Sunday, May 30, 2010

Food for thought

Today was Holy Trinity Sunday, when Christian Churches emphasis God's triune nature and many recite the Athanasian creed. In his children's lesson, our pastor gave out pretzels, and explained that it was used in the ancient church to help explain the trinity, sort of like St. Patrick is believed to have done with the three-leafed clover in Ireland.

I thought this was pretty interesting and spent a little time with google to find out more. This is what I found-

Some credit an Italian monk for coming up with pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. The strips of dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest were called 'pretiola' ("little rewards")". Others think that pretzels may also have evolved from a Greek ring bread, which was served in monasteries for communion. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products like milk and butter. Eventually, pretzels became part of Lent and Easter. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning like eggs are hidden today.

The three holes represent the Christian Trinity of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." The wedding phrase "tying the knot" got its start when a pretzel was used to tie the knot between two prominent families The pretzel's loops stood for everlasting love

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Blessing Ceremony's Background Story, By Ted Mallory

Many years ago, while my wife Bethany and I were teaching at Los Angeles Lutheran Jr/Sr High School in Sylmar, California the faculty wanted to customize the school's baccalaureate service. Bethany was the "Spiritual Life Director" (she taught 7-8 grade Religion, and coordinated Chapels as well as other prayer and service events and student-ministry groups). We looked into a book by Christian authors and family counselors Gary Smalley and John Trent called The Blessing. The authors believe that a blessing has three major components, a statement that the recipient is valued, physical touch, and a pronouncement of God's providence over the recipient's future. We tried to incorporate these into our ceremony.

Ten years ago, when we moved back to small town Iowa, the Pastor L.C. Gebhardt and Elders asked us to serve as Youth Counselors, leading the church's high school youth group (Lutheran Youth Fellowship, LYF) and accompany the group to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans that year. When we had our second daughter, I more or less became the youth counselor while Bethany took care of our girls.

The Elders decided that St. John Lutheran, Charter Oak would have a "contemporary" worship service every fifth Sunday. At the time they felt that the Youth should lead contemporary service. I had the privilege of writing/arranging many of these and our youth-led Easter Sunrise services for a few years until Rev. Gebhardt retired and the vacancy pastor wasn't comfortable with laity involvement, or youth leadership, not to mention contemporary worship. Eventually school and family life led me to step down as LYF leader. Currently I am officially the high school Bible Class instructor, unfortunately not many teenagers like to attend Bible Class on Sunday mornings.

Before Gebhardt's retirement, a long-time member of St. John, Lynn Hoffman- herself a retired Lutheran School teacher (and one of those responsible for our now defunct preschool, Noah's Ark) wanted to do something to make the baccalaureate service at St. John, Charter Oak. I adapted what we had done at LALHS to something that could be incorporated as part of a worship service, rather than the entire service itself. St. John still uses this Blessing Ceremony every year at graduation time.

I wanted to make it available here for any schools or churches to use, free of charge. Really, it's a collaboration with my wife and our former colleagues and "standing on the shoulders of giants" like Smalley and Trent- consequently, I'm not looking for all kinds of credit, attention, or money for it, thus it is uncopyrighted. My hope is that by using it, you will be blessing the Seniors in your life and sending them out into the world with the knowledge that God goes with them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Burn Baby Burn

I've been insanely busy with the end of the school year, but I really wanted to share some Scripture and a few notes about the church holiday of Pentecost and the gift Jesus sent us on that day, His Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-13ff).
Joel 2:28-29 (New International Version)
29 ...I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
Before Pentecost, in the Old Testament, you pretty much only see God's Spirit resting upon one or two people at a time, a prophet like Moses,  Elijah, a priest like Aaron or Samuel, or a king like David. One guy served as God's representative, His mouthpiece on Earth. 

