Eve of the End of the World

On this eve of the end of the world,

I left my dishes dirty.
I think, “I won’t have to turn thirty”
I let my son eat two cookies
I blew off that last call from my bookie
I forgot about some bills
I looked around for those pills
I stopped thinking about what’s wrong
I starting singing another song
I worked a bit on present making
I try to plan on tomorrow’s baking…
Wait – I said tomorrow, right?
There’ll be more after tonight?
I don’t know for sure, I’m not God
But last time the world ended, it was Odd.
We woke up that very next day
All the children went to play
I was still looking at those dirty dishes
Making plenty of empty wishes
Knowing the end, now that’s no fun
In these sentiments, I’m not the only one.
We should live life every day
As if it were last anyway
Tomorrow may come, we may all be gone
And I love you too much to go on
Because when I get sentimental
I lose the senti and just get mental.:)

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An open letter to my classmates….

Dear friends and fellow classmates at Luther – 

I know the past week has been interesting.  Hard.  Upsetting even.  It came without much warning to us that our President was resigning, and this financial deficit we are in is SERIOUS. We saw our president say a tearful goodbye and heard words from the board that seemed almost unfeeling.

I want you to know that there is hope a midst this hard time.  While it’s hard for us to say goodbye to President Bliese, and hard for him to say goodbye to us, our school is doing what it can to help us have a future, to carry on, to even progress in a forward direction.

We can’t know all the details, but we do know that there was no scandal.  We know that we need to do some things differently when it comes to finances.  While we may not know what that will look like, we can know that the board, the staff and faculty of Luther Seminary DO care about us.  They want to give us the best education possible, and equip us to be the future of Christian leadership.

Our future depends on them and their choices, but it also depends on YOU.  Please do listen to the messages of our leaders and voice your questions and concerns.  No matter how trivial, mild, or harsh you think it is, our leaders WANT to hear it.  Even if those concerns have a negative tone.  (Just because we are Christian  doesn’t mean we don’t have ugly feelings.:)

We are training to become leaders of the church, in various capacities, and this is part of that call.  Remember what you are being called to do, why you are in Seminary, and that what you do has an effect on others.  This include telling leadership what is going well, and what needs improvement – bearing in mind that criticisms should come with suggestions!

Blessings to you as we go through this adjustments together.  Again, I plead with you, do not keep concerns and questions silent – there are members of staff, faculty, even student council here to listen and offer what help they can, and build towards a better and stronger future.

Much love,

Stefanie

Little Miss Sassypants…

Luke 3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

We preachers use the phrase, “wrestling with the text” when we are talking about finding meaning and diving into our sermons.  Wrestling doesn’t begin to describe how I’ve felt approaching this text.  It was more like a knock down drag out.  Now I’m not a preacher who always adheres to strictly biblical education, and in fact, I stray a bit from the text when I have a pressing message that I feel the text gives me – some feel I might be straying too far.

So when I sat down to take a good look at this text, I thought, this time, I’m going to be DEEPLY embedded in the text.  I read it.  I poured over it.  I examined it.  I read it again because I was confused.  Are you kidding me, Luke?  Tetrarch?  What the what?  So I hit up Google.  First site is Wikipedia- it (and I quote!) says “Tetrarch may refer to:” and then offers a list.  REALLY??  Definition says that it’s a ruler of a portion of a country – makes sense, but I’m not sure how important I find this information when interpreting.

I notice they say this particular rule has been for 15 years.  The articles I read speak of the rule of Tiberius Ceaser as particularly harsh – and that this might make the people of that time less concerned with spiritual well being than just plain surviving.  This becomes important in a few minutes.

We are then offered the fact that John the Baptist, son of Zechariah (and Elizabeth thankyouverymuch) has heard the word of God in the wilderness.  We then hear the prophecy, which is almost identical to Isaiah 40:1-3 (I won’t bore you by reading the subtle differences.  I’m sure Rolf Jacobson and David Fredrickson could argue why they are super different, but let’s just say for now, they’re the same!)

So this prophecy is there, why?  Is it telling us that John is saying the quote inside the quote?  Is it just telling us that these prophets of the Israelites are legit?  That John is legit?  Can that really be all I’m supposed to figure out with this passage?  I choose to say no.  (A yes would just make me cranky at this point, and that’s not terribly productive.)

So John is in the wilderness.  Wilderness is important – in chapter 4, Jesus will be sent there to be tested for 40 days, but it doesn’t seem like John is being tested.  I’m drawn to this idea that John not just hears the word of God, but he hears it in the wilderness.

John the Baptist is described very interestingly in the Bible.  In my class on Mark we talked about him wearing crazy furs, which wasn’t normal even for his time, and eating locusts and honey.  In this passage, we learn about John hearing the word of God in the wilderness.  Using that emphasis seems to set him apart – he was maybe a loner, definitely strange, and probably sharp tongued.

