By Paula Zsiray, council member
For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in. Matthew 25:35
Your donation to the Prince of Peace Blessing Box contributes to a better quality of life for our neighbors.
You can donate items to the Blessing Box by picking up extras at the store, then placing them inside the Blessing Box. Or provide a gift of money to support the work of The PoP Blessing Box.
The BB is different from the local food pantry because it is small, does not require an application and can be accessed any time. The BB is a safety net. The BB is a proving ground, testing concepts like community, charity, justice, and sharing economy.
During the holidays, donations of items like canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and stuffing mix can help make sure a family struggling to put food on the table is still able to enjoy some of their favorite holiday meals.
Thank you for supporting this project.
Non-perishable foods that are good to donate:
By Colin Johnson, council secretary
Colin with grandchildren Amelia and Owen and friend in their new mini-deck playhouse in Grayslake, Illinois.
Last month I attended church at my daughter Rebecca Gordon’s congregation, where she had been providing pulpit service for some time. She lives in Grayslake, Illinois, about a dozen miles from her part-time call to St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Antioch, hard by the Wisconsin border at the end of the North Central Metra commuter line from Chicago. Two weeks ago this was recognized with a formal installation. The congregation is an older one with what seemed to me a fair distribution of ages.
That morning I was introduced to a form of post-service interaction with which I was unfamiliar. Intergenerational fellowship has been practiced for some time in the place usually reserved for “Sunday School” or sometimes an adult Bible study session. As the name suggests, there is no segregation by age. All—especially children—are welcome to participate. This particular Sunday, my son-in-law, a hospital administrator, was the designated leader and had engaged my seven-year old grandson in an important way.
The format is simple, contains five parts, and depending on the number of participants can take from less than a half hour to (I would guess) about 45 minutes. The leader assigns someone to read one of the lessons of the day he or she has selected based on what seems most appropriate to the discussion for that time. This was my grandson’s task.
The gospel reading for the day is chosen, which for that Sunday was the story of the disciples confronting Christ to explain the parable of the blind leading the blind; His earlier comments had offended the Pharisees (Matthew 15: [10-20], 21-28). Following the reading, each person at the table speaks of one “good thing” and one “bad, or unfortunate, thing” they experienced during the previous week. They are encouraged to relate it to the context of the lesson just read, as appropriate. Here, the Pastor is helpful in creating a possible context for this. Of course, for me this was easy: my visit with my daughter and my grandkids. The downside of the week for me was that I had injured my knee somehow in Logan and it was causing me some discomfort during my travels. In particular, it was interfering slightly with the project I had accepted for the trip—to design and construct a mini-play deck with a hammock chair as a “clubhouse” in the backyard of their new home. The project was going well and we would be putting some finishing touches on it that afternoon.
Others spoke of their anxieties, particularly surrounding the troubling events in Charlottesville, Virginia, of the previous weekend. The children in attendance—my grandchildren--would be starting school that week and were apprehensive of the change as their move the previous spring had put them in a new environment. Besides my family, there was an older couple, a middle-aged couple, and a single woman. Some obviously liked to talk and all were very articulate.
When everyone has spoken and it is clear that the conversation is drawing to a close, each participant offers a short prayer, addressing one of the concerns—or giving thanks for the good things—of one or more of the participants. The final act of the session is to turn to one’s neighbor—or several--and bless them with the sign of the cross upon the forehead.
I would by no means call this Bible study. You remember those? A book of the Bible is selected for study. The group plods through it verse by verse, during which someone, usually the pastor, preaches a sermon on nearly every phrase, sometimes holding forth on a single word, and by the end of two months, you discover you have covered an entire chapter and a half of the book you have chosen . . . if you are lucky. My daughter recounted to me the 19th century origin of the schoolhouse model of Sunday School (that is, the enlightened pastor, or leader, knows a great deal and the audience knows little to nothing). This occurred when Protestant denominations in England took on the task of moral instruction of its children whose parents were home sweating off the tremors of a gin-soaked weekend. Is the instructional model out-of-date? Could it be part of the reason that, according to my daughter, Sunday School attendance has probably declined by around 90% over the last several decades in Lutheran congregations? Judge for yourself.
