The Spiritual Life and “to do” lists

Many years ago I was talking to my sister Nancy about a sermon that we had just heard.  I can’t remember what the pastor said, but I do  remember that Nancy didn’t find enough practical advice in the pastor’s words.  My sage advice was the following:  “Did you expect the pastor to tell you how to achieve spiritual perfection in ten easy steps?”  She responded, “Actually, I’d rather be told in three steps or less.”  We both laughed.

In the assigned epistle reading for this coming Sunday, Paul gives a twenty-one point list to the people of the congregation at Rome. He doesn’t promise spiritual perfection in his advice, but he certainly is practical.   Romans  12: 9-20 goes like this.

  1. Let love be genuine;
  2. hate what is evil,
  3. hold fast to what is good;
  4. love one another with mutual affection;
  5. outdo one another in showing honor.
  6. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  7. Rejoice in hope,
  8. be patient in suffering,
  9. persevere in prayer.
  10. Contribute to the needs of the saints;
  11. extend hospitality to strangers.
  12. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  13. Rejoice with those who rejoice,
  14. weep with those who weep.
  15. Live in harmony with one another;
  16. do not be haughty,
  17. but associate with the lowly;
  18. do not claim to be wiser than you are.
  19. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
  20. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19
  21. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;

When I read this list, I thought it would make a good refrigerator magnet to hang next to grocery list and artwork by the kids.  Sometimes the spiritual life means a quiet prayer for a loved one.  Sometimes it is simply following a “to do” list.  May your spiritual live be lofty and down to earth at the same time.

One more Denver Video

Here is a three minute overview of our seven days at DOOR in Denver.   Thank you to Terri Herman, Jean Witt, and Duane Martinz for serving as adult sponsors and to all of the fun and thoughtfulness that the high schoolers contributed to the experience.  The music in the video is from one of CLF’s favorite bands called Tangled Blue.


ELCA gathering for Churchwide Assembly

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the denomination to which Custer Lutheran Fellowship belongs, will be gathering this week for its biennial assembly.  To follow the legislative actions of the assembly, watch live video of sessions, and to find out more information about the event you may click on this link.

Physics, Parables and Baseball

Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ (Matthew 13:33)

The following is adapted from a sermon on July 24, 2011…

Parables and the kingdom of heaven are like physics and baseball. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, just when you write the law in a nice little equation (remember f = ma from high school physics?)… someone comes along and shatters your world of understanding with something like a theory of relativity where you’re told that e=mc2 and you’re told that if you look closely during batting practice, a bat actually experiences time differently than the baseball that’s sent hurling towards it. It’s small to us, but scientists tell us that there really is a fundamental difference in the way time ticks for each.

If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s OK. Even those we call “geniuses” don’t always get it. The author of the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein, spent years working on what became his theory of general relativity, but as he was applying this theory to the universe, making observations and running numbers, something wasn’t adding up. As Einstein used the equations he developed, when he made observations, the results seemed to suggest that the universe was actually expanding. Literally every atom was (if you look closely) moving apart from every other atom. Well, that can’t be right! Einstein thought. Everyone knows the universe is static, not expanding or contracting, but staying still. Things might be moving around inside of it, but if you could somehow look at it as a whole, you’d see that it’s just like a baseball – it’s not getting bigger or getting smaller.

But Einstein had stumbled on a parable of physics. Like the parables of Jesus, this parable of physics which Einstein was investigating revealed something about the universe in which we live which was counter-intuitive. And even though the math suggested one thing, everything he knew was shattered by this suggestion. So in 1917, Einstein just modified his equations and included what he called “the cosmological constant” which led Einstein down a wrong path in his research for several years.

Maybe it’s not that different from the Christian church’s insistence for many years that the earth was at the center of the universe until Galileo came along. There’s much more to that story too, of course. But it didn’t just happen overnight that we came to believe collectively, the counter-intuitive notion that the earth actually revolves around the sun and not the other way around.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. The parable is as simple and elegant as e=mc2 or the rules of baseball, but like baseball and physics (some might suggest) invites us deeper into the mystery of the universe. I don’t mean to make the claim that Jesus was really a physicist nineteen hundred years ahead of his time, but I also wouldn’t put it past the “Son of God” with a sense of humor as keen as it is. I only mean to invite you into the mystery of the parable and ask together with you, “What if?” What if the universe is unfolding, expanding like a huge amount of dough on a counter, with God’s very presence hidden mysteriously in every atom of every molecule.

What if the things we aspire to as followers of Christ (belief and faith and trust) are best exemplified in a child who waits patiently next to a divine Baker-woman God trusting the dough to rise. There’s nothing for us to do except to be patient that things are unfolding as they should, and then to be present for the meal and enjoy it! Or, if that doesn’t do it for you, maybe we’re just called to wait patiently for the perfect pitch so that our hands might connect in service to the bat and the bat in service to the ball in a perfect synergy, which allows us the journey around the field of life and finally arrive where we started… at home!

CLF on DOOR Facebook page

If you are a Facebook user, you can see some good pics of the Custer Youth Group at the DOOR Denver facebook page.

Click here to see the pics.