Tag Archives: God



Steward of Stories: Reflecting on Tensions in Daily Discipleship by JoAnn A. Post

JoAnn Post has been a Lutheran pastor and writer for three decades. She attended Wartburg College and Wartburg Theological Seminary before serving diverse congregations and settings. Her ministry has been committed to strong preaching and worship leadership, pastoral care, and community outreach. (See more about JoAnn and Steward of Stories at http://wipfandstock.com/author/view/detail/id/57509/)

As shared in her introduction JoAnn was dubbed “Steward of Stories” by her husband in recognition of how both strangers and friends entrusted her with their stories. The stories, many written while JoAnn underwent cancer treatments, presents meaningful reflection and insights into the rich and paradoxical world of a pastor. The thoughtful discussion questions at the end of each chapter encourage dialogue on the important topics brought to life in the stories shared in the book.



 Cover-_LauraNotes on the Journey: Living with Sarcoma & Hope by Laura A. Koppenhoefer

This book is a compellation of Laura’s “posts” from the Carepage.com journaling               she has done through the first years of her illness, a rare cancer diagnosis – “sarcoma”– changed   a lot in her life. Originally thinking that she was writing to inform the congregation she co-pastored of her treatment,          she found that she learned through writing as well. Insights are found in everyday things – gardens and baking and re-discovering knitting and quilting –        and the extreme circumstances of her medical care, the challenges of facing disability, and severe pain starting at age 49. However, all are instances for discovering the Spirit at work in her life whether in times of lament or joy. The proceeds of this book are all going to fund sarcoma  research at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more about Laura and the Living in Hope foundation, see http://www.livinginhopefoundation.org/

A reflection from Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student:

As I finish reading Laura’s book, two entries stick with me. 1) “Be strong and of good courage, be neither afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (p 332). And 2) “With thanks to …God – For your presence. Though I may feel lonely from time to time, I am never alone. For the gift of incredible people in my life – They are your hands and feet in the world” (p 333). Laura assures me, God assures me that God’s presence is always with us. God allows us to be lonely at times, but God never leaves as alone. God provides wonderful people in our lives to walk this journey with us.



Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer

Daniel D. Maurer was an ELCA pastor for 11 years, serving parishes in western North Dakota. He is now a freelance writer and writes under the “Dan the Story Man,” his non-fiction brand.  R.Kevin Kline is an ELCA pastor who has served in Kansas and Hawaii. Having recently moved back to the mainland and received approval as a mission developer, he plans to foster relationships with other organizations to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of justice in the LGBTQ community. Maurer and Kline collaborated on the book after realizing that Kevin’s story had the power to help others.

Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking breaks new ground in the problem of sex trafficking in that it also affects boys. Set in 1975, Kevin’s true story shows how a young boy can find himself in a difficult and unsustainable life. Yet even in darkness, there is a light of grace —Kevin found two friends during that summer of ’75. With them, he would come to see a loving God in ways that the world would only begin to see in more recent years. For more, see http://www.faraway-book.com/

A reflection from Tami Groth, Final Year Diaconal Ministry Student:

I first heard Rev. Kevin Kline speak in the Spring of 2013 when he spoke to students at Wartburg Seminary, and shared his story with us. I encourage others to both read the book, and if possible hear Kevin speak. His story is powerful and an important one for us to hear. I am thankful for Kevin’s courage and the authentic telling of his story.



Sobriety A graphic novel by Daniel D Maurer. Illustrated by Spencer Amundson

Through rich illustration and narrative, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel offers an inside look into recovery from the perspectives of five Twelve Step group members, each with a unique set of additions, philosophies, struggles, and successes while working the Steps. Readers gain an intimate look at the challenges faced by those in recovery–and at the boundless power of working the Steps in helping people find strength in one another as they reach for a clean-and-sober life. For more, see http://www.danthestoryman.com/

LENTEN SERMON by Jon Brudvig, M.Div. Intern, Ellis, KS

Gospel Text, Mark 1:9-15

Our Lenten journey begins where Jesus began his march to the cross.

In the wilderness where the Spirit drove him immediately after his baptism, a place of isolation, loneliness and danger.

A season when we descend into the valley of the shadow of death to walk with Jesus to Golgotha, the place where he will be crucified.

A time when the Spirit also drives us into the wilderness areas of our lives to encounter “wild beasts” and the demonic powers of this world that seek to separate us from the love of God and one another.

