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.
  • Taking their cue from the prophet Isaiah to help repair, rebuild and restore the world around them, more than 2,300 women — 700 of whom were first-timers — gathered July 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C., for the Ninth Triennial of the Women of the ELCA.  The gathering theme, “Of many generations,” was inspired by Isaiah 58:12: “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”  Opening worship preacher Claire Burkat told the gathering: “We are living in a time in history [when] six generations are living at the same time.” Burkat, bishop of theSoutheastern Pennsylvania Synod, asked the women to raise their hands when they heard their generation: under 18 years of age, 18 to 35, 36 to 50, 51 to 68, 69 to 89 and, finally, over 90. The five women over 90 received a standing ovation.  “All of us together, as a gathering of powerful Lutheran women, [will] be challenged in seminars and inspired in worship and touched by one another’s stories and guided by the Holy Spirit this weekend,” she said. “When we leave, we will have ways and means to repair the breach wherever God sends us.”  Women lead, laugh ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton thanked the Women of the ELCA and its predecessors for their leadership in making it possible for women to be ordained; their giving, including a gift of $84,000 to the ELCA Malaria Campaign; and their recent action to bring attention to human trafficking.    It’s not just ordained or elected women who lead the church, she said, adding, “You have to understand that you also are leaders. Sometimes I think we discount our leadership if we are not elected to positions.” Part of that leadership, Eaton said, is to help the ELCA become an “alternative face of Christianity in this country” — a different face from popular media images of Christians as rigid, judgmental and not advocating for the most vulnerable in our society.  Become an “undercover force in your congregations,” Eaton encouraged the women. “[Working together] we’re a powerhouse. But you know what? We’re also Lutheran. So we don’t tell anybody [because] that would be boastful,” she quipped, eliciting knowing laughter from participants. “But how can people know where to get help if they don’t know what we do?”  It was one of many moments when Eaton had listeners laughing. That laughter continued when ex-attorney, Baptist pastor and stand-up comedian Susan Sparks took the stage to speak about the power of humor in repairing the breach referred to in Isaiah 58:12.  In this world “we can get beaten down pretty easily,” Sparks said. “Especially as women, we manage so much in our lives that sometimes we can lose perspective. … Big houses, fancy cars, money, titles … none of that matters because — you ready?­ — the size of our funeral will depend solely on the weather. Humor is probably one of God’s greatest gifts to us. If you can laugh at yourself, you can forgive yourself. And if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.” Bible study leader Diane Jacobson, who directs the ELCA Book of Faith initiative, said God calls women of many generations “to repair, rebuild and restore not only our relationships, but also the world around us.” She urged women to search Scripture for stories “that take us into this calling.” Look at Mary and Elizabeth, women of two different generations who came together in mutual support, Jacobson said. That’s without the rivalry or jealousy seen in some other biblical relationships between women (Sarah vs. Hagar, Rachel vs. Leah, Hannah vs. Penniniah), she added. Moreover, Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship was not just about them. “Even though this encounter is between two individual women, it is not a private affair,” Jacobson explained. “Their encounter is very much about the future of the whole world.”    Concern for our world During exhibit and free time at the gathering, the six generations of women sewed quilts; gave blood; and donated tens of thousands of dollars in phone cards, socks, toiletry items and prayer shawls for women survivors of trafficking, female military veterans struggling with addiction or homelessness, and others.  Participants also attended workshops, such as the one on creating intergenerational spaces. In that workshop young adults and women in other generations experienced what it is like to participate in a Café group, an entry point for younger women to engage with existing Women of the ELCA groups. Workshop leader Rozella White, 33, ELCA program director for young adult ministry, encouraged existing women’s groups to consider two tough questions: Why do you want younger people in the church? Are you willing to be vulnerable in seeking out younger people?

