The Lower Susquehanna Synod has posted an article I wrote regarding the ministry that the disciples of St. Stephen have begun over at Flying J.
When we entered the stadium for worship during the LWF Assembly, we saw many things. I want to highlight two in particular.
The first is the banner.
We were commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Luther’s face of course shows up. Along with the Luther rose. I think the most interesting thing is that the banner is surrounded by faces of people who are far different from the German peasants that Luther knew. It was amazing to see how Luther’s ideas spread far and wide – continuing to this day.
The other part of the banner to highlight is the theme message that salvation, human beings, and creation are not for sale. This is a counter cultural message even today and in many places in the world.
My only criticism of the banner is that I wish it weren’t in ALL CAPS. That actually makes it harder to read.
The second piece of messaging was the worship booklet.
The booklet was actually really well done and had worship for all the days of the assembly. The worship was great each day. Lots of various cultures and languages used. The music itself was well done. Again, the only criticism is the use of ALL CAPS. It takes away from the rest of the booklet, but only a little bit.
While at the LWF Assembly in Namibia, our group from Gettysburg had the opportunity to have lunch with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, several folks from the church wide office, and a couple of bishops.
We had a great conversation about the the challenges the church faces and how to move forward and the opportunities that exist for new clergy just entering the field. We also talked about changes in seminary education, ecumenical relations, and international Lutheran efforts and relationships. It was refreshing to get together and talk about the future and possibilities and opportunities rather than get with church people who prefer to talk about decline.
Thank you Bishop Eaton!
We went to evening worship on the first day of the Lutheran World Federation assembly. It was a great experience.
Here’s a couple of the neat things from the service.
First, the cross.
This cross has been moving around the world at different events. It was in Lund, Sweden for the ecumenical document between Lutherans and Catholics. The artist is from El Salvador. I have a friend who is Finnish, but from El Salvador who knows the artist. How cool is that? The cross itself is beautiful and about six feet tall.
The altar –
The altar was made completely of wood. Really nice.
The candles show the theme of the assembly.
The people –
This is me with Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, the Secretary General of the LWF. He’s a great man. It was an honor to meet him and have an opportunity to talk with him.
In May, 2017, I went with a group of students and professor and staff from Gettysburg Seminary to Windhoek, Namibia to attend the Lutheran World Federation Assembly. This is a big year after all – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What better place to spend it than with the Lutheran World Federation and it’s gathering of Lutherans from all over the world.
One would think that this would be taking place in the Germany where the Reformation began, but the Assembly wasn’t interested in looking backwards, but rather forward to the future. Hence having the Assembly in Africa – where Christianity is growing.
So the adventure began, we got on a plane and flew across the Atlantic. And we flew and flew and flew. Did I mention that we flew. And we finally made it to Africa. But that was only half way. Africa is a big continent. Really big. We took off again and started flying South. And we flew and flew and flew.
We had a layover in Johannesburg, South Africa. Enough time to enjoy a cold beer and then back on the plane for one last leg of the journey. This time it would be a short hop, skip, and a jump away. And then we landed. After 19 hours of actual flying time, we landed for our adventure.
What a welcome sight it was.
A few weeks ago I boarded a plane with several others from the seminary and we flew down to Windhoek, Namibia to go to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly. It was an incredible experience and a great way to finish up my seminary career. I’ll be posting pictures from the Assembly in the near future, but I while it is still fresh, I wanted to offer a few reflections.
First, I learned about (or better said, I was reminded of) the diversity of Lutheranism. That’s not hard to do when you travel halfway around the world to gather with other Lutherans. You see that Americans are just a small speck in this giant world. (A good lesson to be reminded of – something that only really see when you step out of the continent.) You hear that English is not the only language that people speak (another good reminder). And of course many, many Lutherans don’t look-alike either. All of this became obvious quickly when we came together for worship in multiple languages, heard people speak in four primary languages, and saw many people from about 90 different countries. It was especially evident with the election of the new LWF president – who happens to be from Nigeria.
Second, connections are important. We learned that there are approximately 75 million Lutherans in the world. That’s a good number of people, yet still not a huge percentage of the world. At the same time, when you come together at assemblies like this, you start to see that much like national gatherings, synod assemblies, and even congregations, there are a handful of people who are the most engaged and you see them everywhere. They are the ones you want to get to know for multiple reasons. They are the ones who can connect you with many other people. They are the people who get things done.
Third, worship comes in a wide variety. During the assembly, we experienced such a wide range of worship. It was great. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like everything, but that’s ok. It wasn’t about liking everything – I’m sure there were people who didn’t like what I like. That’s ok too. But it’s still good to experience different worship styles. The best worship was the Sunday commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was in a stadium and the sermon was very powerful. Worship lasted for four hours – but then again, when you have to commune 10,000 people, that takes about an hour.
