Unexpected Communion

This is a guest post by Johanna Johnson. She is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She currently serves St. Martin Lutheran Church and Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the Upstate New York Synod. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Having just taken on the pastorate for two congregations, I have been busy trying to acquaint myself with two very different congregations. One of the important tasks, of course, is to visit the shut-ins, who would like to meet their new pastor but are unable to come to church to do it. I diligently began this last week, visiting a handful of people in assisted living homes in the greater Rochester area.

One of my first was to a man about whom I knew nothing but his name, Larry. As I walked into the large building, confidently sporting my clerical collar, a man was walking out. He was wearing old jeans and ragged green sweatshirt, and the man, who looked to be about in his 60s, looked as if he had walked some tough roads. “Are you preachin’?” he asked, his speech slightly slurred. I said no, not today, I was bringing communion to someone. He asked if I was from the church down the street, and I explained that I was from a Lutheran church in another suburb. “Lutheran!” he said. “I grew up Lutheran! Baptized, confirmed, and went to church every Sunday and Wednesday!” We chatted about that for a while, before he grew tired of the conversation and went on his way. But as I went in and met Larry, the man came back. “I have to tell you something!” he said, with urgency. “When you lock your car, when it’s in your garage and you lock your doors, you’re locking Jesus out of your life.” No sure how to respond to this, I muttered, “Oh…” and thanked him for offering me this advice. We parted ways once again.

As Larry and I found seats in a common area, and I began to get to know him, I also began to wonder what this place was. I had expected senior living, but everyone I saw looked middle-aged or younger, and each one seemed to carry a burden of some sort. Larry was pleasant enough, but slurred his speech, and couldn’t seem to finish the same sentence he started. I wondered if this was a rehab center, or perhaps a home for mentally ill adults. (I later learned it was the latter.) Whatever the case, these were adults who were not readily accepted by the general population. They were the outcasts, the people you avoid on the street, the folks with whom you avoid making eye contact. Being there in the midst of them, my heart felt a deep need to love them.

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Angry Birds and Faith

I love Angry Birds.  This past summer I took my iphone to the Apple Store because of a faulty volume switch.  Even though I was eleven days out of warranty they gave me a new phone, which was great!  However, all of the work I have done on my games the previous year were gone, including getting three stars on every level in Angry Birds.  I spent hours upon hours flinging different color birds at wood, ice, stone, and green pigs to reach the ultimate .

Trying to regain my Angry Birds Crown I have played Angry Birds starting from level one.   I have learned important faith lessons.  Here are three important faith lessons on how Angry Birds has helped me become a better follower of Jesus.

1.  The Levels are always the same

Like the books of the Bible the levels on Angry Birds are always the same.  However, every time I play a level I learn something news about it — just like when I read the Bible.  I can read 1 Timothy 4: 12  “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  and I can interpret that passage many ways, it all depends on where I am at in my life, what I am thinking about, what I am reading and what my view on the world is currently.  On Angry Birds, I see different levels a different way every time I play.  There is a different angle I can use with my yellow bird – or I can use the black bird another way.  But John 3: 16 is always going to be John 3:16 no matter how I look at it and Angry Birds 3-16 is always going to be

2. I need to seek help when I get stuck

I have gotten stuck many times playing Angry Birds.  Sometimes I feel lucky to get even one star on a level!!  When I get stuck I have tried to look up hints online or through another app.

Sometimes I call a fellow Angry Bird fan and get some advice from them.  I do what it takes to understand what I am doing when playing Angry Birds.  Just like reading the Bible there are certain passages that give me problem.  For the life of me I cannot figure out what God is trying to say to me in certain scripture.  When this happens I try to seek help online by trusted websites, or in Bible commentary or I call another pastor friend to help me with some passages.  We are not meant to read scripture or play Angry Birds alone.

3.  Practice makes perfect

A simple concept said to thousands of people all around the world.  The more we do something the better we get at it.  No one can expect to play Angry Birds for the first time and get three stars. Just like no one can expect to read the Bible for the first time and completely understand it all.  We need discipline in our lives to continually play both in fun iOS apps and in inspirational books.  There are many versions of both that can help entertain us, comfort us and give us an overall sense of community and understanding.

Living a life of faith is never easy.  There are ups and downs, and

Facebook, Faith and Change

We are creatures of habit.

Throughout the week we wake up at the same time (even if we don’t want too), shop at the same stores, drive the same way to work and  plan the same things to eat over and over again.  When something disrupts our routines we may find ourselves feeling “out of wack” and more than ever we want to go back to the way things were — or our routine.

This type of longing stretches far more than wanting to have Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup every Monday.   In our faith life we have our set ways.  We may say the same prayer before every meal and before bed time, we go to the same church, sing the same songs and if someone sits in the pew we sit in every single Sunday…..well look out!

Another thing we do not want changed is Facebook.  The past several months there have been a number of changes to Facebook and every time there is a change I have hundreds of friends posting complaints, wishing things went back to the way things were.  I am sure if pressed — most people don’t even remember how Facebook “used” to be when they first signed up.   But there is change, and no one likes change.

