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Rained Out

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

I’m really enjoying this lovely spring rain. I am not, however, enjoying what it’s doing to my day. We had to cancel t-ball practice this morning (which, honestly, totally fine). As with the t-ballers, so with the major leaguers. I actually had tickets to the White Sox-Royals game this afternoon. It was going to be our first chance to take in a game at a ballpark since before the pandemic began. Mother Nature had other ideas. At least they made the decision to postpone the game before I schlepped the kids out to that ballpark with the ridiculous name.

So, this is not the worst thing that could possibly happen. There will be other ballgames. And this way I’ll be home to watch the USWNT take on Sweden, so that’s cool. But it is disappointing. I love going to live sporting events and being part of the crowd (even at 20% capacity). Really, I just miss being with people.

Part of the joy of Easter this year was having an in-person Vigil, two in-person services on Easter, and a decent crowd of musicians present at the livestream. How good it was to see people, to worship together! It was a far cry from our full gatherings, but hopefully we’ll get there soon (even though the uptick in cases is concerning). I don’t mind being alone, generally speaking, but we were not made to live in isolation. I miss the unity of a full sanctuary and the joy of a full stadium.

Nevertheless, we claim the unity we have in Christ, for it transcends space and time. It keeps us connected. So enjoy the rain, friends. It is a reminder of your baptism and a sign of the growth that will come.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of new life, we thank you for the rain that falls to nourish the earth. Comfort us with the promise of Christ as we look forward to gathering together again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Greta and I taking in a game, 2018.

The Cost of Discipleship

“Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

Today the church commemorates Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian. Most of you likely know Bonhoeffer’s story well. A brilliant theologian, Bonhoeffer was deeply shaped by his time at Union Theological Seminary. While he was largely unimpressed with the state of American academics, his friendships and experiences proved transformative. He started to see things “from below,” from the perspective of the oppressed and marginalized. He noted, “the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.”

Returning to Germany in the 1930s, Bonhoeffer continued to write and teach. He became a driving figure within the Confessing Church. This movement stood in opposition to Hitler and Nazism, insisting upon the Lordship of Christ. His work at the underground seminary in Finkenwalde finds expression in the masterful Life Together. He returned to America in 1938, but regretted it. His place was with his people in Germany.

Linked to a plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned in Tegel Prison (Berlin) for a year and a half. He was then sent on to Buchenwald, and then to Flossenbürg. On April 9, 1945, just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the camp, Bonhoeffer was hanged. Before he was led away, he said to English prisoner Payne Best, “This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.”

What has always struck me about Bonhoeffer is how much he enjoyed life. I think this is because he deeply trusted the promise of resurrection, which allowed him to love life but also to hold it loosely.

On March 11, 1928, Bonhoeffer said this in a sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, when life still stretched out before him:

Good Friday and Easter – the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgment and grace were revealed to all the world – are just around the corner. Judgment in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross; grace in that hour in which death was swallowed up in victory. It was not human beings who accomplished anything here; no, God alone did it. He came to human beings in infinite love. He judged what is human. And he granted grace beyond any merit.

Life, just around the corner. Always.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord of life, we thank you for the witness of Dietrich and for all the saints and martyrs. May we live life with passion, knowing it springs from you alone – on both sides of the grave. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Bonhoeffer in Sugurdshof, 1939, author unknown (used with permission).

Joy?

“Before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” Hebrews 4:13

Yesterday, I used this space to reflect on finding and sharing joy. Certainly a good topic during Easter! One reader commented on my Facebook page that they were having difficulty finding joy these days. Let me just say I can relate. If you were to ask me how I’m doing, I would tell you I’m fine (that’s the Norwegian-Lutheran default response, and I imagine it is for others, too). And it’s true. I am fine. I’m healthy. Employed. My kids are doing well. Everything really is fine.

But for a variety of reasons, some of which I can identify and some of which I can’t, I’m having a hard time finding joy lately. I’ve certainly had enough of the pandemic, but it’s more than that. Or maybe it’s because I’m supposed to feel more optimistic about the pandemic (things are getting better!) but I’m not (because so many things haven’t gotten better!). Maybe’s it’s a post-Easter letdown. I don’t know. I’m tired. Frayed. Overscheduled. Like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo might say. I’m sure I just need a good vacation!

I don’t share this because I’m asking for help, although prayers are always welcome. I share this today because I have the sense that I’m not alone, and I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone, either. It’s okay if the world’s a bit gray today. Jesus is still risen. God still loves you. The Spirit still moves.

Today’s passage from the Daily Texts reminds us that God sees and knows us. We cannot hide. But because God is a God of grace, this is finally good news. You can’t hide from God, so you might as well give your stuff over to God. It won’t all go away, but Jesus will help you hold it.

All will be well.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God or grace and mercy, you strengthen us when we are weary and lift us up when we are bowed down. Please do so today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Rain, Vincent van Gogh, 1889 (public domain).

Our Joy

“We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:4

This Sunday, the lectionary takes us to 1 John. I love the Johannine epistles. John focuses on love and joy and promise. John focuses on Christ.

The little verse I’ve pulled out for today struck me. John isn’t only writing for the benefit of his readings, so that they would know deeper joy. He’s writing, in part, for himself. If he held in these words any longer, his joy would remain incomplete! The joy of Easter is not only that Jesus is out of the tomb; it’s that his risen life now lives in us. It is a joy so complete that we will burst if we don’t share it, for others and for ourselves.

I continue to find great joy writing these words each day, and I hope you continue to find joy or meaning of insight here, at least from time to time. We’ll see how much longer it goes. In the meantime, may your joy be complete today!

Speaking of joy, Torsten’s t-ball team had its first practice of the season last night. It marked my debut as an assistant coach. What a joy to be with those kids!

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of joy, we rejoice in the resurrection of your Son. Give us such a sense of his life at work in us that we simply need to tell others about you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Joy is a new Aaron Rodgers picture, at least for this kid.

Comfort

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Today’s New Testament passage from the Daily Texts was bouncing around my mind earlier today. I was preparing to lead a committal service for a woman I had never met, from a family that does not belong to Grace. It’s the sort of thing pastors get asked to do, and I’m always happy to minister to people in this way. We were gathered around the grave under today’s beautiful sun, but the mood was, of course, one of sorrow and heartache.

These words from Paul are used in our funeral liturgy; they are, in fact, the first words spoken, albeit in different translation. We do not attempt to ignore our troubles or pretend they are not real. We address them with the hope of the God of compassion, the God who suffers with us in Christ so that we might be comforted.

The beautiful sky today was a sign of hope in the midst of sorrow, a reminder that even as we gather at the grave, the Son is already risen.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

God of mercy, comfort those who mourn and heal those who are afflicted. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Grace, today.