Saturday, October 31, 2009

I LOVE Halloween (and All Saints too)

What do Christians do with a holiday when pagans refuse to stop celebrating it? Most of our Christians feast, including Christmas and Easter, are a result of that dilemma. Halloween is no different.

All this nonsense about Halloween being some sort of satanic cult celebration is just rubbish. There is nothing demonic about the origins of Halloween. The celebration originates from a Harvest Festival from Celtic Ireland around the 5th century BC. This was before anyone ever heard of the devil. As is the case with most cultures who depend on a harvest, this feast was a time to mark the passing of summer into the long nights of winter. It was believed at the time that during these times of transition, the boundaries between our world and the world of the dead was weakened, allowing the spirits of the recently dead to cross over and make contact with the living. This is where we get the idea of ghosts and goblins for Halloween. Large bonfires would be built and grain and animals were sacrificed. There were never any human sacrifices.

When Rome invaded Ireland they thought this was a pretty cool festival and pretty soon in spread to the rest of Europe. It was so popular that as Christianity spread, the church found it impossible to get people to quit celebrating this pagan festival. So it did what it always did with popular pagan holidays. It co-opted and baptized it and gave it a Christian meaning. In the 8th century the pope declared November 1 "All Saints Day". It was as if the church said, "If you are so all fired determined to remember the dead and dwell on death, remember all the saints who have died and gone to heaven"

Halloween has always been a big deal for our family. I would make elaborate and original costumes for my kids. (Which half the time would have to be covered up with heavy winter coats for trick or treating). I would carve pumpkins. My husband would take great care in decorating the porch to be just spooky enough to delight, but not terrify the younger children who came to trick or treat (and we always gave out the best candy). If you are going to boycott Halloween because of its pagan origins you may as well throw out Christmas and Easter as well.

Many culture s have feasts and celebrations that help us deal with the reality of death. And many of those feasts take place at harvest time. It is natural for people close to the land to think of death at harvest. One season of life and growth has ended. Harvest means the death of most food-bearing plants. Death in this sense means completed – they have served their purpose. And yet they yield seeds for a new harvest. Those who worship the Risen Christ and look forward to New Life after completing their purpose on this earth can certainly celebrate that. Halloween is as good a time as any to proclaim Christ's victory over evil.

My kids are away at college now. My daughter came home last week to get her flapper costume and will be trick or treating for UNICEF. My son will probably be playing World of War Craft. I have a pumpkin to carve and I have candy for the few who will venture out on this very cold fall night. This Lutheran Pastor says HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

PS - Yes some of this is a repeat from tomorrows sermon. So?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Marrying of the Best or Rallying of the Worst?

So the Roman Catholic church is welcoming in a bunch of Anglican clergy who are not happy sharing pulpit and altar space with women and gays.

Not all Catholics are real pleased about this. Frank Skinner in the London Times in "My Church is Not a Safe Haven for Bigots"

I want people to be drawn to the Catholic Church because it travels the road to truth, not because they want to hang out in its dingy cul-de-sacs. I was hoping that the Church’s antipathy to female and openly gay priests would, in time, weaken and dissolve. Now instead, it seems, a whole lot of bigoted reinforcements are arriving to galvanise those more unpalatable aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine.

I have the same thoughts about churches in the ELCA who decide to leave because of the sexuality issue. They are likely to become magnets for malcontents from other churches. Do you really want to belong to a church with the reputation "Here's the place to go if you are unhappy with your present church?" Shudder.