When I asked my daughter about the source, she referred me to the Faith5 website of Stillwater, MN.: www.faith5.org. It’s founder, Rich Melheim, an ELCA pastor, has been promoting novel forms of faith education for something like a quarter century, so the concept is not exactly a new one. Melheim is the author of the two books entitled Let’s Kill Sunday School (Before It Kills Us). This pretty much spells out his philosophy; the second book details the Cross+Gen format, which is also on the website. His methods and materials continue to evolve.
What struck me about the intergenerational fellowship was that it resembled a family devotion, only a devotion carried out with one’s church family. The closest thing we have to it at Prince of Peace is perhaps the format of the Water + Word meetings. What I experienced was an opportunity to activate one’s faith with one’s fellow worshipers and their families in a way that could be meaningful and focused on the lectionary readings for the week.
Would it work at Prince of Peace? I don’t believe it is a question of whether it will work or not. It was a different experience, meaningful and significant in itself. It was not a substitute for traditional Bible study, Sunday School, nor post-service fellowship.
You may also be interested in Faith5’s much edgier www.faithink.org website of family resources which is promoting—presumably in time for the anniversary of the Reformation—the new works Luther: The Graphic Novel and Luther: The Rock Opera. I know I am.
By Joan Mahoney, council vice president
In an effort to get to better know your Church Council members – Deanna Outsen, Joan Mahoney, Colin Johnson, Brad Kropp, Heather Johnson, Paula Zsiray and Regina Dickinson – we are hosting a few Grace Gatherings over the next couple of months at various locations. These will be opportunities for the Prince of Peace community to connect and reflect with their Church Council at a time convenient for you.
The following are the dates, times, locations and host/hostesses available thus far; sign up sheets are available in the Proclaimer and be listening for announcements in church for other ways to sign up. Please pick a time and place that suits you and your family:
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH @ 7PM – REGINA DICKINSON’S HOME – 684 S 1580 W, Logan – for wine, cheese & the divine, an after dinner gathering for wine, cheese & treats.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH @ 6 PM - COLIN JOHNSON'S HOME - 1783 E 1850 N, North Logan - hosted by COLIN JOHNSON & BRAD KROPP - for smoked chicken and ribs.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH @ 2PM - @ the home of PAULA ZSIRAY – 1161 E 100 S, Logan – hosted by PAULA ZSIRAY & DEANNA OUTSEN – for snacks and appetizers (Child care available if needed).
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24TH @ 6:30PM @ the home of HEATHER JOHNSON – 697 S 1690 W, Logan – hosted by HEATHER & JOAN MAHONEY – for dessert and coffee (Child care available if needed)
Be watching for other opportunities if these dates and times don’t work for you as there will be at least two more upcoming. We hope you will take the time to sign up, or let us know in church, and join us for some time to Connect and Reflect at a Grace Gathering!
God’s peace and many blessings,
Joan Mahoney, Vice President
Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace -- Martin Luther
By Paula Zsiray, council member
Proverbs 22:9 - A generous person will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.
According to recent local statistics, Cache County has a food insecurity of 15.1%, with more than 17,510 people in Cache County potentially experiencing hunger. Another report shows that Cache County has the fifth highest level of poverty, at 16.6%, within the state of Utah.
In September, Mountain Crest HS (where I teach) started the “Giving Place” to help students that are in need of extra support. Last January when I got my regular email from NPR, there was an article from Morning Edition, “A New Type Of Food Pantry Is Sprouting In Yards Across America”. The article made me think that perhaps Prince of Peace could join this effort and help our neighbors.
A Little Free Pantry or Blessing Box is generally stocked with canned vegetables and proteins, personal care items, and paper goods go fast. Also, kid-friendly non-perishables, like school supplies for August!
How does a Little Free Pantry differ from our local food bank?
Thanks to a donation by Marty’s Distributing here in Logan Prince of Peace has a container to use for a pantry.
The non-functioning beverage cooler is bright red and has ‘This Bud’s for you!’ printed on both sides. So… We need your help to re-paint. Then we need to place/install the pantry. And finally, we will need to stock the pantry with useable items.
Please contact Paula Zsiray email@example.com or Pastor Thalacker firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to assist with getting this LFP up and running.
