Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scavenger Hunts: What I do best!

I'm leading this activity at Miliken Park in downtown Detroit on Thursday.

Detroit Riverwalk Photo Selfie Contest 2015
Be creative! Be respectful!
Post to #RiseUpELCA

Let’s see your best selfie/video as you…
o  Be a vampire next to the Cullen Family Carousel
o  Optional bonus point: Selfie ON the Carousel (rides are $1)
o  Pose with downtown Detroit in the background
o  Do your best Canadian Impression with Canada in the background (optional video)
o  Pose with the Memorial Statue
o  Be a duck/bird/penguin in the wetlands
o  Be a frog impression on Lilly Pad lane
o  Do your best rendition of “this little light of mine” in front of or including the Milliken State Park Lighthouse
o  Do an impression of reeling in the biggest catch of your life from the river or pond
o  Do your best Yoga or Tai Chi Selfies (there are yoga and tai chi groups that often use the park)
o  Do a Tuesday night bus-reenactment selfie
o  Show your best bedhead recreation (or current bedhead)
o  Do your best performance of “Detroit is alive… with the sound of 30,000 Lutherans!” (The Sound of Music)
o  Do a performance of “Uptown Funk” dance moves
o  Pose with anything cool you see
o  Your best map-reading selfie on the giant map in the sidewalk (look lost, point in different directions…)
o  Make up a “Rise Up” Cheer
o  Sing/ reinact any song that has the word “river” in it
o  Sing/act out your favorite Motown song (Google it!)
o  Practice your “wave” for Ford Field
o  Make up your own!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 5, July 22nd

Week 5  -   Wednesday,  July 22

Say a prayer before your meal. Then read aloud the background introduction and text, followed by one or more of the discussion questions.

Introduction: The “hard saying” that offends Jesus’ disciples is his claim that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood, knowing how odd this sounds. Peter, on the other hand, knows something about the scarcity of living, gracious words.

John 6: 63, 66-68
”It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

1. Why might some of the disciples turn away from Jesus?  You may wish to explore the text just prior to this reading (John 6:52-58, also see last week’s reading). 

*2. Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, to whom can we go?"  Who can you turn to for help?

3.  The text, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." is used in our weekly liturgy (setting one, pg. 102) just prior to the reading of the Gospel.  Why do you think the authors of our liturgy chose to use this biblical quote at that moment in worship? 

4. Peter gives Jesus the title, "The Holy One of God."  Why?  What does this title indicate about who Jesus is?

*indicates questions that might be suitable for younger children

Week 4, July 15th

Week 4  -   Wednesday, July 15

Say a prayer before your meal. Then read aloud the background introduction and text, followed by one or more of the discussion questions.

Introduction: In these verses, when he calls his disciples to partake of his body and blood, Jesus makes a connection that would not be understood until after his death, in light of the church’s celebration of Holy Communion.

John 6:51, 56- 58
[Jesus said] “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. … Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

1. Jesus uses an unusual word for “eat” in these verses. It means chew, gnaw, or munch. Why do you think he uses such strange language? What is he trying to accomplish?

2. Do these verses speak about the Lord’s Supper? If they do, what are they saying? If they are not about the Lord’s Supper, what could Jesus mean by them?

3. “You are what you eat.” What does this old adage mean for those who gather around the Lord’s Table on Sunday?

4. *There are five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. How many do we use at the Lord’s Supper? What are some other names for the Lord’s Supper?

*indicates questions that might be suitable for younger children

Shark Week, Power, and John the Baptist

Grace to you and peace from God our father and from our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Some days I wish that people were more like sharks. That’s right - last week was Shark Week. If you have cable or Direct TV, watch the Discovery Channel, have any social media accounts, or have a child between the ages of six and twelve, you probably know about Shark Week. For the rest of us, imagine an entire week dedicated to the beauty, power, terror, and general awesomeness of sharks, and we’re not just talking the great white, either. There are mini sharks, super-fast sharks, deep sea sharks, sharks with whip tails, even sharks that glow in the dark.

Sharks are awesome. But they are a particular kind of awesome that I for one would never EVER need to see up close. God created these awesome creatures with strength and speed and power and big teeth. We are in awe of them, and rightly so, because they possess a power that we can’t tame or control, or even fully understand most of the time. As I heard one person say – The ocean is the shark’s house. When the chicken comes into my house, I eat it. The same goes for YOU, when you dare to go in the SHARK’S HOUSE.

During this week, I learned that sharks have not changed all that much over the last few million years. And from this text, I learn that people have also not changed very much over since King Herod’s time. The difference us and sharks is that sharks don’t eat when they’re not hungry. They don’t use their strength and power to bully their way into dominance. They don’t use their massive and scary teeth to maim and kill in order to show their power. They do not make grand promises in order to impress people. They don’t commit murder to silence their enemies.

