The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.
You sit in the optometrist’s chair and they say, “A or B?” as they flip lenses. The choice is binary, one or the other. You cannot pick both. You cannot say, “Neither.” When our son was young, we learned never to ask open ended questions like, “What vegetable do you want for dinner?” We said, “Peas or green beans?” Our whole data driven world is binary – ones or zeros. Binary choice. We humans like binary choices.
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.
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.
Hello and God’s Peace! My name is Matthew Milbrodt. I am originally from the rural Toledo suburb of Genoa, Ohio, and I am coming to this internship via Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. I am a 2007 graduate of Bowling Green State University with a bachelor’s degree in adolescent education for English language arts (I had intended to teach high school literature). My home congregation is St. John Lutheran Church in Williston, Ohio. The area of Northwestern Ohio that I’m from hosts a delightful mix of experience and culture from rural, urban, and Lake Erie island life (and when I say I lived near Cedar Point, people recognize the area). The majority of my family have lived and worked in this same part of Ohio for generations.
Right now, there is a lot of discussion about “reopening” the economy. The nation, states, counties, and cities are wondering what should and what should not be safe, vital, necessary. The discussion is important. There is also lots of talk about “reopening” the church. If I may parrot Bishop Michael Burk a bit, the church has never closed in this time.
Over and over, during Jesus’ public ministry, ministry happens and community is built around the breaking of bread. From the Wedding at Cana to the Feeding of the 5000 and, of course, the Last Supper, one thing seems abundantly clear: when Jesus wanted to convey a particularly important or meaningful lesson, it was often done surrounded by food and in the context of sharing a meal. In fact, after the resurrection, one of the most notable “aha!” moments, in which the disciples recognized the Risen Lord, occurs when Jesus breaks bread at the table.