Ok, so not probably, definitely.  Later on He calls people seeking him out “vipers.”  This is my kind of guy.   To have license to not only have strong opinions, but to offer them very freely, without remorse (or at least we aren’t told of remorse).

Being in the wilderness, dressing oddly, eating bugs and telling people some super blunt things paints this John as a loner.  It might have been hard to be him – in fact I’m sure it was!  I’m guessing for a long time people told him how weird/wrong he was about life, and now all of the sudden they are swarming him for help with their salvation – that’s probably why he calls them vipers!  We see evidence of this when he says in verse 7, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  As if to say, you poops, NOW you believe me?:)

So if you remember, we heard that Tiberius was a harsh ruler, people were probably having a hard time in daily life because of that, yes?  This same article asserts that a prophet that was so different as John was needed to reach the people.

What does a proclaimer of faith in the present time look like to you?  They probably have a  nice white robe, or a shirt with a collar for many of us.  They are probably dressed nicely, not in expensive clothes, but dressy, “respectable.”  But I’m reminded of preachers like Nadia Bolz-Weber and her fabulous tattoos and I think, I wish I was brave enough to have so many tattoos, and I also think, she looks significantly different than a traditional view of a pastor.  For one thing, she’s a chick!  For another, she swears.  My hero.  She’s incredibly real, and very sarcastic – she even has a blog entitled the Sarcastic Lutheran.

I think we need to remind ourselves that proclaimers of the Gospel, not just us in the pulpit on Sunday’s but ALL God’s children, need to find their unique voices in order to spread the salvation offered to us by Christ, and the love and peace that news brings.  Some of us do this in a traditional manner.  Some of us do this with beautifully detailed biblical study and education.  Some of us do this by dressing in costume and putting on a show.  Some of us do it by sharing music.  Some of us do this with emblazoned passion and earnestness.  Some of us do it by being little miss Sassypants.

Whatever your method, own it.  God made John very purposefully as a unique individual who played an important role in many faith lives.  You might not have historical books written about you, or even have a famous blog, but you impact people.  You are unique in God’s eyes, and you make the story come to life for those people you touch.  Be your wild, hairy, locust-eating self, and baby, people will listen!

A Laughing God…

When reading Chapter two of  A Reformation Reader, I was most struck with Luther’s letter to his wife, Katie.  It is one of the shorter things written by Luther that is printed in the book, and yet, the most intriguing to me.  It is so interesting to me because of the humor in relation between spouses.   Humor adds to every relationship, and it is apparent that Martin Luther used it freely in his relationship with his wife.  Martin Luther was not only a great theologian, but a fine humorist.  In fact, according to Gritch, “Martin Luther is the only ‘church father’ who incorporated humor into his life and work. He did so by posing as a court jester (an advertised self-image), a quick wit, a facetious wag, and a sit-down comedian with humorous comments in more than five thousand ‘table talks.’” (Gritche, 132)

Why is humor important?  According to Humor and Telling God’s Truth, “humor has a legitimate role in speaking God’s truth. We might be willing to argue that if the church is to speak the gospel to today’s culture, it will be required to incorporate humor into its witness” (Jacobson and Jacobson, 107).  This is true today, and most certainly applied to Luther’s era as is evidenced by his following.

Humor breaks tension, invites people to share common ground, shocks people and makes them think.  Luther used humor in many letters in order to convey meaning and tone to indicate caring, and to show incredible dissonance.  Humor relieves the seriousness and fear one might feel in putting forth ideas that seem risky.  According to W. E. Gritch,

Eschatological humor created a liberating serenity in Luther. Commenting on the only biblical passage where God laughs (Ps 2:4), Luther told his readers, “Let us laugh at raging Satan and the world (yes, even at sin and our conscience in us).”10 Such humor prevents self-righteous temptation to speculate about the “hidden” God and instead to rely only on the “revealed” God, “the Father of Jesus Christ.” Modern students of humor stress its power to guard against any presumed superiority; it “leads human self-knowledge back again from its imagined height to the right track.” (Gritche, 133)

There are those, even today who believe that humor is not the correct way to approach matters of faith and religion.  In the paper on humor by Jacobson & Jacobson, they describe:

one group of Danish Lutherans that was characterized by “strict standards of conduct, such as abstinence from common amusements.”5 More recently, when one of the authors of this essay was invited to give a presentation to a church group about The Lutheran Handbook, a woman took her leave of the presentation with the comment, “I don’t think that humor belongs in church.” (Jacobson and Jacobson, 108)

however, their paper does assert that “humor is an essential part of human nature.” (Jacobson and Jacobson, 109) Being an essential part of human life, even in a time as depressing as the medieval period could be, humor helped Luther to cope with some of the more difficult discussions, as well as allowed him to enjoy all aspects of life.

