Outdoor exercise

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You know, it’s important to get outside – even for a little bit – each day.  The folks who ran the Eastern State Penitentiary thought so too.  Which is why for a time, cells came with a small outdoor space attached to each cell.

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Yes, that’s right, this little piece of slab would be all yours while you were a prisoner here.

Now all you need is the BBQ.  And maybe some other human contact.

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Special Request

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I have a short, simple special request.  No more celebrity politicians – of any type.  In either party or any party.

I heard that Kayne West was thinking about running for President.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve also heard the following names seriously considering running – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Katy Perry, Chris Rock, and a host of others.

I don’t care what ticket they are on, they have no business running for president.  Being president isn’t a character slot to be filled.  There’s no best actor award for president.  There are people’s lives to consider.  As much fun as it might be (or not) to watch some celebrity in a debate on any host of issues, it might be helpful if a type of warning label came on before the debates.  Maybe something like “Warning: electing a celebrity can be harmful to everyone’s health.”

Please America, just don’t.  Please Democrats and Republicans, don’t do it.  I know it’s tempting and it’s all the rage right now.  But for the sake of the children don’t do it.  For the sake of my dog, don’t do it.  For the sake of not sending me to the psyche ward, don’t do it.

Thanks.

Service to country

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Even prisoners have served their country.  Eastern State Penitentiary is no different.  There is a plaque listing the prisoners who served in the military.  Notice anything unique about this plaque?

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If you said there are no names on the plaque, then you are correct.  The prisoners who served are listed by their prisoner number.  Very meaningful, huh?

Searching for Messiah

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I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to make the statement that it appears that our society is in search of a messiah figure.  Too often that ends up being a search in the political realm of life – a search for a political and/or partisan messiah who will save the nation/party/etc.

I also don’t think that this is anything new.  We’ve actually been doing this for some time.  I remember when Obama got elected and all the adulation for him, with some going so far as to call him a messiah.

But this isn’t even an American sin.  Go back through history, the search for messiah and the foisting it on a human is ancient.  Emperors of old were considered gods sent to save their people.  But only their people. Everyone else is an outsider and doesn’t deserve saving supposedly.  And of course, that person died and then the search for a new messiah began.  It’s the story of human history.  And yet we think this time it will be different.

Maybe part of the reason we do this is because we don’t want to recognize that the Messiah looks far different from what we want.

The Messiah who saves us isn’t interested in nationalism or America first.  Just like the Messiah wasn’t interested in Israel first or any other nation first.  The Messiah didn’t come to save just a select few people – the Messiah came to save all of creation.

The Messiah who saves isn’t interested in advancing a political party in the 21st century.  At some point, all of these political parties and entities will die off and be replaced with some other sin-filled party or entity.  The Messiah isn’t interested in seizing and holding onto power, something that political parties and politicians live for.

Instead, Messiah has a different agenda.  It’s an agenda that calls us into a new relationship – a changed relationship.  A new relationship with one another, with God, with creation, with ourselves.

So often we want change, but we want those “other” people to change to be just like us. We love hearing the Gospel, but we think that a call for repentance is a call for other people to radically reorient, not us.  However, Messiah invites us to change as well.  How can anything else change is it doesn’t start by changing us, changing our hearts and minds, and then changing what we do and how we do it.

We don’t start this change, God does.  We do however have the ability to respond.  We have been given that by the Spirit who guides us to a new life and new relationships.  How will we respond – with fear? by setting aside God in favor of a god we choose who will be more concerned with power and separation?  Will we hear God’s call and follow, or will we decide that we think we know a better way – a failed way, a way that has been tried through most of human history?

I pray that this generation responds differently.  I pray that I have the courage to respond when God calls me to ways that the world thinks are insane – to respond with love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace.  That is the way of Messiah.

 

Ordination!

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Today I will be ordained.  I’ve got a lot going through my mind because of this.

Ordination marks the end of one stage in life and the beginning of another.  I could go on about this, but I won’t.  Instead, I’m going to talk about something else – or rather a few something elses.

Ordination means that I’m different.  I have a new role to live out – pastor in a congregation.  Regardless of what I want, I’ll be seen differently.  The collar is a visible sign that a person is set aside for ministry.  That means I’ll be listening to many people’s stories and struggles.  I’ll get to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows with people.  I’ll force myself to love people who I might not otherwise love.  I’ll make mistakes and those mistakes will be public.  I’ll do my best to be true to preaching God’s word and offering the sacraments.  I’ll be seen as an example.  I’ll be seen as the one responsible – especially when something doesn’t work.

