Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

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. I’m an adult. At Luther Seminary there is a lot more activity in the summer than there used to be. Over the years, I discovered that ministry and life don’t “take a break” for summer. But it’s still a great time to reflect. As a pastor, things like canoe trips with youth offered that same opportunity to reflect as had those lazy summer days of my childhood.

So I’m hooked. I tend to muse/ponder/reflect and just be curious about life in a lazy, unhurried way in summertime. I hope you do too.

In that spirit I recently revisited one of my favorite authors, Piet Hein. He didn’t really write books, but he did invent some cool stuff. He was a poignant, powerful voice in Denmark during Nazi occupation in World War II, and he did write thousands of “Grooks.” That was his word for them: little aphorisms that became an underground communication system throughout Denmark. At one time Hein was considered the most quoted person in Scandinavia. At least five little volumes of his Grooks have been published, each accompanied by a little sketch. I love them. They reflect on life in wise, whimsical ways. They feed my summertime mode of lazy curiosity.

I think of you interns when I read some of them. For example:



To be brave is to behave
Bravely when your heart is faint.
So you can be really brave
Only when you really ain’t.



To keep an ever-open door
Is wisdom’s true advancer;
So they are fools who don’t ask more
Than ten wise men can answer.



Knowing what
thou knowest not
Is in a sense



As Pastor X steps out of bed,
He slips a neat disguise on;
That halo round his priestly head
Is really his horizon.


I hope summer piques your curiosity and affords you time for unhurried reflections—on matters both great and small.

P.S. One more gentle Grook reminder for budding Lutheran theologians:




Sub specie
Even the dearest bought
Is gratis.


Piet Hein, Grooks, 1966 The M.I.T. Press; and Piet Hein, Grooks 2, 1969, Doubleday.

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