Luther's Rose

From the stained glass window at First Evangelica Lutheran Church, Beaver Dam ,
Oakbrook Esser Studios

The Lutheran Rose, seen often as a symbol of the Lutheran Church was designed by Martin Luther and he explained his symbolism in a letter to his friend Herr Spengler, town clerk of Nuremberg. The Luther Rose:
  • "The first thing expressed in my seal is a cross, black, within the heart, to put me in mind that faith in Christ crucified saves us. 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' Now, although the cross is black, mortified, and intended to cause pain, yet it does nor change the color of the heart, does not destroy nature (i.e., does not kill, but keeps alive). 'For the just shall live by faith,' by faith in the Savior.
  • But this heart is fixed upon the center of a white rose, to show that faith causes joy, consolation and peace.
  • The rose is white, not red, because white is the ideal color of all angels and blessed spirits.
  • This rose, moreover, is fixed in a sky-colored background, to denote that such joy of faith in the spirit is but an earnest beginning of heavenly joy to come, as anticipated and held by hope, though not yet revealed.
  • And around this groundbase is a golden ring, to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless, and more precious than all joys and treasures, since gold is the best and most precious metal. Christ, our dear Lord, He will give grace unto eternal life."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Five - Music

The RevGalBlogPals are talking about music:

I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor." - Martin Luther

On this Friday before Reformation Sunday, let's talk about music. Share with us five pieces of music that draw you closer to the Divine, that elevate your mood or take you to your happy place

So here goes - in no particular order:

1. Handel's Messiah - THE WHOLE THING, and I prefer it at Easter time to Christmas. I try to listen to the whole thing during Holy Week.

2. Bach's St. Matthew Choral

3. Any spiritual sung by Mahalia Jackson. The greatest Gospel singer. EVER.

4. The old Swedish hymn, "Thy Holy Wings" I used to sing that for my babies. One time my daughter sang it as a solo in church and I thought about singing it to her as a baby and I just about lost it.

5. The music from Les Miserables- especially the ending chorus of "Do you hear the people sing?" The first chorus of it is very inspiring but it's about the hope in the transformation human beings can accomplish. And of course it ends in miserable failure...but this reprise at the end speaks of a great hope of transformation. And it's not like Marcus Borg says, it's not pie in the sky in the great by and bye --it what keeps me working for transformation in this life

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the plough-share,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes...
Tomorrow comes!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Marcus J. Borg - "Redeeming Christian Language"

Thursday a friend and I drove (about 3 hours) to Wartburg Seminary to hear Marcus Borg speak on the subject of a new book he's working on, "Redeeming Christian Language". If you follow theology and biblical studies at all, you will have heard of him. He's written a LOT of stuff and is member of the infamous Jesus Seminar.

Some may accuse me of understatement when I say, he's a little outside of mainstream Christian thinking. Or maybe he's not. I don't agree with everything he says but I will say this, this was one of the most intellectually challenging, interesting, well presented, thought provoking continuing ed event I've been to in a few years. Which certainly doesn't say much for our orthodox theologians does it?

The premise of Borg's lectures and his upcoming book is that much of Christian language is poorly understood by people today, both within the church and certainly by those outside the church. He's seeking to reclaim and (and sometimes I think redefine) basic Christian concepts like salvation, sin, redemption, repentance, righteousness.

I agree with his premise, and am with him in a lot of what he says. I totally agree with him that substitutionary atonement makes absolutely no sense to most people who did not grow up in the church. I did not grow up in the church and that is just not an understanding of what happened on the cross that has ever made sense to me. However, his understanding of Jesus' death makes what happened little more meaningful than Martin Luther King jr.'s death. Yes, the dream lives on. But nobody was saved by MLK jr's death. And I'm not sure Borg believes anybody was saved by Jesus' death.

He's pretty down on heaven or what he calls the "afterlife" -"Agnostic on the Afterlife" I'd wanted to say to him "tell me about this afterlife you don't believe in because I don't believe in it either." (Which I stole from his line "Tell me about this god you don't believe in because I probably don't believe in him either)

I agree that salvation, transformation begins in this life, today. I totally am on board with his impatience with a faith that is so terribly focused on going to heaven when you die because you believe Jesus died for your sins. But I really resonate with N.T Wright's understanding of heaven as another dimension of reality that exists now and that it is the vision and the hope of THAT reality that is the impetus for living out the values of God's Kingdom in this world. But the problem with it all being about what happens in this world is...well, people still live and die in slavery and oppression and war and hunger. And there's got to be more than just what we see. I need the promise that God's Kingdom will prevail and there is a place where God's Kingdom does prevail and it is present here though not totally fulfilled, whenever God's people live by the values of the Kingdom.

