Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

On weeping with those who weep

I am part of a large family, at least by modern standards. Nancy and I have five adult children and a growing number of sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren. We have five siblings between us, each with spouses and children, so there are cousins spread across the country.

Given the realities of life, it’s a rare time when someone in the extended family isn’t experiencing difficulties or challenges. There is no shortage of suffering, no lack of need for prayer. This is simply true.

Wonderful, but messy

By and large, life is a wonderful gift. A bit messy, but good. By and large, ministry is wonderful. Very messy, but very good. We are in the season of Advent, with all the deep delights that accompany our trip back to the manger in Bethlehem. As you wonder and wander with the shepherds, may you find joy and peace in the days ahead.

But on occasion the messiness of life takes a darker turn. We encounter horrific pain or downright evil. In recent weeks we have seen glimpses of that dark reality as

Figuring out a new place

My wife, Nancy, and I are in China as I write this. We were on a tour of the China highlights with a group and are now visiting with my sister and brother-in-law, who have lived in China for the past five years. Along the way we visited with a friend who has taught for a few years at a university in Shanghai. All in all, we are having a delightful experience. We are constantly trying to figure out local patterns, customs, histories, purposes and appropriate behaviors. It's not simple, but it's interesting

The ideal and the real

I have a good friend who has been in my life since elementary school. When we first met, we each thought the other was wonderful. We didn’t know about BFF back then, so we swore to be “blood brothers.”

Then I remember the fight in our backyard; we both began mad and ended up bloody. I don’t remember what triggered it, but the initial “wonderfulness” had clearly worn off. We no longer thought the other was perfect. Eventually we worked through it, and (with some

A good word for hope

September! For many, September marks the beginning of a new academic year or a new internship adventure. It is a time of some trepidation and a time of great excitement and hope.

Hope. Hope is one of those words that can be understood in so many ways. Some confuse it with wishful thinking. But for a Christian, hope is the response to God’s promises in Jesus Christ. Hope is our response to a God who loves us, wants us to experience deep and abundant life and claims us as beloved children. Hope

Good words from a bishop

 “We are really feeling good about the recent seminary grads; you should know that.”

Such a comment is always welcome, of course. But the context of the comment was particularly encouraging. It came in the midst of a lengthy conversation I was having with one of our ELCA bishops, and the “we” he referenced was his bishop colleagues.

That does not mean everything is perfect. There may well be “other opinions.” Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including

On the move

"Follow me." - Jesus

Every summer, many interns are literally on the move.

You are coming or going, heading out from seminary to your internship site, or back again to campus. It's a hassle, but it's worth it.

I'm always a little bit sympathetic to the logistical demands of these moves, remembering similar ones of my own. I remember when Nancy and I, newly married, left St. Paul for internship in Kalispell, Montana. That was the first of many moves in response to the call to ministry. When we moved

Staying connected

We live in a “connected” world. CNN has “breaking news” all day and all night. Compared to the social media activity, that’s slow. I’m not aware of any intern who doesn’t have email and a cellphone, and very few without mobile connectivity 24/7.

It’s good to be connected. I hope you stay connected to friends and family, to parishioners and colleagues, and to community and global events. And I trust you are staying connected to God, as you pray, dwell

Finding blessing in the ordinary

The extraordinary season of Lent and Easter is over. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Now we enter into the Easter season, which can seem to be a strangely ordinary season. Not as many festivals. Not such depths, nor soaring heights. Of course, the Ascension is yet to come, but in the lives of most congregations things are calming down a bit as they settle into being Easter people.

If you are midway into your internship year, you may feel this

The simplicity of Easter

Easter is not a simple time for a pastor. I've been reflecting a bit on how complicated this high holy day, the Resurrection of our Lord, can be for pastors.

My first Easter Sunday sermon was the longest sermon I've ever preached (except for a worship service in our companion synod in the Central African Republic, where long sermons are required). It lasted more than half an hour, because I felt compelled to say everything possible to those who showed