Lutheran Magazine

The Lutheran

The Lutheran magazine belongs to the people of the ELCA in all our diversity. The magazine nurtures awareness of Christ's presence in our lives and the world, shares stories of God's people living their faith, connects us with the global Christian community, provides an open forum for discussion and challenges us to bring God's grace and care to all.
  • Payne Avenue lives up to its name. Some nights it’s painful and strange (“Sweet Payne” by The Hold Steady). There are certain blocks of Payne Avenue in St. Paul, Minn., where nighttime pain gushes into the day, creating an endless stream of struggle. On one block, across from a Family Dollar Store, stands a food truck. The young driver sports piercings, tattoos and a clerical collar. Every Thursday noon she and volunteers serve up free food, hugs and prayers.  The food truck is a mobile church called Shobi’s Table (www.shobistable.org). Margaret Kelly is its pastor: “If we see someone walking by, we say, ‘Hey, you want a free meal? Come on in.’ ”  Thanks to her early years, Kelly is suited for this street church effort. “My parents have done similar ministry, so I’ve seen what it’s like to be a mission developer in poverty,” she said. She also understands what it’s like to live on the fringes: “You’re stripped bare and … sometimes the only thing you have left is that God will get you through this.” Between five and 75 people may greet her on a Thursday for food, prayer and worship.  “Grace — not God — is a hard sell for them,” she said. “Most are from religious traditions that tell them bad things happen because of a punitive god. So for me to say ‘God loves you’ is hard for some to take in. If they’re intoxicated, I’ll say, ‘God might prefer that you sober up, but God still loves you. God will hang in there with you.’ ” After her 2012 ordination, Kelly’s concept of a mobile food truck ministry was approved by the St. Paul Area Synod and churchwide. Shobi’s Table is now a congregation under development, which means funding is approved for three years.   Another pastor also liked the idea and encouraged Kelly to apply for benevolence funds from St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, Minn. The friend also introduced her to Mobile Action Ministries, which allows her to use its truck one day a week. Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul offered its commissary, where food is prepared and put in trays to cook in the truck’s ovens on the way to the site. Food truck visitors often come from a nearby treatment center, the Salvation Army or public housing, but all are welcome. “If you show up, we will feed you, we’ll treat you well, and call you one of our own. We have so much fun and we love inviting people in,” Kelly said.

  • 'Thank you'Thank you for “The ELCA’s aging clergy wave”. The real shortage is in congregations that can pay a full-time pastor with benefits. Many retired clergy I know are quickly returning to do interim, pulpit supply or agency ministry because of inadequate retirement benefits. I’ve served lower paying congregations that couldn’t put much money into my retirement accounts. At age 60 I don’t see myself retiring in the foreseeable future. The Rev. David CoffinDeshler, Ohio   Seminary beckonsWhile some bishops and others say the ELCA doesn’t face an imminent clergy shortage, the facts indicate otherwise. Except for a brief period after the U.S. economy went into free fall, as senior seminarians are assigned to synods for their first calls fewer than half the number requested have been available. So come yourself or send your faithful fellow members to our seminaries, where those who respond to the call will be shaped and formed into the leaders tomorrow’s church will need. As for “retiring the all-star team,” the church indeed experiences loss each time a faithful pastor retires or dies. But as one who lives daily among the church’s future leaders, I offer the unqualified assurance: The church of the future will be in very good hands. Michael Cooper-White, presidentLutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.)   Column on targetAfter chuckling in agreement with the November cover (aging clergy wave — no kidding) I read Peter W. Marty (page 3). It was easily the best conversation on the topic of guns in our society I’ve ever read. The idea that Jesus would approve of the gun culture in America is unbelievable. Thomas M. CorriganDayton, Md.   Misses markAlthough Marty’s article is framed in a nonconfrontational manner, his position is offensive. To imply that those of us who love guns, a home, freedom and our country aren’t fully living up to the First Commandment is insulting to those of us who served our country to protect our freedoms. History tells us that Martian Luther carried a sword for protection when traveling German roads. What has really changed?  Vern SchweigertPhoenix

