Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

For the 10,000th time

One warm July night Mrs. McKinley and I treated ourselves to a Neil Diamond concert at the local hockey-and-concert arena. We’ve seen Neil in action before and were quite eager to go again.

While there were some younger people there, most of the crowd was our generation, more twilight-side-of-the-hill than morning-side-of-the-mountain. But then Neil himself is 71. Nonetheless, the man radiates energy and performed for two solid hours without an intermission. Of course many of the songs were

Muppets in Ministry

Journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who usually has better things to do with her time (like covering the Supreme Court for the electronic magazine Slate,) recently wandered a bit away from her home territory (or maybe she didn’t) with an article in Slate proposing that every living being is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet. Quoting from Lithwick:

Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom

Time to step up

I began service in my first call on July 1, 1967. I was an assistant pastor. The senior pastor took ten days to break me in and then left for a two-week European vacation.

It was a large, downtown church in a major Eastern city. It was the summer of 1967, a summer that was riddled with urban rioting. Our city was no exception. When the senior pastor had been gone for two days, rioting broke out and reached into the neighborhood around the church. Our block was put under a dusk to dawn curfew. Armed

On being influential

While walking through the neighborhood the other day I was discussing the injustice of the world with our dogs Abby and Hobbes. Specifically, I was pointing out to them that Time magazine recently published an issue identifying “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” and had the nerve to leave me off the list.

“Appalling. Simply appalling,” commented Hobbes. This young gentleman has only been a part of our household for a few weeks and is still working on ingratiating

The view from the other side

In my “family of origin” we used one particular phrase to describe those people who went to church on Christmas and Easter every year. “C & E Christians?” “Christmas and Easter Christians?” No.

We called them “Religious Fanatics.” It was hard for us to imagine why anybody would go to church that often. Most years--most--we made it for one holiday or the other. That was plenty.

My parents did not dislike the pastors of the church we technically

The glories of chaos

They were a little short on parent volunteers to help with the kindergarten Valentine’s Day party, so the lovely Mrs. McKinley and I volunteered to join the merriment in our grandson Luke’s room with the stipulation that I not be asked to help with a craft. I don’t do crafts, even at the kindergarten level.

So there I was, assisting at a Cupid Bingo game, helping the young scholars differentiate between the picture of the heart that said “Hug Me” and the picture of the

Fighting F.O.M.O.

We did a lot of baptisms at the church where I was serving in October 1987. Although we discouraged the practice, there would often be a little honorarium for the pastor after the service. The one I got on October 25 knocked my socks off: tickets to the 7th game of the World Series to be played that night at the Metrodome, matching the Minnesota Twins with the St. Louis Cardinals. After extensive discussion at home, agreement was reached that my son would accompany me to the game.

There we were, seated

Tacky's vision of success

My old pal Pastor T. Albert “Tacky” Carlson was in town visiting his in-laws over the holidays, so we got together for a cup of coffee and some catching up. Tacky served at Melanchthon Memorial Lutheran Church down the street before giving up on snow shoveling and taking a call to St. Susan by the Seashore down in Florida a few years ago.

“Not much of a winter you’re having here,” he greeted me, clad in a classic Norwegian winter sweater and slurping on a peppermint

Brave spelling

On the refrigerator door at our son’s house there is a family picture drawn by our grandson Luke, who is in kindergarten. There is Mommy and Daddy, his little sister Eliza, Luke himself, and their Jack Russell terrier, identified in the drawing as “Loosee.”

Picky persons might want to point out that her name is really spelled “Lucy,” but Luke’s version comes from the concept of “Brave Spelling” being taught to the kindergarteners in Mrs. Meinhardt’s

God's peculiar people

More intelligent people than yours truly might pick out a little Heidegger for leisure reading, but I go for things like the thrillers penned by John Sandford. I’ve read them all.

One of the pleasures of Sandford is that he is Minnesota-centric, with most of the crimes he deals with taking place in the Twin Cities or “Greater Minnesota.” In one of his books some of the action took place about a block from where I really live.

Of course another of the pleasures is in thinking along