A time when we reclaim the promises of our baptismal covenant by renouncing the forces of this world that oppose God,
when we lay our hearts bare before God.

When we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

The wilderness can be a very scary place.
It’s a place busy and preoccupied people try to avoid.

Yet, perhaps each of us can recall a time when we found ourselves in the wilderness — alone, helpless, and frightened.

My own wilderness adventure happened some 15 years ago as I was making a cross-country trip across a beautiful stretch of interstate running through West Virginia.

As dusk approached I realized that I would not make it through the Appalachian Mountains before nightfall.  I needed to find a place to stay for the night.

To make matters worse, I set out on my cross-country trip without advance reservations. Not a wise move during Memorial Day weekend.

As you might imagine, the state park that I had hoped to spend the night in was full. Sensing my frustration, or perhaps realizing that the naïve “city-slicker” with a tent wasn’t going to find any place to stay for the night, the park ranger stopped me as I headed for the door and pointed at a dirt road at the far end of the campground and said:

“See that road over there. That’s the access road to Daniel Boone National Forest.  It’s federal land and I can’t stop you from camping there for the night.  Just drive in a ways, pull over, and pitch your tent for the night.  It’ll be okay.” I was out of options.

Heading into an unknown wilderness and pitching my tent for the night wouldn’t be so bad.  Would it?

Honestly, the wilderness can be a scary place.
Alone with my thoughts and my fears, the darkened and mysterious forest
came alive that night in a way I could not have imagined.

Every cracked twig, every sound of rustling leaves, and every distant howl
conjured up images of wild beasts making a beeline to my tent.

Hungry beasts that I imagined wanted to claim me as their nighttime snack.

And, as imaginations tend to do, mine ran wild that night visualizing one horrific
scenario after another that could happen to me in such an isolated and
desolate place.

The wilderness is a place many of us fear.

To be alone with only our thoughts, fears, and personal demons is terrifying.

Yet, like it or not, each one of us gathered here today has entered into the
wilderness of Lent. Answering Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me.”

Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ wilderness journey is a time of testing.
He is tempted by Satan.
He encounters wild beasts.
And he is ministered to by Angels.

We, too, are tested during the Wilderness of Lent.
A time of soul-searching, prayer, and confronting demons we try to avoid.
The “wild beasts” that we pretend don’t exist.
The inner demons we wish would just leave us alone.

On Ash Wednesday the Spirit drove us into the valley of death.
To dwell there, like Jesus before us, for 40 days in prayer and conversation
with God. Where Jesus beckons:

Deny yourself,

Take up your cross,

and follow me (MT 16:24).

An invitation to discipleship.

To journey with Jesus into the wilderness areas of our lives.
To confront the “wild beasts” and inner demons that lurk within.
To name and claim the pain of loneliness, self-loathing, broken
relationships and sin that afflicts us.

Demons of addiction, greed, jealousy.

Inflated egos, finger-pointing, and me-first thinking that belittles,
criticizes, and judges others instead of doing the hard work of naming and claiming the sin in our own lives.

Although we hesitate to follow Jesus into the wilderness areas of our lives,
the good news is that God is gracious and merciful.

It is precisely because Jesus became human, was baptized, and was tested in the wilderness, that God understands our sin, our brokenness, and the inner demons that deceive and torment us.

Jesus loves you enough to meet you in the wilderness areas of your life.

To leave the safety and security of the river bank and to wade out into the watery chaos of the Jordan to be baptized.
To claim you as God’s beloved child.
To be in relationship with you.
To enter into your reality so that you may be united with
Christ’s death in a baptism like his.

To suffer and die for you.
Abandoned, mocked, and executed on a tree of shame.

For the forgiveness of your sins.

The One who loves you enough to die for you, comes to you now in     the wilderness areas of your life.

In the Word of promise proclaimed.

At the table where sinners and saints alike gather to receive the body of Christ given for you and the blood of Christ shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.

Where the personal demons and wild beasts that torment you are
rendered powerless before God.

Where the crucified God embraces you with outstretched arms from the cross,in the midst of your pain, suffering, and brokenness,
enfolding you in his loving embrace, whispering:

“I tell you now, your sins are forgiven.”

Deny yourself.
Take up your cross.
And follow me… to the cross.






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,

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.


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
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
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.