Monday, July 31, 2006

giving to the poor

Response to the earlier post about Las Vegas prohibiting giving of food to the poor:
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." [ Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop] Except now it can read, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a criminal..." HONESTLY!!!! This is DISGUSTING!!

Matthew 25:40

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Las Vegas has outlawed the feeding of the hungry. more

What is the Christian's role in the world?

Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, author of Letters From a Skeptic, and local mega-church leader from Maplewood, Minnesota, is the subject of a challenging article by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times. Woodland Hills Church lost 1,000 of its 5,000 members after Rev. Boyd preached a series of controversial sermons stating that "the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a 'Christian nation' and stop glorifying American military campaigns."
Rev. Boyd:

America wasn't founded as a theocracy. America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state. I am sorry to tell you that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.
Rev. Paul Eddy, professor at Bethel:
Greg is an anomaly in the megachurch world. He didn't give a whit about church leadership, never read a book about church growth. His biggest fear is that people will think that all church is is a weekend carnival, with people liking the worship, the music, his speaking, and that's it.
Read more.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Recently I made reference to a book about the prisoners at Guantanamo; the book is Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power by Joseph Margulies. You can find a review of the book here.

Sunday's thoughts

The following are excerpts from my message this morning at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church in Maplewood, Minnesota. I was preaching on the Gospel text for today from John 6, which describes the feeding of the five thousand and Peter walking on water to Jesus.

Jesus would have our vision be broad enough - wide enough to accept miracles - to believe in what he can do - even with a little boy's lunch. That was the lesson Jesus wanted Peter and us to learn - to be open to the challenge of vision.
* * *
Sometimes Jesus tells us to do what we don't want to do. Sometimes he presents us with a vision - but we shut our eyes. It's easier to pretend it isn't there. Or maybe we just don't see a vision; maybe we would like to step our for Jesus, but just don't know how. Let me help you.
When Pastor Charlie gets back from vacation, go up to him. Ask him, "What can I do for our church - for our young people - for our seniors - for our community?" I promise you Pastor Charlie will have plenty of ideas. Let's be open to the challenge of vision.
* * *
Jesus' challenge to Peter this time was not about vision - Peter had the vision of walking on water. This time it was about Peter's faith.
* * *
Do the waves of uncertainty about health or money keep us from stepping out in faith? Will our worry about our own well being cause us to sink?
* * *
Are we afraid to participate in the work of Christ because we have taken our eyes off Jesus? What then are we looking at?
The wonderful and encouraging part of our Scripture today is that even when we doubt our faith - and all of us do at one time or another - even when we begin to sink, as Peter did - Jesus will be there for us also. He will hold out his hand and reassure us also with his words: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
* * *
As Jesus challenges our commitment - let's not flee like those who didn't want to accept Jesus' hard teachings. Instead, let us turn to Jesus, and say along with Peter, and without reservation, "Jesus - you have the words of eternal life. I believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

ancient book of Psalms

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

“There’s two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out,” Wallace said. “First of all, it’s unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing.”

The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations’ attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

For an orthodox Jew's take on this, click here & read the first July 27 post.

Friday, July 28, 2006


As we grow older, time seems to pass more quickly. Events that I thought took place two years ago really happened ten years ago. Wasn't it only yesterday that I took out the garbage and a week has gone by already?

Yet time continues to move slowly when we wait in the doctor's office. Even more slowly when we wait for God's response to our prayers.

"Can't God see how I'm suffering? Why is he taking so long?" we ask.

But let us heed the advice of the Psalmist:
Be still before the Lord and wait in patience.

Psalm 37:7 (Grail)

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I wonder if the Psalmist had us in mind when he said that "rebels must dwell in a parched land."
Psalm 68:6

But our yard is quite green since I'm watering not only the shrub roses & seedlings, but the older trees as well.

