Sunday, December 21, 2014

Incarnation Implications
Advent is fading, Christmas is rising, Epiphany is coming, Lent is shadowing, Holy Week is excruciating, Easter is liberating, and Pentecost is expanding. All because of Jesus, the Incarnate God of the flesh, of humanity, of personness.

I ask why?  Why did God choose to become human?  Why could not God have remained a Spirit, a mystical presence who stirred our inner self, touched our consciences, who sometimes came as fire or rain or storm, or sunrise?  Why wasn't God's liberating activity in the Exodus enough? Or the conquest of Canaan enough? Or the Restoration from Babylon enough? Or the kings, the Psalms, the Prophets enough? Why wasn't that enough so that God could just be God?

I submit these actions were not enough because God's People forgot what it meant to be a human being created in God's Image. God had to become human, to remind us again what it means to be a human being created in the Image of God, to restore the created nature of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to restore, enlighten and transform humanity's place, nature, and character in the world.

Here comes Jesus, the Christ. What happens through Jesus the Christ?

What does this mean? (Sounds Lutheran!)


WE LIVE OUT OF GRACE: "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (I Cor 15:10). Grace is God's love and forgiveness given to us and claiming us as part of God's family. Grace tempers any arrogance, shuts down any sense that we are "masters of our fate, and captains of our souls" (Poem: "Invictus"). Arrogance turns attention upon ourselves instead of God's higher purpose.  Grace yields the stage to Jesus. We live in the spirit of the hymn: "Give me Jesus, you can have all the rest". Through grace we humbly kneel to the will of God.  We are nothing apart from God's grace. Grace is life's starting point. Our place and purpose in the world is defined by God's grace because grace creates out of nothing. We are because of God's grace. God's mark is upon us meaning we not our own.  Through grace, our bodies, our personhood are united with God in Christ so that we reflect the character of God. God's grace makes humanity humbly holy. All this because we are "in Christ." Christ, fully divine, fully human, ocean of grace!

WE ARE FREE: "For freedom, Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) In Christ, through Christ, we are forgiven, redeemed, transformed, washed by the blood of the Lamb, made new. "Dance with the Spirit [of Christ] early in the morning.  Walk with the Spirit [of Christ] throughout the long day." (Song by Jim Strathdee) "Where the Spirit of [God] is there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17) We are liberated to be human beings, persons of God, to discover our gifts, to form relationships, to value our feelings, to test our minds, to respect our bodies, to use our senses. To quote Tony Campolo: "The Kingdom of God is a Party!" In Christ, we are fully human and fully alive! Only the humanity of God in Christ can liberate humanity.

WE ARE DISCIPLES: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God." (Romans 12:1) In the Affirmation of Baptism (ELW), each person who stands prepared to confess their discipleship, promises to: live among God's faithful people, hear the word of God and share in the Lord's Supper, proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. All of these promises are experienced and expressed through Christ's humanity as Son of God and our humanity, within humanity.  Because we are Baptized into Christ, we look to Christ as the human example of discipleship, to imitate his actions in our contexts. Because we are "in Christ", we are bound to be Christ through our humanity. Christ's humanity is our humanity, meaning out of grace, out of freedom, we engage the world, enter the joys and sufferings of the earth and humanity, and be instruments of God's transforming will. God's grace, God's freedom, God's call to discipleship is realized through Christ's humanity lived through us. 

WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE NONVIOLENTLY: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection....overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:9-10, 21). Jesus' life was a testament to nonviolence. In two situations when weapons were central to the dramas, Jesus said "Enough" and "No more of this." The Fruits of the Spirit [of Christ] are: "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control." (Galatians 5:22-23) All of these fruits are nonviolent. These words were written by Paul, a converted Jew, who was transformed from a life of violent persecution to one of proclaimer of love. Paul in his humanity was reflecting Christ! Nowhere in the Gospels nor Paul's letters are Jesus' followers called to do violence to others. We learn nonviolence by imitating Christ's nonviolence.

It is only through becoming human in Christ that God transforms each of us and the world. In Christ, God reveals in human form what it means to be created in the Image of God and called to be Christ's holiness in the world. In Christ, humanity is sanctified because Christ's humanity was sanctified. Christ's humanity transforms and physically exemplifies God's character. Christ defines what it means to be a human being. Christ's humanity teaches us what it means for us to be a human being. We learn from Jesus how to live and what to do that we can please God and make real the Reign of God.

O Holy Night!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Greater Fools
Linda and I have been watching Aaron Sorkin's HBO Series "The Newsroom". The series focuses on the challenges facing a newsroom in putting forth the televised daily news: real news, real stories about the day's significant events, and not entertainment fluff.

The final show in the first season was entitled "The Greater Fool." The Greater Fool is one who can succeed where others fail. The Greater Fool is delusional, rather out of sync with the status quo, yet who presses on towards what he/she perceives is the finest goal. One of the characters says: "America was founded by Greater Fools." Think of Don Quixote.

I would suggest to be Christian is to be a Greater Fool. My evidence? Look to scripture: Amos 2:6: "Thus says the Lord: For the three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals." Luke 1:52-53: "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." Luke 11:"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mink and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God....When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross examine him...lying in wait for him, to catch him...." The message of the Christ was love, compassion, and justice. To be one with the people, to dress similarly, to eat bread and drink water and wine, to heal, to reconcile, to live like a commoner.

On the contrary, the message of the power elite, the religious sages, the ecclesiastical gurus was to protect their positions, to live in leisure, to parade in white robes, to wear gold and jewelled head pieces, to sleep on soft pillows, to be waited on by scented servants, to trumpet exclusivity. The Scribes and Pharisees failed to address the people's true needs. Similarly, the Roman occupation demanded taxation which further stressed the people's well-being.

As THE GREATER FOOL, Jesus was big on equality, listened well,  responded to the cries of the weak and sick, wanted folks to share the wealth as each according to need, took action to address the common needs of the people.  It took THE GREATER FOOL to establish the Reign of God! It took "Holy Delusion" to counter the calculating broken souls of the power elite.

