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What Are You Looking For?

“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

While we know it’s not quite polite to articulate the point so bluntly, deep down we believe in the wisdom of “looking out for number one.” There are a couple of assumptions at play here The first is that our highest duty is to ourselves. The second is that we don’t really trust that other people will be there for us. Then there’s that odd phraseology: “number one.” What makes us think we our most important person?

Paul casts a different vision. Today’s New Testament verse from the Daily Texts is a call to look not to our own interests, but to one another’s needs. These words come shortly before the great Christ hymn in which Paul calls us to have minds that our Christ-like. To think like Christ is to think of others first. You can still look out for number one. You’re just not number one anymore!

Earlier today I found myself reading a retrospective on U2’s masterpiece, The Joshua Tree. One of the smash hits from this album, so formative in my youth, was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” It’s a song of spiritual yearning; part of its spare beauty is the reminder that we won’t find what we need within ourselves. We will find it in Christ, who will help us find what we need in others, too.

Go ahead, look out for number one. As long as number one isn’t you. What would the world look like if we were all, always, looking out for one another?

Also, today the church commemorates George Herbert, hymnwriter and poet. His hymn, “Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life,” as set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, reminds us that our path is not in ourselves. Our Way is Jesus, who leads us to one another.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of grace, break us open. Let us die to ourselves that we might rise in the newness of your glory. Create in us the mind of Christ, with eyes always looking out for one another. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: I think Torsten is looking out for you! Picture from a few weeks ago.

Now Rest

“He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?'” Luke 2:49

Today is Day 350 at the Dispatch. Tomorrow brings us into March, the month this all started last year. Uff da.

Day 350 was spent in worship at Grace. It’s not often that there are two different preachers at Grace on the same Sunday and neither of them is me. This morning, we were blessed by Pastor Troy’s sermon, helping us to let go of our lives in order to find them; to die that we might live. This afternoon, Bishop Yehiel Curry preached at Bach Cantata Vespers. His sermon reinforced God’s finding of us, reminding us that Christ is with us in the midst of all things. Not a bad way to spend the day!

There were a few other moments for me in worship today. At the 8:30 service we sang “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.” Well, other people sang it. I couldn’t get out more than three words at a time without starting to cry. This hymn calls to mind so many saints of Grace, both in earth and in heaven. I hope I wasn’t on camera. At our 11:00 service of in-person Holy Communion, I saw people I hadn’t seen in a year. What a blessing to have the bond between us renewed around the Lord’s Supper. This afternoon’s vespers was marvelous and ended perfectly with “Now Rest beneath Night’s Shadow.” The final words are a fitting benediction: “Sweet slumber may God send you; the angel hosts attend you and through the night watch o’er your beds.”

Time to go say goodnight to my boys. May angels attend you tonight and carry you through tomorrow.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God, let us release the cares of today. Calm our minds. Relax our hearts. Let us sink into your grace as we go to our beds. Give us rest, Lord, that tomorrow we may serve you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Torsten, not quite two-years old. This picture is from summer 2015, shortly before we moved to Oak Park. May we all sleep as soundly as he did that night.

Oh, Pinions

“As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions; the Lord alone guided him; no foreign god was with him.” Deuteronomy 32:11-12

Today’s Old Testament passage from the Daily Texts is for the birds. Well, actually it’s from the birds. Near the end of Deuteronomy, the people are almost in the Promised Land. The history of their deliverance from Egypt and their wanderings in the wilderness is recounted. As is often the case in scripture, natural images are utilized to show us something true about the divine.

God is depicted as an eagle that cares for its young, that has such love for its children that it carries them on its pinions. The pinion is the outer part of a bird’s wing, where the flight feathers are. Interestingly (especially as I’ve been reading about biblical inerrancy for class), eagle’s don’t actually carry their young on their pinions. Sure, there are some anecdotes to this effect, but for the most part little eagles just hang out in the nest until they’re ready to fly. And then they fly.

This, folks, is why I love the Bible. It’s not a science book. Today’s passage isn’t powerful because of what eagles do (or don’t do). It’s powerful because the language itself soars. God bears us up.

The image is powerful because I can see myself both as an eaglet carried along by God’s grace alone and as a papa eagle carrying my young. Of course, they’re too big for me to actually carry these days, but I hope I’m still a safe landing spot for them. Today, the boys and I dusted off our baseball games and played catch for an hour. The season is right around the corner! Greta, meanwhile, was sewing. Today she turned an old button-down of mine into a skirt. Amazing! I’m not sure how much I’m holding up the kids these days compared to how much they inspire and hold me aloft.

So, fellow eaglets, may the God whose love bears all things hold you aloft today.

Be well, friends. You are love.

God, your Word bears us aloft when we would otherwise fall. Comfort and carry us, Lord, through the currents of this world. Help us to care for the young ones who are in our charge. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Two eaglets.

Digging for Water

“But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water.” Genesis 26:19

For the past two weeks there’s been a hole in the wall. Two Fridays ago, we saw water dripping into our basement. Fun! Turns out a cast iron pipe had rusted out. Later that day, the plumbing was repaired. But the hole remained. Today, a wonderful guy who is good at this sort of thing (in contrast to me) is putting our bathroom back together. The hole is covered. Soon, a new sink will be attached. Water will flow!

Sometimes you have to dig a hole to find water, but the springs of the water of life are there for you. And that’s my plumbing-based message for the day! God in Christ has broken through your walls and dug a way out of death itself for you.

Having just written an 800-word discussion post about biblical inerrancy for class (which I lazily considered sharing with you here instead of writing something new), and with a contractor still in my home, I’ll leave it at that. I’m turning off my brain for the day.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Gracious God, so often our lives are dry. We build walls to keep you out, to keep other people at bay. Break through our defenses. Wash us in life-giving water. Renew our faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ name.

Image: Hole no more!

Serving Others: Sister Elizabeth

“So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14-15

Today the church commemorates Elizabeth Fedde, deaconess, who died on this day in 1921. Fedde was born on Christmas Day in Feda, near the southern coast of Norway. The daughter of a sea captain, she trained as a deaconess at the Lovisenberg Deaconess House in Christiania (now Oslo). Her early career was spent in northern Norway, where she helped establish a medical house in Tromsø, living and working under harsh conditions.

On Christmas Day in 1882, Sister Elizabeth received a letter from her brother-in-law, inviting her to set up a ministry for Norwegian seaman in New York City. After arriving in America in 1883, she helped found the Norwegian Relief Society. In 1885, she opened the Deaconess House in Brooklyn and a nine-bed hospital that would eventually become the Lutheran Medical Center of Brooklyn. Her ministry took her to the midwest, where she established the Deaconess House and Hospital of the Lutheran Free Church in Minneapolis. She also helped Pastor Andreas Mortensen plan hospitals in Chicago (what is now Advocate Lutheran General Hospital) and in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Fedde returned to Norway in 1895, marrying a suitor from before her missionary days, Ole Slettebo. She died 100 years ago today, leaving behind a legacy of serving others in the name of Christ and shaping both the church and the medical community in our country.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of mercy, you send servants in all times and places to minister to your people. Thank you for the witness of Elizabeth. We pray for all those who serve as deacons and deaconesses today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Portrait of Elizabeth Fedde, anonymous, circa 1880 (public domain).