By Joan Mahoney, Council Vice President
Cruising over the waters of Lake Chelan,
past snow-capped mountains at one with the land,
docking at Lucerne as the snowflakes gently caress my face,
so begins a journey of faith and grace.
O God, how silent and cold is the darkness,
how inviting is the sunshine;
The beauty of your creation rings out as avalanches cascade
down the mountainside and pine trees are laden with snow.
O God, how great is the fellowship of a village,
singing your praises, reflecting on your words,
and praying for your guidance;
Your presence is felt throughout each day and night,
reminding us of your power and the grace
we have been given through the death of your Son.
O God, how amazing is the community
called to be a beacon in the wilderness;
to allow us to speak to you, to listen to you,
to be free to be uncertain, and to strengthen our faith in you.
O God, as the sun rises through the sun-covered branches
to signal the dawning of a new day,
grant us the ability to listen to one another, to connect
with each other, and to share our gifts with any community.
O God, may we follow the tracks in the road of certainty,
but, like the clouds that roll in to cover the mountaintops
without warning, may we be open to going off
the trail of uncertainty to make new tracks
O God, let the warmth of your love remind us
of the cold, quiet solitude in our life
and bring us comfort on dark, snowy nights
and days of uncertainty.
By Deanna Outsen, Council President
WHAT IS LENT:
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or volunteering and giving of themselves for others. The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.
WHAT IS ASH WEDNESDAY:
The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. In the early Church, Ash Wednesday was the day on which those who had sinned, and who wished to be readmitted to the Church, would begin their public penance. Now, the ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many people that receive them will leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.
Growing up in Utah it was rare to see someone with ashes on their foreheads, however, anytime I did see someone with the shadowy cross on their foreheads, I felt connected to them. I looked forward to the time that I could tell who may be in that secret group - family. Since that time, Lent has meant different things for me personally, and although I still take a personal joy in seeing the shadowy crosses, I also appreciate a more personal side to Lent. Every year I begin my Lenten journey wanting to better myself, my spirit and my heart, always giving something up and always adding something new that will benefit others. I have found some fun ideas so I thought I would share a few for Lent:
Donate 40 things for 40 days – The idea is to walk around your home, perhaps even daily, and donate items you don’t need- declutter your home, declutter you life. You may donate forty individual items, or forty bags of items, one for each day of Lent.
Don’t Complain – Sometimes, without realizing, you find that one complains and whines about things. Lent is a time to change that by having a more positive outlook on things. This may sound easier than you think, you don’t realize how much one complains until you give it up… “Do all things without murmuring and arguing…” Philippians 2:14 NRSV
Replace 30 minutes of TV with 30 minutes of prayer or devotion time - Read a devotional or bible story with your family and have a discussion about it. Even young kids can get involved in this.
Say 3 nice things to your family members - You may think this is easy, but try to say things that aren’t the standard “Thanks” or “You look nice” or “Good job.” With your husband or wife, you may try: “I love how you always help the kids.” With your kids, you may try: “I love how you work hard on your homework, even when it is tough. You are a hard worker.” Remember your words become their inner voice. Remember- three things to each, every day!
Provide an Act of Random Kindness daily – This one is always my favorite. It can be a kindness that is simple such as letting someone step in front of you at the checkout line at the grocery store, paying for the person’s food or beverage behind in you in the drive through, or leaving positive post it notes in restrooms or the changing room at the gym. You also can take a bit of time for perhaps a more meaningful kindness: write a hand-written thank you note, bake someone a cake and take it to them, or take a friend out to dinner.
Spend more one-on-one time with those who matter to you – This one may take some planning, but can be spontaneous too. For your young children try painting each other toenails (moms and dads can both do this!), read a book together, play the 20 questions game. For older children take them out to Chugz for a cookie and a soda pop (unless you’ve given up cookies and soda pop), play a video game together, go to a movie together – take the time to talk while you drive! Reach out to others via phone, skype or face time, plan a sit-down meal, or take them out to dessert,
So how will Lent be different for you this year? Lent is a great time to try to do something to better yourself, your spirit & your heart for 40 days. Try it!!!
By Karin deJonge-Kannan, council member
As I write this, the inauguration of the new president is only a few days away. Like many in our country and in our congregation, I worry about what these next four years will bring. I have some deep concerns (which spike to the level of fear at times), but I prefer to live in hope. I want to choose love, peace, and hope in my own attitudes and actions, and I want to promote those values in our society. I want to live in a society where every person is treated with dignity and respect, where everyone is included and valued, where all are invited to the feast.