If we are God's people, we do not have to worry. In the same psalm we are told: "When you went forth, O God, at the head of your people, . . . You poured down, O God, a generous rain."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

visit the sick

This morning I had the privilege of visiting one of the parishioners of Beaver Lake Lutheran at Regions Hospital. I'm filling in this week (through Sunday) for Pastor Charlie. It was truly a joy to make the hospital call since I do not presently have a congregation to serve as pastor. I urge every one of you to think about whom you might visit -- not just those in hospitals, but also in nursing homes, or those who are confined to their homes or apartments for various reasons. I promise you that you will be glad you did.
Visitation (and care for others) is an important command from Jesus. When we visit those in need, we are indeed visiting Jesus.

Jesus said: Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 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. . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

Matthew 25: 34-36, 40

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Congratulations to Mike Johnson upon being accepted at the AFC seminary where he will begin studies this fall!

I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind.
1 Samuel 2:31

Monday, July 24, 2006


After an absence of several weeks, it was good to return to Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley early this morning -- even with all of the mosquitoes and humidity. Crossing over this stream I was reminded of a verse from the prophet Amos. I was thinking about it because on the way to the center I was listening to the news from Israel/Lebanon. What is the right course for these countries? As Christians, what is our obligation towards them? Later I heard an interview with the author of a book about the Guantanamo prisoners. Even though the Supreme Court has ruled that they are entitled to basic rights under the Geneva Convention, the administration is resisting the ruling by various motions in the courts. In view of the ruling, no more new prisoners are sent to Guantanamo -- the new ones are moved to secret CIA prisons in other countries. Where is justice?

Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let
justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:23-24

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Quote of note at today's service by Pastor Larry Johnson at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church:

While pastors are often referred to as shepherds, we are just understudies.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Orthodox Jewish blog

Cross-Currents, an Orthodox Jewish blog, commenting upon the fighting on the border with Lebanon, cites Zechariah 11:1:
Open your doors, O Lebanon, so that fire may devour your cedars!

preaching schedule

Just a note to let you know that a week from tomorrow, July 30, I'll be leading the service & preaching at Beaver Lake Lutheran Church. Their summer service is at 9 a.m.; for directions, check their web site.


Last week I upgraded my cell phone to a 700p Treo which has a better than average cell phone camera. Of course I had to verify that claim. The picture on the left is one of my first with this phone; so far, I'm pleased with it. Now, if I can just figure out how to post the videos it takes ...

While mowing the lawn this afternoon, I continued to reflect upon my study of Respecting the Enemy (see yesterday's post). Too often I dwell upon the wrongs and hurts that have been imposed on me. The following helps:

The comic strip character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." We must be aware of that enemy who lies within each of us. And we can begin by paying attention to our inner dialogues. Set in motion by the words or actions of others, such dialogues cause us to endlessly rehash old offenses, real or imagined. Such thoughts take hold of us, possess us, and make us our own worst enemies. Becoming aware of our inner dialogues -- and then changing them -- helps us step off this path to self-destruction.

Friday, July 21, 2006

respecting the enemy

With all of the current conflict between Israel & Lebanon, I thought it appropriate to mention the course, Respecting The Enemy, that I have been perusing during the last week or so. (click here and then on Course to Mindfulness) The course is by the Carmelites of Indianapolis. From the introduction:

First of all, who is my enemy? I am not at all sure that I can call anyone my enemy. I grieve for all the cruelty in inhumanity of which the human heart, including my own, is capable. To "respect the enemy" I need to control my feelings, my thoughts, and especially my tongue, so as to always respect the dignity and rights of others. I need to respect and appreciate those who are different from me as a brother or sister in God, and to realize that we're all God's sons and daughters.

Monday, July 17, 2006

In God alone is my soul at rest;
from God comes my help.
God alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.
Psalm 62:1 (Grail)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

dark thoughts & rocks

Read this week's comments by Abbot Thomas here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

battle of the ads

Like many states, Indiana has struggled with gay-rights legislation. Cities such as Indianapolis have approved local ordinances barring discrimination based on sexual preference, but a campaign to extend the legislation statewide has come up short.

A sampling of the ads by proponents of the legislation:
Would Jesus discriminate?
Jesus taught us to love everyone, even our enemies and those who are different from us, not destroy and mistreat them.

Response by the opposition:
God Discriminated at Sodom
Not only did Jesus discriminate; he is going to discriminate again.