What is the venom of the broken souls?  In the midst of an unjust, unkind, cruel government, a leadership just passed a CROMNIBUS budget bill which imperils fairness, equal opportunity, and future security. Consider this travesty:

Guaranteed taxpayer bail-out of careless derivative investments by banks and Wall Street, the wealthy can give ten times to political groups what they could before, lessening the influence of everyone else,
cutting funding for the IRS which means the wealthy will have fewer people to check on their tax evasion schemes, cutting funding for the EPA so corporations can further pollute the earth and release carbon into the air without hindrance from inspectors, cutting into guaranteed pension plans which means less for retirees, showering the Pentagon with nearly 60% of discretionary spending, cutting the WIC program by $93 million and allocating over $400 million for three F-35 fighter planes the Pentagon didn't request, cutting Pell Grants for low income students to go to college, and sending the cuts to for profit companies that provide loans for students as a pay back.

And don't forget the pending Trans-Pacific Trade Deal which will cost perhaps millions of American jobs.

Those who passed this Cromnibus Bill and are working to pass the TPT are not GREATER FOOLS. They are the calculating leeches, the market marionettes, the back room swindlers wise to the machinations of the corporate-business cycles, the pompous plutocrats, the obnoxious oligarchs, the fat, fanatical fascists, who utilize their power to play us all as their entertainment, bowing to the god of profit! Under the guise of success and power, it is these who have failed the nation, failed humanity, failed the test of justice.

Who are THE GREATER FOOLS?  It is the followers of the Christ. It is the people! The supposed powerless! Those who swim against the odds, who do the unscripted, who throw the curve balls, who dance to the rhythms of justice for all, who believe in sharing the wealth, providing housing and food for all, guaranteeing education and healthcare as rights for all, assuring that infrastructure needs are addressed, spending less on guns and bombs, promising that all citizens can vote without being subject to the canard of voter fraud.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Grant Me Justice...."
Luke 18:1-8
"Hands Up-Don't Shoot!" read the signs. But the police officer did shoot in fear for his life. Michael Brown was called Hulk Hogan and a Demon. Michael was an unarmed Hulk and Demon.  A witness 50-100 yards away said Michael Brown was charging him.  Others said Michael Brown had his hands up and was not charging.  Conflicting testimony.

The District Attorney called a Grand Jury to decide if there was "probable cause" for a trial. But the DA abused his authority. He manipulated the Grand Jury and set them up to do his bidding.  He turned the Grand Jury into a Trial Jury to decide the officer's guilt or innocence. "Probable cause" was off the table. There was no cross examination of witnesses. The result: officer Wilson walked free. What followed were riots and demonstrations nation wide. MLK, Jr. said: "A riot is the language of the unheard." People demanded to be heard! People sensed a miscarriage of justice. 

A Black leader said a Black youth is 21 more times ready to be shot or called to account by police than a White person. Meanwhile, a 12 year old Cleveland, Ohio boy playing in a park is shot dead by police for brandishing a pellet gun! Remember Trayvon Martin? Yes, in the Twin Cities, the majority of gun crime and gun violence is caused by African Americans. Yes, policing is a dangerous job.  But so is being a Black man or youth. 

Police officers are given TOO MUCH leeway, TOO MUCH benefit of the doubt on when to shoot. TOO MUCH! In Minneapolis, nearly 500 police/citizen shooting/confrontation incidents have occurred over a span of time and there has been ZERO police convictions.  Hmmm. I think there is a justice disconnect between what is justifiable homicide and alternative nonviolent responses to incidents. Why do police most likely go for a "kill shot" rather than a disabling shot to the legs or arms? Why is it that police believe lethal shots are justified simply because they "felt threatened" for their life?  This is too existential, too relative, too subjective, too Libertarian. 

In 1985, the United States Supreme Court decided that "a police officer cannot use lethal force against a fleeing suspect unless the officer has reason to believe the suspect is armed and an immediate threat to public order." Michael Brown was unarmed and no threat to public order other than perhaps having a handful of "cigarillos." 

Is it any wonder there is a consistent cry for justice? A son is dead, parents grieve, and portions of our nation weep and get angry, crying out for justice. The racial divide is exposed!

There is no place for a blood lust. There is a place for conversation, action, and justice. Action should include additional training of police officers, teaching officers the practical meaning of the 1985 Supreme Court decision. Action should be the wearing of video cams to document all incidents and arrests.  Action should be training officers to NOT shoot unarmed suspects, and if shooting is deemed necessary, training to NOT go for a "kill shot." Why not the legs or the arms? Police should be required to carry Mace, a baton, and a Taser gun. Police should be taught to be more aware of the context of the incidents.  If you are called to a toy store, the chances are that if you are confronted with a person carrying a toy gun, think that the gun actually is a toy gun! Recognize it for what it is!

As for now, the Federal Government Department of Justice should bring Darell Wilson to trial on Federal charges. There is clear evidence for "probable cause." Mr and Mrs. Brown call for justice, as do millions of citizens. Let this situation spark a renewal in police ethics and training. This tragedy has awakened deeply felt dissension, and torn the scab off the suppurating wounds of racism. Someone said (paraphrase): "Don't let a tragedy go to waste." Tragedy can unite. Tragedy can lead to healing. Let it be so. "I want justice!" the widow cries.  As does America.

"For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups
into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is,
the hostility between us."
Ephesians 2:14


Saturday, November 15, 2014


I attended a lecture by Joseph Pearce.  He began by singing the first verse of "Amazing Grace." "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved as wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see."

At the age of 15, Joseph Pearce joined the British National Front, a far-right political party opposed to multi-racial and multi-cultural England.  At the age of 16, he set-up the BULLDOG, the paper of the organization.  His parents never went to church and never prayed. He attended a school whose motto above the door was: "To your own self be true." These words are from Shakespeare's HAMLET, Act 1, Scene 3, spoken by Polonius to his son, Laertes. Joseph said this motto described his life. He spoke of his brief stint as a singer in a punk rock band. He spoke of a song he sang with the band which included the words: "White power! Smash, smash! Yanks, go home!" 

