citations:

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

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

[3] Gonzalez, 195.

[4] Gonzalez, 197-198

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

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

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