Reading for Sunday, August 25
Questions to Ponder While Reading:
What captures your imagination?
How do you see God differently through this text?
What would you like to ask a Biblical scholar?
1 I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s[a] wrath;
2 he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
3 against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
5 he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
6 he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
8 though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked.
10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
11 he led me off my way and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
12 he bent his bow and set me
as a mark for his arrow.
13 He shot into my vitals
the arrows of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock of all my people,
the object of their taunt-songs all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness,
he has sated me with wormwood.
16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “Gone is my glory,
and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”
19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,[b]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth,
28 to sit alone in silence
when the Lord has imposed it,
29 to put one’s mouth to the dust
(there may yet be hope),
30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not
32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone.
34 When all the prisoners of the land
are crushed under foot,
35 when human rights are perverted
in the presence of the Most High,
36 when one’s case is subverted
—does the Lord not see it?
37 Who can command and have it done,
if the Lord has not ordained it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should any who draw breath complain
about the punishment of their sins?
40 Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
to God in heaven.
If you were in worship on Sunday, August 18, you heard during the offering a varied version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Unbeknownst to even the staff, the heart-breaking words were penned by our own Johanna Olson. We give thanks for her prayer and proclamation of God's Hallelujah to us every day.
You can listen again to the song here and read Johanna's words below.
Whew! First intensive week is over. It was amazing! Today we looked at the entire book of Hosea with Dr. Ellen Davis. We looked at the challenging metaphor that Hosea uses, an unfaithful wife as the image of Israel. The first thing that is important to say about Hosea is that the metaphor is difficult, in some ways very hurtful, and violent. We need to treat this story as the shocking sermon and allegory that it is. One of the reasons that the story persisted in Israel’s memory was that it was both startling but also impactful. So impactful that it is picked up in the New Testament. In addition to the difficulty in the story, it also contains some of the most beautiful intimate poetry of God’s heartacheand love for God’s people….
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.[d]’
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.[i]’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,[j]’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
Notice that the poetry has two relational connections…. You will call me “my husband” a deeply intimate relationship. The New Testament will pick up this metaphor for Jesus as the bridegroom of the church. The second is the connection to fertility and abundance, “I will plant her for myself in the land.” God’s relationship is not just to human beings, but the whole world, the earth and all the rocks, plants, animals and water. We often think of God’s relationship with us, but what about God’s relationship with the rest of God’s creation.
So… I am full! Full of new thoughts and friends. Filled with a spirit of God’s love from my teachers, the books and my classmates. Filled with hope for us as a family of faith and filled with a sense that God continues to nourish us and God’s world with hope.
I’m on a plane tomorrow morning at 8am. Glad to have this week of study. Glad to be heading home to be with you all!
Today we spent most of our morning talking about some of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament: First, the story of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11 and second the story of the Levite and His Concubine in Judges 19. These are both very violent and challenging texts. Let me say by way of too simple a summary let me say that these texts are both to be read as failures of leadership, failures of faithfulness, failures of human beings to exercise agency in support of life and as examples of the consequences of lost trust in God. From one of our readings, “Judges does not in fact condone violence; to the contrary violence appears primarily as a sign that Israel has lost its way in relationship to God, that God’s people failed to recognize God’s reign over their lives and they subsequently spiraled downward into violent chaos.” The book of Judges ends with, “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). The point being that selfishness, and individuality ruled in the people’s hearts, violence and chaos began to spread.
We often shy away from reading these stories because they are challenging and possibly dangerous. Challenging because they may cause us to reflect on our own situation and recognize our own violence and selfishness. Dangerous because they might convict us of our failures, but hopeful in that they point to God’s tenacious love despite even the most violent and despicable actions of human beings. New life is possible.
I also cannot say enough for my colleagues, professors and school administrators. My classmates are simply amazing. Smart, articulate, thoughtful, kind, vulnerable and open. It would have been worth $10,000 just to spend this one-weekwith these people in this setting. The professors are some of the most outstanding in their field. Dr. Ellen Davis is one of the most sought after Old Testament scholars in the country. Dr. Willimon is a well-known preacher, former Methodist bishop and well-known author. As I’ve already noted my colleagues are simply amazing.
So, thank you. Thank you for the time away to study. Thank you for the gift of financial resources to do this. Thank you for your prayers and support while I’ve been away. I am looking forward to being home and being back with you all and our staff. I’m also looking forward to cooler temperatures… it’s currently 93 at 5:30pm… too hot!