To read the rest of this post please visit Soul Munchies.

 

Saint Steve (Jobs)

There has been lots of talk about Steve Jobs and the effect he has had on technology and on everyday life.  I know since getting my iphone my life has been changed (for the better).  Sociologist Gerardo Marti, who has studied the emerging church movement, weighs in on the influence of Steve Jobs on the world which I think all church leaders should think about:

stevejobs_1
Over time I have seen how Steve Jobs became the patron saint of non-denominational church leaders who value creativity, technology and persistent vision. Jobs accomplished what few are able to do: connect with everyday lives, enrich people’s aesthetics with evidence of beauty, and offer tools for exercising personal gifts and talent. Jobs had a single-minded vision for the varied media he designed, making complicated technology supremely accessible and — more importantly — desirable. People wanted what he had to sell. He promoted his own genius while striving to bring out the genius of others. And his dedication to his vision was a testimony to unrelenting pursuit of promoting personal standards in the service of others.
 For the rest of Marti’s article click here. 
 

Tuesday Thoughts

Tuesday Thoughts

God Moments

  • Getting back to blogging has been great!  It is a great outlet for me and I hope it inspires you in your faith.
  • Sunday my daughter learned about Jesus loving her and a conversation with her Sunday School teacher went like this: “Addyson who loves you?” she replies “Daddy!!” Her Sunday School teacher said “Yes who else J- J -J” and she said “Joe!”  Close enough…..
  • We are in the midst of stewardship time at St. Mark’s.  Most people hate it because we are talking about money in church.  I enjoy it because we talk about mission and vision for the congregation.

Life Connections

  • I have been lucky enough to spend time with some great friends!! Between vacation back in September and recently with some others– it helps feed my soul.
  • I am very excited to have some friends visit in November!
  • I love the Sing-Off
  • Speaking of TV Person of Interest is my new favorite Show.

 

Bullying: Ancient Problem, Same-Old Solution

This is a guest post from Scott Hannon. Scott currently serves Hope Lutheran Church in Arcade, New York. He is a graduate of The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. This article was a part of Hope’s email devotions. It was published on September 26, 2011. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Our denomination publishes a magazine every month called The Lutheran.  The cover story of the January 2011 issue was entitled, “Bullying the Pastor.”The Lutheran  When I saw the magazine sitting in its regular place among other reading material in our fellowship hall, I thought it would be funny to give the article a little more visibility.  Over the next several weeks I placed the magazine all over the church.  One week it would be on the welcoming table everyone passed on their way into church.  The next week it would be sitting right next to the coffee pot over 90% of our parishioners over the age of 10 frequented.  Every time I would put it somewhere new, it would make its way back to its regular home just to be moved by me all over again.  It was our joke.  I am not bullied and everyone at Hope knew that.  I played with the presence of the article because I thought it was funny.

Jamey Rodemeyer
Jamey Rodemeyer, age 14

Only bullying is not funny, and it certainly wasn’t a joke to Jamey Rodemeyer, the Williamsville North teen who took his life one week ago.  And it certainly isn’t funny to themillions of others who are bullied every day at their schools, work places, or even in their homes.

Bullying is one of the worst kinds of ways we live with one another, and yet for decades we’ve been too quick to dismiss it as “kids being kids” or as a joke.  It is the repeated hurtful acts of others meant to shame, belittle, and cut down.  The people it affects it attacks from every angle.  It manifests itself in physical acts of violence, dangerous rumors, name-calling, and threats.  For children it can be so bad that in 2006 ABC News reported that 160,000 kids skip school every day for fear of being bullied, but even at home they cannot escape the cyber-stalks and slander of their aggressors.

And it is affecting all of us.  Bullies in school are significantly more likely to commit series crimes as adults.  Those bullied are just as likely to become bullies themselves, if they don’t attack their bullies or take their own lives first.

But like so many of the sinful ways in which we live with one another although bullying is reaching new heights, it is certainly not a new problem. As long as people have lived with one another some of those people, often the weak and vulnerable, have been subject to the torments of others.  But for as long as it has been happening, God has spoken against it.  In fact, the Bible is full of reminders of that.  Again and again in the scriptures we hear God defined as “the father to the fatherless and defender of widows” (Exodus 22:22, Deut. 10:18, Psalms 10:14, 68:5, Jer. 49:11, and so many more!).  That is saying much more than God runs a mean orphanage.  The orphans and widows were without place in society.  They were outcast and ignored if they were lucky and reminded of their plight verbally, physically, emotionally, and socially if they were not.  But these people, God continuously reminds, are ones for whom he especially cares. 

Bullying, from pastors to students to co-workers, must stop, because it is not a joke and it is not simply “kids being kids” to our God, the friend of the lonely and the defender of the   picked-on.

            So to the bullies,

we say stop!

            To the bystanders,

we say act for God in stopping it.

            And the to the bullied,

we say God loves you, you are not alone.