  • In the face of daunting statistics concerning the poor — an estimated 17.5 million American households live with “food insecurity” every day — many of us distance ourselves from poverty. For us, scorn for the poor isn’t the issue. We just pay less attention to them, excising from our busy minds that which seems to be a hopelessly intractable problem.  “There’s not much we can do,” you may have heard someone say. “Besides, Jesus said we would always have the poor with us.” That statement of Jesus (Matthew 26:11,Mark 14:7, John 12:8) has opened the door to apathy in many circles. If poverty can’t be “cured,” the reasoning goes, why waste our time and precious resources addressing it? This unfortunate read of Scripture is also gravely in error. Jesus wasn’t commenting randomly. He was quoting from the Law of Moses. Numerous times in his ministry, Jesus employed a device common to rabbis of the day, later known as remez. The speaker quoted a small piece of text, with the intent of calling to mind the larger passage from which it came.  When Jesus names the permanent nature of poverty, he is drawing from Deuteronomy. Here’s the reference (note the obligations that go with recognizing the presence of the poor): “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. … Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so .… Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land’ ” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). If we can stop thinking of the poor as a problem to be solved, and more as people to be loved, the gap of empathy afflicting America might close just a bit.

  • This appealing drama illustrates the difference between a job and a vocation. As writer Kent Nerburn wrote in Letters to My Son (New World Library, 1999): “A vocation fills you with a sense of meaning. It is something you choose because of what it allows you to say with your life, not because of the money it pays you or the way it will make you appear to others. It is, above all else, something that lets you love.” Carl is a successful chef at a chic Los Angeles restaurant. But after a spat with a food critic, he loses his position. This gives him an opportunity to finally have some quality time with his 10-year-old son, Percy. They take a trip to Miami where Carl comes up with the idea of selling Cuban sandwiches from a food truck. He immediately gets Percy to help him clean and restore the truck. Soon the boy understands his father’s enthusiasm for really good cooking. During their drive back to L.A., he uses Twitter and other social media to promote the new business. This mutual assistance is what every father and son dream about but rarely achieve. It is beautifully illustrated in this movie. (Universal Studios, R — language, some suggestive references.) Now on DVD.

  • Hey, mister! When do I get my airplane?” It’s that same little boy from the congregation’s preschool program. While his friends play in the church gymnasium, he peers into the adjoining woodshop, captivated by Joe Doster’s every move as the retired industrial and visual arts teacher transforms birch plywood into toy planes, trains, elephants, ducks and cars that will become presents for needy children. Doster smiles as he talks about that boy, a frequent visitor who represents for him every 21st century child who would cherish one of the old-fashioned wooden toys his ministry team creates.  “This is a mission of love,” he said. In less than a year, “Toys for Smiles” has put handcrafted toys into the hands of children from Lititz, Pa., to the Konde Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. These sturdy, brightly painted toys bring joy to children who deal with terminal and chronic health issues, live in poverty, or face severe developmental or emotional challenges. “Knowing that these toys bring smiles and enjoyment to so many children makes this all worthwhile,” said volunteer Gayle Stauffer. Jim Gable, pastor of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lititz, home to the Senior Shepherds’ Toys for Smiles ministry, said, “Helping children, helping others, it’s what we should be doing.” Gable recalls Jesus’ preference for the least and most vulnerable of humankind — and specifically for children. A Santa-size order Recently, Doster met with one of the teachers who makes home visits for the local school system. From her he learned that 25.7 percent of Lititz’s population lives at or below the poverty line, a fact he found particularly troubling. Senior Shepherds toymakers are now hard at work to meet that teacher’s request for 80 toys in time for Christmas. “If I have to stay up 26 hours a day, she’ll have those toys,” Doster said. The Senior Shepherds won’t have much time to rest after Christmas either because a Lutheran Social Services agency that operates several day care centers requested 685 toys for needy children in 2015. Doster and the others aren’t daunted by the challenge. “Creating and designing toys is like being Santa Claus,” Doster said. “Coming up with new ideas and patterns is a never-ending process. I love it!”