Tag Archives: God

THE PERSISTENT VOICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT By Jean Peterson, WTS Archives Volunteer

I give my daily thanks for those special saints in my life, remembering mostly those living, but also those who have gone before us throughout all generations.

I gave thanks:
“For all the Saints who from their labors rest,
“For saints still living
By whom our lives are blest,
Alleluia!”

How grateful I am to those mentors who have encouraged, healed, and inspired me throughout my lifetime!   These include one who taught John Bowlby’s theory of Attachment. There was a time when I thought that my vulnerability was a cause for shame and rejection, but this professor taught that attachment relationships of trust with living mentors are a human universal need.

From several living mentors I respect highly, I have learned that they, too, have been influenced by other saints in their lives. From reading assignments and continued research into the lives of the earlier generations, I find that the “human universal” that emerges is that all of us, not only in the present, but throughout the years past, have had attachments to, or been influenced by other saints or mentors who have inspired, encouraged, or motivated us. Some of these were family members, but nearly all people name at least one or two non-family members – teachers, professors, or pastors—by whom they were influenced.   Wilhelm Loehe and Martin Luther also had mentors by whom their lives and service were guided.   Even the disciples of Jesus were greatly influenced by other living human beings (Jesus himself) in the direction of their lives.

Insight: Those who inspired those who came before us, those now living who have inspired us, and those whose lives we affect (knowingly or not) of generations still to come are all vessels of the Holy Spirit, reaching all the way back throughout all generations, to the Day of Pentecost, and forward until the end of Creation. This is the “Persistent Voice” of the Holy Spirit who works through trusted relationships and attachments with kin, mentors and contemporaries we have all encountered throughout our lives, who have carried the message of the Word of Scripture throughout all generations!

We may not know individually what seeds we have sown, but gratefully, the Holy Spirit still uses us to carry, and plant, the seeds of the Word and healing and caring and support to others.

HOLD HIM CLOSE; HOLD HIM LIGHTLY & EUCHARIST MEANS THANKSGIVING by Ralph F. Smith, former WTS Professor

Rev. Ralph SmithThe following are excerpts from Ralph Smith’s two final homilies. Dr. Smith was Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel for ten years (1984-1994), a pastor, teacher and hymn writer. This November, twenty years after his death, the Wartburg Seminary community is actively remembering Ralph Smith and the important and lasting impact he has had on this community.


Homily Wartburg Chapel, Oct 26, 1994 [Text: Luke l0:38-42]

Hold Him Close, Hold Him Lightly

“My good friend in graduate school and liturgical study, Paul Nelson, may be dying. My daughter had a baby three weeks ago and made me a grandfather a bit earlier in my life than I expected. These two seemingly unrelated incidents prompted my remembering words spoken to me years ago during a health issue of my own, ‘Ralph, you need to understand that we do not have all the time in the world’. . .

We do not have, you or I, all the time in the world. Neither did Mary nor Martha, nor even Jesus. . . Yet no matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . .

to write that letter of thanks,

to take that meal to an ill friend,

to clean up the environment,

to finish those few important projects

to tell spouse, children, parents, friends that we love them, and show it,

No matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . .

to spend a quiet moment with someone dear to us,

to sing a song,

to pray a prayer,

to gaze at the glowing embers of a fire,

to see the sun rise and set,

to listen to the cry of someone in need,

to ask for strength and courage to face an uncertain future.

No matter how much our head and our heart tell us that we do not have all the time in the world . . . we so often live as though we do. Now that could be the most oppressive and debilitating word I could possibly speak to you today . . .

Ah, but you see, in Luke’s and our post-resurrection perspective it is already too late . . . and it is never too late.

We do not have all the time in the world, but we do have time.

When I lamented not knowing how to react to my grandson, Norma Everist wisely advised me to hold him close and to hold him lightly. It was a liberating word, without sentimentality, and it frees me to do both. To not be distracted . . . one thing is needful . . .

Hold Jesus close, and hold him lightly.

We are invited to love Jesus, but we cannot possess him. Luke understood that… so did Mary… so did Martha… so do you.”