He was imprisoned twice. His conversion occurred during his second imprisonment. He was given a book written by C.K. Chesterton. It changed his life. He then read C.S. Lewis, followed by reading John Newton's conversion story. All the books pointed to the "Amazing grace of God!" Of Chesterton, Joseph spoke of his humor and humility. Joseph quoted Chesterton: "Anything that's worth doing, is worth doing badly." He coupled this with Chesterton's allusion to the value of standing on your head and seeing the world differently. Joseph liked Chesterton's comment about conversation: "We always argued, but never quarrelled." 

Through these writings, Christ came to "make sense" to Joseph. It led him to what he describes as a "rational faith." His book is titled, RACE WITH THE DEVIL: MY JOURNEY FROM RACIAL HATRED TO RATIONAL FAITH." Faith in Christ led him to conclude that racism is overcome through love, all through the amazing grace of God. The alternative, life without Christ, without God, leads only to the "Three G's: Guillotine, Gulag, and Genocide", referring to the French Revolution, Communism, and the Third Reich. Joseph is now the Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville.

The relevance of Joseph's story for today is exemplified in the conflicts between Blacks-Hispanics-Asians-Whites-Native Americans-Muslims-Christians-Sunnis-Shiites-Russians-Chinese-Republicans-Democrats-Fundamentalists-Mainlines-Gays-Straights-Ferguson and.... The list is seemingly endless. Dealing with diversity and differences present the greatest challenges to peace and justice. 

Hatred is easy. Love takes work. The Apostle Paul is insightful: "The evil I do not want to do, that I do. The good I want to do, that I do not do." I take heart in God's words in Revelation 21:5: "See, I am make all things new!" This is "amazing grace." It is by grace that our hearts are changed and our actions focused to justice, peace, and reconciliation. Grace causes conversion. It is possible!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our nation was devastated by the 2014 mid-terms. The cultural and political divide was glaringly revealed! The descent precipitous. The Biblical text that speaks to this time is the Magnificat in Luke 1. Notice the contrast, the irony. Replace the Trinity with the powerful elite, the greedy banker, the Wall Street mogul, the bought-off politician who breathes only the air of profit and perks. 

MY SOUL MAGNIFIES THE LORD: Money and the power of the elite was magnified. Winning trumped concern for the common good. Citizens United became the flood covering the goodness of life rather than a cleansing agent. The ark is nowhere to be found. Our god is the belly filled with poisonous ego, turned in upon itself with ulcerous pain.

FOR THE MIGHTY ONE HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR ME: The mighty are the corporate leeches who refuse to pay decent wages, seek ways to pay lower taxes, take jobs overseas and take advantage of overseas workers, who seek ways to avoid capital gains taxes, who suck money out of our society like a vacuum cleaner, who deny adequate health care to all, who stifle attempts to rebuild our infrastructure, who bleed the environment of health, who choke the air with carbon for profit's sake, who punish those immigrants yearning to breathe free and find sustaining labor and fair wages.

The mighty ones are Wall Street and Big Banks who refuse to help homeowners, who play with people's money by investing in the market rather than people, who feel entitled to yachts and holiday homes in Aspen, Nice, the Hamptons, and Chamonix, who refuse to refinance student loans, who want relief from regulations to the detriment of the national financial health.

The mighty ones are the politicians who sell their souls to the wealthy who buy their fealty with campaign contributions, who bow to the Big Banks, to Wall Street, and the corporate moguls believing it in the best interests of the country, who do not acknowledge the increasing economic inequality, who still believe that unfettered capitalism will right the sinking ark of the people, who believe the military will lead us home and is blindly deserving of our bended knee.

HIS MERCY IS FOR THOSE WHO FEAR HIM: Profit is mercy's pathological instrument. The record setting Dow juices the filled pockets and demands the peons fear their suited presence. Mercy is not what they give, but what they demand in payment.

HE HAS SHOWN STRENGTH WITH HIS ARMS: That the people will be crushed, that the people be low-wage slaves, that the people be denied jobs worthy of their talents, that teachers be layed off, that public schools be stiffed of adequate resources, that the majority of students be walled-off from learning, that higher and advanced education be only for those who can afford it.

HE HAS SCATTERED THE PROUD IN THE THOUGHTS OF THEIR HEARTS: A person's pride in their work and ability to support their family is squashed in the pulverizer of greedy power. The only pride is in profit and only the well connected deserve it because only they know the true capitalistic methodology, or so they believe. The rest of us just don't get it, as we are lazy, we are the undeserving.

HE HAS BROUGHT DOWN THE POWERFUL FROM THEIR THRONES: The Everyman, the Everywoman, the Everychild are the powerful, and their bodies litter American streets and soil.  They have been brought low from their thrones of home and family.

AND LIFTED UP THE LOWLY: Where? How? The lowly are ground up like hamburger.

HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS: Only with fast food and dumpster leftovers.

AND SENT THE RICH AWAY EMPTY: Empty of restraints and regulations, empty of accountability in the courts, empty of empathy, empty of love, empty of justice, empty of God.

Rise up, O People of God! Reclaim the True Magnificat! Demand the Reign of God and the building of the Kingdom! Let God's grace guide, empower, and provide! The time is ripe for transformation!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

On 25 October, the Joint Peace with Justice Committee sponsored a conversation on economic justice. The speakers addressed the theological, political, and practical facets of the issue. What follows are some of the GEMS from the speakers.

Dr. Mary Hess-Luther Seminary
Mary was the moderator, the guide for the conversations.  She quoted Micah 6:8 and the Greatest Commandment from Luke as the Biblical focus for the event.  She also used the term: "tensecrity", an expression coined by an architect.  The word is a blend of "tension" and "security", meaning security comes through the tension among various forces.

Dr. Gary Simpson-Luther Seminary
Gary referred to Psalm 82.  When the Psalmist refers to "gods", he is referring to the rulers, the politicians.  God is holding these "gods" accountable, expecting them to deal justly with people's issues.
Gary also spoke of the medieval genre of "Mirror for Princes." Leaders of significance, such as a "wise and respected person, like a theologian", would write a treatise addressed to a prince or other political official.  Upon rising each morning, the prince was to recall the treatise, that is, gaze in this mirror and see what a wise and righteous prince was to look like.

