Holy Rollers at the Bed Races

Who says ministry can’t be fun?  Five area Lutheran pastors, including Pastor Kent and I did our best to out run a variety of Custer neighbors at the Gold Discovery Day bed races last Friday night.  Even though the “Holy Rollers” didn’t win, I’m glad to say that there were a number of CLFers on both the first a second place teams.

For the millions of Lutherans who live in small towns in the United States these summer festivals are often a highlight of the summer.  I enjoyed our local parade with the flatbed trailers caring the high school reunion classes starting with the graduating class of 1945.  We smiled at the low brow humor of the city workers following the parade with the pooper scooper to clean up after the horses.  Even the adults chased after the candy and hot dogs that were thrown into the crowd from the people riding on the floats.  (Yes, I did say hot dogs.  They tasted pretty good.)

Ministry is often wrapped up in the common-place —  visiting with an old friend at the car show, laughing with the children spraying their super soakers, even dressing funny and pushing a hospital bed.

I can see Jesus enjoying bed races, watermelon eating contests, and parades.  Real life.  Good ministry.

From left: Pastor Molly Sasser-Goehner from Outlaw and Atlantic Mountain Ranches, Pastor Chris Baesler from South Canyon Lutheran Church in Rapid City, Pastor Craig Wexler from Community Lutheran Church in Hill City, Pastor Kent Narum and Pastor Tom Opoien from Custer Lutheran Fellowship.  Our acolyte and robe holder was Joseph.

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Tuesday Tasks & Simple Saints

About a week ago, I saw a movie about the life and music of Pete Seeger.  I’ve been fascinated by the man before, but the film rekindled my appreciation for Pete Seeger and the legend he’s become.  The movie (which you’re welcome to borrow!) is called The Power of Song and it’s a chronicle of Seeger’s life.  Amongst stories and banjo riffs, the movie shows Seeger leading large crowds in ways that would make any choir director blush as multi-part harmony of songs like, “We Shall Overcome” erupt organically from the audience.

One of the stories told in the movie by one of Seeger’s sons is the legend of the man who came up to Seeger after the concert and informed him that he had come to the concert with the vow to kill him.  The story goes that the man went on to tell Seeger how he was so captivated by the songs and stories that before the concert was over, he had changed his mind.  Seeger and the man visited about conflicts of the day, late into the night – the Vietnam war, protests against it and how to deal with someone who has different beliefs.

I’ll admit, when I hear stories like those of Pete Seeger, they leave me with two feelings which are seemingly at odds with one another.  On the one hand, I’m inspired.  I’m inspired to think of the ways Seeger reached millions of people’s lives through a banjo and voice, let alone to think of the way he transformed one mind to turn from murder.

On the other hand, I’m disheartened.  Now, I know that no one ever wins in the ‘comparison game,’ but still I’ll admit I couldn’t help it.  It didn’t help when I learned that Pete Seeger turned 90 just one day before I turned 30.  I thought to myself, not only am I one third the age of Pete Seeger, but I haven’t even accomplished one third of what he has in that third!  I guess that makes me barely a ninth of the person Seeger is?

I say this with good humor, but how often do we forget that being a disciple of Jesus means checking your ego at the door?  How often do we forget that most of the lives of the disciples ended in shambles, dejected and disheartened?  How often do we forget that the fullness of God chose to dwell on earth not as some king or concert diva or military general, but as a humble, homeless man in a backwater of a country.  How often do we forget that reconciliation came not through money, power or war; but through the blood of the cross?

[Click for larger image] Marj Leegard, 1920-2010, autographs her book 'Give Us This Day' at the 1999 Women of the ELCA Triennial Convention.It reminds me of the words I read recently from Marj Leegard.  I never met her, but I learned of Marj through a writing of hers that Jerry Manlove shared with me.  Marj was a simple saint, a farmer’s wife, who would read Kierkegaard & Bonhoeffer in between cultivating rows of corn.  In a short writing titled “Recognition of Gifts,” she humbly muses:

Sometimes I am so busy wondering if others see Jesus in me that I fail to see Jesus in anyone else… We do not recognize gifts to feed egos.  We recognize gifts so that God’s pleasure becomes real for us.  It is tragic to go through life believing that God’s pleasure is reserved for soloists singing hymns, great speakers of the word, presidents of the congregation and that [God’s] pleasure finds no home in our Tuesday tasks.

Of course, there are an abundance of gifts at Custer Lutheran Fellowship.  We often remark about the gifted musicians.  If we think harder about the gifts at CLF, we might make note of skilled carpenters, artists, doctors, quilters, business men and women, an abundance of retired pastors and the list could go on and on.

But even if we did go on and on with the list, how long would it take before we made note of those “Tuesday Tasks”? … the gifted parents and grandparents who are authentic, available and affirming to their own children and grandchildren, but also to the youth of this community?  …the young person who takes a day out of his/her busy schedule just once a month to volunteer at the Storehouse to work at the food pantry or exchange?  …the family that takes a moment to thank God in prayer before supper or reads together before bedtime?

This list goes on and on as well.  I suspect it wouldn’t take that long for us to notice these gifts, but it helps to hear the simple reminder.  We are called to great things as disciples of Christ, but then again through discipleship in Christ we are called to un-learn greatness as we re-learn servanthood.

May we continue to be inspired by famous people like Pete Seeger, but also by simple saints and the “Tuesday tasks” they do.

CLF’er Gifts Disneyland with Music

CLF’er Kelsey Pickford has no ordinary summer job.  She’s performing five times per day with the 2010 All American College Band at Disneyland.  Kelsey was chosen to be one of five saxophonists in the 21 piece band.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, than we figure a video must be worth ten thousand.  Here’s a video of a recent performance by the band (Kelsey is the saxophone player with the straight blond hair).

You can see other videos of the band by clicking here.

A little snow. A lot of togetherness.

Seven of us walked around the Big Horn Mountains for several days this week.  We had a wonderful time in spite of rain, sleet, and snow.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 121:1,2.  “I look to the hills, from where does my help come.  My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The Lord helps us even when those hills are covered in snow and you’ve just fallen into a very cold stream.  My son Joseph slipped on a rock and fell chest deep into a fast rolling stream.  The part of the story he keeps repeating is that if Nico hadn’t reached in and grabbed him, he would’ve gone in over his head.

I think there are a couple sermons in them thar hills. 

Worship under the Pines

On Monday evenings at 6:30 we have been gathering for worship under the pine trees behind the church.  Last week Dave Pickford and his daughter, Anna,  led the singing with  guitar and flute.  Lovely setting.  Lovely music.  Even though I had sung the songs before, the setting made them fresh and very moving for me.

If you have never seen our outdoor worship area before.  This is what it looks like.

Music has long been inspired by the beauty of creation.  According to the Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship, the famous Swedish hymn, “How Great Thou Art” was written during the summer of 1885 when Pastor Karl Boberg was returning from a meeting and was struck by the beauty of nature and the sound of church bells in the still of the evening.

The song that was inspired that still evening has become one of the favorite hymns of the church.  On YouTube, Carrie Underwood’s rendition has received well over one million views. Click hereto see and hear this popular version of the song.

Know that you’re always welcome at the Monday night service.