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A Teachable Moment

January 8th, 2018

A colleague stirred her coffee and mused, “I wonder how the new tax law will impact how my people give to the church next year?” She is curious, because the standard deduction has roughly doubled for all filers. (Important resources are available to explain the impact of this tax change.) It’s expected that fewer people will itemize deductions such as charitable contributions. And without the incentive to save money on taxes, will that dampen peoples’ incentive to be generous with our congregations?

This is a great teachable moment.

What a perfect time to have a conversation with members of your congregation about why they give. Prepare by considering what motivates you to be generous. Approach the topic of generosity with curiosity.

“What a perfect time to have a conversation with members of your congregation about why they give.”

When I reflected on that in terms of my own giving to my congregation, I made a “top 10 list.” And saving money on my taxes fell quite low in my priorities!

  1. My relationship with God has changed my relationship with money.
  2. Because it all belongs to God anyway, I’m just taking care of it.
  3. I want more people to hear the really good news about Jesus.
  4. My money has power to do good things in the world.
  5. It’s an act of worship.
  6. It’s the most important thing I do to be less self-centered.
  7. It fills me with joy to be generous.
  8. Part of my offering fuels the work of the wider church, such as starting new congregations and supporting justice work and disaster relief.
  9. I’m proud to be an ELCA Lutheran and want to support the institution.
  10. It reduces my tax bill.

I wonder what your list includes?

 

STEWARDSHIP EXPERTS ADVISE that if you want to create a healthy money culture in your congregation, talk about money when you’re not asking for it. God cares about all our money, not just the portion we give away. It matters how we earn it; how we spend it; how we save it; and how we share it.

Pastor Greg Meyer at Jacob’s Well in Minneapolis regularly teaches his people how to make a budget and stick to it, and helps people to connect how they use their money with their faith values. That’s good stuff.

Let me know if you have this conversation in your congregation. I’d love to hear what you learn.

Enough with the Waiting

December 19th, 2017

By Emilie Bouvier

Okay, so I love waiting, I really do. There’s something about the practice and ritual of waiting that feeds the soul. But I’m also really anxious to dig into the reality that were all waiting for – the incarnation, God born among us. So, I’m going to skip ahead a little and dive into our incarnational promise a week early.

I know, I know. But, I think Jesus came last year too, so we’re good, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about incarnation, because I’ve been increasingly aware of what a scary yet profound promise it is to see God entering into the messy, complex realities of our incarnated lives. In our current moment, I feel we are hyper-aware of the big picture issues we face – systems and structures that harm, a political environment fueled off racism and unabashed greed, a deteriorating climate, and the list goes on. How on earth does Jesus break in, in all Christ’s transformative power and utter human-ness?

“What does God’s breaking-in, challenging, transforming, healing look like embodied in us?”

Yet, somehow we hold to this promise and, perhaps with a bit of fear and trembling, recognize that we too are a part of this incarnational reality. We don’t remain unchanged or let off the hook. If we’re at all serious about how God works in-and-through the world, we must recognize that part of that happens in-and-through us. It’s going to be beautifully messy and imperfect, and it’s going to challenge and transform us.

 

LAST WEEK I SAT a couple rows back from two pews full of Bishops at the installation service for Rev. Dr. Curtiss DeYoung, assuming the role of CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC). Waves of emotion welled up in me as I saw images of MCC’s work over the years flash across the screen – Blessed Ramadan signs and Iftar meals, a historic press conference of judicatory leaders speaking out boldly against the Muslim ban early this year, congregations hearing new voices through the Black Clergy Speakers Bureau, presence and solidarity with Dar Al-Farooq in the wake of the bombing last summer. This is incarnational ministry.

I find myself circling back to this: What does God’s breaking-in, challenging, transforming, healing look like embodied in us?

For the ecumenical assembly gathered there that evening, there were some pretty clear pictures offered up. Three sermonic charges to CEO Curtiss may just as well have been charges to all of us who minister as a part of this greater church.

  • Elona Street Stewart, a native leader and Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church, called on us to recognize the stolen land on which we stand, to include and lift up indigenous voices, and to recognize the multiplicity of tribes and stories within the native community.
  • Sindy Morales Garcia, program associate at Wilder and a young Latina voice, charged us to ir a la frontera, to go to the borderland, willing to being de-centered and to stand at the margins with recent immigrants.
  • Dee McIntosh, millennial African-American pastor of Lighthouse Church, preached a profound word on the waters of Revelation: that we ought to be more like the water in the neighboring villages – water that is hot for healing or cool for drinking – but we cannot be lukewarm.

