Saturday, March 24, 2007

Where does the money go?

First I read this article about the new basketball coach at the university....$1.7 million plus incentives. Where does this money come from? I hope it isn't from the hard working students' tuition. The whole issue of the finances and culture of college sports really isn't a topic for this blog, but money is.

How money is used is appropriate. We are stewards of what we have been given.

Then I saw this ABC news piece about prominent "ministries" and their wealth and affluent life styles of some of the preachers. Ministry Watch has posted a list of Christian ministries that they say don't do a good job of Christian stewardship with the donations.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ministry, not Satan

My homily went well last night and I felt good writing it and giving it. I had a moment of "oops" when I opened the bulletin and saw that the title of my homily was "The Fallen Angel." Matt. 4 is a dramatic Bible story, about Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness after Jesus has retreated and fasted for 40 days. I imagine that the scripture quoting that goes back and forth must be similar to what the Rabinical scholars do. The little detail of the story that has always had me puzzled is the part that says, "the tempter took him..." How did Satan transport Jesus here and there? Does the fallen angel still have wings? Did they magically transport through time and space?

I was focusing on none of that. When I got the phone call a month ago asking me to preach, I was told that the text was about the angels ministering to Jesus. There are lots of good, hard working angels in this passage who are usually overlooked because of the strong story of the devil and Jesus in the wilderness.

This sermon series was supposed to be about the angels in the Bible. It turns out that isn't much in the way of descriptions of angels. That there ARE angels is taken for granted, and there is no doubt that when an angel appears to someone, the creature is recognized as an angel.

But there is quite a bit about what angels do, so I focused my sermon on the "ministry" of the angels as an example that we can follow. Here is an excerpt from the middle of the sermon.

To minister is (1) to perform the functions of a minister of religion and (2) to give aid or service to another, especially to the sick.

When I was young, we didn’t use the word “Pastor.” We said “Minister.” Our minister was the person who lived at the church, we thought, and he was the person who was supposed to visit the sick, counsel the troubled and the happy, and he was to teach and preach and pray, and run everything in the church. And he was paid as little as the members could get away with. After all, ministering was God’s work.

But this church has a “Pastor.” Our bulletins say that the Ministers are the congregation. We teach that Christian ministry, caring, service, helping, etc. are a natural result of our faith. Because we are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are changed. How are we changed? One way is that we have the examples of Jesus and the angels who ministered to others to follow. This changing grace and these examples help us to suppress our natural tendencies of selfishness and self-centeredness so that we will take time for others.

In order to minister there has to be someone to minister to. It is pretty easy to see lots of need in our community and in the world. But sometimes each of us becomes the recipient of the ministry of another.

The angels ministered to Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh no. I’ll be Ok.” Or “I came into the wilderness to be alone, so please go away.” Or “I AM the Son of God. I don’t need any help.”

For some of us, -- well, we value our self-sufficiency, we don’t want to ask for or accept help. We are afraid to admit our needs or our weaknesses. But there are various seasons in our lives, our needs and abilities change. Sometimes be humble enough to ask another for ministry. Be gracious in accepting the ministry of others, just as Jesus did.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I'm giving the homily at the Lenten service this evening, based on Matt. 4: 1 - 11. Why is it called a homily instead of a sermon? I guess it is supposed to be short. Time to edit.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Funeral of one who followed his Lord

I attended a funeral today of a man who followed what we are told to do in the Bible.

I knew that "Ole" was a believer because I'd heard him pray. And I knew that he took a great interest in the young people of the community because of the way he would talk to my kids, especially my son. He went to the sports events and other events at the school because he enjoyed young people and he wanted to show his support.

He would often go the the "B" basketball game, then leave the stands after it was over, and come back for the "A" game. I finally had asked, "Where does Ole go?" He went to the nursing home to visit the residents. At the funeral today, a letter was read that said Ole had been the most consistant visitor at the nursing home and hospital.

I didn't know much about Ole's life before he settled down full time in his retirement home and attended my church. I didn't realize that he was 80 years old. I knew he had been a teacher, and I heard today of how he took a personal interest in his students. I also learned that when he lived in the city where he taught, he also made it a priority to visit people in the hospital and in prison.

In recent months, Ole often accompanied his wife to our Bible study because she was reluctant to leave him home alone any more. Ole was fading away, it seemed. But Ole could still pray, and he did. We always felt blessed when he prayed. And he could hug. To know Ole was to know that he loved the Lord even when Ole didn't say a word.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Kids outsmart adults

This new TV show supposedly will humiliate adults, which is supposed to be entertainment. I'm posting the link because it is in line with the posting about religious literacy. No I won't be watching it.

And except for all the math I've forgotten, I do pretty well against my children when we play games that take "brains."

But we do forget a lot when we don't use our knowledge. The show may serve to illustrate that many don't keep their minds challenged throughout their lives.

Public Religious Literacy

I have some serious doubt about the state of "literacy" of many young people in general. If it is as low as I fear, it is due to the prevelance of TV vs reading, and the watering down of school courses to fit the masses. Back in the day [a phrase I hate] we had a few TV stations, so at a certain time of day, we watched news or nothing. I think more people were exposed to the news. These day, many young people can go through life with their MP3 players or niche TV stations and never know that anything happened even down the block.

Have you ever watched Jay Leno's segments called Jay Walking? Sometimes he even interviews teachers who don't know the answers to simple questions. It is so painful for me to see this that I usually turn it off. Ignorance isn't funny.

Stephen Prothero has written an article entitled Worshiping in Ignorance. Worth the read.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are you embarrassed when you see "Jesus Saves?"

The blog "Camp Looney Muse" post for 3/6/2007 asks a good question: are we embarrassed when we see the name of Jesus proclaimed in public. This is a poem inspired by the Gospel lesson for last Sunday.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The big Blizzard

We have to watch it on TV, because we got all of one inch of snow. 
The drought continues.  Forest and grass fires are feared for this spring.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Big Midwestern Blizzard

One Again, not a flake of snow.  Yet. 

Types of intelligence

I did that on-line quiz about types of intelligence. Although it overstated my strenghts, I think it did get the right category. I went back and put my son's attributes in the quiz. Again, I think it pegged him right on.

About 15 years ago, I attended an education conference where I first learned about the theory of multiple intelligences. I think there are about 8 categories. I wish I could remember either the name of the book or the author. This was a revelation to me. Even though my exposure to the theory was limited, it made it easier for me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of several people in my extended family. I was able to appreciate certain people for a high level of intelligence in certain areas that I am lacking. And I could more easily see that certain people had a weakness that they couldn't help.

This expanded my appreciation of people way beyond the types of intelligence that are rewarded by schools. And it would be good if schools could also reward students for their strengths and achievements in areas beyond test taking. It made me realize the value of school sports and other extra cirricular activities, for example.

When I plugged my son into the quiz, he scored highest in interpersonal relationships. Since he was about 5 years old, I've thought that his strength in that area is about the highest of anyone I've ever met. Obviously, he was born with that strength. When he was in school, he was no natural scholar, although he is smart. I would constantly remind him of what he could do that others couldn't do at all.

Sometimes we take our strengths for granted. Other times our strengths are something that is ignored by the school system, so we also overlook them.

If we are made in God's image, then all these traits come from God. Praise God for all these blessings.

Linquistic Intelligence? They flatter me too much.

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.