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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Cool Cup of Water

It's a thirsty world out there. (and now that I know that "thirsty" is a common term these days for sexually aroused, it's even thirstier.) But I am talking about plain, old, parched and dry world. A world devoid of the freshness and life that water affords. We're thirsty.

I work with a lot of conservation organizations, and water is a constant theme for all of them. We cannot take water for granted. I, probably because of my upbringing, do take it for granted. Sadly.

I grew up on lakes. I was born in a hospital just a few blocks from the shores of Lake Superior. I always lived on a lake until I moved to college. From then on, I've always lived by a major body of water. Since I was 18 I have lived within a mile or two of: the Minnesota River, Lake Austin and the Colorado River, Lake Michigan, the Mississippi River, and the Missouri River. There's always been a large body of water around me for as long as I can remember.

I remember once when Chris and I were visiting Sante Fe, NM to help with some of their hunger ministries and projects. We go to talking about whether we could move to Santa Fe. As much as I love the city (and I really love it!), I told Chris I couldn't. When she asked why, I replied, "I need a consistent water table wherever I live." Truer words I never spoke. 14.21 inches of precipitation in Santa Fe is not enough. (In Blair, NE, where I currently live, we get 30.32 of rain, not including snow a year.) So I am addicted to my water.

But I do worry about it. Glaciers melting. More chemicals being used to provide us food, and those chemicals leech into the water. A town like Flint, MI has water, but its water system is so poisoned that the water is undrinkable. And then, of course, there is drought. Drought just moves its way across the globe, and seems to settle where people are already vulnerable. "Water, water everywhere," Coleridge wrote, "and nary a drop to drink."

There is a saying of Jesus of Nazareth that "whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of the little ones...none of these will lose their reward." (Matthew 10.42) I'm not sure what the reward is he's talking about, but the standard for receiving it seems pretty low. Share a cup of water. So maybe one of the ways to improve our world, to slake some of the thirst, is to share a cup of cold water? When was the last time you shared a cup of water with someone? When was the last time you shared a drink of any kind with someone? A thirsty world yearns for cool water. I hope you get a share a cup.

May your tables be hydrated, and your conversations be true.

Monday, June 19, 2017

487 years of the Augsburg Confession

This coming Sunday, June 25, 2017, marks the 487th Anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. The Augsburg Confession is a document presented by the Lutheran Princes to show their allegiance to the Christian faith, and therefore, similarly, their allegiance to the Emperor. Written by a Lutheran theologian, Philip Melanchthon, it has been called the "most important document" of the Reformation. Lutherans have spent 487 years trying to convince people they are Christian...our success is mixed.

Philip Melanchthon

There is a problem from the get-go with the Augsburg Confession: it is a theological document created for political purposes. As such, various traditions and people have received it differently over the last four centuries. Charles V himself rejected the document, and part of the next 130 of wars in Europe can be drawn back to this day in June. Others, like Christian III of Denmark, would take their country into Lutheranism through this confession of faith. This is the reason you see way more Lutherans of Danish descent than Spanish, by the way.

Although theology and politics has always mixed in the world, this Confession stands out for its clarity. The great confessions which have followed it, and some are still being done today, all seek the same force and power Melanchthon was able to give the Lutheran princes in his work on the Confessio Augustana (in many Lutheran circles we still refer to it in Latin because we are just that pretentious. It's in our theological veins.)

The Augsburg Confession is not designed to replace the Bible, but rather to explain how Lutherans understand the God-Human relationship (we call this "faith.") So although the Bible is our primary reference to why we believe what we believe, and act the way we do, the Augsburg Confession goes to show how flexible we are in our interpretations of the Bible. That is, the Augsburg Confession confesses what we believe to be true to our faith.

The document was written as a defense because some people believed we did not love, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and by extension, the Church. But those folks back then loved God and the Church, and we do as well today. But--and this is a big deal for us Lutherans--we still maintain a critical attitude towards our faith. In other words, we admit we might not have all the answers, (although humility is not a strong point of ours either, but we are willing to admit God is all-powerful, and that makes all our confessions temporary.) Our critical attitudes mean that we put every belief, statement, text, or image to as many tests as possible so that we can ascertain its truth for our faith. This critical nature drives many other Christians nuts.

We just don't "believe" because we're told to believe. We believe because we've tested, and come to believe. We don't accept it just because we're supposed to accept. We test until we can begin to accept it may be possible to accept. We are a difficult lot, and we have many things we wish to test and talk about. And there are also many, many things we agree on with other Christians. And that is why Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession. He, for one, was convinced that our agreements far outweighed our differences. After 487 years, the jury is still out...

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.