Half Naked

“My daughter does not recognize you unless you are half naked.”

This comment may seem inappropriate outside of the context in which it was said.  As many of you know I teach swimming lessons at the local YMCA.  I have been doing it a little over a year.  It has been an opportunity for me to give back to the community, to actually go to the YMCA to work out some during the week, and I get a free membership.    I love the water, I always have so it is a good fit.

Well I saw one of my favorite kids at Wal-Mart yesterday when I was buying my kids Easter basket stuff.  She would not talk to me!! She is four years old and was being shy and I understand that.  I was in a different context, and not in my bathing suit.  Her mom said that she talks about me all the time during the week.  Once she saw me in my car and now every time they see a maroon van she thinks it is me driving.   But she she said the above comment it just seemed weird to think that is actually true to some degree!

We then talked for a moment about my assignment.  I did not really think before about what we were leaving behind.  How much we are going to miss no matter where we moved.  There are a number of things that we have to leave that will be sad in some respect.  I will be leaving my community at the Y – I have really enjoyed teaching the kids and being an important part of that community and it will be sad to say good-bye and that I most likely will never see or hear from these people again.  We will be leaving the community built up at the day care.  All of the wonderful people we have met there, especially the relationships that The Boy has established.  I am thankful that he is young enough that he will be sad at first but he will be able to rebound from it pretty quickly.   And of course we will be leaving the seminary community, but that is one that is obvious and we have been preparing for that.

I have heard about a first call opportunity.  I am really excited about this possibility if it comes through – at least from the website.  I think for my first call it is in a good location- in a nice suburb but close to a city-  actually close to a college town which is even cooler.  Doing the math- if we wanted to go and see my family just for a day that would be possible.  Or if we left on a Friday night we could leave after work and we won’t get there some crazy hour.  So things are very positive right now.

Right now is March Madness.  It is honestly the only time that I get real excited about college sports.  I love the idea of college sports and how the kids (yes I consider college students kids – I am that old) really care about  the sport they are playing and how much heart is put into everything they do.  But I don’t know if it is a time thing or desire or both but I don’t really follow anyone.  I really don’t have a connection with a college so I don’t have any passion.  Being from northern New England, I did not have a big college that I am connected with.  The Boston area college sports were never really that big – the biggest would be UConn and I like to tune into a basketball game every now and again but that’s about it.  Perhaps that will change in the future……

I do fill out a March Madness bracket every year, and by my performance this year (as well as years in the past) you can tell that I don’t really follow college ball.

I am trying to get myself in the frame of mind for the three days….  I must say with everything else going on, and the fact that this is my final year for the rest of my life where I will not be working during the three days, I must say my spiritual connection with this time of the year has taken a backseat.  I hope to go to a Good Friday service in about an hour, and then I am preaching tomorrow night- then Sunday morning I am going to the Sunrise service followed by serving breakfast with my youth group.  Very different from last year.

I want to thank everyone for your warm words and meaningful messages this past week.  It has been a roller coaster for sure, and to hear how much support we have from everyone has been great.  I have to say we are in a really good place right now and we are VERY excited about our future and what God has in store for us. Once I can divulge information  I will.  Keep checking back.

Synodical Assignment

Yesterday was the Synodical Assignment for Region Seven. There were about 10 candidates that came to Philadelphia (I think every seminary was represented) to be interviewed by the bishops of Region seven and their assistants. It was not really a job interview but a time for them to get to know you and to see if you would be a fit in an opening that they have in their synod.

Now my wife and I wanted to go back to New England.  We both grew up in New England and have lots of connections there including family and friends.  So we were going into the day hoping that was going to happen.
So Sunday morning we had worship around 8:00- it was amazing. Dr. Lathrope preached and presided and I must say that when I am worshiping and he is leading I am just in awe. The Seminarian musician and another student chanted the Passion in a way that I have never heard before and most likely will never hear again. It was beautiful and it brought a whole new light to the passion text.

After worship we had breakfast and it was my first chance to talk with some bishops and kinda relax before the conversations began.

Then the bishops met — this was the first time we had to wait- we did alot of waiting I think, or at least it felt that way. After about 45 min or so we all met and the bishops got to talk about their synod and the cool things that happen in their synod and why we should go there.

After that we went to look at our interview schedule. The way it worked is that the bishops signed up to talk with us. They had first dibs as to who they wanted to talk with and they left open spots so that if there was someone that we wanted to talk with we could sign up.

There was a mad rush to the papers, I think everyone wanted to make sure that they could talk with a certain bishop. It so happened that four of the bishops signed up to talk with me. I was pretty excited about that.  It meant to me that some of the bishops liked me and wanted me to come to their synod.

I won’t go into detail about the day but basically all the interviews went well.