  • Sparking thoughtsThoughtfulness in our “God language” can be a gift and welcome method for pastoral care and counseling. The first time I felt moved to say “God, she … ” was at the bedside of a woman hospitalized after domestic abuse. The life she described was from childhood, a saga of violence at the hands of males. Despair and anger hung in the air. Then prayer, naming God our Mother, came readily. The Spirit led us to evoke — as Peter W. Marty puts it in reference to both the Father and Mother God — “the best of parental love.” The Rev. Randina J. CraggGolden Valley, Minn.   Enough alreadyMarty’s article distracts from, rather than enriches, our worship of God. Why would it bother anyone to think of God in masculine terms? Is God ever referred to in the Bible as anything but “he”? We cannot make God over to fit our human terms because God is God. Traditional hymns in Evangelical Lutheran Worship have already been reworded to avoid masculine pronouns for God. Now this. Enough. Hildegard P. LamparterLititz, Pa.   In God’s imageI enjoyed Marty’s column about God language. However, he never quoted what to me is the strongest argument for using inclusive language. Genesis 1:27: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Since both males and females are created in God’s image we need to think and write about God in an inclusive manner. Arne SelbygEdina, Minn.   Noting the positiveCheers to the editor and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton (August, pages 4 and 50) for their positive approaches to current life in the ELCA. I hear nothing Pollyannaish in either piece. Rather, I hear an objective look at signs of life and a reminder to have high expectations of God’s power and promise. These are most timely, especially given the continuing litany of negatives across the landscape of global conflicts, political gridlock and religious decline. May we who have ears listen and pay attention. Michael AntonHastings, Mich.   Not the whole storyThe positive articles heed Martin Luther’s admonition to put the best construction on any person or situation. He also said, “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.” What is not stated is that some bishops only nominate revisionist pastoral candidates to congregations. And how many members left congregations owing to the 2009 sexuality decisions when their pastors were agreeing or silent out of fear?  Raymond J. BrownLondonderry, N.H.   Message on targetMany thanks for the upbeat editorial in the August issue. I fully concur with your views and your “walk on the positive side.” The Lutheran continues to be a superb avenue of communication for understanding the life and mission of our ELCA. Keep it going. The Rev. Jerry H. MillerThousand Oaks, Calif.   Not buying itI am all for elevating people out of poverty (July, page 16). But I do not share your cheerleading enthusiasm that paints economic inequality as demonic injustice. Nor do I share your animosity toward the so-called “1 percent.” I thought the Bible was a staunch critic of envy. Oh, I forgot this is all Democratic Party talking-points. Carry on. The Rev. John R. ThompsonTreasure Island, Fla.   Cover story hits homeAs a lifelong Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod member, I want to commend The Lutheran for the articles on economic inequality. There are few issues of equal importance for the church in the U.S. The authors stand in the tradition of the prophets and of our Lord Jesus in addressing this issue. I am especially indebted to Norma Cook Everist for the Martin Luther quote that I am certain I will use in teaching or preaching if the occasion presents itself. The Rev. Robert L. MordhorstMillsboro, Del.   Don’t call me greedyFor the first time I laid my magazine (July) down in disgust. Apparently the choices people make and the consequences of those choices are no longer important. Don’t call me greedy because I refuse to be used by people who feel entitled to half of everything others have while they do nothing — all the time having more children than they can afford. These “takers” are not of lesser value than the “makers,” but that doesn’t mean they are more deserving either. There are many people who truly deserve help, but there are also many who continue to make counterproductive choices and expect others to pay the consequences. Kay VinsandSpringfield, Mo.   More info neededThe articles on economic inequality were timely and needed. Each author references some of Martin Luther’s teachings, but a fuller exploration of the importance he placed on this subject would also be a timely contribution in a future issue. Examine his practical steps to address societal needs through the community chest and follow-up legislative acts that led to today’s socioeconomic programs in Western Europe. Luther’s emphasis on socioeconomic justice as society’s proper response to Christ’s call to “love thy neighbor” has a powerful message for our own day. Al AndersonFalls Church, Va.