This humor that Luther uses in theology to belittle Satan, to humanize God, is something that he uses in all avenues of life – including life with Katie.  He opens the letter with a teasing greeting, conveying cute affection.  He then goes on to inform her that he is behaving badly, but he’s proud to tell her so, in order to show her how life is without her, perhaps to offer comfort that they are not currently in the same location.  “Luther tried to take care of finances as the head of a large household (five children, farm animals, student boarders, and many dinner guests) but left Katie with the ‘amazing accounting,’ addressing her with ‘dear lord’ in letters.” (Gritche, 136)

It is a comfort to use humor to confront things that we fear.  Many people of that time as well as now have fears, and much of it is attributed to evil, or Satan.  Many theologians spout pages and pages of theological reasons and comforts to not fear Satan.  Luther has solid backing, but he adds an element of humor to discredit the devil, and empower believers in Christ.

Luther used a humorous analogy to describe the clever temptation: “as soon as reason and the Law are joined, faith immediately loses its virginity.”22 Living only by the law means to fall for the devil, whom Luther came to know quite well in his monastic spiritual struggles. So one should say:

Mr. Devil, do not rage so. Just take it easy! For there is One who is called Christ. In Him I believe. He has abrogated the Law, damned sin, abolished death, and destroyed hell. And He is your devil, you devil, because he has captured and conquered you. (Gritche, 133-134)

Luther is not all humorous – serious business is discussed when appropriate in this letter to Katie – some of his dealings with local pastors and the fact that a young girl was saved – but to bring it to light he states that the devil would not be happy with that, as if we care about how the devil might feel.   He also evades humor in order to show genuine love and caring for not only Katie, but the children and the boarders.  His tone is also serious when discussing the gift he has sent to them, and business matters related to their operation.

Luther also uses humor as a means of chiding – rather than speaking harsh words to his wife who hasn’t written to him even though the children have, he makes a joke about it being the will of God, and that he hopes the will of God convinces her to write to him.

If humor is really a sign of intelligence (Jacobson and Jacobson, 110), we have not only Luther’s amazing theological writings in the Concord and everywhere else, we have his use of humor in correspondence to his wife, friends, and even enemies to help us see what a smart man he was.  Perhaps having a sense of humor is not only indicative of intelligence, but helps to develop and maintain intelligence.

Martin Luther was not only a fine theologian, but a humorist.  Luther’s use of humor in his writings helps make him relatable today.  Modern theologians, people of faith, and even people in general can appreciate Martin Luther’s sense of humor, and can relate to his ideas and works in a way that can be difficult for other writers of his time.  The Lutheran Church is blessed to have a church father with not only sound theological doctrine, but such a fine sense of humor to show that humans are indeed to whom God’s world belongs.

Waiting…

We are always waiting.  The next pay day.  Christmas.  The next time we get to see a loved one who lives far away.  A new relationship to start.  For a child to arrive.  For a sickness to end. For the game to be over – hopefully resulting in a win. For Stefanie to get DONE talking so we can leave for the day.  For something exciting – whatever that might be.

We wait for so many things, and as we all know, the ultimate thing Christians wait for is for Christ to come again.

So what do you do when you wait?  When I’m waiting, I have a tendency to be fidgety.  Super fidgety.  I have fake teeth and awful nails because when I’m waiting, I’m usually chomping, and if food isn’t available, my nails always are.

Why is waiting so terrible?  I happen to think it’s the not knowing what to do with yourself while you wait.  When you were a kid and you were waiting for Christmas – you were probably so excited with the prospects of what you might be given that you ran like a wild-person and drove your parents crazy.  We don’t have that option as adults.

So we look at this present, this gift of salvation we have been given by God in the form of Christ, and we wait.  We wait.  We wait.  We know we are not required to do anything to be saved, and there have even been arguments about whether or not good works could HARM our salvation – so you wonder and you wait.  You might look to the Bible for answers – and there are so many wonderful things in there, you will find things and think you know it all!

And then something will come crashing down, because we are human, broken, and desperately in need of Christ, which is why He came to save us.  We have to remind ourselves that it isn’t up to us to save ourselves, our faith is what saves us.

Waiting is terrible because things can change.  We are given the Bible as a guidebook, and while it has wonderful meaning, there isn’t a section of “how-to” live one’s life.  You are given many examples of what not to do, plenty of awesome, albeit vague parables from Jesus, and a promise of salvation that will come at an unknown time.  This time is not mentioned contrary to many a doomsdayer’s predictions – Christ himself said in Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

So we wait.  And we wonder.  Some may panic.  Some may feel incredibly at peace.  Some may search for the answers that God only knows.

That waiting isn’t enough for this life – we all know that.  We’d better keep ourselves occupied.  Enjoy the gifts we have been given by God.  Know that the gift, that promise, is worth the hellatiousness of waiting, and be glad that Christ has already died to erase our inequities. (Be glad He only had to do it once!)  Find strength in that promise, and though the waiting is difficult, the reward will be more glorious than we can imagine.