The last two weeks of my life…

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The last two weeks of my life have been unlike any other two weeks that I can recall.

Two Mondays ago, I left my home in the morning, met up with several other students, got on an airplane and traveled about 30 hours (flying time and layovers, etc) to Windhoek, Namibia.  We were heading to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly there.

We stayed there for 7 days and then jumped on some planes last Tuesday and arrived back in Pennsylvania last Wednesday – tired and exhausted, but happy about the trip.  I promise that I’ll be writing more about the trip in upcoming posts – along with some pictures too.  I’m still processing the trip.

I got a nap (mostly because I don’t sleep well on long plane rides), got to use a real sauna, and got a shower.  I was then ready for the senior banquet – a fun even for seniors at the seminary who are ready to graduate.

Then on Friday of last week there was graduation.  A truly historical event in its own right.  First, every graduation is historic because the graduating class is added to the history of the institution.  Second, this would be the last graduation of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.  The seminary will be merging with Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia come July 1 to form United Lutheran Seminary.  It’s been a long road for LTSG.  I’m proud to be a part of the last class.  Again, there are lots to process here.

Then on Sunday I had my call sermon – and the congregation voted to call me as their pastor.  Beginning June 26th, I’ll be pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church in New Kingstown, PA, USA.  I’m pretty excited about this.  And again, there’s plenty for me to process.

Because of all of these things, it’s taken me a bit longer than normal to get back to any type of routine with posting materials on social media and online.  I haven’t been able to post a daily prayer or do my usual tweets about made up bible passages or do travel or theological posts here on the blog.  I finally unpacked from Africa two days ago and I’m still working on going through the piles of paper on my desk to clear that off.  I hope to start posting again tomorrow, but give me a little slack if I don’t – I’ll get there.

The next big thing is ordination – next Friday, June 2.  Again, that will take some processing on my part.

And the biggest thing – figuring out the new normal.  Classes are done, but I don’t start as pastor until the end of June.  There is work that needs to be done around the house that I have been putting off for some time.

Let’s see what tomorrow holds.  Blessings.

The next two weeks

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A lot will happen starting Monday.  I’ll be part of a group from the seminary going to Namibia to attend the Lutheran World Federation Assembly.  We’ll be there about a week and a half.  Then we’ll return and two days after returning I’ll be graduating from Seminary.  All while this is going on, I’m in the call process with a congregation, and so soon after graduation, there is a possibility that I will be called as pastor.

That’s a great amount of change in a short period of time.

Yet, when I turn inward, I’m not sure what I feel about all of it.  I’m mixed about traveling.  I enjoy traveling.  I’m not thrilled with the long flight to get to Namibia though.  I’m sure once I’m there I’ll love it.

Part of the issue is that I’m in the process of finishing up my class work for the semester – so this has taken most of my attention.

I’m excited to graduate.  This was my fifth year of seminary.  That’s long enough.  It’s time to get out and get going and doind ministry.

I’m excited to complete the call process.  It’s gone great and I look forward to serving the church and God’s people.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Easter State Penitentiary

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After hitting the steps of the Museum of Art, we went to the Eastern State Penitentiary.  Let’s just say, it was awesome!  It is a definite must see in Philadelphia.  Well worth your time to go there.

It’s an old prison in Philadelphia that after it closed was left abandoned, so it’s in a state of decay.  The group that took over has left a good bit of it that way so that people can see it in its nature state.  Imagine going through this in Halloween?  Scary!  There’s actually an option for that.  If you go, you’ll have to let me know how it went.

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The prison is designed to look like a castle.  And it feels like it too.

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you a virtual tour of our time at the prison.

 

What’s the point of war?

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What is the point of war?  To win?  To show that “our” side is right?  To show that the other side is wrong or evil?  To defend our way of life?

To make peace?  How does that even work?  How does killing and causing destruction – things that are in complete opposition to peace – bring about peace?  Is peace just the absence of war?  Or is it a different way of living?

What is the point of war?  To make a profit? To reduce a population? To conquer? To destroy?  To show how masculine a country can be?  To show how much a leader is in charge?

What’s the point of war? To eradicate an enemy?  But why? What will have been accomplished?  Do we really think that nothing will take its place?  Do we really think that life will be better when the other side is eradicated?

What’s the point of war? To rally around the flag? To rally around the leader? To defend a set of values?

When is war necessary? When attacked? Prevention?

When do we know that it is time to end the war? And what happens to our relationship with those who were our enemies while we were at war?

What about nations that have gone out of existence?  What was the point of them going to war? To preserve their nation? But they are gone.  Was it worth it? What did it accomplish?

Rome, and many other empires built their very existance on war and crushing their enemies. It is how they brought peace to their rhelm.  Yet, they are all gone to the ashes of history. What was the point of it all?

Maybe, just maybe, there’s another way.  With a different set of answers and questions.  One that doesn’t rely on power struggles for things that will eventually fade away.

Youth in church

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I’ve been doing research about youth engagement in church for a history class.  Our group is looking at the 1940’s in America among the Lutheran churches.

What’s really amazing is that we think the challenges we face in the church today are new.  LOL.  Not even close.  Now remember, the 1940’s is the decade in which the church was on the rise and close to the height of what it would be in the 1950’s – at one with the culture.

Yet, there are articles in youth magazines lamenting why there is a lack of youth leadership in church.  Sound familiar?  It should.

Here’s a few reasons the author of an article on this challenge thought this was so:

“The first reason was that the lack of interest and indifference on the part of the young people is directly due either to the lack of interest or indifference of the pastor or adult leader or to his inadequate leadership.  There are a number of pastors and adults who are out of sympathy with the whole young people’s movement. They still hold the notion that young people should be seen and not heard, and they do not encourage such participation by the young people themselves in the program and work of the congregation.  There are others who never make any attempt to lead the young people and there are others who try to do it all.”