Gary said it is difficult for Americans to connect "rights talk" with economic justice or social justice. He spoke of the great contributions of Francis Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor (and America's first SOL).  She said she would accept the position under the condition that FDR would support these ideas:  1) A 40 hour work week; 2) A minimum wage; 3) Workman's compensation; 4) Unemployment compensation; 5) Federal law banning child labor; 6) Direct, Federal aid for unemployment relief; 7) Social security; 8) Revitalized public employment; 9) Health insurance for all. She was the force behind the New Deal.

Finally, Gary said that Luther never called us to be "Little Christs." Instead, Luther said "We are Christs, with and without the apostrophe!"

Pastor Sarah Breckenridge-St. Andrew's Lutheran Church
Sarah created the Community Resource Center at St. Andrew's. It is an ecumenical cooperative ministry involving 30 faith groups.  The CRC provides housing stability, computer work stations for those seeking employment, transportation, nutritious lunches, referrals, and pastoral care. Commenting on why it is hard for people to talk about money, she says such conversation opens us to vulnerability.

State Senator John Marty
John has been in the State Senate for 28 years. He quoted Isaiah 58: "Is this the fast that I choose, bow down the head like a bulrush?....Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free...." He said it is cheaper to provide housing for the homeless than to let them be homeless ($16,000 a year!).  Look at what the State of Utah is doing.  They have dropped their homeless population by 72%.  95% of Minnesotans are covered by insurance. In the 1930's they didn't start a pilot program, they did a program!  Why can't we?

Dr. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer-St. Thomas University
Jack is head of justice and peace studies. He referred us to Naomi Klein's newest book, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Life may have a soft landing, but we may be required to do some painful actions. To be hopeful requires real honesty.

How do we create authentic hope? 1) Address the reality of climate change; 2) Address that the US economy is disconnected from environmental reality; 3) Address growing inequality nationally and internationally.  The three richest people in the world possess more wealth than 48 of the poorest countries. Inequality is the #1 thing you associate with poverty and lack of health care; 4) We must reach the end of our American exceptionalism, American militarism.  54% of our discretionary budget goes to the military; 5) Money in politics needs to be addressed.  This excessive flow of money results in passage of legislation which promotes money concentration in the hands of a few, the powerful, the wealthy.

The purpose of an economy is to provide resources for a means-based society.  Translation: An economy must provide the means for ALL people to flourish.

Hope is not a ledger sheet.  Authentic hope is hope we embody in action [for the common good].

Nonviolent movements have succeed more than twice a much as violent movements.  The key to  success is to live as if you were free!

Are we connecting with each other to build a social movement?  Better policies come from better values.  We need empathy.  We need to make linkages rooted in values.  We need to build a sustainability. 


Blessings and Peace!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sow the Wind-Reap the Whirlwind
"For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind"
Hosea 8:7

     Winston Churchill spoke these words from Hosea in the early days of WWII, referring to Nazi Germany.  Hence followed the most horrendous war in world history.
     The prophet Hosea wrote in judgment of Israel for their disobedience, for their refusal to follow God's call, for their refusal to be God's gift, for their denial of their chosenness.
     I see a parallel between Hosea's time and today, between Nazi Germany and ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.  Proclaiming a new Caliphate, these barbarians murder the innocent, massacre those who follow a different faith, sell women as slaves, turn children into soldiers or slaves, slit the throats of prized prisoners (on camera), force surrendered soldiers to lay down on their stomachs in a ditch and then shoot them in the head, all the while shouting "Allah Akbar!" 
     ISIL makes the same misguided assumption all nations, all conquering soldiers shout: "God is with us!" The warrior uses God to psych-up for wielding death. Little do they know of the weeping God.
     God does not will war, or murder, or massacre, or genocide, or discrimination, or lack of tolerance, or rape, or.... It is we who will to kill the body and the spirit.  
     God is not mocked. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). God's judgment works itself out through human response, not through God pulling strings and activating our trigger fingers.  As Paul writes in Romans 13: 3-4: "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad....But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain." God does not bear the sword, or the AK-47, or the AR-15, or the RPG.  Those in authority in the world bear the sword. We ought not confuse the authority we claim as God's authority. God is not a killer. Remember: "For God so loved the world...."
     God has set humanity free to choose life. God's will is that we choose life. God has chosen us that we can choose life. In Creation, in Jesus, in Baptism, God chooses us. God's grace is God's chosenness.
     But if we reject our chosenness, we choose death. We are on our own.  We are the "captains of our fate." We have chosen to "sow the wind", create chaos, sound death's bugle.  The outcome is the grave. We will "reap the whirlwind".
     Thankfully, God is merciful. God says we are not on our own. All the while as we shoot our rifles, send in the drones, provide air support, plant our IUDs, call out to our God for strength to kill, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, God's mercy still claims us, calls us to repentance, to turn away from death to life, to seek reconciliation, to make for peace. 
     The response of the Western nations, as well as some of the Middle Eastern nations, to ISIL is a living out of Hosea's judgment. As God's judgment is UPON ALL of us, so also is God's mercy FOR ALL of us.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Gift of Catholic Social Teaching

Ever since the 1960's, I have been inspired by Pope John XXIII and Vatican II.  It was a time of dramatic change within the Roman Catholic Church, an "opening of the windows to let the fresh breeze of the Spirit" happen, a birthing of the Ecumenical Spirit! 

An outgrowth of this time was Liberation Theology, a Roman Catholic Theology begun in South America declaring a "preferential option for the poor."  During the 70's, I took a course on LT taught by Dr. Jerry Folk at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As a result of all of these events, my life was changed and directed firmly towards nonviolence, peace and justice in all facets of ministry. 

Since those years, I have paid close attention to RC social teaching.  The recent issue of Sojourners devoted a piece entitled "No Longer the 'Best Kept Secret'" by Tom Allio. He affirms Pope Francis' focus on social doctrine and social justice.  He writes: "This social tradition is best summarized by seven principles or themes, as illustrated by Pope Francis' teachings."  He then lists the teachings:

1. LIFE AND DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON: "A human being is always and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development.  Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of of resolving other problems."