I tried to ask him that question and he got all caught up in this understanding of "afterlife" that I certainly don't subscribe to. And then he said Wright was a good friend but he didn't think his understanding of heaven made any sense.

And there's that whole "bodily resurrection" thing that gets some of the more orthodox twisted in knots. Let's not go there today.

But Borg is right about this. We have to get out of the church language and speak and do theology in a way that makes sense to people who aren't hearing and understanding our "church speak" And if Borg's understanding of God and Christ and salvation isn't exactly the way I understand it, or even if it's outside what the church deems "orthodox" but it brings Christ and the message of freedom and grace and transformation to people who otherwise wouldn't hear it...well then he's doing a heck of a lot more for the Kingdom of God than most of us who are arguing about stuff that makes no never mind to those on the outside.

Friday, October 16, 2009

We aren't hearing from the Ladies...

The new (and excellent) ELCA News blog "Pretty Good Lutherans" has a new post with dismaying news as to how little we are hearing from lay people in general but in particular women about church stuff.

I'm very wary of talking to the press myself. Many years ago I found myself in the odd and unusual position of having a growing congregation in a small town. I was hot stuff in the synod in those days. Truth be told it probably had more to do with the Missouri Lutheran pastor in town who was offending people in his congregation right and left and then one day just didn't show up in church and turned out he left his wife and moved in with another man in another town. But at the time we thought it was because I was so clever.

So a well known since passed on to the church triumphant religion writer from Minneapolis, Clark Morphew, interviewed me for a story about a pastor of a growing church. This is what I told him "Well first I wanted to build them up, so they could feel good about what we were doing already so we could feel like we like we had something of value to new people to the church"

And some how or other the quote got changed to how I lectured them in the pulpit about how they needed to shape up so they could have something of value to offer to new people. It was insulting the the congregation and it made me sound like somebody who preached from the pulpit that they had nothing of value to offer. I was so ashamed I didn't even show the article to anybody. It was easy to hide since we were in a small town in Wisconsin and this was published in St. Paul.

Since then the only thing I say to the press is "Yes, our chicken dinner is on Sunday night at 4 pm" I had an interesting Twitter debate with Pretty Good Lutheran blog writer Susan Hogan about that stance. She thinks I should just get more savy about the media. She's probably right.

Oh yea and before you think I'm a hotshot with regard to growing a small town church. Yea the older members got alarmed at the influx of all the new people and their newfangled ideas and things got kind of ugly, and pretty much drove the new and creative folks with their new newfangled ideas out. And I was no longer a hot shot in the synod. And I learned an important lesson. Growing or dying... it's not about me. Which is probably another reason I'm not all that interested in putting myself in front of a reporter's mike.

Friday Five - Shoes

The RevGalBlogPals are talking about shoes.

What is your favorite footwear at this time in your life?

I took a little time in between college and seminary and worked as an executive secretary in downtown San Francisco. High Fashion was expected. I had high heels in nearly every color. When I was having babies, fashion was not a priority. But I renewed my love for shoes and high heels when shopping with my daughter in high school. I often would buy the exact same pair of shoes she got in my size. So while other women my age are eschewing fashion for comfort, I'm still wearing high heels. Not for long periods of time and certainly not to walk very far. I can stand to wear heels for meetings and about an hour long worship service. They usually get kicked off for coffee hour.

2. What was the craziest shoe, boot, or sandal you ever wore?
I was in high school in the 70s. We wore those ridiculous clogs and giant clunky heels I would never wear again, regardless of fashion or comfort because they were UGLY.

3. What kind of shoes did you wear in your childhood? I grew up in southern california and I believe I wore flip flops most of the time. But I cannot stand flip flops anymore. I cannot abide anything between my toes.