These are about as profoundly incarnational charges as I’ve heard.

“Theologians have long recognized how stained glass speaks to our incarnational reality. The design is only possible when the divine light meets the physical material of lead and glass.”

Retiring CEO Peg Chemberlin also spoke, as she passes her role on to Curtiss DeYoung – a leader whose leadership mostly looks like shining light on others, getting out of the way, and getting young people of color into leadership. Her charge recognized and reflected this commitment, as she added these words to the mix: “Increasingly the world is splintered into self-interest shards, none of which can carry a commitment to the common good. In such times, your job is to gently build those shards of many colors into the stained glass window of hope for the future.”

This vibrant image resounded with what I know to be true of stained glass – that theologians have long recognized how it speaks to our incarnational reality. The design is only possible when the divine light meets the physical material of lead and glass; that meeting point of holiness and tangible reality is the point of illumination.

May our lives and vocations, in this season especially, seek to minister at this incarnational intersection.

Prepare Ye the Way of Justice

December 12th, 2017

By Bob Hulteen

“Wait. Just wait.”

The luminous blaze bouncing off the shiny red ornaments on a Christmas tree adorned with spray-can snow was too enticing. Homemade bows encircled the boxes adorned in green, red, and yellow, filling the space under the tree. I longed to “free” the treasures that awaited by a slow, methodical disassembling of the wrapping paper to find that surprise awaiting.

Wait. Awaited. Awaiting.

Advent is always more than pre-Christmas.

As a young boy, I remember the December sermons and songs about waiting. I thought I was merely being taught a morality tale about discipline. Don’t open the Christmas presents early. Wait until you’ve been to the Christmas Eve service and come home to a full table. Wait until the dishes were cleared and the table cleaned. Wait until my father read the passage from Luke 2 about Caesar Augustus and poor shepherds and a refugee family and a multitude of angels.

Wait.

 

BUT, DECEMBER IS ALWAYS more than department store or online sales. Advent is always more than pre-Christmas.

It is waiting. But it’s waiting that is also preparing. As the Baptizer reminds us, it includes “preparing the way of the Lord.”

Are we ready? Are we prepared?

One of my great fortunes is the fact that Vincent and Rosemarie Harding – inner circle leaders of Martin Luther King’s band of justice-bringers – would once a year or so come and spend a week at Sojourners Community. They would always bring a word of healing and a word of challenge; they encouraged us to graciously accept the things we could not change and to engage those that we could.

One memorable reflection offered by Vincent — when members of Sojourners were feeling especially powerless around the Reagan administration’s policies in Central America, South Africa, and the Philippines — included the insight “we cannot create a social movement; we can only prepare for the social movement and then engage it as it arises.” Vincent was a believer in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was.

So, as I imagine John in the wilderness “making straight the way,” I wonder when the time is coming. When will we see the lion lie with the lamb? When will we see the mountains made low? When will justice roll down like the waters?

Or, is the time already around us? Are we ready? Are we prepared?

December 24 lands on a Sunday; now what?

November 27th, 2017

By Pastor John Hulden

Aren’t we as Minnesotans blessed with the beauty of the changing of the seasons?

Thursday was Thanksgiving. Friday was, well, Black. Yesterday was Christ the King Reign of Christ Sunday. That is followed by Cyber Monday. (OMGosh! I forgot to do all my Cyber Monday online shopping!) And now, Advent is upon us.

“In this ever-changing, post-Christendom, less-frequent-worship-attendance culture, December 24 on a Sunday poses a problem for many church leaders.”

What is your favorite season of the church year? I’ve been to more than one churchy gathering with rostered leaders and, when they are asked that question, a clear winner emerges every time: Advent!

I wonder what that says about us as church leaders? Do lovers of Advent like the theology, the darkness, the waiting, the already-not yet-ness, the counter-cultural response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

 

HOW ABOUT YOU? Where does Advent rank for you? Or, do you think church seasons are overrated?

This calendar year, December 24 is a Sunday, which means December 24 plays double duty: The Fourth Sunday in Advent is the morning and Christmas Eve is in the evening. (Note: As I write this, I realized that the Fourth Sunday in Advent is not actually on Christmas Eve — because Christmas eve doesn’t happen until the sun goes down on December 24!)

