This week I read an article in Sojourners by Jim Wallis. The article is entitled “An Altar Call for the Election.” Now Lutherans do not do altar calls. If we did, I do not think it would be about an election. But the point of the article is more substantial than that. The altar call Wallis is speaking about is a call to take our identity seriously when we go to vote. Our identity as we know it is that of a beloved child of God. But there is more to that identity. The first chapter of the first book of the Bible lays out plainly who we are meant to be from the very beginning.
Troop Zero is a heartwarming movie about a group of kids who have been labeled uncool, lame, and losers by the “cool” kids. The “cool” kids are taught to think this way by the “cool” adults who think the same way about the parents of the misfit kids. When they try to be part of the scout troop in town, they are forced to form their own. Zero is assigned as the troop number to make a point.
Most people say they pray. Even among those who don’t connect with a religious tradition or even believe in God, a fair number still say they pray. For some, prayer is like a purchase we make. We ask God to fill a need in return for our promise to be good, or at least better. For some, God is a therapist, listening to our rage or pain, and providing comfort in return. For some, prayer is an obligation we must meet to stay in God’s good graces. Still others offer prayers because they feel helpless and don’t know what else to do. There is nothing wrong with any of these prayers. The psalms (the prayerbook of the Bible) show us a broad variety of prayers spoken in gratitude, despair, lament, confession, and praise.
Because of recent car troubles, I experienced a great deal of what it means to show God’s steadfast love from this congregation. I also learned a little something about Iowa’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The community of faith is important to each of us. We have times of doubt. We experience times where we wonder what God is up to in our lives. We need our community of faith to support each other, to grow in faith together, to enjoy time with one another.
Dealing with Covid-19 has impacted every aspect of congregational life. We have, like most of you, found daily changes and adaptations we need to make to continue to be the church. Some have said that being a pastor these days is like learning to fly an airplane – while you’re flying the airplane! This is true for most of us, I imagine.
I find myself full of gratitude today. I previewed the first Church School lesson for our new School of Love. It is awesome! Kelly Heuton has learned a whole new way to offer Jesus to the children of the congregation. I listened to the plans to launch affirmation classes this evening. Anne Williams has morphed everything to keep kids safe while she does what we always have – raise up disciples. I have heard praise for the music that David Fandrich made part of last weeks worship. At our prayer service this evening on Zoom, people were thankful to come together on Zoom to do what we do as people of God – “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12) I wrote a letter to the congregation to thank everyone for the financial support we have received that has kept us going through the pandemic. Our finances are solid.
The Ark of the Covenant is something that has captured the imagination of generations of people in the Judeo-Christian faiths. I chose to research this for a class last year, and I can tell you with confidence that no one really knows where it is today. There is no evidence of a fedora-wearing archaeologist discovering it in Egypt during the 1930s, and it is not stored in a government warehouse in Area 51. Well, probably not. We think of it as a “lost treasure,” but the real treasure is what we have instead today!
I find myself thinking a lot about courage lately. Perhaps it is because of two instances in recent weeks where courage has been front and center. Several weeks ago, the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA met virtually for our yearly synod assembly. This assembly was special this year, besides being the first virtual assembly, it also called for electing a new bishop for the synod as Bishop Burk is completing his second term and moving on to retirement. The process involves nominations from the people of the synod and agreement from the nominee to be placed on the ballot. The ballots are cast, and slowly the number of nominees is whittled down to seven, then three, then two candidates. Those who are nominated agree to be nominated with the understanding that God may be calling them to the position of bishop. They do so knowing that the Holy Spirit is in control. To be nominated requires vulnerability and the knowledge that only one person will be elected. To be nominated requires the acceptance that God is in control.