I went in being me and being honest with everyone about what I thought about certain things an about who we were. They asked Katie some questions and she did a real good job at her answers as well. After every interview they were saying that I would be a good fit for their openings and I thanked them and we ended.

Overall each bishop said it would be great to have me in their synod – they also added that most of the bishops wanted me and they knew it was going to be a fight to get me. So that kinda made me feel good, but also nervous.

Then the waiting game happened again. This time about an hour- the bishops were deciding who was going where. We spent alot of that time in conversation with one another and silent prayer.

Then the moment of truth came and the list was read. My name was listed under Upstate New York Synod.

Now don’t get me wrong, Upstate NY is a great Synod. It was not what our plan was.

I know that we will like Upstate NY and I am excited to learn more about the synod and more about how I can be involved. I am excite to learn about their camps and how I can be involved there. I think there will be plenty of opportunities for us.

This is a great lesson for me about how my plan is not always God’s plan – I am accepting of the fact that I knew what I wanted, what my family and friends wanted and I kept telling myself that I am open to what God wants but I think deep down inside I did not believe that. I did not accept that with my whole heart. I am coming around to accept that and to embrace my new call in life and to move on to better things.

Google vs Yahoo

So I have an internal debate over many various web resources….

Google vs Yahoo

WordPress vs Blogger

Facebook vs Myspace

It may seem silly because no matter what you choose you can make things work for themselves.  However I question if my choice was the right one.  Currently I use google, wordpress and facebook more often.  I do have a yahoo, blogger and myspace account that I use from time to time but not very often.

This came up to me again because I just started using google reader.  I think it is a very cool thing.  I have attached all my favorite blogs (about 20 blogs) and it will download any new post.  That will save me time and trouble as I don’t have to go to each website to see if there is a new post.  I think it is great.

I have chosen Google over Yahoo because I think google is very clean cut. I like its integration of all the different services (maps, reader, mail ect) I like how I have my iGoogle where I can post what I want on a homepage and I can move stuff around to my liking.  Once I signed up with Google I was hooked.

I like WordPress because it seems more professional too me.  It was very easy for me to set things up and once I came up with a name I liked (papajoemc) I was on WordPress and before I knew it people were reading my blog and making comments and I thought it was too late to go back.  Now in an ideal world I would be using blogger because Google has a deal with blogger and I would integrate even more but I am happy where I am.  I am alittle sad with WordPress because we cannot add java to our widgets like you can with blogger. But in the end that is okay, because people are coming to read my blog not to see what the latest ELCA news is or what movie I put on my blockbuster cue.  Since my interest in photography has taken off I do have a blog with blogger where I will post a picture I have taken or one taken of me with a brief description.  That will be my “fun” blog and I will have lots of different crap over there. So check that out if you get a chance.  Currently I don’t have an SD card reader ( I lost it) so I will have to go out and get a new one to post my photos.

Talk about professionalism, Facebook is MUCH neater and nicer than myspace.  I am able to add applications with ease, and even though I miss making a unique background when it comes down too it I don’t miss it that much.  My wife has a myspace page (as do I) and that is one of the reasons I stick with myspace.  Even though we talk with one another it is nice to leave messages for one another.  There are also people on myspace that I talk with every now and again who otherwise I would not talk with.

Eventually, I need to stick with one and stick with it.  The transition will be hard but it will be worth it. Currently though all my email goes to one address so no matter what you email me on I will get it (unless it goes to spam) and when everything is said and done I believe the Iphone has push email through yahoo so eventually when I get my iphone (and I will get one some day) I might have to make that jump and never look back.  Until then the debate continues….

I usually don’t ask questions on my blog but I am curious

Which (if any) services do you use? Why did you choose that service? Are you happy with it?

Sermon: Seminary Chapel March 4, 2008

Colossians 1:1-14

Most people have some sort of comfort food. If they become physically or emotionally hurt, lost, upset or scared the smell, taste, touch or sight of their comfort food will bring to them warm feelings and emotions.

Food is not the only way we can find comfort. I must admit when I am surfing the television stations – if my children are home or not— I stop to watch a few minuets of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. When Mr. Rogers comes into his house I can’t help but be brought back to when I was a child watching the show. Then he starts singing:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please, won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Ahh Mr. Rogers – he was a neighbor to millions of people young and old all over the world. He had a way of inviting us not only into his house but also into his life.

Can we name our neighbors? Do we know the people in our neighborhood?

Sure we may know our neighbors on campus – but have we reached out to the community and have gotten to know the people who live in our community?

I live in an apartment building with twelve units in Souderton, PA. Aside from the exchange of Christmas cookies with a few units and a summer BBQ with some others I will admit that I really don’t know who else lives in my building.