In this ever-changing, post-Christendom, less-frequent-worship-attendance culture, December 24 on a Sunday poses a problem for many church leaders. If you have a Fourth Sunday in Advent morning worship service on December 24, will anyone come? And if they do, will they be surprised/disappointed in hearing only the Joseph story from the first chapter of Matthew and singing Advent hymns?

“Do lovers of Advent like the theology, the darkness, the waiting, the already-not yet-ness, the counter-cultural response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday?”

Please note: Before I start a heated “discussion” in the comments about worship preferences, … I know that some congregations moved Advent up a week to begin on November 26. (Would that be Advent-loving people who didn’t want to compromise the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year?) And, I know that many congregations that use the Narrative lectionary will be reading John 1 the morning of December 24, and Luke 2 in the evening, and for Christmas Day you’ll be hearing about shepherds.

Whatever your congregation is planning for a December 24 that lands on a Sunday, please hear this:

  • Thank you worship planners.
  • Thanks bulletin creators and printers.
  • Thanks musicians and worship leaders.
  • Thanks preachers.
  • Thanks building caretakers and door-lockers and –unlockers.
  • Thanks organizers of efforts to care for those in need.
  • Thanks Christmas pageant creators and performers and costume finders and makers.

Thanks for caring so much about your worshiping community as it gathers together in these Advent weeks leading up to the Festival of the Incarnation. (“Festival of the Incarnation” is my big seminary vocabulary title for Christmas.)

A Tribute to Chaplains

November 15th, 2017

By Pastor Craig Pederson

Immersed in the major existential questions and day-to-day minutia of congregational life, it is easy for church leaders to forget about some of our most valuable colleagues who are not under the same roof as us.  I’m talking about chaplains – those ministers of the gospel who are called to provide spiritual care in hospitals, senior living facilities, prisons, and other non-congregational settings.

One of the many hats I have the privilege to wear on the synod staff is to serve as liaison to the chaplains in our synod. In addition to the occasional visits I enjoy to their sites for installations, retirements, and other celebrations, we host a twice-yearly breakfast gathering for chaplains at the synod office (one of which was just two weeks ago). These gatherings are rich times of conversation and sharing. Bishop Ann has the opportunity to share synod updates with the chaplains, and then we get to hear about the amazing work they are doing their settings.

 

I AM REMINDED OF how a chaplain’s context for ministry is often a microcosm of the broader culture in which we live. We listen to stories about the stress of rising health care and housing costs for patients, residents, employers, and families. We hear about the joys and challenges of multi-cultural dynamics for both staff and residents. We learn about the exploration of interfaith practices in providing spiritual care in these remarkably diverse places. We are reminded of the isolation that can occur among those who are ill, or elderly, or imprisoned, or addicted. And we are affirmed in the valuable partnership these colleagues provide to congregations throughout our synod.

A chaplain’s context for ministry is often a microcosm of the broader culture in which we live. 

Diane Greve, retired chaplain and current Synod Council member, serves as convener for the chaplains group. She has also assisted our office with formalizing the process for chaplains to receive a specialized call from our Synod Council to a non-congregational setting. To receive authorization for this type of call, chaplains are now expected to have attained, or be working toward, two important approvals: 1) ELCA endorsement, and 2) board certification. These two qualifications represent best practices in the field of chaplaincy for maintaining professional standards and for fostering the connection of our chaplains to the broader church.

Next time you visit a church member in the hospital, a loved one in hospice, a friend in prison, or a relative in a nursing home, give thanks that a chaplain has likely been there ahead of you or will follow shortly after you.  Theirs is a special call to serve among the most vulnerable of God’s people. We are grateful for their ministry!

There is a Christian Welcome Here

October 30th, 2017

By Pr. Kelly Chatman

As a Black kid growing up in Detroit, I had no idea what a Lutheran was, let alone some German guy named Martin Luther. I was in 7th grade and I was on a venture to visit my new classmate Willie Wood’s church when I somehow got the directions wrong. (My wife would not be surprised to hear that.) I wandered into a Lutheran Church and no one there looked anything like Willie Woods. The entire Sunday school class was white, and I was embarrassed and wondering how I might make my exit.

This was back in 1963, and the tape in head was running reminding me that there are places where we do and do not belong. In my head it was very clear, I did not belong in that place. That is until two Sunday school teachers approached me. They escorted me to the front of the entire Sunday school and the Sunday school began to sing to me a song, “There’s a welcome here. There’s a welcome here. There is a Christian welcome here!” It was an experience I will never forget and one I will carry with me forever.