My second day of class has come to an end and I’m back in my little home away from home. I’ve got all my readings done for the next couple days so I’m taking a little time to rest. It’s been a great few days. Friday through Sunday was orientation. I have an amazing cohort of 21 students. Wonderful people from all over the country; from Boston to Sacramento, Seattle and Miami. And they are really amazing people. There are Methodists and African Methodist Episcopal, a Seventh Day Adventist, some UCC folks and a smattering of different Baptist and congregational churches. I’m the only Lutheran! It’s actually quite nice to be completely out of my regular Lutheran, Midwest element. It’s good to have the experience of being an outsider, and feeling a bit like a fish out of water. It’s humbling and helpful.
I’m taking two classes: Violence and Leadership in the Old Testament. A course that is focused on working through violence in light of religious violence in the world currently and Introduction to Christian Leadership where we are focusing on our own individual assessments of our wellness, leadership, strengths and weakness. The readings have been terrific. I believe Brian posted my syllabus for you if you like to check it out.
I am grateful for the time to stop, reflect, read and listen. I would say already it’s been a transformative experience. I’ve had a chance to read some difficult Old Testament stories with one of the worlds best interpreters of the Old Testament, Ellen Davis. In our first day of class she interpreted the very difficult story of Abraham and Isaac as a story about trust between God and Abraham and a way of God learning to trust. We’ve spent some time talking with our cohort about our personal leadership strengths and weakness as viewed through the lens of pastor wellness.
So, tomorrow is day three of class. I’m looking forward to it. I am also, as you might expect, looking forward already to heading home. I love the opportunity to learn, and I can tell already that I will be anxious to return and see my new cohort friends in January. But, it is hot as anything down here and so humid!! I look forward to a little cooler, kinder Minnesota!
I have been keeping up on all the things happening at home. Thanks to Todd Biewen and our new call committee! I look forward to our next steps. Please keep me in your prayers as I hold you all in mine as well. See you soon!
Psalm 113 & Luke 15:8-10
Questions to Ponder While Reading:
How does the Psalm and the passage from Luke relate in your mind?
Is the Psalm a prayer of thanksgiving or an almost sarcastic prayer of lament?
In light of recent mass shootings, what do these texts say to you about who God is and how God works among us?
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
First, I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to go back to school. Thank you to the church council, members of SOTH and our staff for the encouragement and support. Thank you for your prayers, words of support and your financial support. I could not do this without your help in all of these ways. Thank you!
Second, I am also exceptionally anxious. Like many adults I have a deep-seated fear of looking stupid! In many ways I pray for the open, vulnerable, unassuming freedom of my niece and nephew who have no fear of not knowing. In part, being a learner means that you first must admit your ignorance. You must admit there are things you don’t know. It is a vulnerable position. It is a humbling position; especially for someone like me (and maybe you too) who likes to be in control and create the illusion that I know what I’m doing! I am asking to be kept in your prayers, and I’m asking for your kindness as I strive to be vulnerable in the learning process. I’m sure I will quickly learn how much I don’t know!
Lastly, I hope you will join me along the way. I plan to write occasionally about my learning and post occasionally on our website and our Facebook page. I want to be sure you have the opportunity to learn along with me, and overhear some of the joys and struggles of church leadership. In many ways now is one of the most challenging times in recent history to be in church leadership. In many ways now is one of the most exciting and opportune times to be in church leadership. As always, whether we are in a time of growth and stability, or in a time of challenge and decline, God’s promise is to be with us, love us and bring new life. We are in this together! So ready or not, here we go!
Below you can download the syllabi for the two courses I’m taking this fall. You can also download my schedule for this first week of classes and my orientation weekend. I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts. I will be on campus at Duke August 9-17 to meet my colleagues, get oriented and spend a week in class. Look for pictures and updates on our Facebook page during my first week.
Thank you for this opportunity! I look forward to all that is in store!
Peace - Pastor Scott
Questions to Ponder While Reading:
What captured your attention or imagination in these chapters?
What is one question you would love a Biblical scholar to answer?
Genesis 8 & 9
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11 and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.
13 In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
22 As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
for in his own image
God made humankind.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.”
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.[a] 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
18 The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. 21 He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem;
and let Canaan be his slave.
27 May God make space for[b] Japheth,
and let him live in the tents of Shem;
and let Canaan be his slave.”
28 After the flood Noah lived three hundred fifty years. 29 All the days of Noah were nine hundred fifty years; and he died.
Reading for Sunday, July 14
Questions to Ponder While Reading:
1) How would you title this narrative? It’s traditionally been called “The Fall” or a story about “Original Sin” is that really what the story is about?
2) Consider the character of the snake… where did the snake come from? If God created the snake what does that say about God?
3) How does the story end? If endings are often important parts of stories, what does the end of the story say about the God / Human relationship?
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to the man[b] he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man named his wife Eve,[c] because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man[d] and for his wife, and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
Reading for Sunday, July 7