Homily Wartburg Seminary Chapel November 21, Monday morning of Thanksgiving Week. [Text: Luke 15:1-10]
Eucharist Means Thanksgiving
The homily was on the missing sheep and coin, on being lost or found, on cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving. After his death four days later, the Bible on his office desk remained open to the Luke text along with his notes for the service. Here is the conclusion to his homily:

“There are only a few days of classes left until the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a week for Thanksgiving, for celebrations; and even in the midst of sorrow of those alone, separated from family and friends there is still thanksgiving for what the missing relationships have meant.

Thanksgiving is the heart of the Christian gathering; eucharist means thanksgiving . . . Paul said in Colossians, ‘Keep you roots deep in Jesus, build your lives on him, become stronger in your faith, and be filled with Thanksgiving.’”

 


Read more about Rev. Dr. Ralph F. Smith, as shared by the Wartburg Seminary community

 

 

IMMIGRANT LABORERS, a POEM, by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands
Covered in callouses
Bruised from rough labor
Dried by a scorching sun
My God where are you?

 For faces
Tired from long hours
Worn by the weather
Hardened by oppression
My God where are you?

 For stomachs
Starving for satisfaction
Longing to be filled
Growling
Growling
Growling
My God where are you?

 For jeans
Torn apart by physical labor
Stained with pain and disapproval
Bleached in the sun of unrighteousness
My God where are you?

 For wallets
Soggy from a day’s sweat
Empty
Old
Frayed
My God where are you?

 For hearts
That struggle to be loved
Screaming at inequality
In a country that shouts
“The land of the FREE”
My God where are you?

INTERCESSORY PRAYERS FOR IMMIGRANT LABORERS by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands that work all day and night on property they will never own
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For backs that are twisted and bent working in fields that just go on and on
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For fingers that are red and swollen from picking a harvest they will never consume
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For shoulders that carry burdens which reside in their muscles leaving knots that cannot be untied
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For brows burning in the heat of an unforgiving sun begging for a single cloud
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For knees that ache so heavily night after night they prevent any chance of sleep
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For ears that refuse to listen and turn away another’s plea
For eyes that choose dominion over every creature they see
For minds that cannot understand what it means to have equality
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE FOR GOD (IN WORSHIP) By Troy Troftgruben, WTS Assistant Professor of New Testament

Using inclusive language for God is a matter of characterizing God—to use narrative theory language—and characterizing God as accurately as possible.

In my experience, using inclusive language for God is something that may well not necessarily earn you praise from many. But some do notice it, and it does send a message about who we believe God is.

Two people from my congregation stand out:

One was a young mother of twin daughters, a part of our church staff. One day she asked us pastor: “Can you please work harder at using inclusive language for God? …I don’t want my daughters growing up unnecessarily with the idea that God is male.”

The other was a retired gentleman from my congregation. Shortly before I left, he pointed out to me: “I notice that you use inclusive language for God in worship consistently. And I think it’s a very good thing.”

The most straightforward ways we do this is by simply using non-gender references to God:

  • Instead of “he” and “him,” we use “God.”
  • Instead of heavy use of “Father” (which we use a lot), we make a point to intersperse it with “Heavenly Mother” and “Creator.”

At the end of the day, simple gestures of this kind enable us to act in ways that do not continue to foster the idea of God with which many of us grew up: that of an old, bearded, white male in the sky.

It feels awkward at first. But with time it feels very natural. It felt just as awkward to the church people who first started to use “fishers of people” (vs. fishers of men). It probably felt just as awkward to those who changed from using “Thou” and “Thee” language in the Psalms to “you” language. But they made the change, and we are grateful.

I remember a good friend of mine who grew up in church hearing a non-gender inclusive Bible (as many of us did). She remembers one day then asking her mother: “Mom, is Jesus interested in having women disciples?”

It’s remarkable the things we say, without necessarily trying to say them. …as church leaders, we do well to consider more intentionally beforehand what we say, so that our words convey better what we mean to say.

SUNITHA MORTHA: MISSION AND ACCOMPANIMENT by Carina Schiltz, second year M.Div.