2. CALL TO FAMILY, COMMUNITY, AND PARTICIPATION: "Give up the way of arms and go out and meet the other in dialog, pardon, and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you."

3. RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES: "Today we have to say 'thou shall not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality.  Such an economy kills."

4. OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE: "Each individual and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society....They have much to teach us."

5. THE DIGNITY OF WORK AND THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS: "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person.  Work, to use an image, 'anoints' us with dignity, fills us with dignity, [and] makes us similar to God...."

6. SOLIDARITY: "We have a responsibility to act so that the world may be a community of brothers [and sisters] who respect each other, who accept their diversity, and who take care of one another."

7. CARE FOR GOD'S CREATION: "We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation.  The implications of living in a horizontal manner [are] that we have moved away from God."

I must ask myself, and inquire the wisdom of God, "How do I stack up with these principles? What do I need to tweak? Where do I need transformation?"  

How does our congregation stack up?  How does the ELCA stack up? Where does the Church Universal stack up?

Thank you, Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, for lifting up the Ways of Christ, for being Lights of Christ in the world.

Now to do it.  Be it.



Saturday, June 28, 2014


I recently attended a symposium on PREVENTING GUN VIOLENCE: THE PROBLEM, SOLUTIONS, AND WHAT THE SECOND AMENDMENT ALLOWS.  Presenters included: Jon Vernick, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Dr. Michael McGonigal, Trauma Services at Regions Hospital, Prof. Darrell Miller, Duke University School of Law, and Jon Lowy, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

I came away with hope!  

First some facts and opinions by the speakers. 1) If the gun violence issue were mainly about White folks, there would be immediate action; 2) Having a gun in the house raises the possibility of domestic violence by 6 times; 3) 90% of guns involved in crime are handguns; 4) The cost to society for GV is $174 billion a year; 5) 1% of dealers sell 60% of guns used in crime; 6) There are about 50,000 licensed gun dealers in the US; 7) 40% of gun sales are not covered by back ground checks; 8) In most states, licensed private gun sales are not required; 9) Suicide success rate with guns is 90%, and with pills 1%; 10) The USA is the only Western Industrialized Nation that has not addressed gun violence; 11) 90% of public and 75% of NRA members support universal background checks; 12) We need to remember that the Second Amendment has two parts: one relating to the right to bear arms, but also this right must be seen in the context of the historical need for a standing militia.  

What actions can move us towards more gun violence prevention? First of all, the right to bear arms is not unlimited. Although the Heller decision was a victory for individuals' right to bear arms, there are situations that would prevent this right.  Furthermore, states can adopt gun violence prevention laws.  Universal confiscation is not allowable. For example, the fact that universal background checks "are more popular than ice cream," means that states and federal officials can pass universal background check laws.  It becomes a matter of judicial and political will. One presenter said: "Federal law is the floor.  State law is the ceiling."  The point is the states can pass laws beyond what the federal officials can pass.

Similarly, gun manufacturers have special exemptions and immunity from lawsuits if their weapons is used unlawfully.  Laws can be passed to eliminate these exemptions.  

There are laws that prevent research into the questions surrounding gun violence.  Furthermore, information cannot be made public through the Freedom of Information Act.  The solution: pass a law that allows gun violence research AND the free dissemination of factual data. Let decisions be based upon facts and not ideology or political party.  

One speaker made a prescient statement which seemed to reflect that of the panel: "The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  We don't have a more violent society.  We have a more lethal society."  

We in the church need to mobilize our parishioners to press our elected officials, to pass laws that mandate universal background checks, to allow funding for gun violence prevention research, to demand the release of data which enables the public to approach the issue factually.  We need to insist that gun violence is BOTH a person problem AND a gun availability problem.  We need to demand that our elected officials take action for the safety of our homes and families.  We in the church can sponsor gun safety courses in our congregations.  We need to seize the freedoms we have within the church to promote safety and action.

There is hope if we demand and work for it.  After all, we have Jesus on our side!



Friday, June 20, 2014

Travel and the Reign of God

I have previously written how travel experiences are metaphors for revealing the Reign of God. Linda and I just returned from four weeks travel in Russia, Spain, and France. Here are some metaphors that are windows to the Reign of God.

We signed on to a tour with RoadScholars.  I met two people who presented a human face of Russia.  Nicolai was a musician on the river boat who played the balalaika, a traditional 3-stringed instrument similar to a guitar.  I asked him if he would give me a lesson as I loved the instrument and want to purchase and play the balalaika.  He taught with skill and patience, he spoke only Russian and French and I only English.   Nicolai had a great smile and magic fingers who could make the instrument sound as it was created to perform.

Sergei  owned a delightful small house in the Russian village of Goritzky.  Linda and I were walking a street and we noticed this charming house.  We took a picture.  The owner came out and invited us in. I went in. (Linda waited outside anxiously.)  The inside had the same charm as the outside. I learned it was his birthday.  We sang "Happy Birthday" together.  He placed a bottle of unopened vodka on the table along with two glasses.  He motioned for me to pour.  I toasted "To Sergei.  Happy birthday!" We "shot" the vodka!  Whew!  Strong stuff!  He smiled!  I sang "Happy Birthday" again.  

Russia now is more than a nation with an ideology and politic.  Now Russia  has a human face.  "And God created [humankind]....And it was good."  "Welcome the stranger."

We met our daughter, her husband, and two grandchildren in Barcelona.  Together, we visited several Antoni Gaudi sites.  Gaudi was an idiosyncratic architect who created remarkable structures suitable for varied purposes.  He was the major influence for the La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, begun in 1882 and scheduled for completion in 2036.  Sweeping and fresh worship center, conveying Christ and celebrating nature!  Parc Guell is a fanciful park with a whimsical spirit!  Then there is Casa Milla or La Pedrera, a modernist apartment with a totally unique interior/exterior design. Previously, I had not seen anything like these structural designs.  I think of Revelation 21: "Behold, I make all things new!"

