Quilt Dedication March 28, 2010

An important ministry at First Lutheran are the mission quilters!  This year the group met each Monday from January through March to assemble 203 quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  These quilts will be packed and sent, along with several health kits, to the Lutheran World Federation drop-off site in Minneapolis.  We send them with our prayers, that the recipients may feel the love of Christ.  Thank you to all who donated fabric, money, and the many hands that gave their time and service to yield such beautiful results.  (And thanks to our anonymous resident photographer for capturing the moment! )

The picture gallery follows.  Single-click to enlarge each photo.

Psalm 118

Blessed is the one who comes it the name of the Lord!”  You will hear these words spoken several times on Palm Sunday.  The quote above is a refrain from Psalm 118.  Psalm 118, used as a temple song for hundreds of years, is now brought forward into Jesus’ life.  Psalm 118 is given renewed meaning by the people crowded along the road, as Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time.

It’s a liturgical formula, but the psalm refrain speaks a cry deep in all of our hearts.  “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”  But…what is it?  What is blessing?  Wishing someone well?  Giving them respect?  Showering them with praise?  Committing oneself to what is good and true? 

As we consider what a blessing is, we would do well to remember that the flip-side of blessing, a curse, is never commanded in the New Testament.  In fact, Jesus commanded his followers not to curse, and especially not to curse those who oppose you (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14).

Lord Jesus, may our lives of faith be lives of unmitigated blessing.  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  Amen.

The Color of our Glasses – Part 4

So why did those seminary students from the U.S., Russia, and Tanzania all interpret the meaning of Luke 15 (The Prodigal Son Parable) so differently? 

It is believed that in our culture (that of the United States) that we carry with us an intrinsic life focus on wealth.  This should not surprise us because of our place in a capitalistic society.  We live within an ethic of wealth accumulation, thus when we read this parable our glasses cause us to focus on the part about “squandering one’s wealth or inheritance.”  The meaning we often first pull from this teaching is about living more responsibly with regard to wealth and inheritances.  U.S. Americans are less likely to think about this young man’s fate or his father’s graciousness until after pondering what is seen as the young man’s wasteful nature and dissolute living.   

The effect of culture or “social location” on interpretation becomes  very significant, but often remains an unknown presence in our own interpretive efforts.   In part 5, I will share some understandings of the factors present in “social location” for the other two groups of seminary students studied by Dr. Powell.

Psalm 126

We have been looking through the seed catalogs with eager anticipation at our house.  To try new varietals, to wonder about possibilities, and to imagine the summer sun has brought us great happiness.  But it’s only March!  So we wait and hope, dream and plan, with the experience of those who have been blessed with abundance in the past.

The Psalm assigned for this Sunday, March 21, 2010, is brief.  Just six verses.  Brief, yet filled with meaning–both in the time and setting in which it was sung, but also for today’s people of faith.  I invite you to read it carefully, and think about your own hopes of restoration and renewal.  The metaphor is agricultural, but it could be anything.

What dreams do you dream with God?

God of all life, no sowing and reaping are done apart from you.  Amen.

The Color of our Glasses – Part Three

How we see, understand, and interpret scripture for our lives is influenced by the color of our glasses.  Our glasses are colored by the many factors that make our lives and selves uniquely different.  Some of these things we are born with, others we live into throughout our lives.   Examples include: gender, race, ethnic background, economic class, and political affiliation.  Dr. Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus Ohio, has researched, taught, and written about these as influences of Biblical Hermeneutics.  In his book “What Do They Hear?” Dr. Powell writes about Social Location, the effect of our geopolitical location in the world and its’ effect on Biblical interpretation.    

Last Sunday many of us heard from the Gospel of Luke chapter 15, the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Dr. Powell has worked extensively with this parable in an interpretive study with seminary students in the United States, Russia, and Tanzania.  The outcomes of his research on how we interpret scripture is amazing because of the effect of Social Location.  When surveyed and asked what is the point of this one of Jesus’ parables, one group overwhelmingly determined it was that  the younger son squandered his inheritance.  Another group overwhelmingly said the point was that the famine came and made him destitute, while the third group of seminary students said the message was about why others did not come to the aid of this and other starving people in the midst of this famine.  Same parable from Jesus, three very different (and faithful) scriptural interpretations. 

The color of our glasses (for reasons often beyond our understanding)  can limit or enhance what we faithfully hear and learn from the Holy Scriptures.  I pray for a deeper sense and sensitivity to scripture for my life and the lives of others – in Christ Jesus.

ELW Dedication: Sunday, March 14

before worship began

singing during dedication


retiring the Lutheran Book of Worship


selecting an ELW for each pew

The Evangelical Lutheran Worship book (red) is a resource including several settings of liturgy, many new and long-loved hymns, every psalm translated anew, and the entire Luther’s Small Catechism.  It was designed to be used both at home and in worship spaces.  We dedicated these books on Sunday, March 14, 2010.

The Lutheran Book of Worship (green) has been retired with thanksgiving and will be available, starting next Sunday, in the narthex.  If you donated an LBW in honor/memory of a loved one, please take that one.  Undesignated LBWs are for anyone who would like it.  Our blue hymnal supplement books, With One Voice, will be kept at church and used for various non-sanctuary worship settings (meetings, retreats, etc).

Thanks to all who so generously donated these new worship books.  We pray that they will serve us well as we continue to glorify God for many years to come!

(And sincere thanks to our photographer, Jack,  for capturing these special moments of worship.  This kind of thing only happens every 30 years or so…)

No Fig Grows Overnight

The story we will hear in worship this Sunday, March 7, 2010 is one of those that will make you go, “Hmmm.  What does Jesus mean?”  And perhaps, depending on the state of our own heart, we will hear his words differently.  Consider, for example, the parable at the end of the reading.  Is Jesus’ message about the fig tree life-saving and gracious?  Or harsh and judgmental?   What kind of methods does this gardening Jesus have in mind?  And will it have any effect on that poor tree?  Giving it one more year; is that a statement about the tree, or a statement about the one who cares for the tree? 

Perhaps it is told in this way to make us wonder.  After all, no fig will grow overnight.

Tending Lord, bring forth fruit in our lives.  Amen.