But now, we all are called, gathered, and sustained by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ and we all are commissioned to serve as His prophets, priests, and kings (or pirates). He can speak though you. You can intercede for others with Him. And we can all lead by example and administer God's work.
John 16:12-15 (NRSV)
12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 "He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 "All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." 
Here's an awesome thing- the Spirit is there when you need Him. Mind you, He's gentle and you can grieve Him. Why would He want to live in you is you're full of anger and selfishness, lust and greed? And you have to give Him something to work with- sure, God's omnipotent and He can certainly work like magic if/when He wants, but the more time you spend reading the Bible, praying, worshiping, or in Christian fellowship, the more God's Word gets written on your heart so that the Spirit can help you tap into it whenever you're in a situation when you need Him. Big Lutheran perspective- the Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself or to you, He always directs us to Jesus, His sacrifice and victory and His teachings and examples.
I love to remind people that if there were a proof that you're living a Spirit-filled, or Spirit-led life is not whether or not you can speak in tongues or perform miracles. The evidence is that your character is becoming more Christ-like. Jesus told us Himself that you'll know a tree by it's fruit:
Galatians 5:22-23 (New International Version) 
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Now, if you have God Himself living inside you, you have to know that God can use you. It's not about what you can or cannot do, it's about what He will do through you. What does He want to do through you? What did Jesus do in the New Testament? Tell about God's love, announce God's forgiveness, share mercy, accept and love those who others deemed undesirable, heal, feed, serve, sacrifice for others, love.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (New International Version)
6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

And with that He (Jesus) breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." ~ John 20:22

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Jesus loves Mexicans, and wants us to help poor people

I am weary. Many of the people I otherwise respect and love can't understand how I can call myself a Christian and hold so many politically liberal positions. Could it be that I don't believe it's right to give special preferences to huge corporations? Could it be that I believe that health and education are things that should be considered rights, and not luxuries? Public services and not commodities?

The right wing says that it is immoral to help people, offering welfare, medicare/medicaid, any kind of government support to poor people, they say teaches them to be irresponsible and to become dependent on the government. Tell that to the 40 year old who had a brain tumor when they were a child and have been in assisted living ever since.

I believe that Lincoln was right, that ours is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people- not of the partisan by the lobbyists and for the corporations. Accuse me of not separating church-and state if you want to. My religion tells me to help the less fortunate, the best tool I have for doing that is the federal government, since as a citizen I am part of it. The right sees it as an evil that they want to shrink or get rid of. I see it as an implement for helping others.

Here is a list of Bible verses that influence my politics. Funny how conservatives like to admonish that we can't pick-and-choose which parts of the Bible we believe in when it comes to their issues- but it sure looks like they don't believe many of these.

Frankly, I found most of these by doing a concordance search of the word "alien," because I've been so frustrated by recent debate about the new Arizona immigration law. Funny, weren't the people on the Mayflower immigrants? Were they legal? They were supposed to settle in Virginia, not Massachusetts- not that King James asked permission from the Iroquois Confederacy first anyway.

I would love to win over my neighbors, friends and relatives who seem so worried by the shouts of socialism made by modern day cable TV news and AM radio demagogues, but I realize that that's unlikely. So for them, I just hope and keep praying that they will at least recognize that I'm not a malevolent anti-American, terrorist sympathizer but that my intellectual, philosophical, political, and even my theological positions are well thought out and not irrational.

For the rest of you, maybe you can use some of these verses the next time a right-winger accuses you of not having well-reasoned positions or of not being true to your (their) faith traditions.

Exodus 22:25
"If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.

Leviticus 25:37
You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.

Ezekiel 18:13
He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head.

Numbers 15:15-16
The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD : 16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.' "

Deuteronomy 10:18-19
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were once aliens.

Deuteronomy 23:7
Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country.

Deuteronomy 24:14
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.

Deuteronomy 24:17
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

Deuteronomy 24:19
When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 26:12
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. (Gee, that ones kinda sounds like a requirement, like a tax, not just a suggested donation. Hmmmm.)

Deuteronomy 27:19
"Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" (Yikes, I wouldn't want to be Glenn Beck or Sheriff Joe)

Deuteronomy 28:43
The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. (this has ALWAYS been a nation of immigrants. Like it or not, Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the US- I'd be careful how you treat them because they're on their way up)

Zechariah 7:10
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

Malachi 3:5
"So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.

Ephesians 2:19
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'