What’s that got to do with the Reformation? Everything, but I want to share with you a little bit about the journey I shared with our bishop and fellow pastors to Lutherland this summer.

I was one of 15 pastors from our synod invited to travel with our bishop to Germany. After we arrived in Berlin, we traveled by train to Leipzig where we were greeted by pastors and lay leaders from the church there. During our visit we learned about how, before the Iron Curtin (Berlin Wall) came down, life had been very difficult for people. There was a government force called the Stasis and it was invasive and oppressive in every way.

“Back then the system was built on something called indulgences. Today I believe we have a similar system in racism: Some people are encouraged to imagine God is more for them than others.”

The church emerged as a visible force of non-violent protest. The people of the Church of Leipzig would gather each week in the town square at St Nikolai Church to pray, sing hymns, and light candles.

Well, it got to the point that the Natazi (secret security) had seen about enough of those peaceful gatherings. The security forces gathered their soldiers equipped with their guns and they went to the town square ready to confront the protestors.

Imagine guns against candles, hymns, and prayers? Yep, you guessed it, candles, hymns, and prayers won. Maybe you didn’t guess it, but prayers, hymns, and candles resulted in a peaceful non-violent transition to a new future. The Berlin Wall came down in response to people of faith gathered each week to pray, sing, and light candles.

 

THE PEOPLE OF LEIPZIG, Germany, shared the time-honored witness of a monk (priest) named Martin Luther. 500 years ago, it was not the Natazi but a religious system holding the people hostage in their understanding of God. Religion had turned into a system where people were taught that you could somehow earn your way to God. Back then the system was built on something called indulgences.

Today we have a similar system in racism; some people are encouraged to imagine God is more for them than others. The Reformation challenges us to remember we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Our baptism reminds us that by God’s grace we are restored to unity in Jesus Christ. We are imperfect, die each day to sin, restored to new life in Christ. In other words, “There’s a welcome here. There is a Christian welcome here!”

The Reformation is the anniversary of the date when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses (arguments) on a church door, challenging us to acknowledge that God has already done the heavy lifting; all we do is in response to what God has already done. It is in response to God giving God’s life for the world God loves, we can sing, pray, and light candles.

“The Berlin Wall came down in response to people of faith gathered each week to pray, sing, and light candles.”

Because God gave God’s life on the cross, we march and walk for justice and peace. The Reformation was not and is not just Martin Luther. Many other cool people joined in the movement that birthed faithful expressions — the Moravian, Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and other Protestant churches. Thank God for the witness of Lutherans who picked up the torch (candles) and gathered at the square outside St Nikolai Church to put their lives on the line, like that monk who started a reformation.

So, the Reformation goes on; we are not done yet. This is not the time to put down our candles. The church, our world, and our lives are still in need of reform-ation.

My prayer on this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is that, as we gather in our congregations and we sing, pray, and light candles, we continue to share our light in those into those places made dark due to injustice, inequity, environmental neglect, and white supremacy. Blessings to us all on this 500th year of the Reformation.

Multiplying the Good Stuff

October 24th, 2017

By Pr. Deb Stehlin

Incredibly holy things happen in church basements. Last week I was with leaders who wonder if they can let go of the way they’ve been doing church in order connect with the people in their neighborhood. It was honest, vulnerable, and holy. Change is hard for some people.

Such change in congregations takes a long time. And I’m not a super patient person. Some people in our neighborhoods long for a deep connection to community; they may not yet know that, even in their brokenness, they are loved by God beyond measure; and they might want to work with others for the common good. Our work has an urgency to it.

That’s why I want to try a radically different approach to fostering life and vitality in congregations. What if we take note of those that are doing great things to connect with people in our changing culture — and multiply these effective practices? Will that result in more people seeing our congregations as worth checking out? That’s what I want to discover.

“Many congregations in challenging contexts have discovered effective ways to connect with people.

So, we’re going to do a big experiment. I’m calling it Strength by Strength. We just got news that it will be supported by a $50,000 grant from ELCA Churchwide. So, now we can design a process for identifying congregations who are effectively connecting with people in our changing culture and we can provide what’s needed to multiply these strengths. I imagine congregations teaching one another, multiplying leadership, maybe even birthing new faith communities.