My favorite Bible verse has been for many years Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
That’s my assignment, right there, not just for the new year or these next four years, but for every day of my life: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Instead of becoming overwhelmed at the thought of all there is to do, I can get busy with these three things:
This phrase refers to a goal we pursue together. Building a just society is not something we can accomplish alone, by ourselves, but at the same time it does take commitment and action from each individual. Doing justice means building a society where fair and just laws are in place and where the rules apply to all persons equally. I have also come to understand that justice extends beyond laws, beyond our borders, and beyond our species. I have been humbled to find out how little I knew about social justice, economic justice, environmental justice. I have been readings books on these topics and would love an opportunity to discuss them with others in our congregation.
Some translations use the word ‘mercy’ or ‘grace’ here instead of ‘kindness’. Regardless, this expression refers to something we can do all by ourselves, every day, in every encounter. Choosing to act with kindness does not depend on our circumstances, our political affiliation, our age, or the size of our bank account. Kindness is imperative (something the Lord requires of us!) whether we feel like it or not, whether the other person evokes it in us or not, whether we are dealing with a family member, friend, co-worker, stranger, a person at the store, someone in the other car… Whereas doing justice sometimes seems like such a daunting task as it takes the involvement of many people and the dedication of much time and effort, the pursuit of kindness is something we can handle, each of us individually, at all times.
walk humbly with your God
This verse requires that we know God, read God’s word, seek God’s guidance for our actions. It intrigues me that the verse states very clearly your God, not God in general. It is my assignment to figure out God as I understand God, and to be humble about my understanding of who God is to me. In humility, I can ask you to share your perspective, and together, all of us in humility, we can seek to walk humbly with God.
So how’s this for a New Year’s resolution for 2017?
This year, I will do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.
By Colin Johnson, council secretary, and former theatre and film professor
When my children Bryce and Rebecca were young in the 1980s, Christmas had begun to last longer and longer. By then the commercial post-Halloween yuletide promotions were part of our culture, and our family also celebrated the full “12 days of Christmas,” a period of time that still seems to be a mystery among some Christians who routinely sing the popular carol.
On one early day of January, my children would take one of their snow boots—or maybe several each if feeling they were on a roll--, stuff them with straw, and place them on our front porch on the evening of the 5th. They were hoping to catch the attention— and favor--of the camels ridden by the magi, the three wise kings, who would be passing by through Cache Valley in the dead of night. After all, if Santa could climb down every chimney in the world in a single night, why couldn’t loping ungulates do the same on every street in the known universe? In return for the snack of straw, they might find a final present . . . or a lump of coal if they had been naughty, not nice. Well, actually, we always made certain there was always a treat. So ingrained a tradition did this become that my son and daughter continue this with their own children.
You see, we had spent a sabbatical year in Spain, where this tradition is practiced on what is more commonly called el Día de los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, the traditional celebration of the visitation of the magi to the cradle of Christ in Bethlehem on the twelfth day after His birth—Epiphany. Sometimes this Feast Day is lost among the other religious post-New Year’s celebrations like football playoffs and championships, but there it is, right on the Church Calendar each year. Shakespeare’s well-known comedy Twelfth Night is thought to refer to the holy day on which his play was first performed (or commissioned to perform?) and not its subject matter.
The word itself comes from the Greek meaning “to reveal.” In modern usage we use the phrase “to experience an epiphany” to mean a sudden revelation, a deep insight, often a moment of significant self-knowledge. In dramaturgy, it may refer to the moment in which the tragic hero discovers a great fact that causes him or her to make a crucial choice (Hamlet discovers the truth that his uncle Claudius had murdered his father and knows he must avenge him to free him from limbo). While the decision may ironically lead to the his/her destruction, it is also an ennobling act of integrity that fulfills the cycle, or mission, of the hero (Hamlet poisons his murderous uncle and is himself mortally wounded, but in so doing he also saves Denmark and restores the moral order to the “rotten” country as a true royal is bound to do). Pardon my academic precision, but I think that description it is relevant in some ways to Jesus’ story.
