Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let there be light!

For a guy who is always on the alert for law and gospel sightings in the world, how about this one?  Yesterday, in the annual ritual of untangling the strings of outdoor lights and attempting to drape them over the shrubbery before my hands and feet freeze, an amazing thing happened:  ALL the strings of lights worked!  I'm quite sure this has never happened before.  There actually was one rogue half string of lights that didn't work for a time, but seeing all of their buddies cooperating this year, they too decided to work after all.  I'm quite sure this event does not arise to gospel status, that is to say, it is not an appearance of the Christ amongst us, but just look how they repel the darkness!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunrise through the broken glass

We were in NYC recently visiting our daughters.  We had plans to leave our daughter's apartment in the early morning and drive to a family wedding together.  When we went out to the car that morning we were greeted with a reminder that we live in a broken world - literally! Someone had decided to through a brick through our windshield as we slept.  What is that about? I ask myself.  What goes on inside the head of the person who does this?  Were they drunk?  High?  Enraged?  Acting on a dare? And what of my part in this crazy event?  Am I, in some way, responsible for producing or at least allowing a society where some people feel compelled to destroy the property of others?  So many questions.  And yet, through the broken windshield you can see the sunrise.  God is still at work in this broken world.  For that I am thankful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For every thing there is a season

I was standing across the street from this demolition site the other day and I thought how much the giant mouth on that machine looks like a hungry monster.  I also thought how easily we tear down homes that have stood for generations.  Think about all the stories, all the people, all the lives, all the little feet that ran in through those doorways and up those stairs. Think about the laughter and tears, the struggles and joys, the hugs and the hurts that inhabited those walls.  Death and life, it's all so much a part of everything.  "For everything there is a season," says the wisdom writer.  So it is.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday morning sunrise

Last Sunday I was walking to church to get ready for morning worship and I stopped on my way to marvel at the beautiful scene overhead.  The clouds and sun and the stillness of the morning all helped me realize what a gift it is to get up and view such a creation and to follow that up with a morning of worship.  It makes me wonder why so many people find the idea of worshipping God so odd.  To me it doesn't seem odd at all; it seems like the most natural thing in the world.  It seems to me that the creation itself cries out for us to praise the Creator.  And besides all that it gives me joy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

nature on display

Out on a walk in the Hormel Nature Center yesterday, Ruth and I came upon a group of monarchs clustered on the flower in the lower photo.  (You can see them if you look closely.) Small and fragile as they are, it's hard to believe that they will soon begin their thousand-mile journey to Mexico where they will winter, breed and die.  When we view nature it becomes immediately apparent how much death is a part of life.  Somehow, we humans have a hard time coming to terms with that.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Graffiti Gospel

My wife, Ruth, and I were out for a bike ride this afternoon when we came around the corner at Mill Pond in Austin, Minnesota where we live and here was this colorful graffiti.  It was done this summer by some kids in our church.  I had heard about it, but only now saw it for the first time.  OSLC, by the way, is for Our Savior's Lutheran Church and the kids who painted this obviously have a love for God and for music.  Pretty cool.

What isn't obvious is that this mural was painted over something else.  If I remember correctly there was some gang graffiti here prior to this and so not only did the group eliminate that, they proclaimed the Gospel as well.  Way to go!

Our world is filled with violence.  Perhaps it is part of our call as followers of Jesus to bring an alternative world view - that there is a promise that is greater than the violence.  It is the promise of God's love, which is alive in God's people.  Sing on!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Who are these dressed in white?

I was at Fort Snelling last week for a burial at the National Cemetery.  The grounds are home to thousands of graves of military veterans over the last 140+ years, beginning with veterans who actually served at Fort Snelling when it was an active military post in the 1860s.  The officer who met us told us that they currently do nearly 5,000 burials a year there.

As I stood looking at those acres of grave markers I thought of this passage from St. John's Revelation:

"Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?'  I said to him, 'Sir, you are the one that knows.' Then he said to me, 'These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (7:13-14)

As I thought about St. John's revelation I thought that perhaps the scene he saw was somewhat like the one in front of me - row after row of those dressed in white.  Will death have the last word?  Will the blood of the Lamb cover us all?  Who are these robed in white?

Friday, August 8, 2014

A gospel word in living color

The artwork shown above is the priceless artwork of my 95-year old mother-in-law's great-grandchildren who sent these pictures to her while she convolesces in a nursing home from a broken hip.  We saw them today on my mother-in-law's nursing home room bulletin board as we visited her.  As I saw these pieces I thought what an expression of love and joy they are.  They say to this wonderful elderly lady, "We love you. We want you to feel better.  We are thinking of you.  We bless you."

Visiting an elderly person in a nursing home is a stark reminder of the law of mortality.  It is a reminder that each day we are all one day closer to the grave.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we have a sense of immortality, but we are not immortal.  We have a sense of what it means to keep living vibrantly all our days, and yet we are not guaranteed that we will be given that gift.  Perhaps our last days will not be pleasant, will not be something we would wish for.  And we have little to say about that.  It is the law of mortality.