4. How do you feel most comfortable? Barefoot, flip-flops, boots, or what? I hate to be barefoot even in the summer in the house. I like slippers. I have two of the exact same pair of fleece lined slippers from Sierra Trading Post one for at home and one for in my office at church.

5. What kind of socks do you like, if any? Thin socks. But always socks. Do you know young people don't wear socks? Or hose? Once we had to go to a wedding and I found myself without any panty hose and my daughter talked me into slathering self-tanning and face make up on my legs and wearing my heels without any hose. That did not feel good to me. But she never wears any socks with her shoes.

Bonus: Anything you want to share about feet or footwear - A little tip about figure skates. Do not tell me you cannot skate because you have "weak ankles" - you probably had poorly fitting skates. Skates are supposed to support your ankles. If your ankles are wobbly you have poorly fitted and bad quality skates. Also skates are SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable. You get used to it. Which is probably why I tolerate uncomfortable shoes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where Your Treasure is...

So it looks to me like the Word Alone, CORE types are on the defensive about their "Well we will stay, call ourselves members of the ELCA, keep our jobs as pastors and other positions in the ELCA, vote in conference and synod assemblies, insist bishops and other leaders in the ELCA listen to us, scold and lecture the ELCA but will not sully our pure wallets by supporting the ELCA with our gold and silver" stance. In this article over at Word Alone they actually compare the ELCA to an international corporation profiting from Apartheid! Everything I learned about the redirection of financial support, I learned from the ELCA

The church is not an international corporation. It is the Body of Christ. It is made up of YOUR Christian brothers and sisters. People you went to seminary with. People who love Jesus as much as you do. People who pray they are doing the right thing but are ready to fall on the mercy of Christ if they are mistaken.

I tell you what -- if I EVER thought the church I belonged to was as cold hearted and profit minded and evil as a soulless multi-national corporation that had no problem profiting from the oppression and torture of other human beings, I would not mess around with "redirecting my funds" I would renounce my membership in that organization. Pronto. Yesterday. And take the consequences.

Either the ELCA is evil and you need to leave today or it is the Christian community made up of saints and sinners with whom we don't always see eye to eye but need to figure out how work together for the mission of Christ. For a group that is so so very sure they are the ones on top of this authority of scripture thing, I'm still waiting for the SCRIPTURAL justification for using your money to teach your church "a lesson"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Figure Skaters Cookbook

The Glen Falls Figure Skating Club came up with a great fund-raising idea. They put together a cookbook and they got a LOT of famous skaters to contribute recipes. What's really funny is I even have a recipe for my vegetarian lasagna in there. So you can order it here "Figure Skater's Favarites" $20 - what deal.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


So my daughter and I went to see Wicked yesterday in Des Moines. I love musicals. They are wickedly expensive these days so I don't get out to see many. I hadn't seen it nor was I familiar with the story and that was fun enjoy the music and production AND not really know what was coming.

Les Miz is my all time favorite musical but I think this may come in second. Great songs. I do believe the choir sang "I have been changed for good" at my son's high school graduation. If you don't cry when you hear that song then there is just something wrong with you.

This is a feminist musical. It's all about the women and the friendship of women. I know they had to throw the romance in but that's incidental. It's about the women. You should see it if you get a chance.

A Little Football Talk

How I became interested in football.

It began in high school when the most pressing concern of mine was "What shall I wear when I make the obligatory pass by the bleachers walk during half time?" Which is still an important concern.
But that focus changed one day in the journalism room where as a sophomore I was feature editor of the school paper. None of the sports writers were available to write up the junior varsity game. Only two of us were available. Me and a boy who was new on the paper and had no more knowledge or interest in football than I. The difference between us was that I wanted to try my hand at writing a sports story.

So I volunteered. The teacher/adviser said fine. The sports editor had a fit and wanted the less experienced boy to write the story simply because he was a BOY. This is around 1973 mind you. I think why this memory is still so clear is that I had a crush on the sports editor and I went through the gamut of emotions from "How could he be so mean to me?" to "What did I ever see in someone who is so closed minded he can't see that I'm the more experienced writer and I should get the assignment?"

