Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Internship is Walking Through a Large Colon

As internship assignment time approaches for Middlers, I thought a brief reflection on internship might be appropriate. And based on my experience, internship is like walking through a large, inflatable colon.

And I don't mean that metaphorically. On internship, I walked through a large, inflatable colon. When I arrived at church this morning, a large, pink, inflatable, walk through colon greeted me in the parking lot. My internship site parish, regularly hosts health seminars sponsored by the University of Tennessee Hospitals. Today's seminar just so happens to be on colon health, and so the inflatable colon made its trip to Messiah.

These seminars are a huge hit in the community. On seminar days our parking lot is filled, as hundreds of members of the local community show up for the seminar and their chance to walk through the colon. It is probably the most attended event offered here at Messiah. Many of the people who come to the health seminars are not members of the church. These seminars are one of the ways in which our church is open to and connected to the community and world. And I think the popularity of these seminars illustrates the need for the church to be in tune with the larger communities and its concerns and needs.

I must admit that demographics of the seminar attendees is on the older side. However, that did not stop our Children's Center kids from getting in on the fun. Enjoy the pictures and remember that sometimes the church is called to walk through large, inflatable colons.

God's Peace,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lenten Meditation: 3rd Sunday in Lent

John 2:13-22

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’


Immediately when I read “money changers” I had that picture of Bernie Madoff with his grin that you see in the papers. I had the images of the corporate executives who got major bonuses after receiving government bailout. The state of Illinois knows something about corrupt money changers...

This corrupt money-changing perpetuates poverty and injustice. The corrupt actions of a few can have extremely negative effects on the livelihood of the rest, and in a globalized world, even more so.

Jesus spills the coins of corruption and turns the tables that crush the poor and oppressed. In times of economic crisis and with record job losses and the lines growing outside of places (like the Living Room CafĂ©) that provide warm meals and job support...Jesus’ table turning is good news.

The tables that need turning are not limited to Wall Street and corrupt politicians, however. We’ve all got tables that need turning. We've all got things that get in the way...fears, insecurities, prejudices, excuses, pride, indifference, greed...
Lent is not only a time of giving things up, it’s a time to be honest about the tables in our lives that need turning.

Prayer: Oh Lord, turn the tables that crush the poor, turn the table that perpetuate injustice. If it gets in the way, turn it. Our pride, our greed, our indifference...May it all turn. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Guide us in our Lenten journey of table turning and empower us to be table turners, too. Amen.
Josh Ebener, MDiv Senior

Senior Class Gift

For All the Saints: Fair Trade Paraments Celebrate International
Kirsten Fryer, MDiv Senior

When you walk into LSTC’s Augustana Chapel, you may notice that the window above the entrance is etched with a map of the world. At the bottom of the window, you see the words “For All the Saints.” This is a reminder that LSTC is indeed an international community. Our graduates serve as pastors, professors, and lay ministers all over the world. The intention of the folks who designed Augustana Chapel was that the paraments used in worship reflect that international mark of the LSTC community.

Currently, we have two sets of paraments that honor our international community. The scarlet set is made from Raj textile from India. It was purchased in 2003 and the paraments were used at the dedication of Augustana Chapel. Augustana’s blue set is made from Ewe cloth from Ghana.

After much discussion, the senior class has decided that we would like to add to this collection by giving a set of green paraments as our class gift. Our intention is to purchase fairly-traded cloth from artisans in Mexico, and with that cloth, make a chasuble, two stoles, and an altar frontal. We are currently corresponding with Marcario and Elena Pocop, a couple originally from Guatemala who fled to Mexico during the Guatemalan civil war in the early 1980s. Marcario and Elena are members of an artisans co-op in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

One of the reasons we chose to purchase cloth from Mexico is that the Youth in Mission students see the green paraments during their worship in Augustana chapel while they are in Chicago. We thought that it would be meaningful to make a connection for the entire LSTC community to our brothers and sisters in Mexico. Both the Youth in Mission students and LSTC students who participate in the ELCA Seminary’s Transformational Immersion program during J-term will have the opportunity to meet the artisans at CCIDD in Cuernavaca.

You can support the senior gift by attending the progressive dinner on March 20th, bidding on silent auction items this week, or writing a check to LSTC (include “senior class gift 2009” on the memo line and let Lynne Morrow know you donated by emailing her at lmorrow@lstc.edu)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

International Students' Cultural Night

Last Friday international students at LSTC had a night of celebrating cultures, arts, dances and poetry from around the world. The night consisted of African-American Singing, a Turkish Movie, Hungarian Music, an Indian Song, Japanese Kabuki, a Chinese Poem, an Indian Dance, a Burmese Cultural Dance, various dress styles from Jerusalem, Ramallah and a display of various internatioanl greetings. Afterwards we enjoyed delicious food from all over the world.

Open Mic Night

Last Thursday we had an Open Mic Night where members of the seminary community showcased their talent (or lack there of). We had songs, dance, poetry, etc (see pictures). Each performer had a coin jar with their name on it, and we gave prizes to the top three performers with the most money in their jars.

We are raising money for our Senior Class Gift. Every year the senior class at LSTC leaves the school a gift. This year our gift will be fair trade paraments from Mexico that will go to the chapel. We will have a series of events and opportunities for people to contribute to the gift.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lenten Meditations

During the season of Lent, LSTC students, faculty and staff will be writing Lenten Meditations on the weekly lectionary texts.
You can read these meditations here: http://www.lstc.edu/chapel/lent/

'The Transfiguration of Our Lord' or' Casimir Pulaski Day'

So, about a week ago I preached on the Transfiguration at my internship sites in Knoxville, Tennessee. I ended up preaching on the Elisha/Elijah text. This text describes the journey of Elisha alongside of Elijah, during Elijah's last days on earth, before he is swept up into the heavens by a whirlwind.

As I prepared to preach, I was drawn to Sufjan Steven's song, 'Casimir Pulaski Day.' The songs tells the story of someone's journey alongside of a girlfriend's last days with cancer. Here's the song on Austin City Limits:

[Pretty sweet winged outfits, right? Does anyone know if Augsburg produces a similar product?]

The back and forth exchange of dialogue between Elijah and Elisha ('Stay here' - 'I will not leave you') even seems to be mirrored as Sufjan sings:

"Oh the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you."

But one verse towards the end of the song I find particularly powerful:

"Oh the glory that the Lord has made
and the complications when I see his face
in the morning, in the window."

It seems to me that in the narrator's Elisha-like journey, he experiences the fullness of God's presence. On one hand, he proclaims the glory of the Lord throughout the song. In particular, Sufjan's song seems to point to the sustaining presence and love of God in the places of death and disease. On the other hand, the narrator has difficulty with the discipleship for which this good news calls. And in the end the narrator comes away with a "complicated" understanding of God.

In this song, I find a moving experience with the Lutheran theological dialectic, law and gospel. I normally am really attracted to this paradoxical theological insight. But what makes this song so powerful, is its description of a lived experience with this sometimes abstract theological idea. It reflects our struggle on the day of the Transfiguration as we search for the words to describe our experience with the fullness of God.


ps - it was also a challenge to preach a sermon that prominently featured the words: elijah, elisha, and sufjan.