Who are the Christians?

life at the margins

One of the gravest threats to the North American church is the deception of power—the deception of being at the center. Those at the center tend to think, "The future belongs to us. We are the shapers of tomorrow. The process of gospel transmission, the process of mission—all of it is on our terms, because we are powerful, because we are established. We have a track record of success, after all."

Yet recently the Lord led me to an amazing passage, the encounter between Jesus and Nathaniel in John 1. Nathaniel has decided Jesus is a non-entity. Jesus comes from Nazareth, after all.

Nathaniel's skepticism comes from being in power, being at the center. Those at the center decide that anyone not with us is—not against us—[but] just irrelevant. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" It doesn't warrant our time. But the Messiah is from Nazareth.

Surprise, Nathaniel!

Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye

read more

think about it ...

We are never gentle or compassionate enough with ourselves.
Gerald May

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Left Behind won't leave us alone

Last Sunday I referred you to Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction. Another new book,

Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire by Michael Standaert presents a much more ominous picture. Publisher's Weekly comments:

Standaert has done his homework... his book is an important look at the premillennialist movement, illuminating the potential for such a group to evolve into the kind of violent religious factions that the U.S. and others are struggling to stamp out across the globe.

Read more.

The lure of theocracy

Over the years I have very much appreciated the writing of Philip Yancey. In a recent article he discusses the possibility that we in the United States may become a mirror image of Islamist fundamentalists. He concludes:

Hearing firsthand about Islamic culture increased my understanding, but it also made me nervous about my own society. The very things we resist in Islam, some Christians find tempting. We, too, seek political power and a legal code that reflects revealed morality. We, too, share a concern about raising our children in a climate of moral decadence. We, too, tend to see others (including Muslims) as a stereotyped community, rather than as individuals. Will we turn toward our own version of the harsh fundamentalism sweeping Islam today?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What about the aliens?

Anti-immigration rhetoric has been an ironic constant in a nation built by immigrants. Each generation of arrivals has tried to justify exclusion of the next. Today's debate asserts the alleged sanctity of “legal immigration,” as if early thefts of natives' land, betrayal of treaties, tenements, child labor, predatory gangs and anti-immigration riots were quaint phases, but now Mexicans must obey the rules. Those who fear and fight immigration should endure the lines at Ellis Island and see its record of what actually happens when a nation welcomes “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Tom Ehrich

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Left Behind should be left behind

A new book looks at the abuse and misuse of Scripture by the popular Left Behind series. click here

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jesus said:
"Go and learn what this mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
Matthew 9:13

Thursday, July 06, 2006

God hears

In my anguish I called to you, LORD;
I cried to you, God, for help.
From your temple you heard my voice;
my cry came to your ears.
Psalm 18:6 (Grail)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

how to pray

If God knows what we desire -- if he knows what is good for us, should we ask for specific things nevertheless? St. Teresa of Avila answered this question in "The Way of Perfection" by addressing Jesus:

Between you and your Father this was quite sufficient. This is how you made your request of him in the garden of Gethsemane. You showed him what you wished for and what you feared, but left it all in his hands. But you know us, my Lord, and you know that we have not given ourselves up to the will of your Father as completely as you did. For us, it is best to pray for specific things, so that as each of them comes to mind we can pause to consider whether it is something good that we are asking for; so that if it is not, we should refrain from asking for it. Otherwise (being what we are, free will and all) we will not accept what God chooses to give us even if it is far better than what we asked for, simply because it is not exactly what we asked for. We are the sort of people who cannot feel rich unless we feel the weight of the actual coins in our hand.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July parade, St. Anthony Park, St. Paul, MN

Monday, July 03, 2006

Are you discouraged by your sins?

No matter how hard we may try, we keep on sinning -- and we will continue to do so until we meet our Lord and Savior. Although we know that we are saved by our faith in Jesus, we must continue to fight the old Adam in us. These battles can be discouraging. That's why I was uplifted by Br. Benet, the Oblate Director of Blue Cloud Abbey, who in his last Oblate Letter reminded me of a portion from the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict:

As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bring Jesus!

Read Abbot Thomas' comments about bringing Jesus to others. Click here

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