Linda and I cared for our two grandchildren, Anja and Milla, while the parents had a night out in Paris. We took them to the Anne Frank Park and the Place des Vosges, one of Europe's first planned squares. Henry IV was going to live there until he was assassinated.  Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables while living in a corner apartment.  Today, the square has four fountains, grassy areas for hanging out, benches for relaxation, and many children's play apparatus.  Anja and Milla let themselves go in these two places!  Laughter, running, freedom, celebration of life!  "I believe I shall see the goodness of God in the land of the living!" Psalm 27:13

If you want to visit chateaus (castle-like homes), travel the Loire Valley in central France.  We visited Villandry, Chaumont, d'Azay-le-Rideau, and Chambord.  The interiors are quite similar: mostly empty rooms with windows, stone or wood floors.  I guess it is too expensive to furnish the rooms with period furnishings.  In most cases it is the exteriors that set each apart.  The structures are architecturally creative, and stony! The many gardens at Villandry are design masterpieces, each unique, some with flowers, others with shrubbery and trees, some with sculptures.  Chaumont has an International Garden which this year featured creations exemplifying the "7 deadly Sins", using gardening and some solid structures to be "sin metaphors."  Wonderfully expressed!  Chambord has a hugely expansive estate!  Get out your walking shoes!  Chambord is also the largest chateau.  In every case, I asked "How could these mostly empty elephants be creatively utilized today?"  Also, "What was the real purpose of taking years to construct and spending huge amounts of money?"  Ego?  Status?  But here they exist, taking up land, and empty of life other than the presence of tourists.  Could they be utilized as living arrangements?  Could they be used as treatment centers? I think of the purpose of buildings.  We can remember Solomon's Temple, Herod's Temple, and the majestic city of Babylon.  We can think of our church structures today.  How are they used?  Is what we do with these buildings pleasing to God?

Travel is filled with metaphors for revealing the Reign of God.  The Holy Spirit enlightens us with possibilities and truth!



Monday, May 5, 2014


A family, a school, a community has dodged bombs and bullets. Last week, 17 year old John David LaDue of Waseca, Minnesota, was prevented from killing his family, unleashing explosives and killing school mates. It was meant to happen on 20 April, the 15th Anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

Fortunately, 20 April was Easter Sunday.  How appropriate!  Also fortunately, John was spotted by a 21 year old woman looking out her kitchen window, walking through her back yard, carrying a backpack, and then trying to open a storage shed.  She thought he may have been a homeless, hungry boy.  She considered asking him if he was hungry.  Instead, at the urging of another person in the house, she called 911.  

The police arrived, looked inside the storage shed, and arrested the boy.  According to the STARTRIBUNE of 4 May, "Bomb squad members called in to confiscate the explosives were 'shocked by the amount of bomb making chemicals and components.'.... Three more bombs were discovered at the storage unit, along with chemicals...and 60 pounds of metal ball bearings. The storage unit also held a black trench coat." Authorities then searched the boy's room and found seven firearms along with ammunition. (I have since learned that perhaps John gained access to the storage shed through a friend who evidently got his mother's permission.) 

According to the STARTRIBUNE, "LaDue in fact 'idolized' Columbine shooter Eric Harris and made several references to Harris and fellow shooter Dylan Klebold in a 180-page journal that spelled out the details of his plan....LaDue even 'critiqued what Harris and Klebold did right and wrong' during the shooting...."

It was reported that John David LaDue was a "B" student, played guitar, was never bullied, and was never in any trouble at school. I saw a video of him playing his guitar in a church setting. And yes, he was rather quiet.  Sound familiar?  

The President of PROTECT MINNESOTA, an organization committed to gun violence prevention, on which I am a board member (full disclosure), reported that John had the guns in a locked gun cabinet in his room to which he had the key!

Walking into church yesterday, I said to a friend who is also a Rush Limbaugh fan, "We dodged a big one last week, Chuck." He proceeded to tell me that "People will always find a way to get guns.  Look at Chicago (his home town)! He was a disturbed kid." My response was he exhibited normal behavior and was doing well in school.  There were no strong indicators of mental illness. Yet, he was under age and was able to access guns. We need to tighten our gun laws. (Since our conversation I have learned that John liked throwing knives and axes at a tree.)

I have several questions. 1) How did John get his guns?; 2) Why did he have a gun cabinet in his room and he had the key?;  3) How was he able to purchase so much ammunition?;  4) If it is true that a friend of John's arranged through his mother to let John share access to a storage shed, why wouldn't she check out the shed?;  5) Didn't the parents notice anything?;  6) How was he able to purchase the chemicals for bomb making?

What can we learn from this near tragedy? 1) Parents, be alert; 2) All of us, be alert to strange behavior and be prepared to call 911; 3) Guns are too readily available; 4) Parents, do not give the keys to a gun cabinet to your children, nor allow gun storage in their rooms.  Hide the keys.; 5) States should pass universal background check laws, making it mandatory for licensed and private sellers to do background checks; 6) Schools and states need to be better equipped to deal with mental health issues. Let's be honest. "Normal" kids and adults commit heinous crimes because of the saturation of gun availability. So, if people pass the "normal" test, we must then act upon gun laws as another line of defense; 7) Mandate trigger locks on guns. 

I can think of one appropriate text for this edgy situation: "Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother, Abel?' He said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?' And the Lord said, 'What have you done? Listen, your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground.'" (Genesis 4:9-10)

We are.



Monday, April 21, 2014


Governments are a mix of good and evil, justice and oppression, compassion and neglect, generosity and paucity, peacemaking and bloodiness.  But some do a better job generating goodness, striving for justice, expressing compassion, showing generosity, and making for peace.  It is these qualities that reflect the Will of God(WOG) and nurture the Reign of God(ROG).  It is these qualities that are inherent within the FOUNDATIONAL 15(F-15) of The Obedient Government.

WOG and ROG, the FOUNDATIONAL 15(F-15), are focused on the common good.  The common good builds community.  Community connects all people and ensures the well-being of all.  

Within the community are the unique gifts each person brings for the sake of nurturing the fellowship. The individual gifts provide a purpose which provides sustenance for all.  We live for each other. 

Governments committed to the WOG/ ROG/F-15 unite individual gifts for the purposes of sharing and  sustaining all of life.  There is equality mixed with opportunity, with all given freedom to grow, yet tempered by commitment to the common good.

