Ministry in Context

The unexpected turns

Life takes unexpected turns. We all know that, but it can still be unsettling when those turns involve us.

Many of you are aware of some of those unsettling turns here at Luther. Last week, following the earlier announcement of President Rick Bliese’s resignation, I accepted the invitation to serve as Luther’s interim president, beginning Jan. 1, 2013. I ask you to keep all of us, including Rick and Nina Bliese, in your prayers.

Many of you were also aware that I had made plans to retire

Not always easy, but good

It happened again. And I love it!

I received a beautiful articulated, deeply reflective communication from one of our interns. This came as part of an ongoing conversation we’ve been having about the stressful situation they are in. This intern reflected on what had happened (neither of us would call it good), what the intern has learned, how God appears to be at work in the midst of it, and what they are doing in response. Wonderful!

One cannot be human, or do ministry, without encountering

Stop the presses!

I wrote an article for this newsletter a few days ago. It seemed good at the time. I am grateful that we didn’t go to press right then, because it soon became a totally inappropriate article–and I pulled it. Why?

I was using the then-forming Hurricane Sandy and as illustrative material for a point I wanted to make. The point doesn’t matter now, but had Sandy been a typical storm, it would have been an okay article.

However, Sandy grew beyond all expectations. As it became clear

A few questions

I imagine you are busy about now. October calendars have a way of filling up fast for congregational servant leaders. And for many of you interns, if you began your internship in August or September, you may be just entering that phase where "I don’t know, I just got here" doesn't work anymore.

Not only that, but the people who were absolutely impressed that you remembered their names in those first few weeks (we all remember a few), are now surprised and disappointed that you don't remember

On keeping it simple

It may be an apocryphal story, but I have loved it for so long that I don’t care. The story goes that Albert Einstein, teaching advanced mathematical concepts, would cover the classroom blackboard with arcane equations of all sorts. Each night the janitorial staff would clean the blackboard, except for one little corner. In that corner, Einstein had written “2+2=4” and then added the instruction, “Do not erase.”

It’s a simple image. But it is also a reminder that

What we learn after we know it all

As I write this, there are 350 people (mostly pastors) who are spending three days on campus at Luther Seminary as participants in the Rethinking Stewardship event.

It’s a good event. Chick Lane and the other organizers clearly did a superb job. The various presenters have met or exceeded expectations. The mood of the crowd is engaged and energized. (Not energized by rock-concert-crowd standards, but clearly energized.)

I’m grateful. Stewardship, including financial stewardship, is too

Summer pondering

Summer is a great time to reflect. I have fond memories of childhood summers. School was out, and I had friends around. There was programmed activity, I’m sure, but what I remember are lazy times playing with friends. There were fields to play in, tiny creatures to discover, weather patterns to watch—a time when I cultivated a curiosity about life. We had way more questions than our parents or older kids could answer, and it was wonderful.

Summertime isn’t quite so lazy anymore.

The glories of sticking around

May 20, 2012. 3:00 p.m. Central Lutheran Church. Luther Seminary Commencement. 175 glowing graduates. Certificates and degrees awarded. Robes and regalia in abundance. Glorious singing. Wonderful speakers. Well-planned. Good weather. Family and friends filled the huge sanctuary with a celebratory buzz and discreet camera work. All in all, a great day.

As I reflected on this graduation gala, it was a lot like the previous three commencements I have been part of since coming to Luther in the summer

Dealing with God's plan

I was in a conversation with one of the ELCA synod bishops recently, and he began to reflect on various ministry situations in the synod he serves. He acknowledged that these past few years have been difficult for many individuals and congregations, both politically/relationally and financially. We talked about how it was sometimes hard to see very far into the future with clarity and how often the paths we design or imagine turn out different from what we hoped to design or wanted to imagine.

Relaxing in the Easter pulpit

My first Easter sermon was long. It was very earnest. I was trying to explain the inexplicable and somehow make everybody (especially occasional attenders) realize how miraculous the whole Resurrection event and promise was.

It was an admirable effort, I guess. I don't think it was very helpful. I needed to relax a bit. It was important, of course, to prepare for such a sermon and to be as clear and insightful as possible. But the burden of explanation didn't lie with me. Easter is a story that tells