It wasn’t too long ago that it would be common for neighbors to talk with one another as one went out to pick up the morning paper with a cup of coffee in hand. We would not think twice about going to our neighbors house to ask for a cup of sugar or a stick of butter while baking a cake or cookies.

But instead of going outside to pick up the morning paper with our morning coffee, we are going to the Internet to find the latest news with a cup of Starbucks coffee in hand. Instead of going to our neighbors house to borrow ingredients for our latest cake creation – we find ourselves perhaps too busy to bake or we may feel guilty of invading the privacy of those we live around – so we would go to our local Wawa to pick up what we need.

As isolation enters our household it can enter our churches as well. Instead of going out into the community and spread the ministry of the body of Christ, it might be easier to minister to those who are already entering the doors.

This is precisely the concern on the heart of the apostle in the letter of Colossians we read today. He is enthusiastic about what is happening in the newly formed community of believers at Colossae. Its members are vital and active, “bearing fruit and growing,” and had been from the very beginning.

However, he is worried that without the proper attention, the prospering assembly could become a church that is all fluff with no Gospel. He is worried that they will be satisfied with what is happening inside the community and they will no longer reach out to their neighbors.

Many churches today can fall into that trap – we can be content with our current status and not put any vested interest in getting to know the people in our neighborhoods. Instead of asking what the church needs- we can ask what does the community need? What can we as the body of Christ offer our community that no one else can offer?

One of the things we can offer is found in the letter to the Colossians. We read about three recognizable attributes given to us – faith, hope and love. Paul tightly brings together these three crucial elements whose bundled presence at Colossae form the basis of Paul’s thankfulness.

Faith comes in Christ Jesus because of the Hope given to us from God in heaven and love made known to us by the spirit. This is better than any comfort television I have ever seen.

We can offer our neighbors the faith; hope and love found in God –those are things that are not readily stocked and available for purchase at the local Wawa. If a church was known for its faith and for the love the members of gathered assembly had for each other, regardless of their station in life, their past or their financial status – that would be a community reaching out to their neighborhood.

“You are known for our faith in Christ and love for each other!” Paul says. What a great thing to say about a church! But it is more than just telling people about the love of Christ, about the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for us. It is enabling them to experience this when they come to the church.

It is in hearing of the Word of God proclaimed that we come to learn more about Christs sacrifice for us.

It is through feeling the water from our fingertips in the baptismal font that we remember our own baptismal promise.

It is in tasting of the bread and wine as we celebrate the Eucharist that we have a physical remembrance of Jesus’ body and blood.

It is in seeing the Christian assembly gathered together to praise the living God that we are able to give thanks to God for all that God has blessed us with.

It is in the smelling of the odor from the ashes of burned palm leaves – then applied to our foreheads that we started our Lenten journey only a few weeks ago and through that we remember the forty days Christ was in the dark wilderness.

Paul reminds us that “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This is the message that people are longing to hear and that we are able to share with them. God has rescued us from the power of darkness by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — by this sacrifice we are forgiven of all our sins. That is a message all our neighbors can hear, touch, taste, see, and smell.

The legend of Mr. Rogers may one day fade away, but the love and grace of God will always be constant and through our relationships with God, each other in the community of faith and our neighbors outside of the church this gift will never fade or be taken away.


Blog update

No I have not changed the format of my blog again. Don’t worry. But I do need to update some things around my blog. The first is to give credit to those who have visited my blog an made comments. I have added them to my blogroll. So please visit them and tell them I said hi.

Dr. John who is a Lutheran Pastor has visited my site. He has some great personal stories to share about his journey to ministry and I will let him share it. Click here to read about it.

Proclaiming Softly came to visit. Here is the description on her site “…at the Door of the Church. The Unfinished Church…A Place to discuss Faith, Religion, and denomination. God gave us minds: Let’s use them!” She has a love for outdoor ministry, like myself. And her daughter graduated from the seminary that I go too! You can’t get better than that!

Unlikely Banter has stopped by to visit my blog. Here is his description of himself “Always: Curious husband and dad looking at the world his daughters are growing up in through a Lectionary lens. Sometimes: Lutheran Preacher in Minnesota on the Edge in the Mid-Western Prairie and the Hiawatha Valley reading scripture and loving life, my wife, daughters, dog, cat, art, hunting, fishing, books, movies, friends, and family. Posting about life and the world whenever moved to do so.” I am sure that unlikely and I would get a long just fine.

Welcome everyone to my blog — and those of you reading this please do stop by and visit their blogs.


As a senior seminarian I have the privilege to preach at one of the seminary’s chapel services. Tonight is my night. Please pray for me. I have what I think is a decent sermon. I hope it is well received. I will post it tonight if all goes well.