Love in the active voice
by Sandra Weingart
I do a lot of writing in my job and have, over the years, developed a distinct distaste for one of the most prominent features of academic prose. Way back in the day, somebody decided that it is inappropriate for authors—especially in the scientific disciplines—to have an active voice in the reporting of their experiments, observations, and discussion. In order to preserve an air of neutrality, the passive voice was assumed [doesn’t that sound absurd?]. Things happen, rather than people making them happen. Blecch! It is appropriate sometimes, but I am usually quick to scratch it out when I’m editing for someone else or revising my own work.
We live our baptismal journeys in the active voice as well. A faithful life is not one in which we never feel doubt or have awkward questions; it is a life in which we engage with those questions and carry out God’s commandments despite our doubts. A hopeful life is not one in which we ignore our own troubles or those of the world around us; it is a life where we hold fast to the knowledge that God wants good things for us, is with us in the worst parts of our lives (even if we don’t feel it at the time), and will welcome us home in the end. A loving life is not one in which we always are happy and comfortable with our families, friends, and neighbors, nor they with us; it is a life in which we choose to act for the good of each other because we know that we and they are God’s beloved children.
I often think about that last part in connection with Jesus’ commandment that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If a neutral person observed your behavior, would they conclude that you love yourself? Are you patient, kind, and forgiving to the child of God who is you? Do you nourish your body and your soul with healthful food, appropriate rest, and habits that allow you to participate fully in the world? Or do you condemn yourself for past mistakes and tell yourself that you will always keep making them? Do you cling to old hurts because at least they are familiar and you don’t know with what you might replace them? Do you fight to keep a sense of unworthiness stuffed someplace hidden deep inside?
How would things be different if you could look at every unlovely part of your life and stop fighting yourself over them? Can you say “yes, I did that and it turned out badly” or “I really do care about this situation and it hurts that I can’t change what happened” and then look at yourself through the eyes of God and see that you are loved, not despite who you are, but because of who you are?
I encourage you (and me!) to take these ideas out for a spin. I suspect that all of us would like to be better at loving our neighbors and our world and practice is how we develop our skills. So practice loving yourself as we near the end of the church year and start preparing to open yourself to the Love that comes to us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
By Erik Ingram
The start of a new school year usually seems to find me in a reflective mood. Next
month will mark eight years since I got my first introduction to Logan and Cache Valley, and last
month marked seven years of living here among you. That in and of itself has been a tremendous gift, with all the experiences I’ve been fortunate to have and memories I’ve been able to make. That’s something I look forward to continuing, at least as much as circumstances allow in the days and months ahead!
At the same time, however, I can’t help but find myself also reflecting on the time I’ve
spent here without finishing my degree program, even as others my age and younger move on
and begin their careers. It’s true that some of the factors contributing to that have been beyond
my control, but it’s still something I’ve had trouble reconciling with at different times. As it
turns out, however, the effects of the ongoing pandemic have given me the opportunity to
consider how this may actually have something to do with God’s plans for my life, from a few
different perspectives. I certainly can’t pretend to know exactly what His plans entail, or how
they come to be, but I’ve been finding comfort in thinking with it during these uncertain
In an earthly sense, the time it’s taking me to progress has served as some protection
when it comes to my chosen career path; were I working at an airline by now as many of my
friends and acquaintances are, there’s a very high probability I would be facing the possibility of
a furlough or layoff. In no way am I trying to suggest that that is in God’s plan for those who are
currently in that position, but it is a thought that has stuck with me since all of this began.
To take a deeper dive into what all of this may mean, I’ve found myself reading into the
philosophy of kairos, which gained prominence through the work of Lutheran theologian, Paul
Tillich. In its original Greek interpretation, it refers generally to a moment of opportunity, or the
critical time for an action to take place (compared to chronos, the term for linear, chronological
time), although a specific definition has proven difficult to accurately pin down. Tillich’s use of
the term was influenced by the changes in the world around him and how they related to the
church as a whole; much of his work on the topic took place in the 1920's and ‘30s as Germany
was transitioning toward the Nazi regime, and consequently he sought to use the moment to
inspire citizens to “look beyond the present moment and into the future to see the urgency of
the present” (Elizabeth Earle, “The Rhetoric of Kairos: Paul Tillich’s Reinterpretation”). That is,
significant occurrences in history represent kairos moments that require action on the part of
an individual body (as a person or an organization).