And yet the Gospel word comes to us from God our Creator who, like these loving children behind the artwork, says, "I love you.  I am with you.  I bless you."  How good that word is.

Monday, July 28, 2014

why worship? carrot or stick?

My last Sunday morning on sabbatical was spent with my parents and aunt at Bethlehem Lutheran in Minneapolis yesterday. (Altar and font pictured). One of the lessons read during the service was from Colossians 1, where St. Paul gives his eloquent creedal statement: "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers - all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . ." As I heard that read I suddenly knew with clarity why we worship; it is because all this is true! Christ really is the image of the invisible God. All things in heaven and earth truly were created through him and for him.Truly all things do hold together in him. We worship simply because Christ is who he is, and that makes him worthy of our worship.

This summer I have had more than one conversation with persons who wonder why I worship when I "don't have to be there." They wonder if I do it because I'm afraid of God being angry with me if I don't, or if I do it because I receive some grand gifts that they didn't know about when I worship. In other words, they wonder if it is "the carrot or the stick" that get me to worship every Sunday, even on sabbatical. I'd say now that it's neither.  I worship because of who Christ is. All things hold together in Christ.  All things were created through and for Christ. Without Christ I have no life.  That's why I worship. What would you say?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Looking for a good word from on high?

If you aren't a baseball fan you may not have seen the above picture that was taken during the Home Run Derby last night at Target Field, Minneapolis, during the All-Star Game festivities.  The picture looks unreal, like it's from some fantasy baseball movie, but no, this rainbow actually came forth during Brian Dozier's at-bats during the derby.  It made it's way onto the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune's sports section.

Interestingly there was quite a bit of media chatter about this rainbow in the sky.  Why is that?  I suppose one explanation is that human beings are naturally superstititous - esp. baseball players, some say.  I have another hunch. I think there is a natural longing in all of us to hear a word from on high - especially a word of promise.  We long to know that the Creator of us all is blessing us and granting us favor.  It goes back to that promise to Noah when, following the Great Flood, God says:  "I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." (Gen. 9:13)  Is the rainbow a word of gospel from on high?  I think it is something we long to believe.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Connected to Who

We just spent a week up north at a resort with our extended family and pictured above are a number of my great nieces and nephews.  As I think about this picture I am reminded that being connected to one another is a priceless treasure.  There is no substitute for deep relationships.  I sometimes wonder about people who say they have no connection with God.  What is that like?  I know what it's like to be confused about God, or doubt God is listening or caring, or wonder where God is in the midst of the world's tragedies, but to acknowledge no connection whatsoever with God, not even anger, that baffles me.  It seems to me that Augustine was right when he said that we are restless until we find our rest in God.  I'm sure others will disagree.  For me a real word of Gospel is when Jesus says, "I call you friends."  Thoughts?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chains for what?

I was in a remote location in Door County, Wisconsin this past week, in a place called Washington Island. One day while on a walk along a country road I came across the strange sight in the picture above:  A chained gateway to a piece of land.  No buildings, no road, only a stand of trees and expanse of land, and posted not far from this gateway were signs like the one in the second picture.  In this remote place, where I could walk for an hour and have only one car pass me, I thought, "Why these chains?  Why these announcements of law?"  Are we obsessed with Law?  I think we are.  I invite your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meet Paul

This is Paul.  He's a shoe shine guy in one of the airports that I traveled through in recent days.  He gave me permission to take his picture.  He says lots of people ask for his picture.  He reports that he is 85 and has been shining shoes at various places around the country since he was 15 years old!  I asked him how he likes being a shoe shine guy, and he says he loves it and he makes a pretty good living.  I was surprised by that. I guess I expected him to say something like, "It is what it is," in a sort-of dreary voice.

My question is:  What gives a guy like Paul the ability to be positive about life?  My answer is:  There must be some gospel voices singing in his soul.  Somewhere, somehow, somebody has been singing gospel songs to him that remind him he is a child of God, he is treasured, he is made in God's image, he has been forgiven of his sins.  I think that without that message singing in our heads it's awfully tough to be positive about life.  And maybe that's why I think gospel words are so important in preaching.  What do you think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

death as gospel?

Hey All,

We were at a country cemetery this past weekend where we saw the grave of my 95 year-old mother-in-law's grandfather!  He died in 1879.  (My mother-in-law, by the way, is hale and hearty)

It got me thinking:  Since one way of thinking about Law/Gospel is that  the Law always lifts up our vulnerability, and the Gospel always speaks about God's response to our vulnerability, is it possible that death could be (at some point in life) a gospel word?  I'm thinking about people who have lived a long, long time and are ready for the Lord to take them.  Is death good news for them?  Something to ponder...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What message do you hear?

I call this blog "Law & Gospel Everywhere."  Why?  Because there are examples EVERYWHERE where we receive messages that say (even without meaning to!)  "You need Christ!"  (that's the Law speaking) and other messages which say, "Here is Christ!"  (that's the Gospel speaking).  Example #1 is above.  Check out the sign.  Do you hear Law or Gospel when you read that message?  I'd be curious.  See ya later