“Then there is another group of counselors who have interest but lack knowledge.”

“Thus an organization which should be training leader through experience in leading and responsibility becomes merely a young people’s organization, managed entirely by one or more adults.  Such a method may help the young people somewhat, but it does not make leaders of them.”

Source: Luther League Review – 1943, pg. 2.

Could have been written today, couldn’t it?

But we think our problems and challenges are so very different and unique.  When will we learn?

By the way, if you substitute in other words for youth, I argue that the same thing the author writes about applies.  Substitute in discipleship.  See what you think.

We don’t always have to come up with something completely new.  Sometimes it’s best to learn from the past and then go forward.  Sometimes the “solutions” are not all that complicated. Sometimes the solutions aren’t things at all – just a way of living and interacting.  You know, living out what Jesus calls us to be and do.  It’s not a new program.  It’s a new life, a new way of living.  One that’s not really all that new.  Just one that isn’t tried very often.

Aren’t you tired yet?

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Aren’t we tired?  Tired of war?  Tired of the mother of all bombs?  As if the mother of all bombs will actually bring peace.  It won’t.

Aren’t we tired of the killing.  Tired of the killing of a Muslim judge who was found a couple of weeks ago?  Killed because she was Muslim.  What was the point of killing this woman?

I’m tired of the irrationality.  I’m tired of knee-jerk judgements.  I’m tired of people being afraid and anxious.  I’m tired of people being upset at a whole group of people, just because. I’m tired of the scapegoating.  Aren’t you?

I’m tired of people being afraid of “others” without even knowing anyone who fits into the “other” group – ever, in your life.

Or anyone in any other group for that matter.

Get out.  Live a bit.  Travel.  Go to a foreign culture and spend time there.  Learn the language.  When you learn a foreign language in a foreign culture, you learn a great deal about other people.

Go to a religious service of another religion.  Do it just once.  Not to be converted or to convert someone, but simply for educational purposes. Do it see that these are human beings.

To see that these aren’t “others,” they are people, just like you and me.

I’m tired of people deciding that they are better than other people.  I’m tired of the dehumanization that goes on that makes it alright to kill other people.  We should have to tell the families of those we kill what we did.  We should tell the families of those we dehumanize what we are doing and why.  I imagine the killing and dehumanizing would end pretty quickly.  This should be a human law – applies to everyone.

Bigger bombs don’t get bigger results.  They just create more damage and death and anger and violence and revenge.  More of the same crap that humanity has been doing to each other since Cain killed Abel.  How long until we have an even bigger bomb?   And what’s the point?  So we can kill more of “them?”

Great.  Then they get mad and go after us and kill more of us.  Then we kill more of them.  Then they kill more of us.  Then we kill more of them.  Then they kill more of us.  Etc.

Anyone tired of this ride?  It’s insanity.  Literally.  Humanity has been doing this so long we think it’s normal.

I’m curious – if someone dropped a bomb on us, all in the name of getting rid of “bad guys”, how would we react?  How would we feel about that?

Oh that’s right, we’re the good guys.  Self-defined good guys…just like the people we kill.

Do you think we’d be all in support of it because this foreign power was going after what they are labeling as bad guys?  Or would we be at least a little worried that some foreign nation stepped all over our sovereignty to bomb our land with the mother of all bombs. How do you think we’d respond?

When will it end?  Aren’t we tired of doing this?  Aren’t we tired?

Philadelphia Museum of Art

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At the end of the Ben Franklin Parkway is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  It’s the museum most famous for the steps that Rocky ran during his training – if you remember your 1980’s movie trivia.

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Of course, now that I’ve mentioned Rocky, you’ve probably got the tune in your head.

Just in case you want to sing along, here’s the song.

If you want to see Rocky running up the steps, go to 2:00 in the video.  Great stuff.

Now that we’re all pumped and ready to go, I’ve got one last thing for you.

The beautiful statue that is out in front of the Museum.

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Very majestic, isn’t it?

Why are we looking to fight North Korea?

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This is a serious question that I don’t have an answer for.  Are we looking to puff our chest to show just how serious we are?  Are we the world’s police force?  Are we being provoked?  Are we trying to put Kim Jong Un in his place?  What place is that?

What do we gain from this little adventure?  Is the point to raise the polls at home?  A war usually has a good effect for that – time to rally round the flag and president.  Will that work if we end up in war this time?  Who knows?

Lots of questions.  I just don’t get it.  But then again, I’m not into seeking power.  I’m not into telling people what they “have to” do or “must do.”

Of course, I’m finishing up seminary and hope to be a pastor soon, but really, being a pastor isn’t about going around and telling people what they “have to” do.  I don’t/won’t have that kind of authority – ever.  Plus as a Lutheran, our focus is on what God is doing anyway.  We can’t do anything to bring about our own salvation.  We can’t even go and decide to accept Jesus.  We can respond to what God is doing in our lives, but we can’t initiate the relationship.

So what about international relations.  What would be Lutheran way of looking at these things?  I’m not sure actually.  Maybe it would be a different approach.  It probably wouldn’t sit well with people who think “America first!” Maybe it would involve grace and mercy.  Maybe it would involve wiping the dust off our shoes in relation to them.  Maybe it would be confrontational.

I don’t know.  I do know that our actions are raising a level of anxiety around the world when it comes to North Korea.  What they do seems to be predictable.  Tyrants have a way of being predictable – they do what keeps them in power.

Raising anxiety is not a good solution to the challenge.  Raising anxiety probably means we are trying too hard, that we are looking to save something.  Are we looking to be the savior of the planet?  Sorry, the job has already been taken.