WOG/ ROG/F-15 are the anti-thesis of Libertarian anarchy, totalitarian control, and oligarchical arrogance. Similarly, Ayn Randian ethics have no place at the Table of God.  Political gamesmanship exists for making the WOG/ROG/F-15 actual. Governments are instituted by God for obedience to God. Obedience to God means commitment to WOG/ROG/F-15.

Democracy is the finest governmental form expressive of WOG/ROG/F-15.  Democracy must be bound to the ethics and spirit of WOG/ROG/F-15.  It is the task of the Church, the Synagogue, the Mosque, and other faith expressions to provide the guidance, the values, the character for proper governmental functioning, consistent with WOG/ROG/F-15.  

Faith communities are called to be personal and political, local and global, technical and environmental. Faith communities are called to unite the ebb and flow, the warp and woof within the world. Faith communities engage the world through the Spirit of the Other which waters the soil of humility in governmental affairs.

God calls governments to obedience, not to divisive, arrogant ideologies. In this way, God is pleased and the common good served.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Obedient Government - III

Holy Scripture informs the purpose and actions of governing. 

INSURE EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL: Equal justice means equal fairness for all: races, genders, classes, and abilities. Appropriate and equal laws for all. "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." (Amos 5:24) Justice levels the playing field so that all people are equally accountable, suffer fair consequences, and reap fair rewards.  Equal justice means economic equality. Equal justice means equal opportunity. Equal justice means equal educational opportunity. Equal justice opens one to the common life, the common good. No one is excepted from being part of the common life.  No one is exempt from the demands of the common good.  The standard of equal justice liberates and requires that all people nurture the common life and common good.  

LIFT UP THE POOR: There is to be enough for all. (Amos 4-6). "[God has]...lifted up the lowly; [God has] filled the hungry with good things." (Luke 1:52-53) We are to care for the stranger, those from other cultures, those who are outcasts. (Luke 10:25-37) We are to share our bounty according to need. (Acts 2:43) We are called to discipleship, to compassion, to generosity, to show mercy. And in the end we will all be judged according to our response to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, giving water to the thirsty, providing shelter, and visiting those in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46)  Debt relief will lessen or relinquish the burden of financial scarcity: "Every seventh year you shall grant  a remission of debts." (Dt. 15:1) We are to remember Cain's question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9) and answer "Yes."  Life is not Darwin redux, survival of the fittest.  All humankind are united for mercy.

BE SUBJECT TO JUDGEMENT: The standards by which the character of government is grade are how well the hungry are fed, how well the naked are clothed, who well we welcome the stranger, how well we give water to the thirsty, how well we shelter the homeless, and how well we treat the prisoner.  Governments are to see themselves as "disarmed" (Colossians 2:15), accountable and subject to judgement, vulnerable to the needs of the people. No government is free to work its will exercising moral corruption, justified by a cold and merciless ideology, unbound from mercy's embrace. Governments are to remember the Barmen Declaration, which announced that first allegiance is to Christ (or to that which provides standards of justice, love, and mercy).  Governments are to also recall Bonhoeffer's concept of the "misleader": that leaders can be corrupted, committing bloody acts and unjust deeds, all the while justifying itself for the sake of order and protection.  Remember, the Third Reich lasted only 12 years.

 CARE FOR THE EARTH: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...." (Genesis 1:1), "[God said] let them have dominion...." (Genesis 1:28) To have dominion is to have the responsibility to care for creation.  Throughout the Creation narrative, we learn that God was pleased with what God had done, saying "And it was good" or "God was very pleased."  The Garden of Eden was a time and place of shalom, of harmony, of balance.  Romans 8:21 says "...creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay...."  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world...." We are to live towards the future when there will be a "new heaven and a new earth." (Revelation 21:1) Governments are stewards, caretakers of God's earth, creators of a balanced harmony. 

PRACTICE LOVE: It is significant that bookending Paul's treatise on government in Romans 13:1-7, are the calls to love: "Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:9-10) And in Romans 13:8-10, we read: "Owe no one anything except to love one another....Love your neighbor as is the fulfilling of the law." Paul is binding governmental actions to the love ethic.  Politics is captive to love for all.  Political action is to create a love culture for all.

CREATE PEACE: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity." (I Timothy 2:2) In Luke 19:42 we read: ""As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying 'If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!'" In Isaiah 2:4: "....they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore." Once again from Isaiah: "The wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together...." (Isaiah 11:6) Governments are to create a culture of peace, of nonviolence.

NEXT TIME: What does it all mean?



Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Obedient Government-II


PROTECTOR: The Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are filled with stories of the Kings of Judah and Israel protecting their people against invaders, such as the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Arameans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and more.  In Romans 13:3-4, Paul writes, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad....for the authority does not bear the sword in vain." It appears that there are times when governments must use a heavy hand to protect the good within their sphere.
     However, the government is to use the heavy hand in relation with the other functions which are to minimize or prevent any violent government actions.  Violence is to be the last resort of government. See the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6.  

PEOPLE CENTERED: Government is to respect the humanity of all.  As the Church says, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)  People are valued.  The Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6:31) sets the standard for honoring all humanity.  Paul writes in I Corinthians 12:26: "If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."  Yes, Paul is addressing congregational culture, but the Church, the congregation, are the crucibles for governmental actions.  As the Church cares for people, so are governments to care for people.  Why?  Because all people are created in the Image of God.

CALLED TO GUIDE PEOPLE TO FREEDOM: The Exodus story found in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is a journey to freedom, a journey to the Promised Land.  After decades of oppression in Egypt as slaves, God led the People of Israel to new life.  Moses and the tribal leaders, the government, were responsible for leading them to Canaan. As the song goes, "Let my people go!" Governments are to lead their people to freedom, out of oppression, out of slavery, to a new free life.    

TO INSURE ENOUGH FOR ALL: The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25 was meant to level the economic playing field once every 50 years, in an attempt to make sure all people had land and resources for life.  The wealthy and powerful were not given a forever license to scarf up all land for their own profit and use the rest of the population for their slaves or indentured servants.  In Amos 2:6ff, we read, "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals."  In Acts 2:45, we read that the People of the Way "...would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need."  Everyone is to have enough for living.  Government is to insure that all people have enough for life!