 

IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE CLEAR at the outset that this won’t be limited to what we think of as “successful” congregations. There are many congregations in challenging contexts who have discovered effective ways to connect with people. How might the whole church be strengthened if those practices are taught to others? How many more people might hear the gospel? How many more might join our work for justice?

“Our work has an urgency to it.”

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to sit with people in church basements who are eager to commit to the long work of congregational change. Each congregation matters. We all have things to teach, and we all have things to learn.

I’m glad that God has given us to one another so that we can invest in each other – for the sake of all the people who have no idea how much they are loved by God.

Confessions of a Church Newsletter Junkie

October 16th, 2017

By Pastor John Hulden

Yep, I love reading church newsletters. I like the pictures, the announcements, and, … the “Pastor’s Page” or “Pastor’s Corner” or “From the Pastor” or “A Word from the Pastor” — whatever it might be called.

Did you know that church council minutes are fascinating? After decades of church newsletter reading, I’d like to think I’ve become a bit of an expert in reading between the lines of those council minutes!

In the most recent batch of October newsletters, the Reformation won out over “the leaves are changing color” as the pastor’s topic. Good stuff.

So, since you, I’m guessing, don’t usually read dozens of church newsletters, here are just a smattering of highlights from your peers.

“Thanks be to God for church newsletters.”

Oak Grove Lutheran’s “From the Pastor,” by Pr. Tom Zarth, introduced the Reformation this way:

 

They call the 500th anniversary of a significant event a “quincentenary.” I can’t think of a quincentennial event I’ve ever celebrated before, but there’s one coming now. On October 31 it will be 500 years since a young German Bible professor named Martin Luther invited discussion around some of the practices of the church that he found questionable and, by all accounts, changed the world.

 

The Rev. Dr. Bill Russell (not surprising this Luther scholar wrote about the Reformation) referred the folks at Augustana Lutheran to the Smalcald Articles and shared:

As a church, we join hands with Luther to remind each other, and to proclaim to everyone, the message of God’s grace. It’s the message that formed the church of the apostles. It’s the message to which Luther sought to reform the church of his day. And it’s the reforming message we still need. This message makes the church, the church. It’s what Luther called, “The First and Chief Article.”

 

PR. CHRISTINE CHILES AND Pr. Mary Halvorson pointed to Reformation resources in their columns. Pr. Chiles wants her Maple Grove Lutherans to hear the catechism through new voices. “Download the free smartphone app of a special edition of Luther’s Small Catechism. … Visit ELCA500.org and watch minute videos of Bishop Elizabeth Eaton teaching from the Small Catechism’s explanations of the Ten Commandments.”

Pr. Halvorson of Grace University likes the Lutheran World Federation’s website (www.lutheranworld.org), especially the writings about Liberated by God’s Grace: Salvation—Not for Sale; Human Beings—Not for Sale; Creation—Not for Sale. 

“In the most recent batch of October newsletters, the Reformation won out over ‘the leaves are changing color’ as the pastor’s topic.”

Pr. Pam Stalheim-Lane reminded newsletter readers at Faith-Lilac Way that

… the need for re-forming hasn’t ended. The church – and the world around us – continues to change. In the process, we may yearn for “the good old days.” But truth be told, there has never been a time in which the church – or any person or any group – had perfectly reflected God’s will and God’s way. … How can we best love God and love our neighbor as Jesus first loved us?

I liked the headline from Pr. Rhonda Hlavinka at Salem English Lutheran:

“Nevertheless, He Persisted”

  • If you have ever held a Bible in your hands, you can thank Martin Luther and people like him who resisted and persisted. 
  • If you do not believe you need to pay your religious leaders to get your relatives (or even yourself) out of purgatory and into heaven, you can thank Martin Luther and people who followed him who resisted and persisted. 
  • If you cherish democracy, you can thank Martin Luther and his doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” The equality of all before God and the law was one of the reasons he and others like him resisted and persisted. 
  • If you experience religious liberty, you can thank Martin Luther and the people like him who resisted and persisted against arbitrary control by either the church or the state. 
  • If you have ever stood up to injustice and said “Here I stand,” you can thank Martin Luther and all those who followed him because they resisted and persisted. 
  • If you have ever muttered “This is most certainly true,” you can thank Martin Luther who resisted and persisted.

Thanks be to God for church newsletters. Really.

And, please enable my church newsletter habit by putting your synod office on your newsletter e-mail or postal-mail list!

