Luther Seminary's School for Lay Ministry is open to all people interested in training to more fully serve in a variety of ministry roles in their congregations. Many ELCA synods provide lays schools of ministry that offer certification after training to lay people. The courses below were designed in partnership with the synods of the ELCA of Northeastern and Northwestern Minnesota and Western North Dakota to fulfill some of the requirements for these synods.
Luther’s Small Catechism for Today: Part 1
Come study Luther’s Small Catechism with some of Luther Seminary’s finest teachers! Luther wrote his catechisms for use in many settings—including the home, the church and the school. (It’s not just for confirmands—it’s for everyone!) How does the Small Catechism resonate today? How does it help both individuals and congregations stay focused on what is most important? This course will study the individual parts of the catechism, presenting and/or re-acquainting you with the teachings at the heart of the Lutheran witness. Topics covered include the Ten Commandments, baptism and the Lord’s Prayer.
The Parables: Illustrations of Jesus’ Good but Strange News
When I was a child, a well-meaning person explained to me that Jesus used parables when he taught because he wanted to communicate deep, spiritual truths in plain and easy-to-understand ways. That person, I now know, was completely wrong. Parables usually raise as many questions as they answer. Yes, the parables speak of easy-to-imagine ideas and situations. But they also draw us into the complexities and mysteries of Jesus’ teaching about “the kingdom of God.” You’ll come away from the course with a deeper understanding of the parables’ power to shape how we think about Christian faith, as well as an appreciation for the ways the parables make interpreting the Bible both challenging and fun.
No reading is required for this course. However, the following books are recommended for those who wish to spend more time in studying the parables. There are many, many books on the parables. These six can get you started on the road toward deeper study, depending on where you already are on that road. They are listed here from most introductory to most complex.
Alyce M. McKenzie, The Parables for Today (Westminster John Knox Press)
A basic, clear, and recommended introduction
John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells: The Parables (Cowley Publications)
Essentially a series of deep and thoughtful meditations or sermons on 12 of the parables
Bernard Brandon Scott, Re-Imagine the World: An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus (Polebridge Press)
An investigation of the parables that is as historically focused as it is theologically focused
Amy-Jill Levine, Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi (HarperOne)
An in-depth study of about a dozen parables with an eye on their historical settings and their multifaceted ability to unsettle our comfortable assumptions about God
Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
A longer book, and accordingly more in-depth and occasionally technical in its focus
Arland J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
A very thorough and scholarly analysis of all the parables in the Gospels
Christian Spiritual Formation: What Is It and What Does it Mean for the Life of Faith?
The language of spiritual formation is showing up with greater frequency in communities of faith throughout the church, but many wonder what exactly spiritual formation is. In this class we explore spiritual formation as a work of God's Spirit in our lives, conforming us to the image of Christ. This work of God's Spirit is one in which we are invited to participate. It is a lifelong process of maturing in the life of faith that involves our body, mind and spirit. In addition to examining the theological and scriptural foundations of spiritual formation, we will also attend to central faith practices such as worship, lectio divina, intercessory prayer, Sabbath, service and spiritual direction, through which people of faith throughout the ages have encountered the Spirit's transforming presence and work.
Reading for Enrichment
A Graceful Life: Lutheran Spirituality for Today
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
Ruth Haley Barton
Finding Our Way Again
Brian D. McLaren
Soul Feast : An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life
On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life
Dorothy Bass and Susan Briehl