SUNITHA MORTHA: MISSION AND ACCOMPANIMENT by Carina Schiltz, second year M.Div.

Sunitha Mortha, Director of Mission Formation in the Global Mission Unit of the ELCA, visited Wartburg this Spring and talked about our calling as followers of Christ and learning what it means to accompany others in a diverse world.

If you’ve attended a “Glocal Gathering” you might have heard Sunitha’s humorous, direct, and compassionate words. She highlighted the importance of going “back to the basics” and relating “God’s story, my story, and your story.” First of all, how do we understand God’s story? Based on this understanding, how do we place ourselves in this story? How do we view the “other” in relation to our understanding of the story? Sunitha said, “Now, try doing all this reflecting without putting yourself in God’s place.”

She went on to ask, “Where are the other Lutherans in the world?” Countries with more than five million include the usual answers: Germany, the United States and Sweden. But one also needs to include in that number, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Indonesia!

Sunitha asked the audience, “How does your church understand its place in God’s story? Are churches looking only inward? Do they think about what’s happening on synodical levels? Community levels? National levels? International levels? People, congregations, seminaries, synods are not separate: they work together. How does your congregation/seminary partner with other people and organizations? In other words…how does this relate to ‘mission’?”

One way people view mission is through their culture’s, community’s, or congregation’s narrative about origin and destination. This narrative informs how mission is understood and the purpose of mission. For an example, Sunitha explained that if the dominant destination narrative of a community is heaven/hell, there is a certain way one understands oneself and the “other” and where they belong. When there is a separating line between “us” and “them,” it is not difficult to see which place we’ll designate for “them”.

Those we categorize as “them” or “other” could be for any number of reasons, but the number one reason is that, somehow, they are “different” from us.

Diversity sometimes causes fight or flight because we are socialized to learn that the way we do things is the good/right/normal/true way. If “we” do things the “normal” way, what “the other” does is considered “abnormal.” Unfortunately, the history of missions has included the transfer of cultural and national values, which has been very damaging to the “receiving” culture. Those in the dominant culture see others as needing to “evolve” in order to “catch up.”

Hopefully, our communities and congregations can understand that the defining question in mission is not, “How does one categorize/define/change the other to be like us?”  but rather, “How does one engage the other?” First, we have to take out the barriers between “my” story and “your” story. There is much that informs a person’s being that is deeper than meets the eye.

Sunitha offered a very relevant caution: a danger in the ELCA, and in many facets of life, is to surround ourselves only with like-minded people, ideologies, theologies, and thereby focus only on ourselves, rather than resting in justification. While we cannot hold all our differences, uniqueness, cultures, sub-cultures, and everything in one’s being in tension with another’s, God can.

She asked, “What if your community doesn’t look diverse, or what if it has no ‘others’? There is plenty of diversity, whether it be invisible to the eye or visible; there are others, outsiders, and many people who need to hear the liberating proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If one’s congregation is not visibly diverse, one can think cross-generationally. “Start with what diversity is present,” she said. Accompaniment happens every day! Mission isn’t always about going “over there.”It’s about engagement, wherever one is.

If you want more information, visit the ELCA’s website on Glocal Gatherings near you.

http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Global-Mission/Engage-in-Global-Mission/Global-Events/Glocal-Mission-Gatherings.aspx

POEM – DREAM ME, GOD by Dorothee Soelle

As published in Dorothee Soelle: Mystic and Rebel by Renate Wind (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), p. 1

It’s not you who should solve my problems, God,
But I yours, God of the asylum-seekers.
It’s not you who should feed the hungry,
But I who should protect your children
From the terror of the banks and armies,
It’s not you who should make room for the refugees,
But I who should receive you,
Hardly hidden God of the desolate

You dreamed me, God,
Practicing walking upright
And learning to kneel down
More beautiful than I am now,
Happier than I dare to be
Freer than our country allows.

Don’t stop dreaming me, God.
I don’t want to stop remembering
That I am your tree,
Planted by the streams
of living water.

Translated from the German, “Träume Mich, Gott” in das Brot der Ermutigung (Stuttgart: Kreuz, 2008),