Meanwhile, back with my kids in Providence, Utah: Our family had played out the teasing “I-know-something-you-don’t-know” taunt like a ping-pong match over the expected Christmas gifts place under the tree, to be opened on the morning of the 25th. . “Oh, maybe I do know it, but then I know something you don’t know. Nyah-nyah-nyah- nyah-nyah-nah.” Another tradition was to open one gift on the 24th eve. No surprise here, as it was always a new pair of pajamas.
Many believe that Christmas Eve/Day is not the correct time to exchange gifts. In much of the Catholic world—Spain and Latin America in particular—it was common that Epiphany was the day to visit friends, drink chocolate, and share gifts, not Christmas. In Italy, there is the special tradition of La Bufana, an old woman who delivers gifts to children on the eve of the 6th. Her name is derived from the Italian Festa dell'Epifania. Occasionally she is depicted as a witch thought to have been visited by the magi, but this is disputed (for this, if, interested, see Federico Fellini’s film Amarcord, which presents her in a street festival as a giant puppet joyously paraded through the streets in a provincial city). It is interesting to note that many traditions about St. Nicholas in Europe are designed to scare every last chocolate mint out of a child. In rural Germany he is a figure of dread, emerging from the Black Forest at midnight while trembling youngsters peer expectantly into the dark. I remember my Texas-born wife tell of cowering in the bedroom with her siblings when she heard the first jingling of bells from the living room on Christmas Eve.
The traditions of the many symbols—including the date of Christmas itself—that have been adopted into practice in order to distract a Christian culture from their “pagan” origins make for a fascinating study in itself. One story of the Christmas tree is that it comes from a Viking symbol of power attributed to the god Balder and was brought into homes in northern Europe as early as the 16th century to celebrate the holiday. And don’t get me started on Easter eggs! Nevertheless, when I first moved to Utah, I was saddened at my first sight of a tinseled “fir corpse,”--broken, battered, obviously without much divine vigor left in it--lying curbside on the afternoon of one December 25th. I imagined it tossed there by a weary parent rejoicing that the two month long holiday season was finally over. Over?!! Why the first day of Christmas was not yet over! I would remind this person that in many (Lutheran) churches we do not even sing carols until the Christmas season—that is, the one identified by the church calendar—has begun.
And then let’s think about those “wise men.” Wise? Here were three powerful kings, according to Matthew, who abandoned their duties and obligations to their tribes, trekking miles across desert lands, drawn like a moth to a brighter heavenly body, bringing with them valuable gifts of absolutely no practical use to a baby. Furthermore, they jeopardized their mission by naively calling attention to themselves by the Roman authorities. Wise men? Give me a break!! It is no wonder that in Gian Carlo Menotti’s well-known opera Amahl and the Night Visitors he occasionally treats them as buffoonish.
So, as you belt out the many gifts in the song—from the simple partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers climactically crashing down upon you—think about those kings and their mission. And just who is the “true love,” according to the song, who gives them? Perhaps these gentlemen were engaged with their own version of the taunting game my family would practice so many centuries later: “Maybe-we-know-something- you-don’t-know.”
Have a blessed—and illuminating—Epiphany!!
By Deanna Outsen, Council President
Christmas has always been a very special and magical time for me and my family. As a child, we prepared our hearts and home through Advent with faith, hope and love and the encouragement of my mom, Dorothy (Dort) Sigvardt, through her love and actions. As part of our Advent preparations we decorated our Christmas tree, made Scandinavian cookies and treats, dipped chocolates and candies to share with friends and neighbors, and as we looked for the perfect gift for each family member and friend. My mom was always quick to remind us of her favorite quote from Dr. Seuss …“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!” We would continue to prepare our hearts and home by attending church and making Lefse, sending and receiving Christmas cards and letters, and being a little bit more kind to one another, and as Christmas Eve approached you could hear my mom sharing that Christ was born in the manger and that was the true “reason for the season”.