As it relates to my situation, I’ve come to the idea that my extended education process
is a form of kairos moment; while it may feel as though I’m stuck at times and behind some of
my peers, this is also the opportune time to prepare myself as much as I possibly can for what
the future (as I understand it to look like) may hold. On a larger scale, the pandemic and its
wide-ranging effects are serving as a kairos moment for church bodies of all types, from
congregations like ours to the ELCA to the global family of believers as a whole. As has been
well-documented, it’s been a challenge to discern the right actions to take on all of those levels.
As I understand it, however, this is where we are called to look ahead to the future that we
want for ourselves and as a congregation to determine the path to get there. It’s certainly a
process, but if any of the other journeys we have been on are an indication, it’s one where we
can count on God to help lead the way.
I say absolutely none of this with any sort of certainty or authority; ultimately, I’m just
one individual trying to make sense of my situation, and I’m sure many of you are experiencing
the same thing in your own lives. I do believe, however, that God is using this as a time to
interject and open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the plans He has for each of us, and I hope
that these thoughts bring comfort in times of stress and uncertainty such as these.
By Frank Pultar
I just got a year older a few days ago, as we all do, and was trying to remember my earliest birthday. The one I came up with was the time my oldest sister, Mary Ann asked me what kind of cake I would like for my birthday. I just answered a Baked Alaska, and she said OK. When my birthday came around, I had forgotten all about it. I came into the house from being out in the woods thinking that nobody knew what day it was; then after supper my big sister came from the kitchen carrying a cake with candles. When she set it down in front of me, the heat from the candles was melting the meringue, and the Texas summer heat was doing the same to the Baked Alaska. I got tears in my eyes because my big sister kept her promise. She saw my tears, and asked are you crying because the baked Alaska is melting? I said no, it is because you made it.
Accepting the challenge
By Kristi Grussendorf
“Where can you lean into discomfort in your own life for the sake of growth/transformation?” This was the question asked by our Pastor Emily a couple of Zoom Bible study sessions ago. This question already found me in the midst of a lot of “discomfort.” I had written a letter several weeks earlier to my Trump supporting mother and brother. I shared my views on politics and race and how I just didn’t understand how they could justify their continued position in light of their professed values and faith.
I grew up in a conservative, patriarchal household and I learned quickly to stay quiet and not voice any disagreement if I wanted peace. This new truth telling sister/daughter was not well received. I started my letter out with the statement that this was who I was and they had to either accept me as a whole, or not at all. The verdict is still out. I think the hope for many in my family is that I will go back to that comfortable role that I’ve played for so long. It doesn’t feel right to have a relationship where I can’t be my authentic self, or where I have to pretend to be someone else and have belief systems with which I don’t agree. I’m not holding my breath for transformation but God has surprised me in the past, so who knows?!
Relationships are messy, right? The part that scares me the most is, what if I find out that the people I’ve known, loved and maybe even admired are not who I thought they were? If I had
just kept my mouth shut, I would never have known for sure. I guess it’s just gotten to the point that I don’t have the patience or the time for shallow relationships. I want to really know the people in my life; with that comes risk. What if I don’t like what I learn about them? It’s funny how things have switched. When I was younger, I worried a lot about what other people thought of me, and now I’m more fearful about losing respect for others.
“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re stupid than to open it and prove that you are.” This is paraphrased but I have spent a lot of my life reminding myself to heed this adage. I don’t know if it’s the stage of life I’m in, or our current political climate, but I feel like none of us can sit this one out. There is too much at stake. As a church, as white people of privilege, we have become very attached to our comfort. I think we can and are called to be part of God’s plan in the world. It’s definitely NOT comfortable and might even be painful but I’ve decided to accept the challenge!
Pentecost: A New Song
By Cary J. Youmans
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. Joel 2:28, 29
Pentecost is one of my favorite feast days. It is rightly called the birthday of the church, but I view it more as the culmination of Jesus' ministry; the end of which Jesus' death and resurrection is the means. On that first Pentecost after the Resurrection, God resumed God's habitation among humanity, and is immediately present and accessible to anyone who asks, seeks, and knocks. God is now Immanuel in perpetuity.
Most of you reading this are well aware that the word translated "spirit" is the word for "breath" in the original biblical languages; that it was God's spirit/breath that moved over the waters at creation, and it was God's breath/spirit breathed into humanity that made us living souls. If you haven't yet, be sure to view Pastor Emily's Pentecost Sunday message for a poignant and eloquent description of the significance of breath/breathing is scripture. One statement in that message especially stood out to me. "Followers of Jesus will be defined by nothing other than the very Breath of God."