  • Lutherans are on the frontline of sheltering the surge of unaccompanied immigrant children detained at the Texas-Mexico border. More than 400 children this month will cycle through Lutheran Social Services of the South’s three transitional shelter facilities in Corpus Christi and El Paso, Texas. A fourth shelter, which will serve as many as 160 kids at a time, will open this fall in McAllen, Texas. “For us, this isn’t a political issue,” said Evan Moilan, chief mission officer for the nonprofit, which is the largest provider of children’s residential care in Texas. “This is an issue of serving children in need.”  Since October federal agents have apprehended more than 57,000 unaccompanied children at the border. Through a contract with the federal government, the children receive care, education and health services at LSS shelters after fleeing countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Children arriving at LSS shelters range in age from 4 to 17, and stay an average of two weeks, Moilan said. While most are reunited with family members, some move on to foster care programs and other service groups. LSS has provided care for unaccompanied children at the border for eight years at its Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter in Corpus Christi, Moilan said. The dormitory-style shelter, which serves youth ages 12 to 17, provides counseling, vocational training, education and spiritual care. To help support the agency’s work with unaccompanied children, Moilan suggests: • Prayers. Add LSS and the children the group serves to your congregation’s prayer concerns. • Advocacy. Learn about and support the agencies in your area that serve immigrants and refugees. Children initially sheltered by LSS move on to communities nationwide and their needs continue in their new locations, Moilan said. • Cash donations. Although clothing and other in-kind items might be well-intended, they are difficult for the agency’s staff to process, store and distribute. Gifts to LSS can be made at www.lsss.org.

  • Thinking about our youth helps us get in touch with the triumphs, defeats and mysteries that have shaped us. Films can be powerful reminders of the turning points in our coming-of-age. That’s certainly true of this drama directed by Richard Linklater, who also gave us the extraordinary trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnightabout the joys and complications of relationships. Boyhood, a nearly three-hour film, follows an East Texas boy from elementary school through his arrival at college. Filmed in sequence across 12 years with the same actors, it captures and conveys the everyday lives of children as they grow, change and struggle with events they can’t foresee or control. As he interacts with his single mother, sister, dad, two stepdads, friends and teachers, Mason (Ellar Coltrane, above) learns to loosen up, look around and master the art of improvisation in a world where, as his father puts it, “everybody is just ‘winging it.’ ” The emotional high point of the movie is the party for Mason’s high school graduation. He realizes that he will always have those who cherish him to turn to when he needs help (IFC Films, R—language, sexual references, teen drug and alcohol use).

  • We knew each other by sight — some of us, even by name. But we had no idea that we were each at sea, adrift on our own boats. The church community should have been a place to let our hair down and be ourselves, to gather and say, “I’m struggling with this. I need help, and I need prayer.” But six days a week we inhabit a world that prizes individualism and self-sufficiency, so we were embarrassed. We were unemployed. More than a year ago, five of us began to meet, endowed with little more than a name (Meaningful Work Group) and a key to our church, Christ Lutheran in Washington, D.C. So we began that morning, warily, by simply introducing ourselves and telling our stories. Just months before, one of us who had been searching for work approached our pastor, Renata Eustis, to ask: Weren’t there others in similar circumstances? Why not start a support group?  When we met, we were astonished to discover that we’d each felt bullied out of our last jobs for taking a stand on an important issue and had, curiously enough, found ourselves feeling unsupported by our partners or marriages. How empowering to discover we weren’t alone. We talked candidly, listened attentively, accepted help, lived and loved boldly, and advocated aggressively — not just for ourselves but on behalf of each other.  In community, what we’d been unable to do for ourselves we suddenly were able, with wit and wisdom, to do for each other. Inspired by Matthew 5:13-20 (“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”), we began demonstrating our belief in the outstanding talents each other offered and set about helping recast our stories in a positive and powerful light. Peggy Klaus’ Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It (Warner Business Books, 2004) was a helpful guide. We set about helping rewrite each other’s résumés to reflect “You are the light of the world ... let your light so shine before others .…” We conducted mock interviews and called on other congregational members as resources — combing Rolodexes for job leads and contacts. Christ Lutheran, a Reconciling in Christ congregation (welcoming to lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people) took as its motto “God’s people are tested” during the AIDS epidemic. During this economic crisis, it adopted the mindset “God’s people are employed.”