Ordination means I’m not different at all.  I haven’t changed because of ordination.  Actually, I’ve been changing as a person ever since I’ve been born.  Seminary puts that process in high gear.  Ordination though doesn’t change the person – it’s more of a public recognition of the changes that God has been working in a person.  But being ordained doesn’t mean I’m somehow more special or holy than other people – even if the collar gives people the thought that is the case.  I’m still me.  I still sin and screw up.  I still get mad and swear.  Still struggle with some relationships to people and systems.  And I’ll still need forgiveness, love, mercy, and friendship.

Ordination is many things.  As I go from this day forward I’ll find out what those things are first hand.  So will my family.  They have been along for this ride for some time now and are about to start a new phase in the journey.  They didn’t take a single seminary class, but they have been being prepared for this too.  They didn’t receive any credit for the classes, but they learned.  They didn’t research about the decline of the church in the world, but they came along with me to live in a foreign land and know what it means to be strangers and others.  They didn’t go into the church each day on internship or lead worship, but they came along with me to internship – sacrificing their lives for the sake of this calling – knowing first hand what it means to serve.  They didn’t walk with me on graduation day and receive a diploma, but they did the journey with me and received so much more from God – flexibility, adaptability, third culture, patience, listening skills, compassion, relationship skills, and grace.

This evening I’ll be the one receiving a stole and a laying on of hands.  That’s what ordination begins with.  But it will be my family’s hands that will lay on me in the difficult times – hands that will remind me of God’s unwavering love, grace, and forgiveness.  It will be my wife’s hands that will hold mine when I need them most.

Ordination is many things.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for my ministry, for our family, and for St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in New Kingstown, PA where God has called me to serve as pastor.

Let’s do this!

Center Room

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One of the coolest places at the Eastern State Penitentiary is the center room.  From the center room a guard could see down all the main cell blocks. There were other cell blocks off of those main cell blocks.  In order to see down those cell blocks, guard had installed mirrors at strategic locations so they could literally see everything by standing in the center of the center room.

Here’s a feel for this.

Covfefe is all the rage-fefe

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Ever since POTUS came up with an alternative word – covfefe – the internet has been all abuzz with it.

It’s made it into memes, and posts, and used for humor and ridicule.  And since the POTUS never makes mistakes this obviously isn’t a mistake either.

At any rate, I kind of like the word.  I’ve been thinking about its meaning though.  We need to have a consistent meaning so that this word can make it as the word of the year for 2017.  I think it’s pretty symbolic of 2017 as a whole and is a great candidate for word of the year – the best one ever.  And just think, we didn’t need anyone to pay for it either.  Then again, maybe it’s already the best word ever tweeted.  Plus, we need a consistent way to say the word.  Maybe the POTUS can clarify for us.

At any rate, here’s my shot at what the word covfefe means.  I welcome your definitions:

Covfefe – slang for a favorite type of coffee

Covfefe – slang for a favorite covert operation

Covfefe – “cover your dog Fe Fe”

Covfefe – Tweet for “we’ve covered that, you now you have to pay two fees.”

Covfefe – Tweet for “I like the music album cover with Fe Fe on it.”

Covfefe – Tweet for “That corvette is so expensive I can’t afford all the letters.”

Covfefe – Cover all the fees, yes, even the hidden ones.

Covfefe – The sound someone getting ready to sneeze.

Covfefe – a new swear word for anyone who disagrees with POTUS.

Covfefe – the name for the super secret club that only a few people are a part of.  The tweet was telling them to come over to POTUS’s tree house for the next meeting where they will be trading super hero cards and baseball cards, and talking about that yucky girl Jenny in fourth grade.  She has some serious cooties!

Covfefe – a new translation of the Bible.  (Just think of the possibilities here.)

Here’s something else to consider – maybe covfefe is so great of a word that it has more meanings than any other word that ever existed.  Isn’t that just great!  No wonder our world has been so screwed up – we’ve been living without this incredible word for all this time.  Now that covfefe has been tweeted, there will be peace and prosperity.

Or maybe covfefe doesn’t actually exist and it’s all been a worthless distraction because some of us can’t admit a mistake and some of us can’t resist poking fun at a mistake.  Nah! That’d be so covfefe.

What do you think covfefe means?