Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pericope of the Year: The Gospel of Joy

Despite the fact that my computer's spell-checker keeps wanting to change "pericope" (a "cut-out" from a larger text, usually a biblical reading used in the divine service) to "periscope," I have periodically tried to post a pericope of the week. That practice will continue, d. v., in the new year.

Given the positive attention to Time's "Person of the Year," it is fitting that this week's pericope come from one of Pope Francis' writings. While I don't agree with everything he has said or written, either now as Pope or when he was a Cardinal (e.g., some of his comments about women are problematic, it seems to me), I do think his overall witness in word and deed has been a good development for Christians and others around the world. During this past year he has certainly been the focus of much positive attention in both my Lutheran congregation and university classroom.

The following pericope, cut out from his encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, will serve as the final one for this year:

Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).

I highly recommend the whole encyclical. To read it in its entirety, go here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Women Who Have Left the LCMS to Become Pastors

A friend alerted me recently to a new website that shares personal stories of women who have had to leave the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod in order to heed the call they have received from the Holy Spirit to serve in the pastoral ministry. The name of the site is "Women Pastors: Stories of Women Who Left the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod."

Initially there were four stories, but one of them has been removed. Nevertheless, I suspect more will be added in the coming weeks and months, especially as word gets around that such a site exists.

The three stories are quite moving, sometimes sad, sometimes joyful. They provide a glimpse into the personal struggles and challenges that these women have had to endure in order to fulfill the calling that they have received from God.

To visit the site go here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela+ (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Rightfully so, a lot of media attention is being given to Nelson Mandela this week. An interesting, if brief video on his life appeared via the New York Times. To view it, click on the link below.

New York Times Video on Nelson Mandela

A more in-depth documentary appeared recently on PBS's Frontline. You can watch it here.

Today's "Sightings" post by Martin Marty (read it here) draws attention to the connection between Mr. Mandela's moral vision and the Methodist tradition in South Africa, a tradition that Mandela said had deeply influenced him as a young boy and teen. The study of that religious connection would make for an interesting doctoral dissertation.

Late last week a former colleague of mine, Bob Schmidt, who was my dean at Concordia University, Portland, reminded me about how the World Council of Churches provided grants to the African National Congress (ANC), Mr. Mandela's party, and other liberation movements in Africa, after 1969. While some of these funds came from churches and church people, most of it came from the governments of the Netherlands and Sweden, who channeled their contributions through the WCC. 

Bob himself did his doctoral work on the WCC's support for these liberation organizations. According to him, "The motivation for helping the liberation movements was not Communist inspired" (contrary to those who labeled the WCC's actions in precisely those terms). "Rather, it came from the experience of some of the founders of the WCC who had spent World War II in Nazi prison camps or had barely survived as refugees. For them state-sponsored racism was the epitome of evil and needed to be resisted. When apartheid became the official policy of the South African government, the WCC stepped in with its contributions."

That aspect of Mr. Mandela's story ought to be more well-known and further studied, too.