Having some experience with Church Music and singing, breath/breathing has a particular significance. It should for all God's people, since we all have a "new song." Psalm 40 (my favorite) begins,
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Singing is dependent upon breath. Good singing is directly proportional to good breathing. As I tell the choir, the powerhouse of good singing is the diaphragm and having an unrestricted, well-supported breath. The vocal chords, lips, teeth and tongue take the raw energy of the breath and make it something beautiful and potentially trans-formative. In much the same way, the New Song God puts in our mouth is dependent on the raw energy of the Spirit, which our thoughts, words and actions make into something beautiful and trans-formative.
My favorite fictional image of the transforming power of God's breath is in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." After the Great Lion Aslan resurrects, he goes to the castle of the White Witch. There, he liberates all the victims the White Witch has turned to stone by breathing on them. Asaln's breath restores the stone to living. breathing flesh.
May we each see ourselves as restored to living, breathing flesh by God's Spirit. May we all seek God's Living Breath during this prolonged season breath impairment. May we seek to know the lyrics and melody of the New Song God has put in our mouths, whatever form they may be, and proclaim God's New Song boldly to the beautification and transformation of the world.
Until we meet again
By Erik Ingram
By now, it feels almost unnecessary to say that these are unprecedented times in our lives as individuals and as a church; there are daily reminders of that, whether it’s from the media we consume or an email from any company we’ve interacted with in the past 10 years. In the time that I’ve been attending, the community at Prince of Peace has effectively become a second family to me; though people have come and gone, collectively you’ve lent me hospitality, moving assistance, and friendship, and I’m sure all of you can say the same. Of course, those gifts are what make it difficult to reconcile with our isolation from one another, and what also makes it difficult to say that as a council, we’ve determined that it is not yet in our best interest to attempt a reopening and resumption of in-person services even as other parts of society do so. Despite what some leaders and other prominent figures are saying, we feel the risks are still too great to leave to chance for the time being. Given our relatively small size, continuing to practice distancing and virtual worship remains our most responsible collective course of action.
During his time in a Nazi prison in mid-1944, Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to a friend with these words: “The church is its true self only when it exists for humanity...the church must share in the secular problems of ordinary human life, not to dominate, but to help and to serve” (To Eberhard Bethge, July 21, 1944). That is also our calling during these challenging times; we serve a valuable role in our greater community, and the actions we take now serve to protect ourselves and our community in the short term, and ensure that we will be able to continue caring for our community in tangible ways when the time comes to do so again. Until then, may our closeness help us to remain connected, and may we continue to trust the God will carry us through to the other side. Until we meet again, face-to-face.
Living Lessons from Holden Village
by Barbara Daniels
A group of Prince of Peace and Lutheran Campus Ministry members recently returned from a stay at Holden Village in the North Cascades. These are some reflections on my time there. I call them ‘living lessons’, not ‘life lessons’ , because to me ‘life lessons’ sounds way too presumptuous, and these thoughts represent only my current takeaways – my insights and conclusions could certainly shift in the future.
1. The journey can be just as important as getting there. From Logan, Holden Village is a 1 ½ day drive, plus a one hour boat ride, and then a 45 minute bus ride. The view changes from freeway/cities, to rural highways, and finally to just the lake, trees, and surrounding mountains. As we traveled, I felt my concerns about work, schedules, and general ‘busyness’ slowly fall away. The five of us in the vehicle certainly got to know each other better and even worked on the skill of learning about each other without asking questions. Time between spaces can be equally valuable as time at our destinations.
2. Pack lightly, but do take what you need. As mentioned above, five of us traveled in one vehicle, and that vehicle also carried our luggage for the week. We needed to take the minimum for our needs (cold weather, outdoor activities) but it all had to fit! We seemed to hit the right balance, and some of the extras – a bag of delicious dried apples, fun games, and a box of wine --- might have seemed frivolous at the beginning but turned out to add a lot to our time there. Make space for things that promote community.
3. Share space graciously. Holden is a small village in which anywhere from 100 to 500+ people live together, in a very remote setting. It is very comfortable, but that is because the residents – permanent, short-term, and visitors like us – are careful to be individually responsible for themselves and their setting. Things like hand washing, fire safety, and dealing with your own garbage instead of leaving it for someone else were emphasized. Living in community takes some thoughtfulness, but the rewards of getting to know others and yourself better are well worth it.
Finally, at Holden I also appreciated that worship takes many forms. Each day there was some type of corporate service which varied from poems and prayers read at mealtimes, to a spontaneous hymn sing, to Bible study, to vespers. Yet worship was also found in a labyrinth packed into the snow, in the high mountains around us, and even in the creative rhythms of knitting and weaving. Take a deep breath and be present wherever you are – you don’t need to go to a remote village to thank God for His gifts of life and community.