We perhaps could learn a thing or two from SHARKS about being more HUMANE.

So, what do sharks have anything to do with John the Baptist, anyway? …..Well, that’s a very good question! Shark week, John the Baptist, King Herod, and all the events of the last few weeks have really gotten me thinking… about power. What it is, what it does, who has it, and what we do with it.

Last week, in the adventures of Jesus according to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus went to his hometown. Thanks to their unbelief, it seemed like all Jesus’ power just got sucked right out of him. But when Jesus gave power to his disciples, and sent them out two by two, THEY were able to do what JESUS could not. They healed the sick and proclaimed the gospel of repentance in Jesus’ name.

This is GREAT! This is AWESOME! The disciples doing deeds of power in Jesus name, and they are getting RESULTS!!

But these results make the people in power very, very nervous.

Imagine an episode of House of Cards, if you have ever seen the show. Back room deals, closed-door discussions, people socially maneuvering, manipulating others and bending the truth in order to get what they want, using whatever means necessary.  The ENDS justify the MEANS, as long as in the END, you end up the one with the power.

And power always seems to be in such short supply.

John the Baptist, if you remember, is Jesus’ forerunner. At the very beginning of Mark, the words of the prophet Isaiah heralds his arrival…. “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the Way of the Lord!’.” Then – POOF- there he was! Proclaiming a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, basically a homeless man wearing camel skins and eating whatever he could find – bugs and honey. And he was a big hit with the people, baptizing left and right, making the powers-that-be very, very nervous. Especially with John’s tagline – The one who is coming after me is more powerful than I am. HE will baptize with the Holy Spirit!

And sure enough, after John – POOF! - Jesus came, healing women and children, casting out demons, calming storms and eating with all kinds of the unwashed masses. Jesus came in the form of a helpless baby and grew up in a blue collar, working poor household, born the wrong ethnicity and from the wrong side of the tracks.

Jesus came, showing the world a power that it had never seen up close before - a power that did not come from brute force, or intimidation, or violence, or injustice, or discrimination, or bullying, or manipulation. 

Jesus came to show once and for all the power of God is not the same as the power of human beings. That God’s kingdom is not the same as human kingdoms. That God’s rules are not the same as human rules.

It was all coming true, just as John had predicted.  And that make King Herod very nervous, indeed. Herod was already hanging onto his power by a thread. Herod thought he had already taken care of his little problem. And he thought he had seen the last of the preachers and the teachers and healers, who dare to disrupt his fragile status quo.

This traumatic little story is actually a flashback. John the Baptist has already been arrested and killed by Herod by the time Jesus had sent out his disciples last week. But John’s execution must have haunted Herod, which must be why Herod believed in the most absurd thing – that John whom he had killed must be alive again. And that thought frightened him to his very core.

Because John was SUPPOSED to be an example – an example of what happens to you when you speak truth to power. THIS (head chopping motion) is what happens to you when you call out the leaders, behaviors, and cherished institutions in this world, those that are built on racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, hate, fear, ignorance, and apathy. Most of the time, if you speak truth to power, you will not get a trophy or metal or pat on the back. You will not win any popularity contexts. You may not lose your head like John. But you might lose friends, lose face, be labeled as “easily offended” by your friends or family, or otherwise thrown under the bus. So the world gives us its wisdom, “when you are in the world’s house, speak out and you might get eaten.” So, “you better keep your head down, or you WILL lose IT.” ( Again, the head chop motion)

The power of the disciples did not come from this world, from King Herod or the Romans or any Caesar. And likewise, OUR power does not come from success or jobs or our kids’ accomplishments or putting on the best face of “having it all together.” OUR power comes from CHRIST. The one who also spoke truth to power, and showed the world power through God’s truth. This truth being, as Paul writes, that we were chosen and beloved by God, adopted as God’s children, sharing in the never-ending inheritance of Jesus. This inheritance of being forgiven of our sins, healed of our brokenness, and redeemed from clenched jaws of death.

The power of this world is built on fear and is gone in the blink of an eye. God’s power is built on love, and will last forever.

As it turns out, Herod was wrong about Jesus. John had not come back from the dead, as some thought. But at the same time, Herod was right about Jesus… just a little too soon. John would not rise again after his death. But Jesus did. That, I think, is the good news to be found in terrible story – OUR tombs may be full, places of death, contain our bodies – John’s tomb, my grandpa’s tomb, Pastor Bob Strohl’s tomb, all full. And someday my tomb and your tomb too – they will eventually be occupied as well, being used for their intended purpose. A place where the powers of the world defeat us, and death wins.
Jesus was laid in a tomb, too.

Jesus also spoke truth to power. And the powers-that-be came after him. They murdered him too, like John before him, in another terrible and humiliating way. They killed him, and his body was laid in a borrowed tomb.