TO GUARANTEE UNBIASED COURTS: We read in Exodus 23:2-3, "You shall not follow a majority in wrong-doing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit."  In other words, courts are to be unbiased in making their judgements. Leviticus 19:15 says, "You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great."  Governments are to guarantee that the courts adhere not to ideology but to truth for the sake of the common good.  Lady Justice is blind!

TO EXPOSE EVIL: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly, but everything exposed by the light becomes visible." (Ephesians 5:11-12).  James 5:16 urges us to "...confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed." Healing comes through openness, through a mantra of "If you mess up, fess up." "The truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Cover-ups are wrong.  To deal creatively with what is wrong and causing discord, the truth of what is actually happening needs to be engaged.  Governments are to insist on this practice.

NEXT: Part III and the Conclusion



Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Obedient Government
God ordains government.  God ordains government to help fulfill God's purpose: to make real the Reign of God. 

Previous blogs have focused on the purpose and character of the NRA, the National Rifle Association. A consistent theme among the leadership of the NRA is a fear of governmental control, the threat of a tyrannical government denying the unrestricted right to bear arms. Consistent with this theme is the rise of Libertarianism, near unbridled individual freedom, and the Tea Party mantra of getting the government off our backs.

Certainly, history is crowded with examples of oppressive governments.  Yet, governments have remained, for better and for worse.  Why?  Because inherent within people is the need.  The Biblical witness conveys this need, and lifts up how God fills this need.  God does not ordain every government, but God does ordain values and character that governments are called to bring to the table of life.  

The crucible of government is the Church, the Synagogue.  Each is a holy government, called to make real the Reign of God among followers who in turn reflect God's reign in their homes, places of work, and the wider world.  Holy values are to be carried into the political sphere, where they are to promote God's will.  What are some foundational holy values?  

Paul writes: "...there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed." (Romans 13:1-2) Similarly, we read "Therefore, be imitators of God...." (Ephesians 5:1a).  Governments have a calling to do what God purposes them to do because God has given them the authority.  It is authority with a huge caveat: Because you are of God, reflect the character, the will of God.  God does not give governments license to oppress.  Authority is narrowly defined: that your authority imitate Christ.  Or, in the words of Rabbi David Saperstein: "Because God says so!"

Moses was directed by God to gather Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel to receive the Law of God.  (Exodus 24:1-14) These were leaders of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Jesus had a government of twelve disciples and he also sent out 70 advance preachers and organizers to prepare and gather people for his arrival.  (Luke 10:1-12)  Similarly, Paul organizes the church into a body with many members, many gifts, for the purpose of evangelizing the world. (I Cor 12:12-31)  The People of God are brought together by a Christly government to perform a purpose.

The People of God, the Church, the Synagogue, are guided by laws.  Laws create a path.  Paths guide our actions.  God does not leave us alone to figure out life's calling and foundational values. Remember Yahweh giving Moses the Ten Commandments.  Remember the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17-26, which "...centers on behaviors and rituals that promote communal stability in the interrelated spheres of daily life and worship." (Brueggemann) Holy laws also fill the chapters of Deuteronomy.  Significantly, Moses is carved into the frieze above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court Building.  The Greatest Commandment reads: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.... and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39) Laws are a path. 

Centrifugal force throws us outward to wherever.  Government is like a centripetal force which draws people together, otherwise we would scatter to oblivion. Order and discipline are its' outgrowths. Paul writes: "Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Do you wish to have no fear of the authority?  Then do what is good.  But of you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain. It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:3-4) It is important to recognize that these verses are bookended by the admonition to love. (See Chapter 12 and verses 13:9ff) Those in authority are not given a blank check to oppress.  Their purpose is to love.  Similarly, in Titus 3:1 we read: "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone." Obedience to rulers and authorities is linked with gentleness, respect, and courtesy. This means that those who rule and are in authority are also to be held to the same standard. All things are connected.

The Biblical witness provides foundational values and a holy character which can ebb and flow between Church, Synagogue, and State.  The connection is grace-filled as they flavor each other.

More next time.


Ron Letnes

Friday, January 24, 2014

Time for Action
"In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."
Proverbs 14:23

Criticism of the NRA ought be focused on its corporate leadership channeling its financial resources to influence legislative actions.  Its purpose is to promote the fraudulent abuse of the Second Amendment and obstruction of nearly all common sense gun violence prevention legislation, even that supported by its own rank and file membership, to the detriment of the general welfare.

How can this abuse be addressed?  How can the Church engage this life concern?  I would suggest that in order that progress be profitable and transforming, there need be talk and action.  Profit in this context is greater safety for all.  What follows is a plan for talk and action.

A Conversation and Invitation to Common Sense Gun Violence Prevention Action 

To open up conversation and challenge involvement towards 
common sense gun violence prevention

2.  DEVOTIONAL FOCUS: Song- (ELW-720 "We Are Called") - Litany-Prayer
         centering on Romans 12:2, Matthew 5:9, Luke 19:41-44, Philippians 4:8, 
         Luke 22:38, and Luke 23:51.
3.  OPEN SHARING:  Knowing that the focus of this event was gun violence prevention,
        what specific concerns brought you here?
        gun ads in magazines and online
7.  NRA FACTS AND POSITIONS: Safety programs, corporate influence, marketing,
        and character stories
11.  INVITATION TO ACTION: Legislative research meetings, phone calling, letter
          writing, hosting an ENGAGE event, signing pledge cards, visiting legislators
12.  SENDING: Prayer and song ("It is Time")

It is important to frame the conversation Biblically and ecclesially.  We are the church, meaning we engage life through the Trinity and our Confessions, which lead us to engage and partner with life changing political actions for the good of all.  The chorus of "It is Time" sings:

It is time, it is time, it is time to say enough
It is time to say, "No more!"
It is time it is time, it is time to get tough
It is time it is time to restore

If any are interested in the full details of ENGAGE, I would be happy to send them online.  Write me at:

It is time!


Ron Letnes