Fourth, I want to go back to Africa. This was my first time to the continent and I loved it. I can’t wait to go back. I was exposed to a part of Africa that I knew very little about – which is why I wanted to go (I wanted to learn more).
Overall, going to the LWF Assembly was a wonderful trip, a great educational opportunity, and I’m glad I went. Next time though, I want to go as a delegate. Let’s see what happens in the next six years.
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.
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.
If you vote for x, you’re really voting for y! You have to vote for candidate y, otherwise the country is going to come to an end! Yes, candidate z if imperfect, but certainly better than candidate w! If you vote for x, you’re throwing your vote away! If you vote for x, then you’ll be the one responsible for candidate y winning and the disaster their administration will be!
These are just some of the reasons I have been told as to why I have to vote for either Clinton or Trump. Just fill in w, x, y, and z with candidate names of your choice. It really doesn’t matter who you fill in – the logic given is the same. I’m amazed that I have that much power that I can defy the laws the math with my vote. Apparently my writing in a name for president has the power add a vote to both Clinton’s and Trump’s vote tally. And at the same time, I’m told that I’m wasting my vote. Amazing. I must be superman in order to do two opposing things at the same time. Or maybe this is just a really Lutheran election. Lutherans love to live in paradox. We talk about being sinner and saint simultaneously. Maybe this is the Lutheran election – my vote matters, but I’m throwing it away at the same time.
To all those who use any of the sayings at the beginning of this post, I have some questions for you. These questions are really pertinent mostly for Christians who make these arguments. Everyone else is off the hook here.
Since when did it become acceptable for Christians to live in fear or to vote based on fear? We hear this fear from both major campaigns in their arguments – see the statements above. We hear it in the arguments from supporters that if you vote for a third party candidate or write in someone, you’re actually voting for someone you didn’t actually vote for. Yet the question remains, when did it become alright for Christians to live in fear? Not just acceptable and alright, but fully embracing this kind of fear and rhetoric.
We claim a Christianity and a faith that is not based on fear. Rather, Jesus told us not to be afraid, yet we hear plenty of voices that shout aloud the opposite of what Christ said when it comes to elections and voting and other areas of life. And from people who claim to be Jesus’ followers.
So what is it fellow Christians? Do our ideals and beliefs matter? Or should we just pitch them and admit we’re full of shit and instead be honest with the idea that while we like wearing the label of Christian (except for the cross thing), we actually believe that our salvation resides in a different savior – one who we elect? If that’s the case, we don’t follow the same religion.
How would this clinging to and speaking words based on fear be any different than the throngs who greeted Jesus at the gate of Jerusalem with palm branches? They believed that Jesus was going to be a military or political leader who was going to bring political and military freedom – throwing off Roman rule through revolution. They believed in Jesus as savior in a similar way that it seems that we as a society believe – that our salvation comes in the form of a political leader who will bring about political change through the established system.
I’ve got news for you – That’s not what Jesus was about.
Living in this type of fear and speaking about the election in this manner are not the Gospel. This is not voting in a Christian way as far as I can tell. I refuse to live in fear, or vote based on fear. I hope you’ll join me in doing that – regardless of who you vote for. Please, oh please though, don’t insult my intelligence by throwing contradictory arguments at me. I’m not interested. You want to have a conversation about the election, great. I’m willing to do that. I’m not willing to sit and listen to you throw fear around as a good reason to vote for your candidate. It’s not a good reason. And our salvation doesn’t reside in your candidate.
In many ways Iceland is so unique. They are extremely progressive on many issues, small in number, on top of ways to use safe energy, etc.
Yet in other ways, Iceland is just like many “older” nations – the link between God and country has been there for so very long. Not in a American way. No, more European in mindset.
First is the Parliament building.
The building itself isn’t much to look at. But look at the top.
There’s the Icelandic flag and a crown – a hat tip to the Danish monarchy that ruled Iceland for so many centuries.
The garden in the back of the building is actually much nicer.
The great thing about Iceland is that you can go pretty much anywhere and you won’t see any security guards. I have no doubt that they are watching your every step, but at the same time, not having security present all the time gives a different feel – that there is a different level of trust between the governing and the governed.
Across the street from parliament is the cathedral.
Being Scandinavian in outlook, the Lutheran church is the state church. Pastors are paid by the state and the church serves an important symbolic function in Iceland. There are positives and negatives to this, too many to go through in this post. The point is this – there is no separation between church and state here. The church serves the needs of the state. That’s the price you pay when you accept money from the state.
Lastly, there is the tribute to great people of the past in Iceland.
First there is the founder of the capitol.
Looks like a pleasant man, huh?
And across the street in the park opposite the parliament there is another statue.
The biggest difference regarding statues between Iceland and the rest of Europe is this – they don’t have guys on horses here for the most part. That may be because they generally don’t celebrate military figures here. They are more concerned with culture. Not a bad thing.
I want to invite us to pray together this Lent.
What do I see in the world?
God is good all the time
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