But his tomb is empty.

And THAT is the power of God, and the promise of our inheritance. That in the end, love wins.

Thanks be to   God. Amen. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My favorite fan mail

I got a few bits of fan mail for writing devotions for "Christ in our Home." Mine were June 1-15. A couple were emails, and I even got a letter. The letter made me laugh to much, and made me so thankful. A women in Wisconsin wrote:

"...they had such an impression on me the way you wrote, I felt like I was talking to a long time good friend."

My other favorite is an email I got. I'll include the devotions she references for context.

Saturday, June 13

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17

"Keep Going "

For the love of Christ urges us on… v14

The way is lonely, your legs are aching, your breath comes raggedly and hurts in your lungs, the road is uphill, and your throat is parched. Every fiber of your being wants desperately to give up, throw in the towel, admit defeat, to just STOP already.  But you see something in the distance - a person waving by the wayside. As you get closer you hear that he’s calling out, but you can’t yet understand what he’s saying. When you approach, his words become clear: “You can do this! I believe in you! I love you!” Why should you listen to this lone voice among all the negative ones, both within your head and without? Because the man from which they come has traveled this journey before you, all the way to the end, and has returned in order to be part of yours. You can still hear these words echoing in your mind long after you have passed him. In fact, it sounds like he is right next to you, running along beside you, urging you on when you stagger and your steps lag. “I am with you! You can do this! I love you!” You are able to hold your head up and see the other runners around you, encouraged by the same voice, traveling the same path. And so you are able to keep going, knowing that Jesus is waiting for you at the end of your journey as well. 

She wrote:

Hello Pastor Lydia,
      My friend and I took a 5 - day road trip from California to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to run a Half Marathon together.  I took my Christ in Our Home devotional along with me to read each morning before we started out our long days of driving.  I wanted to let you know how God perfectly timed and orchestrated your devotional for the a.m. of our race, Saturday, June 13th.  Both my friend and I had been extremely anxious about our run, as it was in high altitude, 6000+ feet, and I had been suffering from a tentative knee injury.  So you can imagine how encouraging it was to read your "Keep Going" title for that day, with Paul's scriptures from 2nd Cor. 5!*:) happy  The second paragraph, "But in the distance you see a person waving by the side of the road.  As you get closer, you hear that he's calling out to you:  'You can do this!  I believe in you!' I love you!'...... was so perfect, as we were encouraged by volunteers handing out water, etc. every 3 miles or so, and it reminded me that Jesus was jogging each step along with us throughout the race.  
    Both of us finished the race and got our medals for completing it.  Your words, God's presence and our faith, as we ran along a beautiful trail experiencing God's creation and majesty, made it a day we will always remember.
     I just wanted to write and let you know how uplifting, the words and devotional you planned so many months ago, would be of so much encouragement to 2 Lutheran middle age women, taking the challenge of doing this 1/2 marathon together in "God's country" so many months later!  God is good! May God continue to bless you in your devotional writings and in your ministry!

I feel so blessed and so humbled to have had such a cool opportunity to reach so many people across the country!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer of Bread, week 3!

Week 3   -   Wednesday,  July 8

Say a prayer before your meal. You can use one of the prayers on the last page. Then read aloud the background introduction and text, followed by one or more of the discussion questions.

Introduction:  After feeding more than 5,000 people in the wilderness (see week 1 reading), Jesus teaches them regarding the true significance of this remarkable sign.

John 6:41-44
Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day.”
1. *Why, when, and what do you complain about? Does complaining ever help? How do you think God regards our complaints?
2. When you know something about a person’s background (eg., his parents), how does that influence what you think about that person?
3. Does God “draw” some and not others? What help does the Gospel writer give? See John 12:32.
4. In verses 44-47, what does Jesus promise for now and in the future?
5. *Tell about your favorite teacher. Why is he/she your favorite?

*indicates questions that might be suitable for younger children

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer of Bread, Week 2!

Week 2  -   Wednesday,  July 1
Say a prayer before your meal. You can use one of the prayers on the last page. Then read aloud the background introduction and text, followed by one or more of the discussion questions.

Introduction: Many of the 5,000 Jesus fed in the wilderness continued to follow Jesus. Jesus challenges them to consider the real nature of why they are following him.

John 6: 28 – 35
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
1. What do you remember about the story of the manna in the wilderness? (If you need to, see Exodus 16:1-16 for help). How do you think you would react if you had been there?
2. *What do we need to grow big and strong? How does Jesus help us to grow? How can we help each other grow?
3. When has God given you something that you really needed in a way you didn’t expect?
4. Can people be hungry and thirsty for something other than food or water? What are you hungry and thirsty for?
5. *Think about people who are regularly hungry and thirsty. How can you pray for them or use your God-given gifts to help them this week?
*indicates questions that might be suitable for younger children