We are all in this together
By Dave Wilson
Following a lot of work by the Transition Team and the Call Committee, the Church Council has also been busy with a major undertaking in the life of Prince of Peace. The calling of Pastor Emily Kuenker is now official and all of us are looking forward to the Installation Service and her time with us as our Pastor. This got me thinking about how many total pastors I have had in the churches I’ve attended. When I was a kid, we had the same pastor until I was 8 and then we moved. In the church we went to after moving, we had the same pastor until I went away to college 10 years later and he was eventually there for more than 20 years. (My brother has been a pastor in the same church in St. Louis for about 25 years.) I was amazed when I began attending Methodist churches with Lesa that they changed pastors approximately every 3 to 4 years and the congregation had no say in who came as pastor and when they left. In approximately the last 35 years, Emily will be the tenth pastor at the churches we have attended. Different denominations approach this differently. There seems to be more rapid transition in pastors in some denominations than there used to be, while some others often have pastors who spend most of their working life in one church or maybe two. To me, there are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of doing things; I don’t think either having one pastor for many years or having multiple pastors for shorter time intervals represents a choice between “good or bad”.
Prince of Peace has some challenges and some opportunities at this time that coincides with the coming of Pastor Emily. Not that many years ago we often had more than 100 people attend on Sundays and did many community activities that we don’t really have enough members for now, and we had 20 or more Sunday school students from toddlers to high school age, with an active Confirmation and Youth Group program. Like many churches, we now have few families with children attending. There are many societal theories about this, but the short version is that following a major secular crisis that follows a major depression (2008) by approximately 12 years, we are due very soon for a rebirth of institutions in the U.S. after emerging from that crisis (we don’t know exactly what that crisis is yet, but speculation abounds). What the institutions will look like will be shaped by the Civic generation born between 1982 and 2004. The previous Civic generation was the World War II generation born between 1902 and 1924, and the two previous Civic generations before those won the Civil War and the American Revolution. Religion in general and Christianity in particular will certainly be different as their generation continues to take power, if history since 1584 in North America is any guide. Hopefully the fundamental values of the Carpenter from Nazareth will continue to be important in society. I interact with many Civic generation people every day at USU. I see them graduate from veterinary school and adjust to working life and often family life as time passes since they graduated. It seems to me that they do indeed largely have a belief system that is altruistic and oriented toward doing the right thing including for the less fortunate. How all of our society adapts to that, and how Christianity fits with their values will be a major adventure of the 2020’s and have a lot to say about the course of the rest of the 21st century. Pastor Emily will be coming to us precisely at a momentous time for all, and what happens will certainly not be up to her alone. We will all be in it together.
time to reflect & look forward
By Frank Pultar
I asked my father a question when I was about ten, “Why does time go by so slow?”
He replied, “Once you get to be eighteen, time will fly by, and by the time you notice it, you will be wondering where it went.”
That time came when I was turning fifty, three years into this decade. I made a bucket list and started making plans to cross things off of it.
First was to go to Burning Man to celebrate turning 50, my wife divorcing me, and still being alive. I had a most excellent adventure meeting a whole bunch of people who were looking to find themselves and start a path that was a little clearer than yesterday.
I am still working on that list as this decade comes to a close. I am leaving myself room to reflect, to look ahead, and to make the most of this coming 2020. Working also to make this world a better place.
Joy in anticipation
By Lela Gilmore, Council Member at Large
I thought this being the Advent season, that is what I would write about, however, the more I read the more I realize how far I am out of my depth!!!
I think, rather, I’d like to explore my thoughts of just one possible aspect of Advent, that being “anticipation”, rather than “expectation”.
Definitions of ‘anticipation’ list many synonyms, some including ‘expectation’, but more that do not.
One definition describes the word as a version of the Latin word meaning ‘coming’… further, ’a feeling of excitement about something pleasant or exciting that you KNOW is going to happen’.
Does that mean then that the difference between ‘anticipation’ and ‘expectation’ is the solid belief that what you “anticipate” is outside yourself? A promise…a REAL gift? , as opposed to that which you “expect” in return for something you have given first, or ‘earned’ or bought or are owed? A gift rather than a gift-exchange where you give only what you expect to receive, so everyone comes out even!
Perhaps, BELIEF then, is the difference between anticipation and expectation….anticipation of a gift that is coming rather than expectation of something that you have planned or earned or are owed.
We believe that Jesus IS coming, not at all dependent on us, or what we do, or do not do, or believe, or whether or not we have followed the Lord closely enough, or done enough, etc. Based on our frail human nature, we would never EARN or DESERVE the Lord’s coming…
thus the JOY in anticipation of this indescribable GIFT. Come Lord Jesus.
This blog is run by the council members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan, UT. For more information, check out our church's website at princeopeace.org.