Questioning the Quo

October 2nd, 2017

By Rev. Craig Pederson

As we enter this 500th anniversary month of the Reformation, much will be written and spoken about the ongoing impact of that epochal period. Churches from all around our synod have sponsored trips to the sites where Martin Luther ignited a revolution of theology and practice in the church. Our companion synod partners in the Leipzig district of Germany have been serving as global hosts, showing hospitality to visitors from all over the world – including Bishop Ann Svennungsen and a delegation from our synod last May.

Closer to home, I have been thinking about the impact of the Reformation on our local churches today. The magnitude of the shifts set in motion 500 years ago can be hard to contextualize in our Upper Midwestern, North American context now.

But as I try to find some common themes, one word keeps coming to my mind – okay, maybe two. The first is “grace.” That word is like a balm for our turbulent times, just as it was in 16th-century Germany.

The other word is “disequilibrium.” In a church that had gone largely unchallenged for centuries, Martin Luther injected into the church all sorts of questions and doubts about the status quo. These questions and doubts disrupted the church from top to bottom. They also opened up dialogue – some constructive, some adversarial – about how the church was called to embody the love of Christ in order to serve the people and not the institution.

 

A SIMILAR SET OF questions and doubts are challenging the church today. From small prayer circles to global Christian organizations, God’s people are asking how we are to embody Christ’s love in the context of rapidly changing cultural conditions.

This kind of unsettledness in any system creates anxiety and uncertainty. A natural way for people of faith to respond is to try to minimize the disruptive forces and to provide comfort to one another.

“The word ‘grace’ is like a balm for our turbulent times, just as it was in 16th-century Germany.”

But this kind of response may well be to our peril. To get from one state of being to the next, a disruption must occur. We can shield our eyes from it, or run away from it, or minimize it, but these types of responses are essentially avoidance of the work God is calling us to do at this historic moment in the church. Ron Heifetz, whose research on adaptive change has become foundational for many church leaders, says, “Avoiding disequilibrium results in avoiding the work.”

So along with grace, how can we embrace this time of disequilibrium to create healthier, life-giving churches? How can we “re-form” and find new forms of church practice where deep and abiding faith can take hold?

It is a privilege for my colleagues and me to do this important work with you, even as we do the same work around our own synod practices. Please let us know how we can be of assistance to you!

It Doesn’t Take Much

September 25th, 2017

By Rev. Deb Stehlin

On Sunday, I got to preach at St. Philip’s in Fridley. Between worship services, I was also able to take part in an educational forum. People of all ages showed up, which made for rich conversation. At one point, I asked the teens, “How many of your friends are part of a faith community?”

“Jesus likens the work of God in God’s people to a tiny amount of yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until the whole loaf was leavened.”

One answered, “Not very many.”

“What does that feel like to you?” I asked.

“Lonely. Because I don’t have many friends I can talk about faith with,” she said.

Some might see this change in the status of the church in society as losing ground. I’m not worried.

 

CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATIVE Richard Rohr, in The Divine Dance, The Trinity, and Your Transformation, says it well: “You can see why the most Jesus hoped for … is that his group became a ‘little flock.’ … Jesus calls it ‘leaven,’ or ‘yeast.’ He seems to have the patience and humility to trust a slow, leavening process. This is quite different from any notion of … ‘Christendom.’”

Jesus likens the work of God in God’s people to a tiny amount of yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until the whole loaf was leavened.

“On Sunday, the people of St. Philips blessed their disaster response team. For 13 years, this crew of skilled plumbers, electricians, and carpenters has entered into devastated places equipped with the love of Christ and well-appointed tool belts.”

When we claim this way of being, it’s always at odds with powers that oppress. When the way we love looks like concrete acts of service, when we live in hope and not in fear, it doesn’t take much, and the whole loaf is leavened!

On Sunday, the people of St. Philips blessed their disaster response team. For 13 years, this crew of skilled plumbers, electricians, and carpenters has entered into devastated places equipped with the love of Christ and well-appointed tool belts. This will be their 64th trip. One of their leaders said that places devastated by this year’s hurricanes will be ready for them in the spring. They’re gearing up for that work now.

This is leaven, I tell you.

Did you know that each synod in the ELCA has a partner synod here in the U.S.? Our partner is the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, which includes Houston. Congregations in our synod are already planning to do the ministry of showing up, mucking out, clearing debris, and praying. First Lutheran in Columbia Heights is arranging for buses to make a trip in November.

Is your congregation planning a trip? We’d love to know about it so we can be better together.

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