Christmas Eve has always been a time of tradition; one you don’t mess with. My mom is Norwegian and my dad is a Navy man, so running a tight (taut) ship has always been important. As we all gather on Christmas Eve we all helped prepare our special and delicious Scandinavian meal. The table is decorated and name tags are placed to mark the special spot that is yours for the meal. Our meal time is not rushed; time is taken to laugh and talk. Following the cleaning of the table, we move out to the living room for our family Christmas program, which has ranged from dances, the playing of musical instruments, poems shifting from serious to funny and the singing of Christmas songs as a family. The program always ended with the Christmas story from the book of Luke 2:1-20. This has been an incredibly important part of our night. We all settle in and sit in the glow of candlelight and listen to the story. Traditionally read by a different family member each year. Most of us waiting for our favorite verses, mine always being - “7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” And “19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” This special and reflective time was followed by the passing out of presents, and the slow opening of these gifts one by one, starting at the youngest and working up to the oldest. Amid the gift wrapping and laughter, and small breaks to stop and munch on homemade goodies, the feeling of love is always abundant.
This year our Christmas tradition will not change, my mom passed away in August, but we will prepare our hearts and home much as we have since I was a child during Advent. We will decorate our Christmas tree, and many treats will be made to be shared with friends and neighbors, and as my daughters and I will look for the perfect gift for each family member and friend and will be reminded of the “true reason of the season”. We will prepare our hearts by reading the Bible and attending church, we will make Lefse and write our families annual Christmas letter. And I will remember the quote from the Grinch. And, I will keep my mother’s loving, kind and Christ like spirit in my heart. My mom loved Christmas and she knew the importance of the gift of Mary’s firstborn son who was lovingly wrapped and laid in a manger and she shared that with each one of us. And amid our Christmas Eve of laughter and perhaps tears we will take small breaks to stop and munch on homemade goodies, talk and know this feeling of love is abundant. And we will remember “Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action. When faith and hope are in line, you are free to love completely because you understand how God loves.
May you find God’s dream for us when you follow the way of faith, hope and love this Advent season.
By Brad Kropp
During the last few months, those of us on Council this year have been thinking about one particular phrase from the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We’re doing it with an eye towards learning God’s will for Prince of Peace and, by the time this issue of The Proclaimer is out, we will have asked for the congregation’s input about this on Reformation Day.
While that has been happening, I’ve found myself getting sidetracked and a little depressed by an all-too-familiar question. Millions of Christians around the world say this prayer every day, so - look at the world news - why does it seem so clear that God’s will is not getting done on earth as it is in heaven??
A short while ago, I bought a book that proved to be an antidote to my thoughts. The book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, was written by Swedish historian Johan Norberg. It serves up a lot of evidence that things are nowhere near as bad as we’re told they are - in fact, we are experiencing the greatest improvement in the human condition that has ever happened. A good example is the decline over time in violence world wide. Violence was so commonplace in early human societies that about 15% of people in hunter-gatherer groups died violently. Homicide rates in Europe were sky-high during the middle ages. Yet, homicides in Europe declined 30-40 fold between 1200 and 2000 AD. Likewise, genocide by conquering armies was practically routine throughout much of human history. It still happens, but it’s now the exception not the rule. We are shocked by the appalling punishments meted out by ISIS – but the good news is that such cruelty is uncommon enough nowadays that it shocks us. Punishments for crimes, even small ones, in medieval Europe were incredibly cruel and commonplace. Medieval people wouldn’t have been shocked by ISIS.
Similarly, the world has seen dramatic decreases in poverty over the last couple of centuries. The percentage of the world living in poverty fell from around 90% in 1820, when the average person lived at a level seen today only in countries like Haiti, to less than 10% in 2015. As recently as 1981, the vast majority of Chinese lived in poverty whereas only about 10% do today. And in sub-Saharan Africa, the extreme poverty rate (ie living on less that $1.90 per day) dropped from about 57% to 35% between 1990 and 2015. It can be argued that we are on the cusp of eliminating extreme poverty.
I haven’t finished the book yet but it goes on to talk about similar trends in food security, equality, and the environment. So, have I found an answer to my question? I think so. Bad stuff still happens, but overall I think that God’s will is being done; albeit slowly decade by decade. Things have gotten vastly better over time for humankind in spite of all the political rhetoric and negative news reports that we hear. An attack that kills two in Paris dominates headlines for days; millions of people arriving home safely at night to a full plate of food does not. We have a God who chooses to work through our hands, unreliable as they are. Across the span of generations, this goes unnoticed and it sputters from time to time but the trends are real.
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.