That was the end of the crush.
I got a crash course in how football works, which made it actually interesting to me once I understood it. I took the stats, I got the locker room interview (and they were all very gentlemanly about it BTW) and I wrote up a decent story. I mean really, it was a JV game, who even read it? I don't even remember if we won.

So I was interested in football after that. I lived in San Francisco during the 49er Superbowl and Joe Montana years. I had a boss that let us out of work early to go to the welcome home parade and I actually went to the parade.

Becoming a Packer fan

When I got married, I'm pretty sure "Your team will be my team" was in the vows and so I became a Packer fan. There are no fans like Packer fans. They are crazy people. They like to sit in below freezing blizzard conditions to watch their team. The Packers are actually owned by the fans. If you are a pastor in Green Bay, you get a free season pass to home games. People are on the list for season tickets like for 50 years. My husband and I were Packer fans before it was cool to be a Packer fan. When they were known for their ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

And then there was Mike Holmgren...who worked with Joe Montana and Steve Young during their winning years on the 49ers. And then there was Brett Favre and the Packers were no longer a joke and a heartbreak to their fans.

And then Favre got kind of old and injury prone and retired and he was like a god to his fans. And then he said he was coming back. Or not. Yes he was. No, maybe not. But maybe he would. Nah not really. but maybe. Just save my spot for me and I'll let you know when I feel better. Because you know, he's a god and Aaron Rodgers should just be willing to hang around in case he was needed, but step aside when Favre was ready to ascend the throne again. But the Packers management said, "Um no, we're gonna go with Rodgers" And Favre was confronted with the nasty truth that NOBODY is

And Packer fans argued about whether or not he was indispensable, and some thought Rodgers should move aside and others said, no, but although the image was beginning to tarnish, the Packers for the most part still loved their Favre and wished him well when he went to play with the Jets.

And then Favre decided to retire again. Maybe. Or not. And then he did the unforgivable. After pulling the same "Maybe I'll play, maybe not, I dunno, give me some more time" crap with them, he signed with the Minnisota Vikings.

There are two arch rivals of the Packers. One is the Chicago Bears. They are a worthy rival. Packer fans respect the Bears. The other rival is the hated, detested, Minnisota Vikings. And it felt like a slap in the face to all Packer fans that he chose to play for them. Like a kick in the gut.

So naturally last week's game between the Vikings and Packers was quite a hypped up one. And you have to admire the old man Favre, he came through. And broke Packer Fan hearts again.

And then in an interview the next day he said that God had listened to his prayers. I guess I'm going to have to stop telling my confirmation kids when everyone takes a turn praying outloud at the end of class, that they are not allowed to pray that we win the football game because God does not take sides in football. Apparently God has made an exception for Brett Favre. Perhaps now that he has God's ear, he could work on world hunger. I would have suggested world peace but apparently our recent Nobel Peace prize winner has that under control.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Potato Leek Soup with Jalapenos

It rained all day today. Good day for soup. This soup is positively decadent. It was wondeful.
2 Leeks, sliced
1 potato, sliced thin

1 jalapeno, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves
, sliced

1/2 stick butter
1 Tb flour

1 cup White Wine
1 Cup Chicken stock
1/2 Cup heavy cream

3 slices of bacon cut up

Fresh ground pepper

You can skip the jalapeno but I thought it was a wonderful addition...I had maple flavored bacon and it was all spicy and sweet...oh my it was good.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the flour and stir to dissolve. Add leeks, jalapenos and garlic, salt & pepper and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cook a few minutes, then add the potatoes and chicken stock. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about a half an hour. Add the cream and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Serve with bacon. You want to make this REALLY decadent - Stir in a tablespoon of sour cream.

This makes about 3-4 servings. It took all the self-discipline I could muster not to eat it all in one sitting.